Random Jukebox: Sheena Easton’s For Your Eyes Only

“For your eyes only — only for yøøøøøøøøøøøø!”

Welcome to the early Eighties: that means cheesy synths and two-bit Scottish pop stars singing weird vowels. For shame, Bill Conti, whose score for For Your Eyes Only was certainly of its time, using keyboards and synthesizers instead of strings and brass to create mood and atmosphere. For the major action sequences and chases, disco and pop was used to accompany the chase, making the film more accessible to those who followed contemporary music.

Like Carly Simon’s deliciously omnipresent Nobody Does It Better before it, due to its eschewing of the trademark 007 sound For Your Eyes Only is able to exist as a genuinely decent love song in its own right, independently of its commission for one of the more under-rated films from the already creaky Roger Moore era.

Easton was born in the Caledonian town of Bellshill – less than 40 miles from the birthplace of Sean Connery – and was a major 007 fan growing up. “I saw all of the Bond films that were shown on TV, and when a new one would come out, I’d go to the theatre and see it,” Easton told Variety recently. “Of course, being Scottish, I loved Sean Connery. Watching a Scottish movie star like him was a big thing for me. But I also loved Roger Moore because he was just so elegant and suave.”

The Bond songs were particularly meaningful to Easton, who, despite questions of range, cites Shirley Bassey’s trio of themes as some of her favourites in the franchise. “They’re classics,” she says. “The Bond series was the first to have a well-known theme song associated with a film. By the time I was making records in the ‘80s, every movie that came out had a song associated with it, but the Bond franchise was one of the first to do that. You found yourself looking forward to the movie and to the big song that came with it.”

But more than that, legendary 007 titles designer Maurice Binder was so impressed with Sheena’s photogenic quality that he used as part of the main title sequence itself, and to date Sheena Easton remains the only title song performer ever to appear in a Bond main title visual singing their own song. She does so with fish and the usual silhouettes floating by her as she warbles lines like “for your eyes only, can see me through the night”.

“I didn’t have a lot of warm, cozy fireplace chats with Maurice Binder. He very much knew what he wanted, and he had created those opening titles for years, so there was no messing around. He was there to get it done, and he was very technical about it. I remember the cameras were on dollies and tracks, and I was trying to stand as still as possible while giving an emotive performance, and at one point Maurice went, ‘forget it, we’re going to clamp you.’ So they literally put a clamp behind my neck on a metal pole, so I couldn’t move at all. And yet I was supposed to look like I was one of the naked nymphs coming out of the water!”

Before the future Prince protégé was selected on day release from her 9 to 5, Conti had set his sights on a rather more established big-lunged diva like Dusty Springfield and Donna Summer belting out the not so odd job (yes, I know…). Though it was actually Debbie Harry and Blondie who came closest, the band only withdrawing when they were told their theme song couldn’t be self-penned because the film‘s composer had a similar contract stipulation to John Barry, ie he provides the tune or else.

Easton, however, remembers things slightly differently. “To be honest, I’ve heard that story and maybe that comes from Bill’s point of view, but from my point of view, I never heard any of that,” she says. “When it was brought to me, it was literally done as a fait accompli. It was, you know, they want you to do the next Bond song and are you interested? And it’s like, yeah! Of course I’m interested! Please, who would say no to that? So I was never told about any of the behind-the-scenes stuff at the time.”

Perhaps it may have been better if Sheena hadn’t been told to turn up for this Oscars performance as well. It’s cheesier than a lorry load of Edam.

Brace yourselves.

The track became the biggest 007 hit since Nobody Does It Better four years earlier and like that song, was also nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Song, the third Bond theme to do so. Now wizened after years living in California, Sheena is at pains to credit record producer Christopher Neil as the primary reason why For Your Eyes Only remains such a beloved song 40 years after the film’s release.

“It’s a beautiful song, but it became a hit record because of Chris Neil,” Easton says. “When you listen to the song, it’s the sonic elements that stand out more than my performance. And I’m not just being humble, I really believe that. For example, the movie has all of these underwater elements, and when you listen to the song, you hear swirling waters and the sonar ping from a submarine at the very beginning. It opens with a dramatic, mysterious sound. So Chris was very conscious that this had to sound like a real James Bond theme. He didn’t want to just record a Sheena Easton record and put it in the movie. He really wanted it to reflect the film itself, so when you heard the song and saw the movie, you would forever associate the two.”

Another twosome from the film that was memorable for all the wrong reasons was of course Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher – some would say far and away the best villain of FYEO – who crops up in the epilogue and flirts with a parrot.

Despite the ornithophilia from inside No.10, the choon established her across the pond, went all the way to No.1 in Sweden, Switzerland and The Netherlands but, alas, gave wee Sheena her third and final Top Ten single in Blighty, peaking at a slightly lowly eighth place on the eighth day of the eighth month, ie No.8 on 08.08.81.

It was acceptable in the Eights then.

Steve Pafford

Adapted from this Bond countdown, and for extra treats here’s the original demo version with significant alternate lyrics about double lives and shagging wives (OK, perhaps I made the last bit up)…

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Steve Pafford
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