Tuesday, September 24, 2013

"Bette Davis Eyes" by Kim Carnes

#1 Alert!
Gold Alert!
Grammy Alert!
Redux Spotlight Alert! 
Rated 10 Alert!
Song#:  0548
Date:  03/28/1981
Debut:  80
Peak:  1 (9 weeks)
Weeks:  26
Genre:  Pop, Synthpop

Pop Bits:  Although Carnes just had a couple of Top 10's, "Don't Fall in Love With a Dreamer" (with Kenny Rogers) and "More Love," I don't think anyone expected her next solo effort to be one of the biggest hits of the 80s. This mysterious single, the first from her #1 "Mistaken Identity" album, took off and spent nine non-consecutive weeks at #1. It also ranked as the #1 chart song for 1981. The song and album were nominated for several Grammy awards with this single walking off with both Song of the Year and Record of the Year. Carnes would go on to have several more chart songs, but oddly this ended up being her last Top 10 hit. A true 80s classic.

ReduxReview:  And here it is. The song that really started it all for me. I think more than any other song at the time, this one really announced that the 80s were here. I latched onto it big time. It was the summer of '81 and while this song was #1, I began listening to Casey Kasem's American Top 40 show to follow how the song was doing. I continued to listen to the show even after the song was off the chart and would rarely miss an episode. I even kept a notebook going writing all the songs down in order as they played each week. Hearing these songs then got me to buy them and that is when my addiction to purchasing 45s and LPs began. I also became a huge Carnes fan and got all of her albums and continued to buy anything she released. She is still one of my top favorites and a great songwriter (although she did not write this hit - see below). So for starting my love with 80s music and getting my record collection going, I gotta spotlight this song as it influenced me greatly.

ReduxRating:  10/10

Trivia:  This song was originally written in 1974 by Jackie DeShannon and Donna Weiss. DeShannon recorded the song the same year for her "New Arrangement" LP, however it was not issued as a single. Despite solid critical reaction, the album didn't really go anywhere. DeShannon's original wasn't a dark, mysterious song. Her arrangement was like an old-fashioned jazzy tune and reminiscent of something maybe Randy Newman might have done (I included the original below for a listen). It was pitched that way to Carnes' producer, Val Garay, but of course that arrangement was not going to fly. In comes keyboardist Bill Cuomo who developed the signature synth riff that starts the song. It was recorded live in the studio in one take and the rest is history. It just goes to show you how someone's vision of a song can totally transform it into something new, timely, and hit-worthy. (Side note - Bette Davis sent a note to Carnes thanking her for making her part of the rock generation. The two struck up a friendship which lasted until Davis' death in 1989.)


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