“For Your Eyes Only” music and main title production (1981)

On “For Your Eyes Only”, music production reshaped Sheena Easton‘s Scottish Accent.  After I caught a bit of the James Bond movie on holiday television, I was intrigued to look into the song.  I found a version of Sheena Easton performing in 1982 in Live at the Palace (Hollywood) (starting around 54m32s), where her pronunciation is more Scottish.

The music style in James Bond films shifted in 1981, says Donald A. Guarisco in allmusic.com.

This film was also noticeable for replacing regular series soundtrack composer John Barry with Bill Conti, a composer best known for his work on the Rocky films. Conti keeps For Your Eyes Only‘s score full of symphonic grandeur and spy film theatrics, but also adds several new elements to update the sound to fit the early 1980s. For instance, Conti adds elements of dance and funk music to the action cues: “A Drive in the Country” and “Melina’s Revenge” both work funky bass lines, roaring electric guitar leads, and whooping synthesizer lines in with the standard orchestral elements. The modernized tone also extends to the film’s Sheena Easton theme song: it replaces the lush strings and brassy orchestrations that typically dominated Bond theme songs with a minimalist style built on synthesizers. However, Conti proves elsewhere that he could comfortably write music in the traditional vein without utilizing any electronic or pop elements:

Production of the song is credited to British record producer Christopher Neil, who had previous worked on Sheena Easton’s debut album Take My Time.  The songwriters were Bill Conti (music) and Mick Leeson (lyrics).  Production of the soundtrack is credited to Bill Conti.  In a 2012 Emmy Tv Legends interview (around 55h30m), Bill Conti said that John Barry was unavailable at development of For Your Eyes Only and recommended him to write the score.  Cubby Broccoli asked Bill Conti to come to England, for 3 months with his family, to write.

Bill Conti:  I wanted Barbra Streisand to write the lyrics to the song, and I wanted Donna Summer to sing it.  I thought I was clever.  I actually talked to Barbra , who was doing Yentl, who couldn’t — she was very busy.  And the studio suggested Sheena Easton to sing the song.  I heard a thing called “Morning Train”, that was a big hit of hers.  I said, well, maybe, she’s got a voice, maybe she doesn’t have a voice, I can’t tell.  I still wanted a big star.  Sheena was in London when I was in London, so I listened to her.  She was really good.  She’s a really good singer.  That material she sang, hit or not, was not a Dusty Springfield “Bond singer”.  I thought “Bond singer”, to this era, was a woman who could belt it out there.

Anyway, I wrote a song called “For Your Eyes Only”, because you’re obligated, when you do a Bond movie, to include the title in the song.  So my lyricist, who was Sheena’s pick, because — who do you like to work with? Fine.  Mick Leeson, he’s a very good lyricist — he ended the song “For Your Eyes Only” I would do this for you, I’d do that for you, I’d do it for your eyes only.  It’s a wonderful song.

I made an appointment with Cubby Broccoli.  I did a little demo.  I had a little cassette.  After three minutes, it ends “For Your Eyes Only”.  But I have a lunch with the guy who does the great main titles.  Maurice Binder.  Little guy.  Little guy who loved Sheena, who is a little girl.  So he put her in the main title.  But he says, at lunch, Bill, I know you guys have a problem with the main title, you have to put the thing in it.  But I really like it when the main title comes on, and the main title of the song.  It’s really “Goldfinger”, those great ones, all at the same time.  And I’m thinking, well, after 3 minutes, my song ends “For Your Eyes Only”.  I wish I could do that one.

Interviewer:  And he wanted it to start “For Your Eyes Only”.

Bill Conti:  So I called Cubby Broccoli, and said, look, cancel!  I went to the lyricist and said, look, you, this song begins “For Your Eyes Only”, and I don’t care what you do after that.  And that’s how it was.

The finalization of the lyrics and scoring would have happened in late 1980 or early 1981.  The rough cut version has different lyrics, unfinished music and graphics shown in this Rare Demo version posted by thedarksideBJ.

The final version of the main title, first showing on June 24, 1981, is now on the theatrical release on the Blu Ray disc.

To compare the final version with the rough cut, see the “Record and Record Combined Stereo” mashup by DcsabaS.

In 1982, the phrasing of the song by Sheena Easton was still close to the film version, but the reemergence of a Scottish accent appears in The Tonight Show (with Johnny Carson) performance.

By 1984, her Scottish accent shows up strongly in the Fest de Viña performance.

To triangulate dates in the early 1980s when Sheena Easton was performing, validate with the length of her hair!

The main title music could have been different.  Alternatives are cited in “For Your Ears Only” | Jude Rogers | Oct. 31, 2008 | The Guardian at http://www.theguardian.com/music/2008/oct/31/james-bond-songs .  Blondie offered a version of “For Your Eyes Only” that was released on the 1982 album “The Hunter“.  The phrase “For Your Eyes Only” shows up at 1:15 into the song, so a potential disagreement with Maurice Binder was pre-empted!

The larger context of the movie For Your Eyes Only has been captured in  “James Bond Retrospective: For Your Eyes Only (1981)” | Chris Wright | May 1, 2012 | whatculture.com at http://whatculture.com/film/james-bond-retrospective-for-your-eyes-only-1981.php

For Your Eyes Only (retrospective)

This movie is reputed to have bailed out United Artists as a company.

The film saved United Artists from financial ruin. At the time of the film’s release, the studio was still reeling from Michael Cimino’s Heaven’s Gate (1980), a notorious $40,000,000 bomb that was about to force UA to file bankruptcy. When this film took in a worldwide gross of $194,900,000, the studio was saved and afterwards turned its focus toward blockbusters and less on personal films.

It would be the last independent 007 movie by United Artists.

Last EON Productions James Bond movie soley released by United Artists. They would merge with MGM before the release of the next Bond film, Octopussy (1983).

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David Ing blogs at http://coevolving.com , photoblogs at http://daviding.com , and microblogs at http://ingbrief.wordpress.com . See .

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