So my mom had cataract surgery yesterday, and I spent last night at her place making sure she was okay (totally routine surgery, but we’re both a little paranoid). I had planned on making a better entry from her place, but I’d forgotten how much I hate typing on her laptop. In her honor tonight, a meditation on eyes in music.
Usually, songs with “eyes” in the title are love songs. You know, the whole “love at first sight” thing. (It’s not that I don’t believe in it; I just don’t think it can last.) There’s also many references to either the dewy look of love in someone’s eyes or the way eyes become cold and hard when love is dead. And of course there’s a multitude of related references to crying. It all makes sense, since it’s pretty easy to read someone’s emotions in their eyes. Unless they’re wearing sunglasses. Or a professional poker player.
Billy Idol’s “Eyes Without a Face” is one of the eyes gone cold songs, but I’ve always found it to be kind of creepy. I mean, “Eyes without a face, got no human grace” is kind of spooky. (Speaking of, one of the creepiest moments in music video history was The Cure’s video for “Boys Don’t Cry,” with the glowing eyes on the silhouettes at the end. Eek!) Georgia Satellites had a great line, “watch your pretty blue eyes as they turn on me” (“The Myth of Love”). Night Ranger had a pretty good pop rock song on their hands with “When You Close Your Eyes.” Eyes are always one of the musical loci for broken hearts.
And unrequited love. One of my favorite “eye” songs is Frankie Valli’s “My Eyes Adored You.” I have a strong affection for cheesy 70s pop, and this is one of the cheesiest. A boy grows up with a girl, goes off “for city lights, climbed the ladder to fortune and fame,” never forgot the girl. It’s all very innocent. Literally. “My eyes adored you, though I never laid a hand on you.” Supposedly, this guy has been comparing every starlet and groupie he’s encountered since becoming famous to his hometown sweetheart. Who also apparently never knew he loved her. (Can anyone say “stalker”?)
The best “eye” song, however is “In Your Eyes.” Peter Gabriel takes what ought to be the ultimate love song cliché and turns it into what I consider one of the finest love songs ever written. Of course, that might be because he refuses to pander to the masses and rely on the clichés. He makes it incredibly personal and passionate. Gabriel understands clearly that referring to the ostensible windows to the soul is only as meaningful as you make it. “In Your Eyes” doesn’t just rely on standard abstractions; he uses concrete images. “I see the doorway to a thousand churches” turns his lover’s eyes into a sanctuary, into peace, something the man in this song needs. But there’s also “the light, the heat” of passion and love when she looks at him. There’s a bit of a mirror effect here: “I am complete” is followed shortly in the chorus with the plea “Oh, I want to be that complete.” This isn’t just about looking into someone’s eyes and seeing love. This is about struggling to keep that love going in the face of anger, fear, and depression. This is a song about love overpowering suffering. “The resolution of the fruitless searches.” Gabriel takes it a little further in the live version of “In Your Eyes,” and adds forgiveness to the mix, with a prologue: “Accepting all I’ve done and said, I want to stand and stare again, till there’s nothing left out. Oh, it remains there in your eyes. Whatever comes and goes, it’s in your eyes.”
A love that sees everything and continues in spite of all the troubles in the world. That’s the kind of love everyone deserves.