Bette Davis Eyes
|"Bette Davis Eyes"|
|Single by Kim Carnes|
|from the album Mistaken Identity|
|B-side||"Miss You Tonight"|
|Released||March 10, 1981|
|Format||7" vinyl, 12" vinyl, ("30 extended version)|
|Writer(s)||Donna Weiss, Jackie DeShannon|
|Kim Carnes singles chronology|
"Bette Davis Eyes" is a classic hit song written by Donna Weiss and Jackie DeShannon, and made popular by American singer-songwriter Kim Carnes. It spent nine weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 and was Billboard's biggest hit of the entire year for 1981. The recording won the 1982 Grammy Awards for both Record of the Year and Song of the Year.
The song was written in 1974 by Donna Weiss and Jackie DeShannon. DeShannon recorded the song that same year on her album New Arrangement. But it was not until 1981, when Kim Carnes recorded her version of the song, that it became a commercial success.
The Carnes version spent nine non-consecutive weeks on top of the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 (interrupted for one week by the "Stars on 45 Medley") and was Billboard's biggest hit of the year for 1981. The single also reached No. 5 on Billboard's Album Rock charts and No. 26 on the Dance charts. The song won the Grammy Awards for Song of the Year and Record of the Year. The song was also a number one hit in 31 countries, including Germany, Australia, Switzerland, Italy, Norway, Japan and Brazil, but it achieved more moderate success in the United Kingdom, where it peaked at No. 10. The music video was directed by Russell Mulcahy.
According to producer Val Garay, the original demo of the tune that was brought to him sounded like "a Leon Russell track, with this beer-barrel polka piano part." The demo can be heard in a Val Garay interview on TAXI TV at 20:35.  Keyboardist Bill Cuomo came up with the signature synth riff, using the then-new Sequential Circuits Prophet-5 synthesizer, which now defines Carnes' version. The song was recorded completely live in the studio on the first take.
Bette Davis admitted to being a fan of the song and approached Carnes and the songwriters to thank them for making her "a part of modern times."
Cleopatra Records released a re-recording of the song as a single in 2007.
The video opens in a dance hall with a black-draped leaning figure. The drape opens to reveal Kim Carnes wearing sunglasses as she sings the first verse. In the first chorus, she performs with a band; halfway dancers enter the hall. In the second verse, the dancers make slapping and floor-pounding dance motions. They disappear and reappear in the second chorus. The song finishes with the dancers making dance motions while approaching Carnes; the band is already gone when the video ends with the black-draped leaning figure. A shadowed silhouette of Bette Davis smoking a cigarette appears throughout the video. The video was directed by Australian film director Russell Mulcahy.
There is much confusion over whether the lyrics are "she knows just what it takes to make a crow blush" or "... pro blush". Jackie DeShannon sings "crow" in her version, and Kim Carnes recorded it as "pro" from a mistranscription of the lyrics. This error has proliferated through numerous cover versions. The phrase "could make a crow blush" is an early 20th-century Midwestern United States colloquialism meaning that one could unease someone with little effort, and the arranger from Carnes's version was unfamiliar with the term.[dubious ]
Appearances in other media
- Voice of America used the song as background when announcing the death of Bette Davis on October 6, 1989, as did other radio and TV stations around the world that day.
- The song was played in Take Me Home Tonight, directed by Michael Dowse.
- The song was played in The Solitude of Prime Numbers, directed by Saverio Costanzo.
- A modified version was used in 7Up commercials in 1982 with lyrics modified (such as the title line being changed to "7Up, the difference is clear").
- The song is played in the background of the 2012 film That's My Boy.
Track listing and formats
- U.S. "30 extended version
- "Bette Davis Eyes" - 5:56
|Australian (Kent Music Report)||1|
|Austria (Ö3 Austria Top 40)||2|
|Belgium (Ultratop 50 Flanders)||5|
|Canadian RPM Adult Contemporary||1|
|Canadian RPM Top Singles||2|
|Germany (Media Control AG)||1|
|Irish Singles Chart||5|
|Netherlands (Dutch Top 40)||16|
|Netherlands (Mega Single Top 100)||17|
|New Zealand (Recorded Music NZ)||2|
|South African Chart||1|
|Switzerland (Schweizer Hitparade)||1|
|UK (Official Charts Company)||10|
|US Adult Contemporary (Billboard)||15|
|US Billboard Hot 100||1|
|US Billboard Hot Dance Club Play||26|
|US Billboard Hot Mainstream Rock Tracks||5|
|End of decade (1980–1989)||Position|
|U.S. Billboard Hot 100||2|
Chart procession and succession
"This Ole House" by Shakin' Stevens
|Australian Kent Music Report number-one single
June 15, 1981 – July 13, 1981
"Stars on 45 Medley" by Stars on 45
"Stars on 45 Medley" by Stars on 45
|Swiss number-one single
July 5, 1981 – August 16, 1981
"More Stars" by Stars on 45
"Stars on 45 Medley" by Stars on 45
|German Singles Chart
July 10, 1981 – August 21, 1981
"Dance Little Bird (Chicken Dance)" by Electronica's
"Pour le plaisir" by Herbert Léonard
|French SNEP number one single
July 17, 1981 – October 23, 1981
"La danse des canards" by J. J. Lionel
"(Out Here) On My Own" by Nikka Costa
|Italian Singles Chart number-one single
November 21, 1981 – December 11, 1981
"Cicale" by Heather Parisi
"Hubba Hubba Zoot-Zoot" by Caramba
|Norwegian VG-lista number-one single
June 15, 1981 – August 27, 1981
"For Your Eyes Only" by Sheena Easton
"Morning Train (Nine to Five)" by Sheena Easton
"Stars on 45 Medley" by Stars on 45
|US Billboard Hot 100 number-one single
May 16, 1981 – June 13, 1981
June 27, 1981 – July 18, 1981
"Stars on 45 Medley" by Stars on 45
"The One That You Love" by Air Supply
- Alvin and the Chipmunks covered "Bette Davis Eyes" in 1982 on their album Chipmunk Rock.
- The East German band Silly (then still known as Familie Silly) made a note-for-note cover of the song in 1982, released as a single with three other cover hits by East German stars. Performance of covers of Western pop hits was a contractual requirement for East German recording artists, to avoid having to pay the performance royalties for the original versions. As such, it is the only song ever released by Silly in English.
- In 1982, Czech singer Marie Rottrová covered the song in Czech, entitled "Dívka která spí jen tak".
- Italo disco act China Town covered the song in 1983.
- Singer Sonia Davis recorded her version in 1992.
- Actress Gwyneth Paltrow performed the song in the movie Duets (2000), and her single release was a hit in some parts of the world.
- Handsome Devil covered the song in 2004, featured on their second CD Knock Yourself Out.
- American indie band Sexton Blake covered the song for their 2007 album Plays the Hits.
- Australian singer Paul Dempsey covered the song on his 2009 solo single "Ramona Was a Waitress".
- American indie band My Gold Mask covered the song on their 2010 EP A Million Miles (From Where We Were Last).
- Actress Leighton Meester, star of the CW hit series Gossip Girl, recorded a cover of the song which was leaked via Perez Hilton.
- Canadian R&B/soul singer Mac Graham released a cover version in 2011 from his solo album Midnight.
- American singer/songwriter Taylor Swift covered the song in 2011 on her Speak Now World Tour. The cover was then included on her Speak Now: World Tour Live album, released the same year.
- Brandon Flowers, lead singer of The Killers, featured this song during his appearance at Live at Abbey Road in 2011 after releasing his solo album, Flamingo.
- American band Wiretree covered the song in early 2012 and released it on Soundcloud as a free download.
Live cover performances
- French singer Sylvie Vartan performed the song during her Live in Las Vegas Concert in 1982 (it is included in her Integrale Live box set) and during her 2004 show at the Palais des Congrès (also included on her Live au Palais des Congrès 2004 album and DVD).
- A live recording by Brad Roberts of the Crash Test Dummies was included on his first solo CD, 2001's Crash Test Dude.
- Tori Amos performed the song at one of her concerts at Phoenix, Arizona in 2005.
- German Idol contestant and later winner of the second season Elli Erl performed the song on the Top 4 round on February 14, 2004.
- Australian Idol contestant Brooke Addamo performed the song on the Top 11, 1980s themed night on the 2008 season of the show.
- American Idol contestant Jesse Langseth performed the song on the Top 36 round on February 25, 2009, and although she was not voted through by the public, she was granted a second chance by the judges with a wild-card.
- Brandon Flowers of The Killers performed the song during his Flamingo Road Tour, including one of his concerts at the Las Vegas Hilton Hotel & Casino, as well as a performance at the Electric Factory in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He also performed the song as part of his set on the British music TV show Live from Abbey Road in July 2011.
- Taylor Swift covered the song while on her 2011 Speak Now Tour in Los Angeles, California, as part of a tribute to musicians from LA (Kim Carnes).
- Scottish electronica artist Mylo sampled this song for his 2005 single "In My Arms".
- Swedish singer September sampled the track for a song called "Midnight Heartache" on her 2005 album In Orbit.
- Play-N-Skillz sampled the tune of the original song for hip hop artist Akon's 2009 song "Angel Eyez".
- The song was parodied by Bruce "Babyman" Baum in 1981, as "Marty Feldman's Eyes".
- Dancing with the Stars host Tom Bergeron, then a DJ at a local radio station in New Hampshire, recorded a different parody in 1981 also called "Marty Feldman Eyes".
- The title was also parodied by Half Man Half Biscuit in their song "Dickie Davies' Eyes" (where Dickie Davies was the presenter of the British sports programme World of Sport). Shirley Stockewell recorded a parody called "Lizzy Taylor Thighs".
- Eddie Murphy's character Buckwheat on Saturday Night Live parodied the song in a commercial parody named "Buh-Weet Sings". He sang the lyrics so incoherently that question marks appeared on the screen instead of the song's title.
- A Norwegian parody was made in 1981 called "Ivar Medaas Øyne" (Ivar Medaas Eyes) by Prima Vera. The parody made fun of the folk singer Ivar Medaas' eyes. The song spawned controversy and Ivar Medaas ended up suing Prima Vera.
- Various parodies that were played on the Doctor Demento Show included: "Jimmy Durante Nose", "Col. Sanders Thighs", and "Lou Ferrigno Thighs". The bridge of Baum's version of "Marty Feldman Eyes" consists of an interlude in which the protagonist is described as having "Leon Spinks' teeth, Dolly Parton's chest", and so forth.
- Dire Straits made a joking reference to the song on the track "Industrial Disease" from the album Love Over Gold ("I don't know how you came to get the Bette Davis knees / But worst of all young man, you've got Industrial Disease.")
- The industrial rock band Mindless Self Indulgence have been known to play shows under the alias "Bette Davis Eyes".
- Steve Peake (9 December 2012). "This Week's Forgotten Gem of the '80s - Kim Carnes - "Does It Make You Remember"". About.com. Retrieved 24 June 2013. "Kim Carnes certainly remains most identified for her classic 1981 chart-topper "Bette Davis Eyes," but there's a lot more to her talented versatility than the synthesizer-fueled new wave of that tune."
- Cad, Saint. "10 More Famous Songs With Unknown Originals". listverse.com. Retrieved 21 June 2013.
- Billboard December 26, 1981: p. YE-9
- Whitburn, Joel (2004). Hot Dance/Disco: 1974-2003. Record Research. p. 52.
- Classic Tracks: Kim Carnes' "Bette Davis Eyes" by Blair Jackson.
- Bette Davis Eyes (single) on We7. Retrieved 10 April 2013
- (US 7-inch Single liner notes). "Bette Davis Eyes". Kim Carnes. 006-86 359.
- (US 12-inch Maxi Single liner notes). "Bette Davis Eyes". Kim Carnes. 052-86 359.
- "Australia n°1 Hits - 80's". Worldcharts.co.uk. Retrieved 19 June 2013.
- "Kim Carnes – Bette Davis Eyes – Austriancharts.at" (in German). Ö3 Austria Top 40.
- "Ultratop.be – Kim Carnes – Bette Davis Eyes" (in Dutch). Ultratop 50.
- "Bette Davis eyes in Canadian Adult Contemporary Chart". Library and Archives Canada. Retrieved 19 June 2013.
- Canadian peak RPM Magazine
- "Bette Davis eyes in French Chart" (in French). Dominic DURAND / InfoDisc. 19 June 2013. Retrieved 19 June 2013. You have to use the index at the top of the page and search "Kim Carnes"
- "Die ganze Musik im Internet: Charts, News, Neuerscheinungen, Tickets, Genres, Genresuche, Genrelexikon, Künstler-Suche, Musik-Suche, Track-Suche, Ticket-Suche – musicline.de" (in German). Media Control Charts. PhonoNet GmbH.
- "Bette Davis eyes in Irish Chart". IRMA. Retrieved 2 June 2013. 2nd result when searching "Bette Davis eyes"
- "The best-selling singles of 1981 in Italy". HitParadeItalia (it). Retrieved 19 June 2013.
5. Bette Davis eyes - Kim Carnes [#1, 1981/82]
- "Nederlandse Top 40 – Kim Carnes search results" (in Dutch) Dutch Top 40.
- "Dutchcharts.nl – Kim Carnes – Bette Davis Eyes" (in Dutch). Mega Single Top 100.
- "Charts.org.nz – Kim Carnes – Bette Davis Eyes". Top 40 Singles.
- "Norwegiancharts.com – Kim Carnes – Bette Davis Eyes". VG-lista.
- John Samson. "Bette Davis eyes in South African Chart". Retrieved 2 June 2013.
- Salaverri, Fernando (September 2005). Sólo éxitos: año a año, 1959–2002 (1st ed.). Spain: Fundación Autor-SGAE. ISBN 84-8048-639-2.
- "Swedishcharts.com – Kim Carnes – Bette Davis Eyes". Singles Top 60.
- "Kim Carnes – Bette Davis Eyes – swisscharts.com". Swiss Singles Chart.
- "1981 Top 40 Official UK Singles Archive - 23rd May 1981". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 19 June 2013.
- "Kim Carnes Album & Song Chart History" Billboard Adult Contemporary Songs for Kim Carnes. Retrieved July 22, 2012.
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- "Mistaken Identity awards on Allmusic". Allmusic. Retrieved 2 June 2013.
- "Danishcharts.com – Kim Carnes – Bette Davis Eyes". Tracklisten.
- China Town - Bette Davis Eyes (Vinyl) at Discogs
- Sonia Davis - Bette Davis Eyes at Discogs
- "Tori Amos Song Summary". Toriset.org. Retrieved 2012-01-04.
- Jason Bracelin (August 16, 2010). "Brandon Flowers Plays First Solo Show". Spin. Retrieved 2011-10-30.