Bette Davis Eyes

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"Bette Davis Eyes"
Single by Kim Carnes
from the album Mistaken Identity
B-side "Miss You Tonight"
Released March 10, 1981
Format
Recorded January 1981
Genre
Length 3:48
Label EMI America
Writer(s)
Producer(s) Val Garay
Certification
  • Gold (Italy, US)
  • Platinum (Canada, France)
Kim Carnes singles chronology
"Cry Like a Baby"
(1980)
"Bette Davis Eyes"
(1981)
"Draw of the Cards"
(1981)
Music sample

"Bette Davis Eyes" is a song written and composed by Donna Weiss and Jackie DeShannon, and made popular by American singer Kim Carnes. DeShannon recorded it in 1974; Carnes's 1981 version spent nine weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 and was Billboard's biggest hit of the entire year for 1981. It was also her only Top 40 hit on the UK Singles Chart, getting to No. 10. The 1981 recording won the 1982 Grammy Awards for both Record of the Year and Song of the Year.

History[edit]

The song was written and composed in 1974 by Donna Weiss and Jackie DeShannon. DeShannon recorded the song that same year on her album New Arrangement.[5] In this original incarnation, the track is performed in an "R&B lite" arrangement,[1] featuring a prominent uptempo piano part, as well as flourishes of pedal steel guitar and horns.[6] However, it was not until 1981, when Kim Carnes recorded her version of the song in a radically different synthesizer-based arrangement, that "Bette Davis Eyes" became a commercial success.

The Carnes version spent nine non-consecutive weeks on top of the US Billboard Hot 100 (interrupted for one week by the "Stars on 45 Medley") and was Billboard's biggest hit of the year for 1981.[7] The single also reached No. 5 on Billboard's Top Tracks charts and No. 26 on the Dance charts.[8] 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 21 countries[9] and peaked at number 10 in the United Kingdom,[10] her only Top 40 hit there to date.

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 21:50.[11] Keyboardist Bill Cuomo came up with the signature synth riff, using the Sequential Circuits Prophet-5 synthesizer, which now defines Carnes's version. The song was recorded in the studio on the first take.[12]

Bette Davis wrote letters to Carnes, Weiss, and DeShannon to thank all three of them for making her "a part of modern times," and said her grandson now looked up to her. After their Grammy wins, Davis sent them roses as well.[9]

The song was ranked at number 12 on Billboard's list of the top 100 songs in the first 50 years of the Billboard Hot 100 chart and at number one of the biggest hits of the 1980s.[13] Cleopatra Records released a re-recording of the song as a single in 2007.

The song was used in the 2015 horror comedy film The Final Girls, starring Taissa Farmiga and Malin Åkerman.[14] It also features briefly in the romantic comedy film Austenland.[15][16]

Other versions[edit]

Music video[edit]

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.[22]

Lyrics[edit]

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 of Carnes's version was unfamiliar with the term.[citation needed][dubious ] Others have misheard the lyrics as "she knows just what it takes to makes a girl blush," suggesting a bisexual undertone, although this was unintended by either DeShannon or Weiss.[23]

Track listing and formats[edit]

Charts[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Greenwald, Matthew. "Bette Davis Eyes – Song Review". AllMusic. All Media Network. Retrieved May 3, 2014. 
  2. ^ Useted, Tom (February 18, 2010). "Jackie DeShannon: Jackie DeShannon, Me About You / To Be Free, New Arrangement". PopMatters. Retrieved May 3, 2014. It's hard to approach this album without focusing on the presence of "Bette Davis Eyes", which, issued forth from the tortured larynx of Kim Carnes, became one of the defining new-wave records. 
  3. ^ 80s classics that should be remade at the Wayback Machine (archived February 23, 2015). Virgin Media.
  4. ^ Doyle, Tom (March 2005). "Mylo". Sound on Sound. Retrieved June 30, 2014. 
  5. ^ Cad, Saint (October 14, 2012). "10 More Famous Songs With Unknown Originals". Listverse. Retrieved June 21, 2013. 
  6. ^ Deming, Mark. "Jackie DeShannon – New Arrangement". AllMusic. All Media Network. Retrieved June 10, 2014. 
  7. ^ a b "Top 100 Hits for 1981". The Longbored Surfer. Retrieved May 3, 2014. 
  8. ^ a b c d "Kim Carnes – Awards". AllMusic. All Media Network. Retrieved May 3, 2014. 
  9. ^ a b Bronson, Fred (1992). Billboard Book of Number One Hits (3rd ed.). New York, NY: Billboard Publications, Inc. p. 543. ISBN 0-8230-8298-9. 
  10. ^ a b "Archive Chart: 1981-05-23" UK Singles Chart. Retrieved May 3, 2014.
  11. ^ "Legendary Producer Val Garay". Ustream. November 27, 2012. Retrieved May 3, 2014. 
  12. ^ Jackson, Blair. Classic Tracks: Kim Carnes' "Bette Davis Eyes" at the Wayback Machine (archived July 13, 2014). Mix Online. NewBay Media. Retrieved May 3, 2014.
  13. ^ The Billboard Hot 100 All-Time Top Songs (20-11) at the Wayback Machine (archived September 13, 2008). Billboard. Retrieved June 13, 2014.
  14. ^ Eggertsen, Chris (October 16, 2015). "The Final Girls director: Angela Trimburs striptease was completely improvised". HitFix. Retrieved November 10, 2015. 
  15. ^ Wloszczyna, Susan (August 15, 2013). "Austenland". RogerEbert.com. Retrieved July 27, 2016. 
  16. ^ "Austenland (2013) - Soundtrack.Net". Soundtrack.Net. Retrieved July 27, 2016. 
  17. ^ Gicas, Peter (April 7, 2009). "Leighton Meester: Music to Your Ears?". E! Online. Retrieved May 5, 2014. 
  18. ^ Goodman, William (September 14, 2009). "WATCH: Courtney Love Covers 'Bette Davis Eyes'!". Spin. Retrieved May 5, 2014. 
  19. ^ Harvilla, Rob (August 27, 2010). "Brandon Flowers Sang "Bette Davis Eyes" (And, OK, A Lot Of His New Solo Songs) At Highline Ballroom". The Village Voice. Retrieved May 4, 2014. 
  20. ^ Lerman, Ali (August 29, 2011). "Taylor Swift at the Staples Center Saturday Night". OC Weekly. Retrieved May 5, 2014. 
  21. ^ MacNeil, Jason MacNeil (August 9, 2007). "Sexton Blake: Plays The Hits!". PopMatters. Retrieved October 14, 2014. 
  22. ^ "80sonVEVO GAMV Takeover Week 9 w/ FEATURED VIDEO Kim Carnes' "Bette Davis Eyes"". March 20, 2013. Retrieved November 9, 2015. 
  23. ^ Sullivan, Steve (2013). Encyclopedia of Great Popular Song Recordings. 2. Scarecrow Press. p. 418. ISBN 978-0-8108-8296-6. 
  24. ^ ‹See Tfm› Bette Davis Eyes (US 7-inch Single liner notes). Kim Carnes. EMI. 1981. 006-86 359. 
  25. ^ ‹See Tfm› Bette Davis Eyes (US 12-inch Maxi Single liner notes). Kim Carnes. EMI. 1986. 052-86 359. 
  26. ^ "Australia No. 1 hits -- 1980's". World Charts. Retrieved June 19, 2014. 
  27. ^ "Austriancharts.at – Kim Carnes – Bette Davis Eyes" (in German). Ö3 Austria Top 40. Retrieved May 3, 2014.
  28. ^ "Ultratop.be – Kim Carnes – Bette Davis Eyes" (in Dutch). Ultratop 50. Retrieved May 3, 2014.
  29. ^ CHART NUMBER 1271 – Saturday, May 23, 1981 at the Wayback Machine (archived July 29, 2007). CHUM. Retrieved May 3, 2014.
  30. ^ "Top RPM Adult Contemporary: Issue 0354." RPM. Library and Archives Canada. Retrieved May 3, 2014.
  31. ^ "Top RPM Singles: Issue 0337." RPM. Library and Archives Canada. Retrieved May 3, 2014.
  32. ^ "Toutes les Chansons N° 1 des Années 80's" (in French). InfoDisc. Retrieved May 12, 2016. 
  33. ^ "Offiziellecharts.de – Kim Carnes – Bette Davis Eyes". GfK Entertainment Charts. Retrieved May 3, 2014.
  34. ^ a b "The Irish Charts – Search Results – Bette Davis Eyes". Irish Singles Chart. Retrieved June 2, 2013.
  35. ^ (Italian) Singoli – I numeri uno (1959–2006) (parte 3: 1980–1990) at the Wayback Machine (archived March 3, 2016). It-charts.150m.com.
  36. ^ "Nederlandse Top 40 – Kim Carnes - Bette Davis Eyes search results" (in Dutch) Dutch Top 40. Retrieved May 3, 2014.
  37. ^ "Dutchcharts.nl – Kim Carnes – Bette Davis Eyes" (in Dutch). Single Top 100. Retrieved May 3, 2014.
  38. ^ "Charts.org.nz – Kim Carnes – Bette Davis Eyes". Top 40 Singles. Retrieved May 3, 2014.
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  43. ^ "Swisscharts.com – Kim Carnes – Bette Davis Eyes". Swiss Singles Chart. Retrieved May 3, 2014.
  44. ^ "Kim Carnes – Chart history" Billboard Adult Contemporary for Kim Carnes. Retrieved July 22, 2012.
  45. ^ CASH BOX Top 100 Singles – Week ending MAY 30, 1981 at the Wayback Machine (archived September 18, 2012). Cash Box magazine. Retrieved May 3, 2014.
  46. ^ RECORD WORLD 1981 at the Wayback Machine (archived July 15, 2004). Record World. Geocities.com. Retrieved May 3, 2014.
  47. ^ "Austriancharts.at – Kim Carnes – Bette Davis Eyes 2002" (in German). Ö3 Austria Top 40. Retrieved May 3, 2014.
  48. ^ "Danishcharts.com – Kim Carnes – Bette Davis Eyes". Tracklisten. Retrieved May 3, 2014.
  49. ^ "Forum – ARIA Charts: Special Occasion Charts – Top 100 End of Year AMR Charts – 1980s". Australian-charts.com. Hung Medien. Retrieved May 3, 2014. 
  50. ^ "Jahreshitparade 1981" (in German). Austriancharts.at. Hung Medien. Retrieved May 3, 2014. 
  51. ^ "Jaaroverzichten 1981" (in Dutch). Ultratop. Hung Medien. Retrieved May 3, 2014. 
  52. ^ "Top 100 Singles of 1981". RPM. Vol. 35 no. 22. December 26, 1981. Retrieved May 12, 2016. 
  53. ^ "TOP – 1981" (in French). Top-france.fr. Retrieved May 3, 2014. 
  54. ^ "I singoli più venduti del 1981" (in Italian). Hit Parade Italia. Creative Commons. Retrieved May 3, 2014. 
  55. ^ "Top 20 Hit Singles of 1981". Rock.co.za. Retrieved May 3, 2014. 
  56. ^ "Schweizer Jahreshitparade 1981" (in German). Hitparade.ch. Hung Medien. Retrieved May 3, 2014. 
  57. ^ The CASH BOX Year-End Charts: 1981 at the Wayback Machine (archived September 18, 2012). Cash Box magazine. Retrieved May 3, 2014.
  58. ^ "Greatest of All Time Hot 100 Singles". Billboard. Retrieved January 2, 2016. 
  59. ^ "Canadian single certifications – Kim Carnes – Bette Davis Eyes". Music Canada. 
  60. ^ "Les Singles / Titres Certifiés "Platine"" (in French). InfoDisc. Retrieved May 12, 2016. 
  61. ^ "Les Meilleures Ventes "Tout Temps" de 45 T. / Singles / Téléchargement" (in French). InfoDisc. Retrieved May 13, 2016. 
  62. ^ "Italian single certifications – Kim Carnes – Bette Davis Eyes" (in Italian). Federazione Industria Musicale Italiana.  Select Online in the field Sezione. Enter Kim Carnes in the field Filtra. Select 2014 in the field Anno. The certification will load automatically
  63. ^ "American single certifications – Kim Carnes – Bette Davis Eyes". Recording Industry Association of America.  If necessary, click Advanced, then click Format, then select Single, then click SEARCH

External links[edit]