'80s - Naked Eyes (2006)
'Still With One Eye On the Future'
Naked Eyes was an Eighties synthpop duo, best known for their first single, a cover of the Burt Bacharach / Hal David standard "(There's) Always Something There To Remind Me." The song reached number one in the UK in 1964 for Sandie Shaw. Some versions of this song (including that of Naked Eyes) has the word "(There's)" dropped from the title.
The group consisted of childhood friends from Bath, England, Pete Byrne on vocals and Rob Fisher on keyboards. The two had formerly played in a band called Neon with future members of Tears for Fears and stayed together as a duo after the group broke up.
Their second and third singles, "Promises, Promises" and "When the Lights Go Out", were also hit singles. However, their second album, Fuel for the Fire and the single "(What) In the Name of Love", were not as well-received and the group broke up soon after its release.
Byrne ended up doing session work (he is heard on Stevie Wonder's "Part-Time Lover" and wrote and produced "I Am the Cute One" for Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen in 1992) while Fisher joined the group Climie Fisher.
Fisher died August 25, 1999 from complications following stomach surgery.
Byrne recently revived the group name and released the solo album 'Fumbling With The Covers,' which consisted of covers of Bob Dylan, The Beatles, Elvis Costello, along with the Naked Eyes hits; all of them acoustic. It was released on the Oglio label. Byrne released another solo album, 'The Real Illusion' in 2001, which featured some of the last tracks he wrote with Fisher for a proposed third Naked Eyes album.
Chatting recently with lead singer Pete Byrne, I first wondered if his early group Neon was indeed the starting point for Naked Eyes? ”Not really, no. Rob and I had been writing together for a while and the record deal that we were supposed to sign with Virgin Records fell through. So, we thought that perhaps we should get out and start playing some of this stuff. So, we put a band together that originally included Curt and Manny Elias the drummer, and a guitarist called Neil Taylor. And that was the original line-up. It was a killer band and we played everywhere. ”
So, what happened to that line-up? "Well, Neil always had this other little power trio band - which wasn’t as successful as we were – so he decided to go off and do that. So, I asked Roland – who was Neil’s friend – if he wanted to come and play guitar with us. Roland had already been working on his Tears For Fears idea and Rob was really starting to get into all the technology and becoming a live band. So, it was just one of those things really – and we weren’t being paid for what we were doing."
So Neon broke up soon thereafter? "Yeah, Rob and I had to then carry on as normal. We were a songwriting team so when Neon broke up I convinced a friend of mine that he would make a brilliant Manager. After agreeing with me then plonked down enough money for us to go into the studio and record. So that then was basically the genesis of Naked Eyes because while we were recording those songs we decided to do a cover of ‘Always There To Remind Me'."
In hindsight, was it risky for a new band to be known first for their version of a cover song? ”That was much later. Basically the idea of recording that song whilst doing a demo session was really just to get us away from our own stuff so that we had something fun to do. We were in the studio every day and this was new to us. I mean, prior to that Rob and I were just in his living room with a couple of keyboards and an old two-track machine. So, to be let loose in a studio was great – and we had this record recorded in two weeks. We were recording two songs a day and really working hard – in between games of PacMan,” he laughs.
Where does the name Naked Eyes originate and was it always first choice? ”Not really. We never really thought too much about it. It was after we were signed to EMI. We basically signed to them without a name and we were just struggling to find a name. At one point we had all their marketing people – about twenty people - just sitting around thinking about it,” he laughs again. ”It was crazy and I don’t remember why, but I just thought of it one day. At that point we were looking for something original and as it was just Rob and I we wanted something that suggested that there was just the two of us – and it just came to me one day.”
"I think it was a fantastic name and one that I actually had to fight for with EMI. They thought it was wrong. I don’t know if it was the ‘naked’ part or what, but they then told me they didn’t even want me smoking cigarettes around them either!”
Basically existing from 1981 to 1984 as an entity, and having had US/UK Top Ten hits along the way, why did the band break up so young into its stardom? ”It was a tough time for us. The first album was very successful for us and we were supposed to go out on tour in London with The Motels. But right at the last moment she became very sick and the tour was cancelled. At that point we were kinda getting a little fed up with the whole deal, and with EMI especially. We’d already written new material for the next album when they suggested we go in and record it. And it was just hell from day one! We weren’t ready to record it and we hadn’t really finished doing what we should have done with the first one. And we were just getting on each other’s nerves, basically. Different opportunities were coming up for us both. I was spending more and more time in America, met an American woman, and then doing more session work back in London. So, at some point all the people we were basically involved with at EMI were fired and so the new regime didn’t really care about us. It was a mixture of things.”
"But yeah, Rob and I had come to the end of the road in terms of getting on with each other. I think they call that having ‘creative differences,’ I believe!”
For the new ‘80s Stripped CD, when was your version of “Promises Promises” recorded? ”Ahh, well this is a relatively new thing. You know that Rob Fisher died in 1999 and we had always been friends throughout the whole thing and just decided to go in different directions. So, we stayed in contact and then at some point the Climie Fisher band wasn’t going anywhere and I’d been doing session work. So, we got back together again to work on a new album, but then Rob passed away. So, I was now thinking about what to do with the music, as we’d always agreed not to use the name Naked Eyes without each other. So, I didn’t and I released a solo album and I guess about three years ago I decided to go back to the days before Neon – when we used to play with just a guitar in the pubs and bars – and so I just starting doing that with my guitar. The original idea was to just do covers."
And that turned out to be ‘Fumblin’ With The Covers’? "Yeah. It’s all my favorite artists. After I’d done about three or four of the songs I thought maybe I should have a go at one of the Naked Eyes songs. So, I chose ‘Promises Promises’ and because of many reasons it just came out totally different from the original; so I recorded it.”
Where did the song ‘Promises Promises’ come from originally? ”’Promises Promises’ was just another song for us. We were pretty prolific songwriters and Rob was an incredible player. So we would work every day solidly from two in the afternoon until five in the afternoon when the pubs would open,” he laughs heartily. ”But the thing was we did a lot of work in that time and ‘Promises’ was just one of those really. I think that after ‘Always Something …’ was such a big hit the label said we’d now like to put out ‘Promises,’ but you have to redo it; make it more radio friendly. That's why there's a UK version and a US version of the same song which are completely different from each other!”
But you now use the name Naked Eyes more freely as you even tour under that name? "Yes, I do … in fact, the acoustic album should have been recorded under Naked Eyes also. It occurred to me later that it was a Naked Eyes unplugged album if you like. And as far as the group goes and the music as well, over the years Rob and I were always talking about doing something like touring the Far East … which would have been nice. But I often get calls asking if Naked Eyes could do this or that and I never did. So I put a band together so that when the calls come in I can now make a real decision on whether I want to do it or not.”
Is it also true that on your 2001 solo album "The Real Illusion" that there can be heard some of the last ever worked on Naked Eyes tracks between yourself and Rob? ”Yeah, and in retrospect that also should have been called Naked Eyes as there were new tracks on there that I had done with Rob. It would have been a better way of marketing it as it is a Naked Eyes album. So, now I’ve come to the point where I’m just gonna call everything I do Naked Eyes,” he laughs.
Interviewed by Russell A. Trunk
'80's Hits Stripped' CD Purchase Link