OCanada.com recently posted a fab story about the anatomy of Sheena Easton’s 1981 Oscar-nominated James Bond theme “For Your Eyes Only.” I’ve heard my own version of this story face to face from producer Chris Neil, but here, Sheena shares her memories of the recording, which I’ve streamlined and edited from its (horribly written) original version here…
Sheena Easton was 3 years old when first James Bond film, 1962’s Dr. No, came out, but the singer can still recall the anticipation for each successive film in the storied franchise. “Like anybody else, if you were alive around the time they made Bond movies, you had to be aware of them,” the Scottish-bred singer says (in Toronto). “The Bonds were always gorgeous and the beautiful women with the long fabulous hair and the dresses and the glamor; you knew when a new Bond movie came out, you were definitely going to go see it on a Saturday night.”
Twenty-two years later, Easton remembers the moment she found out she would follow in the legendary footsteps of Shirley Bassey, who sang 1979’s Moonraker: “The producers of the movie had asked if I’d like to sing the next Bond theme. I was very young. I was new to the scene but I did have “Morning Train” that had gone to No. 1 around the world. That brought me to the attention of [Bond producer] Cubby Broccoli and the whole Bond team.”
Originally written by Bill Conti & Mike Leeson with either Donna Summer or Dusty Springfield in mind, the young Easton was given the opportunity to sing the theme after an initially hesitant Conti met her in person: “The production of the song was done to be evocative of the sound of underwater—the submarine pinging, the depth charge—it was done to have that link to the film because it was an underwater-themed movie.”
Though still in production, Easton and Conti were allowed to view some of the unfinished film, with Roger Moore in the starring role: “It was in post-production at the time we were putting the theme down. So there were bits of it that I got to see and my music producer got to see, so that we could get the feel of it. I didn’t see the actual movie until we went to a premiere.”
With recording done, legendary Bond credit sequence artist Maurice Binder decided he liked Easton’s appearance so much he would break his own rules by inserting her in the title sequence. An appearance that, despite some discomfort on Easton’s part, Moore would later describe as sexier than any of the Bond girls.
“The filming of the title sequence may look glamorous, but it was a long process because the most important element was to get the visuals to work with the graphics, and because they were coming in on a slow close up on the lips and the eyes at certain points, I had to have my head clamped so it wouldn’t go a millimeter either way; that’s not the most comfortable thing to do,” Easton admits. “But it was well worth it.”
Upon its release in 1981, Easton’s “For Your Eyes Only” became an international hit, climbing to number 4 on the Billboard Hot 100 and No. 8 in the U.K., as well as being nominated for Best Song at the 1982 Academy Awards.
With the benefit of hindsight, the now 53-year-old Easton cracks a sly smile when asked about the song’s significance to her. “It was not the song or the hit record that opened doors for me—the doors had already been opened or I wouldn’t have been offered the gig— but it solidified in a lot of people’s minds that I was not a fly-by-night one-hit-wonder.
“The fact that I had been chosen to be part of that group, somebody must have seen that there was some lasting talent there. After all the hits and productions, in any context when people are discussing your career and discography, that’s the song that is often people’s favorite.”