Naked Eyes shows there’s ‘always something to remind you’ of the genre
By Alex Owens
The 1980s officially ended 27 years ago, but the music lives on whether it be radio, CDs or, for two nights in August, at Humphreys Concerts By the Bay.
On Aug. 17 and 18, the outdoor venue will be hosting Lost ’80s Live, a variety show featuring some of the most iconic acts of the Reagan era, performing some of the decade’s most memorable songs.
One of the groups appearing on the stage is Naked Eyes, best known for the 1983 techno remake of Burt Bacharach’s “Always Something to Remind Me.”
The songwriting legend reportedly considers the Naked Eyes version to be one of his favorite cover songs ever.
“That’s what I heard,” said Peter Byrne, who formed Naked Eyes as a duet with keyboardist Rob Fisher while in college in Bath, England. “We never got a chance to have dinner with him, but I heard he was proud.”
Besides the Bacharach song, Naked Eyes had three other top 40 hits: “Promises, Promises,” which shares a title with a Bacharach song but nothing else; “When The Lights Go Out”; and “(What) In The Name Of Love.”
Despite being played non-stop during the early days of MTV, Naked Eyes never performed live in the U.S. during their peak.
“We couldn’t,” Byrne laughed. “Everything was synth. Rob played 10 different parts by himself.”
Byrne and Fisher separated in 1985 after two albums. Fisher died in 1999 following surgery for bowel cancer while the two were working on a comeback album.
Since then, Byrne has performed under the Naked Eyes band with a four-piece group. He enjoys doing the Lost ’80s Live because it gives him a chance to connect with his contemporaries.
“It’s very convivial,” he said. “We’re all over the pop star thing. It’s calm backstage. We all just do our thing.”
Although the lineup packs a lot of music into one show, Byrne said it can be a challenge.
“There are eight bands and we do four songs. As soon as you’ve warmed up, it’s time to get off stage,” he laughed. “It does remind me of when I was young and saw Jimi Hendrix, Pink Floyd and The Nice all on one bill.”
One 1980s band that has a connection to Naked Eyes but won’t be on the show is Tears For Fears, best known for mid-decade hits “Everybody Wants To Rule The World” and “Shout.”
While in college, Byrne and Fisher were in a band called Neon that also featured future Tears For Fears members Roland Orzabal and Curt Smith.
“The original band was amazing,” Byrne said. “Although it didn’t work out with us, they incorporated the other musicians into their original band. Rob and I just went back to writing songs.”
Byrne continued to pursue songwriting after Naked Eyes broke up in 1985. One of his projects included writing a song for the Olsen Twins called “I’m The Cute One.”
“I didn’t realize they were so massive, but my manager had a kids label they were signed to and he asked me to write a song,” Byrne said. “I took a song I was already working on and changed the lyric.”
Byrne was quick to add that he put the same dedication into what might seem like a bit of fluff as he does on songs for himself.
“You still have to work just as hard to craft a humorous kid’s song as anything else,” he said. “Usually, I start with an idea, like a title or hook and work backwards.”
Other acts on the Lost ’80s Live tour include:
Tony Hadley: As lead singer of Spandau Ballet, Hadley sang lead on songs like “Only When You Leave,” “Gold,” “Communication” and, of course, the classic soul ballad, “True.”
Cutting Crew: In 1986, this band of Brits hit No. 1 with “I Just Died In Your Arms Tonight,” making them one of the decade’s classic one-hit wonders.
Wang Chung: This British duo first hit the charts in 1984 with “Dance Hall Days,” before having a No. 2 smash in 1986 with “Everybody Have Fun Tonight,” and its top 10 follow-up “Let’s Go,”
Berlin: One of the original acts played on 91X after they switched to an alternative-rock formula in 1983. The band’s many hits include “Sex (I’m A …),” “The Metro” and “No More Words.” However, their biggest hit was “Take My Breath Away,” featured memorably in the classic 1986 Tom Cruise flick “Top Gun.”
Missing Persons: This popular LA band is still beloved for songs like “Words,” “Destination Unknown” and “Walking in L.A.”
The Flirts: This modern-day girl group is remembered for its song “Don’t Put Another Dime in the Jukebox.”
For more information on the show, visit bit.ly/2f2PY2b.
—Alex Owens is a San Diego-based freelance writer. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.