The year was 1984. I was a typical tween. I loved Duran Duran, the Go Go’s, Prince and Michael Jackson. I knew all the dance moves. I wore lace gloves, parachute pants and fluorescent laces in my sneakers. ET was my favorite movie and I was addicted to MTV.
Billy Idol was not on my list of favorites. I’d heard “Rebel Yell” and “White Wedding” which was played once an hour on MTV. I did like the video, but grew tired of the song. When he released “Eyes Without A Face” I completely dismissed it. In fact, when the video came on, I would turn it. I just didn’t care for it.
Fast forward 25 years. While driving to work one morning, I heard it played on the radio and I finally got it. Finally. You may disagree with me. You may hate the song, but I enjoyed hearing the softer side of Billy. And his guitarist, Steve Stevens, is pretty amazing. So when I got home that night, I researched the song. Yes, I am a nerd like that. When I find a song that interests me, I research the heck out of it to understand what the artist was feeling. What is the meaning? I look at the lyrics for insight. With this one, I was very surprised by what I discovered.
Les Yeux Sans Visage is a French film from 1960. The title in English is eyes without a face. The movie is about a gifted plastic surgeon who is involved in a horrific car accident, that permanently disfigures his daughter’s once beautiful face. Distraught, he begins capturing beautiful young women, surgically removing their loveliest features to transplant on his daughter’s face. In the end, he becomes consumed with guilt over his madness in making her a perfect face, which she hides behind a mask. All that can be seen are her eyes…hence, eyes without a face.
Call me a bit slow, but I never knew that’s what the female background singers were singing, in French, in the song. (“Les Yeux Sans Visage”) It was quite a revelation for me when all the pieces came together…you know, it’s the little things…
In my research, I checked out the Songfacts, artist’s notes, Wikipedia and so on. But I have come to my own interpretation of the meaning. I think the song is about a relationship that’s failed due to the excess of success. The lyrics, “I spend so much time, Believing all the lies, To keep the dream alive, Now it makes me sad, It makes me mad at truth, For loving what was you”
Regardless of the actual meaning, the song is an 80’s classic, taken from a classic 1960’s horror film. Partially sung in French. With cool music. With a video featuring a sneering Billy Idol staring at you. Go ahead and watch…vous ne croirez pas vos yeux!