Saturday, January 25, 2014

"Eye In The Sky": Don't Mess With This Passive Yuppie Husband, Or He Might ... Watch You

Whenever a riot breaks out in a third world country, the UN security forces should just play the Alan Parsons Project's "Eye in the Sky," because it might be the most soothing song ever made. I think it would be physically impossible to use violence against another human being while Eric Woolfson is gently admonishing the listener, "Don't say words you're gonna regret/Don't let fire rush to your head." 

Ostensibly, Eye in the Sky was supposed to be a concept album about Orwellian surveillance or "Big Brother is watching you" or something vaguely dystopian along those lines. Of course, it turns out that George Orwell was completely wrong about all of those things and we would never have to worry about government agents following our every move, but the Alan Parsons Project couldn't have known that back in 1982. Despite surveillance being the song's official "concept," however, I've always imagined that "Eye in the Sky" is being sung from the point of view of a passive middle-aged man whose marriage is falling apart. He's so meek and mild that his wife is brazenly cheating on him and she doesn't think he'll do anything about it. Well, he won't. But what he will do is imagine that he is this big, powerful, omniscient being who can see and hear all. Sure, in reality he's this docile wimp, but in his mind he's a fierce, omnipotent sorcerer hell-bent on vengeance. I'm a sucker for songs about people who try to pretend that they're powerful even though in reality they're quite pathetic. "Eye in the Sky" is like an '80s version of the Who's "I Can See For Miles."
Don't think sorry's easily said
Don't try turning tables instead
You've taken lots of chances before
But I'm not gonna give anymore, don't ask me
That's how it goes
Cause part of me knows what you're thinkin'

Don't say words you're gonna regret
Don't let the fire rush to your head
I've heard the accusation before
And I ain't gonna take any more, believe me
The sun in your eyes
Made some of the lies worth believing

I am the eye in the sky
Looking at you
I can read your mind
I am the maker of rules
Dealing with fools
I can cheat you blind
And I don't need to see any more
To know that
I can read your mind

Don't leave false illusions behind
Don't cry, I ain't changing my mind
So find another fool like before
Cause I ain't gonna live anymore believing
Some of the lies
While all of the signs are deceiving
Oooooh, I'm scared. Woolfson captures the gentle menace of this character as only he can. He starts out low, but jumps up an octave by the time he arrives at "And I ain't gonna take anymore, believe me." The chorus has those nice stacked harmonies, like a drowsier Journey, suggesting "Don't fuck with me, woman." This is what a wimpy guy sounds like when he's angry. But even a couple of threats take too much energy out of the guy, so by the time he gets to "I can read your mind," he's soft and gentle again as he tiptoes his way back to the study. "I can't stop you darling, but I can make you feel very, very guilty about it while you're doing it."

Musically, the song should carry a disclaimer: "Do not listen to while driving as it may induce sleep." "Eye in the Sky" is a perfect stew of somnolent: the swampy keyboard (reminding me, on the chorus, of Rick Wright's funky licks on Dark Side of the Moon's "Breathe" reprise), the delicately finger-picked acoustic guitars, and do I even detect a steel guitar adding a slight country flavor? But it's those constant, omnipresent rhythm guitars that lull you into that (false?) sense of security. According to Parsons, "...I hated the song when we first started recording it — I was quite ready to drop it altogether. Then we hit upon the hypnotic guitar chugs and it all came together." Well, Alan, don't say words you're gonna regret.

1 comment:

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