ALWAYS SOMETHING
THERE TO REMIND ME

RETROCRUSH INTERVIEWS PETE BYRNE
THE LEAD SINGER OF NAKED EYES

Pete Byrne was one part of the dynamic duo in the 1980s that brought us the hit cover of "Always Something There To Remind Me" and the hit single "Promises Promises". With two upcoming 80s invasion concerts in Stockton & Bakersfield California Pete spoke with us about Naked Eyes, and his upcoming acoustic albums.

How did the name "Naked Eyes" come about?

It was just one of those things where we were looking for a name. We wanted something that signified two because there were only two of us.

You felt youíd do better as a duo?

Rob had an idea to do a duo. I had no clue. I was used to sort of bands. I didnít know that much about synthesizers either. I didnít think that much about it. He had this idea to do just a synthesizer and a singer. I thought well weíll just write songs and see what happens. We were quite prolific and we got a lot of publishing offers immediately within a month of working with each other.

So it wasnít a struggle to go door to door and shop your songs?

I had been trying to get deals with my previous bands so I had an idea of how to go about it. I knew about 90% of it is bullshit anyway. I just started doing what I was doing before, but this time we had a new sound that we had with synthesizers. It just sort of took off. If anything it was just sort of shock.

Synthesizers were relatively new and you were trying them out?

They had been around for awhile, but in more esoteric ways. In those days you actually had to know how to play. There werenít sequencers. It wasnít a programming job like it is now.

Iíve heard it was very manual.

Until we got to our second album there wasnít any midi so there was no way of sequencing anything. Rob was a classically trained pianist. He knew his way around a keyboard in any event. If you listen to our stuff thatís what sort of separates it is he was such a great player. Heís an incredible talent. A lot of the bands in the mid 80ís were using sequencing. You didnít need to know how to play a piano or keyboard in order to make a record.

At what point during Naked Eyes did you know youíd hit big?

I think there was never really a point. It was just what we did. We were pretty serious about what we were doing. We didnít think it wasnít going to happen to us. It wasnít possible if you know what I mean.

You had a good mindset.

Just stupid I guess. We would work all the time. We had these publishing offers very quickly. The record publishing thing was a little more difficult. We werenít really marketable. We didnít go out of our way to look like everybody else. We didnít have silly haircuts or wear makeup.

You didnít like the gimmicky things?

We absolutely didnít and we wouldnít do any of that. I think that hurt us. A lot of bands were getting play because they looked whatever.

Maybe you figured the music would speak for itself?

We did yes, thatís exactly what we thought. We knew that in retrospect that the stuff would look ridiculous. We stuck to our guns to our detriment because people thought thereís no marketing you guys. There were just two of us and they had no idea how to do that. It was difficult for us to figure out how are we going to do the stuff live. We just stuck to what we believed in and it worked out in the end.

There was one point actually after we made our first record and it was released in England to underwhelming acclaim. It wasnít doing very much when it was first released. Suddenly we got a call wanting us to go to Portugal of all places. We arrived in Portugal and we didnít know, but we were #1 in Portugal. It was madness. It was screaming girls and the whole thing.

That must have been surprising at the airport.

When we got to the airport there were screaming girls everywhere. It was very funny to us. It was our first real taste of the possibilities of what happens in this business.

How did you decide to do the cover of "Always Something There To Remind Me"? Where there other covers you were considering?

We really didnít develop any others. A friend of mine had become our manager and had booked us all this studio time. We were in there recording our demos. It got to the point where we were thinking about doing a cover. I remembered the song from when I was a kid. It was a huge hit in England by Sandie Shaw. I thought that might be interesting by doing something a bit different. I changed the lyrics somewhat to make it a male vocal. That was it. We recorded it. We thought the demo was pretty good. Then we had a couple of record offers. We went to New York and signed with EMI.

That was the song that made you a hit?

Well yea. Those were just the demos. In those days you made demos because you couldnít afford to make a record. You couldnít do anything other than a demo. Itís not like it is today where everyone has a small recording studio in their living room.

The creator of the song Burt Bacharach likes your version the most?

Yea, in one piece he was interviewed and he said originally he didnít like it. I took a lot of liberties with the melody and various aspects of the song. I think it was a bit of a shock to him. I think there are 28 versions of that song.

I remember hearing a Dionne Warwick version.

Dionne Warwick was the original American artist of that song. Itís was recorded that way like a Samba or something. It was always like that very staccato and on the beat. I changed it quite a bit. I changed some of the lyrics as well. Originally, I donít think Burt knew what to make of it. For some reason itís just captured that period. Itís one of those songs that played on the radio all the time. In fact itís playing on the trailer for the new Jennifer Aniston movie.

Songs that were alternative back in the 1980ís have drifted into the mainstream.

I never thought of it as an alternative song. I thought it was a mainstream single, but I know what you mean. Some stuff has crossed over, but that song in particular even more so than my other big hit which is "Promises Promises".

Thereís a great depth to that song.

I still like it. I love playing it live as well.

What was the inspiration for the song "Promises Promises"?

That was one that came very quickly. Rob & I got into a groove thinking it was sort of a dance song. It went through a couple of rewrites. The original English version is much more left field. Itís really quite nice actually. Itís got a lot more elements to it. We re-recorded it as the second single in America.

You did a few changes like taking out a reference to drinking tea.

Some of the lyrics werenít as direct as they could have been. We did a couple of re-writes of it. Not only that we change things around quite a bit. We tried to make it more of a mainstream single.

We were looking to see what we were going to release for our second single because we had this huge hit. We wanted something that was going to fit with that. "Promises" sort of lent itself to that. The original English version is nice. Itís got more depth to it. Itís more experimental I suppose.

Iíve only heard the American version of "Promises Promises"

Do you have a copy of the English one? Itís on "Promises Promises: The Very Best of Naked Eyes"

A lot of your songs are about love and relationships.

You write about what youíre doing. Of course I was young and going through all that stuff. Itís a natural topic. Music has always been about love and relationships.

Are there other songs you thought were going to breakout and become a hit?

In England the first single and I chose it was "Voices in my head". It was a song about alienation. It was off the normal relationship/love angle. It didnít catch on at all in England. It was never released in America. I always liked that song.

You never know whatís going to hit or not.

Itís anybodyís guess. The more time I spend writing and recording. The more I realize itís a matter of opinion and nobody knows. There are so many talented people that never get a break and itís whether they donít go to war on it or whether itís bad luck. I think everybody gets an opportunity at some point. Itís a matter of being ready I guess.

Jellybean did a lot of your remixes.

He did "Always Something there to Remind me" and a "Promises Promises" remix.

What were your thoughts on Madonna who was Jellybeanís girlfriend at the time?

She was really nice. She was still putting material together for her first album. At the time she was literally just hanging around the studio.

Did you wonder who this woman was?

There are always people hanging around. It was a normal thing. At some point someone suggested why donít we put something in here like a sexy female thing? I donít know if youíre heard it? Itís on the "Everything and More album". I put both the 12" and 7" versions of Madonna doing her thing. Itís really cool. In fact I do her part live.

Are you serious? You do?

I donít do it in her voice of course.

You also appeared on such programs as Solid Gold and meeting Dick Clark on American Bandstand?

You have to remember that I was English. To me it didnít mean a damn thing. I didnít know who he was.

Why do you think Naked Eyes continues to be popular?

We came out with a lot of other synth bands and were a part of that British Invasion of the early 80ís. I think the main reason is we werenít trying to be part of that. It was just one of those things. I think that our stuff is mainstream pop music.

I did a gig in Florida where people buy tickets for the season. The audience was the biggest mix of people Iíve ever seen. There were kids there of about 12. There was one woman in the front row who was 85 or 90 years old.

Was it surprising? Sort of like when you see an 85 year old at a horror movie?

I just thought this is one of those places where they have "Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory" followed by Chamber Music, followed by a classical guitarist or a folk singer. We had been booked in here and we were part of the entertainment. It was fantastic. The sound was unbelievable. It was beautiful.

For me as a performer it was just the best thing. What Iím trying to say is this old lady new my song and was singing along to it. That to me is the thing. I doubt that old lady would be singing along to Soft Cell or the Human League. You know what I mean?

It appeals to so many people of different ages.

Thatís what it is. I do have a lot of people who are synth pop fans or I get people who are pop music or music fans. I like that. It gives it longevity.

Thereís been a resurgence of interest in the 80ís.

I suppose thatís true. I really donít know much about that. A ton of people keep telling me that. The people in the early 1980ís before sequencers and computers took over they were good musicians and songwriters. I think that stuff transcends.

Itís difficult for me because I didnít like much of what happened in the 1990ís in terms of the grunge thing. Those kinds of song are not the same in many ways. I donít think they had the same crossover appeal. Just like the 1960ís for me was the golden age of pop music. All the best songs were written and the best records were made then.

Are there a couple of groups you liked back in the 1960ís?

Actually, I donít know if you know I just finished doing a covers albums.

Is that the one that is all acoustic?

Itís called "Fumbling with the Covers". The idea is I would do songs of my favorite artists, but their lesser known songs. Rather than doing "Paperback Rider" by the Beatles I did "Cry Baby Cry" which is a song from their White album.

I did hear an acoustic version of "Promises Promises" and "When the Lights Go Out" on your website.

This is what Iím doing right now. Itís a real coincidence because the album is finished and ready to go. I suddenly got a call from this label that is releasing an album of acoustic 80ís songs. "Promises Promises" is on that. Itís coming out in a few weeks.

The acoustic version of "Promises Promises" is cool and it sounds different.

Thatís the mandate I gave myself for the others. Every song I would do had to be different from the original. Iím not interested in re-doing the song the same. I just have no interest in that. It took me a while. I worked on the album for probably over two to three years. It was just a process of finding songs that worked. I recorded a lot of stuff that didnít make the album, but the ones that did are like, "Little Wings" by Jimmy Hendrix. Do you know that song?

I know Jimmy Hendrix, but I donít think Iíve heard that song.

Thatís what Iíve said itís one of his lesser known songs. Itís a beautiful song. One of the nicest, best songs he wrote. Itís very simple. I did that with acoustic guitar. I did an old blues I knew from the Stones. I did "Promises Promises" and "Always Something there to Remind me" I covered my own songs so to speak. The only one I did that wasnít a lesser known song was right at the end of the project I woke up one morning and started playing "Rocketman" by Elton John, but that one is so different from his version. Itís just acoustic guitar and vocal.

It sounds like something everybody should pick up.

So far the reaction has been very good and Iíve got a couple of independent labels that want to do it. Now Iím doing this thing which involves the 80ís compilation album with a lot of other 80ís artists on it.

For awhile you were working as a producer.

I did a couple of bands. I produced one other synth band from LA. It worked out quite nicely. The most well known thing oddly enough was the Olsen Twins.

Were they little kids at the time?

I think they were 6 or 7 at the time. They wanted them to do another album and something that wouldnít drive the parents crazy. They asked me if I could write a song for these twins. I didnít know much about them so I wrote a song, "I am the cute one and the other one is my sister." It was a kind of a comic type song. It was massive.

They made a video of it and it was the biggest selling music video of all time. It was so great and it was a cool song as well. I wrote it like Iíd write anything except I wrote it for the twins. Hopefully, I did what I was trying to do without driving the parents crazy.

What direction do you see "Naked Eyes" continuing?

Weíre able to go out and play shows. Weíre going to start a full blown "Naked Eyes" album over the summer.

With your partner you came up with a lot of the songs for the new album before he died.

We recorded a lot of them in demo form. Some of those will be redone. Some of them I might put on as they are because they had touches that only Rob could do. Some of them will make it as extra tracks.

What originally caused "Naked Eyes" to break-up?

Sort of the chain of people/events and things in the records business, thereís so much luck involved. We were signed by somebody who was later removed. The new people who come in really have no interest in you. They donít get anything if youíre successful. Theyíre only interested in their band. It happens to everybody. It was like a marriage we were going through a bad time. We were sick and tired of each other. We were working all the time together. We were traveling everywhere.

You can get on each others nerves.

We got on each others quite a lot actually. It was a natural sort of thing. Our album had tanked. Our single hadnít done too badly. By most peoples standards it was top 40. Most people would die for a top 40 single. We didnít do too badly. The label just wasnít behind us.

Did you like to play any early videogames?

My idea of videogames is Space Invaders.

Did you play Asteroids?

That was a good one. We had a pub near us. Rob and I weíd spend all day working and then go to the pub. Then weíd play Asteroids.

To relax?

Then weíd play Snooker. Itís like pool. Itís a different game. Itís a lot more serious than pool. The tables are too big for pubs. You have to go to a Snooker Hall. We use to do that a lot as well. Weíd write all day and then go to a pub or a Snooker Hall and have a few pints.

What else would you like to say to your fans?

Iíve never been to Stockton so Iím looking forward to it.

Well, California is always great.


Come see "NAKED EYES" along with "MISSING PERSONS" and "A FLOCK OF SEAGULLS" at the upcoming 80's Invasion Concert in Stockton (May 19th) & Bakersfield (May 20th), CA.

Buy tickets for Stockton show
Buy tickets for the Bakersfield show

CHECK OUT THE NAKED EYES WEBSITE

 

 

Mable's Unique Gifts


 
 

ALL CONTENT ON THIS SITE IS (C) 1998-2006 by Robert Berry, retroCRUSH.com, or respective copyright holders. 
CLICK HERE for our Privacy Statement.