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Flashback Video: 'Bette Davis Eyes' by Kim Carnes

Ever since the dawn of MTV and Friday Night Videos, the music video has significantly impacted musical tastes and pop culture. It might not be as extreme as when the Buggles declared that "Video Killed the Radio Star", but there is no arguing that the music video certainly could make or break a song's popularity. So this regular Flashback Video feature will serve to remember some of the music videos from the great '80s decade that made an impact on me in one way or another.


This issue we will cover "Bette Davis Eyes" by Kim Carnes. She released her first album back in 1972, but Carnes is best known for her trademark raspy voice and for her 1981 hit song about a certain facial part of a certain actress. The song “Bette Davis Eyes” was actually written by Donna Weiss and Jackie DeShannon, then recorded by DeShannon back in 1974. It was not until Carnes released her version in 1981 that it became a commercial success. The song would spend nine weeks (during May-July of 1981) in the top spot of the Billboard Hot 100. It was the biggest hit of the entire year of 1981 and, according to Billboard, the second biggest hit of the entire '80s decade in the U.S. (only behind 1980’s “Physical” by Olivia Newton-John). The song was even ranked impressively at #12 on Billboard‘s list of the top 100 songs in the first 50 years of the Billboard Hot 100 chart. Not surprisingly, the song won both Record of the Year and Song of the Year at the 1982 Grammy Awards.

The music video for "Bette Davis Eyes" was directed by Russell Mulcahy. Previous to this, as the artform was evolving into mainstream popularity, Mulcahy had directed other music videos including The Buggles "Video Killed the Radio Star", The Vapors "Turning Japanese" and Rod Stewart "Young Turks" among several others. After this, Mulcahy really gained attention creating music videos for some of Duran Duran's biggest hits including "Hungry Like the Wolf", "Rio", "Is There Something I Should Know?", "The Reflex" and "The Wild Boys" among others. He became one of the most prolific music video directors of the decade also creating The Motels "Only the Lonely", Billy Joel "Allentown", Spandau Ballet "True", Elton John "I'm Still Standing", Elton John "I Guess That's Why They Call It the Blues", Bonnie Tyler "Total Eclipse of the Heart", Billy Joel "A Matter of Trust", Kenny Loggins "Meet Me Halfway", Def Leppard "Pour Some Sugar on Me" and Billy Joel "We Didn't Start the Fire" in addition to dozens of others. Mulcahy was recognized for his incredible work when he received the Video Vanguard Award at the 1985 MTV Video Music Awards. He later moved on to direct films including 1986's cult favorite Highlander and others in later decades. The video focuses on Carnes performing the song in a couple of different settings and it does feature a shadowed silhouette of Bette Davis smoking a cigarette several times throughout the video. Nothing too groundbreaking looking back now, but at the time it was a solid effort. Here is the music video for "Bette Davis Eyes" by Kim Carnes...


Bette Davis herself admitted to being a fan of the song and wrote to Carnes after the song was released thanking her and saying she loved the song. She wrote in her memoir, “It was a thrill to become a part of the rock generation.” It is reported that Carnes and Davis struck up a special friendship, with the singer visiting Ms. Davis at her home several times until her death in 1989.

Hope you enjoyed another trip back to the '80s thanks to Flashback Video!

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