Tunesday (Rocktober Edition): Billy Idol – “Eyes Without a Face”

It’s Tuesday so that means at ilisteniwatch.com, it’s Tunesday! Every Tuesday, we will share a song with you that we love and hope you will too.

Selecting one creepy song from an extensive collection of what I deem creepy songs proved dreadfully difficult for me. I knew I wanted to go ‘80s. That part was easy. For me, the answer is always ‘80s. I made my decision rather hastily on a prideful whim (trying to be clever and obscure) and then fate promptly eradicated my decision. ‘80s catalogue roulette supplied the soundtrack for a weekend of searching for proper Transylvanian attire, which landed me on the doorstep of Billy Idol’s “Eyes Without a Face.” And here I stand.

The song title refers to the 1960 horror film Les yeux sans visage (English translation—Eyes Without a Face) directed by Georges Franju. The film depicts a vanity obsessed surgeon, Dr. Génessier, who, through his own arrogance and accelerated need to be in control (even the road is something he feels he can command), disfigures his daughter in a tragic car accident. Dr. Génessier becomes blindly preoccupied with restoring his daughter’s once beautiful features, and to acquire material for Christiane’s graft renovations, he abducts young women and surgically detaches their faces.

les-yeux-sans-visage

Christiane in Les yeux sans visage wearing a mask (as insisted upon by her father) to hide her disfigurement.

The song and film may share a title but they perceptively differ in depiction. The blaring commonality dwells in their flawless detainment of an eerie, sinister—and intense tone. Idol’s “Eyes Without a Face” portrays a forlorn man victimized and wrecked by a devious woman which furthers that tone. The song burns like a heartrending ballad doused in a gasoline of chiding loss, which fans and spreads into an unforgiving inferno of fixated resentment. Perri Lister provides the chilling female vocals in the chorus and drives the ballad factor home as she vocally floats her line in the chorus – “les yeux sans visage” proceeding Idol’s deep, pounding repetition in English.

If haziness lingers in the lyrics and the ominous vocal delivery reiterates the notion that this song is simply a passionate aching in disillusionment, then the aggressive tone of the music video for “Eyes Without a Face” serves to slash that. In the video, the premeditated juxtaposition of the gathered dark, hooded acolytes with Idol’s severe, hooded eyes concludes this foreboding climax, and all restraint practiced throughout the beginning of the song snaps in the bridge with a series of scary-hostile lines including:

“I’m on a bus on a psychedelic trip,
Reading murder books tryin’ to stay hip.
I’m thinkin’ of you, and you’re out there so—
Say your prayers”

Hopefully the lyrical suggestions made by Idol are nothing more than idle intimidation and a poetic manifestation of his deceit driven rage, because even the insinuation made in “say your prayers” reveals a blind anger generated by heartbreak which finishes in a targeted, remorseless, and unrelenting desire to hurt her back. Clearly, this broken man strays and stands between the unstable, rocking columns of his own sanity and madness. Let’s just hope he refuses to curve with his stream of psycho-killer chanting, because if he goes the lunatic route like Dr. Génessier did we’re probably going to be left with one punk rocker pulping the life from his past lover’s eyes.

“Eyes Without a Face” has always been my favorite Idol song, for its dark, obsessive—and creepy depth. And the steady emerging intensity in the song exacerbates the scary-alarming part, because it’s raw, unharnessed, and human.

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