The Bond series frequently follows the same pattern. Films get ever more action-packed and begin to feature increasing numbers of gadgets and explosions. That is, until a director decides to change direction and revert back to a more subdued affair, more faithful to Ian Fleming’s books. It happened with On Her Majesty’s Secret Service as a reaction to You Only Live Twice, with Casino Royale as a reaction to Die Another Day and with For Your Eyes Only as a response to the action packed Moonraker.
For Your Eyes Only (1981)
1. For Your Eyes Only
2. A Drive In The Country
3. Take Me Home
4. Melina’s Revenge
5. Gonzales Takes A Dive
6. St Cyril’s Monastery
7. Make It Last All Night
10. For Your Eyes Only
12. The PM Gets The Bird/For Your Eyes Only – Reprise
13. Gunbarrel/Flowers For Teresa/Sinking the St Georges
14. Unfinished Business/Bond Meets Kristatos
16. Goodbye, Countess/No Head For Heights/Dining Alone
17. Recovering the ATAC
18. Sub vs Sub
19. Run Them Down/The Climb
With John Glen at the helm, For Your Eyes Only was intended to be a more realistic spy adventure. With John Barry once again unable to work on the picture for tax reasons, the Italian-American composer Bill Conti was recommended. Conti had won acclaim and many awards (including an Oscar) for his soundtrack to Rocky and his ability to mix classical and jazz styles with contemporary pop was deemed perfect for Bond 12.
The style of the music in For Your Eyes Only can be determined right from the pre-credit sequence. Even as Bond is placing flowers on the grave of his late wife Teresa, a slow but funky, disco-esque version of the For Your Eyes Only theme can be heard. Conti then continues this funky, disco club style throughout the opening half of the film.
The opportunity to record the title theme to For Your Eyes Only was first offered to the new-wave band Blondie. However, the producers preferred another title theme written by Conti and lyricist Mike Leeson. Blondie declined the offer to record Conti and Leeson’s song, and included For Your Eyes Only – an upbeat guitar based song that would actually have made a terrific theme – on their 1982 album The Hunter.
Instead, Scottish singer Sheena Easton was invited to record the theme having recently scored a huge hit on both sides of the Atlantic with 9 to 5 (Morning Train). Easton also became the first (and only) performer to appear in the title sequence of a Bond film when she performed For Your Eyes Only as part of Maurice Binder’s opening credit sequence. The song was a big hit around the world, reaching number Eight in the UK and number Four in the US Billboard charts. It also topped the charts in Switzerland and New Zealand.
Conti’s soundtrack to For Your Eyes Only is an eclectic mixture of tracks which shows a deep understanding of the Bond tradition. Dramatic pieces such as Melina’s Revenge (which include hints of Greek instrumentation to reflect the location) evoke many older Bond films and Ski…Shoot…Jump is a tense, orchestral piece which is true to the tradition of Bond music.
Conti also weaves the title theme throughout, into pieces such as Unfinished Business and Bond Meets Kristatos as well as with Derek Watkins’ flugelhorn solo in the romantic For Your Eyes Only instrumental. He also introduces the James Bond Theme in a more subtle fashion, often using brass rather than electric bass guitar for the main melody.
Conti also shows his versatility by changing the tone of his soundtrack to match Bond’s locations. He uses castanets on the Spanish sounding piece Gonzales Takes A Dive when Bond heads to Spain to locate the Cuban hitman Hector Gonzales. As 007 and Melina Havelock escape the villa, the tune turns into a dramatic Spanish chase theme including timpani, synthesisers and strings. He also gives the soundtrack a Greek flavour when the action moves to Corfu.
In the scene at Gonzales’ poolside, we also hear a vocal piece entitled Make It Last All Night sung by the band Rage. With an 80s Motown feel, it contains some of the raunchiest and most suggestive lyrics used in any piece of Bond music to date.
Although not included on the soundtrack, For Your Eyes Only is the third consecutive film to feature a well-known piece of music from another popular film as a sly, knowing in-joke. This time there is a short sequence from the Jaws theme when an unseen underwater threat approaches the sunken ship.
The additional seven tracks on the remastered CD version of For Your Eyes Only really add some additional quality to what is already an excellent soundtrack. From the simple gunbarrel sequence and pre-credit score to much of the music that accompanied the underwater sequences as Bond and Melina recovered the ATAC, these additional songs don’t dilute the quality of the album.
Conti’s soundtrack is actually one of the most well-considered and faithful to the Barry tradition. However, whereas Barry’s soundtracks are timeless, Conti’s is let down by the fact that the instrumentation rather dates the music in the disco era. For example, the ski chase sequence is underscored by the superb track Runaway; a great piece of chase music but played on synthesisers and brass which give it a disco, dance feel that could only be the late 1970s or early 1980s.
The moments where Conti’s score turns into classic orchestrated Bond music are terrific, and if you can overlook the Moog synthesisers and disco funk of some of the other tracks, it is a much better soundtrack than For Your Eyes Only is a film.