Bette Davis Eyes by Kim Carnes

Hump a bathtub just to please you.

This is Bette Davis and these are her eyes.

So saying someone has Bette Davis eyes means… well I guess it means they have big eyes that are kinda googly. Is it even positive? Indeed with all the lyrics of Bette Davis Eyes I have a hard time figuring out what they mean. It sounds like Kim Carnes is singing about someone tough, cool and horny enough to hump bathtubs. Bette Davis liked the song but she would, wouldn’t she. Her name is the only thing people remember about it. Well, that and the New Romantics.

Bette Davis Eyes made it to number one so it has to have something going for it. And indeed it does: the genius synth line by Bill Cuomo who was noodling around on his synth and came up with the sound that defines the song. The song is Bill’s synth line.

Kim Carnes’ awful rasping voice almost wrecks it. She sounds like she needs to go to bed with a cup of lemon tea and some Sudoku puzzles to rest for the weekend so she can get back to work on Monday. It is distracting and horrible to listen to.

But the video is just great.


The opening shot sets the arty-80s tone with the wind-blown curtain and veil. Hard-faced Kim takes a little away from the look even when she is hidden behind her Ray-Bans. There’s a dorky band that I don’t even remember seeing the first twenty times I watched the video. They are like that gorilla that walks across the basketball players.  And just as I’m getting bored with the video, the New Romantics show up…


…and they slap each other.


Maybe Bette Davis has black eyes?


There’s the magic. Empowered hot women in goth outfits smacking around their guys in time to the music. What’s not to love?

But this song has a secret. It is a cover. Here’s the original. Listen and be astounded.

How in the world did that turn into the Bette Davis Eyes that we all know? I contend that there is a final bit of magic at work here. The producer, Val Garay, heard the Jackie DeShannon’s version and had the incredible imagination to think that would make a great song for Kim Carnes. Kim’s version is so strong the DeShannon version sounds like a parody, like something Lyle Lovett sings to please his audience at live shows.

Val, you get a gold star for production genius.


2 Responses to “Bette Davis Eyes by Kim Carnes”

  1. 1 Anonymous
    August 20, 2011 at 22:08

    Just to show one that it takes different strokes for different folks………….I love Kim Carnes voice, I find it very sexy and her well drawn lines in her jaw aren’t too bad to look at either !! Hope all is well and it would seem that you are working majorly hard. Sure a contrast to days of sitting and doing programming vs. driving post holes etc. I as so happy that you two have acted on your vision. The kids have a dream life and it appears great setting for school as well. My mother grew up on a farm and my poor grandfather had 3 very girlie girls and only one son as well so he got very little labor from the feminine side – apparently like pulling teeth and there was lots to do : 200 cultivated acres of potatoes in very Northern Maine. Horse drawn everything both for farming and transportation in 1910 (they were off to college in the late 1920’s

    take care and my love to all. Jane Sawyer

  2. 2 bc
    August 22, 2011 at 10:24

    Jane, how good to hear from you!

    Kim Carnes’ voice is very popular, as are the similar voices of Bryan Adams, Rod Stewart and Bonnie Tyler. Doesn’t float my boat but they have each had number one hits. I can’t argue with success, eh. 🙂

    Did you ever see your Mother’s farm? It sounds awesome. Aren’t there French speakers up there, the remnants of the old Acadians?

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