3. Peter Gabriel - In Your Eyes

Most of us aren't fancy poets who can shower our lovers with earnest words that make their heart swoon.  Most of us need Hallmark cards to find the right words to sum up our relationship.  Especially if you're talking about us guys, we generally don't have the emotional depth and complexity to fully express what our heart is telling us to tell you.  We want to - desperately, but it ends up coming out pretty lame most of the time.  Something along the lines of, "You're so special to me.  I just love you, like, more than a lot.  You're the chocolate to my peanut butter, um, or the peanut butter to my chocolate, you know, whichever works better for you. Um..."  You smile, tell us we're cute, and give us a sympathy hug.

And this isn't a new phenomenon. Throughout the ages, how many of us hapless males have used the words of the more talented to woo the fairer sex?  From our forefathers quoting Shakespeare, Frost and Dickinson to the more modern poets of Dylan, Lennon/McCartney and Peter Gabriel.  For me, Gabriel's song, "In Your Eyes" was the first love song I heard that wasn't just a sappy "how many different ways can I say I love you" love song.  It was an adult love song.  And even though I was only sixteen when it came out, it was something that I could aspire to.  He formed the words that I knew would some day be in my heart, and God knows I would never be able to wrench them out like this:

And all my instincts, they return
And the grand facade, so soon will burn
Without a noise, without my pride
I reach out from the inside

"In Your Eyes" is a song about a real relationship.  Peter wrote it during his long romance with actress Rosanna Arquette*.  It was a relationship that was difficult, complicated, heartfelt and passionate.  The way Peter sums up the complex emotions involved in a serious adult relationship are nothing short of poetic.  In just those four lines, he sums up the modern man's struggle to put aside the conventions that men need to be strong and reserved, which conflicts with their desire to show true emotions to the women they love.  At sixteen, I knew I couldn't do this yet, but the song made me want to.  That's the great power of music - it can inspire us to do more, be more.

That desire comes across perfectly in Cameron Crowe's directorial debut, Say Anything.  In the movie, about a complex teenage relationship, John Cusack's Lloyd Dobler has run out of words to try and convince Diane that breaking up with him was a mistake.  As a last resort, he comes to her house, stands outside while holding a boom box over his head, playing "In Your Eyes."  The music wafts down the hillside, saying the things he's tried to say, but has failed to come up with on his own.  This song says the sings we wished we would’ve said at just the right moment to the one we hold dear, or give us the hope that we will have someone, someday, to whom we can play this song.

Melding flawlessly with the touching lyrics is an equally complex musical arrangement.  It starts with Peter's simple keyboards which are paired with Manu Katché's intricate percussive rhythms.  Katché weaves in African drums (with a matching African rhythm), hand cymbals and even traditional rock drums to lay a multifaceted yet solid rhythmic base the rest of the instruments can build upon.  David Rhodes plays the crisp guitar lines in the preludes to the chorus.  Tony Levin, who normally gets to do some really cutting edge bass work in a Peter Gabriel song, puts ego aside and spends almost the entire song as the very bottom of his fretless bass, only occasionally showing those flashes of the standard Tony Levin brilliance.  Senegalese singer Youssou N'Dour adds vocals in his native Woolof at the end of the song, showing the most obvious African influences on Peter and his songwriting.

The process for writing and recording an album is an involved one.  Since Peter changes tone from album to album, hell, even in the middle of an album, the complexity is increased almost exponentially.  He puts it this way:
The smart process involves harvesting performances, then analyzing them and layering them up.  Initially you might just look at rhythm, then maybe you look at melody, then harmony, then timbre.  Each time you put down a layer of performance you slow it down and analyze it.  I love diversions and I keep on following them which makes the process a lot longer.

One of the diversions that he just couldn't let go was the final mix of "In Your Eyes."  After the album was released, he kept following the diversions attached to this song, trying out new things.  So when it came time to release the single of "In Your Eyes," Peter decided to release the result of the additional work on the song.  Right away, you can hear the song's different - better.  He added a vocal prelude, with lyrics that augment the original ones.

Accepting all I've done and said
I want to stand and stare again
Til there's nothing left out
Oh, it remains there in your eyes

Manu Katché's rhythms remain the focal part of this new mix, but Tony Levin's bass gets a boost as well, coming out of the dark a little bit to show what he can pull off.  He also had Youssou N'Dour add a substantial amount of new lyrics, almost making the song more African than British.  Ronnie Bright, bass singer from The Coasters, adds the deep and rich "In your eyes" throughout the new mix.  Gone are some of the verses, but the addition of Youssou's Woolof lyrics give the song a global feel that was only a footnote in the album version.

When Peter began performing "In Your Eyes" live, ever the tinkerer, he melded the two versions together and created what's probably the definitive version of the song.  Probably the best recording of this is from his Secret World Live DVD, where the entire band is in top shape, and he's joined by Youssou on vocals, as well as a then unknown Paula Cole on backing vocals.  The combination is an infectiously fun performance that makes this song such a joy to listen to.  When you hear it live, you can feel it growing organically from a ballad to a combination ballad/uptempo song right in front of you. 

Whenever I hear the chorus, I wish I had written those words for my wife.  But the great thing about music is that the artists know that we're going to co-op their art and inject it into our lives.  Peter knows that I can use his words to serenade my own love.

In your eyes
I am complete
In your eyes
I see the doorway to a thousand churches
In your eyes
The resolution of all the fruitless searches

That's why this song is the third best song of my lifetime.  It's a song that's become woven into the fabric of my life, intertwined with others that have a deeper meaning than just the song itself.  Whenever I have doubt, I know that without doubt, I am complete in Jennifer's eyes, and that's something that fills my heart with a joy that I wish for everyone.  People have been cribbing the poetry of King David (thousands of years ago), Shakespeare (hundreds of years ago) and Peter Gabriel (um, ten minutes ago) almost as long as there have been people.  If you haven't found a love like this for yourself - or if you've had it and lost it, don't be afraid to pick up your own boom box and let someone like Peter Gabriel help you tell him or her what you've yearned to, but just never found the words for.  They might just make a movie about it someday.

* The story goes that Rosanna Arquette was not only the muse for "In Your Eyes," but also the inspiration for Toto's Grammy award winning "Rosanna."  While it's true that Rosanna and Toto keyboardist Steve Pocaro were in a long-term relationship, songwriter/fellow keyboardist David Paich already had the song mostly done and just needed a name that fit.  "Rosanna" was the perfect three syllable name.

(Fun Fact #212:  The story behind how "In Your Eyes" ended up in Say Anything rivals the movie itself in its awesomeness.  While writing the screenplay for Say Anything, writer/director Cameron Crowe was sitting around, waiting for his wife (who's Heart's Nancy Wilson, by the way...) to finish getting ready so they could go out.  Not one to waste time (and a bit frustrated at having to wait), he sat down to work on the story.  The idea of holding up a boom box, playing a song where the artist sang the words you couldn't say yourself popped into his head.  There was a song that Cameron just loved at the time that he thought was perfect for the scene.  That song, of course, was....... "To Be a Lover" by Billy Idol+.

But when it came time to edit the movie and put the song in the scene, it was clear that "To Be a Lover" wouldn't work.  He searched records, looking for something that would work.  He even commissioned a few songwriter friends to try and come up with something, to no avail.  Finally, he came across the music that he had put together for his wedding to Nancy.  One of the songs on that tape was "In Your Eyes."  He immediately realized that this was the perfect song that he had been looking for and began the process of going through channels to ask Peter Gabriel for permission to use the song in his movie.

Even now, Peter Gabriel very rarely allows his songs to be used in other media, and with "In Your Eyes" he was especially wary since it was a song so personal to him.  When he was initially approached, his knee-jerk reaction was no, but he was convinced (by none other than Rosanna Arquette) to at least watch Say Anything before finalizing his refusal.  Cameron Crowe gave him a call to get the verdict.  "I appreciate you asking for the song.  It's a very personal song to me and I just hope you don't mind that I have to turn you down." 

Crestfallen, Crowe just had to know why.  Peter told him that it didn't feel like a proper use of the song when he takes the overdose.  Crowe was instantly confused.  "Uh, when he takes the overdose?"  Peter replied, "Yeah, you're making the John Belushi story, right?"  It turns out that the studio had sent over two movies for Peter to look at, the other being the John Belushi biopic, Wired.  Crowe immediately said, "Oh, no, no, no.  It's a movie about the guy in high school with the trench coat."  Peter realized that it was the other movie, which they hadn't watched yet.  He hung up with Cameron and watched the movie the next day, and then happily gave permission to complete one of the greatest scenes ever in a high school movie.)

+I know!  "To Be a Lover"?  Really?  Why not just go with "Sussudio"?  I cued up the movie, muted it, and played "To Be a Lover" over where "In Your Eyes" went.  I laughed out loud.  It was absurd.  Don't get me wrong, I love Billy Idol (check out the Mother of Mercy mix of "To Be a Lover," it's one of my favorite songs ever.  I could eat Steve Stevens' riffs for breakfast, lunch and dinner), but that song just would never have worked.  By the way, I checked out "Sussudio" the same way and it turns out that it was even funnier.  Do it yourself if you're in the need for a laugh.

(Fun Fact #32 Having Nothing at All to Do With "In Your Eyes":  One of the groups that Cameron Crowe asked to do a song for Lloyd to play was The Smithereens.  They ended up writing the song "A Girl Like You," which Cameron really loved, but realized wouldn't work in the movie either.  No big deal, though.  "A Girl Like You" ended up being a Top 40 hit for the band when they released it off their next album.)
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