Welcome to our “Psychedelic Lunch” series, Sunday Edition where we find out how deep the rabbit hole really goes and explore psychedelic tunes from the 60’s to today. Weekdays At Noon EST. Enjoy the trip!
Alan Parsons Project, Eye In The Sky. Album: Eye In The Sky 1982
Rumor has it that this song gets its theme from George Orwell’s 1984, which revolves around a dystopian future where citizens are constantly monitored by a totalitarian world government. However, even the official page of the Alan Parsons project which talks about this song doesn’t mention any connection. There is also nothing in the lyrics to connect it with this novel – those who have read the book know there are no specific references to “eyes in the sky,” i.e. satellites and such, but just cameras and telescreens everywhere. Meanwhile, the lyrics make no reference to Big Brother, Ingsoc, Newspeak, proles, ministries, Room 101, and so on, which is common jargon in the book. So, let’s just say this is unconfirmed, and caution people about making snap judgments regarding a novel which has become such a potent counter-culture icon in exactly the same way that Guy Fawkes – and Che Guevara before him – became counter-culture fashion. Otherwise we’d end up with a doubleplusungood untruth.
A little more credible is the claim that it’s a reference to ceiling cameras, particularly in casinos, where the same term “eye in the sky” is used. However, the basic message is that of somebody dumping a lover, while asserting that they know too well how the reaction will be.
Alan Parsons did cop to a 1984 association on the album as a whole, telling Top 2000 a gogo: “We wanted to base the album on the sort of concept of big brother is watching you – there’s always a camera watching you, there’s always a helicopter in the sky overseeing you, and you can read a line of small newspaper print from space.”
Lead vocals were from Eric Woolfson, Parsons’ main collaborator. He was Parsons’ lyricist and manager.
The Alan Parsons Project, which was strictly a studio group at the time, used various members on lead vocals; Woolfson would usually record a guide vocal and Alan Parsons, who was also the group’s producer, would decide whose voice best suited the song. In later years, Parsons toured with a band and sang this song during performances.
In some ways, this is an extension of The Alan Parsons Project’s previous album The Turn of a Friendly Card, which deals with gambling. Woolfson spent a lot of time in casinos and was fascinated with the hidden cameras watching his every move.
This was the most successful song the group ever had and was their only US Top 10 hit. It didn’t fare as well in the UK, but then again, none of their songs did.
The lush sound Parsons created on this song is something he learned from his years as a sound engineer. He worked on some seminal albums, including Abbey Road by The Beatles and Dark Side Of The Moon by Pink Floyd. Parsons didn’t think highly of this song and had to be convinced to put it on the album. As Woolfson told it, he and the other musicians loved the song, but Parsons thought so little of it that he bet their guitarist Ian Bairnson that it would not be a hit.
The cover art to the album Eye in the Sky – this song is the title track – has the famous Egyptian symbol of the eye of Horus. Horus was one of the bird-headed Egyptian gods, with the head of a falcon. The eye symbol itself – in ironic contradiction to the lyrics – meant protection, power, and health.
The instrumental track “Sirius” opens the album and leads into “Eye In The Sky,” but unlike some of the Pink Floyd tracks that radio stations played together, “Sirius” was usually dropped when “Eye In The Sky” got airtime. “Sirius” later came into its own as a jock jam when the Chicago Bulls started using it as introduction music in Michael Jordan’s rookie year. It became the soundtrack to the Bulls’ six championships in that era, and was appropriated by a number of other teams in various sports.