‘Starry Eyes’ by The Records
Every once in a while you discover a song that’s so perfectly suited to your tastes that it seems too good to be true. That’s what happened the first time I heard “Starry Eyes” by the Records. It’s one of the best break up songs ever.
The power pop classic was a single from the Records’ 1979 debut album, Shades in Bed (renamed The Records for the U.S. release). The U.K. band rose from the ashes of pub rockers the Kursaal Flyers and featured John Wicks (guitar/vocals), Huw Gower (guitar/vocals), Phil Brown (bass/vocals) and Will Birch (drums/vocals).
Everything about his track screams pure power pop, including the chiming guitars, killer harmonies, steady backbeat—and, of course, the heartbroken lyrics about the death of a difficult relationship.
Listen to the hooky chorus and it’s clear that the narrator’s the one ending things. I originally thought the song was about a divorce since a “judge” is mentioned, or maybe a fan (turned stalker?) with “starry eyes.” Dark!
I don’t want to argue, I ain’t gonna budge
Won’t you take this number down before you call up the judge?
I don’t want to argue, there’s nothing to say
Get me out of your starry eyes and be on your way
In other words, I always assumed it was a bitter love song. It was a shock to discover how wrong I was. Here’s what “Starry Eyes” lyricist, Will Birch, had to say about the real inspiration.
“I use the word loosely, but we had a manager. [And] we didn’t feel he was as committed as we were. We were in this fight with CBS whereby I was still signed [from the Kursaal Flyers days] and they wanted to hang onto me but they wouldn’t offer us a deal. Months were going by and I was getting more and more impatient to get records out and do stuff, and having a lot of arguments with CBS,” he told Blurt in 2011.
“And at [the point when it] reached fever pitch—where we’d done some demos and they were still hemming and hawing—he went on holiday. He said, ‘Right, I’m off to south of France for two weeks, see you when I get back.’ …Well, when he got back, we’d dumped him.”
Wicks picks the story up in this 2017 interview with The Washington Times. “He was a nice guy; he would always put things off. We felt like if we don’t move on faster, things would fall apart. It was my instigation to look for somebody else, which we did.”
The verses certainly made more sense once I understood the real backstory.
While you were off in France, we were stranded in the British Isles
Left to fall apart amongst your passports and your files
We never asked for miracles but they were our concern
Did you really think we’d sit it out and wait for your return?
Of course, “Starry Eyes” isn’t the only song ever written about the darker side of the music business. Other famous examples include “Radio Radio” by Elvis Costello & the Attractions, “That’s Not My Name” by the Ting Tings, “The Under Assistant West Coast Promotion Man” by the Rolling Stones, “Barracuda” by Heart, “Complete Control” by the Clash, “Emancipation” by Prince, “The Agony of Lafitte” by Spoon, and “Have a Cigar” by Pink Floyd (to name a few).
Still, I was a little disheartened when I learned “Starry Eyes” was about the band firing their manager. It’s a great bit of rock lore, but I was already invested in the relationship narrative I’d crafted in my own head. Isn’t that always the way with our favorite songs?
When I think about the best power pop lyrics, the vast majority are about love—unrequited or otherwise—not the music business. Thankfully, “Starry Eyes” is so unbelievably good that the disillusionment doesn’t keep me from listening on repeat whenever the mood strikes (which is surprisingly often).
As for the fired manager, Birch had this to say in retrospect. “Looking back now, I can see that it was unreasonable of us. But at the time, we thought he didn’t have the same commitment as us. So that song was written about him and that experience.”
In the end, “Starry Eyes” is about the end of a relationship, just not the romantic kind. And it’s still one of the best break up song ever.
Here are a few of my other music articles you might like: