Don’t You Forget About Me: The Alan Parsons Project – “Sirius” / “Eye in the Sky”
Posted by Andrew Unterberger on April 23, 2009
I found the Alan Parsons Project’s Eye in the Sky in a 3/$10 rack recently, and given my appreciation of the few songs of theirs I know (and my recent issues with my mp3 player, necessitating recent CD listening), I decided to give it a shot. It’s a pretty cool album, actually, and it’s about as hard to put a finger on as I had expected. It’s impossible to get a read on exactly what the Alan Parsons Project’s deal was from their hits, since none of them really sound alike, and likewise, the album comes across as a weird hybrid of the Beach Boys’ Smiley Smile, Todd Rundgren’s A Wizard, A True Star and Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon (the last one being appropriate enough, I suppose, since Parsons engineered the thing). But though the album’s pretty solid throughout, if more than a little dated, all I want to do while listening to it is go back and listen to the first two tracks over and over again.
“Eye in the Sky” was the big hit, getting all the way to #3 back in 1982, and it is a beaut. A chugging, atmospheric maybe-love song (if you consider “Every Breath You Take” to be a love song and/or 1984 to be a great romance, anyway) with a heartbreaking lead vocal (not by Parsons himself as I previously believed, but by forgotten hero Eric Woolfson) and a truly knockout chorus (those harmonies, man, those harmonies), it’s one of the more underrated singles of the 80s. It actually kind of sounds like it could have been one of Lindsey Buckingham’s better, more lovelorn songs on an 80s Fleetwood Mac album. Contributing to its underratedness is the fact that, like every other Alan Parsons Project single, the song has completely vanished from radio–a little too weird for soft-rock, a little too dreamy for classic rock, and not quite kitschy enough for 80s retro. It’s hard to think of who today would come up with a modern equivalent to “Eye in the Sky”–after all, how many rock engineers turn into rock stars these days, anyway?
Anyway, despite the fact that it was just a two-minute intro meant to lead into “Eye in the Sky” on the album, the song that you’re far more likely to know if you weren’t around in 1982 is “Sirius.” As far as That Songs go–songs that just about everyone knows, despite not knowing their titles or the artists behind them–“Sirius” has got to be an all-time top tenner. It first came to national prominence during the Chicago Bulls’ championship runs in the 90s as the team’s intro music, but has since been co-opted by teams in just about every major sport as the go-to music–along with “Eye of the Tiger” and the Requiem for a Dream theme–for building tension and suspense during pivotal game moments. (Apparently it was used even earlier as the entrance music for forgotten wrestler Ricky Steamboat–seems slightly less iconic). If you don’t think you know it, trust me, you know it–listen if you need proof.
It’s actually a pretty stunning piece of music when separated from the cheesy entrance sequences–the sparkling, mysterious guitar riff and widescreen production make the song sound positively spectral, so it’s difficult to imagine a time when people could hear the song and not picture a big, dark room full of flashing laser lights accompanying it. It’s going to be kind of hard to hear the song without “Eye in the Sky” coming after it now, though. “Sirius” flows so naturally into the album’s title track that it’s impossible for me to see why the two of them were ever separated in the first place, really–combined, they make for a damn amazing six and a half-minute minute classic rock epic, along the lines of classics like Elton John’s “Funeral For a Friend / Love Lies Bleeding” and uh, John Mellencamp’s super-long version of “I Need a Lover”.
Looks like the follow up to this album was called Ammonia Avenue. Just a little too ahead of its time, I guess.