She is the “Modern Girl” who catches the “Morning Train”. It’s Sheena Easton: “For Your Eyes Only”!
Scotland’s Sheena Orr (b.1959) made her debut aged just 5 at her aunt and uncle’s 25th wedding anniversary and that was all she wanted to do from then on. The real bait came in 1973 when the 14 year old heard Barbra Steisand singing “The Way We Were” and in 1975, Sheena enrolled at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music. She left after four years in 1979 to marry Sandi Easton and later that same year, auditioned for the BBC talent show, The Big Time, where she performed with Lulu and Dusty Springfield. EMI Records saw her and signed her and Easton was on the road to stardom.
Her debut single, the disco classic “Modern Girl”, produced by Christopher Neil (Bonnie Tyler, Toyah Wilcox), was not an immediate hit, only making it to No.56 in the UK in February 1980, but it was the follow up, “9 To 5 (Morning Train)” that sealed her name and made her famous. Topping the US singles chart in May and reaching No.3 in the UK, “9 To 5”, another Neil production, was also a number on ‘down under’ and in doing so, pushed “Modern Girl” back up the chart to finally reach No.8 in the UK and No.18 Stateside. Sheena’s third single, “One Man Woman” could be deemed as quite a laughable title as Easton’s first marriage broke up after just eight months. She would go on to re-marry a further three times!
“One Man Woman” went top twenty in the UK and preceded her debut album, “Take My Time”, at the beginning of 1981, which would feature the UK/US top thirty single, “When He Shines”. The album would be Gold certified both in the UK and America, where it was titled “Sheena Easton”. 1981 was Sheena’s year. She was going places and also recording for her second studio album that would appear later that year. But 1981 would get even bigger when she was asked to record the title theme song from that year’s James Bond film, ‘For Your Eyes Only’. Originally Blondie had recorded a very credible song (which we discuss in a separate article), but Easton was a favourite of producer ‘Cubby’ Broccoli’s daughter, Barbara and together with Christopher Neil, a haunting ballad was fashioned for this first entry of the 1980’s.
So impressed was main titles designer Maurice Binder with Easton’s looks, he filmed her for the opening titles sequence and so Sheena became and remains the only artist ever to appear in a Bond credit sequence as she sings her own song. ‘For Your Eyes Only’ was the Summer smash hit of 1981 around the world and Sheena’s theme would be a huge hit as well, making No.4 in the US and No.8 in the UK, the best performing Bond song since Carly Simon’s “Nobody Does It Better” in 1977. And just like that song, “For Your Eyes Only” would become the third 007 tune to be nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original song the following year, losing to Christopher Cross’ “The Best That You Can Do (Arthur’s Theme)”. Easton released the first new music from her second album that Summer. Although “Just Another Broken Heart” did not keep up the trend of chart hits when it stalled at No.33 in the UK.
Moderately more successful was the follow up, “You Could Have Been With Me”, which although charted a lowly No.54 in the UK, did make No.15 Stateside, giving Sheena five top twenty hits in the space of twelve months there. The album of the same name went Gold again in America but only achieved a Silver certification back home. Her 1982 album, “Madness, Money & Music” performed poorly while all three singles from it failed to chart on either side of the Atlantic. Sheena would have to wait until the following year before she was back in the US top ten, this time with Kenny Rogers singing “We’ve Got Tonight” (US No.6). She returned to the top ten later that year with the first single from her fourth studio album, “Best Kept Secret”, “Telefone (Long Distance Love Affair)” (US No.9, UK No.84) and it seemed Sheena was now a bigger hit that side of the pond that in her own home country as the singles continued to nosedive there while remaining buoyant there.
In 1984 she recorded “Todo Me Recuerda a Ti” (“Everything Reminds Me Of You”) in Spanish and it was a hit in Mexico, but nowhere else. Sheena was back later in 1984 with an English language album, “A Private Heaven”, which featured two US top ten hits, “Strut” and “Sugar Walls”, while the album made No.15, her highest charted position to date and a million seller, attaining a Platinum certification there! Sheena had teamed with producer Nile Rodgers for that album and because of the success, she recorded her next album, “Do You” with Nile, although this was less successful as were the two moderately performing singles, “Do It For Love” and a cover of “Jimmy Mack”. For her 1987 album, “No Sound But A Heart”, Sheena worked with Narada Michael Walden and Phil Ramone and despite there being no hit singles, the album is notable for her recording of “The Last To Know”, later to be recorded by Celine Dion for her first English singing album, “Unison“, in 1990.
By now, Sheena had become resident in America and was closely linked with Prince, with whom she has always denied any relationship with. She fueled press speculation when in 1987, she ‘duetted’ with him on the track “U Got The Look” from his album of that year, “Sign O’ The Times”. It gave Sheena her biggest hit since “9 To 5”, which it made No.2 in The States and more importantly, reignited her UK chart career, reaching No.11, her first top 40 hit since “Machinery” in 1982. Sheena and Prince would later ‘reunite’ in 1989 for the song “The Arms Of Orion” for Prince’s soundtrack album to the ‘Batman’ film of that year. Sheena also worked with Prince on her next album, “The Lover In Me”, released in November 1988. The title song also reached No.2 in America and later No.15 in the UK in 1989. The album was a top twenty success and went top thirty in the UK, her best performing long player in eight years.
The 1990’s were not such a kind decade to Sheena as the hits began to drop off. Her first album, “What Comes Naturally”, was released in 1991 and featured the US top twenty hit of the same name. It would be her last, top date, UK chart entry. The album also performed poorly. In 1992, Sheena gained American citizenship and embarked on a new career as an actress featuring as herself in ‘Indecent Proposal’ (1993) while taking up character roles on screen and in TV series throughout the decade including The Outer Limits and the Highlander series. Sheena made her musical comeback in 2000, coming full circle with a disco album of cover versions, “Fabulous”. She released her version of The Three Degrees 1978 hit “Giving Up, Giving In” as the lead single, which made No.54 in the UK. The album fared less well although it did peak at No.52 in the US, her first chart entry for nine years.
“Fabulous” remains, to date, her last studio recording while the four singles releases throughout 2000 and 2001 are also her last commercially released material. The obligatory best of’s have come thick and fast. Remasters of her earlier albums have been welcomed by fans in recent years. As for Sheena herself, she appears now to of taken up a stage career, playing Dorothy Brock in the UK production of 42nd Street in the West End in 2016. After two years, she stood down and was succeeded by none other than Lulu, for whom she had performed with at the very start of her career and also a fellow Bond song singer! Sheena resides in Henderson, Nevada and has largely retired from singing, save a greatest hits tour of 2015. But only in her early 60’s and with a new ‘surge’ in disco popularity, it’s only a matter of time before we will see her at the front of the stage once again and it will be for OUR eyes only then!
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