The laptop has made all the difference for Naked Eyes.
When the British pop duo first hit it big in 1982 with a cover of “(There’s) Always Something There to Remind Me,” it couldn’t recreate the multi-layered, synthesizer-driven sound live, according to co-founder and lead singer Pete Byrne.
“There were no sequencers and no computers — that came much later,” recalls Byrne, who performs 8 p.m. Thursday, April 6, at The Concert Venue at Harrah’s Resort in Atlantic City.
“We rehearsed a band once for a tour, but it all fell apart. It didn’t sound like Naked Eyes.”
With the help of a laptop, as well as a live guitarist, keyboardist and drummer, Naked Eyes is now fully able to recreate its biggest hits, including “Always,” “Promises, Promises” and “When the Lights Go Out.”
“They are so ingrained — everybody knows those songs,” Byrne says. “It takes a couple of chords for the crowds to sing it.”
Today, Naked Eyes is “pretty much” Byrne, who continues to tour and record, after the 1999 death of co-founder (and keyboardist) Rob Fisher at the age of 42 due to complications from cancer surgery.
“I didn’t tour for a long time after Rob passed way. I just didn’t bother,” he says. “When I did get back in, I realized how much I missed it. That’s how you start as a musician, you write songs and you want to play them.”
In recent years, Byrne’s Naked Eyes has toured on packages with other ’80s survivors, both those like-minded musically, including Human League and Motels, and those that are really different — a tour this summer will pair him with Billy Ocean and Starship.
“I like doing shows with bands that were musically in the same vein, but I went out a few years ago with The Go-Go’s and Patty Smyth and Scandal, neither of which are a synth band, and it was fantastic,” he says. “I like playing live — if I get an opportunity and all the pieces fit together, I’m happy to do it.”
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Since Fisher’s passing, Byrne has returned sporadically to the studio, releasing both original material and an album of covers titled, appropriately enough “Fumbling with the Covers.”
Making music has “been the main focus of my life since I was 18,” Byrne says. “Nothing has changed really. I still get up in the morning, make coffee, fiddle around on the guitar and scribble down some nonsense. And I eventually look back and say, there might be something there.”
But Byrne is careful during live shows not to distinguish between new and catalog material.
“I’ll be playing some of the new songs people don’t know, but I don’t introduce them as new songs — I just play them, because we play a lot of Naked Eyes songs that, unless they’re fans, no one would know.”
Somewhat ironically, the group’s biggest hit “Always” is both a cover and a bit of a lightning strike.
The track was written by the ’60s hit-making team of Burt Bacharach and Hal David, and recorded by Dionne Warwick, Lou Johnson and British vocalist Sandie Shaw. But the song enjoyed its biggest chart success in the U.S. with Naked Eyes, whose version hit the Top 10.
“I just do things in my own way, and that’s pretty much what happened with ‘Always,’” Byrne recalls. “At the time, we were recording our own stuff and thought we would do a cover just to lighten it up a little bit. We almost did the Dusty Springfield song ‘You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me.’ There were a few other songs that could have been that song.”
Naked Eyes, Tears for Fears emerged from Bath
Not only did British pop groups Naked Eyes and Tears for Fears emerge from the early ‘80s music scene in Bath, England, they were all once part of the same group.
Around 1980, Pete Byrne and Rob Fisher, who would go on to form Naked Eyes, got together with Curt Smith and Roland Orzabal, who would later start Tears for Fears, for a brief stint as Neon.
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Although it was a “pretty good band,” according to Byrne, Neon didn’t last. Byrne and Fisher signed with EMI as Naked Eyes, and Smith and Orzabal eventually created Tears for Fears and landed a deal with Phonogram Records.
“Basically we got two bands out of it,” Byrne says.