How Billy Idol Risked His Sight for ‘Eyes Without a Face’
When Billy idol wrote the hit song “Eyes Without a Face” he couldn’t have imagined it would lead to a serious risk to his eyesight – leaving him in danger of having a face without eyes.
Idol was inspired to create the track by the influential 1960 French horror movie of the same name, which you can and should read about over at Dangerous Minds. The film tells the story of a plastic surgeon who kidnaps young women to use parts of their anatomy to rebuild his daughter, who was disfigured in a car crash. The film is referenced via the backing vocal “les yeux sans visage,” its original-language title.
In 1984, a year after the song was released on Idol's second album Rebel Yell, Idol shot a promo video for what was to become at No. 4 hit, the highest chart entry of his career at that point. The shoot was an intense two-day experience during which he never removed his contact lenses, and that’s what led to the medical emergency.
“Back in the ‘80s I wore hard contact lenses, and after shooting ‘Eyes Without a Face’ for 48 hours, I flew to the next gig in Tucson, Ariz.,” Idol wrote in his 2014 memoir Dancing With Myself. “At that point, I had been wearing them for 36 hours. I hadn’t slept that much – if at all.”
Watch Billy Idol's Video For 'Eyes Without a Face'
He took the opportunity to relax while waiting for his sound check. “I went outside to lay down and passed out on the cool grass outside the college venue," Idol wrote. "I still hadn’t removed my contacts, until, without warning, I was awakened rather rudely by a sheriff pointing a gun directly at me. I could only hear his voice distant and hollow in my head. When I opened my eyes, I could only make out the outline of his weapon, while tears came pouring from my eyes. Something was wrong! The pain was so intense, and my eyes were gushing.”
Idol was taken to hospital where his eyes were bandaged up, and that’s how he stayed for two days “until my corneas had healed.” It was later suggested that the effects of fog machines, fires and strong lights on set, combined with the dry air on the plane, had caused the lenses to fuse to his eyes. By way of compensation, though, director David Mallet’s video went on to become an acclaimed production and was nominated for several awards.