Who wrote “Bright Eyes”, and why they wrote it, I don’t care. I know, but I don’t care. You can talk about all that stuff Because all “Bright Eyes” means for me is this:
Sorry about the glutinous string arrangement there, which completely destroys the fragility of Art’s original, but it’s the visuals that matter. This, good people, is why the rabbit is the most terrifying animal in pop: those swirling sun-rabbits, those warping and distoring pylons, and most of all the Black Rabbit and his red eyes and weird totem-mask ears.
As a fairly precocious child I had already read Watership Down before the film came to a local village hall, maybe a year or so after this single hit number one. I was very eager to see it, because I loved the book: there were bits in it I found scary, the vicious rabbits of the Efrafa warren for instance, but the film was a cartoon, and how frightening could cartoons be? More fool me: I still get chills when I see the sequence above but it’s nothing – nothing – compared to the warren destruction, with the crushed blinded rabbits dying in claustrophobic fear. I am not a great fan of horror films, but nothing I have ever seen in the cinema has been as terrifying as Watership Down. And when I try to imagine the horror of warfare or plague, what my mind reaches for is pale circles of dead rabbits.
The amazing thing about “Bright Eyes” the song is that it actually manages to live up to my terrified imaginings – Art’s lovely, strung-out vocal managing to sound like the graceful, fatal will-o-wisp of the film’s Black Rabbit, the vision you chase even though you know where it is leading you to: “following the river of death downstream”, what a great line, or at least it becomes one with Art singing it with that slight beckon in his voice. The power is all in the verses, though – the chorus of “Bright Eyes” is too big, too strong, too arranged to sustain their wan intensity. It turns the track into, well, a pop song, gives it the safety and resolution of closing credits and lights coming up. But the verses are a shadow glimpsed jumping across the setting sun.