Peter Gabriel's "In Your Eyes" Almost Missed Its '80s Movie Moment

John Cusack in 'Say Anything...'
Photo Credit
video screenshot/20th Century-Fox

It's one of the most iconic romantic scenes of the last half-century: at dawn on a summer morning, suburban valedictorian Diane Court (Ione Skye) is awoken by the sound of a boombox. She looks out the window to see Lloyd Dobler (John Cusack), the trenchcoated misfit she broke up with at the behest of her father. He successfully woos her back by playing their song: Peter Gabriel's romantic epic "In Your Eyes."

This scene is arguably the emotional linchpin of 1989's Say Anything... - and one of the most memorable sequences in the filmography of Rolling Stone reporter turned writer-director Cameron Crowe, renowned for his intimate connection to visuals and song through films like Fast Times At Ridgemont High, Jerry Maguire, Almost Famous and more. To this day, people immediately conjure up the images when Gabriel's uplifting tune plays.

And almost none of it played out that way.

Released off Gabriel's blockbuster solo album So in 1986, "In Your Eyes" was a considerable flop of a single when it was originally issued, eking out a position of No. 26 on the Billboard Hot 100. (Preceding single "Sledgehammer," powered by an iconic music video, topped the chart that summer.) When it was reissued to promote the film, it didn't even make the Top 40. Chart success had no bearing on its placement in the film - but Crowe didn't initially put the song in the scene. It was in fact written with Billy Idol's "To Be a Lover" in mind - a decision the filmmaker later admitted was "hideously wrong" - and then filmed with "Party At Ground Zero" by ska-punk band Fishbone. (The choice was apparently a concession to Fishbone fan Cusack, who felt that the scene as written made his character too passive.)

READ MORE: September 1987: Peter Gabriel Smashes the MTV VMAs with "Sledgehammer"

Gabriel was eventually contacted after Crowe recalled the song from a mixtape he'd made for his wedding to then-wife Nancy Wilson, co-founder of the band Heart. Syncing the song up to the footage proved an emotional experience - but Crowe was surprised when the notoriously protective singer turned the project down, not wanting to be associated with a film that featured a drug overdose. Bizarrely, it turned out that the singer had mistakenly watched a rough cut of a completely different film, the controversial John Belushi biopic Wired; after seeing the correct scene, he happily granted permission.

With those misfires safely avoided, "In Your Eyes" remains a staple of late '80s cinematic love.

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