Gary Gilmore's Eyes

Album: Punk Singles Collection (1977)
Charted: 18

Songfacts®:

  • "Gary Gilmore's Eyes" is an unusual song even for a punk record. Gary Mark Gilmore was born at Waco, Texas, in 1940, and graduated from delinquent teenager to small-time career criminal. In 1964, he was sentenced to 15 years in prison but was released in 1972 only to be re-arrested for armed robbery within a month. In spite of his appalling criminal record and violent behavior in prison he was paroled in April 1976 and moved to Utah, where the following July he augmented two armed robberies with senseless murders, killing first a gas station employee and then a motel manager in quick succession.

    As well as being extremely violent and totally ruthless, Gilmore was dumb, and managed to shoot himself in the hand as he disposed of the murder weapon. This led to a speedy arrest, and after an equally speedy trial in what was essentially an open and shut case, he was convicted of the murder of the gas station employee, Max Jensen. In spite of compelling evidence, he was not tried for the second murder, but this was not really in dispute. Gilmore appears to have realized he was an essentially worthless human being, and although pleading not guilty, put up only a very token defense. He was sentenced to death, and while some convicted murderers in the United States spend years or even decades on Death Row appealing their convictions and/or sentences, Gilmore had made up his mind that he wanted to die. He was executed, unusually, by firing squad, on January 17, 1977; his last words were "Let's do it", which is of course a different song entirely!

    Gilmore's final act, and conceivably the only noble thing he ever did in his life, certainly the most noble, was to donate his corneas for transplant. Two people received them within hours of his execution; some of his other organs were also used for transplants, and what was left of his body was cremated.

    "Gary Gilmore's Eyes" is written from the viewpoint of one of the recipient's of his posthumous largesse; credited to T.V. Smith (ie guitarist Tim Smith), it was released originally on the Anchor label backed by "Bored Teenagers" on August 19, 1977, the band's second release. The song was also covered by the German punk band Die Toten Hosen.
  • Although there was a certain manufactured controversy at the time it was released, "Gary Gilmore's Eyes" cannot really be compared with the deliberately provocative "Holiday In Cambodia" or The Sex Pistols track "God Save The Queen." It was certainly not considered outrageous by the BBC, because it earned The Adverts an appearance on Top Of The Pops. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Alexander Baron - London, England, for above 2

Comments

Be the first to comment...

Editor's Picks

Emmylou Harris

Emmylou HarrisSongwriter Interviews

She thinks of herself as a "song interpreter," but back in the '80s another country star convinced Emmylou to take a crack at songwriting.

Maria Muldaur

Maria MuldaurSongwriter Interviews

The "Midnight At The Oasis" singer is an Old Time gal. She talks about her jug band beginnings and shares a Dylan story.

16 Songs With a Heartbeat

16 Songs With a HeartbeatSong Writing

We've heard of artists putting their hearts into their music, but some take it literally.

Name the Character in the Song

Name the Character in the SongMusic Quiz

With a few clues (Works at a diner, dreams of running away), can you name the character in the song?

Billy Joe Shaver

Billy Joe ShaverSongwriter Interviews

The outlaw country icon talks about the spiritual element of his songwriting and his Bob Dylan mention.

Songs Discussed in Movies

Songs Discussed in MoviesSong Writing

Bridesmaids, Reservoir Dogs, Willy Wonka - just a few of the flicks where characters discuss specific songs, sometimes as a prelude to murder.