The Adverts

Gary Gilmore's Eyes

Composed by TV Smith

Song Review by

A Top 20 U.K. hit for the Adverts during summer 1977, "Gary Gilmore's Eyes" was written after vocalist/songwriter TV Smith read a report of convicted killer Gary Gilmore's death row request that his eyes be used for transplant purposes following his execution. It was an unusual theme for a pop hit, made all the more fascinating (and, in the eyes of the tabloid press, controversial) by the fate of the recipient, as the eyes took over and filled him with the same murderous impulses as Gilmore himself suffered. (Smith would return to a similar theme six years later in the song "The Suit").

The song was first performed live during spring 1977 -- the Adverts' debut single, "One Chord Wonders," was already in the stores when "Gary Gilmore's Eyes" made its first live appearance. However, it made such an impact that Smith lost no time in scheduling the new song as the follow-up -- it also marked the Adverts' major-label debut, a combination which established the group among the most successful and lastingly popular of all first wave U.K. punk bands. The song remains one of the most memorable and insistent of 1977's many anthems, and has become a staple of countless punk-era compilations.

Surprisingly, "Gary Gilmore's Eyes" did not appear on the Adverts' debut album, 1978's Crossing the Red Sea With the Adverts; a new version of the song was recorded for the set, but dropped at the last minute. Early-'80s reissues of the album (and, subsequently, CDs) did feature the regular 45 version as a bonus track; the unissued album version was finally released during 1983 as a single. Finally, in 2000, Smith himself remastered the album for a definitive reissue and returned to his own original vision of the record, inserting "Gary Gilmore's Eyes" into the first half of the album.

In common with the remainder of the Adverts' repertoire, Smith refused to play "Gary Gilmore's Eyes" live throughout the 1980s and early '90s. Following the song's rediscovery by Die Toten Hosen, however, Smith's modern career as a predominantly acoustic solo performer has made good use of the song -- live recordings appear on the B-side of his "Thin Green Line" single and on the Holidays in the Sun festival live album.

Appears On

Year Artist/Album Label Time AllMusic Rating
Crossing the Red Sea with the Adverts 1978 Fire Records 2:20
Cast of Thousands 1980 Anagram 0:00
Burning Ambitions: A History of Punk, Vol. 1 1984
Various Artists
Cleopatra
No Image 1991
Various Artists
Connoisseur 2:21
Best of 20 of Another Kind 1992
Various Artists
Castle Music Ltd. 2:16
D.I.Y.: Anarchy in the UK: UK Punk I (1976-77) 1993
Various Artists
Rhino 2:23
Your Generation: 18 Punk & New Wave Classics 1994
Various Artists
Music Collection 2:21
Going Underground [Castle] 1994
Various Artists
Castle Music Ltd. 2:14
Nice Enough to Eat [Receiver] 1994
Various Artists
Receiver 2:33
The Punk Singles Collection 1997 Anagram 2:13
Anarchy, Angst & Bollocks: UK Punk Anthology 1999
Various Artists
Varèse Sarabande / Varese 2:39
The Best of the Adverts 1999 Anagram 2:13
The Wonders Don't Care 2001 Pilot 2:17
Burning Ambitions: A History of Punk [Box] 2001
Various Artists
Cleopatra 2:14
Punk Generation: My Way 2001
Various Artists
Simply The Best (Netherlands) 2:41
Stranglehold! 2003
Various Artists
Music Club Records 2:20
Anthology 2003 Fire Records 2:13
No Thanks! The '70s Punk Rebellion 2003
Various Artists
Rhino 2:14
BBC Radio 1 Peel Sessions 1977-1979: Movement 2011
Various Artists
EMI / EMI Music Distribution 2:15
No Image
Various Artists