Scottish pop singer Sheena Easton first became known in the United States through her hit single “Morning Train.” Though this record, and her rendition of “For Your Eyes Only” from the James Bond film of the same title, sold successfully, she did not win the respect of rock and pop critics until 1984, with the release of the controversial “Strut” and “Sugar Walls.” These two risqué songs enlivened her middle-of-the-road image, and she has since gone on to have a smash duet with pop/funk superstar Prince, 1987’s “U Got the Look.”
Born Sheena Shirley Orr and raised near Glasgow, Scotland, the young singer was married to fellow singer and actor Sandi Easton when she made her first real entrance into the entertainment field in 1979. Easton entered and won a singing competition sponsored by the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC). Her prize included a marketing strategy and image development package that was also covered on camera for the contest’s audience, which, as Christopher Connelly reported in Rolling Stone in 1985, “led to the charge that Easton had little or no say in her career.” She told the critic: “People called me a mindless cretin of pop, a manipulated puppet. It made it look like everyone tells this poor kid what to do, but it never showed my decision-making process. It’s taken five years for people to know that I do make my own decisions.”
Despite Easton’s complaint about what the handling of her early career did for her image, her popular success was unquestionable. Her 1980 debut single, “Morning Train,” about a housewife who stays home and loyally waits for the daily return of her commuting husband, must have touched a chord with many fans, for it sold well. Easton also had moderate success with the change-of-pace follow-up song, “Modern Girl,” which concerned a sexually liberated young woman proud of her lack of attachment to any particular man. But she quickly showed her ability with a ballad when she was chosen to record the theme from “For Your Eyes Only,” the 1981 film adventure of author Ian Fleming’s famous spy character, James Bond.
From there, however, Easton’s career went into a brief decline. Never especially favored by music critics, Easton was blasted for her duet with country singer Kenny Rogers, a remake of rocker Bob Seger’s “We’ve Got Tonight.” Connelly, for instance, labeled her interpretation “shrieking and insensitive” ; it was, however, a popular success. And she had other hits, including “When He Shines,” and “You Could Have Been With Me.” But in the mid-1980s, Easton decided to toughen her image and try for “a harder sound,” as Connelly put it. She had difficulty, though, finding the right material, she confided to Connelly. “It was like getting blood out
Full name, Sheena Shirley Orr, born c. 1959 near Glasgow, Scotland; married SandiEaston (a singer and actor), 1978 (divorced c. 1979); married Rob Light (a musical manager), 1984 (divorced December 1986). Education: Attended Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama.
Solo recording artist and concert performer, c. 1980—.
Addresses: c/o MCA Records, 100 Universal City Plaza, Universal City, CA 91608.
of a stone…. The great rock songs would go straight to [rock singer] Pat Benatar.”
Finally, in 1984, Easton’s luck began to change. She was given a demo tape of “Strut,” which she decided to record, and one of her recording engineers, David Leonard, asked Prince to write a song for her. The pop star obliged with “Sugar Walls,” and both songs became hits. In addition to gaining a critical reevaluation with the tough-sounding danceable tunes, Easton also generated some controversy. “Strut” features hints of sadomasochism with its lyrics about leather, but according to Richard Sanders in People, “Sugar Walls” was branded pornographic by the Parents Music Resource Center, a group which favors putting ratings on records similar to those applied to films. The song was also banned from several radio stations. The attention focused on “Sugar Walls,” however, probably only served to increase public demand for the record.
Easton’s newfound success gained an added boost in 1987. After setbacks such as an album of ballads not being released because of a change of management on the part of EMI, her recording company, and her second divorce, she won a four-week role on the popular television series “Miami Vice.” Though she had studied acting at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama, she had difficulty persuading the show to let her try out. When she did audition, she impressed the series’ people favorably, but she was not their first choice—she got the part when the chosen actress became ill. Easton also added to her lists of accomplishments that year a hit duet with Prince, “U Got the Look,” which Sanders lauded as “notable for its deep funk groove and single-entendre lyrics.” In 1988, she released the album The Lover in Me.
“Morning Train,” EMI, c. 1980.
“Modern Girl,” EMI, c. 1980.
“For Your Eyes Only,” EMI, 1981.
“When He Shines,” EMI, 1981.
“You Could Have Been With Me,” EMI, 1981.
“Strut,” EMI, 1984.
“Sugar Walls,” EMI, 1984.
Also recorded “We’ve Got Tonight” with Kenny Rogers, and “U Got the Look,” in 1987 with Prince.
You Could Have Been With Me, EMI, 1981.
Money, Madness, and Music, EMI, 1982.
Best Kept Secret, EMI, 1983.
A Private Heaven, EMI, 1984.
The Lover in Me, MCA, 1988.
People, November 22, 1982; November 23, 1987.
Rolling Stone, May 9, 1985.
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