The Surprising Meaning Behind The Guess Who’s “These Eyes”

The Guess Who proved that romance and rock music could cohabitate with “These Eyes.” The song was co-written by bandmates Burton Cummings and Randy Bachman – but it may have never come into existence without Joni Mitchell.

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The song’s origins begin in Regina, Canada, in July 1966 when Bachman went to see Mitchell’s show at The Fourth Dimension. Bachman sets the scene at the crowded coffee shop where all the tables are filled, except for one. Halfway through Mitchell’s set, Bachman recalls that two “babes” walked in, sisters Laura Lee and Lorraine, and sat down at the empty table.

“When I saw these two chicks walk in, it was just like, ‘I gotta do something. I can’t let this moment pass and not try to get to know them,'” Bachman asserted on his 2014 Every Song Tells a Story Tour. “This will never happen again in my life and I’ll be so sad forever.”

Bachman and his road manager soon introduced themselves and joined the women at the table, Bachman stating that his heart was “stumping and pounding” all the while. After the show, the famed guitarist brought the sisters home and asked one of them on a date the following night, to which she accepted.

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The next night, Bachman arrives early at her house, which proved to be a pivotal element in the creation of “These Eyes.” With his date running roughly 30 minutes late, Bachman was left to his own devices. “I’m in a room with a couch, a big potted plant and a little tiny piano,” he describes of the house. “I sit down at the piano and I start to play this.” From there, the opening notes for “These Eyes” came pouring out.

Soon after, Bachman took the beginning pieces of the song to lead singer Cummings and played him the signature piano riff that sets the tone for the song. “I thought that was pretty cool for a guitar player to be playing a minor seven chord on piano,” Cummings recalled in an archived interview. “That was very impressive to me.”

Bachman also came into the writing session with the first few lines of the song, These eyes cry every night for you/These arms long to hold you again. From there, the two started trading pieces back and forth and completed the song in roughly 25 minutes. “It was never work for Randy and me,” Cummings said of their songwriting process. “I don’t think we ever really slaved over any song.”

“These Eyes” marked a breakthrough for The Guess Who. After releasing nearly 20 singles prior, “These Eyes” was the band’s first Top 10 single on the Billboard Hot 100, and their fifth Top 10 in their native Canada. It paved the way for future hits “American Woman,” “No Time” and others.

Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

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