Producer: Val Garay
Track listing: Bette Davis Eyes / Hit and Run / Mistaken Identity / When I’m Away from You / Draw of the Cards / Break the Rules Tonite (Out of School) / Still Hold On / Don’t Call It Love / Miss You Tonite / My Old Pals
June 27, 1981
“It was a very optimistic time,” recalls Kim Carnes. “We were all anxious to get in the studio. We had just come off a summer tour with James Taylor, playing all the really great outdoor places, so we were in a great frame of mind to go in and cut an album.” That album, Carnes’ sixth, was Mistaken Identity.
Born July 20, 1945, in Los Angeles, Carnes knew she wanted to become a singer-songwriter when she was three. By junior high, she had begun performing. Her first break came when blues singer Big Mama Thornton recorded one of her songs for the 1971 film Vanishing Point. Although other artists, such as Barbra Streisand, Frank Sinatra, and Rita Coolidge, covered her songs (often co-written with her husband Dave Ellingson), Carnes’s four 1970s albums were released largely without notice.
With the new decade came the success that had been eluding Carnes. She became the first artist signed to EMI-America, a new label owned by Capitol/EMI. Kenny Rogers, a member of the New Christy Minstrels with Carnes and Ellingson in the late ’60s, covered the couple’s songs on Gideon. Then Rogers’s duet with Carnes, “Don’t Fall in Love with a Dreamer,” climbed to number four. A few months later, Carnes had a hit of her own with “More Love,” which reached the top 10. Then came Mistaken Identity.
Recorded in two week-long sessions at Record One in Los Angeles during December 1980 and January 1981, Mistaken Identity, says Carnes, may have been credited to her as a solo artist, but it was very much a group effort. “I had the best band in the world,” Carnes says. “This album was a complete collaborative effort. There was such joy in the whole recording process, because we had all been on the road a bunch, this was our album to make together.”
For the most part, Mistaken Identity was recorded live in the studio. “We would usually get it on the second or third take,” Carnes says. That method of working led to some magical moments, particularly in recording the title track, which in its original incarnation was up tempo. “It didn’t feel right at a we went on to another song. Then, at about 3 a.m., Bill Cuomo, who was one of my keyboard players, started playing it with this slow, wonderful groove, and one by one the band went out and started playing. I started singing and Val put a mic in the middle of the room and turned on the tape recorder.”
The combination of Cuomo’s haunting keyboards and Carnes’s husky vocals were also the signature of “Bette Davis Eyes,” which would become album’s big hit. “I fought real hard have it released as the first single Carnes says. “I was as sure as I could be about anything.” Sure enough “Bette Davis Eyes” topped the singles chart on May 16, 1981, and stayed there for nine weeks. It was holding steady in the middle of that run when Mistaken Identity made it to Number One on June 27.
THE TOP FIVE
Week of June 27, 1981
- Mistaken Identity, Kim Carnes
- Hi Infidelity, REO Speedwagon
- Dirty Deeds Done Dirt, Cheap AC/DC
- Paradise Theatre, Styx
- Fair Warning, Van Halen