They’re usually overplayed to death, and often far from their best work, but nothing sticks in the collective consciousness like an act’s signature song.
Quite often it’s that debut hit. Despite long and distinguished careers, if you mention David Bowie to Joe Public they’ll still have 1969’s Space Oddity floating around their heads. Or “Ground Control To Major Tom” if that head’s a knobhead. Namecheck Kate Bush and the first track to spiral upwards will usually be the gothic melodrama of 1978’s Wuthering Heights. Go figure.
The odd brief reunion excepted, Eurythmics – Dave Stewart and Annie Lennox – stopped being a full time concern 28 long years ago. There are actually human beings living and working amongst us who have no idea what Eurythmics is, was or could have been, but one thing is for certain: there’s barely an adult on this planet who doesn’t know the pop perennial that is Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This). In fact, it’s no surprise to learn it’s the most streamed track from 1983 ever.
Both song and album – the duo’s second after 1981‘s In The Garden – were released 35 years go today, January 4th 1983. By the time the sophomore set was issued, three singles had already been extracted from it, none of them charting higher than Love Is A Stranger’s peak of 54 at the tail end of 1982. Not that this particularly bothered Lennox and Stewart, who saw themselves as a polycephalic synthpop creation more concerned with electronic laboratory experiments than commercial success. Sweet Dreams would change everything.
RCA, the band’s record label, had even resisted putting out the title track as a single as it had no conventional chorus. Though they eventually gave way two and half weeks later, after a positive response to the LP. It took six weeks to reach its peak of No.2 on the UK chart, and amidst a full-on second British Invasion of the US airwaves, topped the American Billboard 100 that autumn.
The album rose to third spot in Britain, and when the deliciously daring Love Is A Stranger – for me the much more impressive single – was re-promoted and hit the top ten the duo’s place in British music history was assured. With its impressively insistent Roland 606 beat, the song sounds as fresh and provocative as ever. Could this “pervy synth duo” (copyright, future Pet Shop Boy Neil Tennant, writing in Smash Hits) – tempting you to jump into that open car and perform unspeakable acts on the leather seats with that bewigged ‘lady’ of the night – really have risen from the ashes of the critically-derided Tourists? The same flouncy Sixties pastichists known for covering Dusty Springfield songs to get a hit? Oh yes. And how.
The sadly departed La Fringale in Confolens, France was the venue for the Village People’s recent cover version
It took D’n’A a good five years to top the artistic and aesthetic achievements of Sweet Dreams – 1987’s Savage is their undisputed, undiluted, unshrinking masterpiece – but in their first year of success, it’s easy to forget how subversive Eurythmics appeared. Annie Lennox came over like the slinky secret lovechild of Grace Jones and Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust alter-ego; an androgynous feline chameleon in a men’s business suit and shorn shock of a bright orange buzz-cut, singing and looking like she’d been beamed down from Mars. Then there was the blend-into-the-background professor persona of glacial production mastermind Dave Stewart; cold, tired fingers tapping out the future with Teutonic precision.
And that’s precisely what dreams are made of.