Super selections and wonderful words by Balearic Mike.
Another of my favourite albums celebrated its 40th birthday, on the 4th January 1983…
Eurythmics – Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This) – RCA 1983
It would be over a month, and only with the help of their fourth and final single from the LP, the title track, doing all the heavy lifting radio wise, that the album would finally enter the UK charts.
For a while there it did not look good for Annie Lennox and Dave Stewart. After enjoying some moderate success as members of the band The Tourists, and becoming romantically involved, they both became disheartened with the confines of the band, deciding to break away and record as a duo. Their success with The Tourists meant that there was label interest, and they signed to RCA Records as Eurythmics.
They recorded their first album in Cologne with legendary German producer Conny Plank, who they’d worked with while with the Tourists. Their debut as a duo, In The Garden, is a really interesting record, with the new found freedom of it being just the two of them, allowing Annie and Dave to explore elements of post-punk, psychedelia, kosmische, and electropop, as well as collaborate with whoever they wanted. The record features contributions from Holger Czukay and Jaki Liebezeit of CAN, Clem Burke of Blondie, Robert Görl of D.A.F., and flautist Tim Wheater. As interesting as the album undoubtably is, it wasn’t the hit they were hoping for, and neither were the two singles taken from it, with Never Gonna Cry Again being the most successful, peaking at #63 in the UK chart. There is however a memorable live performance of both singles, recorded on the BBC`s Old Grey Whistle Test in June 1981, introduced by Annie Nightingale. Their first public performance of any kind showcases Dave and Annie’s new attitude to being a duo, with an endlessly fluctuating array of talent performing with them. As well as Clem powering along on drums, Penny Tobin plays keyboards, Roger Pomphrey of The Troggs plays guitar, and Holger Czukay makes a late appearance to close the set with his French Horn. It’s quite something.
Annie and Dave decided they’d try another approach, and taking out a bank loan, they set up their own small 8-track studio above a picture-framing factory in Chalk Farm, saving on expensive studio costs. This brought about a move in a much more electronic direction, with just the two of them working away on their new record. They continued to perform live, lugging all their own equipment around, and the pressure of running so many aspects of their career took its toll, with Annie suffering a nervous breakdown and Dave hospitalised with a collapsed lung during this period. To literally add insult to injury, the first three singles released from the forthcoming album all flopped. This is quite incredible when you think of the quality of This Is The House, The Walk, and Love Is A Stranger, with only the latter even charting in the UK, failing to dent the top 40 and peaking at #54.
After the failure of the first 3 singles, RCA were reluctant to release a fourth, and the duo had to fight the label to get them to release the album’s title track as a single. RCA argued that it didn’t even have a chorus – it doesn’t really – but Annie and Dave stood firm. The LP had stalled, failing to chart at all in its first few weeks of release, but upon its release towards the end of January Sweet Dreams started to pick up airplay. Both the single and LP then entered their respective charts on the 12th of February, and began rocketing upwards. Then the public got to see them, or more importantly Annie, with her new androgynous look, of close-cropped red hair and designer suits. Annie managed to look ferocious, terrifying, and stunningly beautiful in equal measure – a total style icon, like a synth-pop Servalan! By mid-March the single had peaked at #2, with the LP hitting #3 a couple of weeks later.*
Sweet Dreams is a synth-pop masterpiece, from the first note to the last. The album opener, Love Is A Stranger, an electronic classic, just as good as the title track, and deservedly a top 10 hit when re-released in the wake of the LP`s success. The album manages to be experimental and cutting edge, while also a great collection of pop songs. We have the icy, electronic minimalism of I’ve Got An Angel, The Walk, and Jennifer, bouncing, buoyant electro on This Is The House and Somebody Told Me. Annie gets to show the full, soulful, sonic range of her vocals – one of the definitive voices of the decade – on I Could Give You (A Mirror) and a stunning cover of the 1968 Sam & Dave hit Wrap It Up, performed as a duet between Lennox and Green Gartside of Scritti Politti.
The album closes with one of its finest moments. The glacial, dreamlike, haunting, epic, This City Never Sleeps. The track was never released as a single, although a beautiful live version later appeared on the B-side Here Comes The Rain Again. It also had a second moment in the spotlight when it was featured on the soundtrack to the 1986 movie 9 ½ Weeks, starring Mickey Rourke and Kim Bassinger. The film, a mid-80s ‘SoHo-gallery-owner-meets-Wall-St-broker-for-kinky-sex-stuff-in-matt-black-designer-dream-home-yuppie-erotic-drama’, developed a bit of a cult following in the UK, though mainly for Rourke’s designer stubble and impeccable Comme De Garcon wardrobe. The scene in which the song features was one of the more memorable. The song has now become firmly established as a modern Balearic / backroom classic, and I play it often, although maybe not often enough.
The title track must be one of the defining records of the `80s. A propulsive pop classic, which sounded as powerful on the radio as it did on the dance-floors of some of the coolest clubs in the world. One of the first – and best – Ron Hardy mixes that I ever downloaded – from the old Deep House Pages website – back in those early days of the worldwide web, was a fantastic set recorded live at The Music Box, Chicago, in 1987, and it opened with Sweet Dreams. In 1990 UK hardcore / jungle pioneers Shut Up And Dance sampled said song (alongside Prince’s Around The World In A Day) for the massive rave anthem, Lamborghini. It’s a beast of a track, and another that I still occasionally play.
According to whosampled.com, Sweet Dreams has been sampled in 129 tracks, and covered 133 times. My old friend John Burgess, of Jockey Slut / Disco Pogo fame, informs me that it’s also had close to a billion streams on Spotify! I picked my copy of the album up sometime in the mid-80s, as I originally had the album on cassette. I can’t recall where from now, but it’s a bit odd, as I have the picture disc version of the LP, but in the normal album cover. This is an astounding record, and I can’t quite believe that it’s 40 years old!
* You’re showing your age there Mike, with the Blake’s 7 / Servalan reference : ) – Rob
For more from Balearic Mike you can find him on both Facebook and Instagram – @balearicmike.
Mike has a Mixcloud page packed with magnificent, magical, music, and you can catch him live on 1BTN, from 12 noon until 2 (UK time) every 1st and 3rd Friday.
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One thought on “Balearic Mike’s Bonus Beats / Eurythmics / Sweet Dreams”
I’m delighted to be old enough to get the Blake’s 7 reference ! Magic stuff