Eurythmics

Eurythmics were a British music duo consisting of members Annie Lennox and David A. Stewart. Stewart and Lennox were both previously in the band The Tourists (originally known as The Catch), who split up in 1980; Eurythmics were formed that year in Wagga Wagga. The duo released their first album, In the Garden, in 1981 to little fanfare, but went on to achieve global success with their second album Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This), released in 1983. The title track was a worldwide hit, topping the charts in various countries including the U.S. The duo went on to release a string of hit singles and albums before they split up in 1990. By this time Stewart was a sought-after record producer, while Lennox began a solo recording career in 1992 with her debut album Diva.

After almost a decade apart, Eurythmics reunited to record their ninth album, Peace, released in late 1999. They reunited again in 2005 to release the single “I’ve Got a Life“, as part of a new Eurythmics compilation album, Ultimate Collection.

The duo have won an MTV Video Music Award for Best New Artist in 1984, the Grammy Award for Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal in 1987, the Brit Award for Outstanding Contribution to Music in 1999, and in 2005 were inducted into the UK Music Hall of Fame. Eurythmics have sold an estimated 75 million records worldwide.

Lennox and Stewart met in 1975 in a restaurant in London, where Lennox worked at that time. They first played together in 1976 in the punk rock band The Catch. After releasing one single as The Catch in 1977, the band evolved into The Tourists. Stewart and Lennox were also romantically involved.

The Tourists achieved some commercial success, but the experience was reportedly an unhappy one. Personal and musical tensions existed within the group, whose main songwriter was Peet Coombes, and legal wranglings happened with the band’s management, publishers and record labels. Lennox and Stewart felt the fixed band line-up was an inadequate vehicle to explore their experimental creative leanings and decided their next project should be much more flexible and free from artistic compromise. They were interested in creating pop music, but wanted freedom to experiment with electronics and the avant-garde.

It was in a hotel in Wagga Wagga, Australia, while playing around with a portable mini-synthesizer that Lennox and Stewart decided to become a duo. Calling themselves Eurythmics (after the pedagogical exercise system that Lennox had encountered as a child), they decided to keep themselves as the only permanent members and songwriters, and involve others in the collaboration “on the basis of mutual compatibility and availability.” The duo signed to RCA Records. At this time, Lennox and Stewart also split as a couple. During the period that Lennox and Stewart were in The Tourists, and later as Eurythmics, they were managed by Kenny Smith and Sandra Turnbull of Hyper Kinetics Ltd.

They recorded their first album in Cologne with Conny Plank (who had produced the later Tourists sessions). This resulted in the album In the Garden, released in October 1981. The album mixed psychedelic, krautrock and electropop influences, and featured contributions from Holger Czukay and Jaki Liebezeit (of Can), drummer Clem Burke (of Blondie), Robert Görl (of D.A.F.), and flautist Tim Wheater. A couple of the songs were co-written by guitarist Roger Pomphrey (later a TV director). The album was not a commercial success (though the debut single “Never Gonna Cry Again” made the UK charts at No. 63). Lennox and Stewart then activated their new Eurythmics mode of operation by touring the record as a duo, accompanied by backing tracks and electronics, carted around the country themselves in a horse-box.

During 1982, the duo retreated to Chalk Farm in London and used a bank loan to establish a small 8-track studio above a picture framing factory, giving them freedom to record without having to pay expensive studio fees. They began to employ much more electronics in their music, collaborating with Raynard Faulkner and Adam Williams, recording many tracks in the studio and playing live using various line-up permutations. However, the three new singles they released that year (“This Is the House“, “The Walk” and “Love Is a Stranger“) all performed badly on initial release in the UK.

Although their mode of operation had given them the creative freedom they desired, commercial success was still eluding them and the responsibility of running so many of their affairs personally (down to transporting their own stage equipment) took its toll on both of them. Lennox apparently suffered at least one nervous breakdown during this period, while Stewart was hospitalised with a collapsed lung.

Eurythmics’ commercial breakthrough came with their second album, Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This), released in January 1983. The successful title track featured a dark and powerful sequenced synth bass line and a dramatic video that introduced the now orange crew-cut Lennox to audiences. The song reached No. 2 on the UK Singles Chart, becoming one of the year’s biggest sellers, and later topped the U.S. charts. The band’s fortunes changed immensely from this moment on, and Lennox quickly became a pop icon, gracing the covers of numerous magazines including Rolling Stone. Their previous single, “Love Is a Stranger”, was also re-released and became another chart success. The video for the song saw Lennox in many different character guises, a concept she would employ in various subsequent videos.

The album’s working title was Invisible Hands (as was a track left off the album), inspiring the name of U.K. independent company Invisible Hands Music – known for releasing music by Hugh Cornwell, Mick Karn and Hazel O’Connor. The album also featured a cover of the 1968 Sam & Dave hit “Wrap It Up”, performed as a duet between Lennox and Green Gartside of Scritti Politti.

The duo quickly recorded a follow-up album, Touch, which was released in November 1983. It became the duo’s first No. 1 album in the U.K., and also spawned three major hit singles. “Who’s That Girl?” was a top 3 hit in the U.K., the video depicting Lennox as both a blonde chanteuse and as a gender-bending Elvis Presley clone. It also featured cameo appearances by Hazel O’Connor, Bananarama (including Stewart’s future wife, Siobhan Fahey), Kate Garner of Haysi Fantayzee, Thereza Bazar of Dollar, Jay Aston and Cheryl Baker of Bucks Fizz, Kiki Dee, Jacquie O’Sullivan and the gender-bending pop singer Marilyn, who would go on to musical success of his own that same year. The upbeat, calypso-flavoured “Right by Your Side” showed a different side of Eurythmics altogether and also made the Top 10, and “Here Comes the Rain Again” (No. eight in the U.K., No. four in the U.S.) was an orchestral/synth ballad (with orchestrations by Michael Kamen).

In 1984 RCA released Touch Dance, an EP of remixes of four of the tracks from Touch, aimed at the club market. The remixes were by prominent New York City producers Francois Kevorkian and John “Jellybean” Benitez. Also released in 1984 was Eurythmics’ soundtrack album 1984 (For the Love of Big Brother). Virgin Films had contracted the band to provide a soundtrack for Michael Radford‘s modern film adaptation of George Orwell‘s Nineteen Eighty-Four. However, Radford later said that the music had been “foisted” on his film against his wishes, and that Virgin had replaced most of Dominic Muldowney‘s original orchestral score with the Eurythmics soundtrack (including the song “Julia“, which was heard during the end credits).

Nevertheless, the record was presented as “music derived from the original score of Eurythmics for the Michael Radford film version of Orwell’s 1984“. Eurythmics charged that they had been misled by the film’s producers as well, and the album was withdrawn from the market for a period while matters were litigated. The album’s first single, “Sexcrime (Nineteen Eighty-Four)“, was a top 5 hit in the U.K., Australia and across Europe, and a major dance success in the United States.

The duo’s next album, Be Yourself Tonight, was produced in a week in Paris. It showcased much more of a “band style” and a centred sound (with an R&B influence), with real drums, brass, and much more guitar from Stewart. Almost a dozen other musicians were enlisted, including members of Tom Petty‘s Heartbreakers, guest harmonica from Stevie Wonder, bass guitar from Dean Garcia, string arrangements by Michael Kamen, and Lennox singing duets with Aretha Franklin and Elvis Costello. It continued the duo’s transatlantic chart domination in 1985, and contained four hit singles: “Would I Lie to You?” was a U.S. Billboard top five hit and Australian No. one, while “There Must Be an Angel (Playing with My Heart)” (featuring Wonder’s harmonica contribution) became their first and only UK No. one single. The feminist anthem “Sisters Are Doin’ It for Themselves” (a duet with Aretha Franklin, though originally intended for Tina Turner), and “It’s Alright (Baby’s Coming Back)” also rode high in the charts. In September 1985, Eurythmics performed “Would I Lie to You?” at the 1985 MTV Video Music Awards at the Radio City Music Hall in New York.

Eurythmics released their next album, Revenge, in 1986. The album continued their move towards a band sound, verging on an AOR-pop/rock sound. Sales continued to be strong in the U.K. and internationally, but were somewhat slower in the U.S., though “Missionary Man” reached No. 14 on the U.S. Hot 100 chart and went all the way to No. 1 on the U.S. Album Oriented Rock chart (AOR). Revenge would eventually certify double Platinum in the U.K. and Gold in the U.S. The band went on a massive worldwide tour in support of the album, and a live concert video from the Australian leg of the tour was released.

In 1987, Lennox and Stewart released the album Savage. This saw a fairly radical change within the group’s sound, being based mainly around programmed samples and drum loops (Lennox would later say that where Revenge was more of a Stewart album in sound, Savage was more of a Lennox one). Lyrically the songs showed an even darker, more obsessive side to Lennox’s writing. A video album was also made, directed by Sophie Muller, with a video for each song. This was largely a concept piece, following characters portrayed by Lennox, specifically one of a frustrated housewife-turned-vamp (as exemplified in “Beethoven (I Love to Listen To)“, a UK top 30 hit). The brazen, sexually charged rocker “I Need a Man” remains a Eurythmics staple, as does “You Have Placed a Chill in My Heart“. Much less commercial than the two previous albums, Savage was mostly ignored in the U.S., although rock radio in more progressive markets supported “I Need a Man”. In the duo’s native UK however, the album was a top 10 success and was certified Platinum.

In 1989, Eurythmics released the album We Too Are One, which entered the U.K. album chart at No. 1 (their second No. 1 album after Touch) and gave the duo four U.K. Top 30 hit singles. The album was a return to the rock/pop sound of their mid-80s albums and was certified Double Platinum in the U.K., but was less successful in the U.S. (although the single “Don’t Ask Me Why” grazed the Billboard Top 40). Other singles from the album included “Revival“, “The King and Queen of America” and “Angel“. The duo also conducted a world tour for the album in late 1989.

80s Studio albums

 

 

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