Today sees the reissue of three of Eurythmics albums on vinyl: 1985’s Be Yourself Tonight, Revenge from 1986 and Savage from ’87. Each album is newly remastered from the original tapes and pressed on 180g vinyl. Furthermore, they all come with a download code for hi-res audio. SDE caught up with Dave Stewart and Annie Lennox and asked them about their output and this new reissue campaign…
SuperDeluxeEdition: Eurythmics always seemed to operate and exist in its own bubble. To me, it never really felt like you were ‘competing’, as such, with other bands of the era, you were just doing your own thing. Do you agree, and if so, how did you manage to operate in this way?
Dave Stewart: Yes, at the beginning we were in a tiny bubble – literally just the two of us discussing and experimenting, we rarely let anyone in to see or hear. Later, although Annie and I creatively managed to put ourselves back in that bubble, by various means, there were a lot more people around us so it became harder and harder.
Annie Lennox: We both have eclectic musical tastes and reference points which informed our work over the years, so we never thought of ourselves as being part of one single genre. We always evolved and changed stylistically, so we were never stuck with one sound or one approach and in that way I think we were particularly individualistic.
SDE: Your debut In The Garden is an undiscovered beauty of an album. When it failed to deliver commercial success, how did you deal with that?
Annie: To be fair, In the Garden is an unorthodox, experimental record, which could easily be described as avant garde. We were always trying to push boundaries and explore new approaches to creating sounds and musical styles. The only challenging part of not having commercial success, was how to survive long enough to record another album, as we were pretty strapped for cash in those days, so it was somewhat daunting to keep afloat.
Dave: That’s when we decided to take even more control by actually getting second hand equipment and stop using traditional studios. We spent months working on the Sweet Dreams album without the cost hanging over our heads and I think that allowed us to get lost in sound and find our way to what I used to call electro-soul.
SDE: What was it about the ‘Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)’ single that connected with the record-buying public across the world?
Dave: That remains a bit of a mystery to both of us I think. Analyzing the track, it has hardly anything on it, but everything is a hook of some kind, very definite or confident from the very first down beat of the huge drum sound and the synth riffs merged together with a four on the floor bass drum. It was on only four tracks and already sounded huge, so when Annie started sing “Sweet Dreams are made of this” it evidently was !
Annie: It’s more of a mantra than a song. The deeper meaning of the song isn’t all that apparent, but people identify with it in their own ways.
Dave: The weird thing is it’s most often played at a really “up” moment in a club , festival or any event like a big celebration but at the time we thought of it as a very dark song, which is why the bridge has the lyrics “hold your head up, keep your head up” etc.
Annie: It seems to have a celebratory aspect to it, that I personally didn’t intend, but songs can be interpreted in infinite ways. I’m delighted that it’s such a classic song that people love, right across generations and it’s still constantly being played and referred to decades down the line.
Dave: It’s almost like ‘Happy Birthday’ now, the amount of times I hear it.
SDE: The misunderstandings around the ‘1984’ soundtrack are well documented, but the final ‘music derived from’ album is about as strange and beguiling a long-player as any band ever delivered, eighteen months after having a US number one single! It’s highly regarded by Eurythmics aficionados, so I was wondering if you could describe your feelings about this record and where you think it stands against your other work?
Annie: 1984 is one of my personal favourite Eurythmics records. We were both really pleased and proud of it, especially as we had to write and record it all in three weeks.
Dave: Well, it’s a very experimental soundtrack album; we loved it while we were making it and still do. The use of Junkanoo drums (which had fire burning under them before starting to loosen the skins) are as about as threatening a sound as you can hear and the 1984 book and film was such a scary vision of the future [and] we wanted to capture that.
Annie: We thought we’d made a magnificent, edgy piece of work, that was very fitting for the time. It still sounds fresh and even futuristic, despite the fact it was recorded 34 years ago!
Dave: In a song like Julia, Annie’s voice and the effects around it were designed to make the listener feel the sadness and yet there’s beauty in it, trying to remain human when all around was inhumane. For some reason, Annie and I together are good and capturing beauty and sadness intermingled and that feeling appears on many of our recordings.
SDE: Five albums into your career, you kept things simple by recording ‘Be Yourself Tonight’ on an 8-track recorder. Can you explain why you chose to do that, when convention would normally dictate at this point that ‘bigger is better’ and you could have synchronised two 24-track machines and gone overdub crazy!
Dave: I think I suggested that we go back to the 8-track recorder as I could see how easy it was to go overdub crazy even on a 24-track machine. Anyway, I liked making each album an adventure and so did Annie, you know… get away from everyone and everything to immerse ourselves in the creative process. In this case, we couldn’t have chosen a more obscure place to do it deep within some kind of french youth club !
Annie: It was a great time, living in Paris in the Eighties. I remember going out to buy French film posters and fairy lights to decorate the space so it had a special atmosphere. I feel as if chapters of my life have been expressed and defined by the records we made.
Each record has it’s own identity and set of circumstances, very often made in intense situations where we were continuously working, travelling, writing, recording, giving interviews, making videos, performing, rehearsing and creating.
SDE: ‘Sisters Are Doin’ It For Themselves’ has become one of the best-known tracks from Be Yourself Tonight, but Adrian with Elvis Costello is a gem. How did that come about?
Dave: Actually, Would I Lie To you gets a lot more airplay and There Must Be An Angel being number 1 in the UK was obviously a very well know track in UK and Europe, but weirdly enough not in The States, even with Stevie Wonder’s amazing harmonica solo. Sisters was more successful in USA along with Would I lie To You because it has an R&B feel they understood immediately and of course with Sisters we had the Queen of Soul Music herself, Aretha Franklin, and I must say Annie stepped up to the plate as you can imagine how daunting that must be to sing a duet round one microphone with Aretha! Elvis was so sweet as he came all the way to our little room within this french youth club and when he sang on Adrian he had to be in the same room as us and our gear as we recorded like that – no vocal booth – but he is such a great vocalist and Annie and I were fans so we had a great time with him
Annie: We were very excited to work with him, as we’d both loved and admired him as a song writer and recording artist. We’d seen him perform with The Attractions on the first UK Stiff Tour and he was spectacularly edgy and intense – polished to the point of being intimidating. He was a real gentleman with us and I was amazed that he actually decided to sing with me, as I thought he’d be a lot more “scary” than he was. Thanks for that Elvis!
SDE: ‘Revenge’ is less experimental than what came before and is more of a play-it-live, stadium-filling rock/pop album. There’s some great songs on the record, but was there an element of ‘let’s take it easy and enjoy the success’? How do you feel about the album now?
Annie: I think Revenge was Eurythmics opportunity to step into the role of full blown “rockers” at that time. But believe me, there was nothing “ let’s take it easy” about it!
Dave: I think the album sounds great. The opening of Thorn in My Side with just acoustic 12 string and Clem’s drums sounded like they fill a stadium or Arena with minimal effort and when we played live they did – Missionary Man had same power about it . Yes, we knew we had “entered the ring”, so to speak, and at that point we ready to take on any audience and we launched into a set of massive shows including playing at the Reichstag at the Berlin Wall and many other outdoor venues and Annie was like a whirling dervish or a shaman throughout the whole length of that Revenge tour , we worked harder for that 12 or 18 months than any other.
Annie: Those stage performances were high level energy driven under super hot stage lights, in outfits that felt like being in a sauna! The songs are challenging for any singer, especially to perform live night after night…
SDE: ‘Savage’ feels like a reaction to ‘Revenge’. Bleak, experimental and inward-facing. Do you agree that this is probably the best Eurythmics album and will you promise to get Sony to reissue the video album on blu-ray with a 5.1 surround sound mix!?
Dave: Savage was made in a tiny “Fumoir”, again about the size of a closet or the “vestry” in the church, where we finished sweet dreams album . The whole album was made using a Synclavier, that only Olle Romo, our drummer, had the patience to work out how to use. I bought the Synclavier from Jack Nitzsche, the producer, songwriter and film composer and it weighed a ton – nowadays could have all that brain in a cellphone. The sounds that were loaded in it came from recordings Conny Plank and I made in Japan, using a recorder in a bamboo forest or basically just hitting boxes and stuff , Olle and I would take my guitar riffs and chop them up or make crazy loops out of banging on chairs or stairwells of the Chateau. It was probably the most experimental recording experience and a difficult one for anyone except myself and Olle to join in with, as everything took so long to program on this infernal machine. By the time Annie heard about 8 or 9 finished tracks she wasn’t keen on them at all, but something happened when we booked into the studio in Paris to do vocals and Annie came out with some incredible lyrics and vocals that give me goosebumps to this day .
Annie: Eurythmics made so many records in quite short periods of time. I think we probably released an album or more every year for a decade. People have various ‘takes’ on our music along with a whole variety of preferences. I think there’s a record, or song for almost every mood. Savage is particularly dark. I can’t remember much about recording it to be honest. For me in the long form video serves the album in a very powerful way, but then again.. I’ve rarely watched it since it was made.
SDE: Having produced almost everything yourself, why did you call on the services of Jimmy Iovine for ‘We Too Are One’?
Dave: Annie wanted someone else in the room to have an objective opinion , in the end I think it made the album more generic and weak, not because of Jimmy, but because there was no ‘bubble’ anymore !
Annie: As the eighties were coming to a close, I was tired, unhappy and miserable too often, to be honest.
SDE: When ‘Peace’ was reissued as part of the 2005 remastering campaign, many songs ended up being alternate mixes, most notably ‘I’ve Tried Everything’. I’m presuming that this wasn’t an accident, so could you explain the reasons for those changes?
Dave: It was probably a chance to choose different mixes on reflection , but I don’t remember much about it.
Annie: Sorry, but I can’t remember!!
SDE: ‘Relations’ between you and Sony seemed to be at a bit of a low, in recent years. You are now cooperating on this vinyl reissue campaign. What has changed?
Annie: Eurythmics were nominated for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Sony suddenly woke up to our previous existence and wanted to create something for their ‘Legacy’ department!!
Dave: I was just amazed that they had woken up and realised that Eurythmics existed on their label!
SDE: Would you advise loyal fans who already own the original vinyl pressings to pick the new ones, up or is the campaign more about making the records available to a new generation? i.e. will they really sound better than the originals?
Annie: Both!! I think Eurythmics have some incredibly stalwart fans, who have been on the journey since the 80’s and younger people are discovering us along the way because the songs are essentially timeless.
Dave: I think it’s more about awareness because the original ones should still sound great as long as they’re not full of scratches
SDE: 1984 (For The Love Of Big Brother) is not controlled by Sony and is therefore missing from this campaign – however there was a red vinyl version that came out for Record Store Day. Will that be reissued and available widely on black vinyl post-RSD?
Dave: I think it should be and will campaign for it
SDE: Since the 2005 reissue campaign, seven Eurythmics studio albums have seen 30th anniversaries come and go with the occasion unmarked by any kind of celebration, reissue or box set. With landmark pop/rock albums now regularly being reissue as 5 or 6 disc box sets with demos, outtakes, bonus tracks, 5.1 surround mixes etc. do you have plans to work through your catalogue and create similar sets?
Annie: Well, there’s been a lot of activity put into putting the archive into better shape, which is a great thing, as it had been lying dormant in unknown vaults for years.
Dave: I was always up for doing all this kind of stuff; as you say every band or artist from Bowie to Metallica do it, but I don’t think Annie was or is so keen on the idea. She may view it differently in the future, not sure…
Annie: I do feel that the music industry has exploited artists in every which way, so I am somewhat disgruntled by the truth that artists are still being flagrantly exploited, robbed and cheated.
I very rarely look back to listen to past recordings, but when I do, it’s like listening to years months, days and nights of dedication to being a bone fide working performing artist, singer songwriter.
SDE: When you step back and remember the Eurythmics achievements, what are you most proud of?
Dave: Making some great music and giving some great performances and touching people through our work.
Annie: I think we can feel really proud of everything we did to survive and continue trying to create in situations that were immensely difficult and challenging.
Only Dave and I know what that journey was like, everything else is ‘chopped liver’ as they say!
SDE: Is another Eurythmics album even remotely likely? If not, what about a reunion tour, for old time’s sake?
Dave: I am all for keeping the music alive.
Thanks to Dave Stewart and Annie Lennox. Be Yourself Tonight, Revenge and Savage are reissued today on vinyl. In The Garden, Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This) and Touch were re-released earlier this year and We Too Are One and Peace are scheduled for November 2018.