The duo that would become known as Eurythmics first met in 1975. Scottish-born Annie Lennox was a student at the Royal Academy of Music where she was studying the flute, and was working her way through school by waiting tables at a London health food restaurant.
When local record shop owner Paul Jacobs became a regular in the restaurant, Annie became friends with him, eventually handing him a tape of her singing and playing music. Jacobs was friends with a musician named Dave Stewart, who had been part of a folk-rock band named Longdancer. Longdancer had been signed to Elton John’s Rocket Records in 1971, but had failed to reach any measure of success. They were quickly dropped from the record label.
Jacobs invited Stewart to go with him to the restaurant to meet Lennox. Stewart had already been trying to get another record deal along with his friend Peet Coombes, who like Stewart was a musician from Sunderland, England. One of the reasons they felt that they had been unsuccessful in securing one was that neither was a particularly good singer. Stewart was hoping that Jacobs’ had found someone who had the kind of voice that could get them a deal.
Stewart has stated that the first thing that he ever said to Lennox was “will you marry me?” The two quickly became lovers and found out that they worked well together musically. The trio formed a band called The Catch, and signed a six album deal on Logo Records. After one single failed to chart, the band added two new members in bassist Eddie Chin and drummer Jim Toomey, and changed their name to The Tourists.
The Tourists played pop music in a time when punk rock was all the rage and they were hated by British music critics at the time, but they caught on with the public and ended up having two top 10 UK hits “I Only Want to Be With You” and “So Good to Be Back Home Again.”
By 1980, the band had released three albums, but soon they started to have personal issues, much of it stemming from legal issues surrounding a change in record labels. They decided to all go their separate ways, except for Annie and Dave, who, despite the fact that they were no longer romantically involved, decided to stay together as a musical duo.
Lennox and Stewart decided to name themselves after the style of musical education that Annie was taught as a young music student, Eurythmics. Annie would continue to sing vocals along with playing keyboards, while Dave handled all other instruments. They even decided that when they went on tour they would not have a backing band, but remain a duo by using recorded backing tracks and synthesized electronic sounds in concert.
The duo went to Germany to record their first album, hiring famed “krautrock” producer Conny Plank, who had produced albums for bands such as Kraftwerk. Lennox and Stewart wanted to play in more of a psychedelic, electro-pop style than what they had been playing with The Tourists.
In October 1981, Eurythmics released their debut album In The Garden.
The album was not very successful, nor were any singles from the album. Personally, I like some of the songs on the album, but as a whole it is nothing memorable.
They decided to build their own 8 Track Studio in London, named “The Church,” so that they could experiment with more electronics in their recording sessions for their sophomore album.
For this album, Stewart wanted to abandon the psychedelic sound of the previous album and have more of a New Wave sound. They upped the use of synthesizers and wrote songs with the purpose of breaking through with a commercial hit. The duo spent the entire year of 1982 recording the album, originally named Invisible Hands.
The Eurythmics’ second album, now retitled Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This) was released in January 1983.
One of the most important things to happen to Annie and Dave was the creation of MTV. The cable channel was still in its infancy when Eurythmics filmed their music video for the title track. Annie had buzzed her hair and dyed it bright red and wore a man’s suit in the video. Her androgynous look along with the song’s driving synth-bassline made it a big hit on MTV, and in turn made both the single and the album immediate smash hits, with the track going all the way to #1 on the Billboard US Hot 100 chart and reaching #2 in the UK. They quickly became one of the leading acts of the early 80’s New Wave.
Lennox and Stewart immediately returned to The Church to begin work on a follow-up to Sweet Dreams. Recorded over only three weeks in the Summer of 1983, Touch would solidify Eurythmics as one of the quintessential 1980’s New Wave bands.
The Album Cover:
The front cover of the album is a fairly simple picture of Annie Lennox, appearing to be topless, wearing a “Lone Ranger” styled mask. She appeared to be wearing the same thing on the small picture of her on the previous album. The cover was designed by Andrew Christian & Laurence Stevens.
Perhaps there is some symbolism here that I’m not seeing. I’ve read a few people’s opinions on the internet, and some people call it a “Rosie the Riveter” pose and talk about how it is showing empowerment of women or something.Actually my favorite part of the front cover is name and title.
I like the fonts they used and the lowercase ‘e’ and ‘s’. I wonder if the bars over the ‘e’ and ‘s’ and the star as symbols for Annie and Dave or something since they appear all over the cover and innersleeves. You know it is not that exciting an album cover when I am discussing the fonts.
So let’s move to the back cover, it must be much more interesting.
Actually the innersleeves are the most interesting parts of the packaging.
I am reviewing the vinyl LP release of Touch released on RCA Records in 1983.
(Note: All song titles are linked to Youtube clips of the songs. As always, I most recommend buying the vinyl version for best listening experience.)
The album opens with “Here Comes The Rain Again.” This is another great opening track, so the streak continues! It may be because I’ve heard “Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This)” so many times, but I prefer this song to their #1 hit. This song might be the definition of good electro-pop. Most of the time I don’t like synthesized instruments. I don’t mind synthesizers, in fact I love synthesizers, I just usually don’t like syth-guitar or synth-drum sounds, but I really like the synth-violins on this track.
Track 2, “Regrets” kinda starts out slow, with a kind of repetitive synth-keyboard line repeating, but it gets better as the song goes on as different electronic samples and synth-beats flow in and out. I will say that I am impressed that Annie and Dave could get these sounds in their homemade 8-track studio. The lyrics make no sense, but overall it is an above-average track.
“Right By Your Side” is a different sounding song from anything else I’ve heard by Eurythmics. I swear the opening of the song sounds just like “Don’t Come Around Here No More” by Tom Petty, which makes sense since Dave Stewart co-wrote and produced that song just 2 years later. “Right By Your Side” is a synth-calypso track, and while it has synth-hand claps and synth-guitars, there do seem to be actual steel drums and a sax in the studio. I actually really liked that song.
“Cool Blue” starts out sounding like a Casio keyboard demo button version of a Police song, but it really gets going once Annie’s vocals start. Touch was later remixed into a dance album, which makes me wonder how they remixed this track since it is a dance track. While I usually poo-poo dance tracks, I will admit again that I do like this track, especially the bass playing. That is probably because is stands out as much more authentic sounding than the electronic sounds behind it. The songs only has 11 lines of lyrics, which are repeated a lot.
Side One of the LP closes with “Who’s That Girl?,” which was a huge hit in the UK and a modest hit in the US, reaching #s 3 and 21 in each respective country. Maybe one of Lennox’s more powerful vocals on the album. The music is okay, but nothing really happens with it until near the end of the song when it kinda sounds feedbacky. The music video was more successful than the single in the US, as it played all the time on MTV, and was notable for Annie playing both a woman and a man in the music video and then with the assistance of futuristic technology, she is able to make out with herself.
Side Two opens with a little more hard-driving bass and synthesizer with “The First Cut.” Actually its a pretty good track, but it repeats everything over and over 15 to 20 times, for a second I thought my needle was stuck in a scratch on the record. The oddest lyric on the album, “I’m a white girl – You can see my skin.” Wait. Annie Lennox is white?
“Aqua” is what I don’t like about electronic music, it’s like pressing one button and then just singing over keyboard’s pre-programmed music. It does change midway through into the song when it sounds reversed, but doesn’t last long enough to make the song interesting. Nothing to see here. I should make up a factoid that the crap group that recorded “Barbie Girl” got their name from the title of this song.
The wordy titled “No Fear, No Hate, No Pain (No Broken Hearts)” starts off with that same 6 note synth-beat that I feel like every Eurythmics songs starts out with. I do like Annie’s vocals, as she sounds kinda mad. The song starts to get more orchestrated towards the end, or I guess i should say synth-orchestrated. As the song goes on, I like it better, but does every song have to repeat the title 50 times?
“Paint A Rumor” closes out the album. Hmmmm..I shouldn’t but, I think I like this song. The some of the music kinda sounds like it should go to an Atari game, plus it has a funky bassline in the middle. Lyrics seemed to serve no purpose whatsoever. I think the idea is that the phrase “paint a rumour” sounds like the phrase “paint a room.” I don’t think they got further than that idea.
I may not be very positive in most of my comments, but overall I did enjoy the album enough. My issue with the synth-pop sound is that it just doesn’t seem important, it is sort of disposable music. It is what ringtones and music from video games that were played on machines with wood grain are made of. Saying that, though, I don’t want to discount electronic music entirely. I think prog-rock, which incorporated tons of electronics and synth sounds, is a great, advanced form of music. However, electronic pop is just not my cup of tea, as it feels like to me it is just artificial music made to appeal to the middle of the road of music tastes. Perhaps the one of the worst things to me is a song that on American Bandstand would generate the response of “it has a good beat and you can dance to it” (okay they all generated that response, but you get what I’m saying.)
Touch was a major hit reaching the top 10 in the US and #1 in the UK, eventually going platinum.
Eurythmics followed up Touch by doing the soundtrack for the movie 1984. However, director Michael Radford didn’t care for what they presented and replaced almost all of their music in the movie. They did release the music they recorded as their 4th album, 1984 (For The Love Of Big Brother.)
The duo released an album a year over the next several years, and continued to have success on the pop charts. The single, “Would I Lie To You?” reached #5 on the Billboard chart in 1985 and in 1986 they had their final top 20 hit with “Missionary Man.”
In 1990, after some unnamed internal squabbles and the birth of Lennox’s first child, the pair went their separate ways. Stewart started a new band called The Spiritual Cowboys and mostly worked on the production side of things, producing albums for many major acts including Mick Jagger, Bryan Ferry, and Ringo Starr.
Lennox started her solo career in 1992, with the album Diva.
It was a major hit, reaching quadruple platinum status in the UK and double platinum status in the US, and was nominated for Album of Year at the Grammy Awards. The tracks “Why” and “Walking On Broken Glass” became staple of adult contemporary radio stations for years to come. In 1995, she released Madusa which contained another big hit, “No More ‘I Love You’s‘,” and it too was nominated for a Grammy.
The duo reunited in 1999, following the death of their old band mate. Peet Coombes, and recorded their first album in a decade, Peace.
Lennox released her third album, Bare in 2003, once again it made the top five in both the US and the UK. Although, perhaps her biggest achievement came the next year when she won the Academy Award for best song for performing and co-writing “Into the West” from the soundtrack to The Lord Of The Rings: The Return Of The King.
Both Lennox and Stewart have remained active in writing and producing as well as being involved in political activism to this day.
My take on Rolling Stone’s Take:
RS: “Annie Lennox looked like a gender-bending cybor, but she sang with soul; producer Dave Stewart hid behind his beard and masterminded the sound. Together they made divine synth pop, especially “Who’s That Girl?,” a tale of kinked-up sexual obsession, and their massive hit “Here Comes the Rain Again.”
First off, I just cut and pasted that quote from RS’s website, so I have a feeling the word “cybor” should be “cyborg.” Also, I think that they are confusing the music video for “Who’s That Girl?” with the song, because I don’t think the song has anything to do with kinks. They just remember Annie in drag from the video. I also chuckle at the pointless beard mention.
I didn’t love this album, but I did like it for what it was. If you like synth-pop, then this is the album for you. Personally, I don’t enjoy that style of music much, but some people do, and for a synth-pop record, this might be the best one.
3 Stars out of 5, Recommended with reservations
My ranking of the Rolling Stone 500 that I’ve reviewed thus far:
1. The Stone Roses- The Stone Roses
2. Wilco- Yankee Hotel Foxtrot
3. Herbie Hancock- Head Hunters
4. Bonnie Raitt- Give It Up
5. Outkast- Aquemini
6. Boz Scaggs- Boz Scaggs
7. Ian Dury- New Boots and Panties!!
8. B.B. King- Live in Cook County Jail
9. Eurythmics- Touch