Their dream to make it big in music looked to be over until another dream came along to end their career nightmare. That turnaround came from Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This), which went on to become a classic in pop music and marked a commercial breakthrough for synth-pop.
But before the Eurythmics wrote it, the duo feared they were finished. “I was in a terrible mood that day. I actually thought we should give up,” Annie Lennox recalled of the 1982 recording session in London with her bandmate, Dave Stewart.
“I’m sitting there feeling like I’m probably going to tell him I’m going back to Scotland and just forget it,” said the Aberdeen native.
Her first album with Stewart as the Eurythmics had been a failure. Suddenly, Lennox found a deceptively simple melody on the keyboard. And Stewart, generally a guitarist, quickly came up with a beat as he tinkered with an early drum machine.
“Everything was oddly infectious and powerful, but we didn’t – and the record label definitely didn’t – choose it as a single off the album until about the third or fourth choice,” said Stewart.
The duo, who have not performed together for several years but retain a friendly chemistry, were speaking to Agence France-Presse as they vie to enter the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame. Strolling the historic EastWest Studios in Hollywood, where The Beach Boys recorded Pet Sounds, Lennox sat down at a piano and – unprompted – offered a version of Sweet Dreams.
The Eurythmics are in the race for the first time for the Hall Of Fame, with music experts and fans voting for a decision to be announced next month. Other acts in the running range from experimental rockers Radiohead to singing legend Nina Simone. To mark the renewed attention, the Eurythmics announced that they would reissue all their albums on vinyl next year.
Stewart said the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame has recognised the artistes who have persevered. “A lot of people see an artiste like ourselves – we’re on TV or whatever – and that’s the first time they see you and they think, ‘Oh, they’re already doing great.’
“But they don’t see the four, five or 10 years of living in a squat or struggling and playing to three people. I think every single artist in the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame has been through these challenges.”
Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of These) and its album of the same name, released in early 1983, shot up the charts in both Europe and North America, followed by other major albums, including Be Yourself Tonight. On the Sweet Dreams song, Stewart found the drum machine out of whack, giving a heavy boom on the first beat, unlike dance tracks where the backbeat generally is dominant.
The song has nonetheless become a common sample in electronic dance music (EDM) and is frequently covered, most notably by goth rocker Marilyn Manson. “We never in a million years thought that this would be a song that would be in every EDM festival around the world because we weren’t making dance music,” Stewart said.
Penning the lyrics, Lennox said Sweet Dreams was initially meant ironically considering the duo’s bleak state. But she came to see the song as speaking to the hopes that everyone carries through life.
“It’s like, OK, we’re here, what are we going to do with it? We know we’re going to die at the end of it,” she added. “So it’s a very philosophical line and it’s almost like a little haiku poem in a strange little way.”
In the spirit of everyone finding his or her own dreams, Lennox is fine with other interpretations. “It has nothing to do with sadomasochism, which people have often thought it does,” she said. “But, actually, if you want to make it about that, that’s OK. Marilyn Manson took it to one extreme and we were very glad that he did.” – AFP