20 Sweet Facts About Pop Icons Eurythmics
If we asked 100 people to name us an 80s pop duo, you can be sure that Eurythmics would come up almost every time. They of course consisted of Annie Lennox and David Stewart, who achieved global success upon the release of their second album Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This).
The title track was a massive hit across the globe, and Eurythmics went on to release a number of hit singles and albums before they split up in 1990.
Did you know that Annie Lennox was born on Christmas Day? That one didn’t even make the list: read on for 20 even more interesting facts, and celebrate one of the most talented duos the UK has ever produced.
20. Lennox and Stewart were in another band before Eurythmics
Eurythmics’ first album was released in 1981, but it wasn’t Lennox and Stewart’s first project together. Before that, the two were in a band called The Tourists, which seemed to have potential to begin with but was ultimately ill-fated.
Dave Stewart had previously been in a band called Longdancer, which was signed to the same record label as Elton John, and was interested in working with guitarist Peet Coombes. When the two of them moved to London to seek fame and fortune, they met Lennox, who had dropped out of her course at the Royal Academy of Music in pursuit of a career in pop.
The trio formed a band in 1976 and released a single, Borderline/Black Blood, through Logo Records the following year.
The single wasn’t a great commercial success, but the trio were pleased enough at the band’s prospects to add bassist Eddie Chin and drummer Jim Toomey, and then really put their noses to the grindstone.
The band released three albums, some of which included top 10 singles, and were the support act for Roxy Music’s Manifesto tour in 1979.
19. Eurythmics was born in the Australian town of Wagga Wagga
No, we aren’t pulling your leg – Eurythmics really got their start in the Australian town of Wagga Wagga (incidentally, the name derives from the Wiradjuri aboriginal language for ‘the place of many crows’).
The Tourists had achieved international success with their cover of I Only Want To Be With You, by Dusty Springfield, which had performed particularly well in Australia, peaking at number 6. But on their way to Sydney, things got a little off course, and they had to land in Wagga Wagga.
“Oh, my, it is as absurd and abstract as it sounds but, you know, that is where that sort of all started,” said Annie Lennox in an interview with the Sydney Morning Herald. “This story is slightly sad in a way, but it was crazy … there was a strike in Sydney and we couldn’t land so they had to take all the passengers off and house them in hotels for a few days until the strike was over.”
“Well,” Lennox continues, “the main songwriter of the band, Peet Coombes, unbeknown to me, had a heroin addiction and while there [he] had a few days of solid drinking and it was hard-core. Anyway, this big thing was building up and we had this moment when it all came out.”
Abandoned by their songwriter, Stewart and Lennox began experimenting on a small synthesizer in their bedroom, and the seed for Eurythmics was well and truly planted.
18. Stewart and Lennox were a couple when they formed the group
The story goes that Dave Stewart met Annie Lennox, a young hippie, in a health foods shop, and the two became romantically involved almost immediately.
“She was more Laura Ashley dresses and longish brown hair then,” said Stewart in a 2016 Guardian interview. “When I first went to her tiny bedsit she sang a song she’d written on a harmonium. It was like, ‘Holy shit. What are you doing as a waitress? You’re an artist.’”
The interview claims that Stewart and Lennox slept together on that very same night, and were a couple throughout their work in The Tourists. But when that band broke up, so did they.
“Our idea of a breakup was Annie living upstairs and me downstairs,” Stewart adds. But this isn’t to say that breaking up was easy.
In fact, this emotionally charged situation is credited for much of Eurythmics’ success, with their early songs exploring what it’s like to work so closely with a former romantic partner.
17. Their name was taken from a method of teaching music
You might never have thought about how Eurythmics chose their name, or what it means, but it’s actually a lot more interesting than you might expect.
When Annie Lennox dropped out of the Royal Academy of Music, it certainly wasn’t for lack of ability, and her formal musical education had a huge influence on the direction of her band – most notably, the name.
Dalcroze Eurythmics, named for the early 20th century musician and educator Émile Jaques-Dalcroze, is a method of teaching music that focuses on its expression through movement.
When appointed as the grandiose-sounding Professor of Harmony at the Conservatoire of Geneva in 1982, Dalcroze discovered that many of his students lacked innate rhythmic ability, and sought to improve this by developing exercises that expressed music through the entire body.
Exercises include passing around a ball in different ways – exploring natural rhythms – and developing so-called polyrhythmic ability, or generating separate rhythms with the hands and the feet.
16. Their first album didn’t even chart
Despite Lennox’s natural ability and peerless voice, not to mention Stewart’s musical pedigree and experience (he’d been performing since his mid-teens), Eurythmics’ first album didn’t even reach the charts.
While still part of The Tourists, Lennox and Stewart had expressed a distaste for the band’s fixed line up, considering it a limit on their creative experimentation. As a result, In the Garden (1981) features a large cast of session musicians and producers, most notably Conny Plank.
Plank was renowned for his influence on the genre of ‘krautrock’, a blend of psychedelic rock and electronic music that flourished in Germany after World War II.
The album also featured Clem Burke, a drummer from Blondie, and musicians from the German bands Can and Deutsche Amerikanische Freundschaft.
Sadly, however, the album didn’t even make it into the charts. Two singles were released – one didn’t chart either, but Never Gonna Cry Again achieved limited success: number 63.
15. Love is a Stranger performed badly when it was first released
Love is a Stranger is one of Eurythmics’ biggest hits. Combining that pulsing drumbeat, Lennox’s intensely obsessive vocal performance, and lyrics that put a dark twist on the typical love song, it’s an absolute classic.
So it’s shocking that, when it was first released, the song completely bombed. It really goes to show that, in the music industry, the marketing for a song is almost as important – if not more important – than the quality of the track itself!
In order to avoid pricey studio fees, the duo instead took out a loan and established a studio of their own above a picture framing factory. During this time, Lennox and Stewart began to integrate far more electronic elements into their songs.
Love is a Stranger is one of the singles that came out of this period, but it achieved a measly number 54 on the charts. After Eurythmics’ breakthrough with Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This) the following year, the song was re-released and reached number 6. It was exactly the same song!
The song was accompanied by a music video in which Stewart is a chauffeur for Lennox’s sophisticated sex worker. It features Lennox removing wigs to reveal slicked-back hair (distinct from the iconic buzzcut from Sweet Dreams), scenes of which generated controversy in the US, who accused Lennox of being a male transvestite.
14. Annie Lennox suffered a nervous breakdown during the group’s early years
Having taken a risk by scuttling The Tourists and embarking as a duo, Eurythmics’ initial disappointments took a toll on both Stewart and Lennox.
Before their breakthrough, Eurythmics toured the UK with a rotating line-up of back-up musicians. As for Lennox and Stewart themselves, they dragged all of their equipment up and down the country in a horse cart.
Because they’d started their own studio, there was no support network or any real staff on board: it really was just Stewart and Lennox running the show. Despite their newfound creative freedom, the two found it difficult to manage both their artistic work and administrative duties.
Annie Lennox suffered a nervous breakdown during this period, owing to both the mental and physical strain the duo’s difficult early days entailed.
As for Stewart, he was at one point hospitalised with a collapsed lung. The phrase ‘labour of love’ doesn’t even scratch the surface!
13. Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This) made Lennox a pop icon
Thankfully, Eurythmics didn’t have to toil for too long before getting the success and recognition they deserved, and even land the cover of Rolling Stone.
Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This) was released in 1982 and became an instant sensation. Focusing on raw analogue synthesizers rather than the guitar-driven electronica they’d previously produced, the album was praised for bona fide synth-pop credentials combined with Lennox’s soulful vocals.
As you’ll know already, the title track from the album was a smash hit, peaking at number 2 in the UK and number 1 in the US. But it wasn’t just the sound that made the song a pop culture phenomenon: it was the video, too. Featuring Annie Lennox with close-cut, fiery orange hair, and integrating S&M imagery and gender-bending, it’s unforgettable.
According to Stewart, writing in the Guardian, “I couldn’t get any of the new equipment to work. By this point, Annie was totally depressed. She was curled up on the floor in the foetal position when I managed to produce this beat and riff. She suddenly went: “What the hell is that?” and leapt up and started playing the other synthesizer. Between the two duelling synths we had the beginnings of Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This).”
Lennox has described how the song played a pivotal role in dealing with her break-up with Stewart and the disbanding of The Tourists, reflected in the nihilistic lyrics. It was Stewart’s idea to include the lyrics “hold your head up, moving on” to spin a slightly more uplifting message.
12. The album was originally going to be called Invisible Hands
Eurythmics and Sweet Dreams are almost synonymous these days, but it wasn’t always going to be the name for their debut album.
Until the album was very close to release, it was going to be called Invisible Hands, after another of the songs. When push came to shove, however, both that title and even the song itself were dropped.
The dropped song would later return as a B-side for The Walk, a single from the album, but it’s exceedingly rare nowadays.
The name Invisible Hands, however, did get a lease of life after it inspired the creation of the record label Invisible Hands Music.
The label is best known for releasing songs by The Stranglers frontman Hugh Cornwell, as well as Mick Karn and Breaking Glass’ Hazel O’Connor.
11. The video for Who’s That Girl is full of 80s cameos
After the success of their breakthrough album, Eurythmics continued to experiment with their music and explore the gender-bending aesthetic that had brought them fame and fortune – and the music video for Who’s That Girl is the perfect example.
Released as the first single from their third album, Touch (1983), Who’s That Girl is a song about a woman suspicious of the many women with whom her partner associates. It’s a great song – but, as usual, the video is so much more.
Lennox stars as a nightclub singer, and Stewart arrives in the audience with a long list of women, each of whom are significant 80s cameos: Hazel O’Connor, all of Bananarama (one of whom, Siobhan Fahey, Stewart would later marry) and Kate Garner of Haysi Fantayzee.
There’s also: Thereza Bazar from Dollar, Jay Aston and Cheryl Baker of Bucks Fizz, Kiki Dee, Jacquie O’Sullivan, and the gender-bending singer Marilyn, who managed to parlay this short appearance into a full-blown music career.
Lennox herself also stars as a man with whom the singer, spurned by her partner, eventually falls in love. At the end of the video, the two versions of Lennox kiss.
10. They composed the soundtrack to a film adaptation of 1984
For many, the intense drums and synthesisers of Eurythmics was the soundtrack to the 1980s, but it turns out the duo provided the literal soundtrack to 1984 – that is, the adaptation of George Orwell’s dystopian novel.
Directed by Michael Radford, the film stars John Hurt in the lead role, opposite Suzanna Hamilton and Richard Burton in his final silver screen role. Given the novel’s futuristic setting and oppressive feel, it’s no surprise that the bass-filled pop of Eurythmics was picked to score the film.
Except… it sort of wasn’t. Virgin Films, who financed the film, wanted Eurythmics to provide the soundtrack, but Radford had already obtained a score from the composer Dominic Muldowney which had a more orchestral sound.
Eurythmics’ song Julia was played over the end credits, but much of Muldowney’s work featured prominently in the film, leading to a quagmire of legal controversy. Eurythmics released an album featuring the music, 1984 (For the Love of Big Brother), but it was pulled from sale.
Still, one of the songs Eurythmics composed for the film, Sexcrime (Nineteen Eighty-Four), became one of their biggest hits. It peaked at number 4, and sold over 200,000 copies.
9. The band’s fourth album was produced in a week
For Eurythmics’ fourth album, they solidified the new direction of the duo; it would focus less on Lennox’s androgyny and their electronic sound, and move to a more typical pop-rock sound. And the turnaround was lightning-fast.
Released in 1984, Be Yourself Tonight marked the duo’s fourth album in four years, a breakneck musical pace – and yet it only took them a week to produce it. The vast majority of recording took place over a sojourn in Paris, with some minor additional recording held in Detroit and Los Angeles.
Lennox’s look changed to a more conventional – though still short-haired – rocker, with a similar style to Debbie Harry.
The album included performances by Elvis Costello, Aretha Franklin and Stevie Wonder, who plays the harmonica on There Must Be an Angel (Playing with My Heart).
Be Yourself Tonight became Eurythmics’ best selling album to date, with There Must Be an Angel becoming the duo’s only UK number 1.
8. The band split without ever officially announcing it
Sadly, due to the incredible strain and schedule of their success – a notable turnaround from the early days! – Lennox and Stewart began to drift apart in Eurythmics’ later years, and broke up the band in 1990.
By that point, the duo had released eight albums in eight years, and embarked on numerous tours; Lennox had married Israeli film and record producer Uri Fruchtmann in 1988, and by the turn of the decade was pregnant with their first child.
All of these factors let to a decisive break, and Lennox and Stewart went their separate ways; however, it was never officially announced that Eurythmics was no more.
While the band reunited a handful of times (more on that later), something about 1990 clearly stuck, and the two would hardly be considered even friends anymore.
“It’s weird isn’t it,” said Stewart in a 2013 interview. “People always still think of us as a couple and yet we barely ever talk now … I doubt we’ll ever go out on the road again.”
7. Stewart became a record producer after Lennox went solo
Even though the duo had said sweet dreams to Eurythmics, the break-up of the band was far from the end of Stewart and Lennox’s careers. Stewart, in fact, went on to become a famed producer and composer.
The same year that Eurythmics split, Stewart gained fame individually for his work on, of all things, the Dutch film De Kassière.
Stewart’s soundtrack to the film included the song Lily Was Here, featuring Candy Dulfer on saxophone. According to Dulfer’s father, the song was the product of a jam session at the end of the day, after most of the work on the soundtrack had been completed.
The instrumental was a huge hit, peaking at number 1 in the Netherlands, 6 in the UK, and in the top 20 elsewhere.
At the same time, Stewart formed the band The Spiritual Cowboys, which released two mildly successful albums in the early 90s.
6. Lennox was more successful alone than she ever was in the band
As for Annie Lennox, an entire new chapter was beginning. In fact, Lennox’s solo career – at least by commercial measures – was far more successful than her time in Eurythmics.
Having taken time away from the spotlight to have a baby, Lennox returned in 1992 with Diva, her debut solo album. Produced by Stephen J Lipson, eight of the tracks on the LP were written solely by Lennox, with the last two featuring Lennox as a co-writer.
The album was enormously successful, combining soul and pop and experimental instrumentation. It has sold over 1.2 million copies in the UK, being certified quadruple platinum, and sold twice that number in the US.
Featuring the singles Why and Walking On Broken Glass, the album certified Lennox as both an independent creative and someone who still clearly had a lot more to give, even considering the eight Eurythmics albums.
As a point of trivia, the headdress that Lennox wears in the album’s cover had previously been used in the 13th James Bond film, Octopussy (1983).
5. Eurythmics reunited for Nelson Mandela’s 46664 concert
Both Stewart and Lennox were deeply moved by the HIV/AIDS crisis across the globe, so it made sense that the duo would reunite in order to combat the disease and support those who are suffering, most famously for the 46664 concert organised with Nelson Mandela.
It was Stewart who came up with the idea to turn the prison cell number of former South African president Nelson Mandela into a phone number. If you called the number, you could hear exclusive songs performed with Paul McCartney, and Bono and the Edge of U2.
While on the phone, your call charge would be donated to charities striving to fight the HIV/AIDS epidemic in South Africa.
Stewart organised a series of concerts to further promote this benefit, and performed alongside Lennox for the first time in years.
“The morning after, an ecstatic Lennox found him at breakfast and told him the evening had given her new purpose in life,” reads a New York Daily News review of Stewart’s memoir: Sweet Dreams Are Made of This: A Life in Music.
4. Dave Stewart launched a green think tank in 2007
Not satisfied with orchestrating one of the biggest HIV/AIDS charity concerts in history, Dave Stewart is also a keen environmentalist, and planned a green ‘think tank’ to combat climate change.
Partnering with the longtime environmentalist movement Greenpeace, Stewart launched ‘Greenpeace Works’ in 2007, an organisation focused on showing how Hollywood celebrities – actors and musicians – can help in the fight against rising sea levels and deforestation.
Stewart’s company, Weapons of Mass Entertainment (another ironic nod to Stewart’s political leanings) shared an office with Greenpeace activists in Los Angeles, and Stewart promoted music and films on the topic.
One initial project – though sadly there’s no immediate sign of it to date – was ‘Lover Earth’. Explaining the name in a Variety interview, Stewart said, “Everybody always calls it ‘Mother Earth, but I thought that, for a lot of men, that doesn’t sound very sexy. So I thought, let’s call it ‘Lover Earth.’”
“Because that’s what it is, with all the living and breathing plants, this sort of wet, throbbing mass… Sorry,” he adds. “I guess I shouldn’t get any more graphic than that.”
3. Lennox has become a gay icon
While Lennox has not consistently adopted an androgynous look, it’s her close-cropped hair and men’s business suits for which she’ll be remembered, and which have given her the status of a gay icon.
Although Lennox is not gay herself, Eurythmics’ initial gender-bending was a feature, not a bug. “During the punk period, being a woman at the front wearing a skirt was pretty wild,” Stewart has said. “Lots of people were leering and sexist.”
So when Lennox started getting mistaken for a lesbian, the duo leaned into it. “The record company didn’t know what we were doing,” Stewart adds. “But they thought, ‘They’re selling millions so they can do what they want.'”
Describing things from her point of view, Lennox has expressed her happiness at garnering such a following while also criticising the male gaze. “Is that how people see me?” Lennox has said. “Does that mean I’m not attractive to men?’ I think intelligent heterosexual women are challenging for heterosexual men.”
In 2007, Lennox hosted NewNowNext, a music show on Logo TV, a program and station aimed at LGBTQ+ youth.
2. Lennox is now a university chancellor
Annie Lennox received on OBE in 2011 for her anti-poverty campaigning, and in 2017 was appointed the first female chancellor of Glasgow Caledonian University.
The university was established in 1993, and has campuses in Glasgow, London and New York; the Nobel prize winner Muhammad Yunus had previously occupied the role.
On receiving the appointment, Lennox said, “It is truly a remarkable honour to be invited to become chancellor of Glasgow Caledonian University.”
“Following in the footsteps of such an exemplary individual as Muhammad Yunus is somewhat daunting,” she continued, “but I’m very much looking forward to working with everyone in a collaborative way, so I can be of good value to the students and the establishment of university.”
As chancellor, Lennox serves both as a figurehead for the university and carries out ceremonial duties, such as the conferment of degrees on its students.
1. There are rumours of a Eurythmics reunion – and a musical
It seems like every band is getting back together these days – and among the fanbases of bands not yet reunited, rumours tend to swirl like a thick fog. So, in short, it’s hard to say exactly whether or not we’ll ever see Eurythmics performing together again. However…
In 2012, Stewart was asked about the possibility of a Eurythmics reunion, and left the door open to the possibility: “We’re not talking about one right now, but never say never,” he said.
The duo do seem to find it difficult to keep to their word. After breaking up in 1990, they briefly reformed between 1998 and 2000, and have performed together at charity events (like 46664 and a Beatles tribute concert) since.
Lennox has poured cold water on these rumours, however.
“Dave and I talk to each other only rarely these days, and I can’t see another reunion,” Lennox said in 2009. “He lives in America and I’m over here [in Britain]. We’re both working on our own things. For me it would be like a step backwards and I want to keep moving forward.”
A more likely turn of events could be a musical, featuring the songs of Eurythmics. Stewart has expressed interest: “I have this idea of putting them all together in a theatrical piece in the not too distant future,” he said in the same 2012 interview. There’s no sign of it yet, but never say never!