40 years ago: Eurythmics finally make it with ‘Sweet Dreams’

Published Jan. 4, 1983, Eurythmics’ second album, Sweet dreams are made of this)launched the band to superstardom – but only after a long series of disappointments and failures.

When Eurythmics’ two members first met in 1975, each had taken radically different paths.

Guitarist and keyboardist Dave Stewart grew up in the British city of Sunderland, where he began playing in rock bands and lived a hard-partying lifestyle as a teenager. At 18, his band Longdancer had signed a contract with Elton John‘s label Rocket Records, which was a blessing as well as a curse. “It was totally undisciplined,” Stewart recalled in a 2016 interview with The Guardian. “The people who run his label just gave us a bunch of money. Then we just wanted to take some mescaline.”

The band predictably fell apart, and Stewart happened to meet a young singer named Annie Lennox, who was working as a waitress in London at the time.

Watch Eurythmics’ ‘Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)’ video

Lennox had come to music by a completely different route. After growing up in Scotland, she was admitted to the Royal Academy of Music in London, where she studied classical music. But Lennox realized that path was not for her and decided she wanted to be a singer in a rock band, an unusual ambition for a woman in the 70s. “A female artist was an ennobled creature in those days,” the singer noted during a 2017 interview with The independent. “It didn’t take much for anyone to be interested in me because there wasn’t much competition. It was very unusual.”

Stewart and Lennox hit it off immediately. They began a romantic relationship and formed a short-lived band called the Tourists, which had a small amount of success and brought them a lot of trouble. “We were going in a certain direction and the record company we were signed to didn’t want us to do it,” Lennox recounted. The herald in 2013. “So we were in litigation for a whole year, and we got caught. When you’re young, you’re ambitious, and we couldn’t do anything for a whole year.” To make matters worse, the duo were “left with the entire band’s debt.”

The stress of all this was enough to end Stewart and Lennox’s romantic relationship, but their musical partnership was too fruitful to abandon. So they formed a new band, Eurythmics, and went to Germany to record an album called In the garden that pushed their new wave pop sound towards the German electronica style emerging at the time.

The album flopped.

Watch Eurythmics’ ‘Love Is a Stranger’ video

Stewart and Lennox were beginning to wear down, but undeterred, touring England as a duo, playing over electronic backing tracks and doing almost all of their setup and roadie work themselves. Still broke, Stewart took out a personal bank loan and they built a small studio in a factory ward in north London, where they began recording songs for their second album.

The stress at the time was so high that Stewart was hospitalized with a collapsed lung and Lennox suffered what was rumored to be a nervous breakdown. “I’ve never actually had a breakdown,” the singer clarified in 2013. “I was never under any kind of medication. I was never under any doctor’s orders or put in an institution. … In a way, it was one of those fights where things break down, and a lot of you is broken, so it was very hard.”

These struggles were compounded by the fact that the duo’s first three singles from the recording sessions – “This Is the House”, “The Walk” and “Love is a stranger” – barely made a dent in the UK charts. So as 1983 dawned, Eurythmics were at a crossroads: a band with talent and dreams of making it big, yet with virtually nothing to show for nearly eight years of making music together.

Watch Eurythmics perform ‘The Walk’ live in 1983

And then, in an instant, everything changed. In late January 1983, the band released the title track from the album as a single. It reached No. 2 in the UK chart the following month, and in May it was released in the US, where it climbed to No. 1 in early September. At the same time, the music video for the song – which featured Lennox in all her androgynous glory – was in constant rotation on MTV, not only establishing Eurythmics as superstars, but opening new doors for female artists.

It was a strange moment, especially for Lennox. “I was in bed one morning in a hotel in San Francisco on a Eurythmics tour. I was very nervous and all I could think about was, ‘When is there going to be an earthquake?’ Then I got this phone call to say we were number one on the Billboard charts in America,” she said The independent in 2017. “I remember walking down the street and realizing that everyone knew I was walking down the street. That’s when I learned to walk with my head down and not make eye contact with anyone. I’m a really quiet person and I felt vulnerable.”

Despite these new difficulties – now arriving with fame, rather than failure – the band never looked back. They released six more albums before going on extended hiatus in 1990, with both members pursuing solo projects and then briefly reuniting to release the album Peace in 1999. They were introduced into Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2022, the culmination of a long and hard-earned career.

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