Playing Favorites: Tempt You In And Drive You Far Away

The fact that Eurythmics have been whittled down to basically two hits in the US… MAYBE three depending on the circle you travel in is a travesty. And I say this not as a fan of Eurthymics but a general music fan. If Annie Lennox is praised as one of the greatest female artists of all time why do we hear so little of her on the radio.

Also, I will say Annie worked better as a duo. Yeah, I said it! But we’ll get to that.

First we must address how did Annie (and by extension Eurythmics) raise the ranks to become my “queen” at all?

The easy answer is, I don’t know. No really, I wrote three different accounts of how this came to be for this piece and none of them make any sense either in how I feel about the music in general or my own actual timeline.

I suppose it doesn’t matter. And I suppose if I had to pick a certain song or moment it would be her debut solo album Diva.

Specifically the songs, “Why” & “Walking On Broken Glass” that were played with some regularity on KFOG. But again, I don’t know how she became “queen” or how we have come to a point where I have written a piece about Eurythmics being a favorite music act.

Part of it definitely stems from being queer and every queer male needs a queen. And I never really connected to Cher, Diana Ross, Madonna or the other big pop ladies. The closest I ever came to crowning and gay icon queen for myself was Gloria Estefan and then much later Kylie.

But sometime in my early 30s I was reading some post about Stevie Nicks being a gay icon, which had never occurred to me. And the article qualified her as an intellectual gay’s, gay icon. It was at this time I decide every queer needed their camp queen *waves at Kylie* and their intellectual queen in order to be a well rounded queer. And I guess I just chose Annie because she was right there waiting for me. And also because I seem more drawn to those artists (in this case “queens”) that seem more cult or lower on the totem pole. These days I use the term queen more affectionately than anything serious, like some slap on Beyoncé, or Rhianna, or Madonna. There are just too many too chose from now especially, with Grace Jones always waiting in the wings to pounce like a panther.

Even more curious is that Ms. Lennox became queen despite me not really listening to her music that much over all. Her solo career contains a few club bangers and remixes, which has been a staple of my music diet since I was seventeen. But her work with Eurythmics was over and gone by the time I was old enough to go to clubs and dance topless to sweaty beats.

The big three singles, “Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This)”, “Here Comes The Rain”, & “Would I Lie To You?” seem to make the rounds on radio, especially the first one. And the videos popped up on VHI on 80s nostalgia shows. So those songs were more or less in the pop DNA. And “Here Comes The Rain” was the only one I never got worn out on and remains a top ten favorite of the era to this day.

At some point I owned the Eurythmics greatest hits where I discovered new favorites like, “King and Queen of America”, “Missionary Man”, and “Thorn In My Side” all showcasing the rock side of the band. But I’m sure at the time I originally bought the CD I was disappointed because I hadn’t quite yet figured out how to dance to rock music with same flare I was spinning to house and eurodance. But there it was now in the CD collection and uploaded to the knowledge base.

I learned a little later, much to my bitterness, the UK version had four more hits! I never understood this and still don’t really. Different markets I guess? But what market wants less songs?

Then there was local radio icon Dave Morey who would play, “Love You Like A Ball And Chain” on his iconic 10 at 10 show. This was a song that was not on either greatest hits. The first time I heard that song I thought this sounds like Eurythmics but I don’t know this song but it can’t be them!

Oops.

When I found out is was in fact Eurythmics I was confused as to how one could play a hit that was not on the greatest hits package. In the latter 90s and early 00s I’d only ever known radio to play hit songs. Heh- it wasn’t long before I learned most greatest hits CDs left of hits depending on how the history or nostalgia dictated what people considered a hit from any particular act. And, of course, limitations of the format.

For Example: Madonna’s The Immaculate Collection one of the biggest selling greatest hits packages ever excludes her #1 single, “Causing a Commotion” plus; “Dress You Up”, “Burning Up”, “Who’s That Girl”, True Blue, and “Angel” are also absent.

So here was, “Love You Like A Ball And Chain” this other Eurythmics song…

and at that time in the 90s record stores did not have many CDs of old albums. Any act prior to the 90s was likely not to be found in a Wherehouse or Tower records music store outside of a retro anthology or a MAYBE greatest hits package or possibly (if you were lucky) a box set. And while I didn’t hate this other song, I didn’t love it, but it definitely annoyed me that I did not have it on my CD. Dave Morey new his shit. And if he was playing it, it had to be more that just some leftovers. And so by extension what else was I missing out on?

So time marches on and I enter into MAJOR depression, trauma, and PTSD are at an all time high in my thirties. This is when for some unknown reason, Howard Shore’s score to the Lord Of The Rings becomes the music that pushes me through hours of crying. There were other specific songs to be sure. But for some reason the themes in that score were right place, right time. And Annie Lennox recorded, “Into The West” for the final film in the trilogy.

And it was part of the trauma tunes rotation. It was also at the time around 2008 or so I found the DJ collective NWC, which threw dance parties around San Francisco playing new wave music. And this was where I became fully awakened to my pole dance staple, “Love Is A Stranger”. Other songs regularly making the rounds at NWC was, “Who’s That Girl” and “Sexcrime (1984)”.

Also, slowly coming from behind in my listening rotation was Annie’s first solo album. I was starting to understand just how “perfect” the album was and learned almost two decades late that it was also a video album. It was also at this time the queer anthem, “Little Bird” became one of the “loose my mind on the dance floor songs” in my personal oeuvre.

Side Note: The video for the song “Little Bird” came out in 1992, two years before Gloria’s “Everlasting Love”. I’m not saying Gloria copied Annie. But the fact that both videos featured drag queens showcasing all the various looks from each person’s career… One was house. One was disco. Still Annie was first… In both cases this was WAY before anyone was tossing around the now cliché talk about eras.

Then around 2011 I start doing my PopOff! Show and my annual Bitter Ball episodes for Valentines day. I go looking for songs that are the angriest and most dour love songs ever recorded. I knew Eurythmics had some bleak lyrics regarding love among the hits but in a deep dive researching songs for that show, “You Hurt Me (I Hate You)” off We Too Are One (their last 80s record) comes into my ears. It is a fabulous rage filled synth-pop track that is an album cut, that I just learned thanks to my Pal DJ Skip of the aforementioned NWC and his own show TNT (Tuesday Night Tunes) on mixcloud has a music video.

So I had this mix of hit songs floating in my musical DNA, one solid solo album, and a couple non-singles I enjoyed. I had her other solo records but I think it was this core mix that got me curious what was on the albums proper. And so in my journey back in time to see what I missed I discover to my SHOCK an album called In The Garden. What? You mean that Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This) was not the first album. There is a whole debut album from which I have heard nothing! And I was aware of The Tourists, Annie’s and Dave’s band before Eurthymics before I learned of this debut album!

And it is this constant return to the catalog that has lifted Eurythmics into the lofty pantheon of my favorites. It is impossible to pick a favorite outside of Diva being Annie’s best solo record. And while, “Here Comes The Rain” is one of favorite 80s/new wave songs ever there is so many great songs… But- If I was forced to choose… the winner would be….

In The Garden

Released in 1981, it is the most straight up new wave. It is the quirkiest and most unique. With rock songs like, “Belinda” and just completely frantic and weird songs like, “Caveman Head”. It is also the most sonically cohesive, while not being sonically cohesive. The sound of a band that had not yet discovered their template but clearly had a template. While Annie sounds more impassioned on later albums and definitely gives that voice a stretch to the heavens, it is on the debut where they sound the most raw and unchecked. Where the wild adventure of new wave awaits before the reliability of pop and having hits sets in.

But in terms of albums that are more fun to just listen to I would choose Revenge or Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This). Both are great albums in many environments; a home stereo system, a bar jukebox, on headphones down the street, at a club, in a car on a road trip…

But every album after that provides some great mix of hardcore new wave: “Paint A Rumor”, rock: “When Tomorrow Comes”, pop: “You Have Placed A Chill On My Heart”, soul: “Angel”. So you never go too long without hearing some sound you will like. Even the popular (and cheesy) 80s reggae and tropical vibes appear on songs like, “Right By Your Side”. Even 1984 (For The Love Of Big Brother) while a soundtrack “score” has deep cuts I love that would bang up a dance floor like, “Doubleplusgood”.

And by the time you get to Revenge containing the songs “Missionary Man”, “The Miracle Of Love”, “Thorn In My Side” it is only 1986 and we still have more hits to come. This is probably their most straight ahead rock record and if classic rock was not so narrowly defined these days, these songs would be played on classic rock radio without question or shame. But, “slippery slope” yadda yadda yadda… And one of my favorite singles doesn’t drop until 1987, “Beethoven (I Love To Listen To)”. They released an album every year in the 80s except for ‘80, ‘82, and ‘88. And two albums in 1983! Not even Madonna or Michael Jackson put out that many albums in the 80s despite being bigger and better remembered. And I can’t think of any other artists off the top of my head that did the same run, maybe Depeche Mode.

Fun Fact: Annie and Dave were booted from the The Tourists because the band wanted to go in another direction. Lo and behold look how that turned out. And lo and behold when Dave and Annie split look what happened… Dave has done producing work here and there the song “Lily Was Here”, is another favorite of mine but… but… he did co-write that atrocity “Dynamite” for BTS a lyrical wastelands of jumble for an act where English is clearly not the first language, to say nothing of having references I doubt the band even understands to this day. But he did OK for himself.

And so did Annie. But- but… something is amiss. There was something about the checks and balances of the duo that made Eurythmics so unique. Annie can definitely write some great affecting solo material. But it lacks the quirkiness and playfulness that Eurythmics mixes in with the dark broody love angst. And the solo albums start to feel like there is GASP! Filler. I LOVE the Diva album. It is very good. But everything after while great and certainly higher quality than whatever most of the pop royalty was peddling just lacks something musically even as the lyrics definitely became more mature and layered. Also her solo output was much more sparse. The last being a quasi-jazz album, which as a fan, is kind of a let down. Gloria Estefan did it too… It just feels like, I don’t know, instead just admitting they don’t have any juice left they just do a standards album for one last paycheck.

And I must admit in more recent times it feels like Annie has relied more on her mythology than on the legacy of the actual music, especially the solo work. She rarely makes appearances or tours and so when she does people loose it, like it’s a big foot sighting. And she tends to perform the same songs at these appearances. It is no longer the same spectacle you see in those artsy and groundbreaking 80s/90s music videos and performances.

Ha! Writing about my favorites and I turn critical. No apologies. It is known I don’t blindly Stan anybody. But to restate I say her solo work is lesser than her Eurthymics work… But even so it’s Annie Lennox… she is never phoning it in or putting out some calculated record purely for the numbers or to fulfill a contract. She only puts out what she wants when she feels she has something to say or maybe simply for the fun of making new music.

And mythology aside she is definitely authentic. I’ve never felt like she was doing a gimmick like many other pop stars even during here most androgynous days when legend has it, MTV wanted proof she was female before airing any of the Eurthymics music videos.

And so running through the 80’s catalog for a fourth time for this write up I always find another song I like better than my previous pick. Treasures abound for those willing to dig and those willing to take in more than just same three songs radio and many DJs deem worthy to play. So it is quite difficult to advise a starting place for the new recruit. Oh sure, you could cop out and get a greatest hits package- nah. These are actual albums not just singles dumped together because of a contract to the label. You can tell there were songs left on the cutting room floor. Choices were made. Darlings were killed in an attempt to put out the best album possible. With the lyrics carried by the stellar tone and phrasing of her voice and Dave’s composition skills you get masterful music that, to me anyways, reeks a lot less of 80s overproduction than a lot of other acts of the period.

PS: Trigger Warning

When you’ve seen performances like this and seen this caliber of work here and in other places in your life as a music fan you understand how people can be jaded when it comes to mainstream popular music over the last decade. The bar is high and the labels don’t want to pay to raise or even meet the bar. Arenas may still get filled but you can’t fake it no matter how big the snake is on stage or how many back up dancers you have propping you up. With great songs, vocals, and stage presence even a little bird can outshine the biggest animals in the music jungle.


Albums In Arbitrary Order Of Preference:

In The Garden
Revenge
Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This)
Touch
Savage
Be Yourself Tonight
1984 (For The Love Of Big Brother)
We Too Are One


Albums In Arbitrary Order Of Fun For Casual Fans:

Revenge
Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This)
Be Yourself Tonight
Touch
Savage
We Too Are One
In The Garden
1984 (For The Love Of Big Brother)


Instead Of Ten Favorite songs as per usual I will offer three sets with the understanding that genre labels are fuzzy.

New Wave:
Here Comes The Rain Again
Paint A Rumor
The City Never Sleeps
Caveman Head
Cool Blue

Rock:
The King And Queen Of America
Missionary Man
The Miracle Of Love
When Tomorrow Comes
Beethoven (I Love To Listen To)

Pop:
There Must Be An Angel (Playing With My Heart)
You Have Placed A Chill On My Heart
A Little Of You

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