Before 'Sweet Dreams,' Eurythmics braced for failure

Loic Pialat
1 / 3
Dave Stewart and Annie Lennox, the music duo who formed the band The Eurythmics in London in 1980, pose inside Studio 3 at the EastWest Studios in Hollywood, California

"Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)" has 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 remember that 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 that I'm going back to Scotland and just forget it," said the Aberdeen native, whose first album with Stewart as the Eurythmics had been a commercial 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," Stewart said.

The duo, who have not performed together for several years but retain a friendly chemistry, were speaking to AFP as they vie to enter the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Strolling the historic EastWest Studio in Hollywood, where The Beach Boys recorded "Pet Sounds," Lennox sat down at a piano and -- unprompted -- offered an acoustic version of "Sweet Dreams."

- Remembering early struggles -

The Eurythmics are in the running for the first time for the Hall of Fame, with music experts and fans voting for a decision to be announced in December.

Other acts in the running range from experimental rockers Radiohead to singing legend Nina Simone.

To mark the renewed attention, the group announced that they will reissue all of their albums on vinyl in 2018.

Stewart said that the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame has recognized the artists who have persevered.

"A lot of people see an artist 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 and 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."

- Surprisingly enduring -

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 -- and 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, okay, we're here, what are we going to do with it? We know we're going to die at the end of it," she said.

"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 their 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 okay. Marilyn Manson took it to one extreme and we were very glad that he did."