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AUGUST 30, 2020

ROCKWiRED REWiND: EURYTHMiCS - WE TOO ARE ONE (1989)

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https://www.rockwired.com/CapitalTTimes.jpghere wasn't a better time than 1989 to be a confused teenager. The REAGAN years got a little bit of an extension thanks to the election of GEORGE W. BUSH and my fourteen year old self wondered if that was a good thing. The AIDS crisis was in full swing and as a gawky, lanky, biracial kid coming to terms with the fact that I was gay, this disease was terrifying just by the stigma alone. The Berlin Wall came down and the communist threat was over, but what did that mean? My only refuge from all of the confusion was pop radio and STAR TREK THE NEXT GENERATION, but with playlists seeming finite in what they had to offer and MTV pushing the same damn thing radio was, it seemed like pop music had become the hierarchy that this high school business was. BELINDA CARLISLE had declared heaven a place on Earth back in 1987 but two years on, I was starting to know better. At least there wasn't a fucking pandemic.

That didn't mean that there wasn't music out there that was resonating with me like the offerings from GUNS N' ROSES and DEF LEPAPRD, but they were rock gods, not real guys with anything that could connect with me in a meaningful way. The same could be said with MADONNA and all of the controversy she courted thanks to a sexuality that was just as iconic as her music. THE CURE was making an impact with their latest album DISINTEGRATION and with their dark, moody brand of goth pop, they hit a little more closer to home with me than hair metal did. Being a biracial kid I saw a kindred spirit in ROLAND GIFT of FINE YOUNG CANNIBALS who had finally crossed over to the US market with their album THE RAW AND THE COOKED. The relationship between my father and I was also a tense one at this time, however FINE YOUNG CANNIBALS was something we could agree on. I wanted the world to make sense to me and I wanted to connect with people who felt the same way I did, but who would give me the time of day? And how could I make sense out of what I felt. Despite my dissatisfaction with everything around me, it didn't stop me from reading books from the library, going to movies alone or watching MTV and on one such day when I was watching MTV, I caught a new music video from EURYTHMICS.

I hadn't given EURYTHMICS much thought since 1986 when they released the bluesy rock single MISSIONARY MAN from their album REVENGE. I remembered the song and the music video fondly as they both examined the wages of sin in a cheeky, sci-fi manner. You see, I was in the midst of a Catholic school education where terms such as “original sin” meant little to my protestant raised self. In fact, nothing about Catholicism resonated for me but seeing EURYTHMICS' front woman ANNIE LENNOX strutting like an sexy android in a PVC catsuit and staring into the camera with the most alluring blue eyes was something I seemed to understand completely. It was something I could see my religion teacher popping a blood vessel over. Despite only being fourteen, I actually had a little bit of a EURYTHMICS collection. I had their breakthrough album SWEET DREAMS (ARE MADE OF THIS) on vinyl and its follow up album TOUCH on cassette (it was probably the first album I bought on cassette). Their 1985 album BE YOURSELF TONIGHT was one of my favorite albums up to that point. I owned it on vinyl but it was recorded onto a couple of cassette tapes by that point. I never bought the REVENGE album. It's strange to look back and feel like the time from 1983 to 1985 was the good old days in comparison to 1989, but that's what puberty and growing pains do to you. Upon hearing news of a new release from EURYTHMICS in 1989, I was eager to see what the duo had to offer.

The track record of DAVE STEWART and ANNIE LENNOX of EURYTHMICS was strong if not curious. In an age when music was something to be pigeonholed and marketed to a specific demographic, along came this quirky, mysterious odd couple with a bag of ever-changing musical tricks that would tantalize listeners for the better part of a decade. After splitting from their previous band THE TOURISTS in 1980 after three albums a couple of top ten hits in the UK, STEWART and LENNOX formed EURYTHMICS in CONNY PLANK's studio in Cologne, Germany and issued their experimental psychedelic debut album IN THE GARDEN which provided no hint of the transistorized pop sound of the albums to come. Global success came with the bluesy synth pop single SWEET DREAMS (ARE MADE OF THIS) and their aptly titled album of the same name where the duo made a name for themselves thanks to a cutting edge sound and a be-suited look that drove home LENNOX's androgynous allure. The follow up album TOUCH built on the duo's musical vision incorporating the strings of the LONDON PHILHARMONIC on the Wagnerian pop single HERE COMES THE RAIN AGAIN. An excursion into scoring films proved controversial and disastrous with the duo's 1984 soundtrack FOR THE LOVE OF BIG BROTHER, but STEWART an LENNOX turned things around with the rock and R&B charged 1985 album BE YOURSELF TONIGHT featuring the hard rock stomper WOULD I LIE TO YOU? and the suffragist bop of SISTERS ARE DOIN' IT FOR THEMSELVES were LENNOX trades of vocally with none other than the Queen of Soul herself. EURTYHMICS would continue to rock out a'la the E STREET BAND on their 1986 album REVENGE and its lead single in the U.S. MISSIONARY MAN would be the band's last top 20 hit. Probably sensing that their fans were missing what this duo could do with programmed beats and Roland synths, EURYTHMICS return to a striking synth sound with their 1987 album SAVAGE which failed to make any significant impact in the States which was unfortunate given the fact that STEWART and LENNOX sounded adventurous once again in both sound and vision.

Oh and there was that duet that Ms. LENNOX did with AL GREENE for that BILL MURRAY film SCROOGED. LENNOX and GREENE's take on JACKIE DeSHANNON's PUT A LITTLE LOVE IN YOUR HEART is pure cotton candy soul and doesn't hold up to the original or with the best of either artist's work. It is also the first time LENNOX is credited as a solo artist four years before LENNOX would become a solo artist proper with her 1992 album DIVA.

I wasn't aware that EURTYHMICS had anything new until I saw their video for DON”T ASK ME WHY on MTV's TOP 20 COUNTDOWN and in true EURYTHMICS fashion the video ended up being something that I would never forget. Synth strings get the lush pop tune going and is punctuated by a pizzicato sound and the strumming of STEWART's jazzy riffs on his Gretsch Guild guitar. The video takes place on the stage of a swank nightclub with LENNOX in a BOB MACKIE sparkling gown with her trademark cropped hair and bright lipstick. Behind her is DAVE STEWART in a black suit with his glorious looking Gretsch guitar with a be-suited rhythm section and string section in the background. With the film over saturated by color and light, LENNOX emerges as the glittering, alabaster figure that all of the focus is on. The camera makes love to this actress in song as she re-examines a relationship that has faded and has her coming to the conclusion that she may not have loved the man in the first place. The elegant song builds to STEWART's equally elegant guitar solo and synth strings before the slightly bitter pop moment makes a dramatic exit, as does LENNOX in the video, with a chorus repeating “I don't love you anymore.” Adding to the dramatic exit are various frames from the video flashing before your eyes which makes you wonder if the video should've come a with a seizure warning. Anyhow, a powerful pop moment with an equally powerful music video made a huge impression on me and one of my favorite bands was back in style. DON'T ASK ME WHY was the first cassette single that I bought since it wasn't getting played on my local radio station and I didn't have enough money to buy the new album WE TOO ARE ONE. I remember playing the single in my mom's car and her wondering why I would like such a dour song that didn't fit the mold of a JANET JACKSON or a PAULA ABDUL hit. I didn't care if the song didn't grab anyone else as long as it grabbed me, but I did wonder how the new EURYTHMICS album was going to go over.

THE MUSiC ViDEO FOR DON'T ASK ME WHY

The promotion behind WE TOO ARE ONE was quirky and not at all characteristic of the usual promotional efforts you saw on MTV where PEPSI was involved. For their tour of the United States at that time, the duo would hold press conferences in the lounges of U.S. Airports where the duo would discuss the album and perform an acoustic set of all of their hits. I remember such a story making news in Washington D.C., where I lived, but didn't think to record it onto VHS. I remember feeling a little bit of sadness at not being able to see the show Constitution Hall on November 12, 1989.

EURYTHMiCS iN THE NEWS iN 1989 FOR WE TOO ARE ONE

And there was ANNIE LENNOX's appearance in VH1 TO ONE where the singer spoke on the back catalog of EURYTHMICS and the new album. I caught this presentation by accident and was completely transfixed but the striking singer and her lovely Scottish accent. More importantly, I loved her stance on the environment and her desire to make the world a better place. I had never heard do an interview before and quite frankly I loved what I saw. I had to get my hands on the new album.

I finally got a cassette copy of WE TOO ARE ONE in my Christmas stocking. I don't even remember what else I got for Christmas that year. I unwrapped the cassette anxiously to study the liner notes when my dad grew curious over what I was so excited about. He took a look at the cover and was immediately taken aback by the pale skin of ANNIE LENNOX's visage blending in with the white background. It reminded me of my mom buying the SWEET DREAMS album years ago and her being puzzled but the album cover with a nude ANNIE LENNOX with her back turned holding a box of chocolates in a gloved hand with a black eye mask. My dad shrugged off his concerns and gave the cassette and the liner notes back to me.

***

https://www.rockwired.com/CapitalTTimes.jpghere was a label on the cassette which indicated that WE TOO ARE ONE was a bold new beginning for EURTYHMICS and in terms of the business side of things, it was. After years of being on the RCA label, EURYTHMICS were now signed to ARISTA thanks to music impresario CLIVE DAVIS. Given the duos' decline in popularity in the couple of years prior, maybe the signing and the album was seen as a chance to breakthrough in the United States in a more meaningful and maybe even conventional way. Clearly the push for the album worked on me, but even I have to admit that WE TOO ARE ONE is a less than signature EURYTHMICS album and that may have something to do with STEWART taking more of a backseat as a producer and JIMMY IOVINE (STEVIE NICKS and later THE PUSSYCAT DOLLS) making decisions behind the recording console. Sure it's got some fine songs but there are clunkers such as the never ending bluesy opening title track which comes off a little too sweet and sentimental for EURYTHMICS' own good. And don't get me started on that sickly “I love you, I love you” ad libbing between LENNOX and THE GAP BAND's CHARLIE WILSON at the song's long conclusion. The album's true lead single REVIVAL is a perfunctory R&B pop tune that would've been an okay single for WHITNEY HOUSTON four years earlier. However, WE TOO ARE ONE is a fine pop rock album with a varied collection of songs that examine love, life and even death in a truly graceful and adult way. The slight indifference from fans to this album has always puzzled me as has the indifference to the album from DAVE and ANNIE themselves. Personally the issues that were driving the duo apart at this time didn't seem insurmountable but I wasn't in the room with them. WE TOO ARE ONE wasn't a bold new beginning but it was indeed a fork in the road and from here STEWART would go on to work wonders with artists too numerous to mention and LENNOX would finally emerge as an iconic solo artist in her own right. Yes, WE TOO ARE ONE is the album that ended up putting EURTYHMICS in drydock for a decade, but I still believe the album to be a worthy addition to the duo's eclectic catalog of music.

KING AND QUEEN OF AMERICA
EURYTHMICS were true music video visionaries, but in the age of MADONNA's LIKE A PRAYER the duo's artistry had been eclipsed. Their visual prowess was put to fine use on the single KING AND QUEEN OF AMERICA. In fact, the video elevates the rather uninspired piece of sixties pop into a grand opus where LENNOX's chameleon power is used to full effect. Throughout various frames, DAVE and ANNIE are variations of the quintessential American couple from cowboys and cowgirls, to astronauts, to ELVIS and MARILYN MONROE, to JIM and TAMMY FAYE, to RONALD and NANCY REAGAN and MICKEY and MINNIE MOUSE. The blatant anti-American sentiment definitely hurt the song's chances on radio but the music video was a more memorable and glorious affair in the vein of THERE MUST BE AN ANGEL (PLAYING WITH MY HEART). No one did dress up like these two.


ANGEL
There was a time in the cultural zeitgeist of the United States when the power of Satan was a force to be reckoned with. Satanic Panic was in full effect in the late eighties thanks to expose's by GERALDO RIVERA and other media personalities. The fear found it's way into the thinking of conservative Christian groups who began targeting largely heavy metal acts for music that may have suggested a belief in the occult. EURYTHMICS ended up in the line of righteous fire for their music video and single ANGEL, a haunting soulful ballad about death and the afterlife. STEWART's elegant guitar chords set the story in motion. The video is set during a séance in stark black and white. There is a curious mixture of people seated at the table holding hands and closing their eyes. Suddenly LENNOX, the actress, becomes attuned to some psychic disturbance as she emerges from her seat and she is surrounded by another realm, one with bright blue skies, a setting sun and colorful autumn leaves blowing everywhere. Throughout the majestic video, LENNOX grows anxious too seek out this other world as there seems to be nothing for her in her bleak black and white existence. The video culminates in LENNOX trapped in this colorful world and surrounded by a blazing fire until STEWART emerges, rescues her and the two disappear into a another dimension as the one they have left is burnt to embers. This was another glorious moment for the duo that went unnoticed. No pop song has ever broached the subject of death as artfully as LENNOX and STEWART have here.


YOU HURT ME (AND I HATE YOU)
Ever since the days of WHO'S THAT GIRL? and HERE COMES THE RAIN AGAIN, I was always in awe of what LENNOX could do with a minor progression and a darker outlook on matters of the heart. Is there any wonder that I was falling in love with her all over again at the age of fourteen? If you ask me, there are too many damn songs out there about falling in love. It was high time that hate found its way onto a song and EURYTHMICS do not disappoint with this deep cut YOU HURT ME (AND I HATE YOU). The unexpected number begins simply and sweetly with a piano and LENNOX cooing about the sunrise making one believe that there is going to be an optimistic musical exercise ahead. But with the beating of a bass drum, a no nonsense rhythm section gets started with a sylph like flute solo floating seductively above the groove. Here is where LENNOX takes that soulful growl of hers and starts laying down all of the problems she's got with this relationship and it is one exciting procedural that continues to build momentum. It all comes to a head at the song's mighty bridge where LENNOX claims there is no hell on Earth like a woman scorned where an incendiary brass section a'la WOULD I LIE TO YOU kicks in and brings the song to a glorious, if bitter outro.


SYLVIA
Remember what I said about LENNOX's embrace of a minor progression and some rather dark emotions? Well they come in handy once again on SYLVIA, a synth string led elegy on the life of a junkie that will bring back a memory or two of ELEANOR RIGBY. LENNOX's lyrics and vocals paint a chilling picture of a god forsaken soul with dark stars tattoed on her her face nodding off into the infinite with the chillingly bright chorus “She wants to fall into a deep, deep sleep so she can forget herself.” SYLVIA is a dark horse classic for sure. It makes me sad that we live in a time when LPs are overlooked and hidden gems such as this one exist no more.


(MY MY) BABY'S GONNA CRY
In the absence of EURYTHMICS from the airplay that was available to me, my heart grew fond for that Swedish duo ROXETTE. Sure music snobs will raise a fuss but both duos knew how to issue some mean pop hooks with synth sounds and guitar riffs and both LENNOX and MARIE FREDRIKSSON were both lean angular women with short spiky hair and primo voices. In the spring of 1990, WE TOO ARE ONE probably didn't have the desired effect CLIVE DAVIS wanted it to have so a single was made out of (MY MY) BABY'S GONNA CRY which featured a synth treated rhythm section, STEWART's galloping guitar riffs and LENNOX's icy croon and STEWART chiming in for once. The approach wasn't a million miles away from any ROXETTE offering from their double platinum breakthrough LOOK SHARP. The subject matter is pretty standard – a love affair has gone cold and both parties need t move out. The song's strutting rhythm is more engaging than the lyrics and sounds like a last ditch effort to get an American audience to notice these pop geniuses once again.


***

https://www.rockwired.com/CapitalWTimes.jpgE TOO ARE ONE charted as high as #34 on the US BILLBOARD 200 while the single DON'T ASK ME WHY went to #40 on the U.S. BILLBOARD HOT 100 which meant I only heard the song once on AMERICA'S TOP 40 COUNTDOWN with CASEY KASEM. Over the years, fans of EURYTHMICS have viewed the album as being out of character for the duoand similar charges from cirtics were leveed against the duo's latest offering.

With equally uncharacteristic humor, PEOPLE MAGAZINE noted:

"Musically, however, this album has a droning quality to it. "Revival," with a hint of the religious, R&B fervor that the title implies, perks things up for a while. But despite the fact that Lennox is in fine voice (what else is new) and Stewart hacks away on guitar, most of the tracks tend to the dirge-like mood of "The King & Queen of America." Lennox and Stewart wrote all the songs themselves (with outside help in "Revival" and "You Hurt Me"), and Stewart produced with Jimmy Iovine. So there’s not much question about where the blame lies. Let’s just look upon this album as the musical equivalent of a visit from a usually entertaining aunt and uncle who, in this case, have brought along a rather grim bunch of slides from their recent trip to Bulgaria."

ROBERT CHRISTGAU of THE VILLAGE VOICE took notice of the "bold new beginning" label I made note of earlier in this article and went from there with his trademark causticness. His summation:

"A bold new beginning," proclaims the sticker, and given their late-'80s sales it had better be, so essentially they go pop--rather than "ironic" new-wave metapop, a distinction that escaped every Tom Petty type who made Dave Stewart his new-waver of choice. Despite a few fabulous Elvis similes, this bold stroke is sorely lacking in je-ne-sais-quoi. Bet that within three years Annie lets her hair grow out and stops wearing makeup--makeup visible to the naked eye, anyway."

In the spring of 1990, LENNOX and STEWART announced that EURYTHMICS would be on hiatus and released the long play video WE TWO ARE ONE TOO featuring tedious footage from their REVIVAL tour and a couple of music videos. It probably would've been better to have just released a live concert video. STEWART would step up to the mic with his on band/side project DAVE STEWART AND THE SPIRITUAL COWBOYS and release its self titled album featuring the blazing rocker PARTY TOWN which found its way onto the soundtrack for FLATLINERS starring KIEFER SUTHERLAND and JULIA ROBERTS. And of course his work with producing other artists would continue up to present day. IN 1992, LENNOX finally emerged as a solo artist with the genteel album DIVA. The album would go on to sell 5  million copies in the U.S. as did it's 1995 follow up  MEDUSA. She even managed a couple of GRAMMY wins. No one would hear a peep out of EUYTHMICS again until 1999 when DAVE and ANNIE released the album PEACE and embarked on a 19 date world tour where all of the proceeds went to GREENPEACE and AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL. PEACE was a fine if righteous album that attain a little more resonance three years after its release due to September 11. In 2005 EURYTHMICS surprised everyone again with the release of another greatest hits collection THE ULTIMATE COLLECTION and a new I'VE GOT A LIFE - an endearing anthem with an addictive throbbing techno pulse. It is curious to note that not one single from WE TOO ARE ONE made that cut in that retrospective.

I wouldn't put money on another reunion between DAVE and ANNIE but the world could use them again.



FOR MORE iNFORMATiON GO TO:
https://www.eurythmics.com


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http://www.rockwired.com/CapitalB.jpgrian Lush is a music industry professional and entrepreneur. In 2005 he launched the online music site Rockwired.com to help promote new music artists in conjunction with the weekly radio show Rockwired Live which aired on KTSTFM.COM from 2005 - 2009. In 2010 He launched the daily podcast series Rockwired Radio Profiles which features exclusive interviews and music. He has also developed and produced the online radio shows Jazzed and Blue - Profiles in Blues and Jazz, Aboriginal Sounds - A Celebration of American Indian and First Nations Music, The Rockwired Rock N Roll Mixtape Show and The Rockwired Artist of the Month Showcase. In 2012, Brian Lush and his company Rockwired Media LLC launched the monthly digital online publication Rockwired Magazine. The magazine attracts over 75,000 readers a month and shows no signs of stopping. Rockwired Magazine also bares the distinction of being the first American Indian-owned rock magazine. Brian Lush is an enrolled member of the Yankton Sioux Tribe. Brian Lush's background in music journalism, radio and podcast hosting, podcast production, web design, publicity, advertising sales, social media and online marketing, strategic editorial planning and branding have all made Rockwired a name that is trusted and respected throughout the independent music industry.

CONTACT BRiAN LUSH AT: djlush@rockwired.com

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