(for the love of Big Brother)

Music derived from Eurythmics’ original score of the motion picture 1984


1984: Virgin CDV 1984

  1. I Did It Just the Same
  2. Sexcrime (Nineteen Eighty-Four)
  3. For the Love of Big Brother
  4. Winston’s Diary
  5. Greetings from a Dead Man
  6. Julia
  7. Doubleplusgood
  8. Ministry of Love
  9. Room 101

One of my Absolute Musts. “For the Love of Big Brother” is probably my favorite Eurythmics recording, because it touches on many of their styles in the course of the song (for reasons which I’ll have to elaborate on later), and Lennox’s vocals are amazingly haunting for being delivered in such an almost-offhand manner. It is exceptionally hard to picture that this album was recorded at Compass Point Studios, in the Bahamas. The harmony arrangement of the “choruses” comes so close to being positive that it fools you at first…then the darkness frames it again and brings you back to seeing it as the furtive glimpse of remembered hope that it was…“meyeayea….”

Much of this album’s music is not featured in the actual film, possibly thanks to a publicized-at-the-time battle among the film’s production/directorial teams. And much of it wouldn’t be appropriate for the film as presented on this album. Certainly “For the Love of Big Brother” seems to have preceded the soundtrack composition by some time, even being tried out in a concert (the Tony Jasper book Eurythmics, while being pretty dismissable, mentions this and refers to the song as being called “Meyeayea” in a concert debut around 1984, and I heard a recording of it [I think it was from a concert in Boston] on YouTube in a now long-gone clip). And, goob that I am, I even love hearing that track played backwards…it has a certain bad-dream-sequence quality to it that way, of course, but the harmonies and breathy phrasing take on a curious twisted life of their own that way. Also, while I’m already making a fool of myself by going into that much detail, I might as well note that, although the song’s rhythm is a very dark bossa-nova at heart, with the exception of the end of the final chorus the entire song can be counted with its downbeat on the half-beat after the actual downbeat (i.e., with the “meyeayeas” coinciding with the downbeat instead of straddling it as they actually do), giving it an entirely different and not unenjoyable feel. Then again, the weirdly offbeat wavering intro keyboard stuff on “I Did It Just the Same” is a keyboard sequence run backward, so I tend to wonder how much of the album was concocted with such trickery in mind….

I actually get a great kick out of “Sexcrime,” especially its climactic delivery of the final chorus sequence: when Lennox finally lets it rip with that GIMMEGIMMEGIMMEGIMME bit, it’s like an unexpected sonic machine-gun, far more than the buildup implies is coming—ferocious and mighty!

If I could recapture a moment of musical innocence it would be the one just prior to hearing this album, because there is something marvelous about the way even that first track, “I Did It Just the Same,” unfurls with no warning from something sorta-ambient, sorta-techno, into something ferociously soulful and funky with no lyrics at all. When I hear Lennox loosen the vocal from held-back scat to fluid exuberance as the dam bursts and the song enters its third and final phase, I get a terribly smug smile on my face that says “yeah, I knew THIS was coming, baby, let me have it!!!” But I didn’t, and I didn’t know it would end that way, and sometimes I wish I were still ignorant of that playing out of this stealthily marvelous track.

Also in the “goob that I am” category is my reluctant awareness that Lennox misquoted the text in “Doubleplusgood”—although I concede that it might have been intentionally done—by citing one of Winston’s directives as being dated 14.12.84, rather than 14.2.84, which would be eight months after the film starts. Still, I enjoy that quirky track and its perky, darkly danceable characterizing/voicing of a macabrely revisionist bureaucracy’s voice. Trumpland, anyone? Come to think of it, the breakdown of the announcer’s newscasts through the end of this track does rather anticipate the “alternative facts,” say-anything-you’re-told-to-say Mouth-of-Sauron psychosis of Kellyanne Conway and Brent Spicer…. “Your attention! Your attention! Your attention! Your atten— Your attention— Your a— Your attention!” certainly reminds me of Conway’s entirely too frequent explain-away appearances on news programs aghast at Trump’s latest horrific statment. Which, in turn, leads nicely into “Tension! Tension! Tension! Tension! Ten-tension! Ten-ten-ten-ten-ten-tension! Tension! Tension!”

It took me a long to recognize and articulate this impression, but it seems to me that the breakdown of the announcements at the end of “Doubleplusgood” is meant to convey the sense of eternally imminent showdown or devastation…the dropping of The Bomb, as it were to those of the Atomic Age’s upbringing. The never-finished, repeatedly restarted countdown does strike me as reflective of both the general tension level of those of us living under constant atomic/nuclear threat (by ”enemies” and by our own government) and the message perhaps being conveyed by those governments that we should stay on high alert at all times, that the countdown was always poised right at the brink. Mind you, in the late 2010s we really are having that revisited with a madman in the White House and with access to Those Buttons, so this track lands a little more sharply with me now.

I only like “Room 101” in three ways: first of all its ending, which is great; second, its general horrific background being evoked by Lennox’s lingering wails throughout; and third, how it plays as a standalone track *after* you’ve heard its themes playing in the film itself (where Lennox’s vocals linger more hauntingly than they do on the album track). Beyond that, however, is one simple fact that’s easy to miss until the first time you notice it: structurally, “Room 101” is just “Sexcrime” in a minor key, with no lyrics and a different rhythm track.