Beethoven (I Love to Listen to)


1987: RCA DA11CD

  1. Beethoven (I Love to Listen to)
  2. Heaven
  3. Beethoven (I Love to Listen to) Dance Mix

This was the first CD single from Eurythmics, and incidentally one of the first CD singles ever. I knew it only as a vinyl single and even then only obtained it some time after it came out, in fact I think it was while I was in London in October of 1989 (my first time abroad, not counting Canada).

I’ll probably expand this review sooner or later to add some commentary on the song/recording itself, but in the meantime I’d just like to share with you a bit of literature that comes to mind when I listen to the song (and especially when I watch its mesmerizingly orchestrated video, directed by Sophie Muller and available on the Savage videotape and Eurythmics’s Greatest Hits collection). It’s from The Tunnel, the fourth book of Dorothy Richardson’s “Pilgrimage” books:

He would like one or two more Mendelssohns and then supper. And if she kept out of the conversation and listened and smiled a little, he would go away adoring. She played the Duetto; the chords made her think of Beethoven and play the last page carelessly and glance at Harriett. Harriett had felt her response to the chords and knew she was getting away from Mendelssohn. Mr Tremayne had moved to a chair quite close to the piano, just behind her. She found the Beethoven and played the first movement of a sonata. It leapt about the piano breaking up her pose, using her body as the instrument of its gay wild shapeliness, spreading her arms inelegantly, swaying her, lifting her from the stool with the crash and vibration of its chords. … ‘Go on,’ said Harriett when it came to an end. The Largo came with a single voice, deep and broad and quiet; the great truth behind the fuss of things. She felt her hearers grow weary of its reiterations and dashed on alone recklessly into the storm of the last movement. Through its tuneless raging, she could hear the steady voice and see the steady shining of the broad clear light. Daylight and gaiety and night and storm and a great song and truth, the great truth that was bigger than anything. Beethoven. She got up, charged to the fingertips with a glow that transfigured all the inanimate things in the room. The party was wrecked…a young lady who banged the piano till her hair nearly came down.

Isn’t that just marvelous? If you know the video for this single that description dovetails electrifyingly with the ridiculous explosion of character in the last quarter of the song.

One of the aspects of this recording (and presumably not of the song as just a written composition) that I love is its literally schizophrenic second verse, in which the lyric is delivered by two different “voices”—the left side being the uptight housewife reading the tawdry romance novel in her own dull voice, the right side being the excessively broadly played dramatization she imagines. It’s a great effect. A more subtle aspect of the original track, cut from this single edit, is its strange, long intro that on first hearing maybe makes you wonder why it was there but actually sets up both the song and the album by introducing a simultaneous robotic beat and a ratcheting-up of tension; in that sense, this version is inherently flawed because the drama just ain’t there to provide context for the thus-more-baffling weirdness. (And that that intro’s hammering beat consists of a synthesized drum sound coupled with a sample of Lennox’s voice just adds to the uneasing cocktail of it all.)

This is one of those songs I would dearly love to hear Dave & Annie comment on sometime at decent length, instead of just “oh yeah that was a weird one” or the general accounts of the recording of the whole Savage album (which are inconsistent as well as spotty). That they kicked off that album with this incomparably odd single still surprises me, so I want to know more about how it even happened….