Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)

Eurythmics

1982/1983: PCD 1-4681


  1. Love Is a Stranger
  2. I’ve Got an Angel
  3. Wrap It Up
  4. I Could Give You (A Mirror)
  5. The Walk
  6. Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)
  7. Jennifer
  8. This Is the House
  9. Somebody Told Me
  10. This City Never Sleeps
     
    Boxed Bonus Tracks:
  11. Home Is Where the Heart Is
  12. Monkey Monkey
  13. Baby’s Gone Blue
  14. Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This) Hot Remix
  15. Love Is a Stranger Coldcut Remix
  16. Satellite of Love

One of the best albums I’ve ever heard. Recorded on an 8-track system by Dave Stewart, believe it or not. The title track, one of the last to be recorded, features the first and only take of the lead vocal by Annie Lennox…and that tinkly rhythm on the “hold your head up” sections is milk bottles tuned with water volume. But the opening track, “Love Is a Stranger,” is all you need to know as you begin listening to this album. Annie worked on the lyrics for weeks, and with good reason: they had to be so complicated in their import and yet immediate in their delivery, to say (in her words) that love is “the most DEVASTATING thing that’s ever happened to me.”

“Love is a danger of a different kind…to take you away and leave you far behind. And love, love, love is a dangerous drug…you have to receive it and you still can’t get enough of the stuff…” The lyrics are worth savoring again and again, though they flow so smoothly that one can easily get lulled by them despite their array of needle-like tips. “It’s savage and it’s cruel, and it shines like destruction, comes in like the Flood and it seems like religion, it’s noble and it’s brutal, it distorts and deranges, and it wrenches you up and you’re left like a zombie….” Meticulous and staggeringly beautiful.

“I could give you a mirror to show you disappointments….” The last 61 seconds of “I Could Give You (A Mirror)” are among my favorites of any tracks on any album, as they build from odd, insistent harmonic array (an upward gear-shifting from the song’s first versions of the theme) to epiphany of multitracked rhythmic and melodic vectors: mighty, rapturous, compelling, barely harnessed, and masterful all at once. Love it, love it, LOVE IT.

In the entire span of their albums to date (not counting B-sides of singles) Eurythmics have only included one cover version, that of Sam & Dave’s “Wrap It Up,” and it was on this their second album as a raucous “duet” with Green Gartside of Scritti Politti. The thematic engine of this song was recycled to produce the spine of the icier soul-pop of “The First Cut” on the next album, Touch. The funny thing about this track is that the kitschy foreground fireworks are so engaging and amusing that it’s very easy to miss the actual clever musicianship going on in the song’s machinery: those “backup” vocals on the verses’ “bay-bay” chirps aren’t just generic, there’s some beautiful clusters of sound going down there, and the tempo and funkiness distract you from hearing how well-honed this baby is. Give it a more critical listen sometime, listen for those “bay-bay” chords, and you’ll find a new level to enjoy here.  [NOTE: this track got a bad makeover on the 2005 remastered version of Sweet Dreams—see below.]

“All I want is the real thing…nothing but the real thing….” “The Walk” is one of the sharpest, finest Eurythmics recordings: it moves at an almost-too-swift clip, and maybe because of that tempo imperative the whole song gains an undercurrent of icy urgency. What is undeniably masterful however is the structural craft: it may build like a hypersensitized pop song, with a multilayered and powerful first chorus, but when we get to the second chorus all of the promises of the structure are ripped suddenly and ferociously back and we’re given only Annie’s various mighty vocal tracks, harmonically irregular and tantalizing, on top of a big empty drum track. And this is the climax of the track. It’s masterful deconstruction, and I still thrill to it every time I hear it. (My appreciation of this track has been increased by consideration of two alternate versions that Eurythmics released on 12" single B-sides, “The Walk Part II” and “Let’s Just Close Our Eyes,” the former being mostly an instrumental version and the latter being a coolly anaesthetic robo-dance recasting with animalistic vocal breakdowns.)

There’s so much to say about this album, especially from a true lover of Eurythmics’s work, that I’ll have to leave most of my commentary unstated here. But this really is one of my favorite albums, and its closing track “This City Never Sleeps” is even more impressive when you’ve heard one of its “live” versions. And I don’t know how many editions of the album include this, but the first CD copy of the album I bought included a little extra prize tacked on to the end of the last track: Dave Stewart, commenting quietly (but run backwards) “Well I enjoyed recording that, eh, record…really good…really good….”

• BOXED •  BONUS TRACKS:

I’ve loved “Monkey, Monkey” (the B-side of “Love Is a Stranger”) for years, its dark robotic discotheque ambiance and slowly mutating fifths and notes making for quite a nice precursor of “house” and “trance” music. With “Baby’s Gone Blue” (one of the B-sides to the “Sweet Dreams” single), which I love just as much but more for its cubist glimpsing of twisted drama, this is a side of Eurythmics music I wish more people were aware of: a dark dance world of rhythmic patterning and very few lyrics, where the impression is the goal.

These later remixes of “Sweet Dreams” and “Love Is a Stranger” are decent (the latter faintly amusing) but don’t sound particularly “Eurythmic”…as others have commented, I’d rather they had filled these two slots on the remastered CD with some of their contemporaneous work such as the other two versions of “The Walk” (described above), the soulless alternate version of “I Could Give You (A Mirror)” from the B-side of the “Sweet Dreams” single, or a live track such as their concert-only cover of “These Boots Are Made for Walkin’” (which is a little rigid but still pretty funny in its way). Or for that matter “Invisible Hands” (one of the B-sides to “The Walk”), which was originally slated to be the album’s title track and which shows the robo-minimalism they were experimenting with during the time between In the Garden and Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This); the strange “Home Is Where the Heart Is” sounds like a whimsical companion piece to “Invisible Hands,” whereas I’m glad they didn’t include the far-less-engaging “Dr Trash” (all German experimentalism, not as jarring as performance art but still pretty bleak listening).

Actually that points out the unfortunately missed opportunity that the remastered release had: this (and/or possibly the bonus-tracks zone of In the Garden) is a great place to present not just some unreleased tracks from the day but rather the versions that Eurythmics recorded first and that didn’t hit the mark in that form. The two I know of that exist in both that form and then mark-hitting final version are “I Could Give You (A Mirror)” and “Somebody Told Me,” although the latter doesn’t appear to have been officially released, but both pairs amply demonstrate what was happening during that crucial moment of creative spark igniting THE fire that had been eluding the duo until then. In the initial versions, there’s a passable song but it’s arriving via a rather plodding synth-driven robotic vehicle with only lamenting and unanguished vocals; in the versions that actually worked and made it onto the Sweet Dreams album the vehicle is stripped down to its wheels and frame and then armed with jacked-up gunners in locations you could never have expected to be hit from, and one of the keys to that hugely transformational moment of alchemy was the intense firing up and unleashing of Annie Lennox’s singing voice (which in turn appears to have further emboldened her songwriting one) and vocal/musical creativity, giving us what we now have as Eurythmics in music history.

As for the cover of “Satellite of Love,” I’ve not yet heard the original Lou Reed recording, and this is a little thin, but I do like the break where Dave Stewart does the “I’ve been told…” bit as a whispery anonymous telephone call. At any rate it’s better than the performance of it that got filmed for MTV back in 1983, wherein Annie had laryngitis and the backup singers were still learning the material….

That I’ve neglected to comment on the title track may tell you something: it doesn’t actually do much for me. Lennox has commented in interviews that it’s more a mantra than a song, and I’m with her in that assessment. What it means is open to interpretation; what it meant when it was composed was certainly ironic and dark, as Lennox was reportedly in near-fetal-position depression when Stewart’s unsuccessful struggling with a prototype synth drum machine kept feeding them a beat that Lennox couldn’t resist. I have issues with that summation, but that’s what they’ve chosen to say about it so I’ll leave it at that. The song’s enduring popularity baffles me but seems to have something to do with the sheer simplicity of its melody’s few notes; apparently, anyone can sing that or at least get close enough. And its lyric is open enough to any range of interpretations, so I suppose there’s hit power there. But for it to have been anything more than a step along this band’s developmental way is still very odd, to me.

An Important Note regarding the Remastered Album Itself
Curiously, both “Wrap It Up” and “I Could Give You (A Mirror)” got considerably less bright in their remastering! I definitely prefer the livelier, unremastered mix on these two; the front vocals may stand out more distinctly, but that isn’t necessarily an improvement (or even good), especially when all the fun of the instrumentation is shunted into another room, as it were. “The Walk,” too, loses its cinematic vastness and becomes entirely too flat this way, as does “This Is the House” to a lesser degree (at least the trumpets stayed bright but lost their echo depth, whereas the electronics lost their sting).


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