Eurythmics: Greatest Hits

It’ll make sense after you’ve seen the individual videos. Well, it might not make sense, but it’ll at least be less alarming the next time you see it. It’s a wild and fun super-fast pastiche of bits from all of the videos which follow, and since this came out they’ve used it both on their website and as a backdrop to one of their songs while on tour in 1999 (among other places).

Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)
Revolutionary for its time (1983), still a bit strange but now looks too dated for me. If it weren’t for the song’s messages and the group’s history I’d probably dislike it.

Love Is a Stranger
This one, on the other hand, is still as interesting and provocative now as it was back then. A great song (and it is) with a great video, a video nearly as loaded with allusions and connotations as is the song.

Who’s That Girl?
Camp, Part I: a ’60s-esque song with a solid ’80s spine gets a video that both embodies that duality and indulges in a lot of sly hilarity, especially as regards the boy/girl/androgyny element Eurythmics were briefly associated with in 1983: Lennox plays both the way-too-girly-wigged chanteuse and the 5-o’clock-shadowed greaser while Stewart frolics with a bevy of ladies (including one who’s actually a male singer/performer known as Marilyn), various movie-star lookalikes, and Bananarama among other British pop females of the day. The video rather eclipses the song, which is actually good if a little chilly in this first form (it’s more compelling performed live, especially as just a guitar-and-vocal arrangement).

Right by Your Side
Fluff. An attempt to show that Eurythmics weren’t just a studio band, that they rocked in live performance (which this purportedly shows). The reality of their live performance intensity is depicted better (if still staged) in the “Would I Lie To You” video.

Here Comes the Rain Again
As with the “Sweet Dreams” video, it’s not aged particularly well, but at least the other had startling imagery to keep it interesting; this one’s only of interest if you’re wondering what the Orkney Islands look like. Again, a good song underneath it all, and again one that sounds even better in an acoustic live recasting.

[Two or three years after I wrote that assessment, I happened to watch the video again without attempting to assess or distill it into handy commentary…and I was surprised to see (and appreciate) it in a new light, that of a relationship in which the woman is distressed by the man’s inability to actually engage with her and participate in their relationship. And it actually does work. But the solarization of the video remains distracting.]

Sexcrime (1984)
Eurythmics composed a soundtrack for the 1984 film of George Orwell’s nightmarish classic novel 1984, but unbeknownst to them another member of the directorial team had commissioned another composer to produce one, and in the end only fragments of their score got used (and, on the whole, they’re gorgeous and disturbing). Rather than a proper soundtrack album, Eurythmics released Nineteen Eighty-Four, billed with a subtly informative disclaimer as “music derived from” their score, consisting of just that: not their soundtrack but rather rock-styled tracks drawing on musical and sonic elements they had created for their soundtrack.

Two singles resulted, this and the following track; in this one, scenes from the film are intercut with Lennox and Stewart and some other guy (possibly Lennox’s then-husband, but I’ve not verified that) performing dressed in costumes used in the film (bonus points for Annie wearing the red sash of the Junior Anti-Sex League!). Not a great video, although the audio track is pretty lively, but it’s fun to see how closely Annie Lennox can resemble Mary Martin.

Deliciously minimal. Gives you time to enjoy how beautiful (or Hitler-Youth-ish, if that’s your thing) Lennox can look. Subtle Big Brother overtones as the color image fades to the video-screen one.

Would I Lie To You?
MUCH better representation of Eurythmics as a live act. This was the first single from their album Be Yourself Tonight, the cover of which features a photographed (by Dave Stewart) still from the introductory scene to this video and the title of which is used (albeit a bit lamely) as well. All kinds of fun stuff going on in the background and offstage, but regardless of all that it’s one hell of a hot rock recording.

There Must Be an Angel (Playing With My Heart)
Camp, Part II: if there’s more mascara shown in any other video from any decade, I don’t know if I’d like to see the proof. The fact that Stewart’s wearing more makeup than Lennox is a daunting thing to consider, but then Lennox looks like she’s getting ready to do an ’80s Wesson commercial, she’s looking so ridiculously pure and sweet (aside from one hilarious and subtle acknowledgement of the excesses of the spoof early on). The song’s dedicated to Stevie Wonder, who provides the harmonica solo midway through.

Sisters Are Doin’ It For Themselves
This one definitely didn’t work as a video, despite the vocal firepower of the song’s duet of Annie Lennox and Aretha Franklin. It’s well-intentioned but, ironically, soulless, although the song itself certainly worked and has remained a feminist anthem. But I do appreciate the rich representation of worldwide women in the video bits it’s interlarded with, especially as they cover not only an impressive historical and geographical/societal range but also a gamut of roles and professions (from Prime Minister to wrestler, from housewife-and-mother to ritual-draped bride-to-be, from hard-hat laborer to nun, and more). And then there’s the fun to be had watching Lennox trying her best to look less tall beside Franklin….

It’s Alright (Baby’s Coming Back)
A bit of mid-’80s excess, albeit stylish to a degree. A lovely song but the video’s hardly unassailable. Serious Eurythmics fans can have fun spotting and identifying the photos flying by in the background during the guitar solo; I have to wonder if Lennox ever really looked this much like Cheryl Tiegs in reality, though.

When Tomorrow Comes
And then there’s this bit of wretched excess which deserves to be assailed. Sort of a promotional bit for their Revenge tour (for the album of the same name) that was kicking off just when this was released (mid-1986). The song’s popular in Europe but far too sweet for my tastes.

Thorn In My Side
This would get the same description as the preceding video if it weren’t for two things: it has a sense of humour, and it has some seriously weird overtones and references going on. The shift after the sax solo from strange L.A. club frequented only by models and bikers to a deep-South faith-healing ritual carries interesting implications. Nice intercutting of eyes looking here and there, too. It’s interesting to note that the second verse is one continuous take—no cuts at all. That’s Lennox for you: when she nails it, it stays nailed.

Miracle of Love
Easily the lamest video on this collection. Stewart allegedly threw it together himself from bits of film he had at hand when Lennox was too immersed in personal dramas to even be involved. It shows. In Europe this is considered one of their signature songs, while it’s virtually unknown in the U.S. (for which I’m personally thankful, as it’s entirely too sugary for me).

But it’s worth noting this comment by Dave Stewart in his treasure-trove book The Dave Stewart Songbook—The Stories behind the Songs, Volume One: “My favorite image ever of Annie is on the footage at the end of this video. I was using a long lens and she didn’t know I was shooting her. When she realizes it she smiles and starts to laugh. That is always the image I think of when I miss Annie. In a few split seconds I captured on film everything I love about her. For a long time, we always finished Eurythmics shows with this song and it was very emotional. People of all ages would be looking up with tears streaming down their faces.”

Missionary Man
Ah, how they do redeem themselves after such missteps: the “Missionary Man” video was delightfully bizarre and innovative, using the “stop-motion animation” technique used also by Peter Gabriel in his “Sledgehammer” video of the same time, but even this with its various connotations (note the apple and the snake in the opening) faded into the background when Eurythmics released their next stuff, from the rather extreme Savage album.

Beethoven (I Love To Listen To)
The schizophrenia of a housewife repressed by circumstance and teased by popular culture. As the kickoff for both the album Savage and the accompanying 12-track video album (which I love), this is a zany favorite of mine. A great song to listen to on headphones.

I Need a Man
See above. Lennox gone Jagger. A lighting-designer friend of mine noted upon watching this video “it’s extraordinary: everything’s done so deliberately sloppily—the makeup, the costume, the wig, the performance, the enunciation, the lighting—but the editing of the video is absolutely sharp to the beat.”

You Have Placed a Chill In My Heart
A culmination of sorts to the preceding two videos, and they were presented as a triad originally, but really it helps to have the entire Savage video album to appreciate this one more. Again, a good song under there.

Don’t Ask Me Why
Gorgeous Euro-chic visuals, with heavy interplay of white and black extremes. The cover of the album We Too Are One comes from one of the photo/filming sessions used here. Amazingly stark makeup heightens the sense of emotional tension. Lots of nice eyes-interplay.

The King & Queen of America
I wish I could call this Camp, Part III, but actually it’s just wicked fun being had with twelve iconic U.S. pairings. The song’s not bad but not great either. There are some hilarious touches involved in the visuals, with Annie appearing as versions of Mary Tyler Moore, Nancy Reagan, Tammy Faye Bakker, and more.

Well, it’s sad but it’s nice, as a song, and as a video it’s a bit over-the-top but still fairly good. Certainly not a great video, despite lovely aspects here and there. I actually prefer its little video-remix intro, with bits of the other videos swirling in the spinning teacups.

One last comment: BMG botched the packaging of the DVD by using as a cover image a super-low-resolution screen-shot of an already-low-resolution video still from the “(My My) Baby’s Gonna Cry” video (which by the way isn’t even in this collection—it was on the We Two Are One Too vid in 1990) and then distorting its proportions for use on the DVD case’s spine. But wait! There’s more! The embedded data for the file (track list, etc.) names the group as “The Eurythmics.” What clueless bastard was responsible for THAT goof? It’s surprising to me because the back cover got the proper Laurence Stevens touch—“greatest hits” in vivid red Gill Sans Bold type as a spinal element behind the track list, on a warm silver field—and the spine titling is Stevens too, nice and crisp and strong. The result looks like a not-quite-achieved attempt to honor contractual agreements regarding graphics for the group.