An Iconic 40-Year-Old Synth Pop Gem: Sweet Dreams

“Sweet Dreams” represents one of the cutting edge of studio creativity, even 40 years later…

When we were working at Azra Music House, which was Fatih’s biggest record producer in the 80’s, we were far away from the absence of the country. Since another common feature of both partners of the shop, whose names were İbrahim, was that they had close relatives in Greece. The records we recorded on mixed cassettes would come from there regularly, we would have the originals before the mixed pirate records were released in Unkapanı.

While recording cassette tapes day and night in the studio of the shop, one of the hundreds and thousands of records that I went through was the album “Sweet Dreams” by the British new wave duo Eurythmics, which was released just a few weeks ago. The first thing that caught my attention was that the duo disregarded the usual pop numbers in their new-wave-synthe albums, which we listened to hundreds of in those years. Although the album is generally described as new-wave, it also contained a great musical variety of techno, blues, electro-jazz and Latin-influenced tracks. The album released in January 1983, which left its mark on those eighties, is now exactly 40 years old.

“Sweet Dreams” created a surprising interest not only for me, but all over the world. In the early eighties, as the new wave trend was rising, it dominated the genre.

Tenor soloist Annie Lennox, with short cropped orange hair and wearing a men’s suit, broke the usual pop stars image mold up until that day due to her androgynous looks. The music video for “Love is a Stranger”, the opening track on the album, was banned in the US on the grounds that “it makes Annie look like a transvestite corrupting young people”. In the music video for the song that gave the album its name, Annie attracted a lot of attention with her androgynous appearance in a field full of cows; He was on the cover of Newsweek and The Face magazines.

The record label thought “Sweet Dreams” wouldn’t be a hit in the United States because it didn’t have a choir section. Yet it was an original product of creativity. Eurythmics had invented an almost secret formula for presenting complex songwriting as pop candy. When it was played on the radio in Cleveland, it got such a strong response that the record company decided to release it in the USA. Twenty years later, Rolling Stone magazine placed the title song of the album 356th on its list of the “500 Greatest Songs of All Time”; he was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2020. This dark song depicted a gloomy atmosphere, with Annie’s quiet and chilling lyrics that captured her strange sense of solitude amidst the crowds of the big city.

Annie and guitarist-composer Dave Steward continued to work together under the name Eurythmics, even though they split up as a couple after The Tourists broke up. Experimental and guitar-focused debut album “In the Garden” was a commercial disappointment. They were going to go for radical changes on the next album. During this period, they were interested in electronic music and bought brand new equipment. The equipment had been purchased second-hand with a £5,000 bank loan.

The album was recorded in two separate locations. First in a small studio upstairs in a frame shop in London’s Chalk Farm district, then in a small room at The Church Studios in North London. The recordings marked the beginning of an era in which musicians would leave the large recording studios and do their work at home.

Annie was depressed and Stewart had just come out of a lung surgery. The words reflected their most unhappy times, hopeless and nihilistic. Stewart felt the need to add the line, “Keep your head up, keep going” to give it some life. When Annie heard the rhythm and riff of the song, she started singing the song at that moment. Out of this poverty and desperation came a victory. An iconic synth pop gem born out of necessity…

Eurythmics found its identity as a sound in this album. “Sweet Dreams” represents one of the cutting edge of studio creativity, even 40 years later…

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