Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Eurythmics: "1984 (For the Love of Big Brother)"

Virgin Records commissioned Eurythmics - fresh off back to back smash albums "Sweet Dreams (are made of this)" and "Touch" - to prepare a soundtrack to a new film version of the Orwell classic "Nineteen Eighty-Four" directed by Michael Radford and set for release in it's title year. Unfortunately Eurythmics weren't aware that Virgin had made the request without the director's approval; he had already commissioned an orchestral score. Ultimately bits and pieces of Eurythmics' music and the orchestral score were used in the film.

While the director may have preferred orchestral music to Eurythmics' dark electronic approach, the resulting Eurythmics album is nothing short of amazing. Without considering it as a soundtrack (which is easy to do since it was barely in the movie), it can be heard as a 1984-themed concept album. Several of the tracks are semi-instrumental, featuring Dave Stewart's nightmarish synthesizer soundscapes and Annie Lennox's haunted, wordless vocalizations.

A few of the songs did feature lyrics. Synth-rock track "Sexcrime (1984"), which featured innovative sampling techniques, was released as the first single and video. Although it was a rather non-commercial track compared to their earlier singles, it did well in the UK and Europe. Unfortunately radio stations in the US stayed away from it because of the repeated refrain of "Sex Crime" and the subject matter. It was issued in slightly edited form as a single in the US but that didn't help it climb the charts.

2nd single, the utterly gorgeous, haunting ballad "Julia" didn't chart well anywhere despite Annie's stunning video performance.

Other high points are the eerie, ghostly "For the Love of Big Brother", the frantic 'Newspeak' of "Doubleplusgood" and the foreboding "Ministry of Love" - one of the most powerful tracks of the duo's career. The album captures perfectly the fear, paranoia and claustrophobia of Orwell's vision. As an album it's obviously inspired heavily by Bowie's Berlin era work and synth-rock pioneers like Kraftwork. It's a fascinating and often stunning album that has been sadly overlooked in Eurythmics' catalog. Released on Virgin instead of their usual label RCA, it wasn't even included in the Eurythmics' reissue campaign of all their albums several years back, and remains out of print in many places. A shame because it's one of the true hidden gems of the early 80s.

Eurythmics were my favorite band as a kid as I was discovering "my music" and not my parents.. they really blew me away. I remember my dad taking me on a rainy night to the National Record Mart so I could pick up "1984" on vinyl. I was 12. It was like nothing I'd ever heard before. It took me a while to absorb it - and was a bit taken aback by the semi-instrumentals and the nightmarish quality of some of the tracks - but I quickly became mesmerized and fascinated by it. It's still a favorite, and my admiration for the work of Dave Stewart and Annie Lennox has only grown over the years.

Cool video someone created using "Doubleplusgood":

The stunning "Ministry of Love", set to scenes from the film:

The ghostly, hypnotic "For the Love of Big Brother":

"Greetings from a Dead Man" - ominous, unsettling:

Nightmare brought to life via music... "Room 101". Someone posted it to YouTube backed with clips from "Planet of the Apes"... strangely, it suits the music perfectly:

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