Perhaps no other musical act defines the year 1984 quite like the Eurythmics. Not only did the trailblazing synth-pop duo score its highest-charting album (Touch, a No. 7 peak on the Billboard 200) during the week ending April 7, 1984 that spawned a hit with top 10 single “Here Comes The Rain Again” and frontwoman Annie Lennox appeared on the cover of Newsweek with Boy George.
But Lennox and producer Dave Stewart issued another release just seven months later literally titled 1984 (For The Love Of Big Brother), an original soundtrack for director Michael Radford’s film adaptation of the iconic George Orwell novel. While such industrious productivity has become less common today, it was par for the course in the Eurythmics’ heyday. “We released nine albums in eight years,” Stewart recalls. “We used to make our albums in two or three weeks, which included writing the songs [from scratch], and then we’d go back on tour again.” Adds Lennox, “I have absolutely no idea how we did it or kept up the pace. It exhausts me just thinking about it now!”
Though it’s arguably the Eurythmics’ most overlooked work today, the 1984 album was the subject of much controversy. The soundtrack was written and recorded at Compass Point Studios in Nassau at the behest of Richard Branson, who was one of the film’s financiers and founder of the then-fledgling Virgin Megastore chain. The album’s first single, “Sex Crime (Nineteen Eighty Four),” was a huge hit overseas but was banned from many shops in America over its title (it entered the Hot 100, appropriately, at No. 84.)
And the album itself was denounced by director Radford for “having foisted our music” on his film, Lennox says. “We felt that we’d been completely shafted by everyone who had kept us in the dark about what had been really going on behind the scenes.” Years later, however, Lennox and Radford made up. “He sweetly apologized for what had happened and I was glad to have the opportunity to personally explain that we’d never have gone near the project if we’d had an inkling of the full situation. You live and learn.”
After a brief reunion in 1999, both Eurythmics remain very active in their separate musical endeavors — Stewart as an in-demand producer (Stevie Nicks‘ just-released 24-Karat Gold) and Lennox as a solo artist (her covers album, Nostalgia, arrived October 21). But neither can escape the legacy they built together. “I hear Eurythmics-type records all the time 30 years later, whether it’s boy-girl electronic duos or EDM remixes of ‘Sweet Dreams,'” Stewart says. Adds Lennox, “Classic songs usually seem to have something of a great melody — intriguing chord progressions and sounds — and certain kind of rhythm that draws you in, mixed up with a certain magic that’s almost indefinable.”
An edited version of this story first appeared in the Nov. 1 issue of Billboard.