'World War One: The Centenary Collection' Remembers, But Does Not Memorialize, the War

Rather than recapitulating the faux sentiment of veterans' poppies, BBC's Centenary Collection gives viewers a chance to really understand WWI.

The First World War, which has now reached its European (and colonial) centenary, remains a problematic topic in popular history. A major turning point in the development of the modern world, it nonetheless remains poorly, or at best partially, understood. As the UK entered the formal phase of centenary commemorations, soundings were taken of attitudes and knowledge of the war; the results did not impress. In polling commissioned by the think tank British Future, less than a half of respondents knew that the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand sparked the conflict. Even fewer people were able to say that Indian troops fought alongside British ones, fewer still knew that Russia was allied to both. A third of people could not place the beginning of the war to 1914.

Opinions were measured at specially organized research workshops at which participants were invited to express their views on the content of the commemorations. The majority agreed that the centenary should be a time for reflections on the loss of life and on the value of peace. The precise composition of the commemorations proved more challenging. "It should cover the beginning and the end," agreed one group. "The major battles, too." "Yes," added one participant, "especially D-Day." No one corrected him.

This is one element of the problem with understanding the First World War; it has been all too easily overshadowed by its sequel. The Second World War has the dubious advantage of being wider in scope, more varied in its prosecution and with more obvious baddies. The First is a little too complicated and static. The trite way of putting it is that the First World War just doesn’t make as good movies as the Second.

If you were to ask the man on the street his opinion of the causes of the Second World War, you’d probably get an answer that features a variation on the theme of "stopping Hitler". Ask him about the First and you might get a blank look and a response that mentions something to do with Franz Ferdinand. A more informed, but still insufficient answer would track the answer given by Captain Blackadder in the satirical sitcom Blackadder Goes Forth (1989):

You see, Baldrick, in order to prevent war, two great super-armies developed. Us, the Russians and the French on one side, Germany and Austro-Hungary on the other. The idea being that each army would act as the other's deterrent. That way, there could never be a war… there was one tiny flaw in the plan. It was bollocks.

The "it was bollocks theory" of the First World War abides in the public mind. Frequently, the war is seen as a purposeless disaster; a murderous folly of which the only tangible result was death. The conflict was prosecuted beyond any reasonable ambition by callous and foolish generals who would rather send thousands of men to their grisly deaths than admit to the failure of their plans. It’s a reductive explanation that is grounded in an essential truth, but which makes it all too easy to dismiss any subtlety or nuance in the conflict. Indeed, it has almost become taboo to even attempt to do so. The common response to the war is funereal; it’s OK to be seen to be grieving, but it would be somewhat inappropriate to start asking too many questions about how the poor man died.

It’s a death thing. The focus has been on those who were killed, now almost exclusively referred to as "the fallen". We are called every November to remember the fallen, to focus on the ultimate sacrifice that they gave. This is surely important. But it is also important to remember that eight in every ten men who went to war came home again, often to much harder circumstances than they left. Did they not make sacrifices, too? Those who survived the war were as much part of the conflict as those who didn’t, but had the unenviable task of rebuilding themselves, and the world.

It’s therefore possible to discern two key strands to the British approach to the First World War; the Memorialization approach, which demands a solemn but unquestioning act of remembrance, and the Learning approach, which is prepared to treat the war as a historical event and address it as a lived experience for those that were there. In presenting their findings, British Future strongly advocated the second approach. Its report noted that there are approximately 13,000 people in Britain today who were alive during the war, none of whom were combatants. The eldest, Ethel Lancaster (b. 1900) was just 14 when the first shot was fired.

It would be a mistake, therefore, to regard the commemoration as an act of remembrance; it is instead an opportunity to learn. Many of the grassroots commemorative projects (and there are many; The Imperial War Museum, which is tracking the progress of the commemorations, lists over three thousand on its database) represent attempts to do just that. A constellation of plays, readings discussions and lectures are being held nationwide and questions are not only permitted, but welcomed.

For the most part, the large organizations of officialdom have stuck to the Memorialization strategy. Political leaders, perhaps not wishing to dwell too heavily on the actions of their predecessors, have largely confined themselves to solemn wreath-laying and platitudes about "sacrifice". From August to November, a stream of ceramic poppies have been progressively spread across the moat at the Tower of London. Once completed, the installation, entitled Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red, comprises 888,246 poppies; one for every British fatality. The eight or so million who survived their service are not represented, nor are any dead or maimed civilians.

Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red (image from Wikimedia Commons)

The installation has been phenomenally successful, attracting over four million visitors, more than the London Eye brings in over an entire year. It has become the done thing for public figures to be seen at the Tower, gazing mournfully across the blanket of red. On his visit, the UK Independence Party leader and populism revivalist Nigel Farage was seen to be wiping away a tear. Dissent is perilous. When the art critic Jonathan Jones described it as "trite" he unleashed a wave of opprobrium. He was, apparently, "smug, condescending trash that should know better."

The poppy has become a trope apart. Ostensibly the symbol of the veterans' charity the Royal British Legion, millions of paper ones are sold each autumn for the purposes of fundraising. A decade or so ago, wearers of the poppy all sported the same design, small enough to fit noticeably but unobtrusively on clothing. There has since been an arms race to wear ever larger and more ostentatious versions. It has been some time since the wearing of them was reserved for Armistice Day itself. They now start to appear in mid-October.

Indeed, it’s increasingly difficult to escape the suspicion that modern remembrance poppies are more about the wearer than the recipients of the charity. Not that you need to wear them any more: poppies now adorn the liveries of buses, they appear on buildings and on social media avatars. On 5 November, Guy Fawkes night, a firework display featured a set that resembled a poppy. The image is stitched into soccer jerseys (and woe betide the team that runs onto the pitch without them).

The Legion has a royal charter but it remains a private charitable organisation, no different at an institutional level from, say, Cancer Research UK or the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Its symbol has become indistinguishable from a national emblem in some quarters, declining to wear one, particularly for public figures, is considered tantamount to treason. In 2012 a newsreader was subjected to a torrent of abusive messages after she elected not to wear a poppy while on screen. A supporter of the Legion in private, she explained that she didn’t agree with a particular charity receiving undue prominence.

Rumors, usually of spurious origin, abound every year of this or that interest group seeking to ban the poppy. They are invariably found to be false or the result of a misunderstanding but not before calls for boycotts or the appearance of demands for retributive violence, spread via poorly spelled and emotive Facebook posts.

The memorializing approach is mawkish, emotional and pathologically incurious. Soldiers, sailors and airmen rarely appear in the imagery, except through the safety of sepia. It’s as though people can’t look them in the eye. The poppy is cleaner, less dramatically obvious. People want to remember but they don’t want to be reminded. When Jones decried the Tower installation, he suggested that a more accurate and thought provoking work of art would substitute the ceramic poppies for barbed wire and bones. It was this that really hit a nerve.

DVD: World War One: The Centenary Collection

Network: BBC

Distributor: 2Entertain

UK release date: 2014-10-20

Image: the appropriate method of commemoration, it's axiomatic that a national event of this scale includes the BBC. As the keystone of British cultural live, the BBC has a contribution to make to the memorialization approach. As a source of education and information, the corporation has an even larger responsibility to attend to the learning approach. So far, it has been completing this second task rather well. Across the four years of the centenary, the BBC is operating the functionally named BBC Centenary Season. It will include 130 newly commissioned radio and television programs, totaling over 2,500 hours of broadcast time, including more than 600 hours of new content. It also has one of the world’s finest broadcast archives to draw upon.

Consequently, the early boxset, The World War One Centenary Collection represents a mere fraction of the corporation’s commemorative output. It’s still a wide collection, perhaps best considered as a sampler, albeit a very thorough one. Spread across the set’s nine discs is a combination of general documentary, authored documentary and drama-documentary. The emphasis on the factual is necessary and to be admired. The collection is firmly of the Learning Approach. Even the performed elements are taken from original testimony; the diaries, letters and official records that form the corpus of First World War literature.

The re-purposing of these texts, the common thread that unites these films, is their treatment of the war as lived experience. They cover the personal, the public, the wealthy, the poor, the horror, and the joy.

Much of the set’s 21 hour running time is given over to dramatized reconstruction of the impact of the war on ordinary lives. 14 Diaries of the Great War follows men and women from either side of the conflict as they navigate their way through the war years and observe the changes that they wrought. Their stories play like tragedies in a minor key.

We meet Charles Edward Montague, a journalist for the Manchester Guardian who finds that his advanced age doesn’t diminish his "appetite for danger" and who persuades a recruiting sergeant to admit him to a regiment, where he remains even after his romanticism is brutally excised by the realities of life on the front line. A wealthy Scot, Sarah McNaughtan, volunteers with the Red Cross in the hope that her "patented patriotic smile" will serve as sufficient disguise against her real feelings at arriving in "an atmosphere of bandages and blood".

Like the best diaries, these dramatized texts reveal wider changes as well they do personal ones. The German Käthe Kollwitz records the entrenching of nationalistic feeling that took hold, noting that ‘we, dedicated social democrats, are hanging up the Kaiser’s flag’. In London, 24-year-old Gabrielle West, a well-to-do munitions worker, looks at a sky pregnant with Zeppelins and documents the insecure feeling that "England is no longer an island".

Our World War was initially broadcast on BBC Three, the corporation’s dedicated channel for the 16-34 age group -- and it shows. A three-part anthology series, the dramas follow young men in key moments, including the first engagements in August 1914, the advent of the Pals’ Battalions and the introduction of the tank. Intense and frenetic, each episode mixes personal drama with animated maps in an effort to explain the often confusing situations. Kinetic camera work and an anachronistic soundtrack (including at one point, Teenage Kicks by the Undertones) create a sense of vivid urgency that may annoy the purists but goes some way to reminding us that the war itself was loud, exciting and full of the immediacy of violence.

A pair of documentaries, the feature-length Churchill’s World War and the two-part Royal Cousins at War offer top-down history, the war as the personal soap opera of the aristocratic class. Churchill, a man whose life has long read better in retrospect, had a disastrous (at the time) First World War. He began the war as the First Lord of the Admiralty, a position that gave him political control of the Royal Navy. Convinced, with no little arrogance of his superior military mind, he masterminded the disastrous Dardanelles campaign and went in search of redemption to serve as an enlisted man. Royal Cousins at War begins by noting that in 1914, ten European states had direct descendants of Queen Victoria at their head and reimagines the war from the point of view of an especially bloodthirsty family dispute.

The authored pieces are more interesting. In Women of World War One, the BBC’s former Chief News Correspondent Kate Adie, no stranger to war zones herself, tells the story of the war from a female point of view and examines what the war changed for women and what it left the same.

In The Pity of War Harvard historian and gleeful controversialist Niall Ferguson presents his case for why the war should be considered a mistake. Taking an odd format of interactive lecture, The Pity of War gives Professor Ferguson a platform to make his point, assisted by colossal digital graphs and archival footage before he turns to a selected panel of experts for their take. Ferguson’s argument, which he arrives at via his familiar method of counterfactual history, is that had Britain not entered the war, it would have been limited in scope; a strictly European war that Germany would have swiftly won. Their resulting dominance of the continent, he asserts, would have resembled the modern European Union. It’s a fantastical argument, which includes noted experts Professors Gary Sheffield and Sir Hew Strachan.

Where Ferguson’s case enjoys the most merit is in its assertion that the entry of Britain to the war fostered an escalation of hostilities that swiftly turned into stalemate. Part of the raising of terms was in Britain’s naval strength, unmatched at any prior moment in history and in Germany’s land power. The two sides were not quite evenly matched. Indeed, as Ferguson points out via colossal digital graphs, Germany was a smaller force that was simply more efficient at killing. Every German killed cost the allies £7,500 GBP. Germans managed to kill their opponents for a much more reasonable £2,300 GBP.

What the Allies lacked in efficiency, they made up for in imperial strength. In 1914 The European powers between them controlled 40 percent of the globe, and it was this that truly turned the war from a European one into a world one. The greater part of the imperial possessions were held by Britain and France, whose empires were looked on by German eyes that were initially envious, then fearful and finally opportunistic. In the excellent two-part documentary The World’s War: Forgotten Soldiers of Empire, the Anglo-Nigerian historian David Olusoga examines this imperial aspect.

One of the highlights of the box set, is that it takes the perspective of colonial encounter, investigating the cynical exploitation of colonial forces by the British and French and the brutally racist cries of "not fair" on the part of the Germans. In the second part, Olusoga explores German attempts to foment uprisings in the Arab world and the genocidal activities of Paul von Lettow-Vorbeck, the military commander in German East Africa, who ran Askari forces against British soldiers. The British brought Indian soldiers to East Africa, prompting the spectacle of Indians fighting Africans on African soil on behalf of Europeans. These intense skirmishes and his defeats of British forces turned Lettow-Vorbeck into a "Teutonic hero" in Germany; his reputation is less polished in Africa, where his actions cost three quarters of a million lives, many through starvation as a result of his raiding.

These engagements were significant for those who took part in them and for those countries whose nascent independence movements received a shot in the arm as a result of such naked exploitation. It is telling, however, that Olusoga has to begin his account by making a case for examining the global aspect at all. He points out that the first British shot of the war was fired by an African in Africa, emphasising the global nature of the war, while still necessarily placing it in a European context. Not for the last time would a domestic European argument involve the neighbours.

The deserved centrepiece of the set is I Was There, which collects interviews, conducted and filmed in the '60s, with veterans of the 1914 generation. Originally produced for the 26 part series The Great War, over 250 interviews were conducted, a selection of which have been restored and digitized for presentation here. The interviews are honest, raw and, while filled with emotion, absent of the mawkish sentiment that characterizes modern retellings.

That is not to say that they aren’t heartfelt; several of the accounts are filled with powerful emotion; a woman’s story of life without her husband is particularly so, but they have the honest feeling of lived experience rather than the ersatz emotion of unrecalling "remembrance".

Appropriately for such a comprehensive war, the testimonies cover a wide range of topics. The agonising wait for the call to go over the top is one; "The longest hours and the shortest hours in life," says one interviewee; "I never knew that even borrowed time could last so long," says another. Also examined are the tactics of aerial warfare. "Dogfights were too dangerous an occupation. We preferred stalking," one speaker says.

One respondent even breaks a cardinal taboo by admitting that at times, the war was rather fun. At those times, the war resembled "a sort of out of door camping holiday with the boys," he says. "with a slight spice of danger to make it interesting." There are tales of raucous times on leave, flirting with French waitresses amid throaty renditions of "The Mademoiselle from Armentieres", the full lyrics of which he decided were too risqué to recall in peacetime.

What is most striking about the interviews is how vivid they are. When faced with unspeaking gravestones it becomes too easy to forget that, for good and for ill, the war was the most exciting time in its participants’ lives and that for them, it wasn’t a pious hymnody but the dirty, funny, frightening and heartbreaking reality of their youth. The biggest shock of the war wasn’t any particular battle or any specific loss, but its eventual ending. Many didn’t know what to do. Says one man of the war, "For some of us it was practically the only life we'd known." It was life, though, and we would all do well to remember that.

Splash image: Old barbed wire from

To be a migrant worker in America is to relearn the basic skills of living. Imagine doing that in your 60s and 70s, when you thought you'd be retired.

Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century

Publisher: W. W. Norton
Author: Jessica Bruder
Publication date: 2017-09

There's been much hand-wringing over the state of the American economy in recent years. After the 2008 financial crisis upended middle-class families, we now live with regular media reports of recovery and growth -- as well as rising inequality and decreased social mobility. We ponder what kind of future we're creating for our children, while generally failing to consider who has already fallen between the gaps.

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Very few of their peers surpass Eurythmics in terms of artistic vision, musicianship, songwriting, and creative audacity.

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame nominating committee's yearly announcement of the latest batch of potential inductees always generates the same reaction: a combination of sputtering outrage by fans of those deserving artists who've been shunned, and jubilation by fans of those who made the cut. The annual debate over the list of nominees is as inevitable as the announcement itself.

The Hall of Fame has been harshly criticized for some of its more inexplicable exclusions and for neglecting certain subgenres of music. Cynicism and negativity over the Hall's selection process and membership is fairly widespread. That said, despite the controversies and legitimate gripes, induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is still widely viewed as a career milestone. The Hall's stature feeds its surrounding controversies: after all, nobody would care to argue so vehemently about the merits of one artist over another if it wasn't important. Very rarely will a newly inducted artist miss the opportunity to appear at the star-studded ceremony to accept their honor.

The criteria for nomination is as follows: "Artists -- a group encompassing performers, composers and/or musicians -- become eligible for induction 25 years after the release of their first commercial recording. Besides demonstrating unquestionable musical excellence and talent, inductees will have had a significant impact on the development, evolution and preservation of rock and roll." Specifically for performers, "This category honors bands or solo artists which demonstrate musical excellence. Such a descriptor includes (but isn't limited to) influence on other performers or genres; length and depth of career and catalog; stylistic innovations; or superior technique and skills."

These standards allow the selection committee wide latitude with their choices, and generating a list that would create zero controversy is an obvious impossibility. As for those deserving artists yet to be included, their time will surely come. There has purportedly been an emphasis on increasing diversity among the nominating committee and voters in recent years, and the list of contenders for the class of 2018 reflects this.

Radiohead, as expected and deserved, are nominated in their first year of eligibility, and there is little doubt they will be inducted. Other nominees include Bon Jovi, Kate Bush, the Cars, Depeche Mode, Dire Straits, Eurythmics, J. Geils Band, Judas Priest, LL Cool J, MC5, the Meters, the Moody Blues, Rage Against the Machine, Nina Simone, Rufus featuring Chaka Khan, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Link Wray and the Zombies. It's a strong and varied group.

Perhaps the most pleasant surprise on the list, however, is the British duo Eurythmics. Even though they've been eligible since 2006, this is their first nomination. Dave Stewart and Annie Lennox certainly deserve recognition for their important contributions to the musical fabric of the last 40 years. While Eurythmics have always been generally respected, they've never been darlings with the critics like some of their contemporaries. It's puzzling as to why. Very few of their peers surpass Eurythmics in terms of artistic vision, musicianship, songwriting and creative audacity. Lennox is second to noone as a vocalist, not just in her lead parts but also in the creative, often rhythmic way she uses her voice as an instrument. This nomination could boost the stature and perception of Eurythmics' body of work immeasurably.

Although Eurythmics are often consigned strictly to the synthpop genre, that designation fits only a portion of their repertoire. Each of their nine studio albums has its own unique vibe while retaining the duo's core identity. Eurythmics never repeat themselves, often taking bold risks and swerving in unexpected directions. Unlike many of their contemporaries, Eurythmics didn't "sell out" or compromise by chasing after obvious Top 40 hits. Even their most popular singles aren't commercial in the traditional sense, and they've always sounded like nobody else on the radio.

Despite the sudden emergence of their 1983 single "Sweet Dreams (are made of this)" as an MTV staple and international smash, Eurythmics are far from an overnight success story. Their story begins in London, 1975, when Stewart fortuitously encountered Lennox at the restaurant where she worked as a waitress. The Scottish singer had recently dropped out of the Royal Academy of Music, which she felt didn't suit her musical interests. Stewart and Lennox strongly connected over their love of music, and they quickly became a couple who were inseparable. Along with singer/ songwriter/ guitarist Peet Coombes, Stewart and Lennox formed a short-lived group the Catch. After one failed single, they added two members and renamed themselves the Tourists.

Coombes was the dominant creative force and primary songwriter behind the Tourists. Lennox and Coombes shared vocals on the band's dour and melancholy power-pop. The Tourists released three albums and managed a handful of chart appearances in the UK. Two of their singles, a peppy cover of Dusty Springfield's "I Only Want to Be With You" and the hard-rocking "So Good T\to Be Back Home Again", made the UK Top 10. The band toured extensively, but their success was fleeting. The Tourists' third album, Luminous Basement (1980), tanked badly despite containing their strongest material yet, and the group dissolved shortly thereafter.

Lennox and Stewart also endured a painful ending to their sometimes tumultuous romance, but they recognized the power of their musical chemistry and decided to continue working together as a duo. They were a pair "who couldn't be together, and who could not be apart", as Lennox reflects many years later in the song "17 Again". History has shown that they made the right decision: Stewart and Lennox compliment each other intuitively through a shared passion for music, the thrill of experimentation, and the need for emotional release that songwriting and performing allows.

The name Eurythmics was derived from a technique used to teach music to children based on sensory and physical methods of learning rhythm. The newly-christened duo signed with RCA Records and in early 1981 headed to Germany to record their debut album with highly-respected krautrock producer Conny Plank.

Plank already had a long string of acclaimed albums to his credit, including collaborations with Neu!, Can, Ultravox, Kraftwerk and Brian Eno among others. The sessions for what would become Eurythmics' debut album, In the Garden, were held at Plank's studio in Cologne. He brought several of his regular collaborators into the proceedings, including bassist Holger Czukay and drummer Jaki Liebezeit of avant-garde rockers Can, Blondie drummer Clem Burke and D.A.F. electronics whiz Robert Görl. Stewart has described the sessions as a learning experience that helped expand his perception of what pop music could be and how it could be created without following any rules, a perspective that served Eurythmics well.

Eurythmics' austere and hypnotic debut single "Never Gonna Cry Again" was released in May 1981. They filmed a low-budget video and landed a couple TV slots to promote the track, but the song's haunted nature did not translate to mainstream success: it barely scraped the lower reaches of the UK singles chart. A second single, the dreamy guitar-rocker "Belinda", followed in August but failed to chart.

In the Garden was finally released in October 1981, but without a hit to generate momentum it was barely noticed. Despite scant sales figures, the album's gloomy psychedelic guitar-pop makes for a rather strong debut. In the Garden exists in late summer shadows, densely atmospheric and shrouded in a veil of dread. Lennox's vocals are understated, subtle and lower in the mix than on subsequent albums. Sound effects, odd vocalizations and bits of sonic experimentation fade in and out like flashes of hazily repressed memory.

RCA wasn't eager to invest in a follow-up to In the Garden after its disappointing reception, so Stewart financed Eurythmics' second album largely through a personal bank loan. Faced with a minuscule budget, they worked in a London warehouse to avoid spending money on studio time. They were able to purchase cheap second-hand equipment for the sessions, including the basic TEAC 8-track on which most of the album was recorded. Adam Williams, former bassist for the ska band the Selectors, helped the duo learn the equipment while co-producing some of their earliest tracks.

The primitive set-up was the ultimate blessing in disguise. Since they were financing the sessions and self-producing, Eurythmics had the freedom to experiment with no oversight. As both Lennox and Stewart were enduring periods of deep personal strife at the time, the sessions evolved into an emotional and creative catharsis that helped shape the mercurial nature of the music. It was out of this environment that a classic was born.

Despite appearing only a few months after their debut album, the first single to emerge from the new sessions proved radically different than any of Eurythmics' prior work. Released in April 1982, "This Is the House" is a flamboyant, horn-driven spectacle on which Lennox belts out a vocal more confident and brash than any of her prior work. The song's odd mix of synthpop, R&B; and latin influences renders it completely unique, but despite its infectious ingenuity and beguiling loopiness (or perhaps because of it), "This Is the House" failed to chart.

The follow-up single that landed two months later is even better. Entrancing and soulful, "The Walk" exudes the anxiety, drama and innovation that became Eurythmics' hallmark. The vocal arrangement is ingenious, and Dick Cuthell (known for his work with Madness, the Specials, Fun Boy Three and others) lets rip a blistering trumpet solo. As in many of their songs, "The Walk" slowly ratchets up the tension through hypnotic repetition and the gradual addition of more layers of sound until it reaches a haywire frenzy. Although a brilliant recording, "The Walk" fared no better than its predecessor.

With the duo's second album Sweet Dreams (are made of this) completed, RCA began a strong promotional push, issuing the opening track "Love Is a Stranger" as a single in November 1982. Lennox's dazzling vocal ranges from icy cool to fiery passion over a relentless electric groove bracketed by sinuous lines of synth. "Love Is a Stranger" rose to #54 in the UK, their highest placement yet, and momentum was finally building for the duo thanks in part to the single's provocative video.

The first significant chapter in a series of visually arresting promotional clips that Eurythmics generated over the span of their career, "Love Is a Stranger" showcases Lennox's dramatic presence and her innate ability to command the viewer's attention. She plays multiple roles, ending the clip with her red hair slicked back and dressed androgynously in a man's suit. Image was quickly becoming an important part of the Eurythmics' equation, with Lennox always compelling no matter which character she inhabits, and Stewart often appearing as her sort of mad-scientist counterpart.

Sweet Dreams (are made of this) hit the shelves on 4 January 1983, along with its title-track, a single that continues to reverberate through pop music nearly 35 years after its release. Suddenly everything changed for Eurythmics. An obscure British duo, barely managing to survive in the music business, soared to the top with one of the more unconventional songs ever to scale those lofty heights.

"Sweet Dreams (are made of this)" has an unusual structure, with no real verses or chorus. Lennox has described it as a mantra, and indeed it is. The lyrics, which Lennox rattled off spontaneously in a matter of minutes, are a simple but profound statement about the human condition: "Everybody's looking for something," the search for meaning and fulfillment, the ephemeral "this" of which sweet dreams are made.

Lennox begins the song with a single line of vocal, then starting with "some of them want to use you" at the 0:24 point it doubles. From there the song gradually builds intensity, with the vocals increasingly layered. A masterful finalé combines all the sonic elements before fading to black, the mantra repeating endlessly, the "this" still stubbornly undefined. The booming minor-key bass riff and the epic string-motif solo starting at 1:31 are played by Lennox on a Roland Juno-6 synthesizer. The main riff (improvised by Lennox while listening to Stewart working on a drum-machine pattern), is a simple two-bar arpeggio that loops throughout most of the song. Two parts were recorded separately and panned on opposite sides of the sound spectrum, creating a richly resonant effect. "Sweet Dreams (are made of this)" is no dated relic from the early days of MTV burdened by the limitations the time. Its massive waves of synth flood out of the speakers with enormous power, as inexorably as the tide.

The music video, which became wildly popular on MTV during its heyday, is forever entwined with the song in listeners' collective consciousness. The iconic image of Lennox in her masculine suit and flaming orange flat-top helps to define the new wave era. Her forceful demeanor, nervy confidence and the subtle nuances of her facial expressions amplify the song's inherent tension. She confronts the viewer directly by pointing right in our faces at the 0:24 mark. At 1:56, she offers a sly half-smile with, "some of them want to abuse you", and at 2:15 she pounds her fist just as the song reaches its dramatic apex. Stewart appears throughout the video stoically pecking away on the drum machine he used in the recording of the song, the Movement MCS Drum Computer MK1 (except for that part where he and the cow have, well, a moment… It's all in the eye contact).

After a slow climb up the US pop chart, "Sweet Dreams (are made of this)" was finally able to derail the Police's "Every Breath You Take" from its seven-week reign at the top during the week of 3 September 1983. It would be Eurythmics' only chart-topping pop hit in America, and it reached #2 in the UK. In the wake of Eurythmics' new-found fame, "Love Is a Stranger" was re-released, this time becoming a major hit on both sides of the Atlantic.

The album's deep cuts are every bit as strange and fascinating as its better-known singles. The ghostly "Jennifer" is a narcotic reverie of keyboard swells and spectral atmospherics. "I've Got an Angel" and "Somebody Told Me" are serrated neurotic fits, swerving dangerously off-the-rails from anything that would normally be considered pop music. A long and mesmerizing exploration of urban isolation, "This City Never Sleeps" is a powerful finalé. Sweet Dreams (are made of this) is an examination of the human psyche fraught with turmoil, a series of jagged recurring nightmares and anxiety attacks set to music that is soulful and experimental, melodic but eccentric, a stark electronic soundscape that bristles with horns and unexpected sonic jolts.

Next Page: Potent and Ferocious

This film suggests that all violence—wars, duels, boxing, and the like—is nothing more than subterfuge for masculine insecurities and romantic adolescent notions, which in many ways come down to one and the same thing.

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) crystalizes a rather nocturnal view of heterosexual, white masculinity that pervades much of Stanley Kubrick's films: after slithering from the primordial slime, we jockey for position in ceaseless turf wars over land, money, and women. Those wielding the largest bone/weapon claim the spoils. Despite our self-delusions about transcending our simian stirrings through our advanced technology and knowledge, we remain mired in our ancestral origins of brute force and domination—brilliantly condensed by Kubrick in one of the most famous cuts in cinematic history: a twirling bone ascends into the air only to cut to a graphic match of a space station. Ancient and modern technology collapse into a common denominator of possession, violence, and war.

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Here comes another Kompakt Pop Ambient collection to make life just a little more bearable.

Another (extremely rough) year has come and gone, which means that the German electronic music label Kompakt gets to roll out their annual Total and Pop Ambient compilations for us all.

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Winner of the 2017 Ameripolitan Music Award for Best Rockabilly Female stakes her claim with her band on accomplished new set.

Lara Hope & The Ark-Tones

Love You To Life

Label: Self-released
Release Date: 2017-08-11

Lara Hope and her band of roots rockin' country and rockabilly rabble rousers in the Ark-Tones have been the not so best kept secret of the Hudson Valley, New York music scene for awhile now.

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