Culture

Madrid Hoy

Pedro Gonzalez
A Gig in Madrid
Photo by Olga Garcia

In Madrid the spirit of La Movida, a liberating time comparable to Swinging London, lives on: well after the death of Franco; through the terrorist activities of the Basque separatists; and it will continue, in spite of 11 March 2004, when Al Qaeda killed civilians -- Spaniards, Moroccans, Ecuadorians, people from the Dominican Republic, Cuba and China -- during their morning commute.

Saturday, 10 April, early evening in the bustling central station of Madrid, Estación Atocha, located in one of the busiest districts in the downtown area. I am in Spain for my Easter break as now I live in Manchester, England. I am not in this country looking for sun and leisure, or to indulge in some decent food such as my favourites cocido (a stew made of chickpeas and meat, a typical dish from Madrid) or a seafood garnished paella, as my English friends always tell me I should do when I go to Spain. Rather, I just want to have some time with my family and friends and enjoy myself without the exhausting demands of recreational travel. Prior to arriving in Madrid, I travelled to the south of Spain, Seville and Cordoba, where it is customary in my family to gather during the Easter break, but coming to Madrid today holds special meaning.

First, I have a feeling of nostalgia as I look through the window of my second-class carriage. There are some distinctive features about this city; one is simply the Madridian sky in the vital springtime. It is a wide, clear sky only darkened occasionally today with some passing clouds. While growing up in Madrid I never thought its sky was anything extraordinary, but having since lived abroad for 14 years of my life in cloudy Great Britain, I am now fully aware of its influence. My tip for somebody who visits this city in the spring season is to look up to this blue sky. It is like a fine curtain in the atmosphere, lightly embroidered with a few little clouds in the horizon. The suns rays shine through with a vigorous splendour. Photographers complain that in the bold natural light of this city colour timidly fades. Madrid's lightness is an ironic feature for a city that lives the night with greater intensity than the day.

The other feeling that comes to me as I set foot upon familiar ground is grief. As I leave through the main entrance of this great and beautiful station, with its main hall converted into a greenhouse of tropical trees, I feel drawn to the other entrance, the one for the regional trains. Near this entrance flowers, candles, and emotional letters lay in homage to the 202 dead and 1,700 injured, victims of the "11 March " bombings. So many people on a seemingly typical Thursday commute with no idea of where the mystery trains would take them. Their next stop wasn't Hope (as Manu Chao sings to us in Próxima Estación: Esperanza, "Next Station: Hope") as probably any young passenger would have heard in his headphones from the very popular album of this French artist, so loved in Spain (the home country of Manu's parents). For some, it was a one-way ticket to the "other side". The bomb blasts of 11 March are Madrid's equivalent to New York's "September 11".

It is not that Madrid hasn't seen terrorism before. Madrid has been the arena for various terrorist actions, mainly instigated by the Basque Euzkadi Ta Askatasuna (ETA), its tactics become more violent in the current democratic Spain than in the time of General Francisco Franco's dictatorship. But now, in a time when the Basques have achieved their own parliament and their provinces are among the wealthiest of the country (and therefore the ETA eludes any comparison with the Irish Republican Army), Spanish people wonder why any Basque would still want to kill for his cause. It is true that in the time under Franco there was a certain sentiment of affinity among some groups of the Spanish left wing and the Basque nationalists, as when, in December 1973, ETA assassinated the Prime Minister Admiral Luis Carrero Blanco in Madrid with a calculated bomb. This was two years before Franco's death. For the Spanish left wing this killing was celebrated, as it meant that the strong political arm of the dictatorship had disappeared: the one who could have stopped the democratic transition after Franco's death was no longer a problem.

However, Al Qaeda had never before committed a terrorist action on Spanish soil. It is likely that former Prime Minister José Maria Aznar's alliance with the United States and United Kingdom in the Iraq war might have been the catalyst of the 11 March bombing of Madrid's commuter trains. As a result of this brutal carnage, the general election, held three days afterward, changed the pro American government of the Popular party for the more European leaning, anti-Iraq war, Socialist party.

I catch a taxi outside the Estación Atocha. The cab drivers in Madrid like talking to their passengers and soon my driver, Sebastian, engages me in a conversation about 11 March. He was in the area when the seven bombs, some of them concealed in a backpack inside two of the cars, exploded. Witness to the magnitude of the tragedy, he, and many others driving in the area helped to carry some of the injured to the closest hospital. Sebastian points to a stain on the back seat, just a few centimetres to the right of where I sit, "This is blood from one of the victims. I rubbed at it for hours but it doesn't come out," he says, his voice shaking. "My wife said that I should keep it to make my passengers remember how horrible it was, but I would rather change the upholstery. If you saw what I saw you don't want to remember it." We share an awkward moment of emotional silence. Shortly we drive by the Bernabeu Stadium, the Real Madrid football club home, and we change to more trivial talk about football.

Sebastian is a supporter of Real Madrid, the club that has won the most competitions in the Spanish league and garnered many trophies in the European champions tournament (a competition that reunited the European winners of their respective leagues), but he is not happy with this year's performance. Real Madrid was knocked out of the European Championship after being defeated by Monaco. The dream team (or "Galacticos" as this team is called in Spain) that Real Madrid has obtained with the signing of some of the best players in the world, such as the English footballer and icon Beckham, the French Zidane, the Brazilians Ronaldo and Carlos, the Portuguese Figo, and the Spanish Raúl, have not lived up to their expectations. "They don't deserve the many millions these footballers earn", says Sebastian.

The Spanish obsession with football is probably the Spain's feature most in common with Britain. For both countries, football is more than a sport — it really is like a religion. The English supporters wear the colours of their teams any day of the week, game or not, as proof of complete devotion; while in Spain football is a passionate topic, often leading to loud arguments as fans watch their team playing on the television set hanging on the wall of a local bar. A football match between Real Madrid and Barcelona sets off many sparks between Spain's two largest cities; the division a faithful reflection of the political tension between the central government and the autonomous government of Catalonia. For some Spaniards, Real Madrid represents the team of the Central administration; Franco himself, and most of his cabinet, took a special liking to Real Madrid. The Real Madrid flag blends with the Spanish national flag as the Real Madrid supporters wave them. On the other hand, Barcelona is the team that most symbolizes the aspirations of the Catalan region, with Barcelona's colourful flag blurring with the bicolour Catalan flag.

Sebastian lets me off at my flat, and I quickly call my long-time friend, Andres, to meet at our favourite hangout. I take the tube this time, definitely the fastest way to travel in this city with its crazy, busy traffic. As I arrive at our rendezvous, Andres and his girlfriend, Eva, wave to me from the back of the bar. La Via Lactea ("The Milky Way") bar has long been an important place in my life and that of my friends. This music bar is where I used to DJ on Sundays before I moved abroad. La Via Lactea is located in the middle of the district of Malasaña in the downtown area of Madrid. This area was one of the epicentres of the "La Movida" years in the late '70s and early '80s (movida is a Spanish slang word to mean several things, including "movement", "thing", "scene" or "action").

During the La Movida years, the bars in the Malasaña district played rock music until late hours, and venues providing live music had people lined up outside their doors, winding along the narrow streets. La Movida was a period of artistic effervescence and excitement, and it was certainly not exempt from exaggerated behavior and general craziness, as Madrid was in the throes of changing from the bureaucratic old town of Franco's times to one of the most hedonistic places in Europe. Sex, drugs and rock 'n roll were intrinsic to these explosive times. At last, the former grey administrative capital of Spain had lost its inhibitions. It happened at the same time as the Punk revolution in England and the United States, which was the real musical catalyst of Spain's teenage movement. Young Madridians were tuned to the happenings in London and New York, but Madrid's long nightlife was the real background of this scene. It seemed that every night there was a new bar to discover, such as the emblematic Rockola (the Madridean equivalent to such important clubs in the New York musical scene as the CBGB or the London 100 Club), and the music bar "Penta" in the Malasaña district.

New bands such as Nacha Pop, Alaska y los Pegamoides, Derribos Arias and Radio Futura were some of the most charismatic bands emerging in this scene, a scene that included many different styles from the Power Pop of Los Elegantes and Los Nikis (the Madrid response to the NYC Ramones), to the industrial and futuristic sound influenced by the American band, The Residents, and the British anarchists, Throwing Gristle, to Esplendor Geometrico. The scene included the straight punk of Kaka de Luxe and Siniestro Total, the Catalan bands of Los Rebeldes and Loquillo y los Trogloditas, afterpunk and gothic rock in the same vain as Bauhaus or Killing Joke with Paralisis Permanente and Gabinete Caligari ( the latter evolved gradually to a more "Spanish style", mixed with a more traditional concept of a rock band). Live music pounded through club walls into the narrow streets of Madrid. When I tried to tell my English mates about what it was like to be in Madrid during La Movida, I had to make a comparison to swinging London in the '60s, a time that changed the spirit of the city and shaped it into something new. Consider the swinging '60s set in Spain after 40 years of a dictatorship. Then you can imagine how eruptive and vital La Movida was.

Economic and political progress underway, Spain entered the European Union in 1986. Meanwhile, Spanish fashion designers such as Adolfo Dominguez and Agata Ruiz de La Prada began their meteoric careers. So, too, film director Pedro Almodovar, who, in two of his early films, captured the mood of the La Movida years; Pepi Lucy Boom y otras chicas del montón and Laberinto de Pasiones. The charismatic living-on-the-edge rocker and photographer Alberto G. Alix took his camera wherever he went, compiling photographs into one of Spain's best kept memories of those crazy years when nobody seemed to sleep.

After so many years away from Madrid, this bar, La Via Lactea shows little change. There's the sexy, rock chick waitress, wearing that revealing, low-cut blouse and mini skirt, her dark hair falling over her chest, looking much like the Indian woman in Vixen, the famous film of ample-bosomed women by Russ Meyer. There's the DJ in his black Misfits T-shirt, tight black jeans, and long hair dyed black and cut in fringes, emulating the style of the band, The Kings of Leon. The music is the same kind of rock as before: The Cramps, the Ramones, the Fleshtones, the Rolling Stones, and local heroes, such as Sex Museum, a hard rock band with a punk attitude in the same vein as the New York band from the late '70s, The Dictators. But also, now the music includes the White Stripes, the Libertines and the Strokes. Things in Madrid don't change as fast as they do in Manchester, where venues easily change name and atmosphere within the year. Andres, who has lived in Madrid all his life, doesn't see it in the same way, and told me that the "little has changed" feeling I have is only a feature of the Malasaña district; other areas have changed considerably since I left.

Eva suggests dinner nearby. We go to a pizzeria in the 2 of May Square, named after a popular uprising against the French invaders in 1808, in support of the Spanish Royal family, who were on the way to exile ordered by the troops of Napoleon. The Madrileños went to the streets to fight the French with anything they could get their hands on. This dramatic episode in Spanish history was captured by Goya in his famous painting, Los Fusilamientos del 3 de Mayo (The Executions of May the Third), which illustrates the bloody reprisals the day after the uprising. I wonder if the victims of the 11 March will be remembered in the same way.

After dinner, we move on to Huertas Barrio, a 10-minute drive from Malasaña, and I began to realise what Andres was talking about. The city centre of Madrid has definitely changed. The change has mainly occurred as a result of the new influx of people from all over the world now living in this city. We pass a venue that provides live African music, another with Salsa music, a long queue at its door, and a Moroccan restaurant with Rai music seeping through its walls. We choose the quieter atmosphere of the Café Central, a jazz bar with live performances nightly. The wail of saxophones mixes with our cheerful mood, our mood lightened with the help of a few Cuba libres (rum and coke cocktails). The saxophones provoke us to get off our seats and dance swingingly to the mellow tunes by the Brazilian quartet. Eva, an innate and spontaneous dancer of elegant and gentle movements, has drawn the attention of the audience and soon other dances join us, while the musicians contently play more of their samba-jazz numbers.

After the band's last song, we set off for Vistillas for the last round. This area is in the historical part of the city. Its origins can be traced in its mixture of medieval, architectonic style from Mudejar (a combination of Christian and Arabic architectural styles that flourished in Spain during the medieval era) to baroque. Opposite of La Vistilla stands the Royal Palace, with its modernist style of the XVIII century. Indeed, the evolution and expansion of Madrid can be appreciated through its architecture.

Near one of the bridges that separate the Medieval Madrid from the Modernist Madrid is where you can find El Mescalito, a Tex-Mex and country bar. This is Andres' favourite bar, as he is a big fan of this music. Its orange walls are adorned with black and white photos of reputable musicians of country and Tex-Mex music such as George Jones, Willie Nelson, Flaco Jimenez, Los Lobos, and Graham Parson. I read that Charlie Parker, after an exhausting gig, used to go to a bar that had a country music jukebox. He'd get really quiet and tell his sidemen, "listen to their stories". It is true, country music has a knack for great lyrics. Listening to Johnny Cash sing a "Man called Sue" while sipping a coffee and enjoying a Cuban cigar is a great pleasure; on such occasions, time stops for a moment.

A friendly group joins us. One of the girls says, "Whenever we want a quiet night we come here from Mostoles" (a satellite town at the outskirts of Madrid), "Madrid is a bit down after the bombs and the country ballads are perfect for our spirits". Her words are echoed in the last song played, "Hurt" by Cash. The part that goes, "Everyone I know goes away in the end" put us all in a sentimental mood. We grow silent as the last bars of the song fade away.

It is now 3.30am on Sunday, 11 April. We decide to get some rest, as it is customary to go bargain hunting in the El Rastro flea market on Sundays, and after the flea market, we'll top it off with a late afternoon tapas crawl around the streets of nearby Plaza Mayor. After a few hours of sleep, we're up and out, again.

El Rastro is located in the Lavapies district, an area recently patrolled for illegal immigrants and terrorist fundamentalists by the most reactionary groups of the Spanish political spectrum. It is true that one of the terrorists involved in 11 March had a business selling mobile telephones in this area, where the mingling of nationalities is a distinctive feature of this bohemian district. But jumping to xenophobic conclusions about the Moslems living here is an assumption as far-fetched as declaring all the Basques living in Madrid are terrorist suspects. The Lavapies district is also working class, of left wing and anarchist tendencies (where the historic anarchist Spanish group, National Workers Confederation, also as known as CNT, still keeps its main office). In the '70s Lavapies was largely Bohemian; young artists from the country came to this district for its cheaper rents and convenience, as it is located in the heart of the downtown area of the city (a kind of Madrid version of New York's Greenwich Village). It was in Lavapies that La Movida arose. In the '80s, Lavapies was the scenario where the Okupa (squatters) movement had its base.

The City Council regards Lavapies as a high-risk area of criminality and underworld life. In the early '90s, conservative Mayor José María Alvarez del Manzano promised to clean the area of trouble, which basically meant he closed bars and nightclubs and had a permanent police force repress any group of unidentified foreigners. Junkies gathered in the central districts of Madrid, but despite the problems that come with drug addicts in the neighbourhood, police intervention was never welcome by the locals. Residents had their own way of sorting out their own problems. Lavapies is a place of solidarity, faithful to its history of left wing sympathies, so residents promoted their own progressive and integrationist initiatives through cultural associations. They formed civilian local patrols to discourage drug users and dealers. Remarkably, the squatters were rarely seen as intruders and their relation with the locals was in most cases friendly. The emigrants that arrived in the late '80s and '90s, including Moroccans, Ecuadorians, people from the Dominican Republic, Cuba and China, found Lavapies tolerant: now, Spanish bars stand next to African shops, Turkish Kebabs, Chinese Supermarkets, and Caribbean greengrocers. The conservative and "straight" people rarely venture into its streets but for Sunday, when the popular Rastro flea market makes equals of us all.

We have been to the flea market and out for dinner and it is night, again, and time to leave the market and my friends. I say goodbye to Andres and Eva and take a taxi home. Castellana Avenue is strangely quiet as we drive. This driver, a more serious character than Sebastian, doesn't talk much. The radio fills the silence. The broadcaster reads the news and plays music on request. A remembrance for the victims of a month ago is followed by Camarón de La Isla, the Flamenco cantaor, singing the popular lullaby composed by Spanish poet Federico Garcia Lorca "La Tarara". This is the perfect tune to end my long weekend. Buenas Noches, Madrid.

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
Amazon

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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7

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
Amazon
iTunes

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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