Consisting mostly of a live set shot just before they became worldwide sensations, Eurythmics’ Sweet Dreams Video Album (aka “Live from Heaven”) captures Annie Lennox and Dave Stewart at their most experimental. Within a year, they’d go from being a struggling band lugging their own equipment around to grossing more than some small countries.
This endearing performance was shot at Heaven, London’s notorious gay “superclub” in 1983 (known at the time for its amazing lasers—among other things—which are used throughout). At this point, Annie Lennox was in her gender-bending “Grace Jones” mode, and sports a man’s suit, hat and bright red hair.
When Annie Lennox and Dave Stewart left The Tourists to form Eurythmics in 1981, they traveled to Cologne to work with noted German producer Conny Plank on their first album, In the Garden. Some of the musicians involved were Can’s Holger Czukay and Jaki Leibezeit (billed as “Les Vampyrettes”), DAF’s Robert Görl and Blondie’s Clem Burke. Karlheinz Stockhausen’s son Markus was also on the album. (Annie Lennox would record a lot of the vocals for Robert Görl’s 1984 solo LP on Mute, Night Full of Tension.)
“Never Gonna Cry Again” was the first single and along with Burke and Czukay, who looks like an absent-minded old guy who just wandered onstage to jam with his French horn, they debuted the number on The Old Grey Whistle Test:
A second notable Eurythmics recording with decidedly more avant garde co-conspirators than most people would assume would be a fit, was the darkly pulsating “Sweet Surprise” single they recorded with former Throbbing Gristle members Chris and Cosey, released on Rough Trade in 1985. Lennox and Stewart are not mentioned on the sleeve which shows a photo of Chris & Cosey beside two silhouettes with question marks. They are credited on the label, though.
The fact of Vanessa Paradis (proudly displaying her Jane Birkinesque diastema) and Dave Stewart (a neon Serge Gainsbourg) singing Lou Reed’s “Walk On The Wild Side” is evocative enough in and of itself. But there’s an added dimension to this video that makes the whole thing kind of spooky and more than a little bit clammy. Watching Paradis performing a duet with Stewart, who looks uncannily like a combination of the future father of her two children, Johnny Depp, and Depp’s frequent collaborator Tim Burton plus his former lover and collaborator Annie Lennox, is like watching a re-tooled version of “Lemon Incest” for the MTV generation…without Gainsbourg’s real incestuous vibe.
As the echoplex of history loops in upon itself, let’s ponder other elements of this time warpy video.
Paradis’s cover of “Walk On The Wild Side” appeared on her 1990 album Variations sur le Meme T’Aime, the same year that Depp and Burton’s first collaborative effort, Edward Scissorhands, hit the big screen. 1990 was also the year that Lou Reed re-united with John Cale and the other members of The Velvet Underground to play a charity gig in Paris. The last time they had played together was 1972, the year that Paradis was born. Add up the numbers in 1990 and you get 19. Paris 1919 is the title of John Cale’s third solo album.
Exactly 19 years after singing her duet with Stewart, Paradis covered the Serge Gainsbourg song “Ballade de Melody Nelson” with Johnny Depp.
Sigmund Freud was 19 years older than Carl Jung. Flight 19 disappeared in the Bermuda Triangle. The Qur’an teaches that 19 angels are assigned to guard the fires of Hell. Which brings up the question: “where were those angels when this video was made?”
“Walk on the Wild Side” is 40 years old. So is Vanessa Paradis. Jesus fasted 40 days and nights….
Poetry of the Western World Read By Celebrities and Collected by Clare Ann Matz is a fab selection of poems read by Ralf Zotigh, Wim Wenders, Dave Stewart, Billy Preston, Ian Astbury, Dario Fò, Robbie Robertson, Allen Ginsberg and Solveigh Domartain.
The video starts with Ralf Zotigh reading the Ancient Native American fable - “Today is a Good Day”:
This is followed by Wenders reading from Walt Whitman’s Inscriptions (“To A Certain Cantatrice”). Dave Stewart, erstwhile of the Eurhythmics, reads William Blake’s “Sick Rose”, then, the late Billy Preston (first silently, then with soundtrack) reads Dylan Thomas. Ian Astbury, of The Cult (and clearly no fan of Dylan Thomas!) also reads, from the same poem, “Should Lanterns Shine”. Dario Fo, Nobel-prize-winning playwright and theater-director, reads (in Italian) Andre Breton’s “Fata Morgana”. Robbie Robertson, Bob Dylan’s confrere, comes in next, reading a selection from Allen’s “Song”” (“Allen wrote this. huh?”), and has some difficulty following the syntax (“an the soul comes..”? “and the soul comes..”?). Allen himself follows (with the aforementioned reading of “Father Death Blues”). Wim Wenders’ Wings of Desire “angel”, actress Solveigh Domartain, concludes the tape, returning once more to Allen’s poem - “the weight of the world is…love”.