Sunday, September 03, 2023

Weekend Diversion: 1983, Part 8

And my series of posts about the Number One hits of 1983 is back! 40 years ago today, on September 3, 1983, a new song, "Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)" (above) by UK duo Eurythmics became Number One for one week, ending the eight week reign of “Every Breath You Take”. I said at the end of Part 7 in this series that “Sweet Dreams” was “one of my favourite pop songs of all time”, so that must mean I remember where and when I first hears it, right? Of course not—but I DO remember where I first saw the music video above.

Eurythmics was formed in 1980 by singer Annie Lenox and Dave Stewart, after their previous band, The Tourists, broke up. The first Eurythmics album, In the Garden, was released in October 1981, but had little success. Their second album, Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This), was released in January 1983 and changed everything for them. The album went to Number 5 in Australia, 6 in Canada (2x Platinum), 2 in New Zealand, 3 in the United Kingdom (Platinum), and in the USA, 15 on the Billboard 200 album chart (Gold).

According to Lennox, the song is about the unhappy time the duo were in after the break-up of The Tourists, when they thought their dreams might never be realised. The song also came together after Lennox and Stweart had broken up as a couple.

While the song immediately caught my attention because its sound was so very unique (those opening synths!), it was the music video that sealed the deal: It was unlike anything I’d ever seen—though, to be fair, music videos were still a pretty new art-form at the time. The cows and Lennox’s look were so captivating that every time I heard the first beats of the song, I’d turn and watch the video.

Lennox said that she chose her look because she “was trying to be the opposite of the cliché of the female singer”, and that she “wanted to be as strong as a man, equal to Dave and perceived that way.” According to Stewart, he wanted the make the video “a commentary on the music business but also make something a bit performance art – weird and dreamlike.” The cow in the boardroom was apparently signifying reality.

When I first moved to Chicago, it was becoming increasingly popular for LGBT bars to play music videos, and at one time there were two big bars that specifically played videos (and I first saw so many great 1980s videos in them). There were also several other bars that had more traditional set-ups, but they nevertheless played videos, and among them was one that wasn’t far from the apartment I moved into in October 1982. That bar, The Closet, opened in 1978 and is still there today. When I first moved into the neighbourhood, I wasn’t sure if I’d be welcome, since it was as the women-owners still describe it, a “women-dominated bar”, however, I quickly learned that gay men were welcome there, too, and I stopped in there many times. That was most likely the first place I saw the video for “Sweet Dreams”.

One thing I find interesting about the song is that it was actually the fourth single from the album, and after its success, they re-released what was the third single from the album, “Love Is a Stranger”. The song wasn’t a success in its first release, but was fairly successful in its second release.

At any rate, the “Sweet Dreams” single was certainly a success: It was Number 6 in Australia, Number One in Canada (Gold), Number 2 in New Zealand, Number 2 in the UK (2x Platinum, and, of course, Number One on the USA (Gold) on both the “Billboard Hot 100” and on the ”Cash Box Top 100”.

This song was and is still one of my favourite pop songs because of the driving synths at the opening, the unique look of the video, and—well, all the other stuff that makes us connect with a song, and, in this case, that includes that I first heard it at the time I was just beginning to live my life as an out gay man. It was an exciting, thrilling, energising time in my life, and those synths are absolutely part of my life’s soundtrack from that era. More importantly, maybe, I never got sick of it as I did of other songs (including the one that preceded this song at Number One). That’s no small thing.

This series will be back next week with the new Number One hit from that week in 1983. It’s another song I liked in that era, though certainly not as much as "Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)".

Previously in the “Weekend Diversion – 1983” series:

Weekend Diversion: 1983, Part 1
Weekend Diversion: 1983, Part 2
Weekend Diversion: 1983, Part 3
Weekend Diversion: 1983, Part 4
Weekend Diversion: 1983, Part 5
Weekend Diversion: 1983, Part 6
Weekend Diversion: 1983, Part 7
Weekend Diversion: 1983 – And also
Weekend Diversion: 1983 – And also more


Roger Owen Green said...

Hmm. I might need to add this to one of my extant blog posts. But which one? Hmm?

Arthur Schenck said...

I can empathise. I'll be interested to see if you come up with anything. ON the bright side, there are only six more of these posts this year.