Following the departure of Peet Coombes, Eddie Chin and Jim Toomey from the Tourists, Annie Lennox and Dave Stewart formed a new project: the Eurythmics. Already established and comfortable with performing live by the time of their duo’s formation, Eurythmics saw them leaning further into the experimental and avant-garde.
To celebrate their achievement in being inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, Lennox and Stewart took the time to sit down with Pollstar and reflect on their successful careers.
Pollstar: Congratulations on being inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. What does it mean for you to be included?
Dave Stewart: I don’t know how it feels to be proud because it’s not something internally I’ve ever experienced. Everything with most artists is met with a little bit of anxiety, a bit of doubt. It doesn’t matter how many achievements you’ve made or how many records you’ve sold or how many awards you’ve got if you don’t have that doubt. It’s the thing that keeps you going on wanting to do something more and get better. … I suppose before my name it’s now going to say Rock & Roll Hall of Famer Dave Stewart. And it’s interesting because we were inducted by Stevie Wonder in the UK Hall of Fame 25 years ago or something like that. And all sorts of different countries and awards. But I realize now, only when people started talking about us going to be inducted, how big it’s perceived. This is going to be another thing on top of a pyramid of stuff that is almost like the crowning jewel.
Annie Lennox: It’s a really lovely thing. And it’s not as if one looks for these kinds of achievement points. Artists, musicians, we don’t make music to get awards and acknowledgments. If they come, that’s a bonus. I’m very delighted. It’s an honor, because you look back at history and see who’s been inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, it’s mind blowing. The musicians are extraordinary. So you think, “Wow, that’s an amazing company to be part of, to be considered to be worthy in terms of popular culture.” I love it because you couldn’t get a more eclectic mix.
Can you tell me a little bit about your first-ever live show as the Eurythmics?
Lennox: We were in a hospital. And it was me singing and with a whole reconstruction as we were trying to gauge how a group could perform live with synthesized sounds. We had pre-recorded tapes and just a very different way of doing things. And Dave had a lot of pedals for his guitar that would trigger other sounds. It was very experimental, mad.
Stewart: Annie and I were more sort of electronic European. And so we were looked at as kind of quite odd, quirky. I had to play four instruments. I had a guitar hanging on a string. It was a bass and a guitar joined together like a double neck. On my right I had a synthesizer and I concocted this idea to operate our own lights, so we have a foot pedal to switch on, and I had one of them that switched the light on above my head. It created an interesting effect. And then we had repeat delays, so sometimes the audience looked confused, like “Hey, they must be miming. How are they doing that?” Because Annie’s singing harmony on top of ourselves. But it was all clever trickery.
Which live show felt like the biggest catalyst in your career? The one where you walked off the stage and felt as though your whole life was about to change?
Stewart: We got the news that [“Sweet Dreams” went No. 1] in San Francisco. … We didn’t know what to do with ourselves, but that night in San Francisco there was a line all around the block. We played the show, which was like, bananas. Everybody was going nuts. And we went out to a club afterward and everybody was going crazy in the club. I think we both realized a massive seismic shift.
Lennox: In my memory, it’s all a bit of a blur because there was just so much to it. I guess the one moment that was really a life changer was being told that “Sweet Dreams” had arrived at No. 1 on the American Chart. And I knew then that okay, this is really serious. We’ve been working and working, and all of a sudden the song is No. 1 on the American Chart, which was another surreal thing.
Were there any shows you wanted to perform, but circumstances prevented otherwise?
Stewart: Live Aid. We were the first people that were asked, Bob Geldof was a really good friend. It was an incredible concept and it would’ve been amazing. But we didn’t perform because Annie, at the time, the doctor had told her she was getting nodes on her throat.
Lennox: Yes, I still think about it to this day. We were invited to Live Aid. It was a big deal, and we just wanted to be part of it. And I had laryngitis … I was so frustrated I couldn’t take part in it.
What were some of your favorite live performances throughout your career?
Stewart: We played in Rome and the Pope was our opening act. The Pope spoke and there was something like 300,000 people outdoors, and then we came on and performed. It was so bizarre. And then I got involved in helping Nelson Mandela create a way in which people could hear and donate using the telephone. Bono and I went around America for about eight days trying to get people to sign up to come with us. And Beyoncé came [to perform]. It was the largest concert in the history of Africa, in Cape Town at Greenpoint Stadium. It all came together. It was one of the most complicated things to do. We also had Peter Gabriel, Queen with Brian May and Roger Taylor, and it was the first time they performed with a new singer.
Lennox: Nelson Mandela’s birthday, we played Wembley Stadium along with some other phenomenal artists at the time. [It was] a beautiful collective message to offer support to Mandela, who was still incarcerated in Robin Island in South Africa at that point. We were supporting him, but really we were supporting anti-apartheid. We were giving a collective statement. That was really powerful and uplifting. It was unforgettable to do that. And there was a series of concerts we played around the Berlin Wall coming down. We performed in front of the Berlin Wall, which was just about to come down, with East Berlin on one side and we’re on West Berlin on the other. And that’s pretty significant. It’s these things music can do to bring attention.