Great music has always sprung from adversity, be it in this era rooted in the social deprivation of The Specials’ Ghost Town, or the pain of a war widow’s loss on Robert Wyatt’s Shipbuilding.
Annie Lennox and Dave Stewart were living almost hand to mouth when they returned home after the break up of The Tourists whilst in Australia. Stewart eventually happened on a pair of synthesizers, but couldn’t make them produce what sounded like music until one day at random the basic imprint of Sweet Dreams emerged, Lennox improvising a melody in response. Not that they – or initially their record label – knew it, but the outcome would shape their future forever.
Sweet Dreams is an excercise in deception: Lennox – androgynous, sporting crimson, close cropped hair in the iconic video – sings like a soulful angel, but the words are about the vanity of the record industry, whilst Stewart’s rudimentary programming is compulsive and hypnotically simple. Rarely since have the bad times made for something so good.