Number Ones: #114


  • EURYTHMICS Beethoven (I Love To Listen To) (RCA)
  • Week Ending 24th October 1987
  • 5 Weeks At #1


“This is…..extraordinary. Have you played the B-side by mistake?”

(Morrissey, guesting on Radio 1’s Singled Out/Round Table, October 1987).

No Moz, it wasn’t the B-side. Eurythmics really had gone a bit bonkers. Well, completely bonkers actually.

All that slick, guitar-driven AOR that began promisingly with Would I Lie To You? in April 1985 but descended into a creative cul-de-sac by the end of 1986 with the bland Revenge era, was consigned to the bin. Dave & Annie didn’t just go back to their spooky electronic soundscapes of Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This), they torpedoed their carefully crafted transatlantic power pop and stood well back, laughing manically as it disintegrated.

“Who knows what they’ll decide to do. Who knows what they’ll get up to!”.

From its pounding, hypnotic intro that quickly begins to disorientate, the fractured bizarre refrain of “I Love To…Listen To” which turns into a mantra….and then the coup de grace…Annie Lennox as an unhinged housewife, conjuring up twisted scenarios in her bored mind….Beethoven is absolute, shocking genius.

Where the hell did this come from? What happened to the band of Thorn In My Side and When Tomorrow Comes, the safe and radio-friendly, multi-platinum unit shifters?

Nothing that happened in the 1980s, not Kevin Rowland returning as an Ivy League clothes-horse mumbling about newly wealthy peasants with home bars and hi-fis on Don’t Stand Me Down, not even Terence Trent D’Arby sabotaging his potential for pop domination with Neither Fish Nor Flesh, can match the sheer unexpected, jaw-dropping disbelief that greeted Beethoven. Although, in contrast to those other examples, mostly in a good way.

We kind of suspected Kev was the sort of wayward maverick who might go off the rails one day, and TTD certainly never hid his eccentricities. Eurythmics, though, they’d become almost an industry byword for consistency and reliability. Suddenly we had a dowdy, disturbed Annie Lennox scrubbing down the bathroom while showing an unhealthy interest in what “a girl like that” and a boy “who’s looking for trouble” might possibly end up doing.

“I’d love to know. Wouldn’t you?”.

Now, if Morrissey – the man who subverted pop norms as a matter of routine – finds a record extraordinary, it must be pretty out-there. And it was.

The levels of pent-up rage and bile being spewed by the central character was perfectly captured by Lennox; perhaps too much so as she’s seemed to spend the rest of her career avoiding anything as raw or powerful as the themes and lyrics of the parent album Savage. In interviews at the time, she alluded to the anger at having to helplessly watch her father dying a painful death from cancer being a trigger for Savage‘s dark and twisted menace; and the jolt from Revenge‘s comfortable AOR to this, was brutal.

Autumn 1987 was a strange, unsettling time. Black Monday, the Storm, the King’s Cross disaster….I had also just entered into the worst phase of my own personal Hell….so I was primed to embrace this unfettered Eurythmics, laying waste to all expectations and letting their ambition and intelligence run free. The pop world was full of Rick Astley, T’Pau and Wet Wet Wet. No thanks. I was trapped in blacked-out rooms, struggling to hold on to some kind of sanity as my body went into a tailspin, so what better soundtrack than Savage? I needed something……….extreme.

It was a sign of Eurythmics’ commercial standing that not even a deranged masterpiece such as Beethoven could totally derail their chart career. The single managed, somehow, to reach #25, but album sales did suffer for a while.






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