Annie Lennox and Dave Stewart Have Sweet Dreams to Make Eurythmics a Household Word

updated 12/19/1983 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 12/19/1983 AT 01:00 AM EST

Dave Stewart's bad luck started when he left his wife and ran off with the lead singer in an all-girl punk band known as the Sadista Sisters. "It was about 1975," he recollects, "and they were an outrage outfit, wearing safety pins in their ears, the whole thing." In the year that followed, the British-born guitarist would suffer through three car crashes, assorted mental shake-ups from his heavy use of "pharmaceuticals" (cocaine, acid and speed) and deportation from Holland for trying to filch a free train ride.

Stewart's good luck began the next year when, back in London, a friend introduced him to a part-time waitress named Annie Lennox. "She had this big carved-wood harmonium in her one-room flat, and she sang these stunning songs for me," he says. "You know how normally when you meet somebody you fall in love with, you sort of go through tentative stages? Well, there was none of that. It was like I didn't know her one minute, and the next minute we were living together."

Though the couple's bedding arrangements proved impermanent (they split four years later), their musical partnership has been one of ongoing sweet synergism. Dubbing themselves Eurythmics (with no "the"), Stewart, 31, and Lennox, 28, blend strains of European techno-rock with danceable, blood-rushing rhythms into music that's eerily atmospheric. This year RCA released an album the couple had recorded in a makeshift eight-track studio set up in a London warehouse. Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This) has now spent 30 weeks on the Billboard charts, helped by a title song that became a No. 1 single.

While Stewart and Lennox share the duo's composing and musical skills, it is Lennox the singer who dominates their stage act. Clad in a tailored man's suit, with her bristle-cut hair dyed to a flaming orange (from "my natural mousy blond") and her piercing blue eyes, she projects icy cool androgyny one moment, classic come-hither beauty the next. "A singer of huge range and emotional power," rhapsodized one London Times critic after hearing Lennox sweep effortlessly from operatic highs to gravelly, shoe-bottom lows at a recent performance.

Offstage, similar ups and downs have characterized much of Lennox's life. The only daughter of a bagpipe-playing boilermaker and his wife, she grew up in Aberdeen, Scotland, in a two-room tenement flat with an outside toilet. At 17 she headed south to enroll at London's Royal Academy of Music and pursue classical studies in piano, harpsichord and flute. Very quickly, "I realized that I didn't fit in," she recalls.

Dropping out three years later, just before her final exams, Lennox drifted through odd jobs, wrote poetry and tried "to figure out what I was going to do." The answer came one day when a roommate in her London flat played a Stevie Wonder record. "It touched me—the joy, the freedom, the form of expression," Lennox explains. "It made me realize that the person I was turning into liked that kind of music, not Hector Berlioz concerts."

Stewart, her collaborator-to-be, found Ms inspiration elsewhere—in bluesman Robert Johnson, Bob Dylan and the early '70s English glam-rock band T Rex. Raised by well-to-do parents in Sunderland, England, he left home at 15, shortly after his mother, a child psychologist, and his father, an accountant, had divorced. After attending a concert by the Amazing Blondel, the first live band Stewart had ever seen, he claims to have stowed away in the group's equipment van and later talked his way into a six-week stay with the startled musicians. By 19 he had scuffled through a series of guitar jobs(including a stint in an opening act for Elton John) and had married a 16-year-old student.

Stewart's later linkup with Lennox would prove more productive. In 1978 the lovers teamed professionally with three other musicians as the Tourists and had five Top-40 British singles. Despite their success, even then "Annie and I were going off in our own direction," notes Stewart, and the group disbanded in 1980. That same year their romance cooled ("We'd seen each other about every minute; it was becoming too claustrophobic," says Stewart), but their musical collaboration continued—with Eurythmics.

Although carrying on musically after the split "was not the easiest thing," Lennox feels her subsequent breakdown and year's layoff were caused by "personal things. My self-esteem dropped to an all-time low, and I was suffering from agoraphobia. Life had become so intense." Despite having tried therapy, she still admits to feeling "desperately lonely" at times. "You might say I've had a love affair with pain," reflects Lennox. "Much of my creativity has derived from that."

These days the couple apply their creativity in the old north London church they've converted into a recording studio. Next year they will tour Europe and the U.S. and possibly Japan and Australia. Touch, their newest album (due in the U.S. in January), promises to keep the pair playing to capacity crowds. The immediate fulfillment of that promise, however, has been jeopardized by the discovery of nodules on Lennox's vocal cords, a painful affliction sometimes requiring surgery, often cured by rest. But with 250,000 advance orders on Touch in Britain, Lennox is off the stage and at rest, dreaming sweet dreams of stardom.

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