Happy 30th Anniversary to Eurythmics’ seventh studio album Savage, originally released November 9, 1987.
In America, the summer of 1982 marked the dawn of the “Second British Invasion,” an expression coined by critics of the era to describe the phalanx of British talent making headway stateside, akin to the original “British Invasion” of the mid-1960s. Out of that band of invaders, there were Eurythmics, comprised of vocalist/lyricist Annie Lennox and producer/instrumentalist David Stewart. Their alluring presence reached out and seduced audiences with their icy, synth-pop.
When the bubble of the Second British Invasion finally burst in the autumn of 1986, marooning many of their contemporaries on the craggy shores of R&B, hip-hop, AOR and several dance music transmutations, Eurythmics had the foresight to change their sound two years beforehand with their fifth LP, Be Yourself Tonight (1985). The album found the duo embracing the paths of R&B and AOR, opting for classic soul for the former tip and an edgier take of the latter tip. The follow-up to Be Yourself Tonight, Revenge (1986), was even more stylishly succinct in its execution of this sonic composite.
By the conclusion of the globe spanning tour for Revenge, Eurythmics were being haunted by the electronic and dance aesthetics espoused on earlier efforts. Returning to a previous creative corner would have been artistically anachronistic, for them. More importantly, these genres were in constant evolutionary flux by 1986. Eurythmics’ last gesture to these sounds was three years earlier with their clubland hit, “Sexcrime (Nineteen Eighty-Four).”
But Lennox and Stewart had been paying attention to the changing climate. Stewart had seen what the popular studio gadget, the Synclavier, had accomplished in music production, genres aside. Making use of this tool was a significant step forward for Eurythmics to enter the modern spheres of electronic and dance in 1987 with their seventh long player, Savage.
Written, recorded and produced in studios in Normandy and Paris from early-to-mid-1987, Savage turned away from the “band style” of the two preceding efforts and let the Synclavier birth almost all of the music on the project. Only select guitar and keyboard parts, played by Stewart, broke Savage’s chilly digital surface. Additional staff, in a non-engineer and mixing capacity, was limited to drummer Olle Romo, who joined Stewart to program the Synclavier. But, dictation of the musical mood for the LP came from its songwriting and Lennox’s lyrics take on a more fiercely feminine tone than ever before here.
The “modern woman,” recast as a facsimile of Lennox via the darkest aspects of her psyche, is far from passive on Savage. She rejects the constraints of one-sided romance (“You Have Placed a Chill in My Heart”) and societal shallowness (“Shame,” “Savage”); but, it’s the stream-of-consciousness rant of “Beethoven (I Love to Listen To)” that brings these two themes to a palpable boiling point in her admonishment of them. The song’s story tracks the emotional claustrophobia of the character Lennox sketches; in the confines of a domestic pressure cooker, her anxieties build, violently exploding by “Beethoven’s…” midpoint. Its beat pounds, its rhythms contort, its groove spasms, all of it enthralling listeners. And so it went throughout Savage’s run time, relating to the lyrical influence upon the set’s sonics. The record’s beats, rhythms and grooves are hard, intricate and funky (“You Have Placed a Chill in My Heart,” “Put the Blame On Me”), but they’re also laced with a panoply of addictive, meticulously manicured melodies and effects (“I’ve Got a Lover Back in Japan,” “Do You Want to Break Up?”).
The companion video anthology, that’s only ever seen a VHS format release, was piloted by director Sophie Muller. It strings together a complementary visual plot that tightens Savage’s scripted themes, giving Lennox room to bring her anti-heroine to wild-eyed life, as a peroxide blonde femme fatale born out of a wallflower brunette housewife. An example of this is the music video for “I Need a Man,” grimy and glamorous, it partners well with the fiery rock ‘n’ roll performance that stands toe-to-toe with Revenge’s “Missionary Man.” “I Need a Man” was one of three other tracks — “Savage,” “I Need You,” “Brand New Day” — to briefly break the esoteric electro-funk hypnosis of Savage at large. Though Savage claimed the rare gold of looking backward while moving forward, it couldn’t save the record from formally introducing Eurythmics to their first commercial and critical declines upon its reveal on November 9, 1987.
From the fall of that year to the following spring of 1988, “Beethoven (I Love to Listen To),” “Shame,” “I Need a Man” and “You Have Placed a Chill in My Heart,” were sent out to entice a mainstream audience to buy the package. They didn’t bite and, subsequently, sales for Savage were sluggish, especially in the United States, but the United Kingdom awarded the collection an eventual platinum certification.
Two more albums (1989’s We Too Are One and 1999’s Peace), two successful solo careers and two reunions have occurred since Savage arrived on the block to bewitch a seemingly taciturn public. Though it’s taken 30 years, the spell of Savage has shown itself resistant to time’s wear and tear, and now, its intended targets, are more susceptible to its ruminative charms than ever before.