Touch is the album responsible for my 30 year love affair with Eurythmics. Like most of the western world I discovered the duo via their hit “Sweet Dreams,” in 1983. It’s undeniably one of the great pop songs of the 80’s. But Touch is the album that grabbed me and turned me into a fan, but also something more than a fan.
I can remember memorizing and analyzing the lyrics to each and every song; staring at the album cover as the record spun on my turntable; and, in non-cable-ready 1980’s Brooklyn, staying up until 12:30 AM at the end of the week hoping Friday Night Videos would play one of their songs. Although I practiced the same level of near religious devotion with many other bands at the time – there was something about Eurythmics’ music that had meaning for me, connected with me on a personal level, perhaps, more than any other. Somehow this new wave group from the UK perfectly synced with the sensibilities of a 16-year old African-American kid from Crown Heights – and that relationship has endured for 30 years. It feels almost impossible for me to sum up how and why I feel the way I do about this band in a single post – – so let’s do this in stages. Let’s start off by talking about Annie Lennox’s voice.
A voice that simultaneously sends chills down your spine and warms your heart. At one moment you feel like the singer is turning her back on you and the next, running towards you for an embrace. Within one song she conjures a myriad of emotions – love, anger, fear, hope. The voice is vulnerable. It’s brittle. It soothes and it twists the knife.
Read the lyrics of the first four lines of “Who’s That Girl,” the first song on Side B.
The language of love
slips from my lover’s tongue
Cooler than Ice cream
and warmer than the sun
This person she sings about sounds pretty great. You’d want to wake up next to him every morning, right? But listen to her sing these lines and immediately it’s a completely different story.
Even without hearing the rest of the song you’re suspicious of this lover – his motives, his actions, his words. What Is Lennox conveying – is it nostalgia tinged with cynicism? A mixture of joy shadowed by fear? Continue listening and you know it’s all of the above. Yes, love is a stranger, but it’s also a minefield – and an unfaithful lover is just one of the dangers leading to a broken heart.
As a teenager you begin to take steps into adulthood without realizing it. If you’re lucky, you fall in love for the first time and begin to understand how surprisingly complex relationships can be. Sometimes you have moments of pure, easy joy. And then eruptions of jealousy and fear. For me, the music of Eurythmics and other pop bands were like a little pocket manual. “Oh – I’ve never felt this specific feeling before – but it does remind me of what Annie/Michael//Tina/Daryl/Paul are singing about.”
Now, pop music is less of a manual and more of a beacon – a way for me to remember and reconnect with some of the feelings and experiences I had 30 years ago. And Annie Lennox guides me back like no one else.