@#$% Preconceptions: Eurythmics, “In the Garden”

Written by Music

Preconceptions can be a bitch.

Lemme give you an example. Back in 1981, I bought an album by a band called The Tourists, whom I knew nothing about, and, upon first listen, promptly became the hugest Tourists fan in southwestern Michigan. Okay, competition wasn’t exactly fierce.

Still, I never read a word about the band in the many rock magazines I devoured, nor did I see them on MTV (their video for “I Only Want To Be With You” may have aired a few times, but since I didn’t have cable, I never knew it) and, thus, they joined the growing list of obscure bands I loved, but knew little about.

A couple years later, former Tourists Annie Lennox and Dave Stewart, having begun recording as Eurythmics, were enjoying worldwide stardom on the heels of their second album, Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This). Even though their music and faces were everywhere, I had not yet made the connection to their past.

Truth be told, by the time I did realize that they had been members of the Tourists, their singles had been played so often on the radio, Friday Night Videos, and the like that I didn’t think actually hearing the rest of the album would reveal any new surprises. I’d heard their music, thought it was decent enough, but just wasn’t compelled to join them for this ride.

Here’s where the preconceptions come in.

You see, from such singles as “Here Comes The Rain Again” and “Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This),” I had jumped to the conclusion that Eurythmics were simply a synth duo whose icy, minimalist arrangements were only slightly thawed by Lennox’s soulful vocals.

And, while they certainly added to their sonic palette with subsequent releases, going so far as to record much of Revenge with a full band that included ex-Blondie drummer Clem Burke, I still never felt it was anything more than a new shirt they were trying on for the moment.

To think of all the times that I had seen their debut release, In the Garden, in the import bins, yet had never felt compelled to explore an album the rest of America knew nothing about. I had always wondered why their first album had not been released in the US, nor why it was not instantly released once Sweet Dreams took off (much like the first Duran Duran album was issued in the wake of Rio’s Stateside success).

Then yesterday I found myself in Reckless Records with some time to kill. Already holding an Eric Carmen compilation (I’ve never owned a Raspberries or Eric Carmen album either), I happened upon the Eurythmics section and found a used copy of the duo’s recent deluxe re-issue of In the Garden. I decided then and there that I needed to own this album and, at long last, to make room in my collection for a Eurythmics record.

Damn those fucking preconceptions. In the Garden is the kind of record that, had I heard it when it came out, would have led me to buy anything and everything by the band. My ideas that it was a stiff, synth-heavy album, perhaps a bit under-developed compared to their more commercially-successful material, was put to rest within the first two songs.

Additionally, my already-unconditional love for the late producer Conny Plank has been fortified by finally hearing this record. He had produced the Tourists’ magical Luminous Basement, after all (among many, many others – the least of which, Belfegore’s lone Atlantic Records release, remains sadly out-of-print). Just seeing his name in the credits had put my mind at ease as I browsed In the Garden’s liner notes and one listen to the record gave me chills.

Did I mention those pesky preconceptions? Who’d have thought the one track featuring French horn by Can’s Holger Czukay (“Belinda”) would be a full-on guitar-driven rocker laden with layers of angelic Lennox-ian harmonies? Plus, who knew that Clem Burke played on this album? His kinetic drumming propels the material wonderfully. As far as song titles go, “Caveman Head” is just asking for preconceived expectations of disposable kitsch and bad humor, but it’s actually one of the album’s better cuts. “Take Me to Your Heart” is another standout track, mixing an anglo-reggae bass groove with brittle synthesizer lines that seem most certainly inspired by Bowie’s Berlin era.

And, wow, Annie Lennox…what can one say? She is without equal, even at this early stage in her career.

So, whatever preconceptions (heretofore referred to as misconceptions) have kept you from discovering this record, dispense with them immediately. You’ll thank yourself for doing so.