At Le Studio Parisien, a funky warehouse in a predominantly Arab district of Paris, an English photographer is directing Annie Lennox to insert the beak of her Mardi Gras-style bird mask into the yawning mouth of Dave Stewart’s matching mask.
“That will look nice and odd!” says the photographer.
As Dave and Annie tilt and fumble into the awkward position, a phalanx of Eurythmics assistants anxiously look on, and the male members of a French video crew smirk and roll their eyes. Annie, as though suddenly aware of the ludicrous sexual imagery of the pose, extracts her beak and rips away the mask.
“No! I don’t like it!” she says, and then disappears into an adjacent dressing room.
The Frenchmen, reacting swiftly to the departure of the star, who’s banned all smoking in her presence, fire up Gauloises and Marlboros with a vengeance. Défense de fumer is just too much to ask during this long day’s journey into logistical nightmare: a photo session for the album cover of Be Yourself Tonight, plus a series of video promos, plus a video interview and performance — all controlled by two relentless perfectionists.
Not that Eurythmics are temperamental, their minions assure you. They simply insist on personally calling the shots on every little thing they’re involved with. As Annie explains later, referring to her and Dave’s previous group, the ill-fated Tourists, “It was a very good bad experience that made us learn a lot very quickly, and we just don’t want to repeat the mistakes.”
Now they’re trying to repeat the successes. Hunkered down in Paris to record their fifth album, they’re sticking with the frugal approach that yielded their first hit, “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This),” from a tape made in their home studio. They’ve rented a cheap rehearsal loft and outfitted it with equipment trucked in from the Church, their headquarters in London. And for good luck, they’ve brought along the console “Sweet Dreams” was recorded on.
But today, after a month of laying down basic tracks for the album, the luck seems to have worn as thin as Annie’s joie de vivre. Cool and aloof in black pants and turtleneck, she worries a mournful melody on the piano between technical snafus. Satie? An original? “It’s nothing really,” she mumbles, eyes to the ivories. “Just some lost chords.”
Down the hall, the frustrated photographer, an ex-boyfriend of Annie’s named Peter Ashworth, grumbles about his losing battle with the “damned masks.” The French techies look just as defeated but remain diplomatic. “Eurythmics are pop fantastique, no?” says the sound man, crouched beneath the servile stare of a big black butler — a giant statue Annie bought in a trendy Les Halles boutique.
As day winds down into night, an assistant with one eye on the plummeting mood barometer gets apprehensive over the last question in the video interview: Where would each of you be today if you’d never met? But Dave, ever ready with the quips, saves the take.
“I would be Tina Turner’s houseboy!” he says.
“And I’d be working in a fish factory,” says Annie, following his lead. “And I’d definitely have fifteen children.”
Dave jumps up, grabs a guitar. Annie picks up a mike and joins him for a wild, impromptu blues-funk workout. It climaxes with the duo rolling on the floor, entangled in a web of cables, stars and staff laughing, punch-drunk with fatigue. Then word arrives that José Menendez, executive vice-president of RCA/Ariola, has pulled up in a Mercedes. Like a kid whose parents have come home in the middle of a party he’s not supposed to be throwing, Dave assumes a nothing’s-out-of-the-ordinary attitude and strides off to greet the VIP. Annie escapes to her dressing room.
“I’ve been working hard all day, and I’m tired. That’s my excuse,” she states flatly, folding onto a sofa.
The vibe: No politicking, please. I want to be alone.
I love you like a ball and cha-ya-ain . . .
Annie’s voice rings out from the studio down the hall. Dave, resident Eurythmics PR man, is holding an exclusive listening session for the exec.
I love you like a ball and cha-ya-ain . . .
With the sound of her voice winging like a boomerang from the studio to her dressing-room refuge, Annie Lennox walks calmly to the door and slams it shut. And then she drags a coat rack in front of it.
Oooh, Annie! Beat me, beat me. Make me write bad checks! You can lie to me any time you want!”
When the first single from Be Yourself Tonight hit the airwaves, outbursts like this one from New York DJ Marty Martinez cut through the hemming and hawing of critics. With nary a moody synth in earshot, “Would I Lie to You?” burned like a Sixties R&B raveup, recasting Eurythmics as Amerythmics as it climbed to the Top Twenty in England and the Top Ten in the U.S. But it was the video, in which bombshell-blond Annie ditches her britches and throws some wild curves to the boys in the back room, that really stirred the stew. Coming from the lady with the crimson crew cut who one-upped Boy George on the 1983 Grammy Awards show by appearing in male drag, it was a revelation. Those who’d found Eurythmics’ bittersweet pop too coy or Annie’s androgynous ice queen too hands-off were hard put to resist this Eighties answer to “Hit the Road Jack” as performed by Ike and Tina in whiteface. One video, it seemed, was able to prove what one gold single, one gold album and one platinum album could not: Eurythmics are warmblooded creatures.
For showbiz sleuths cruising the columns for insights into the lifestyles of the rich and famous, “Would I Lie to You?” also read like a video roman à clef. That tough biker whom Annie is giving the boot — could he be a stand-in for the Hare Krishna fellow she’s now divorcing? Then there’s fuzzy and adorable Dave: Annie’s creative other half, ex-lover turned big brother, irrepressible Eurythmics promoter. And — just like in real life? — he’s faced with a lovetorn singer and a show that must go on. “Be yourself tonight,” he whispers, consoling Annie with a pearl of wisdom that just happens to be the title of the new album.
If this was autobiography, cloaked and condensed in a musical capsule, then Annie and Dave had developed a flair for self-dramatization in the tradition of Lucy and Desi, Liz and Dick, Sonny and Cher. And if so, whatever happened to those synth-pop freaks of yore? Whatever happened to those damned masks?
London in June could be London any time — cold, gray, rainy. And Eurythmics in London could be Eurythmics anywhere — overbooked, overworked, overwrought. During a six-day period, they shoot videos for two songs from the LP, “There Must Be an Angel (Playing with My Heart)” and “It’s Alright (Baby’s Coming Back),” by day and edit them by night. Dave, whose 1984 agenda had him producing a string of artists, from the Ramones to Tom Petty, squeezes in producer’s chores for former Undertones singer Feargal Sharkey. Dave and Annie perform on Top of the Pops, England’s version of Solid Gold. And when they can be cornered, they rally defenses and speak their minds. Even Annie, despite her ailing voice. Some 175 concerts on four continents in 1984 took their toll, so Eurythmics won’t be touring this fall. And this is the reason they have gone video-active to the max.
The fragile state of her voice allows Annie an alibi for curtailing conversations, especially when they touch on tender topics like, well, the fragile state of her voice. “You can’t run on a broken leg,” she says in a husky murmur. “But I don’t want to talk about it. It’s too negative. Talking about my voice being fucked up is the worst thing I can do. It’s just made me depressed.”
That’s the mercurial Annie Lennox, demonstrating why she’s known as the girl who changes moods as often as she changes clothes. But to be fair, she seems a load or two lighter than she did in Paris. Dave seconds that emotion. “Annie’s becoming more optimistic, and I’m becoming a complete manic-depressive!” he says. “No, I think you either go really under — you know, you go mad ’cause you think, ‘Well, in fact, I am really screwed up’ — or you realize what you’re saying and work yourself out from it. I think a lot of that has helped Annie. She’s had to confront things because people are always asking her questions about herself.”
Annie agrees: “Sometimes I still panic and say everything’s too much But I think I’m through with all that now.” Be Yourself Thonight is the vinyl proof. Nearly every song on the album may deal with the heartbreak of lovers’ treachery and tristesse, but the music is defiantly upbeat. The most positive cut is “There Must Be an Angel,” featuring a harmonica solo by her childhood idol, Stevie Wonder. “It’s very tongue in cheek, but it’s also very transcendental,” she says. “It’s about that feeling of being uplifted, which I rarely ever sing about. I do feel it, you know, on occasion.”
The shoot for the “Angel” video was certainly such an occasion. At an Edwardian theater in Wimbledon, Eurythmics conjured up a rococo court opera, starring Annie as a divine diva and Dave as the Sun King, with a Ziegfeld production of nymphs, cherubs, transvestites, a castrato and a gospel choir choreographed by one Billy Poveda, Annie’s new beau. (They met in L.A., when he danced in the “Would I Lie to You?” video. Symbolism, anyone? He’s the guy who pulls Annie’s crazed biker lover from the stage.)
The sunny humor of this camp-kitsch extravaganza was undeniable but puzzling. Wouldn’t it obscure whatever inroads into normalcy Eurythmics may have made with “Would I Lie to You?” Or was that slice of life just a fluke? “It was a conscious decision,” says Dave, “at least on my part, to make the album more like real emotional situations, ’cause Annie and I are real people. I think we’re the most down-to-earth people I’ve met in the business. But I was getting a bit worried that people weren’t seeing us like that. Our original image wasn’t contrived; that’s the way we were at that time. But looking back, I guess we did look peculiar.”
So did those damned bird masks. Conceived as an ironic play on the title Be Yourself Tonight, the result looked more like the invitation to a satanic masquerade ball. “They were so S&M horror, a bit like a rapist’s mask,” says Dave. “The record-company president almost had a heart attack.” Not exactly the effect they had in mind. And finding the right effect was a costly endeavor. More abortive photo sessions wasted thousands of dollars and severed a relationship with photographer Ashworth that had survived his breakup with Annie. In the end, stills from the “Would I Lie to You?” video provided a solution and something of a lesson: looking like you’re being yourself can be as tricky as figuring out who you are.
Being themselves on video was easier. The roles in “Would I Lie to You?” were indeed designed to parallel their own in real life. “Annie’s had a really stormy time since we broke up, relationshipwise,” says Dave. “And I was always like the big brother after that.”
Dave was more concerned, however, with dispelling myths than dropping confessional footnotes. “Most of the world sees you on video, and they have no idea what you’re like live,” he says. “We’re this big band, and Annie is a really passionate performer, but none of that was coming out.” To counter, for example, Dave’s image as a mad Svengali programming computers (Annie actually plays most of the keyboards on the records; Dave plays guitar and produces), they curbed their bent for “strange, surrealistic” images, opting for “something with a raunchy live feel,” says Annie, who took some tips from a Marilyn Monroe movie. “She moved her hips in this incredible way, so I did that.” But with a sense of humor, Dave is quick to point out, since Eurythmics pride themselves on not blatantly trading on Annie’s sex appeal. “The thing is,” he says, “if we’d wanted to, Annie could have totally exploited the way she looks. We could have done a Madonna.”
Annie claims diplomatic immunity on the Madonna issue. She’ll only speak for herself. “When I started wearing mannish clothes onstage, it was to detract from what people had come to expect from women singers, the height of which was Debbie Harry, who I loved. But I felt I couldn’t be a sex symbol. That’s not me. So I tried to find a way to transcend that emphasis on sexuality. Ironically, a different kind of sexuality emerged from that. I wasn’t particularly concerned with bending genders. I simply wanted to get away from wearing cutesy-pie miniskirts and tacky cutaway push-ups.”
A rather simplistic explanation, it seems, considering her formidable talent for playing games of sexual subversion. The sinister lovers’ scenario of the “Who’s That Girl” video ends with Annie, as both man and woman, kissing herself in a bit of split-screen bravura. But Annie shrugs off avant-garde motivations and the risk she ran of confusing the public about her own sexuality.
“There have always been gender benders,” she says matter-of-factly, “and there always will be. I don’t know what people think of me. I don’t know if they think I’m gay or what; some people may. But nobody said, ‘God, Marlene Dietrich must be a lesbian.’ I never felt that [cross-dressing] took away from my femininity. I love wearing trousers. Anyway, I’ve got the most awful legs in the world. If I were forced to wear a miniskirt, I’d have to see a psychiatrist.”
Annie may have hung androgyny in the closet for now, but only so she can slip on other costumes. If people find the latest Lennox persona more feminine and less threatening, sexier and more real, then fine. But . . . “I’ll just play with it as long as I want to. I’ll play with what I want! I always will. It’s just natural for me to do that. I mean, it’s not like, ‘Oh, God, I must be seen as a sex goddess now!”‘ She frowns in mock reappraisal. “Although obviously I must, you know.”
Sunday at the church. Secular work proceeds with religious fervor at the former sanctuary converted to recording studio and business offices for DnA Ltd. — that’s D for Dave and A for Annie. While technicians for the video of “It’s Alright” buzz about, Claire Evans, Dave’s new girlfriend and personal assistant, shows snapshots of Dave’s high-tech pad in Paris to Billy Poveda, Annie’s boyfriend and personal assistant.
“Pain is pleasure; work is everything.” That’s the credo, says Billy, of the ballet dancer’s life he rejected in California. Caught up now as he is in the daily realities and abstractions of Eurythmetics, he doesn’t seem to have escaped it. He’s still on his toes. He says he’s keeping a low profile while Annie’s divorce is pending.
Darting from room to room in a white Nehru jacket and mirrored spectacles is Dave, the confessed “playaholic” in his element. You can tell he loves the chaotic scene that’s evolved at the Church: a motley mix of greenhorn and veteran musicians who drop by at all hours of the day or night to play on Dave’s many extracurricular projects or to make their own recordings, usually free of charge. Out of it has grown Anxious Music, Dave’s own record company, recently installed in a houseboat on Regent’s Canal, not far from his house in posh Maida Vale. This company and the three properties in London, the Paris apartment and a new house-studio combo in L.A. are the extent of his investments. “I wouldn’t, you know, do anything crazy, like buy a pie factory,” he says.
But sometimes you wonder. For instance, when he raves on about his concept for “It’s Alright.” The partially animated video will transform the simple Dusty in Memphis-flavored lover-come-back song into a melodrama about psychic love: Annie, injured in a car wreck, lies dying on an operating table while Dave is on an airplane in midflight. Through astral projection, his spirit rushes to embrace her spirit as it leaves her body.
Wow. Heavy. Even Dave has a giggle about the funny-strange plot, but he’s also serious. He had his own brush with mortality when his lungs were critically damaged in a car crash in Germany back in the Seventies. He doesn’t think he’s psychic, but the video, he says, is inspired by his “ESP” relationship with Annie and the coincidences that haunt his everyday life. Weird but true: Weeks later, when Dave gets word that Bob Dylan, whom he’s never met, wants him to direct his next video, you can’t help recalling that the latest Dylan album, which Dave had put on the office turntable during a break, was the only non-Eurythmics music playing at the Church that day.
Well, almost. The studio PA spurting out intermittent blasts of “It’s Alright” seems to be receiving interference from some otherworldly radio tower broadcasting the theme from The Twilight Zone. The making of this video must be casting a spell. Out in the Church’s alley, Annie shivers and hugs herself, despite her black turtleneck sweater and the sun bathing the steps where she sits.
“We really don’t understand a great deal about life after death,” she muses. “I feel this song embodies that unknown in a way. I was thinking about the good, gentle qualities that people have in their relationships, the things that pull us through, even though the physical body dies. It’s those grander, nobler qualities in human nature that endure. It’s like collective soul.
“Incidentally, your paper said I didn’t have any soul,” she says evenly, negotiating a segue that would inspire envy in the slickest dance-club DJ. “It was so painful to read. I felt like the writer had condemned me. I personally think I’m one of the few performers who has got a good deal of integrity and doesn’t sell out. I think I’m the last person who should be given that kind of knife in the back. I mean, to say the album’s poor is one thing, but to say I simply haven’t got soul, that’s — ooooooooh! But it’s all right.” She calms her voice to a stoic whisper. “I’m over it now.”
The offending review rallied Rolling Stone readers and other critics to Annie’s defense in public. Condolences poured in from fans and friends like Chrissie Hynde and, of course, Dave. “Certain people have the feeling — it’s a kind of angst,” he says later. “And Annie has it. It’s the way they approach things. That is soul, and there’s a lot of soul in Scottish folk songs. It’s very passionate stuff.”
A typical tempest in a teapot provoked by that rock & roll whipping boy, the musical mulatto working the musical no man’s land of blue-eyed soul. A classic Catch-22. But the analytical Annie, given to existential reveries, succumbs to emotion on this subject. She may change the color of her hair and the cut of her clothes, but the way she sings is not a matter of style, she maintains. “It’s not an intellectual choice, it’s an emotional thing. I choose what I feel. It’s heartfelt and very committed. It has to be, because it represents me. If it doesn’t represent me, it’s not any good. That’s all.”
But she does offer a theory on what motivates the blond, blue-eyed soul of a Sting, a Daryl Hall, a David Bowie or an Annie Lennox. “I suppose it’s all to do with people who have some knowledge of poverty — the struggle, you know, the struggle. I can’t say I really know the black experience, but there’s something in knowing about the rich and poor and the differences in class and not being able to get this and that.
“I’m Scottish, and I come from a very ordinary working-class family, very earthy,” says Annie, who grew up in Aberdeen, where her father worked in the shipyards. “And I have no illusions about life. I’m not a status sort of person at all. I don’t try to impress. And I feel that soul music — I mean, you’d have to take me to the psychoanalyst couch to really work it out. I don’t know. It’s just what I feel.”
With the sun creeping into the far corners of the alley, Billy comes out to drape a jacket around Annie’s shoulders. As he leaves, she focuses on the main man in her life. “Dave and I have a very unique bond,” she says. “I can’t imagine Dave not being in my life somehow or another, and I think he feels the same way about me. Our partnership . . . there’s something about it, you can’t see it, it’s an invisible thing, and I find it quite mystifying that there is this connection between us that is so powerful. People around us feel it as well. I’m always very touched by that. Dave and I have performed so many years together, and there was never any physical connection made [in public]. But in this video there is actually an embrace, and it’s one of friendship and support, which is very touching for me, because we’ve been through such a lot together.”
Annie is pleased to discuss her most enduring relationship with a man, one that’s lasted for most of a decade. But the others, like those with musician Robert Görl, photographer Peter Ashworth or her estranged husband, Radha R. Rohnfeld, are strictly off-limits. “I’m not somebody who wishes to draw attention to my romantic life or my emotions. Its been difficult, because at the same time that [the divorce] was announced, so was our album, so the papers wanted to write about me and my divorce instead. Since my divorce — “
“They’re ready for you now,” says Billy, reappearing as if on cue.
“I’ll be in in a couple of seconds,” says Annie. She sighs before resuming. “So it’s rather difficult, you see. It’s an area that is so personal, and I have to protect it. Otherwise, I’m open territory for everybody to come storming in. I mean, I’m fairly open about everything. But I just . . .”
A prisoner of fame beset by spies in the house of love. A cruel cliché. A very real dilemma. How does one cope?
“Very tricky that one, very tricky!” she says, lightening up as she rises to prepare for her big scene on the operating table. “Yes! Who can she trust?” she exclaims, suddenly casting herself as the heroine of a Hollywood tear-jerker. “Who wants her — who doesn’t want her for her money!”
A few weeks later, back in the U.S.A., Radha Rohnfeld is not so reticent. The thirty-two-year-old German-born Krishna devotee is embarking on a new career as a photographer and coping with his imminent divorce from his wife and former employer.
“For a while,” he says in a thick Teutonic accent, “every article on Eurythmics began with the fact that Annie was married to this Hare Krishna person, and she got very tired of that. Around the time we were breaking up, she got very strange. It was like she wanted to show the world she’s not so weird and crazy, that marrying a Hare Krishna was not such a good idea.”
Far from the stereotype of an ascetic, Radha laughs a lot and swears he’s not bitter, just mystified by the whirlwind turn of events. Vegetarianism, not kismet, sparked the romance when the erstwhile musician and Krishna chef came bearing nutritional gifts to a Eurythmics concert in Stuttgart in late February 1984. ” ‘Love Is a Stranger’ really knocked me over,” says Radha, who decided to tag along on the tour. “The first night, I slept in the hotel corridor in front of the toilet.” On March 14th, he and Annie were married in a secret civil ceremony in London.
“It was quite an exotic thing,” he says of Hare Krishna. “Annie thought it was refreshing to be around people not focused so much on material life. I wasn’t interested in her body or her fame or her credit card. [The relationship] didn’t get physical for a long time. I lived celibate in the temple, and she knew we couldn’t have a relationship like you usually do. But we were together twenty-four hours a day. Oh, it was very beautiful. To me, it was like a film; it wasn’t real.”
Neither were the demands of life on the road with a star under pressure. “Annie gets pessimistic at times. She draws premature conclusions,” says Radha. “On tour, twice she wanted to jump off, she quits Eurythmics straightaway. She does real funny things real quick. So other people have to say, ‘Hey, look at the pink sky out there, everything’s fine.’ Dave is expert at that, and I think that’s why their relationship works.
“Sometimes I think she expected a miracle or something,” he continues, “and probably I couldn’t hold up with it. But I helped her with all sorts of things. You all see Annie Lennox the pop star, but she’s a small-town girl — very deep and very beautiful, but a small-town girl. She didn’t drop from heaven. She’s like anybody else. Sometimes you go down and you need somebody to pep you up. It took a lot out of me to give so much strength to somebody else.”
By fall, the honeymoon was over. Always kept discreetly in the background, Radha was encouraged to stay at home more and more. He says he was never jealous, though, when Annie was off on her own. “Ann has moral standards. She’s not one of those quick-food girls.”
But her request for a divorce last spring was a shock, and he still hasn’t cracked the Lennox enigma. “It’s hard to get a real picture,” he says. “She’s not an easy person. You always have to read between the lines, look behind the makeup. So I never really found out why. But I don’t want to know no more; it’s gone on for too long. All I want is for her to be happy. I said to her, I don’t want to talk about money and that sort of thing. All I want to do is straighten us out. I don’t mind leaving the house, but I don’t want to leave a mess.”
In any case, Radha has discovered there is life after Eurythmics, and there is always a place in rock & roll for a spiritual kind of guy with a sense of humor. “Boy George is probably the nicest person I’ve met so far,” he says. “I might get married to him next.”
No wonder Eurythmics savor irony so much. Their relationship, their career, are working models of the inverse, the paradox, the role reversal. When Dave stops to think about it, he has to agree.
Side by side, in separate dressing rooms at the BBC television studios, Dave and Annie are preparing for a lip-sync performance of “There Must Be an Angel” on Top of the Pops. Dave, randomly pulling on an allwhite outfit — a boot here, a belt there, then another boot — relishes the idea that Eurythmics are the antithesis of the Sonny-and-Cher syndrome.
“We are the only couple I know that lived together and then virtually on the week we stop living together, we form Eurythmics and become famous as a couple. Usually it is the other way around. They get famous and then start bitching.”
Once he’s on that train of thought, Dave notes that even the dynamics of the affair’s aftermath were somewhat askew. One might expect Dave, the jilted lover, to have had difficulty adjusting, but he says: “Actually it was the other way around. Annie used to be madly jealous of me all the time. I never used to get jealous of her. That was the funny thing. Annie used to be really mixed up as to why she thought we should split up. So she’d get dead upset about it, even until recently. I would go out with different people, and Annie would be really moody for weeks, which was very confusing, being that she was the one who broke it up in the first place.”
Come to think of it . . . Now Dave is on a roll, the revelations coming faster and furiouser, the picture getting curiouser and curiouser. It looks something like this; His ex-wife, Pam Stewart, from a pre-Lennox period, now runs the Eurythmics fan club in L.A., and she and Annie and Claire and his mother, Sadie, are all good friends.
“Me mum probably has something to do with it,” he says. Indeed, Sadie Stewart Masseron was the major bohemian influence in his life. After twentyodd years of marriage to John James Stewart, an accountant, she left him and her job teaching problem children in northern England and moved to London. Now she’s a middle-aged budding writer married to a French Zen Buddhist. “That’s funny, too,” says Dave. “Me mum and her husband and me dad sometimes go on holidays together. They all get on great.
“Very peculiar,” he says, scratching his beard. “God knows how it all works. It’s like Peyton Place or something.” He laughs and leans his diminutive frame into a James Dean pose in the doorway of the closet. “I think the kind of thing that attracts me to people is probably the reason why my ex-wife still works for us. I see a certain quality in people, like Annie or Claire or my ex-wife or anybody I’ve been out with. I think it’s a real strength that they have. That’s probably why they’ve all coped. If they weren’t like that, they’d be at each other’s throats. And there have been some very dodgy situations.” He laughs again. “I think I’m the Woody Allen of rock music!
“Anyway,” he adds, concluding on a more sober note, “Annie and I get on great together now. It’s completely different, yet we still have the same ESP, that same feeling.”
Those vibes were first set into motion back in 1977, when Dave and Annie met at Pippin’s, a health-food hangout in London. Annie, 23, was a waitress, a refugee flutist and pianist from the Royal Academy of Music. Dave, 25, was a walking jukebox with a past: teen minstrel with a repertoire of medieval ballads and fifty Dylan ditties: stowaway roadie for the Amazing Blondel at fifteen; white guitarist in the black-African Osibisa; underground composer for the Sadista Sisters cabaret revue; rock guitarist in Longdancer, on Rocket Records. With him was his partner in crime, singer/songwriter Peet Coombes. “We would do anything and take anything and go anywhere. We were inseparable,” recalls Dave, describing life in cinematic terms as usual. “We were like Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.” Annie, a lovely lass taken with Dusty Springfield’s mod soul and Joni Mitchell’s literate melancholia, invited the outlaws to her place and sang them some of her songs, like “One Step Nearer the Edge.” Peet, who wrote songs like “The Useless Duration of Time,” found a kindred spirit; Dave found a lover. Together they were the Catch, which evolved into the Tourists. As a power-folk-pop group (in which Annie played a Vox keyboard once owned by John Lennon), the Tourists were hyped and ripped off to the top of the British pop charts and back down again. Living out those immortal lyrics from the Mamas and the Papas, “Broke, busted, disgusted/Agents can’t be trusted,” Dave and Annie bluffed the bank for a loan to set up a home recording studio, extinguished their romance and reinvented themselves as one of the first New Wave synthpop duos.
Now that they have traveled the world and the seven seas, Dave finds the “Sweet Dreams” of success as bittersweet as the song. “It’s just the same as always,” says Dave, waxing wise, “but you have bigger canyons to fall down and bigger clouds to fly in.”
On the other side of the wall, Annie is flying high in a cloud of euphoria. With Billy and a makeup man in attendance, she’s so high on the anticipation of an impending vacation that wings seem to burst through the seams of her white leather jacket.
“Where will I run to? Who should I turn to?” she sings, before dissolving into helium-headed chatter with a pronounced Scottish lilt.
“I haven’t really made me mind up yet. I think I’m going to stick around London, then go to my house in Switzerland, and then go to L.A.” She sings: “I love L.A.! New York! Paris! London! Rome! “If you want to be in a pop group,” she declares, “you either become completely debauched and die of drug overdose after a couple of years, or else you renounce everything and live like a nun. I think I’ve straddled them both. But I’ve never had an irresponsible period. I’m moving into it now, though. My moon is in irresponsibility!“
And nothing can dampen her spirits. She keeps smiling and her booted toe keeps swinging to the beat of some inner song even as she launches into a diatribe about the sorry state of this sceptered isle and the Fleet Street Furies forever dogging her heels. “I’m so sick of reading about my divorce. Aaaaah! My broken heart!” She sighs in cheerful exasperation. “If I got obsessed with it, I could hate a lot of people. But I don’t think that’s healthy.
“It’s really tacky,” she continues, the vehemence of her words subverted by her bubbly-champagne delivery. “It just keeps everybody’s intelligence level down. Actually, I think there’s a huge government plot to keep every-body depressed in this country. No, really! The drinking laws and the way television goes off at a certain time. It’s like, ‘All go to bed now. Time to go to bed.’ And the sky is a government plot as well. It’s gray — have you noticed? And the rain. It’s all a government plot. It feels like that. You really feel when you live here that everything is against you. It you are successful, everybody hates you for it. Not like in the States. They love you for it. They want to stand and bask in your reflected glory.”
Government plot or no government plot, Annie refuses to take political stances of any kind. “I’m just not somebody for movements.” she says. “I’m more a sort of separate person.” Does this rule out flag-waving for her staunch vegetarianism? “I’d rather keep the fact that I don’t eat meat just as a point of conversation right now, because I think that all it does is turn a lot of people off.”
Feminism as a cause doesn’t get her endorsement, either. And “Sisters Are Doin’ It for Themselves,” her duet with Aretha Franklin, is not her bid for this year’s Best Pop Feminist Award. When Billy and the makeup man break into a barroom rendition of Helen Reddy’s Seventies anthem “I Am Woman,” Annie recoils like a schoolgirl asked to dissect a frog in biology class.
” ‘I am woman, hear me roar’? Oh, dear!” she exclaims. “‘Sisters,’ you see, is simply a song about women. I think women are great, and I think men are great, and people are wonderful, potentially, when they’re not killing one another. I don’t have to say, ‘I bleed!’ or ‘I won’t have anything to do with men.’ Some of my best friends are men!”
So much, then, for any assumption that she was typecast in her acting debut as the rabble-rouser in Hugh Hudson’s Revolution, an upcoming film about the American Revolutionary War, starring Al Pacino and Donald Sutherland. Annie has nothing to say about Pacino, but her recap of a brief encounter with Sutherland has her squealing and swooning like a teenybopper. And when she relates how she’s resisted Hudson’s attempts to pad her small role, she cops an attitude toward acting that’s as fickle and feckless as her outlook on life in general today. “I don’t know if I’m any good. I sort of do. I’m kind of very arrogant, really. I think I’m brilliant, and I think I don’t know if I am — something like that. I mean, acting shmacting! Photographs shmotographs! Pop shmop!”
Today’s radical mood swing might make a good case for temporary insanity, dizzy as she is with a reckless spirit that makes the Annie Lennox of years, months, even a few days ago seem like a ghost banished to the other side of the looking glass. But never fear. That intriguing blend of the cerebral and the passionate, of the agony and the ecstasy, that makes her the most fascinating woman in rock & roll today is still operative. Weeks from now, DnA will report that Annie, holed up in her Swiss chalet, is playing the abstinent mute, scribbling messages on paper to rest her voice. With typical Lennox ambiguity, that wild and irresponsible vacation is being tempered with resolutions.
“I’m getting very ambitious to get my voice strong, so that next year, when we do concerts, it’s going to be a powerhouse,” she says even now, as she heads for the sound studio. “I’ve got that ambition now. I just want to make music and sing and entertain people . . . and be a good person. You know?”