When the Eurythmics Released ‘In the Garden’
Every journey has to start somewhere. For the Eurythmics, it was In the Garden.
In 1981, the British pop duo — made up of singer Annie Lennox and multi-instrumentalist Dave Stewart — was better known to record buyers in their native U.K. through their work as part of the Tourists, a short-lived group whose tenure produced a handful of hit singles led by a cover of Dusty Springfield's "I Only Want to Be with You." The Tourists' pop sound didn't really reflect what Lennox and Stewart wanted to do, and as the band splintered, they decided to set out on their own.
Somewhat complicating matters was the fact that Lennox and Stewart were a couple until right around the time they decided to branch off as a duo. For many couples, the end of a romance would spell the breakup of the band — but as Stewart later argued, the split worked out better for them in the long run.
"It was actually much more effective, in a way, because we ended up writing 120 songs about it," he laughed. "You see, Stevie and Lindsey Buckingham, they were a duo, then they joined Fleetwood Mac, then they broke up. We’d already broken up when we decided to start a duo. So it was kind of back-to-front, but it worked out all right."
It definitely worked out in the long run, but in the short term, Lennox and Stewart's new band — dubbed the Eurythmics — was still very much an unproven enterprise, and beholden to the whims of record company and management executives who still saw them in the shadow of the Tourists. Their first album, 1981's In the Garden, was recorded under a number of professional and creative restrictions.
"With the Tourists we just fell into this thing and, personality-wise, the group was still at odds with themselves and how they wanted to be represented both musically and visually. So the result was... something which wasn't quite sure of itself and wasn't able to attain anything really clear," Lennox told NME in 1983. "On In the Garden, we were still unhappy with the direction; our management company was really restricting us. And I was already labelled as something which was basically worthless. Disposable, you know? A 'personality'; a something which had no credibility."
To record In the Garden, the fledgling Eurythmics hooked up with avant-garde German producer Conny Plank, who guided Lennox, Stewart, and a group of session players that included Blondie drummer Clem Burke and members of Can through the record's 10-song track listing. The sound they adopted for the album would be largely unfamiliar to fans who picked up the thread with the Eurythmics' more synth-dependent hits in the early '80s, but even if it wasn't cut from quite the same cloth as their later efforts, Garden proved a valuable experience — particularly for Stewart, who'd produce the majority of their catalog.
"That was our big learning curve," Stewart told PopMatters. "We went to Germany and we worked with an amazing guy called Conny Plank who produced Kraftwerk and Devo and lots of odd bands. He showed me how to record, and how to ignore everything everybody says about the rules of recording, and if I want to distort the bass drum I can, and if we want to record out in a field and mix in the sound of banging a big tom-tom drum in an empty cavern, we can."
Like a number of debut efforts, In the Garden failed to meet with much in the way of commercial success. The record missed the charts on either side of the Atlantic, and leadoff single "Never Gonna Cry Again" made only the smallest of dents on the U.K. airwaves. But as a mission statement, it was exactly what Lennox and Stewart needed to forge ahead — and it proved the perfect launchpad for their next release, 1983's Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This), which gave them the first in a series of worldwide successes throughout the decade.
"The songs we were writing were kind of strangely dark," Stewart told the A.V. Club years later. "What happened was that it was really well-received critically, but it only sold about 10,000 albums or something. But we were kind of excited about it, because we were into the experimental thing, but we knew we could potentially do something great."
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