The Current's Rock and Roll Book Club: Dave Stewart's 'Sweet Dreams Are Made of This'

Dan Nass
Dan reacts to 'The Incident with the Cow Eyeball' (MPR photo/Luke Taylor)

The title of Dave Stewart's 2016 memoir is Sweet Dreams Are Made of This. Because of course it is. Before reading this biography, I really didn't know much about Stewart aside from this 80s hit. I knew he was in the Eurythmics. And I knew he wasn't Annie Lennox.

However, Stewart has quite the resume, even if the general public isn't aware of his many credits. He is best known for his string of hits written as one half of the Eurythmics: "Who's That Girl," "Here Comes the Rain Again," "Missionary Man," "Would I Lie to You," "Love is a Stranger," and most famously, "Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)." But he is also a highly respected producer and collaborator, working with a diverse range of artists: Bono, Katy Perry, Tom Petty, Gwen Stefani, Mick Jagger (who also wrote the foreword for the book), to name a few. He even scored the 1995 notorious mega-flop Showgirls (and is willing to admit it).

Stewart grew up in Sunderland — an industrial city on the northeastern coast of England. He had a relatively happy childhood, loving parents, a home often filled with music. Like many young men of England, he was wild about football, and played it every chance he had. However, at age 12, he suffered a terrible knee injury during a game, which put him in the hospital.

Oddly enough, it was the football injury that had a large role in leading him to a career in music. While he was recovering in the hospital, his brother brought him two things: a leather jacket and a guitar that belonged to his grandmother. He picked up the guitar, "drowning in hospital boredom," and it wasn't long before he was strumming a few chords — and drawing attention from the hospital staff:

"Young nurses who heard me playing popped their heads around the door. They would stop for a listen and say, 'Wow, you can play the guitar, and you have a leather jacket!' I knew I was never going to give it up."

This set Stewart on the path, and he moved along that path quickly. At age 16, his duo — Stewart & Harrison — had an EP and a song on the radio. By age 18, his band Longdancer was signed to Elton John's Rocket Records label. But everything changed in 1975 when he met a singing, harmonium-playing waitress named Annie.

Lennox and Stewart connected immediately, both romantically and creatively. They formed a band in 1977 with guitarist/singer-songwriter Pete Coombes — The Tourists — and had moderate commercial success in the UK. In 1980, Lennox and Stewart split off to form Eurythmics, which went on to become one of the most successful duos of the 1980s.

Strangely, Stewart's memoir seems to only scratch the surface of the duo's complex relationship. What the book does provide is the typical stories of sex, drugs (a lot of drugs), and rock 'n' roll that one might expect. Well, mostly typical. Stewart recounts his first kiss, which ventures far from the classic story of young love on the school playground:

"She smiled, put the eye on the grass, lit the firecracker with a match, stood back and put her small hand in mine. There was an explosion, and a moment later, my face was covered in goo as the cow's eye splattered all over me. It didn't stop her from kissing me and whispering the immortal words, 'Now do you love me?'"

Ew. But perhaps this is some sort of explanation for the surrealistic cow imagery from the "Sweet Dreams" video, burned in my brain as a child of the 80s.

There are countless stories of rock 'n' roll excess and craziness, along with a comically long and varied cast of characters popping in and out of scenes throughout. Bumping into John Belushi in a Los Angeles parking lot. Climbing over the security fence to knock on Don Henley's door. Sleeping with Stevie Nicks (a situation that led to Stewart writing "Don't Come Around Here No More," later a hit for Tom Petty). Doing shrooms with Daryl Hall. Being asked by Roman Polanski to appear in a film. Playing tennis with future British Prime Minister Tony Blair. And on and on and on.

For me, story after story, name after name caused the book drag a bit ("another story with another famous person ... yawn"), in part because I wanted to hear more of the story of 'Dave and Annie'. Perhaps we'll have to wait for a Lennox memoir to hear more about that.

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