David Fleming
It's All Academic   www.davidflemingsite.com   
Day 31: Eurythmics (Seventeen Again)

May 27, 2020

One of the great challenges in our lives is reconciling our pasts with our present. Some of us try to forget the past, others rue it, many distance themselves from it, while others never stop living it (Al Bundy, I am looking at you!). I am guessing this must be even harder when you spent part of your younger life in the spotlight.

Eurythmics tackled this subject with their reunion single, "17 Again," released almost a decade after their break-up in 1990. As fans know, the band's comprised of two musicians, Annie Lennox and Dave Stewart, who had also been romantic partners for awhile, so the break-up was more than as bandmates. To go back to the fertile territory of what must have been the crushing times of dissolution seems pretty brave. It should be no surprise that the video for the song (linked at the bottom) has the band (with full orchestra) trying to play the song while in military garb under full attack. A little PTSD reference, Annie and Dave?

They set up their stroll down memory lane marvelously from the beginning: "Yeah, we ventured through the valley of the stars/you in all your jewelry and my bleeding heart/who couldn't be together and who couldn't be apart." It's only rock and roll when the jewelry reference is probably about the male band member. Annie wore the bleeding heart on the sleeve of all her outrageous outfits.

If you didn't pay close attention, the song might suggest that there isn't much to make them want to be 17 again, a time of "fake celebrities," "vicious queens," "stupid papers and stupid magazines." We'd be forgiven for expecting these lyrics to be accompanied by music similar to their early work, "Love Is A Stranger" and "Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This)," the dark, somber sounding songs they created as an emerging force in music.

However, this is not the "17 Again" they give us.  They seem ready to celebrate the heights they achieved, with instrumentation and vocals ready to take us there. "We should have jumped out of that airplane after all," sings Lennox after the low-key opening, drums and guitars lifting the potential self-pity to an elevated state that fits the chorus, "and it feels like I'm 17 again/17 again," Lennox belting the notes with a voice as sultry and rich as it was in the early 1980's.

Few can do as much with a voice as Lennox can, and her vocal improvisation layers the bridge, setting us up for additional ascent. Knocking out the final verse with the fake celebrities, et al, she skewers her and Stewart's past with painful self-inflicted criticism: "sweet dreams are made of anything/that gets you in the scene." Then, almost as if they have taken a deep breath, they blow away the finale of this awkward song of nostalgia.

The song has been gorgeous enough, but try to get through the final minute without feeling chills, which start with Lennox's full-bodied enunciation of "seventeeeeeeeeeeen" twice before the final fade out where her unequaled voice serenades us with the chorus from "Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This)" bringing experience to what must have been boast 20 years earlier: "I travel the world and the seven seas/everybody's looking for something." Meanwhile, this all lives within a swirling swell of synthesizers, keyboards, guitar, and orchestra. In the video, the orchestra is trying to play the last notes, conductor doing his best to lead, while cowering from the enemy fire.

It really must have felt like they were 17 again, sparks, combustible and all.

And damn, to be so lucky, as to want to feel 17 again. Most of us are glad to never feel the awkwardness of 17 ever again.

"Seventeen Again." Eurythmics. Peace. RCA. 1990. Video link here.

Day 130: The Who "You Better You Bet."

Day 32: World Party "Is It Like Today."

See complete list here.