SAVAGE, 25 YEARS ON…
Only rarely does an album hit you so hard that you can remember the precise details of where you first heard it a quarter of a century on. November 1987, and I’d headed from college in London to attend a conference in Glasgow. There I found a copy of the brand new Savage, bought it, and took it to the friend-of-a-friend’s house where I was staying for the night. She lived somewhere on the moors outside the city, in a rough, rain-lashed stone cottage. “Can I play my new record?” I asked. “Aye, go ahead,” she replied.
Hail rattled against the windows; the fire hissed and crackled as the sound of Savage filled the room. We were all transfixed; it was played again and again. The title seemed so apt, for this was a dark, brooding album, leavened with a kind of sparse, almost hysterical, joy. There had been forewarning of something radically different in the offing: the single (I love to listen to) Beethoven had come out a month earlier. Its dirty, thumping beat, hints of trauma and unforgiving chorus indicated quite a shift from the leather shoulder-pads and gospel choruses of recent Eurythmics releases. It felt like a return to the stripped-back, bittersweet elegance of the first few albums. It felt like a magnificent return to form.
A quarter of a century on, this is the Eurythmics album to which I most readily return. It has aged a little (haven’t we all!), but it still holds up as Annie and Dave’s most accomplished offering. It works both as a collection of fine, and very different, songs, but also as a whole symphony, taking the listener from the dark techno thump that introduces Beethoven, through heartbreak and hedonism, to the sunrise swell of hope of the final track, Brand New Day. It has been my soundtrack to darkness, dancing, light, and love. (I love to listen to) Savage.