Eurythmics – Shame
Here’s another good example of the sort of thing that happens once a band has passed its Imperial Phase – songs that would have previously sailed into the top 20 on fanbase alone fail to make much of an impact. The fall can be gradual, taking place over a number of releases, or it can mercilessly swift. The best example of the latter is ABBA, who saw an unbroken six year run of top ten hits come to a shocking end when Head Over Heels bottomed out at no.25 in 1982. All of a sudden they weren’t a singles band any more, and of course shortly thereafter not a band at all.
Which brings me to Eurythmics, who by 1987 were two years past their popular peak. Having moved in a decidedly more rock-based direction with the albums Be Yourself Tonight and Revenge, it was largely – although not entirely – back to synths, drum machines and frightwigs for the magnificent Savage. It saw Dave Stewart and Annie Lennox reclaiming much of the strangeness that had been jettisoned in more recent releases.
The project’s first single was Beethoven (I Love to Listen to) and it was easily the weirdest thing they ever put out. Defiantly un-commercial, it battled its way to a no.25 UK peak but did an effective job of re-positioning Eurythmics as the Wednesday and Pugsley Addams of pop. For the follow-up, a theoretically safer choice was made – the tune-packed semi-ballad Shame.
A rather prescient attack on the vacuous, fame-hungry lifestyle aspirations that were to swallow the planet in the coming years, Shame is an odd beast – sounding sweet but actually quite vicious when you look at it closely. But while a stern telling off from Lennox isn’t everyone’s idea of a good time, the main reason this wasn’t a hit was its release date. Essentially, if you’re a record company and you’ve got the jitters about your act, don’t release their single just before Christmas, even if it’s just as a ploy to sell albums – chances are it will not be a success on either count. Stick it out in early January instead, when the new release shelves have less on them and people still have gift tokens to spend. This became a trusted industry formula, securing Iron Maiden their sole no.1 and Pet Shop Boys the solitary top 10 hit from their Nightlife album. Of course this only worked when there were actual shops to buy records in – nowadays you’re stuffed.
Pleasingly, Eurythmics managed to pull it back from the brink. The follow-up, I Need a Man, got them back into the top 30 and then their best ever single, You Have Placed a Chill In My Heart, restored them to the top 20. Ultimately, although the Savage era is widely considered something of a failure, it did do an excellent job of reminding us why we loved them in the first place – next album We Too Are One sailed to no.1, followed by a Greatest Hits that spent 10 weeks at the top of the chart.
Entered chart: 13/12/1987
Chart peak: 41
Weeks on chart: 7
Who could sing this today and have a hit? Ooh, Katy Perry could do it and totally miss the point, but it would be ace.
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