Dave Stewart On Eurythmics Reunion And "Great Fun" At Beatles Special

GRAMMY winner on reuniting with Annie Lennox for the GRAMMY salute to the Beatles and working out their rendition of "The Fool On The Hill"
  • Photo: Kevin Winter/Getty Images
    The Eurythmics reunite for "The Beatles: The Night That Changed America"
February 09, 2014 -- 10:26 pm PST
By Dave Stewart / GRAMMY.com

(A young Dave Stewart was at home in Sunderland, England, when the Beatles first appeared on "The Ed Sullivan Show" on Feb. 9, 1964. At the time, the group had already broken big in England and impacted his life.)

(As told to Paul Zollo)

We'd already had the Beatles by then. Everyone was mad about the Beatles in Britain. They were all over everything in 1964. The Beatles affected me more a bit later. I was 16 in 1968, and as they went into their songwriting development in the psychedelic stage, I was with them on the journey, if you know what I mean.

I started writing songs when I was about 15. I didn't have a band, I just had an acoustic guitar, and got these blues albums from Memphis, and my brother had a Bob Dylan album, and I was trying to learn that stuff. It was "Drive My Car" that really got to me. Rubber Soul was when I realized, boom, music. Songwriting — I really understood then that people could write songs. There was something about the sound of the album that made me realize, "Oh, this could be an interesting thing. English music."

I did it on my own for a while. At 17 I formed a sort of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young kind of band called Longdancer. Even then, I started to learn some Beatles songs. [Sings] "Here I stand, head in hand/Turn my face to the wall …," which is John doing Dylan. I probably related to that. "Hey! You've got to hide your love away" sounds very Dylan-ish.

[Being part of] this Beatles [special] was great. When [producer] Ken Ehrlich rang me, he said, "Hey, how would you and Annie like to play as the Eurythmics on this Beatles thing?"

I said, "Oh, I don't know, you'd better ask Annie."

He said, "I already have, she wants to do it. She wants to do the song 'The Fool On The Hill.'"

I said, "Oh, I love that song, too."

Little did I know when I went to listen to it again it was one of the only Beatles songs with no guitar on it. So I had to figure out a way of not interfering with the song, and give it a Beatle-y feeling with a guitar. So I suggested to Annie that we get my friend [violinist] Ann Marie Calhoun in, and [that we] do a string arrangement that's slightly different.

Annie wanted to do it in [the key of] G. So I thought, "Right, I'll put the capo on the fifth fret and play a D shape, and get it really jangly in a high, harpsichord-y kind of way. Which would give that Beatle-y feeling. So I did that, and that seemed to work out. And I used my band that I use in L.A., with Randy Cooke on drums and Michael Bradford on bass. And it all came together.

I'm a big believer in entrances and exits. I was thinking the song should maybe start with Annie alone on the first verse, on the piano. And I wanted people to go, "Hey, I thought this was gonna be Eurythmics — what happened?" And then right at the end of the first chorus, I'll be in darkness, and at that point I'll walk to the edge of that step, and if you switch the light on right then, I'll hit the 12-string. I wanted to give the feeling a bit of "Here Comes The Sun." We went through that a couple of times, and it worked.

I wanted to bring my country swagger into it, wearing a suit made for me by Manuel in Nashville, and playing an acoustic 12-string that was handmade for me by Danny Ferrington, with a scroll neck.

It was surprisingly easy [to reunite with Annie Lennox]. We met, we chatted for a while before our players turned up in the rehearsal room. And then Annie and I just started jamming with the acoustic 12-string and her piano. Then we brought Ann Marie in, and sang her string arrangement ideas, and she wrote them down. And as the band members arrived one by one, we played it with them and it sounded right straight away.

So what Annie and I did for the next two hours, we just jammed on all sorts of different Beatles songs with the band joining in. It was confusing for the producers, who were coming in to watch us do "The Fool On The Hill" and we're doing "The Long And Winding Road" or "Hey Jude" and me singing "Here Comes The Sun" with Annie doing the harmonies. And anything but the song "The Fool On The Hill." But then we did it for them.

There were a lot of people there [at the show], so backstage it was a lot of fun meeting old mates, like Ringo and Jeff Lynne. And Dhani [Harrison] I haven't seen for a while. Good fun. I had a great talk with Gary Clark Jr. He's one of my favorite guitarists.

It was great fun. We could have done more in the show! Annie said, "For all the time I'm here, we could have done 10!"

(Dave Stewart and  Annie Lennox reunited as Eurythmics for one night only to perform "The Fool On The Hill" on "The Beatles: The Night That Changed America — A GRAMMY Salute." Eurythmics won a GRAMMY in 1986 for Best Rock Performance By A Duo Or Group With Vocal for "Missionary Man." Stewart has collaborated with artists such as Bob Dylan, Aretha Franklin, Mick Jagger, Alison Krauss, Stevie Nicks, Orianthi, Tom Petty, and Ringo Starr. In 2013 Stewart released his latest solo album, Lucky Numbers.)

(Paul Zollo is the senior editor of American Songwriter and the author of several books, including Songwriters On SongwritingConversations With Tom Petty and Hollywood Remembered. He's also a songwriter and Trough Records artist whose songs have been recorded by many artists, including Art Garfunkel, Severin Browne and Darryl Purpose.)