You fall into patterns within relationships so very easily. You assume roles within the couple’s dynamic - what you do, what you believe and what you enthuse about. It’s kind of a domestic shorthand that describes, but soon imprisons, the full richness of each other’s personality.
With me, I’ve always been the ‘music’ guy. My girlfriends have pretty much been less interested in music than me. It is my thing. I know what year a song came out, who played on it and who wrote it. Whilst there are women who are every bit as obsessive in this area, I think it’s safe to say that this lauding of the ephemera of music tends to be a predominantly male trait. This characteristic plays itself out within a relationship by ownership of the playlists, control of the music; a pedantic, but ultimately futile, need to teach, to explain, each and every song. Love of something subjective becomes a dry lesson in the objective. Savage is the honourable exception.
Listening to this slow building song, I’m forever taken back by its gentle rhythm to a time in the late 80’s when life seem optimistic and everything seemed to matter. A shy girl, who loved me, said that I should listen to this track, as it was just the sort of music I’d enjoy. Like all good recommendations this was built from a solid foundation of what that person knew about me and then went off at a tangent. No-one needs to be told something obvious – it’s the unobvious and obscure, the great find, that really chimes within the soul. And so it was with Savage. The gentle girl was right, it is ever one of my favourites.
The slow, ethereal intro frames the piece; with each gentle wave of chords from the keyboard - more breathed than played - you know it’s going to be one of Annie Lennox’s betrayal songs. No one, other than Alison Moyet perhaps, does betrayal better than our Annie. The sparse backing provides a backdrop to some of Annie’s best lines. The images she plays with are disjointed, violent even – the sun displays its teeth - but her words convey a mood rather than any literal meaning. There is a brooding air of savagery hanging over the song, more vivid because it is unexpressed and waiting menacingly in the shadows.
But the Eurythmics were a duo and never more so than on this track. As the tension builds through the first two verses / choruses, a release is needed; all this musical foreplay must have its climax and this is stunningly achieved by a simple - but oh so right - solo from Dave Stewart. It’s as much about the notes that aren’t played as those that are. He puts himself into his guitar and feels his way through his solo. There is an un-80’s rawness in that guitar break, a sullen control, that matches Annie’s lyrics note for note. Other than Graham Coxon’s solo on Blur’s This is A Low, I can’t think of a guitar solo more appropriate, more understanding, of a song than this one.
Annie and Dave produced many great songs – Who’s That Girl, Julia, Here Comes The Rain Again come to mind – but I don’t believe they combine so perfectly than their collaboration on Savage. I wrote earlier about the glad-happy morning of the late 80’s. You can’t choose your time and neither can you control your era’s personal soundtrack. Of course, you filter what you hear through personal choice – which records to buy, which radio stations to listen to – but no one lives in a vacuum. My university days were the late 80’s. When so much of what was popular at the time – Kylie, Stock Aitken and Waterman, house music – retreats into the unopened drawer of memory, I’m happy that the gentle girl with the sad eyes, told me to listen to Savage. There’s a dignity in this evocation, both defiant and tender, that seems appropriate somehow.
The girl’s long gone, of course but I’ll leave it to Annie to provide the postscript:
Start the video at 1.30 for a live version of Savage.