Monday, June 23, 2008

Annie & Dave Take An Early Tour Of The Charts

When ‘I Only Want To Be With You’ became an international hit for the Tourists during 1980, it was a case of the song having already had a rich past and two members of the group getting set for a rich future.

The classic pop gem ‘I Only Want T
o Be With You’ struck gold first for the legendary Dusty Springfield way back in 1964. She took it to #4 in the U.K., #12 in the U.S. and #12 in Australia. Teen heartthrobs the Bay City Rollers added to the songs chart pedigree in 1976 reaching #8 in Australia, #12 in America and #4 in the U.K. - hey isn’t that a weird coincidence that both Dusty and the Rollers achieved the same results in both the U.S. and U.K. with the song?

By the time 1980 came around everyone who had even a passing interest in pop music knew the song, but even though it had such a solid lineage ‘I Only Want To Be With You’ needed a makeover if it was going to impact in the midst of the new wave revolution that was sweeping the world. The Tourists were the act that decided to take on the challenge. The British pop quintet featured singer/guitarist Peet Coombes, bassist Eddie Chinn, drummer Jim Toomey….oh and I nearly forgot a couple of up and comers by the name of David A. Stewart on guitar and Annie Lennox on vocals/keyboards.

David A. Stewart, or Dave to his mates, had worked with singer/songwriter Peet Coombes as a folk duo in the early 70s. Dave invited his then girlfriend Annie Lennox to join them as a vocalist and occasional keyboardist. The trio took the name Catch and released one single in 1977 titled ‘Black Blood’. In 1978 they decided to expand the line-up and recruited bass player Eddie Chinn and drummer Jim Toomey. Adopting The Tourists as their new name, they released their eponymous debut album late in 1978. At this stage their sound reflected the prevalent post-punk/power pop style of the time, with a 60s mod-rock twist. The album wasn’t a huge it but it sold well enough (UK#72) and did realise the minor chart hit ‘Blind Among The Flowers’ (UK#52). Coombes and Lennox shared vocal duties including a number of duets, whilst Coombes, Stewart and Lennox all contributed to the songwriting side of things.

The group’s second album ‘Reality Effect’ (UK#23/OZ#62) was released in 1979 and proved to be their breakthrough set. The Tourists invaded new territory with the first single ‘The Loneliest Man In The World’ when the song peaked at #32 in the U.K. late in 1979. But it would be the second single lifted from ‘Reality Effect’ that would take The Tourists to the rest of the world. ‘I Only Want To Be With You’ burst on to the British charts late in 1979 and climbed to #4 soon after (it reached #83in the U.S.). 1980 saw The Tourists tour Australia and the song became a radio favourite, peaking at #6 on the singles charts mid year. On one of the Countdown’s from that time (repeated on the ABC’s ‘Rage’ program during one of their annual Countdown specials every January) The Tourists appeared and played the song ‘live’ along with their new single ‘So Good To Be Back Home Again’. On the same show were already established act the Motels, and though with the benefit of hindsight, when I watched the show again recently it was clear Annie Lennox was the star of The Tourists every bit as much as Martha Davis was in the Motels.

The follow up single ‘So Good To Be Back Home Again’ once again featured Coombes sharing the vocals with Lennox and though missing the charts in Australia it gave
The Tourists their second top 10 hit in Britain (#8). Late in 1980 The Tourists released their third and final album ‘Luminous Basement’ (UK#75) but the future was not so luminous as the lead single ‘Don’t Say I Told You So’ ran out of steam at #40 in the U.K. It would be the last time The Tourists would visit the charts, but by no means would it be the last tour of chart duty for Dave Stewart and Annie Lennox. The Tourists had lost their musical direction somewhat and a lot of what had made them sound great early on had been replaced with an electronic new wave sound that just didn’t click for them. Soon after the group went their separate ways, but Stewart and Lennox continued their creative relationship and soon formed Eurythmics. Needless to say Eurythmics proved to be one of the most successful pop-rock acts in the world during the 1980s and beyond, and both Stewart and Lennox have established themselves as both innovative and enduring pop icons.

The Tourists may now be seen as a mere prologue by some in the careers of Annie Lennox and David A. Stewart but they were an important prologue, and a quality group in their own right.

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