3"Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)" - Eurythmics
Believe it or not, there was a point when no one had ever heard of Annie Lennox and Dave Stewart--better known as Eurythmics, even better known as the scary chick in the tuxedo and the guy playing the cello in the cow pasture and even better known as "that 80s band that wrote that Marilyn Manson song." That "song," "Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This)," almost didn't exist because the band, dropped from their label after a lackluster and hitless first album, almost completely dissolved before composing it.
In 1982, the band, which had started in 1980, had yet to make a single that even approached the minor success of their previous band. Their first album was plagued by management troubles, and by the time they were recording "Sweet Dreams," they were reduced to recording in an improvised "home studio" (read: attic of a warehouse) and were in-between labels.
Also, they were really weird.
Their arguments became more severe--which tends to happen when you combine artists with poverty--to the point where Lennox could not take it anymore and threatened to leave. Then, with a cold suaveness more easily expected from James Bond than a pasty synth-pop composer, Stewart replied "Okay, fine, you don't mind if I go ahead and program the drum computer then, do you?" (he's British, so we don't know if "drum computer" is a euphemism for something filthy, but we'd guess that, no, it is not). And there, with Dave Stewart fucking around on a drum machine, and Annie Lennox curled up on the floor sobbing, commenced what is likely the most awkward, creepy and uncomfortable recording session since Phil Spector held a gun to Leonard Cohen's head.
While screwing around, Stewart accidentally reversed a synthesized bass line, and holy shit did it sound badass. Badass enough that Lennox "could not resist" getting on her keyboard and laying down a synth line. The words just came to her and she improvised the lyrics and vocals right there in one take. From the looks of it, they probably made up the "plot" of the music video on the spot right then too.
Pretty much all you need to know about the music video.
Of course, this incident just followed the standard behavioral instinct of "if you're in the middle of an argument that angry sex can't solve, just get on the computer" that most guys possess. Except instead of playing World Of Warcraft until four in the morning, Dave Stewart put together an international hit song, and married one of the chicks from Bananarama. Kind of puts your life in perspective, doesn't it?
2"What's Going On" - Marvin Gaye
Marvin Gaye is responsible for more unstoppable sex than prison. We owe so much to "Let's Get it On," and the fact that at one time Marvin Gaye wasn't given his way is downright terrifying, but it's true. About a decade into his career, Gaye had already established himself as an extraordinarily singular Motown talent, despite frequently bristling against the regimented structure of the Detroit label. But in 1970, after a crumbling marriage and the death of close friend/duet partner Tammi Terrell, Gaye became suddenly reflective and nearly ready to quit music altogether, even going so far as to try out for that year's draft of the Detroit Lions.
We like to think that this is how he showed up at tryouts.
The main thing Marvin had resented about the Motown system was its separation of songwriter, performer and producer as individual cogs of a hit-making machine whose responsibilities and talents were not to be mixed. With some production credit under his belt--with Motown session-band The Originals--and new songwriting partners Al Cleveland and Renaldo Benson of Four Tops fame, Marvin Gaye was ready to break out of his previous station in the machine and take control of all aspects of his destiny; his decision to buck the system influenced countless other talented artists--from peers like Stevie Wonder to later artists like Michael Jackson and Prince--to also take production and songwriting control of their product. He was about to completely shake up the music industry, but first he had to get released.
"What's Going On" pleads for understanding. In the background of the master track, you can hear a party going on from which Gaye's voice is markedly detached; a lonely, but passionate, voice in the crowd. The result of Gaye's complex songwriting, mixed with his abilities as a producer and an arranger was startlingly different from anything previously released by Motown. When the final master 45 was presented for release, The CEO of Motown called it "the worst record he had ever heard." Oh, did we mention that the CEO of Motown, Barry Gordy Jr., was Marvin Gaye's brother-in-law?
Gordy apparently believed that the music-buying public at the time would not be able to identify with a heartfelt cry of confusion and despair over social unrest and injustice. We here at Cracked are guessing he hadn't picked up a newspaper since early November of 1963.
Marvin stood his ground, however, threatening to walk away from music forever and, after a short stand-off, "What's Going On" was released, and critical and commercial response was almost instant. It became Motown's fastest selling single, the biggest hit of 1971, became Gaye's signature song--even topping out all the other massive hit songs he was already known for--and paved the way for the even more massive hit album "Let's Get It On."