It’s a momentous day here at Continuum HQ, as we’re hours away from sending The Bob Dylan Encyclopedia off to the printers. To celebrate, here’s the entry on one of England’s true musical legends, Dave Stewart.
Stewart, Dave [1952 – ]
David Allen Stewart was born in Sunderland, Tyne & Wear, in the northeast of England, on September 9, 1952. Diverted by injury from football to music and the guitar, his early band Longdancer signed to ELTON JOHN’s Rocket label but broke up in 1977 when Stewart met Annie Lennox, forming the Catch with her and a Peet Coombes. After the single ‘Borderline’ the Catch mutated into the Tourists (1978–80), a new waveish group that enjoyed two UK top 10 hits, ‘I Only Want to Be With You’ and ‘So Good to Be Back Home Again.’ In mid-tour in Bangkok the Tourists disbanded, to be superceded by Lennox and Stewart’s new group the Eurythmics. They rose slowly but inexorably, their first hit 1983’s plaintive and catchy ‘Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)’, to become the most successful male-female duo in pop history (it says here).
It was clear that Annie Lennox was a gifted singer, though with an irritating inability to vary her phrasing, as for instance on the title line of their hit ‘There Must Be an Angel’, which she sings identically over and over again as if she were a tape-loop or a singing parrot; but it was never clear what Dave Stewart’s talent was. The PR aura surrounding them attempted to portray him as a musical genius and inspired Svengali, though to most reasonable people he looked like a self-regarding and affected twit with a gift for wide-ranging mediocrity.
The Eurythmics split in 1990, Lennox to a successful solo career and Stewart not, though he produced other people’s albums, worked with Alison Moyet, MICK JAGGER, Shakespear’s Sister, BOB GELDOF and others. His own band the Spiritual Cowboys (well, quite) released two indifferently received albums and in 1993 he joined Terry Hall of the Specials to form a new group, Vegas, releasing one album ahead of Stewart’s 1994 solo album Greetings from the Gutter. Diddums. He has also worked in film, his biggest project being Honest, a very badly reviewed film directed and co-written by him and starring some of the group All Saints. As a session multi-instrumentalist he has played on albums by Aretha Franklin (1985) and Daryl Hall (1986) and as a guitarist on albums by Hall and Oates (1990 and 1997), Steve Hillage (1991), Carly Simon (1994), Joe Strummer and the Mescaleros (1999), Sinead O’Connor (2000), Bryan Ferry and Marianne Faithfull (both 2002), Jimmy Cliff (2004) and many others.
The number of professional connections Dave Stewart has managed to make with Bob Dylan is absurdly large (and even one or two might seem excessive). On August 22, 1985, in the gymnasium of the First Methodist Church in Hollywood, Stewart directs the hopeless videos for Dylan’s ‘When the Night Comes Falling from the Sky’ and ‘Emotionally Yours’ — and while he’s at it records himself singing ‘I Shall Be Released’. Three months later to the day, in his own London studio, he’s on guitar (with three other musicians) backing Dylan on two instrumental rambles televised on The Old Grey Whistle Test on BBC-2 that November 26, and on a backing track for the song ‘Under Your Spell’, co-written by Dylan and CAROLE BAYER SAGER, onto which Dylan later dubs vocals; with backing vocals also added, this becomes the last track on the 1986 album Knocked Out Loaded.
From this visit to Stewart’s London home turf of Crouch End comes the delightful story of Dylan being directed to Dave’s house, knocking on the door and having it answered by a young woman who doesn’t recognise her visitor. ‘Is Dave in?’ Bob asks. ‘No, but he shouldn’t be long: come in and wait,’ comes the reply. Bob spends an hour or more at the kitchen table before the householder, a plumber called Dave, duly returns to find Bob Dylan in his house.
Six years later Stewart arrives onstage in the middle of Dylan’s Never-Ending Tour set at the festival at Antibes (July 12, 1992) to play guitar on a thrash through ‘Highway 61 Revisited’, and does exactly the same thing again near the end of two of the London dates in early 1993 (February 9 and 13). Four more years and there he is with Dylan in Japan — February 10 and 11, 1997 in Tokyo — filming him from onstage the first night and playing guitar the second night, this time on the almost unavoidable encore number ‘Rainy Day Women # 12 & 35’. A teasing fragment of his film of ‘Like a Rolling Stone’ was later made available from Stewart’s website.
Before these last two sightings, Stewart had been occupied more usefully on Dylan’s behalf behind the camera (the preferable placement, you might think), filming another video, this time for ‘Blood in my Eyes’ from Dylan’s World Gone Wrong album. This was filmed in Camden Town, London, on July 21, 1993 (see the entry the Mississippi Sheiks) and is Dave Stewart’s only valuable contribution.
If you’re in a position to review this book when it comes out, get in touch. (david at continuum-books.com) We have a limited number of review copies to send out, but we’d love to see this book get the widespread coverage it truly deserves.