Dave Stewart: 'Annie Lennox didn't even invite me to her wedding'
Dave Stewart's new photography show doesn't feature his former love and most famous musical partner. The musician and producer tells Gill Pringle how upset it makes him
Friday 26 July 2013
Their love affair lasted but three years during the late 1970s but, in terms of public consciousness, Dave Stewart and Annie Lennox's relationship endured long after the passion was lost, remaining in a body of songs that ruled the pop charts throughout the 1980s.
Now 60, Stewart is enjoying his third marriage. And though he and his Eurythmics pop partner Annie Lennox were never even wed, she lingers like a ghostly presence.
“It's weird isn't it? People always still think of us as a couple and yet we barely ever talk now,” muses Stewart, chatting at Hollywood's iconic rock'n'roll hotel The Sunset Marquis, where today he launches the Dave Stewart: Jumpin' Jack Flash & The Suicide Blonde photographic exhibition with accompanying coffee-table book.
Looming large in his signature whiskers and top hat against a backdrop of photographs of the women in his life – Demi Moore, Björk, Joss Stone and Sinéad O'Connor among them – Lennox's absence from Stewart's collection is constantly commented upon.
If the highly photogenic Lennox, now 58, was his earliest muse, then her omission from this intimate collection begs answers for which, it seems, Stewart is ill-prepared: “Well, to stick one Annie picture in a exhibition of portraits of other people would be out of context because Annie in my life is 35 years long and we lived together as a couple and then we became a huge successful duo so that's more like a whole exhibition,” he says, scratching his beard.
“It seems odd to stick one Annie picture amongst Björk and Mick [Jagger], it's kind of more important than that.”
Forever joined at the hip through their poignant and enduring songs then, in reality the former couple are perhaps less sentimental than their fans, Stewart not even receiving an invitation to Lennox's wedding last September to South African gynaecologist Dr Mitch Besser, where the list of guests included Colin Firth and Ruby Wax.
Oblivious to even the location of his ex-partner's London nuptials, he says, looking visibly upset: “I don't even know where the wedding was. I live here with four children and Annie lives between South Africa and London. I'll have to ask her: 'Why not? Why wasn't I invited? Why wasn't I there?' I certainly would have gone if she'd asked me,” says Stewart, who set up home in Los Angeles eight years ago with third wife, Dutch photographer Anoushka Fisz.
One of the most successful pop-rock duos of all time, Eurythmics split in 1990, and while virtually every Brit pop band of the 1980s has seen a resurrection in recent years, raking in dwindling royalty revenue by forcing themselves on the road, Stewart remains resolute that such a fate will never befall this duo.
“I doubt we'll ever go out on the road again,” he says. “We never talk about it. She just got married, as you know, with a doctor from South Africa and she's working on all of her stuff there.
“The thing is, our songs are never off the radio – you drive along and hear 'Here Comes the Rain', 'Sweet Dreams', 'Would I Lie to You'… and loads of other artists are doing them too.
“A lot of people on the road are actually forced out there because the music industry collapsed; 90 per cent of music is downloaded for free. Most artists who thought they'd made their pension suddenly – just like a lot of other people with their pension – had it took away from them because there's no more record stores so they're, 'uh, we better go on the road!' Annie and I don't have to go on the road because we do other things.”
While Lennox's “other things” include a successful solo career, political activism and philanthropy, then Stewart remains a sought-after musician, producing and co-writing songs with Stevie Nicks, Mick Jagger, Bono, Joss Stone, Bryan Ferry, Gwen Stefani and Tom Petty.
Born in Sunderland, he was happy to relocate to Los Angeles: “I'd been in England long enough. I was brought up in north-eastern England, pretty cold, rainy and grey skies; found my way to London when I was 15, lived in squats, became successful and went round the world. You get to a certain point where you go, 'OK, this is very tiring, flying backwards and forwards all the time',” says Stewart, who has two older children from his nine-year marriage to former Bananarama star Siobhan Fahey, and two daughters from his 2001 hippy beach wedding to Fisz, officiated by Deepak Chopra in the south of France.
“Moving to LA was a family decision because I had to keep coming back to LA, because I was working with artists here and doing music and film and the jet-lag was killing me. I wanted to keep my family happy and my work, so we all sat down and said, 'this is crazy, we should just move there', and it's been great because, yeah, I go to England two or three times a year but its not like flying to LA 10 times a year.”
Recently joined in LA by ex-wife Fahey, he says: “Just of late, she bought a house here in LA and then bought another one which she's doing up. She also lives in London too and is writing with a French singer-songwriter and she kind of does what she wants to do.”
With his gentle manner and inquisitive mind, Stewart has never been short of female companionship, exemplified by his candid photograph of former first French lady Carla Bruni seen smoking what looks like a home-rolled concoction: “Oh that?” he smiles. “When I first showed that in an exhibition she was just getting married to [former French president Nicolas] Sarkozy so I told her I was calling it Carla Bruni with Cigarette, and she said, 'yeah, that's a good idea!'
“Actually I think I took that picture in 1993 when she was only about 23 at the time.” Is it marijuana? “Well, I didn't actually rip it apart and see – it's either that or a badly-made cigarette!” he quips.
Included among his exhibition are numerous photographs of Demi Moore, dating back 20 years. Now neighbours, they no longer remain close: “You don't have to keep in touch with everybody because it would be impossible. Probably next time we meet it would be exactly the same as the last conversation we were having. In fact not long ago I met her at somebody's dinner – and I knew she was going so I brought all these great photographs I took of her kids and gave her them. I'm just always into what I'm doing right now, and I know that sounds like a cliché but I actually am.”
One of Stewart's more stirring images to see is a stylised photograph of a blood-covered blonde in a bathroom holding a switchblade, entitled Suicide Blonde.
“My photographs are named after certain things and experiences and Suicide Blonde is the name of a song by Michael Hutchence. I had a few experiences with him and it's a metaphor of that,” he says of the late Australian INXS rock star whose 1997 suicide precipitated the heroin overdose death of his grieving former love, Paula Yates, three years later. “It's hard for me to talk about even today. But its probably my favourite photograph.”
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