"Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)" is arguably Eurythmics' signature song. Following its success, their previous single, "Love Is a Stranger", was re-released and also became a worldwide hit. On Rolling Stone'sThe 500 Greatest Songs of All Time issue in 2003, "Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)" was ranked number 356; it was the Eurythmics's only song to appear on the list. Eurythmics have regularly performed the song in all their live sets since 1982, and it is often performed by Lennox on her solo tours.
In 1991, the song was remixed and reissued to promote Eurythmics' Greatest Hits album. It re-charted in the UK, reaching number 48, and was also a moderate hit in dance clubs. Another remix by Steve Angello was released in France in 2006, along with the track "I've Got a Life" (peaking at number 10).
The original recording's main instrumentation featured a sequenced analog synthesizer riff, which Stewart accidentally discovered in the studio when he played a bass track backwards. Apart from the synthesizer, the arrangement also uses a Movement Systems Drum Computer, a piano in the middle eight, and Lennox's multitracked harmony vocals.
The music video for "Sweet Dreams" was directed by Chris Ashbrook and filmed in January 1983, shortly before the single and the album were released. The video received heavy airplay on the then-fledgling MTV channel and is widely considered a classic clip from the early-MTV era.
Lennox's striking androgynous visual image, with close-cropped, orange-coloured hair, and attired in a man's suit brandishing a cane, immediately made her a household name. Her gender-bending image would be further explored in other Eurythmics videos such as "Love Is a Stranger" and "Who's That Girl?".
There is also an alternative music video with the duo on a train.
"Sweet Dreams" was Eurythmics' commercial breakthrough in the United Kingdom and all over the world. The single entered the UK chart at #63 on 12 February 1983 and reached #2 on 19 March. The single equaled that position in Ireland after debuting on 6 March 1983. In the Netherlands, the single entered at #34 on 9 April 1983 and peaked at #10 on 30 April. In Belgium, the song debuted at #33 on 16 April 1983 and peaked at #3 for two weeks starting on 7 May. In Switzerland, the single debuted at #10 on 22 May 1983 and peaked at #8 on 5 June.
On 25 June, the single debuted at #49 on the Canadian RPM single chart and reached #1 for two weeks beginning on 10 September. In New Zealand, the single debuted at #25 on 10 July 1983 and peaked at #2 on 7 August. In Austria, the single debuted and peaked at #9 on 15 August 1983.
"Sweet Dreams" was the first ever single release from Eurythmics in the United States when it was released in May 1983. The single debuted at #90 on 14 May 1983 and slowly eased up the chart. On 9 July, after eight weeks, the single reached the top twenty followed by the top ten at #6 on 30 July. On 6 August, the single reached #2 and stayed there for the entire month, kept from the top by The Police's "Every Breath You Take" before "Dreams" dethroned the song on 3 September 1983. It stayed at #1 for one week.
Marilyn Manson added some extra lines to the lyrics that are not present in the Eurythmics version: "I wanna use you and abuse you/I wanna know what's inside you" along with "I'm gonna use you and abuse you/I gotta know what's inside you."
The video for Manson's cover contains several clips of Manson and bandmates in what appears to be an abandoned building. In between the clips are a number of surreal shots of Manson wearing a wedding gown, Manson wandering around an abandoned street in a tutu, birds fluttering around him and leaving droppings on his body, and of him riding a pig wearing a cowboy hat and covered with mud. In 2010 the music video was rated the "Scariest music video ever made" by Billboard, beating Michael Jackson's Thriller for the top spot.
The American rapper Swing (later on known as Swingfly) released a europop version of the song featuring Dr Alban. It included additional rap verses but sampling greatly on the original song. The single had chart success in Sweden and in many European clubs.
Rapper Nas uses an interpolation of the chorus from "Sweet Dreams" in his 1996 hit "Street Dreams".
The song was used in the first episode of series three of the British drama Ashes to Ashes, on the series unveiling of Gene Hunt's Audi Quattro on Alex Drake's noting that "There's nothing for it – let's fire up the Quattro".
The Marilyn Manson version was used in the horror film Trick 'r Treat during the iconic werewolf transformation scene.
^Judith A. Peraino (2005). University of California Press, ed. Listening to the Sirens: Musical Technologies of Queer Identity from Homer to Hedwig. p. 241. ISBN978-0520215870. "Marilyn Manson entered the mainstream in 1995 with a cover song of the 1980s synth-pop hit “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)” by the Eurythmics"
^Larry Starr, Christopher Alan Waterman (2007). Oxford University Press, ed. American popular music: from minstrelsy to MP3, Vol. 1. ISBN978-0195300536. ""Sweet Dreams" is a good example of commercial new wave music of the early 1980s, an outgrowth of the 1970s new wave/punk scene promoted by major record labels."