Pet Shop Boys Please/Further Listening 1984-1986

     Please, the first Pet Shop Boys album, was released in March 1986.
Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe had met in London during August 1981 and
began writing songs together soon afterwards, eventually settling into
a routine of regularly demoing new songs in a Camden recording studio
owned by Ray Roberts. In August 1983 - when Neil was working at the
pop magazine Smash Hits and Chris was studying architecture - Neil was
sent to New York by Smash Hits to interview The Police and took the 
opportunity to play some songs to the cult disco producer, Bobby Orlando, 
whose records Chris and Neil admired. Bobby 'O', as he was known, announced 
that they would make a record together. The first Pet Shop Boys single, 
the Bobby 'O'-produced version of 'West End girls', was released in April 1984 
and was a modest underground dance hit, at the time satisfying their one stated 
ambition: to have a twelve-inch single available on import in the trendiest 
London record shops. A second, 'One more chance', followed. By March 1985 the 
Pet Shop Boys were extricated from their Bobby 'O' contract and signed to 
'EMI Records' subsidiary, Parlophone. A single, 'Opportunities (Let's make 
lots of money)', was released that August but, to their disappointment, only 
reached number 116 in the British charts.

     When they began to plan their first album, the Pet Shop Boys decided they 
wanted to work with the producer Stephen Hague, because of his recent work with 
The World's Famous Supreme Team ('Hey DJ') and Malcolm McLaren ('Madame Butterfly'). 
Their manager, Tom Watkins, suggested, among others, The System and a 
newly-successful British production team, Stock Aitken and Waterman, who were 
working with another of his acts, Spelt Like This. EMI also had doubts about 
Hague and made other suggestions, but it was agreed they could record a new 
version of 'West End girls' as a trial track with Stephen Hague, after which 
they were given the go-ahead for the album.

     Please was recorded with Stephen Hague at Advision studios in London between 
November 1985 and January 1986, working from midday until midnight, breaking 
mid-evening to visit Efe's Turkish kebab house down the road. 'We would drink 
a bottle of retsina, if not two bottles, and come back half-drunk,' says Neil. 
Occasionally they would take time off to perform 'West End girls' on Top Of 
The Pops and Wogan, as it slowly rose to number one in the British chart. 
At one point during the recording, the studio manager said, 'So you're the 
singer, Neil? I thought you were the manager'.

     They decided the album would include ten songs, already written, and set 
aside a number of other contenders, including 'It's a sin' (which Hague said they 
should leave to their next album), 'Rent' (which programmer Blue Weaver thought had 
too similar a chord change to 'I want a lover'), 'What have I done to deserve this?' 
(they had yet to persuade their chosen collaborator Dusty Springfield), 'Jealousy', 
'One more chance' and 'In the club or in the queue' (which the Pet Shop Boys would 
revisit in 1999 but which remains unreleased). Please was recorded on a tight deadline. 
'West End girls' had already been finished, and they already had recordings of 'I want 
a lover', Opportunities...' and 'Why don't we live together?' which Stephen Hague would 
do further work on, but they were still under time pressure. The last song they finished, 
'Suburbia' was a straightforward remake of their demo version partly because there was 
no time to do anything else.

     Though it was hardly a concept album, as the Pet Shop Boys recorded Please, they 
realised that the songs they had chosen could be sequenced to form a loose storyline. 
'We had the idea for the album that It was sort of linked together,' says Neil. They run 
away in the first song, they arrive in the city ('West End girls'), they want to make 
money ('Opportunities'), they fall in love ('Love comes quickly'), move to suburbia 
('Suburbia), go out clubbing (Tonight is forever'), there's violence in the city ('Violence') 
and casual sex ('I want a lover'), someone tries to pick up a boy ('Later tonight')... it 
does sort of work.'

     During the recording, there was much talk of how the first Pet Shop Boys album 
sleeve should look. 'One of the great strengths of our relationship with Tom Watkins 
is that there was a lot of negative energy in it, and Chris and I would react against 
Tom,' says Neil. 'It really worked in a quite a positive way, creatively. Tom spent the 
whole time we were in. Advision saying he was coming up with this amazing packaging 
idea: paper engineering. Finally one day he comes in and says, "Right, I've got it, 
the mock-up of the album cover, it's unbelievable".'

     'He'd been describing this in words for ages and you just couldn't imagine 
what it was,' remembers Chris. 'Every copy of the album, would be unique. It was these 
folds of paper that came together. It was basically a lattice work.'

     'We looked at it and thought it was ridiculously complicated,' says Neil. 
'As a result we and Mark Farrow promptly came up with the idea of having a white 
sleeve with a tiny picture of us. As ever, we didn't have a photo.' (Mark Farrow, 
a designer who at that time worked in Tom Watkins' office, has worked on every 
Pet Shop Boys sleeve since.) Most of the existing Pet Shop Boys photos had been taken 
by Eric Watson, a photographer friend Neil had known since his youth. They chose one, 
which had already been printed in Smash Hits news section, Bitz, in which they
were draped with white towels. 'Eric's never been very happy with it because if you 
look at it it's not completely in focus,' says Neil. 'We whacked it on the front 
cover simply because the towels were white.'

     'At the time,' says Chris, 'it looked completely different from everything else.'

     Still, in an era where most record sleeves were fussy, garish and cluttered, 
not everyone appreciated its minimalism: their American record company insisted that 
the title and their name be printed at the top of the sleeve so that it could be easily 
identified in the racks, and the French record company, to the Pet Shop Boys' fury, 
simply redesigned the sleeve using a much larger photo. Later, when it was released 
on CD, the Pet Shop Boys didn't scale down the photo in the same ratio as on the album 
sleeve, and they have always felt the CD sleeve doesn't work so well.

     On the album's inner sleeve, they used 98 more photos, mostly from the many 
sessions they had done with Eric Watson, though one - Chris's self-portrait in a 
mirror - was taken in Neil's New York apartment in 1984 when Neil was launching 
Smash Hits' American version, Star Hits, and Chris had been flown over by Bobby 'O' 
so that the Pet Shop Boys could do more recording.

     After 'West End girls', three more singles were released from Please. 
'Love comes quickly' came out in February, before the album, the updated version 
of 'Opportunities' was released in May, and an EP centred around a re-recorded version 
of 'Suburbia' came out in September. (They also released an album of six dance mixes, 
Disco, in November.)

     The Pet Shop Boys had come up with the album's title fairly early on. Though Neil 
thinks Chris probably suggested it, it derives from the habit at Smash Hits magazine 
of saying 'pur-leaze!' at the end of sentences. 'I think if you look at my obituary 
when I left Smash Hits it quotes me as saying 'such and such, pur-leaze',' says Neil. 
'Meaning, 'for goodness sake'. It seemed to be associated with me. It was just a weak 
joke, that you could go into a record shop and say, 'have you got the Pet Shop 
Boys, Please'?' Not even a joke, really.'

     Two divided by zero

Neil      In 1983, when I was working in New York at the American version of 
Smash Hits, I bought my father a talking calculator which spoke the numbers out loud 
for his Christmas present. Chris and I loved the calculator's voice - it had a very 
very sad quality. When we played it to Bobby 'O' he loved it top - he said 'this is 
a whole album!'. Bobby 'O' had given us a backing track he'd done which he couldn't 
think of anything to do with, so we had the idea - because you could make the 
calculator say mathematical sentences - of making it say 'two divided by zero', 
and building asong around that. I think it was Chris who thought of it - it's not 
the kind of thing I'd have ever thought of.

Chris   Two divided by zero is infinity, isn't it?

Neil     I think at the time we had this discussion about whether or not 
it was infinity. Anyway, it was rather a romantic idea.

Chris   Two divided by nothing. It's like 'when two become one'.

Neil     Precisely. It was just the idea that two people couldn't be split 
up by anything; could be split up by nothing. And that suggested this idea 
of two people running away. It reminded me of when I was a teenager. 
This girl Maureen and I often had this romantic notion of running away to London, 
and we sometimes used to go to Newcastle Central Station at night to see
the trains going to London. And, in the song, maybe there's trouble at home, 
so the two people are going to run away. In this instance, to New York. 
The 'when the postman calls...' part of the song comes from the way, when I was 
a teenager, people were always having pregnancy scares, most of them totally 
manufactured, I think, for the sheer value of the drama. The suggestion is that 
one of them is pregnant. We originally recorded the song with Bobby 'O', and 
then again for the album with Stephen Hague. I'd given the calculator to my dad 
after we made the first version, then I got it back off him for the album, and 
he never got it back again after that. I don't know what happened to it. 
Bobby 'O's version was all programmed on a Linn drum and had loads of samples 
on an Emulator, and Bobby 'O' also sampled himself and me, each saying 'two
divided by zero', and there was a lot more of the 'divided by.. .divided by...'. 
For Please, Stephen Hague spent ages working on it, and I think it's the 
best-sounding track on the album. The arrangement is very similar to Bobby 'O's, 
but it sounds bigger. We were always very concerned that it should still sound 
hip hop and not get too smooth - that's what we were concerned about for the 
whole album - and I think the whole track has got that sort of rush of
excitement, of running away. At the same time, you know that there's no way the 
people in the song are really going to end up in New York. Absolutely no way. 
Just like Maureen and I.

West End girls

Neil    'West End girls' started off as a rap I'd written which was 
completely inspired by The Message Grandmaster Flash, which was released 
in 1982. I loved the whole idea of the pressure of living in a modern city, 
and I decided to write a rap which couldn't be done in an English accent 
over this piece of music Chris and I had written in Ray Roberts' Camden studio
where we used to work. The original music wasn't great, though there was a 
fantastic bit at the end where Chris went into a Rhodes piano solo, which we 
really liked at the time. I started writing the rap when I was staying at my 
cousin Richard's home outside Nottingham. He and I had stayed up watching some 
kind of James Cagney gangster film on the television, and I went to bed
at about one o'clock. I was sleeping in one of his kid's bedrooms in this tiny 
single bed and for some reason the line 'sometimes you're better off dead there's 
a gun in your hand and it's pointing at your head' came into my head, so I got out 
of bed and wrote it down on to bit of paper with the next two lines. Then when I 
got back to my flat in the King's Road, I lay on my floor one night and wrote 
the whole thing, apart from the last verse. The following day we were in Ray Roberts' 
studio and I said, 'I think we should do this rap recovery - I've got an idea'
and I spoke the whole thing to Clue and Ray Roberts, banging my knee. Then, literally 
two or three days before we went to New York to record with Bobby 'O' for the first 
time, we wrote an instrumental with me playing the piano and Chris playing keyboards. 
It started off with this chord change that I'd written years ago, and Chris came 
up with the bassline-our first bouncy bassline. I took the tape home and I realised 
that you could say the rap I'd written over it, and that you could sing a tune 
over the chorus and then have 'west...end...girls, following the bassline. 
And I wrote the last verse, sitting on the floor again, and made a little tape 
of it. When we went into the studio with Bobby 'O' he just stood us behind 
two keyboards and I said to Chris, 'you know that rap...' and I did it then - 
that was the first time I'd ever sung it, apart from muttering it to myself.

Chris  The engineer had made 'Popcorn'...

Neil     ...the first ever synthesiser hit, before Giorgio Moroder or Kraftwerk. 
Steve Jerome, he was called. The following day Bobby 'O' did these overdubs 
where he got the drum sounds from David Bowie's 'Let's Dance' and played them 
live on the Emulator, and he played the choir thing on the Emulator. When we first 
heard an Emulator at Bobby 'O's we loved the sound of this male Gregorian choir.

Chris   New Order had already used it on 'Blue Monday'. Very annoying.

Neil     I remember the engineer saying, 'oh, wow, your voice is so easy to listen to...'.

Chris  When we wanted to release 'West End girls' again after we signed 
to Parlophone, we had to re-record it, because we didn't own the original 
recording. Stephen Hague decided we should slow it down - he wanted to make 
it more moody. It's very similar to the original, but slower.

Neil     We added a lot more incidental noises - we had a general theory at 
this point that we wanted to make music that sounded filmic. We wanted to bring 
real sounds into the music, so our suggestion was to record people walking down 
the street at the start. We recorded traffic as well. At the start you can hear 
what Stephen Hague recorded walking down the street outside Advision studios with a DAT.

Chris   Luckily a girl was walking down the street in stilettos.

Neil     If you listen very carefully you can hear a girl saying, at 0.05, something 
like 'it's Sting'.

Chris  Because Stephen Hague looks a bit like Sting.

Neil    The original version had four verses, but we decided to reduce 
it to three: I joined the beginning of the fourth verse to the rest of 
the third verse, skipping 'I've said it all before and I'll say it 
again/we're all modern men' from the third verse and 'All your stopping,
stalling and starting/ who do you think you are - Joe Stalin?' from the 
fourth verse. And the way it worked in this version, it left a gap at 
the end of the verses, apart from the first verse, so either we or 
Stephen Hague suggested having someone sing there, and Stephen Hague
suggested Helena Springs.

Chris  Helena Springs has got one of my favourite female backing voices 
of all time.

Neil     I told her what words to sing and suggested the tune to her. 
She's got a fantastic, magisterial voice. Then we added the trumpet 
solo, which is played by Stephen Hague on an Emulator trumpet sample.

Chris  He spent ages doing it. It's a really good solo. A lot better 
than most trumpet players.

Neil     All the Emulator choirs come from Bobby 'O' 's original version - 
Bobby 'O' played them originally. Chris and I foolishly didn't want to keep 
them because we wanted it to not sound like Bobby 'O' but Stephen Hague quite 
rightly said, 'No, that's so good it has to stay in'. The new version also 
has a different beginning and end to the original. The whole record took exactly 
one week, five days from Monday to Friday, on Friday evening it was finished and we
thought that it was absolutely completely brilliant. And famously we took it to EMI 
and they were all a bit worried about it, and we really had to say, 'No, it's great'. 
And it went to number one in Britain and then, in 1986, to number one in America. 
Arguably, 'West End girls' was the first rap number one in America. Chris and I did 
our twelve-inch mix [CD2, track 6] with Frank Rozak, an engineer from New York - 
we went in at night because the studio time was cheaper. We weren't that happy 
with it at the time, but that mix became the number one dance record in America. 
A lot of people assumed the song was about prostitutes and of course, typically, 
it didn't even enter my head. It was meant to be about class, about rough boys 
getting a bit of posh. It's opposites - west/east, lower class/upper class, 
rich/poor, work/play. And it's about the idea of escape. There is a huge thing 
about escaping in our songs. I put in the bit about Russia because I've always 
been interested in Russian history, and the idea was that the song went from west 
to east - 'from Lake Geneva to The Finland Station', which is the historic
journey Lenin made in a sealed train. Chris and I used to love the West End of 
London near Leicester Square because you'd get a lot of skinheads, and you'd 
get posh girls. We used to go out nightclubbing a lot, and we'd go to The Dive 
Bar in Gerrard Street, which is mentioned in the song. It was in a basement, 
and it was damp down there, and there was no one in it apart from a couple of 
queeny guys talking to the barman - but it used to fascinate us. The barman 
used to play Shirley Bassey or Barbra Streisand or Barry Manilow. We used to really 
like going there.

Opportunities (Let's make lot of money)

Neil     This was another song we originally recorded with Bobby '0', and to be 
honest I think I might prefer the Bobby 'O' version. When we wrote this track 
in early 1983, before we'd met Bobby 'O', it was right in the thick of our 
Bobby 'O' obsession, and we were trying to sound like him. One of the things 
we always liked about Bobby 'O"s music is we thought it sounded like punk disco. 
Chris came up with the idea of the lyric for 'Opportunities'. He was playing the
three chords - C minor, E flat, B flat, which was like Bobby 'O"s 'Shoot Your Shot' 
for Divine - and he said, 'Can't you sing "let's make lots of money"?' This was 
in the Eighties, during Thatcherism, and suddenly there had been this huge 
philosophical shift in the country where the idea of making money was a good thing. 
People started talking about yuppies and buying Filofaxes and all that kind of 
stuff, and this was meant to be a sort of satire on that. It's a classic
Chris idea: let's say the unsayable.

Chris  I was at university during the whole punk thing. Groups of our era were 
still very punk in our attitudes, as opposed to musicians today who ha-1 a 
completely different attitude to the industry.

Neil     It was what you would have called, at the time, a wind-up. You wouldn't 
have said 'ironic' at the time, you'd have said, 'it's a wind-up'. It was meant 
to be proyocative.

Chris   It always used to bug me that it was always the really successful wealthy 
people, your wealthy rock stars, who are supposed to be not doing it for, the money, 
whereas it is all the scratching disco [...] artists with no money who are criticised 
for being commercial.

Neil     Chris having said that, I wrote the words in about fifteen minutes. It's meant
for everyone: here's this nauseating synth duo singing a song called 'let's
make lots of money'. It was meant to be an anti-rock-group song, singing about the things
you're not supposed to sing about. It's the same [...] really, as that anti-hippie album 
by Frank Zappa ai i J the Mothers Of Invention, We're Only In It For The Money. It's 
like punks used to sing about unpalatable everyday things in a way that supposedly 
glorifies them but doesn't really. The two people in the song are supposed to be 
absolutely hopeless. I vaguely thought of the film Midnight Cowboy, in which 
Dustin Hoffman is the guy who wants to go to Florida and [...] Jon Voight is the 
hustler, a brains and brawn [...] I combination. People have often thought, 
and ask [...] if it was about me and Chris, and actually I don't think it was. 
This was the first song that I played to Bobby 'O' when I met him. He said, 'Oh, 
I could do this', and I thought, 'Well, of course you could, it sounds like you 
anyway...' But when we recorded it with Bobby 'O' we actually didn't give it an 
octave bassline, which is the classic Bobby 'O' thing, Chris wrote a hip hop bassline.

Chris   Electro.

Neil    The Bobby 'O' version was much much more moody - it started with, and made 
more of, the pretty melody. It's much more like New Order. It sounded very very sad. 
We always thought the song was sad, because it was about two losers. We re-recorded 
it first with J.J. Jeczalik from The Art Of Noise for our first EM I single. We chose 
him because he'd had a hit record with Tin Tin, 'Kiss Me', and we liked The Art Of Noise. 
He did it on the Fairlight, which we were very excited about. Before we even got to 
the studio he'd come up with this weird sound which sounds like scaffolding falling 
down, which became the basis of the rhythm track. We spent three weeks making a single 
with him, in at least three locations. It cost about ?40,000. And no one was ever very 
happy. We found it an intensely frustrating experience. They brought in a real bass
player and it all seemed to take a lot of time. It originally had a bit in the middle 
which we edited out weeks later, and would eventually use as track six on Please, 
as 'Opportunities (reprise)'.

Chris   Best track on the album.

Neil    I think Stephen Hague thought it was a rather strange thing to do.

Chris   It was the start of side two of the vinyl.

Neil     It was like: and the beat goes on. The original idea was that there was 
a party scene in the middle of the song. It was part of our filmic thing. You can 
hear Lesley White, who was the assistant editor of The Face, saying 'where's Neil?' 
at 0.10. We had a party at Sarm East, to get a party atmosphere. The version of 
the original 'Opportunities' single on this album [CD2, track 2] is the unreleased 
full version before the party scene was edited out. We also did our own twelve-inch 
version [CD2, track 4]. Around that time, we'd heard this record called 'Loveride' 
by Nuance featuring Vikki Love so we had the idea of finding the producer of that,
Ron Dean Miller, and going to New York and doing the twelve-inch with him. Money was 
still being spent. It was a major remix and he put the big chorus drums all the way 
through. Stephen Hague wanted to re-record 'Opportunities' completely but there 
wasn't time. The version on Please was based on the single version, but also used 
elements of Ron Dean Miller's mix and then Stephen Hague did some reprogramming and 
I re-sung the vocal as well. The vocal is much better on the album - on the first 
version the vocal is really weak. We also faded out the album version before the 
final section: 'all the love that we had and all the love that we hide/who will bury 
us when we die?' We decided it was too pretentious. I remember hearing the original 
version played on Radio One. We were all in Tom Watkins' office, listening, and the 
guy on the radio took the piss out of it at the end and I thought, 'right, I'm not 
doing that again'. The album version was subsequently a hit, though even then not 
as big a hit as we'd hoped. Listening now to the way it starts, it's very grandiose. 
We always used to like the grandiose, as well as the street. Actually, it's a dialectic. 
We've always been trying to bring the two things together.

Love comes quickly

Neil     This was written in the studio in Camden on the same evening we wrote 
the song that became 'I'm not scared', and they both have very much a similar mood. 
We were in our beautiful Italian disco mood that evening. This was in 1984 or early 
1985, right towards the end of the time we were working in Ray Roberts' studio, 
and it was a much more mature-sounding track for us than we were used to. I was playing 
some chords, and Chris was playing some bass notes which made the chords rather 
interesting, and I immediately came up with the chorus and the 'ooo-ooo-ooo', and then 
I just sang the melody with some fake words. And we really really loved it - we thought 
we'd written a hit single. Not long afterwards we had our a meeting with the head of 
A&R at EMI, Dave Ambrose, and then we had to drive from EMI's offices to a pub in Fulham
Road where he was meeting a man who was going to put Duran Duran on stamps in South America. 
And I said, 'You must hear this new track we've done - it's great'. It was very difficult to
actually get him to listen to anything. I remember turning it up in the car. Anyway, by the 
time we got to the pub in Fulham he announced he was going to sign us, but I was slightly 
frustrated because I don't think he'd really taken in what a lovely track it was. There 
was another song on the tape, called 'Beautiful beast', totally camp nonsense which had 
this line we always laughed about - 'then you caught me there within your snare, you 
beautiful beast' - and had the most corny tune, and Dave Ambrose loved that. And I was 
trying to play him what I thought was the most amazingly cool 'Love comes quickly', 
about which he said absolutely nothing. So maybe we got signed on the basis of 
'Beautiful beast'. But Stephen Hague always loved this song, and when we were
recording it for Please he did an accidental thing with the production.

Chris   We used a sequencer on this track, and the sequencer shifted the bassline by 
a sixteenth, so that it played off the beat, and that was what he worked on.

Neil    This and Two divided by zero' were the tracks on the album that were what 
we wanted to be like: very electro, the middle-range sequencer part holding everything 
together, and also incredibly beautiful. We loved the handclaps fluttering from side 
to side, which we'd loved ever since that Sharon Redd record 'Never Gonna Give You Up'.

Chris   High strings, too.

Neil    This was the first appearance of a high string line, which has appeared 
in nearly every record we've ever made since. Stephen Hague said we should have 
a middle bit - he was right - and he wrote the first two chords, where it goes' 
I know it sounds ridiculous...'

Chris   They're really good, though.

Neil    That's why the songwriting credit is Tennant/Lowe/Hague'. We also decided we 
needed a sax solo, and always being labels kind of people...

Chris  It was the Eighties.

Neil     ...we thought,'let's get the sax player from Roxy Music, Andy Mackay'. 
So Andy Mackay came in with his wife, who was fabulous, a real rock wife. We spent 
most of the time chatting to her. Andy Mackay played for hours and we used a tiny 
bit on the fade out. It's a good bit, though. We wanted the twelve-inch [CD2, track 8], 
which we did with Stephen Hague, to sound even more Italian disco. We wanted to just 
have more of it. When we finished it, we had an acetate run off and Chris and I went 
down to this club off Charing Cross Road we used to go to, the Jungle, and we got the DJ 
to play it. It was all very very exciting. It didn't clearthe dancefloor. I remember 
that Stephen Hague was puzzled by the lines 'it may seem romantic/ and that's no defence/ 
love will always get to you'. The whole song was about how you can suddenly fall in 
love with someone and you can't help it. I was writing something gorgeously romantic,
but I don't think it was about my life. Unless, now I think about it, it was about 
a friend falling in love, going through the traumatic start of a relationship, 
always rushing off and bursting into tears. The song is about the surprise. When you 
fall in love with someone, it's totally disruptive. You're having a comfortable life, 
and suddenly everything's just turned upside down. All your priorities change. But the 
song is also saying that, after it's happened, you suddenly realise you hadn't really 
been alive at all.


Neil     After we were signed to EMI, we went into Terminal Studios to do some writing, 
with all this equipment which didn't work. Then we wrote 'Suburbia' and Tonight is 
forever'. Chris wrote all the music for 'Suburbia'.

Chris   The inspiration was 'Into The Groove', the bassline. It's virtually the same. The
song's nothing like it, but the bassline is.

Neil     I wrote the words that night, and we went back the next day and finished 
the demo. The album version is exactly like the demo. I thought it was amazingly catchy.

Chris   I thought it was corny.

Neil     Same thing.

Chris   What makes it acceptable is the lyrics.

Neil     It's a hard lyric, soft tune. That was our idea - to write disco music 
with un-disco lyrics. The words were inspired by this film we'd seen, 
Penelope  Spheeris's Suburbia. I thought it was a great idea to write a song about 
suburbia and how it's really violent and decaying and a mess. It's quite a theme 
in English art, literature and music, like in Graham Greene or Paul Theroux - that 
the suburbs are really nasty, that behind lace curtains everyone is an alcoholic 
or a spanker or a mass murderer. Also, this was the era of the riots in Toxteth 
and Brixton. I remember some friends of mine having to drive through the riots in 
Brixton to visit me in Chelsea, and being scared. Brixton was a prosperous Victorian 
suburb, and eighty years later it had become this decaying inner city. And there was 
a feeling that the riots had been started by the police hassling these kids hanging 
around a bus stop. The dogs in the song come totally from the packs of dogs in the film, 
though I remember Chris telling me that it happened in Liverpool when he lived in 
Toxteth - these huge packs of dogs with a big one in front and the little ones
at the back. I used to be a bit scared of dogs - my sister once got bitten, and 
doing paper rounds you're always scared of dogs; you hear them tear the paper when 
you put it through the door, and that's a symbol of the threat of violence. And so 
the song just describes the riot happening, and the middle bit sums up why we are 
having this riot: 'I only wanted something else to do but hang around...' 
People are bored. Then it refers to the aftermath being reported on TV, just 
sociological nonsense and police officers blaming television for the whole thing.
People always say, 'You can never find a policeman when you need one' and here 
the media is saying, 'Where's a policeman when you need one to blame the 
colour TV?', turning it upside down. So when it says, This is their hour of need', 
the hour of need isn't the people in the suburbs needing jobs, it's the media needing 
their talking heads to talk a load of nonsense. My mother always recognises the 
reference to her - 'mother's got her hairdo to be done' - because she always got 
her hair done every Thursday when I was a child, and her hairdresser Dominic would
tell her the gossip.

Chris   When we made the demo we had just discovered a car crash sample on 
the Emulator.

Neil     So that was all over it. We would always bicker with Stephen Hague 
about things like that and the number of sampled orchestra hits. He would say, 
'Right, we will takeoutfifty per cent of the orchestra hits on this track 
because there are so many orchestra hits, and you can't have the car crash 
that loud...' We had a car crash solo on it originally. We used the riot noise 
off a film, and the high keyboard sound is influenced by 'Axel F', which was a hit at 
the same time. We didn't spend long recording this track because we made the whole 
album in ten weeks, and we always felt we'd rushed through this song. When Please came 
out, all of the fans, and our families, said Suburbia' should be a single. We'd, 
typically, gone off it by that point. Then we decided to re-record it as a single, 
with Julian Mendelsohn, who Tom Watkins recommended to us. Julian had remixed 
'Relax', and he brought in his keyboard programmer Andy Richards, who we were very 
impressed with because he had worked on loads of Trevor Horn records and we were
always incredibly impressed by Trevor Horn. And we decided to make the new version 
more filmic. Andy Richards took the synth line and made it verge on a horn section sound. 
The new version had dogs on - we upped the dog quotient. The twelve-inch version, 
'Suburbia (The Full Horror)' [CD2, track 11]-which the seven-inch is basically just 
an edit of- is more epic. It's very Diamond Dogs, very Frankie Goes To Hollywood, 
especially the 'where the suburbs meet utopia' bit. By the way, that's where the 
word 'suburbia' comes from: 'suburb' and 'utopia'. Lots of bombs go off at the end. 
An entire suburb is being destroyed in a riot. Twelve-inch mixes weren't really made
for dancing back then. We also recorded the sound of smashing glass in Sarm West 
studio two. They couldn't find a good smashing glass sample anywhere, so we got a 
pane of glass and the assistant smashed it, with half a brick, I think.

Chris   There were several attempts.

Tonight is forever

Neil    That day we both came into the studio with an idea for a song and Chris 
wrote the music for 'Suburbia', I wrote most of the music for this. I had the PPG 
synthesiser at home, and you could play chords on it. I'm sure I nicked the chord 
change from some old song. It's about kids going to Heaven, the nightclub. The title 
occurred to me in a nightclub once. The idea that you can make a brief transitory 
excitement - fancying someone in a nightclub - into your whole life. It was written 
in 1985 when the club scene was changing; gay and straight clubs were being mixed. 
I like the contrast between 'tonight is forever', which sounds like something you'd see
Nelson Eddy and Jeanette Macdonald singing in some old film, and my favourite lines: 
'I haven't got a job to pay/ but I could stay in bed all day'. The idea that you can 
just stay in bed and have sex all day. It's, 'Don't think, do'. I mean, I'm not like 
that myself. It was one of the things I admired about Chris when I first met him was 
that he was a much more hedonistic person than I was. I would like to like that sort 
of thing. Like, I like dance records but I can't really dance. In the song, by the 
end, it's not'.. .if we fall in love' but '.. .when we fall in love', and it's really 
corny because they do fall in love. It's a total fantasy. We were always fascinated 
by kids going out clubbing.

Chris    In the early Eighties everyone I knew sort of didn't work. Just got dressed 
up, lived on the dole, and got into clubs cheap - a life of living at night.

Neil     We have always had a slightly romantic idea of the street. The song is meant 
to be very filmic. The top French horn line, which is played on the Emulator, is very 
John Barry. There's orchestral percussion -tubular bells. Real ones. On day we came 
in and there was a tubular bell player. Chris and I were very very against having real 
instruments brought in the studio. We weren't happy about it at all. We said, 'Can't 
you just get a tubular bells sample?' That's probably why they're turned down in 
the mix. This was so nearly the follow-up to 'West End girls'.

Chris  We did it on The Tube and it didn't work.

Neil    That's why it wasn't a single. We got a real downer. It was the worst 
television appearance we ever did in our entire life. It was The Euro Tube. 
We opened the whole show with 'West End girls' and I had to sing live, and it 
was fine. We then had to wait two hours, during which time I drank four pints 
of beer, then I had to sing Tonight is forever'. You have never heard anything 
worse in your entire life. You know when someone sings on the television and you 
say, 'Wow, she really can't sing'. This was my, 'Wow, he really really can't sing'. 
And during the drum break in the middle I couldn't think of anything to do, so I 
just turned my back on thecamera. I thought they could film Chris.


Neil    Violence was the last track to be written for Please.

Chris   It was inspired by a sound on the PPG. It's the bass sound on the record. 
Actually, the same sound is also used for the organ. It sounds quite soulful.

Neil     My vocal is really thin-sounding on this. Helena Springs sings on it 
as well. In the instrumental middle bit we are still in 'Axel F' territory. 
It's about Northern Ireland. At this time there were bombs in London. It was 
also partly inspired by another Penelope Spheerisfilm, The Boys Next Door, 
which is about two teenagers who go up to lots of people in Los Angeles shopping 
malls. Chris said I should put in 'violence breeds violence'.

Chris 'Violence breeds violence'. It's a bit like 'War is stupid', isn't it?

Neil     I always thought it was a bit of a corny line but I couldn't think of 
anything else. I like the last verse best. The song is really about how violence 
is male. It's a male concept. A friend of ours who was in jail when this alburn 
came out said that everyone in his prison loved this - they thought it was the 
best track on the album. I don't think they thought it was glorifying violence. 
I think they liked the fact that it was hard.

I want a lover

Neil     We wrote this at Ray Roberts studio one night in 1983. Ray Roberts had a 
bass guitar which I played. This is us doing gay disco - the words are completely 
about going to a club and picking up someone. When we first started writing together 
Chris was very keen that we should write sleazy songs - it had never occurred to 
me before. It's about standing at a corner of a nightclub and everyone's leaving 
and you've seen someone you fancy, and who's going to make the first approach? 
It emphasises the transitory nature of it - it was totally a pre-Aids song. 
It's recorded with Blue Weaver who we'd met when we did the first single version 
of 'Opportunities'. He played on all the Bee Gees records and he was in Amen Corner.
He's a great keyboard player and programmer.

Chris  Blue Weaver always understood disco.

Neil     He lived in Miami. He played at the White House with the Bee Gees for President
Carter- how much more disco than that can you get? There's real guitar on it, played by 
a friend of Blue Weaver's. There was more guitar originally - it sounded like 'Fame' 
in the middle - but we edited it out. There's another car crash on this - a different car 
crash - and there is a sample of Chris playing the trombone. Chris brought his trombone 
into the studio. He wasn't very keen on doing it.

Chris    Blue Weaver insisted. I learned the trombone when I was about ten. 
My grandfather played the trombone.

Neil     It's got my favourite line: 'driving through the night, it's so 
exciting', followed by a car crash.

Chris    Was that the first song with a bass drum on the fours?

Neil     Yes, it probably was, and that's now what you'd think of as really Pet Shop Boys.

Chris    It's all about turning off the lights and it all getting a bit steamy. 
Our records aren't sexy enough now. It's all bloody politics and the intricacies 
of Russian history. No one wants to hear about that, do they?

Later tonight

Neil    This is played by Chris on the piano in Advision. Stephen Hague insisted. 
He thought it would be great if we played something live on the album.

Chris   I'm amazed I agreed.

Neil    I sat on a stool and sang the song, and Chris played the piano, and we 
had dim lighting and it was really lovely and I really enjoyed doing it.

Chris   I would never do that now.

Neil    You play a solo.

Chris   How come I'm doing that? It's absolutely absurd.

Neil    This is such a sad song. This is the most gay song we've ever written, 
practically, and no one noticed at the time. It was about three of us staring 
out of the window from the Smash Hits office at a cute boy walking down 
Carnaby Street. He was a mod. The line 'he is the head boy of a school of thought' 
was quoted in Select magazine as being one of the terrible lines of all time; 
I thought it was a good line. I've always thought we'll put this song in a musical at
some point. It was originally written on a guitar. The song is saying that the boy 
is so out of your reach you will never meet him... but then, you wait till later. 
Maybe it's destiny, or fate, because tonight always comes. So it may happen. 
Really it's about sex and class. People who like rough trade, it's an idealised 
and frustrating idea because you're fancying them for something they're not-they 
don't consider themselves to be rough trade. There was a whole other verse: 'you stare 
like a fellow new to town who can't believe his eyes/ through plate glass you
can always see so much you want but can never touch'. It wasn't very good.

Why don't we Iive together?

Neil     It was written in some rented studio about the same time as 'Suburbia', 
and when we went to New York to remix 'Opportunities' with Ron Dean Miller 
in Unique studios we were having such a good time that we announced we were 
going to stay longer and do another track with him. EMI generously agreed to 
carry on funding us. They were now well up to ?100,000 of costs and we hadn't 
released a record yet. Ron Dean Miller played the guitar. We were being a bit 
like 'Into The Groove' again.

Chris    Not specifically. We were being New York.

Neil     Ron Dean Miller suggested I change the phrasing of how I sang it.

Chris    It used to be 'why don't we live together now?' but he said, 'Leave 
off the "now".' And it was Ron Dean Miller's bassline. And the drums at the 
beginning are fantastic.

Neil     It sounded much more American. But that version [CD2, track 5] is not the version we
released. For the album, we worked on it some more with Stephen Hague. He spent ages
reprogramming all the drums for it.

Chris    It's ace. I don't know why it wasn't a single.

Neil     Ron Dean Miller could not understand the line 'the woman in me shouts out, 
the man in me just smiles'. I always like presenting things upside down, so in this 
song men are indecisive and women are decisive, whereas the stereotype used to be 
the other way round. It's probably about someone I fancied, but I can't remember. 
I'm saying that the woman in me responds to emotion and the man in me doesn't - it's 
that my soft feminine side wants to settle down. That's what the song is really about: 
settling down, compromise. If you will never find someone who you are totally in 
love with, who you are intellectually compatible with, physically compatible with, 
never going to get bored with sexually, is incredibly good-looking - if you're not going
to find that person, you're probably going to settle for the person whom you're used to. 
It's the compromise of reaching middle age. A very old-fashioned idea. People say, 
'You've got to work at a marriage', and I think that's true. The people in the song 
are being wise. You both know you're kind of in love but you're messing around and 
eventually one person is saying to the other, 'Why don't we just face the fact that 
we're going to live together for the rest of our lives and get on with it, and we will 
be happy?' It has some of the same words as the end of 'Opportunities':'.. .all the 
love we had and all the love we hide'.

A man could get arrested

Neil    This was originally written and recorded simultaneously in Bobby 'O"s 
office studio in spring, 1984. I was working in New York at Star Hits and 
Bobby 'O' flew Chris over - he only got his ticket on the morning of the 
flight - and then Bobby 'O' left town for three days and we only recorded in 
his office, which really pissed us off because we liked going into a proper 
recording  studio. Anyway, we started writing a song, and Chris had thought of 
this drum pattern and Bobby 'O' loved it. I couldn't really think of a chorus - 
Chris kept saying it was a rip-off of Shannon. But it was never finished at 
the time. The twelve-inch version [CD2, track 1 ], released as the b-side of 
the 'West End girls' twelve-inch, is the Bobby 'O' version, but because he 
never completed it, we finished it. We did it the same night as we did our twelve-inch 
of 'West End girls'. 'West End girls' took all night, and at about four in the 
morning we started this. We didn't spend long on it, and we were never totally 
happy with it sothen we agreed to do a different version, a completely new 
recording [CD2, track 7]. The seven-inch version, which was the b-side of the 
'West End girls' seven-inch and which is actually the longer of the two, is a 
really Eighties pop production by Steve Spiro, who Tom Watkins was managing. 
We spent a week doing it with him. We changed the structure and the order
of the verses.

Chris   It's all real drums, real bass, real brass section.

Neil    The bass player of Status Quo is playing on this. He was a nice guy, actually.

Chris   This version has got a great middle section. The brass section is like 
Sharon Redd, and we also get a fantastic Sharon Redd bit with the handclaps and 
a complete breakdown.

Neil    The handclaps go from side to side.

Chris   I love that bit.

Neil     The song was inspired by an incident with a friend of ours where 
we ended up being chased by these lads through Russell Square and onto Kingsway. 
Bottles were thrown; there were bottles smashing in the street.

Chris    And Neil nearly did get arrested. It's always Neil that has 
scrapes with the law - I don't know if anyone's noticed that. He's always 
high and mighty about it, but it's always Neil.

Neil     The rest is a portrait of Bobby 'O'. Bobby '0' told us he would never 
have sex with a woman unless she went to the doctor's first, because he was 
obsessed with herpes. He said to me in the studio: '"If you've got your health, 
you've got everything", that's what my doctor said.' It went straight in there. 
And the chorus is totally Bobby 'O' 's approach to life: 'if you want to earn, 
learn how to do it'. There's another Bobby '0' line too, about his girlfriend: 
'of course I told her I loved her - not just 'cause she insisted'. She was nice, 
his girlfriend. But I made the song into a story about someone who is trying 
to get his girlfriend to have it off with him, basically, and he's so frustrated 
that 'a man could get arrested'. He's driven to distraction. It's a song about 
sexual frustration.

In the night

Neil     We had the musical idea of writing a song with the same chord change 
and tempo as 'Opportunities', which it was going to be the b-side of. We thought 
you would then be able to mix one into the other. The words were inspired by a book 
I read about Paris in the occupation, Paris In The Third Reich: A History Of The 
German Occupation, 1940-1944, by David Pryce-Jones; I read about these people called 
les Zazous who were like prototype beatniks. They were apolitical and used to grow 
long hair and listen to American jazz music, which of course was illegal under 
the Nazis. They were very existentialist and sat round talking about love and the 
meaning of life. I was just fascinated that they were totally out of the context of 
their times; that you had this beatnik culture in the middle of the Second World War 
in occupied Paris. The lyric mentions the clubs they went to, like Select and Le Colisee. 
They also sneered at the masculinity of both the resistance and the Germans; I suppose 
I sympathised with them. The song looks at the moral implications, because the Nazis 
hated them and the Resistance hated them, because they were fatalistic and didn't 
participate in the resistance, and the song asks whether that's collaboration. 
It revolves around the chorus - 'there's a thin line between love and crime and in 
this situation / a thin line between love and crime and collaboration' - because the
fact of the matter is that if you're not really against something, you're for it, 
and in a way they collaborated with the Nazis by just carrying on a normal life. 
So, in the end, I am criticising them. We recorded it in PWL. Tom Watkins said there 
was this really good engineer at PWL called Phil Harding, and he'd done a mix of 
Bronski Beat's 'Why?' so we worked with him and his programmer lan Curnow. We recorded 
it across two nights because they were working during the day on Brilliant's album. 
We'd work from ten o'clock at night until ten o'clock in the morning. Chris had already 
written the music on Blue Weaver's Fairlight.

Chris   It was so boring making 'Opportunities' over three weeks that we decided 
to beaver away on the Fairlight while they were doing that, and we knocked this out. 
And the great thing was, the bloke who was mastering the record thought this was the 
a-side and that 'Opportunities' was the b-side.

Neil    When I sang it, I tried to sound like Donovan, because I was thinking of 
a Donovan song, 'Goo Goo Barabajagal'. Although he was a hippie he had a rather 
cool way of singing.

That's my impression

Neil    Before I knew Chris I had written a song with a completely different 
tune on the guitar - it was supposed to sound like Blondie - and when we wrote 
this music I used those words for this. I love the lines in the middle bit: 
'Go to a club, you think I'll be there / I don't go 'cause I'm not a member'. 
They were taken from another song, the first song Chris and I wrote together. 
It was a bit Soft Cell. Originally it went on: 'Although I'm a boy/I don't mind 
what's on your mind at all/ and you won't find me there...' The music for 
'That's my impression' was written in our Italian disco phase. We were writing 
a song around an arpeggio. We first recorded it in Ray Roberts' studio, and 
then with Bobby 'O'. Bobby 'O' thought the words were very weird. We recorded 
this in a different studio, producing it ourselves while Stephen Hague was 
finishing Please. This, the 'disco mix' was originally on the 'Opportunities' 
twelve-inch; the seven-inch b-side was just an edit of it. It's a very Bobby 'O' 
theme again. It's about jealousy, a corny pop lyric about how your lover is 
out there somewhere, trying to pick someone else up.

Chris   More sex.

Neil    I used to live in Knightsbridge in this little flat and I often used 
to walk by the Serpentine, which is why that is mentioned. In the last verse 
I'm trying to be a rock 'n' roll singer.

Chris   I like you singing like this. I don't like deadpan vocals. I've never 
liked deadpan vocals.

Neil    Now you tell me.

Was that what it was?

Neil    We wrote and recorded this in Advision studios, trying to see if we 
could completely do a song from scratch for a b-side. We didn't really like our 
version, so when we went to America and Shep Pettibone was remixing 'Opportunities', 
we also asked him to remix this. Instead, his manager Jane Brinton did it. It's got 
all weird echoes in. It's one of my least favourite Pet Shop Boys songs, though I 
like the middle bit - 'I don't need any more in my life' - which I think sounds a 
bit like David Bowie. Although it also sounds like the middle section of Tonight 
is forever', which I didn't notice until a fan wrote to me and pointed it out. 
It's one of my soppy love lyrics. There's a stream of soppy b-sides.

Chris    Was that what it was? Was that what it was?

Neil     It's a 'why has everything gone wrong?' record, looking back, 
trying to pinpoint why the whole thing was screwed up. To be honest, 
it's a very minor work.

Jack the lad

Neil     It started with a knock-off of one of Erik Satie's Irois Gymnopedies. 
We'd had the idea that there was doing to be a Neil track and a Chris track on 
the 'suburbia' single; Chris's track was 'Paninaro' and this was mine. The idea 
of calling a song 'Jack the lad' came from Big Audio Dynamite, whose song 'E=MC2' 
had a very similar chord change to 'West End girls'. On 'E=MC2' there's a sample 
from the film Performance which says, 'Who do you think you are - Jack the lad?' 
And I had been reading about I awrence of Arabia at the time, and about the spy 
Kim Philby: people who go too far, and people who practice deception. The second verse 
refers to the act that Lawrence of Arabia is supposed to have been homosexual - 
'telling lies inpublic, breaking codes at home, underneath the blankets...' When I say, 
'Are you only Jack the lad?', I'm saying: are you just messing about? To feast with 
panthers...' is a reference to Oscar Wilde who said that when he was going out with 
all these rent boys it was like feasting with panthers because they were all so 
dangerous and it was all likely to destroy him. Which, of course, it did. Lawrence of 
Arabia, Oscar Wilde and, in the third verse, Kim Philby - they each lived as an
establishment figure but lived another life at the same tune. The song is asking why 
they're doing it. It is just (or bravado? 'Are you only Jack the lad?' Or, another 
suggestion, They must have hurt you, Jack'. Is it some kind of resentment against your 
fellow upper class people that makes you want to betray them? It's a sort of anti-bravado 
song in a way. It's saying: why not come to terms with all this resentment you have? 
'We all fall' - everyone makes mistakes. When I sing 'this is your only religion' 
I'm suggesting that to not be restrained has become the main point of their lives. 
To never want to grow up and face responsibilities. I'm kind of talking
about myself there as well.


Neil    Chris wrote this piece of music by himself in the studio. Tom Watkins had a 
group at the time called The Hudsons who'd brought out a record called 'One Man's Meat 
(Is Another Man's Poison)' and Tom Watkins had a really brilliant idea for a gay 
disco record, 'I'm In Love With A Woman', and we said we'd write it. And so when Chris 
wrote this music, we decided this would be it: 'I never thought I would leave you - but 
I'm in love with a woman'. It was great, but Tom got sniffy all of a sudden and 
didn't want us to do it.

Chris   I'd already put my vocal on when I did the track. I just thought 
I'd have a go. It's just a list of words.

Neil    Very Andy Warhol.

Chris   They were the first words that came into my head.

Neil    Weren't they things that really excited you, supposedly?

Chris   Well, they're obviously going to be the first words that come into my head.

Neil    Then we heard about the Paninari.

Chris   The Italian youth cult.

Neil    So we decided to make a song called 'Paninaro' and made this it. I liked 
the fact that all the trendies in Milan loathed the Paninari because 'they all 
like Wham! and Duran Duran and Madonna'. We thought, 'How fabulous-so do we'. 
I like fashion cults, and theirs were the kind of clothes we liked.

Chris   The original lyric went 'Armani... Armani... Ar-Ar-Armani...Versace.. .cinque'. 
Then I edited out Versace', but I forgot to edit it out of the twelve-inch version.

Neil    We didn't like Versace that much. Also Versace wasn't Paninaro.

Chris   The twelve-inch was called The Italian mix' because originally it was 
just released in Italy.

Neil    The talking in the middle is also Chris, from an American TV interview, 
on Entertainment Tonight. We did the original version at Abbey Road but then we 
decided it wasn't good enough, so then we went in with Adrian Cook and did it 
all again. Adrian Cook was going to programme the first tour, the one that famously 
went on sale in Los Angeles without anyone telling us, five nights at the Pantages 
Theater sold out, and which we didn't do. He was programming all our songs onto 
Fairlight in Abbey Road - as usual, money was flying around - so we decided to do a 
record that recycled sounds, so almost every sound in 'Paninaro' had been used before 
on one of our records. It's a recycled record. It was a nightmare, Chris doing his vocal.

Chris    You know what I'm like.

Neil     I think he only did it twice.

Chris    I was only saying a list of words.

Neil     It was like getting blood out of a stone.

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