Chris: "This was originally recorded with Bobby 'O'. He had this old Divine backing track and suggested we write something over it. We were very excited, getting an old Divine backing track."
Neil: "There was a vocal on the tape - it was called 'Rock Me'. I don't know why it wasn't released because it sounded quite good, but I think Divine hadn't thought of any other words for it apart from 'rock me'. But it was a totally finished track and I just wrote a song over the top of it in New York, sitting in a flat of a friend of Bobby 'O''s on Broadway, with a completely different melody. Bobby 'O' absolutely loved it. It's about being in New York at night. The idea of being chased by someone - the mafia are after you, like you're the patsy or something - and at the same time you're looking for your love. There's a desperation. It's really Eighties paranoia - there was a lot of paranoia in Eighties pop lyrics and this is a very good example. It's just romantic paranoia. The Bobby 'O' version was our second single, in 1984, though it was only released in America and Belgium. We only put in the middle section bit when we re-recorded it for Actually. Chris wrote the chords. Andy Richards said he thought it needed a middle bit, and it was like Chris and I showing off really - we wrote it in about two minutes. I'd already had the words - it was originally 'you're so extreme / your silk-screened life shot through with bullets' but then I thought that was too over the top; and I like 'I want to take you home with me' which is what it became. The song is sort of masochistic - you're pleading, but maybe you quite like being chased because, after all, it's exciting. Chris used to have these dreams of being chased and he told me he was scared but he liked it - I think that may have been one of the things that inspired the song originally. We did a normal seven-inch version with Julian Mendelsohn for the album, and we also thought it would be a single. Then we weren't quite happy with the mix so we got Julian to do a twelve-inch mix and we liked that so much we put that on the album instead. The seven-inch was never released."
Chris: "We were brave, weren't we, starting the album with a twelve-inch remix?"
Neil: "This was the early days of house music. We thought it had a lot of attitude and sounded really housey. This is just when 'Love Can't Turn Around' had been a hit."
Chris: "There's another one of our car crashes in it."
Neil: "Driving through the night was still exciting."
What Have I Done To Deserve This?
Neil: "We wrote this in the beginning of 1985. Tom Watkins was managing a songwriter and artist called Allee Willis - I think he might have just been managing her art career."
Chris: "She had an asymmetric haircut. Because it was the Eighties."
Neil: "She was quite a distinguished songwriter, in that she'd co-written 'Boogie Wonderland' for Earth Wind & Fire, and at the time she had a big hit with The Pointer Sisters' 'Neutron Dance'."
Chris: "Since then she's co-written the theme from Friends."
Neil: "Anyway, Tom Watkins said, 'why don't you write a song with Allee?' We'd never written a song with someone else in the same room. EMI used to have a studio in their basement and we went in there. In fact we started off in a rehearsal studio, where Chris threw a strop. He walked out of the studio and I had to persuade him back in. I think he felt under pressure."
Chris: "Yeah. I was having to fight to get to a keyboard."
Neil: "Then, after the strop, it got quite good. So there's three bits of the song, one by Chris, one by me and one by Allee Willis. Chris wrote the riff which starts the song and the music which is underneath 'I bought you drinks I bought you flowers', I wrote the verse, and Allee wrote, in my opinion the best bit of the song, the 'since you went away...' bit. She was a very good musician and she'd brought an effects unit with her which she programmed to make the drums sound like Prince."
Chris: "I remember there was lots of discussion about what the song meant. I thought, 'does it really matter?'"
Neil: "She was right, though. I wrote most of the words. The story of the song is that two people have broken up, and they're both in different places regretting that they've split up, and at the end of the song they get back together again. The man is a pathetic feeble wreck and the woman is meant to be this major capitalist. I suppose I disguise the plots of the songs because I sometimes think they're a bit corny and they're not the most interesting part of the song - it's how it's manifested, how it's discussed, the words that are used to express it. All these things have been said three million times before, so it's how you say them. The details. I wrote the words on the top of a number 22 bus going home from Smash Hits one night. I was going down Piccadilly when I thought of 'what have I done to deserve this?', and then I remember driving past The Ritz and thinking 'I bought you drinks / I brought you flowers...' and I even got my pen out of my briefcase and wrote it down. And then Allee went through the lyrics and simplified some of them and said 'what's happening?' I would never have written things like 'hanging around' - I had something slightly more English than that. And we were very very excited about it and we played the demo to Tom Watkins who was really iffy about it. It was going to be on our first album, and we couldn't think of who could sing the female part, and Nikke Slight, who worked in Tom Watkins' office, said, 'well, you like Dusty Springfield so much - why don't you ask her?' And from that point we knew we just had to have Dusty, so Dusty was approached but it never happened. Everyone said she couldn't sing anymore. She had a very bad reputation. Then later, after Please came out, we heard that Dusty wanted to do it. Chris and I met her and talked through the song."
Chris: "I think she was wearing a shell suit."
Neil: "No. She was wearing black leather."
Chris: "I always picture her wearing a shell suit - pink shell suit and Reeboks."
Neil: "She did later on, when we recorded the solo album."
Chris: "That's the classic Dusty, with straggly bleached hair."
Neil: "She came in. Chris and I were sitting in the office in Advision. Frankly, I was terrified. 'What do you want me to sound like?' she asked, and she seemed surprised by the answer: 'You.' And then Chris and I had to go to Newcastle to do 'Paninaro' on The Tube, so we missed her recording the vocal. When we came back, it sounded fantastic. After we had recorded it, Chris and I went off the track, in our classic way. We decided we didn't want it to be a single. It had
such an unusual structure and we worried it didn't hang together. But we changed our mind again. Originally the record started with an aeroplane noise, because he comes back to her, but we thought it complicated the issue so we took it off. We remixed our own twelve-inch version with Julian Mendelsohn. It's very Eighties. I like the fact that the bass is louder than
the seven-inch mix."
Chris: "It's got a real build."
Neil: "Chris and I loved 'Word Up' by Cameo, so we decided to write something in the style of Cameo. Being us, we then thought, 'why don't we get Larry Blackmon of Cameo to produce it?' So we met him - he was on tour - and played him the track, and it was sort of going to happen, but it didn't. Then we wanted Keith Forsey, who had worked with Giorgio Moroder and had just been producing Billy Idol, to do it, but he had no interest in doing it. I was rather hurt, actually. The song started as a joke, with Chris and I walking down Oxford Street singing 'S-H-O-P-P-I-N-G' when we were shopping. The word 'shopping' is somehow a humourous word."
Chris: "We used to sing it everywhere. It was like 'P-A-S-S-I-O-N'; 'Passion' by Bobby 'O'."
Neil: "I think we decided we were actually going to write a song called 'Shopping' one day in Milan, shopping. I don't think anyone had ever written a song about shopping, and it's such a common human activity, and in the Eighties it ceased to be presented as a necessity and instead became a leisure activity. The Eighties were very concerned with buying and selling. However I couldn't think of anything particularly interesting to say about shopping so the words are about the
government selling off nationalised industries. We were obviously against it. At the time it was oppressive in London - there were these flaming adverts saying 'Tell Sid', the campaign for the government gas sell-off. When this album came out many people, including ourselves, took the whole album to be loosely about Thatcherism, because you have this song, about nationalised industries, you have poverty in 'King's Cross', you have Aids in 'It couldn't happen here'. 'Shopping' is also the other song, along with 'Opportunities', which created the myth that the Pet Shop Boys were ironic. Songs where you take the character of someone you hate. 'Shopping' takes the character of this hideous city type in Fulham or somewhere, and the idea that, in the same way you might go shopping for a Hermes scarf, they'll go shopping for essential services and nationalised industries. We recorded it with Julian Mendelsohn. The keyboard which sounds like a guitar is a tribute to Hooky from New Order."
Chris: "'Shopping' is always used on consumer programmes."
Neil: "We still get requests."
Chris: "At the end there's a cash till."
Neil: "We wrote 'Rent' in Ray Roberts studio in 1984. We thought of the title first, and we thought it was hilarious. It took us quite a long time to write it - there were three or four versions, though I immediately came up with 'I love you - you pay my rent'. It was almost like a puzzle, working out what the song meant from that. We were very into Italian disco - there was this record I'd been sent at Smash Hits called 'I Love Chopin' by Gazebo and it was meant to sound a bit like that, though it never did. Bobby 'O' couldn't believe it. He thought it was the most weird thing he had
ever heard in his life. He thought it was a very strange song. He was almost embarrassed by it."
Chris: "Originally it was a high energy song - with Bobby 'O' we recorded it with this brilliant orchestral sample nicked from a Barry White album - but Julian Mendelsohn thought we had too many high energy songs on the album so Andy Richards very cleverly gave it a half-tempo feel."
Neil: "I didn't double-track the vocal so it sounded more real. I sing it differently now, with different phrasing. I don't like 'you-ooo'. Nowadays I just sing 'you'. When the album came out I wasn't sure whether I thought it was that great, but I was always impressed how much people liked it. For the single version, Stephen Hague re-edited it, because we thought it repeated too many times. We've done the song several different ways live, and we also recorded it again with Liza Minnelli for her Results album, and got Angelo Badalamenti to arrange it - it makes it sound like it's from a Broadway show. The song is from the point of view of a prostitute - a female prostitute. I've always imagined it's about a kept woman, and I always imagined it set in America. I vaguely thought of one of the Kennedys, for some reason, and imagined that this politician keeps this woman in a smart flat in Manhattan, and he's still got his family, and the two of them have some of relationship and they do love each other but it's all kind of secret. He pays the rent of the flat. But there's a tremendous loyalty at play on both sides, and the money doesn't really matter. She thinks about whether or not it's been a wasted life, this emotional currency spent on a relationship which is not totally satisfactory. At the same time maybe she's quite a lazy person - she's had quite a nice life, thanks to him, and she hasn't had to go out to work. She's survived, but it's not satisfactory. There's a sense of excitement, but also an enormous sense of resignation, a little like 'Why don't we live together?' on Please: 'Is this it, then? Is that all there is?' But, also: 'it's not so bad'. At the time I was worried about having '...you, you...' together in the lyric: 'I love you, you pay my rent'. I thought it was clumsy, but I like it now. It's 'I love you; you pay my rent'. A semi-colon, I suppose. If there was any conjunction it wouldn't be 'but' or 'because', it would be 'and'."
Neil: "Chris and I went to this house near Croydon to write some songs and we wrote 'King's Cross' and this. You may think it sounds a bit like 'Peter Gunn', which was a hit for The Art Of Noise. That's because we were in a New York club, The Pyramid, and they were playing The Art Of Noise version of 'Peter Gunn' and I found myself singing 'hit music - on the radio' to it in the taxi on the way home. The sort of idea you think of in America. So we did the song anyway. It's
not exactly the same."
Chris: "You can't copyright a bassline."
Neil: "It's also very like 'Venus'. And the strings are a bit Beatle-y, a bit like 'I Am The Walrus'. And the 'I've been working hard all day to pay the bills I have to pay' line is a complete nick from the Abba song, 'Money Money Money'. It didn't occur to me until years afterwards. I mean, it's not a very original lyric anyway. Someone at the time suggested that I was obsessed with bills because I'd already mentioned them three times in songs - I was actually rather horrified when I realised that. But I like 'in Kensington or Spanish Harlem'. I wanted to have two totally contrasting
places. The best bit of the song is the end where it goes into half-time. We did that because we always liked the end of 'Careless Whisper' by George Michael. The song is partly about the idea of pop music as a prop or a crutch, and about the annoyance and banality of hit music - 'desperate hit music' - even as you really like it. But it's really all about Aids, this song, though I sort of hid it at the same time. There were some more direct references, but I took them out because they weren't very good. It's about how sex had gone out of the entire nightclubbing ethos because of Aids. Nightclubbing is about sex, really, so when it's not, what's left?"
It Couldn't Happen Here
Neil: "We'd written this song 'Jealousy' - one of the first songs we wrote, which would eventually be recorded for Behaviour - and we wanted Ennio Morricone to do the string arrangement. So Tom Watkins tracked down Ennio Morricone's manager and he came to Sarm West and we played him 'Jealousy' and he liked it, but months passed and in the end Ennio Morricone didn't want to arrange 'Jealousy' but he said he'd write a song with us. They sent over this song in Italian which sounded like David Bowie in about 1970. It was a funny song about a man building an ark. We liked the tune of the chorus, so we took the tune of the chorus and wrote a new verse, and that was what became 'It couldn't happen here'. We sent it to Ennio Morricone and heard nothing. Finally Chris and I went to see the film Blue Velvet one night and we liked the music, which was written by Angelo Badalamenti, who later became very famous for doing the Twin Peaks music, so we thought, 'let's get him to do the arrangement instead'. We were recording the song with Stephen Hague and I remember we had a bit of a row with him because he hadn't arranged an orchestra to record Angelo Badalamenti's arrangement. So, instead, Blue Weaver brought in his Fairlight and spent two days programming the entire arrangement using orchestral samples. It took three different passes of the Fairlight to record all the parts, and actually it gives the whole track a very eerie quality we would never have got from an orchestra. It sounds tighter, and also more weird. So, ultimately, it was a happy accident. It's probably my favourite track on the album. I remember Dusty playing it as one of her favourite records on Radio One, saying it reminded her of Elgar. The lyric is about this friend of mine who was diagnosed with having Aids. In the first verse we are all teenagers in Newcastle in the whole glam period, and the song describes the Newcastle scene: 'in six-inch heels quoting magazines' - we'd always buy Harpers & Queen. We were all very ambitious. 'Who do you think you are?' refers to the idea that gay people were too public. There was a lot of anti-gay rhetoric in the Eighties. And then Aids comes along. I remember my friend and I discussing Aids, and how people said it wasn't going to develop in England like it had in America. We said it couldn't happen here."
Chris: "Originally the line continued '...just before it did', which I never liked. I always thought the word 'did' was too funny."
Neil: "In time-honoured fashion, Chris got it removed by laughing at it. The song then becomes about how Aids affected the gay community, and the way people reacted to the gay community and suggested it was almost as though the gay community had been too visible and had themselves to blame. There was a lot of that going on at the time. The third verse reflects how people just reacted illogically to the whole thing and weren't able to react like it was a normal illness. The line about 'battle scars' refers directly to my friend because he'd just recovered from having pneumonia. I played him the song and he liked it, but I don't think he knew what it was about. Or maybe he did, but I didn't tell him and I didn't want him to know."
It's A Sin
Neil: "One day in 1982, when we were in Ray Roberts' studio in Camden, where we used to write songs in the early Eighties, Chris started playing those chords, and it sounded very religious to me, like a hymn, and I started singing 'it's a, it's a, it's a sin', and I wrote the words in about five minutes. Having thought of the phrase 'it's a sin', I thought 'what's a sin?' and having been brought up as a Catholic you thought everything was a sin. You're told that thinking about it is as bad as doing it. The song was meant to be kind of big and funny and camp."
Chris: "Neil played cowbell. We were obsessed with cowbells in those days."
Neil: "The middle bit, which became the 'father forgive me' section, was from another song had written and I said, 'Let's put that in "It's a sin".' We spent ages working on it. It was originally very Euro and had a different tune, very French-sounding. We demoed it in New York with Bobby 'O'. We thought of recording it with Stock Aitken Waterman for Please because we like 'So You Think You're A Man', the Divine record they did, but Pete Waterman didn't like the song. We also submitted it to Divine's manager and were going to send it to Ian Levine for Miguel
Brown to do but they'd just done 'He's A Saint, He's A Sinner' so when I phoned him, he said, 'Another song with sin in the title is no good, is it?' When we recorded it for Actually, we decided to make the whole record gargantuanally Catholic and over-the-top. There was the famous faff where we went to Brompton Oratory with Julian Mendelsohn and recorded the ambience. You can hear it in the background of the 'father forgive me...' section."
Chris: "These days we'd have gone for a cup of tea and a cake and let him do it."
Neil: "There was a man cleaning candle-holders and we recorded that too. Then we went to Westminster Cathedral and there was a priest who was preaching - you can hear him at 0.39 - and there was a choir who sang 'amen' which is at 4.44. '20 seconds and counting', at the beginning, was a sample on Andy Richards' Fairlight and I just said, 'Let's use that.' It's from one of the Apollo missions. It has absolutely no relevance whatsoever. And then I brought in a Catholic prayer book with the Confiteor, which is from the Latin mass, and recited that in Latin: 'I confess to sins I have committed in my past...' Julian produced it, but we then weren't totally happy with it. We made a seven-inch version of it which we never released but I didn't think my vocal sounded good enough. So we gave it to Stephen Hague to work on it some more."
Chris: "He took out half of the orchestra hits."
Neil: "I did some of the vocal again and he put a vocoder or harmoniser with the vocals. Tom Watkins didn't like Stephen Hague's mix but we went with it. But this wasn't going to be the first single from the album. 'Heart' was agreed to be the first single. It had 'You know where you went wrong' on the b-side and we'd done artwork for it with Chris and I smiling, because we were so sick of people saying 'please smile'. Then, one day, we were in Paris promoting 'Suburbia', the
famous time we had to rehearse miming on the radio and we threw a major wobbler because it was so stupid. Anyway, Tom Watkins phoned up and said, 'Right, no one at EMI dares say this to you but everyone thinks you're mad not releasing "It's a sin" because it's easily the most commercial track on the album. I know you're not going to listen to anything I say but I think you should think about it.' So we did. We were going to use the same artwork, but Jill Carrington - who worked at EMI and later became our manager - said, 'No, it's stupid for "It's a sin".' So we did a new session with Eric Watson in a church in Spitalfields. We did the twelve-inch with Stephen Hague - it was just an extended, exciting mix."
I Want To Wake Up
Chris: "I went into the studio on my own and did an entire backing track by myself, which I loved, and handed it over to Neil to write some lyrics."
Neil: "I'd written a song on the guitar before I knew Chris, a rocky kind of thing called 'I heard what you said'. When I originally wrote it I'd literally just heard 'Love Is Strange' and 'Tainted Love' on the radio - originally it said 'songs like "Tainted Love" and "Love Is Strange" and "Yesterday"' but 'Yesterday' got taken out. I took these words I'd written and started singing them to Chris's tune. It's about unrequited love. At the beginning the narrator is really saying, 'I want to wake up from this nightmare of unrequited love' and by the end it has changed to 'I want to wake up with you'. Which was a single by Boris Gardiner, but that didn't occur to us until afterwards. The idea is that being with someone is like a dream, or a nightmare. We got Shep Pettibone to produce it. The 'oooo-oooo-ooo-ooo-ooo's are a complete New Order rip-off, from 'Everything's Gone Green', I think. At the end of the song I'm doing harmonies for the first time. On this album, everything was trying to be more ambitious than Please. We also mixed a more atmospheric version, without drums, to see what it would sound like, but it was never released."
Neil: "This is inspired by Phyllis Nelson's 'I Like You', which Shep Pettibone produced, and is why we worked with Shep in the first place. We decided to record 'Heart' for Actually with Shep. Before that, we'd sent Narada Michael Walden a tape of this and 'What have I done to deserve this?' and he said he was interested in working with us but he couldn't hear the song. With Shep we just remade our demo - at the time, as well as for the album we were doing it for a movie Steven Spielberg was producing called Inner Space - but we didn't think that version was glossy enough, so it was never used. We then asked Andy Richards, who worked with Julian Mendelsohn, if he wanted to do a song with us. I only wrote the third verse when we did it with him and I think I changed the lyrics a bit as well. The first version we did with him, with the syn drum on it, ended up being the seven-inch single the following year, in 1988, and has J. J. Belle playing guitar on it, but for some reason we went off that and so then we asked Julian Mendolsohn to mix the song for the album. He took out the guitar because he said it was too complicated, and he actually accidentally wiped a bit off the track - that's why it comes in going 'beat...beat...heartbeat'. He was slightly embarrassed about it. This was the song we wanted to give to Madonna, but we never even tried. And at one stage we were going to give it to Hazell Dean. But then we decided we liked it too much and that we'd keep it for ourselves. I think it's got one of the best middle bits we've ever written. Of course, the words are just ordinary. I thought of the verse on a bus going up the King's Road - I was going to Advision when we were recording Please. I was passing Peter Jones and I started singing, 'every time I see you / something happens to me / like a strange reaction / between you and me / my heart starts missing a beat...' We started writing it in Advision - Chris was just vamping at the piano one day for hours and it sounded really brilliant. Chris forgot it but I remembered it."
Chris: "I'm classic at forgetting things."
Neil: "The song was originally going to be called 'Heartbeat' but just before the album came out Jon Moss from Culture Club had started a group called Heartbeat UK and they had posters all over London, so we decided to change the title. We were very surprised when the single version got to number one. By this time Bros were around, and at Massive Management, Tom Watkins' company, they were saying they thought this would get to number 15. But it went to number one
and stayed there for three weeks. I think the reason it was so successful was because it was a completely straightforward love song with a wacky video. We did a twelve-inch of the single version, which includes the seven-inch within it. At the time it was rather daring having syn drums."
Neil: "This was started off in a house near Croydon and then demoed in Wandsworth. It's basically a remake of the demo we did there. The idea came when we were driving through King's Cross with these two friends of ours, Pete and Steve, and Steve actually muttered, 'someone told me Monday, someone told me Saturday...' and I thought, 'King's Cross...what a
good idea for a song'. I have no idea what he was actually talking about. It was about a football match or something. I liked the idea that you'd been given contradictory instructions, and it gave me the idea of a song where you're being pushed around. And then I thought, 'wait until tomorrow, and there's still no way'. I wrote it down when we got to Chris's flat. I started writing the music on my guitar and to begin with it was very very Bob Dylan. The demo was much slower, more hymn-like. King's Cross is the station you come to when you come down to London looking for opportunity from the North-East, then the most depressed part of England. And there's lots of crime around King's Cross - prostitution, drug addicts, and a lot of tramps come up to you there. I just thought that was a metaphor for Britain - people arriving at this place, waiting for an
opportunity that doesn't happen, waiting for the dole queue or some documentation for the NHS. It's about hopes being dashed. You can read a book about what you should do, or write a letter to the paper, and still nothing happens because no one cares. The first line sets up the song. It's an angry song about Thatcherism. Mrs Thatcher came in on the promise of firm government and I'm interpreting 'the smack of firm government' literally as hitting someone. That's what firm
government tends to mean - you hit the weakest person, the man at the back of the queue. I think there's something almost Biblical about 'only last night I found myself lost...' It's like an epic nightmare. 'The dead and wounded on either side, it's only a matter of time,' is another Aids reference. At the end - 'so I went looking out today' - there's a detective, and he's looking for someone, and this mythical place, King's Cross, is the end of the line, the place from where there
is no escape but death. It's the death of all hope. And I'm saying that waiting there isn't enough. You've got to break out, you've got to react, start a revolution. You can't just behave in a fatalistic way. I still think it's one of our best songs, and I love the video where Chris gets off the train that Derek Jarman made of it for our 1989 tour."
Chris: "It's very sad."
Neil: "When we recorded it with Stephen Hague, he suggested that it should have a key change in the middle, which we added. He also went and recorded the trains going through North London to King's Cross, which you can hear. The last verse came from an argument I had with my best friend from Newcastle. He was very down, and he said we'd got where we were because we'd had so much good luck and he hadn't had good luck. He said, 'You can't deny, Neil, you've had a lot of good luck in your life.' I said, 'It's not about good luck - it's a matter of knowing what you want to do and sticking with it.' I felt a bit guilty the next day. There seemed to be this appalling contrast between the ways our lives were going. In the original running order of the album 'King's Cross' was the first track. My friend listened to it and said, 'Well, that's great, you've managed to make the album sound really boring.' After the album came out there was the King's Cross fire,
and The Sun wanted us to release it as a charity single."
Chris: "And in our film It couldn't happen here, there was a man on fire when it's playing."
Neil: "That was very spooky. Jack Bond, the director, asked the widow of someone who'd been killed and she said, 'You should leave it in.'"