Neil: "This is a hilarious song. It started off as a joke about whatever must be obvious and I came up with the couplet: 'everyone knows when they look at us / of course they do, it must be obvious'. Which I thought was hilarious. Then, having written those lines, it turned into another unrequited love song, about being in love with someone and everyone knowing apart from the person you're in love with. I've always liked the lyrics because it mentions The Sound Of Music: 'it feels like the flight of the Von Trapps...' There's also a Noel Coward reference, to his short play Shadowplay, in which two
people go back in time."
Chris: "It's quite interesting, the backing track."
Neil: "It was written in Glasgow, hence the guitar. Great snare fills - that's what makes this track."
Chris: "It's very funny quantization. Everything is quantized to triplets."
Neil: "It was the b-side of 'So hard'. Jill Carrington played it to someone from another record company who said, 'You might get a lot of people saying that the b-side's better than the a-side.' At the time, Chris wouldn't have this on the album."
We All Feel Better In The Dark
Chris: "More tragic vocals from me. I must remember not to do this again in the future."
Neil: "It was the b-side of 'Being boring'. Chris wrote all the music for it. I just sang 'we all feel better in the dark'. Originally it was going to be 'we all look better in the dark', which was my title - that was one of the ideas I considered for what became Electronic's 'Getting away with it'."
Chris: "I thought that was too down. Too negative. I didn't think that was sexy enough."
Neil: "Chris went to a studio because he had the idea for a track, like he did when he did 'Paninaro'. By the time I heard it he already had the words."
Chris: "The idea came from a tape I bought from a health food shop round the corner from the studio: The Secrets Of Sexual Attraction. The words are terrible. Awful. Embarrassing."
Neil: "I think it's true to say they're about going to a rave. It's the most lustful song the Pet Shop Boys have ever recorded."
Chris: "I performed it in my underwear on the Performance tour. I don't know who persuaded me to do that."
Neil: "Chris, it was your idea. We realised in 1991 that the Nineties were going to be all about underwear. You had another pair on underneath, didn't you?"
Chris: "Yeah. I wouldn't have risked just the one."
Bet She's Not Your Girlfriend
Neil: "Inspired by George Michael."
Chris: "We can say that now."
Neil: "One of us saw a photograph in a newspaper of George Michael and a woman and said, 'Bet she's not your girlfriend.' People always assumed that George Michael was gay but we didn't know for sure. When I actually wrote the lyric I made it about me. When I was at school I briefly went out with this girl, Krysia - who I still know and who used to run the Pet Shop Boys fan club many years ago - and she was very beautiful and she used to meet me outside the school gates
occasionally, and people could not believe that she was meeting me. And that's what I made the words about. So all the verses are about me. The song is really about people being bitchy. It describes me as 'shy, dry and verging on ugly'; that's definitely how I thought of myself."
Chris: "We wrote the music in the studio in Notting Hill."
Neil: "Then we recorded it with Pete Schwier in the gap between our two Munich trips, at the same time as 'It must be obvious'. It's Chris music, I can tell that. I think I considered it for the album, but Chris didn't."
Chris: "I don't like having fun tracks on albums."
Losing My Mind
[about the disco mix]
Neil: "Our version of this is basically just the demo we made before recording it with Liza Minnelli, which we released much later on the b-side of the 'Jealousy' single. This disco mix is the longer of the two versions. This was done in our ZZ Top period, putting electric guitar samples on everything. The show Follies, by Stephen Sondheim, had been on in London, which is where this song comes from. In the show, two girls who used to be showgirls get married, and they both
come back to New York for the party for the demolition of the theatre they used to work in. One woman would rather have married the other husband, and in this song she describes how she lives in the Midwest and every day she thinks about the man she loves. When I saw the show I thought this song could be a hit record. It's a very beautiful song, though we obviously did it in a less sensitive way. We went into RAK demo studio to do this version as an experiment to see if it
would work for Liza, and Chris came up with the riff that sounds a little bit like 'Physical'. Liza hated the screaming bit, which was taken from a sample CD, and refused to have it on her version. On reflection I think she was right, because it's a bit gimmicky. The same day as we recorded this, we recorded the demo for 'Nothing has been proved'."
Music For Boys
Neil: "Chris did this track upstairs at Sarm West while I was in a different studio doing something else."
Chris: "This was influenced by going to Crazy Club at the Astoria on Saturday nights. I used to go every Saturday, and it was when there was all the stadium house - all very masculine music, a lot of lasers and dry ice. Apparently this track was conceived to go with a film I said I was making, an experimental movie called Film For Boys, but I have no recollection of that."
Neil: "I remember that. Chris had, at this point, acquired a Bolex camera because he did a video for Cicero, for the remake of 'Heaven Must Have Sent You Back To Me'."
Chris: "That was good fun, that video. But I was never really going to make a film. I did two versions of 'Music for boys' - this is the one I like best."
Neil: "It's called the ambient mix - don't ask me why."
Chris: "Well, it's a lot more ambient than the other mix."
Chris: "Is it a real word? That's the first question."
Neil: "It's become one, I notice. I've seen it used. I think we wrote this at the beginning of 1990, during the shoe-gazing period, when Morrissey was huge as a solo artist. It's another song sort of written from the point of view of being Morrissey - the first song like that being 'Getting away with it', the Electronic single, which I wrote most of the words of. 'Getting away with it' is looking at Morrissey's persona of being miserable and all the rest of it, and saying that he's been getting away with it for years. It's meant to be humorous. 'Miserablism' is a satire, a little like 'How can
you expect to be taken seriously?' What bugged me about the shoe-gazers always looking really miserable is that people think someone like that is really serious. It's something that endlessly bugs me in pop music - that someone with the style of being serious is always accepted as being serious. And also that anyone being playful is then not taken seriously, whereas actually being playful is actually more difficult than being 'serious', and possibly can end up being a lot more serious at the same time. The words to this song were inspired by someone telling me that they asked their father on his deathbed what it was like, and he said: 'Is is, isn't isn't.' And I thought that was a great quote, and a very kind of miserablist way of looking at the world. There's no romance - the only thing that exists is what really exists."
Chris: "And of course it was quoted by Clinton only a couple of years ago. 'That depends what the definition of "is" is.' A direct reference to the lyrics of Neil Tennant."
Neil: "Anyway, as quite often with us, in the middle bit you get the real sentiment. It sounds a bit pretentious, but it says: 'if "is" wasn't and "isn't" were / you can't be sure / but you might find ecstasy'. We recorded it in Germany for the album. It was meant to sound Giorgio Moroder-ish. Harold Faltermeyer thought it should be a single when we were doing it, and it was on the album until very late in the day. Doing these reissues, we found all the Behaviour half-inch mixes together on one huge reel, and you can see where 'Miserablism' has been cut out. We decided that it was too jocular. It was mostly Chris who didn't want it. I think it's a really good song."
Chris: "It's alright."
Neil: "This is a very old song, written on the guitar before I knew Chris, and I remembered it one day. I don't know why. Chris wasn't in the studio so I started to do a demo of this song, and I asked Pete Gleadall to get some really heavy drum sounds up because I thought the song otherwise would be kind of indie. It didn't take very long to do - it took about three hours. The story's quite interesting - there's been a ghastly scandal in the school. It's set at a minor public
school. I think I'd been reading some book. Before the First World War Oxford undergraduates would go on reading weekends with their tutors. I always think there's been some terrible sex scandal and the headmaster's about to be arrested or something like that, because there's a whole shadow cast. But the song doesn't spell it out, and I don't know. Actually, I think that at the end of the song the headmaster is going to kill himself. I like the fact that it has the word 'bibliophile' in it. The other week I was in a taxi and the taxi-driver said, 'You're in the Pet Shop Boys, aren't you?' and I said, 'Yes', and he said, 'You know what my favourite song of yours is?' - and I thought he'd say, 'That "East End girls"...' - and he said, '"Hey, headmaster".' I said, 'That's a very odd one to choose.' He said, 'Was that a true story?', and I said it wasn't."
What Keeps Mankind Alive?
Neil: "We didn't release 'What Keeps Mankind Alive?' until it was a b-side for 'Can you forgive her?' in 1993, but we recorded it back in 1988. Radio One were doing a documentary about the fiftieth anniversary of Kurt Weill's The Threepenny Opera's first performance. Quite why Radio One were doing that I don't know, but they wanted a contemporary band to do a song from The Threepenny Opera and they asked us to do 'What Keeps Mankind Alive?', which neither of us knew.
Chris: "We wanted to make it sound really jolly, so that the lyrics sounded really sick.
Neil: "There is that quality in The Threepenny Opera anyway. You've got this heroic music and these words about cannibalism and torture. We did a demo of it, and then we had to go to BBC studios in Maida Vale to record it. It's a very complicated piece of music and we were struggling a bit."
Chris: "The BBC producer was breathing down our necks the whole time being a real irritant."
Neil: "Luckily Simon Bates was there to smooth things over. And who should be in the studio next door but Richard Coles of The Communards, doing a session with Sandie Shaw. I said, 'oh, Richard, you can do all this, you're classically trained, just come and play these chords...' Even he found them quite hard, but he very kindly played them into the computer. Anyway, we finished it within the four hour session."
Chris: "Then it turned out that it wasn't fifty years, after all."
Neil: "When we were recording I said to the BBC producer, 'Wasn't that in 1928?' He said, 'Yeah.' I said, 'Doesn't that make it sixty years...?' And they'd made this documentary and got David Bowie and Sting and everyone. It was really funny. So they celebrated the sixtieth anniversary instead."
Neil: "'Shameless' has always been a very Pet Shop Boys word. We've always accused ourselves of being shameless at various times."
Chris: "We'll do absolutely anything. Anything at all."
Neil: "At the beginning of the Nineties, pop music went really shameless."
Chris: "And has stayed shameless ever since."
Neil: "Yes, it's been an amazingly long phase. In fact it's got more shameless. But back then, in the wake of Take That's success, there were suddenly a whole raft of boy bands whose names I can't even remember now. It's when this whole stage school thing started. So we wrote this song. It seemed hilarious at the time, particularly 'we have no integrity - we're ready to crawl'. It's sung from the point of view of someone really naff in a shameless group. We'd seen it around us, someone who'd think promotion was the entire point of what you do, not some ghastly chore. It's someone on the cusp of showbusiness and pop music. I actually quite admire the person singing the song - 'you don't know how tough it is'. He knows people are laughing at him."
Chris: "With the music we were probably trying to do a high energy stomper - we always feel obliged to do one from time to time."
Neil: "We go into a different style and rhythm for each verse. We did tons and tons of work on the production, so we must have been thinking it was going on the album. The problem is, like a lot of funny songs, when you work on them for a long time, the joke wears a bit thin and you suddenly decide it's not going on the album. It's certainly as good as anything on the album. It's now in our musical. I like all the 'do you know who I am?' and 'how dare you?' kind of business. They're my voice sped up. We always imagined doing a Spitting Image video for it."
Chris: "It'd be great. One of those great Spitting Image choruses."
Neil: "We live in more shameless times now. Then we thought it was the peak, but it was the distant foothills compared with now. Now shamelessness is a national culture which overpowers everything else."
Too Many People
Neil: "I had the lyric idea in my notebook for ages. It just details all the roles one plays in one's life. I have a very bad habit which is to keep different parts of my life separate, and when they mix I get what they call 'role strain'. I worry about whom I'm going to offend most."
Chris: "So you compartmentalise your life?"
Neil: "Chris doesn't really do that."
Chris: "It's a list song, isn't it?"
Neil: "It is. 'The tactless twit putting his foot in...the sensitive soul who's a role model...' and so on. I like 'the wicked uncle who doesn't give a damn'."
Chris: "'Showbiz creeps...' - we just won't let go."
Neil: "It's another Spitting Image video. I think it's a really catchy song. We didn't finish this until ages after the album. Bob Krausaar really liked it - he said it was irresistible. Bruce Woolley sings backing vocals on it. He can sound like me. Chris put in a whole bit that sounds like New Order. I'm not even sure Bernard didn't comment on it."
Chris: "Did he? What an honour."
Violence (HaÁienda version)
Neil: "The original version of 'Violence' was on Please [commentary is here], and when we played at the HaÁienda in 1992 we decided to do an old song, and we chose 'Violence' because there was so much gang warfare in clubs in Manchester. And we'd always liked it. So we did it in a kind of Manc drum-loopy kind of way. It was fundamentally done by Chris. We liked the new version enough that we recorded it, and put it on one of the 'I wouldn't normally do this kind of thing' CDs."
Neil: "In my opinion, possibly our best b-side. I remember Bernard Sumner saying to me, 'that track's too good to be on a b-side', and it is. This came about because we were asked to write the title song for Stephen Berkoff's film of his own play, Decadence, which starred Joan Collins. We liked the idea of Stephen Berkoff and Joan Collins, so we wrote this. I only had a vague idea of what the film was about. My words are actually about a former friend, saying that he doesn't care about anyone, he just cares about money. Decadence often prefigures the end of something, like the Roman Empire. So the song is comparing someone's personal behaviour to the end of an era. In this instance, the friendship crumbles. You can't have a relationship with someone because they can't tell the truth, they lie, their behaviour's just totally selfish. When I wrote the words, Chris said, 'Oh no! It's an anti-decadence song. I'm not very happy about that.'"
Chris: "I'm all about decadence. It's good, isn't it?"
Neil: "It's got one of my most pretentious lines: 'stop this caprice / you've got to cease / this fin-de-
siťcle pretence'. The fin de siťcle at the end of the nineteeth century was regarded as a decadent period - the end of any age is sort of a decadent period. Musically, the song was based on a sample from the beginning of Aretha Franklin's 'I Say A Little Prayer'. That was the whole starting point."
Chris: "I love sampling a famous piece of music and then building around it. But I always want to keep the sample in and Neil always wants to take it out."
Neil: "You just use something as an inspiration. In the end all we've taken from that is the rhythm. The chords aren't based on that. But without that we'd never have written a song with that rhythm. We really got into this track. We asked Johnny Marr to come and play guitar on it - he's very Johnny on it; you can imagine him swaying from side to side - and we got Richard Niles to do a string arrangement for a small orchestra. I think we wanted it to sound glossy. I always think of a Rolls Royce convertible driving on the Grand Corniche, and this is the kind of music that should be playing. It's got a brilliant introduction. I was listening to the Billie Holiday album Lady In Satin recently and noticed that every single song starts like this. After we'd written it, we saw a rough cut of the movie and we didn't like it, and we had nothing else to do with the song so we put it on a b-side. Also, we were in a phase of doing b-sides that sounded like the a-side, rather than offered a contrast, so 'Shameless' was on the b-side of 'Go West' and this was on the b-side of 'Liberation'."
If Love Were All
Neil: "While we were doing 'Decadence', Richard Niles and I discussed how 'Can you forgive her?' would sound good as a swing tune by a band. Richard Niles said that if I would sing it with him and his group at a concert they were doing, he would do an arrangement of it as a swing tune. He also wanted me to sing another song, and I'd always liked the song by NoŽl Coward, 'If Love Were All' - in fact it's my favourite song by NoŽl Coward. It's not often recorded, the full
song. Normally you just get the end bit. There isn't actually a recording of NoŽl Coward singing the verse. I knew it from a live recording of Judy Garland singing it. But I like its philosophy about love: 'I believe, the more you love a man, the more you give your trust, the more you're bound to lose...' I think I should have double-tracked it, but I left it very vulnerable. I can barely sing it - I had to go back and record the vocal again because I didn't like what I did the first time. Richard Niles produced it, and suggested certain phrasing. The arrangement sounds very Radio Two. It reminds me of my childhood, listening to The Light Programme. It's a very unusual track for us. I ended up not singing at Richard Niles' concert because I got flu."
Chris: "Another song with 'boy' in the title. It sounds quite Eastern European."
Neil: "Chris did all of the music. There are lots of vocal effects. Chris is saying 'euroboy' low on the Vocoder; the high voice is me. It's just sexy. We recorded it at the same time as the other 'Yesterday, when I was mad' b-side, 'Some speculation'."
Neil: "We decided to do a track like Bobby 'O' again - every so often we go back. We decided to update the Bobby 'O' sound."
Chris: "Yes. We're back where we started. Harking back to the early Eighties. It sounds a bit sleazy. It and 'Euroboy' have a kind of Germanic quality."
Neil: "These two songs are both very atmospheric and electronic. It's about speculation and sexual infidelity. The words are about an ex-boyfriend meeting a new boyfriend. 'There's been some speculation, about a recent invitation...' It's a 'what's going on?' kind of song, like 'Confidential' and 'One and one make five'. I hate gossip when I'm the subject of it. When I'm not, of course, I love it. I wrote the words to this very quickly one evening when I was leaving the
recording studio to go to the theatre. I made the taxi wait for half an hour and kept popping back into the studio with new lines. Chris finished it off after I left."