Neil: "When Blur were recording their third album, Tris Penna at EMI said that they had this really good song. He said, 'Why don't you two produce it because it's meant to be a disco song?' and played it to us. We thought it was quite good, but we don't produce groups, it's a well-known fact. But I was interested in Blur because I thought that Damon looked like a pop star. They weren't very successful at the time. Later, we were in Paris doing 'Go West' on French TV and we'd been given 'Girls and boys', which was now finished, with the suggestion that maybe we might want to remix it. We sat in the back of this limo and listened to it, and decided we'd do it. We were being rather arrogant."
Chris: "I knew we could do something with it. The chord change was good. And the lyrics were good too.
Neil: "So we phoned up EMI and said we'd do it but, in our typical way, said that our version had to be the seven-inch. We were told that it was too late but that our version would be the a-side in Europe. We did it at Westside studios and Damon came down and listened."
Chris: "We'd made it much more electronic. We replaced Alex's bassline with an electronic bass part and added some sequencer lines. Alex has never forgiven us."
Neil: "Then, when we toured South America in 1994, we decided to perform it ourselves."
Chris: "It was very enjoyable to play live."
Neil: "We made it faster than our remix, and took out the guitar. This version - which was on the b-side of 'Paninaro '95' - was recorded live in Rio. Damon said to me, 'It sounds like you wrote it.'"
Chris: "I like the way Neil sings in the style of Damon."
Neil: "It's very difficult not to sing this song in a cockney accent."
The Truck-driver And His Mate
Neil: "This title was in my notebook for years. I think it came from the Yorkie chocolate bar advert which said something like 'big enough for the truck-driver and his mate'. It was Chris's idea to do a rock track."
Chris: "The music was a complete rip-off of Oasis. 'Some Might Say', possibly. That's where it started, anyway.
Neil: "It's an incredibly standard rock chord change."
Chris: "We were excited by Oasis, by the return of rock. It doesn't really sound like a rock record, though. I don't know what we were thinking. It was always a b-side."
Neil: "It was done at Rocky Lane. It was just a fun thing to do. We used a sample of a rock guitar chord. Then the 'ow-wow-wow' bit is very T Rex. I'm playing acoustic guitar. It's glam rock really. It's like a David Bowie kind of lyric. 'Solemn as an act of fate'. Is that an original phrase? Who knows? It's a song about male-bonding. There's something homo-erotic about the phrase 'the truck-driver and his mate'. I just imagine the two of them dancing together in the moonlight; there was something slightly romantic about it."
Chris: "In the serious moonlight?"
Neil: "Yeah. The serious moonlight. There were promo twelve-inch copies of this which now sell for a lot of money. When it was released as the b-side of 'Before', it started getting played in indie clubs like Popstars in London, so EMI decided to do some promos of just this track. For the 'Before' promos, we'd had a limp penis with the word 'Before' under it. It was just a joke. Before arousal. In America the record company liked it so much they wanted to release it with that sleeve, which we were horrified at the thought of, because we're secretly very prudish. Anyway, for 'The truck-driver and his mate' promo, we just repeated the penis twice, one next to the other."
Hit And Miss
Neil: "This dates back to the previous year. It's a very romantic song. It's a bit Beatle-y. I wrote it on the piano at home, and then I came up with the words at the end of 1994 on the Discovery tour. I play the guitar on the record. I like the 'ooooo's. I don't think this sounds much like any of our records. It's a rock ballad. It's about the end of a relationship, looking back at the start of the relationship. It's reminding someone why you were in love in the first place. It's autobiographical."
In The Night 1995
Neil: "We re-made 'In the night', which was originally the b-side of 'Opportunities' [commentary is here], in 1995 in a new instrumental version for The Clothes Show, because they'd used it as their theme for so many years and wanted a new version. Chris changed the chords slightly."
Chris: "I put in a fourth chord. Just to change it. It's very house-y. It's house heaven."
Neil: "At the time we also tried to record another new version of this more like the original, trying to mix the Phil Harding version with the Arthur Baker version, but we gave up."
Chris: "We turned this version into a bit of an opus."
Neil: "As Chris pointed out at the time, it has symphonic form. It has three movements. This is one of these tracks that I think is rubbish until I listen to it, and then I find myself enjoying it."
Chris: "There's a mad bit near the end where it suddenly goes faster."
Neil: "The voice at the end is Sylvia Mason-James. We got her in to sing 'hey yeah'."
Neil: "'Betrayed' started off as a song that I wrote when I worked at MacDonald Educational publishers. We were all sacked from our jobs in 1980 in a dispute over redundancies, and we occupied our offices for three-and-a-half months and then we got our jobs back. There was a freelancer whom I used to employ, a very good friend of mine, and when we were all unable to work and sacked, she did my job. I just couldn't believe it. I was betrayed. She was in the NUJ so she was a scab as well. That inspired this song, and I'd also just seen The Coal-Miner's Daughter with Loretta Lynn so that was also an influence. When we heard Dusty Springfield was doing what became her final album in Nashville, her manager Vicky Wickham phoned up and said, 'Do you want to write a song for Dusty?' and we didn't have anything, but I had this song, which was
then a country song, and I sent it to her. And then Vicky said, 'Dusty's not doing a country album.' She also said, 'Dusty says, "great words - why don't you record it?"'"
Chris: "The reason we did it as jungle was because of something Neil read on the Internet."
Neil: "I read someone saying that the Pet Shop Boys have never done jungle because Neil Tennant is too old and he doesn't like jungle. So I thought, 'Right! We're doing jungle!' The template for this track was definitely 'Walking Wounded' by Everything But The Girl. I listened in the studio to their arrangements on that album. Again, it's not really like any other records we've made, but then we've never done any other drum'n'bass songs. The good thing about b-sides or
bonus tracks is that you always feel you can do anything you want, and so on our b-sides you get an incredible array of musical styles, because there's no reason you can't. I suppose you can indulge yourself, in a way, which is not to say that they end up self-indulgent. But you can do a swing version of 'Can you forgive her?' or something that sounds a bit like The Beatles, which you probably wouldn't do on an album."
How I Learned To Hate Rock'n'roll
Neil: "Another title I'd had lying around for ages, but the song was written at Rocky Lane. We'd never written a song about hating rock 'n' roll."
Chris: "It's a bit ironic putting this after the previous tracks. I think we don't really know what we like and don't like."
Neil: "The song is a statement about the things about rock 'n' roll that I don't like - all the pomposity and hypocrisy and the rest of it. I'm saying that when I grew up, I hated all these things. It suggests that one once liked rock 'n' roll but was disillusioned by it. Really it should be called 'How I became disillusioned by rock 'n' roll'. You get disillusioned because it's insincere, everyone copies everyone else, everyone sets themselves up as wanting to change the world and then joins the rock aristocracy. We're going through it again at the moment."
Chris: "There's even a dance aristocracy now that's even worse. You've got all the DJs flying around the world in private jets and swanning around in Ferraris and going on about their wine collections. It's dreadful."
Neil: "I don't know what we were trying to be musically on this. I don't think it was ever going to be anything other than a b-side. The album was sort of finished when we did it."
The Calm Before The Storm
Neil: "This was originally called 'The news', but I thought that was a crap title. One day when I was by myself in the studio and we'd just finished a track and I decided to do a track with no sequencing whatsoever, where everything was played live. That's why there's no programming credit."
Chris: "I thought it sounded a bit messy."
Neil: "I love this song. It didn't take very long to do. It's an absolutely accurate description of a Sunday afternoon at Rocky Lane: dragonflies over the swimming pool, Sandra the cook's dog barking, aeroplanes flying overhead. Every time you drove in, rabbits ran everywhere. And the news we were waiting for - rather banally, so I'm reluctant to say it - is what number our album was going to go into the charts at. I sing the chorus two different ways. I was imagining us going totally down the dumper with this album - that's what it was about, really."
Chris: "Back to Smash Hits."
Neil: "Rocky Lane symbolises a rocky future, as well as being the name of the house: 'it's all over, love'."
Chris: "'You're now fat, forty and finished.' It sounds like Andy Pandy at the beginning. I'm waiting for Looby Loo to come out."
Neil: "I think it sounds like Enya, myself. It's meant to be very pastoral."
Chris: "I don't think I had anything to do with this. I wasn't even there."
Neil: "What is puzzling, and what I genuinely can't remember, is what the last line means. 'Did I ever tell you that I worked out where I went wrong?' I have no idea what that means. Assuming it means anything."
Neil: "This was written specifically for Tina Turner. Tina Turner had indicated to us when we worked with Liza Minnelli - we bumped into her once with Liza at a film preview - that she wanted to work with us. She said, 'I'm so jealous that Liza got you guys first.' So we sat down and listened to Tina Turner's Greatest Hits. We've always loved 'Let's Stay Together', and I think we listened to the verse of 'We Don't Need Another Hero'. We just needed to get the idea of her
voice. There's also a sort of sound, with the sax and everything. I suppose we were trying to write something that was a little bit more r'n'b, but I don't think we really succeeded in that. But in particular the sax intro, which was played on an Emulator sample, definitely sounded like something from a Tina Turner record. We wrote it at Chris's house. Chris was writing the music and got a lovely chord change, and I saw that the headline in the Daily Mirror - Pete Gleadall reads the Daily Mirror - was CONFIDENTIAL. I think it was about a Tory sex scandal - it's our second song to be inspired by the same person's misbehaviour, the first one being 'In Private'. That was on his first sex scandal. I think it's a weakness that 'Confidential' has exactly the same theme as 'In Private': a woman who's having a love affair with a man who's married. Having said that, when Tina Turner recorded it, she said, 'Oh yeah, I can relate to this.' We worked on it some more in Sarm West and I re-sang the backing vocals and put in the harmony section in the middle bit, and we did a quick mix of it and sent it to Tina's manager. We didn't release our version until several years later, when it was a b-side of 'Single-bilingual'. For Tina's version, which we produced with Chris Porter, we used our programming, and in fact on hers you can still hear Chris's Emulator sax solo. There are also the same backing vocals, though I added to them. I kept turning them down but Tina kept wanting more of them. It eventually appeared on her Wildest Dreams album. I think Tina was secretly disappointed - she really wanted an 'It's a sin' stomper. And actually Tina Turner doing an 'It's a sin' kind of thing would be great."
Delusions Of Grandeur
Neil: "This is part of the take-a-chord-change-from-a-famous-classical-piece-of-music-and-write-a-new-song-over-it range. This is 'The Moonlight Sonata' by Beethoven. On Chris's demo it was called 'Give Me The Moonlight'."
Chris: "It's definitely in the 'Shameless' category."
Neil: "It's arranged at the start a bit like in a Hollywood musical about something happening in the theatre, where you get those scenes where the curtain opens and it keeps going back and back and there's this ludicrously huge spectacle that could never be in a theatre, then right at the end it comes back to the theatre and the curtains close. The idea came from the book Hadrian VII by Baron Corvo, who was an embittered English writer living in Venice at the turn of the century. His book is about an Englishman with megalomaniac fantasies who becomes the Pope. It's imagining you're being crowned Emperor of the world - you hate people because they've treated you so badly and so you want to rule the world and get your revenge on them. When I was a child I had delusions of grandeur - my earliest ambition was to be the Pope. And I had the title 'Delusions of grandeur' for years and years and years, since the 1989 tour. It took me quite a while to write the words. Originally there was a first verse which was cut out because the song was too long. The 'ring the bells' section is inspired by the D. H. Lawrence poem, 'A sane revolution', which ends: 'Let's make a revolution for fun!'"
Chris: "It's another of our marching songs."
Neil: "Marilyn Manson would do this great. He's got the right kind of snarly voice. It would really work as a rock song. Kind of Euro-rock anyway."
The Boy Who Couldn't Keep His Clothes On
Neil: "This started off as one of Chris's demos. It's a real throwaway thing. We started it when we went to New York to do 'Before' with Danny Tenaglia but we didn't finish it. It wasn't meant to be on the album - we always get very excited when we're working with someone and end up doing a third track."
Chris: "Danny absolutely loved this."
Neil: "It's sort of a Miami Latino thing. When we went back to New York to do promotion I went back into the studio and finished the vocals and then Danny Tenaglia finished the track. What I like is that rap in the middle - 'Yo, Lewis...'"
Chris: "Danny brought someone in. It's a Banji rap: 'all your posse gonna know tomorrow...'"
Neil: "This version is the unedited International Club Mix which has only appeared on the Bilingual Special Edition; we edited it slightly when it appeared with 'A red letter day'. It's about a friend who would always take his shirt off on the dancefloor."
Chris: "He had a problem keeping his clothes on."
Neil: "He always wanted to sunbathe in the nude."
Chris: "There's probably a medical dictionary definition for that."
Neil: "It's a sad song. In the song, the person has something sad in his past. Actually it's a classic Pet Shop Boys' why-do-people-go-clubbing? song. And the explanation in the song is: 'to rise above the pain / to prove them all wrong again / to shake away at last / the secret in his past'. I'm saying that his exhibitionism is caused by a secret in his past, that people who've had bad experiences in their past often feel in later life that their only value to someone is sexual, so there's a huge insecurity, and that makes them exhibitionist. It's actually a really sad song."
The View From Your Balcony
Neil: "It's about a friend of mine who lived in a council flat in Bermondsey, South London, on the twentieth floor with a fabulous view over the Thames. The music was written on the piano at home, very quickly. It's not really a very good melody. It's all playing around variations of the same chord. I think I secretly want to be the Mamas and the Papas, or a Californian group, because I like these things with jangly guitars and harmonies in the background. I think it's got a
good lyric, contrasting my friend loving his flat on the twentieth floor of the council block with how, in the punk era, you'd have thought of living in a hi-rise as a really shit thing that you were protesting about. In the song, I'm up there, looking at London, the sun setting over east London, and it's all very romantic. There was meant to be a third verse but I couldn't think of any more words. It's funny - sometimes you write a song and you've made your statement and that's it. I
was going to have more words about London, and lots of place names, but I couldn't think of anything else. Instead there's a solo played on a trumpet sample."
Neil: "One night we ended up going on the town with Chris Evans and Gazza and Chris's sister Victoria. The day had started with us appearing on Richard and Judy and carried on from there: it was a long night and we ended up at Justine Frischmann's house, who was still going out with Damon Albarn, and there was a guy in the basement of the house, who may have been one of Weezer, and we went downstairs and started doing a jam session. Anyway, the following day someone reminded me that the song we'd been jamming had been called 'Disco potential', though I couldn't remember it at all, and I thought it was a good title. Not long afterwards we were in the studio doing b-sides for 'Somewhere' and I couldn't remember any of the jam but I used the title. The music is Chris being The Chemical Brothers."
Chris: "It's more The Prodigy than The Chemical Brothers. It's more 'Firestarter'."
Neil: "There's also something in this that's a kind of reference to 'Discotheque' by U2 which was out at the time. I think it's supposed to sound a bit like Bono really doing disco. The words are about Tamara Beckwith. Chris and I had seen a documentary about Tamara Beckwith on the television, and we loved the fact that they used to call Fulham Road 'the beach'. 'I'm just going down the beach,' they used to say, because it's got all the trendy shops on it."
Chris: "It shows they've got a sense of humour."
Neil: "'Daddy sells shares in a distant shore' has something to do with what Tamara Beckwith's father did, but I've never quite worked out what the 'disco potential' line means."
Neil: "It's very atmospheric. It's one of my Russian songs. The Silver Age is the period in Russia before the First World War - the first fourteen years of the century, when Stravinsky and everyone was working. A period of optimism."
(Literally 20, 1999)
(originally appeared on the soundtrack of remake of Psycho)
Neil: "In terms of the lyric, I thought of calling the 'Screaming' because it was Psycho. So I went and screamed in front of the microphone several times."
Neil actually wrote the lyrics twice: "I wrote an entire set of lyrics which made a lot more sense with the chorus which were based on the old Russian proverb: 'a man is born underneath the clear sky but dies in the middle of a dark forest'. Which I think is quite an interesting phrase. We start open and honest, and we end up surrounded by fears and problems entirely of our own making. We are the causes of our own doom."
When he scrapped that version, he used some of the same sentiments in the lyric to another song, 'Happiness is an option'.
His second lyric, the one they actually used, "was about an obsessive fan, written from the obsessive fan's point of view. Or acutally just by someone obsessed with someone who doesn't love them."
(Literally 20, 1999)
The Ghost Of Myself
Chris: "'The ghost of myself' was written with America in mind. Imagine Britney Spears crossed with Depeche Mode."
Neil: "It's about when I lived in Chelsea and was going out with this girl, and it's actually about when we broke up. It's about what we used to do. 'It's an undistinguished room with a single bed / I used to share with you at the weekend' is all true. It takes place in 1979."
Chris: "It's got the classic line 'for the election'. It's hilarious."
Neil: "It goes 'camera crews in Flood Street, for the election' because in 1979 Mrs Thatcher lived in Flood Street and I lived in the King's Road just round the corner, and the area was full of camera crews. They'd be in the Trafalgar pub there, endlessly filming her coming out of Flood Street, and at the same you had skinheads and mohicans and teddy boys all hanging around. It was a very odd mixture, a real little epicentre in London at that moment, and I was right in the middle of it there. It was when the King's Road was still trendy. It describes the Chelsea Potter pub I used to live across the road from. It's all sort of true, really. I had the idea of writing the song because I read somewhere that you can haunt yourself - if you believe in ghosts, which as it happens I don't. But I was interested by this idea that someone could be haunted by their past self, so that's why I'm saying 'looking back now I can see / the ghost of myself, as I used to be'. Actually it's really me being haunted by the heterosexual version of me in the end of the Seventies."
(Literally 21, 1999)
Casting A Shadow
Neil: "It's called 'Casting a shadow' because my understanding is that the sun casts a shadow of the moon on the earth. Actually I find the whole thing quite hard to understand."
Chris: "We wanted it to sound spiritual. Spiritual bollocks. Because it's a special occasion, for God's sake, isn't it? I think it's interesting it can only happen because the moon happens to be a certain size at a certain distance. In that respect I think it's incredible, but I don't think it has any special meaning at all."
Neil: "It has a significance because it doesn't happen very often. We knew the totality lasted for two minutes two seconds, and so at the end of that the music gets faster when we hoped you'd see the diamond ring effect."
Chris: "It's quite a moving piece of music."
Neil tried to write a lyric, "but then I thought, 'why should you get in the way of the event by giving your own interpretation of the event?'."
(Literally 21, 1999)
Chris: "Someone I know had been telling me tons of lies, so it was quite easy to write. It didn't take long to do. The reason it sounds so wonderful is because we spent hours getting it in tune using the computer."
(Literally 22, 2000)