Neil: "We were approached by Central TV to be on a programme called Love Me Tender, commemorating the tenth anniversary of the death of Elvis Presley, and for some reason we agreed to do it. Rob Holden, who worked with Tom Watkins, got us a load of Elvis cassettes and the first track on the first one Chris picked up, Magic Moments With Elvis, was 'Always On My Mind'."
Chris: "I'm not a fan of Elvis Presley. The only songs I like are 'Suspicious Minds' and 'Always On My Mind'. I always like the Canadian Mountie backing vocals on 'Always On My Mind', but we don't put those in our version."
Neil: "Originally we were going to do a house version of a song called 'Baby Let's Play House', which was a really good idea, but there wasn't time or something. So we just started doing 'Always On My Mind' in the studio with David Jacob for two days. Chris came up with the brass riff, and I put a different chord in at the end of the chorus, a B flat, which made it more disco-sounding. I changed the words slightly too and made it ungrammatical: 'maybe I didn't treat you
quite as good as I should' instead of '...should have' because I wanted it to be more definite. And then we went up and filmed it for the programme, and everyone said it was fantastic. We dressed in leather, in clone outfits, and walked down a railway track. That demo version was released on a seven-inch single with Japanese copies of Actually. We were going to release it as the b-side of 'Rent' but Jill Carrington said, 'no, it should be a single'. For the single version we just tarted up the demo and put tank noises on it. The demo fades out sooner. They were furious in America that it was a single because it wasn't on the album, and they had to repackage the album with a twelve-inch of 'Always On My Mind'. I remember traveling around Scandinavia doing promotion and EMI were phoning up, trying to stop us releasing it. But we thought it stood a good chance of being Christmas number one, and it was. The twelve-inch has Joss Ackland on it near the end, shouting 'Stop the car!', taken from our film, It couldn't happen here. 'Always On My Mind' wasn't in the film originally and then during the filming we decided to release it as a single and a whole new scene was written for the film so that it could be included. That's why the dialogue's so corny in that scene. Joss Ackland ends up quoting 'What have I done to deserve this?' It's hilarious. I think our film is arguably better than Spiceworld. We also mixed another, short version of 'Always On My Mind' with Phil Harding, with no drums. I don't even remember doing it, to be honest."
Chris: "I like the way it ends."
[commentary on the Introspective version is here]
Where The Streets Have No Name (Can't Take My Eyes Off You)
Neil: "We were releasing 'How can you expect to be taken seriously?' as the third single off Behaviour. However, we decided that wouldn't be a big hit, and we needed a hit, so we released a ragga-style remix of that with this as a double a-side. 'Being boring' hadn't been a big hit and we needed a big hit. It was absolutely shameless. Ages ago we'd had the idea of doing U2's 'Where The Streets Have No Name' as a medley with 'Can't Take My Eyes Off You', which we knew best as a high energy record by The Boystown Gang, because one day, when we were recording 'I'm not scared' with Patsy Kensit, Chris came in and said you could sing the one going into the other. And we also thought the guitar on U2's record sounded like a sequencer. Our original idea was to do this with Patsy Kensit - it was going to be the follow-up to 'I'm not scared'."
Chris: "Then we had the idea of doing a whole EP ourselves of rock classics to a high energy disco beat. 'Stairway To Heaven'... 'She's climbing! She's climbing!...'"
Neil: "'...a stairway! To heaven!' And we were going to do 'Like A Rolling Stone'. Then we just decided to do 'Where The Streets...' The extended mix really sounds like ZZ Top, I think. When I went to America to work for the American version of Smash Hits I heard ZZ Top for the first time, and there were two of their songs I particularly liked, 'Sharp Dressed Man' and 'Legs'. I loved the combination of electric guitars and drum machines. Billy Idol had it as well. And
I think this sounds a little bit like that. We had J. J. Belle playing rock guitar. When the single version came out, Bono said 'what have we done to deserve this?' And who can blame him?"
Neil: "This came out of two things. At this time Chris used to write on a Fairlight in his sitting room in Islington, and he wrote a load of bits and pieces, one of which became 'In private', one of which became - much later - 'Dreaming of the Queen', and one of which became the chorus of 'DJ culture'. Then, when we were touring on the Performance tour, I wrote down in my notebook this phrase 'DJ culture'. At the beginning of 1991, just as we were about to go on tour, the Gulf War happened, and I'd had this idea - rather a pretentious idea in some ways - of the way that everyone talked about the Gulf War as though it was the Second World War. It was a very odd war, the Gulf War, because it wasn't really hand-to-hand fighting - it was like a computer game, almost, on television. And at the end of the day no one really won it. At the same time the cult of the DJ was becoming a big thing, and records being sampled too, and I thought: people don't just sample records, they also sample attitudes from the past. Things don't tend to be authentically experienced now, they tend to be expressed as samples from the past so that we all understand them, and that was what I really wanted to say. People pretend President Bush and John Major are successful war leaders. People pretend to sound concerned, or have that empty positivism. Musical culture in particular had a relentless positivism that was completely and utterly banal, a
brainless positivism that just consisted of empty catchphrases. There were a lot of bullshit attitudes going on in the early Nineties, and the song is about how facile and pretentious modern life was. The third verse is about how, if you have no history, you can reinvent yourself. There's a reference to Madonna in it - 'She after Sean'; after her marriage with Sean Penn broke up she sort of came back as a sex goddess. 'Liz before Betty' is something Heather Carson, the lighting designer, said on the Performance tour: 'that's so Liz before Betty' i.e. Liz Taylor before the Betty Ford Clinic. It's one of those things I've always liked, like 'West End girls', trying to be a bit like The Wasteland meets Grandmaster Flash. In this there are all these different voices like there are in The Wasteland. It also quotes from Oscar Wilde who, when he was sentenced to two years' hard labour, after the judge read the sentence, said, 'And I, may I say nothing, my lord?' I misquote it on the record. He wasn't allowed to say anything. He was just led away. The chorus is about how, with all the media and satellite television channels, there are very few genuine responses to anything, only fake ones, drowning out people's genuine responses, hence the Oscar Wilde quote. We'd had the idea of writing a song with a song structure a bit like 'West End girls': spoken words and a sung chorus. I wrote a chord change which became the verse to lead into Chris's chorus."
Chris: "We recorded it with Brothers In Rhythm at Sarm West. They'd done remixes for 'How can you expect to be taken seriously?' and 'We all feel better in the dark'. I loved their records, 'Such A Good Feeling' and 'Peace And Harmony', and also Sabrina Johnston's 'Peace In The Valley' which they'd done. The funny thing was, all those records were really uplifting piano house, and of course what we get is miserablist..."
Neil: "We went into the studio with Brothers In Rhythm to make two hit singles for Discography."
Chris: "Obviously an impossible task."
Neil: "Chris spent the whole time saying, 'Obviously they'll both be flops'."
Chris: "And I was right. I've always had a problem with the idea that you write 'hits' for a greatest hits that haven't been hits, therefore it's a bit presumptuous to put them on the album in the first place."
Neil: "I agree. But I think it's a really good track, 'DJ culture', actually, but it's not a huge international hit single. At the time this was a record we thought might do something in America - are we insane? But I love the chorus - we took the idea of Tessa Niles singing behind me in the chorus from 'Absolute Beginners' by David Bowie; there's a girl singing with David Bowie all the way through that and I've always liked that. We did the twelve-inch in the studio at the same time. We weren't quite happy with the Brothers In Rhythm seven-inch so we did the twelve-inch thinking we might get ideas for the seven-inch. Then, quite some time later, we brought in Stephen Hague to work on the seven-inch. He suggested I change the words in the chorus - in the twelve-inch the words don't change when there's a double chorus, but in the seven-inch I add the '...wondering who's your friend' bit. He also put a string line in the middle section which is really nice."
Was It Worth It?
Neil: "This started off as a song I wrote on the piano, before we made Behaviour. For ages there wasn't a chorus, and then Chris wrote the chords to the chorus. Steve Anderson of Brothers Of Rhythm put down the piano part, which is pretty much like 'Ride On Time', on it. I said, 'Isn't that a bit too much like "Ride On Time"?' but then I realised that's what DJ culture is all about. It's just a rhythm part, anyway. I love the call-and-response in this song. It's real disco. It's a very gay song. Very gay positive. It's basically saying: if I had to do it all again, I wouldn't change a single thing. It's about me starting a relationship. I couldn't think of the chorus words for ages and then I wrote them one night driving
home in a taxi down North End Road in Fulham. I thought it would be a top five hit, but it was our first - and so far only - single not to reach the top twenty. I think we didn't spend enough time on the production. The seven-inch mix, which is on Discography, sounds a little bit cheesy now. This twelve-inch mix is great, though you can hear a very bad edit in it. In those days we still used to mix on half-inch tape and you can hear at 0.43 where the string run goes into the full mix."
Chris: "It sounds alright. You could even argue it was deliberate. 'How did we get that effect?' is what you could be saying. I didn't like this song for years, until I heard the demo of it that a fan sent in."
Neil: "When we were onstage in Spain in 2000 this Spanish boy gave us a version with a friend of his playing electric guitar and he sung it with a Spanish accent and it's so moving."
Chris: "He sung it so well - much better than Neil's ever sung it."
Neil: "So I started to do his version in concert. Actually, our new live version of it is a mixture of the original and his."
Chris: "We've now realised it works much better as guitar and vocals. We might redo all of our fast songs as ballads."