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 too - 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 a song 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' by 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 could 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 house 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 a 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 record - I've got an idea' and I spoke the whole thing to Chris 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 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 Barbara Streisand or Barry Manilow. We used to really like going there."
Opportunities (Let's Make Lots Of Money)
Neil: "This was another song we originally recorded with Bobby 'O', 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 that cherism, 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
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 have 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 provocative."
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 to hate it: 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 idea, really, as that anti-hippie album by Frank Zappa and 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 combination. People have often thought, and asked, 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."
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 EMI 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 [on the bonus disc of reissued Please] is the unreleased full version before the party scene was edited out. We also did our own twelve-inch version. 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 bassnotes 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, 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 clear the dance floor. 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 realize 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 take out fifty 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 soloon 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 tore-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)' - 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 eutopia' 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 smash edit, 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 the camera. 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 Spheeris film, 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 album 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?"
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 Live 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
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 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'."