|Interviews Making Video Where the Streets|
|Making the Video Of Where The Streets Have No Name/Can’t Take my Eyes off you|
Tuesday, 5 March, 1991.
In one comer of busy warehouse in Northwest London is a gleaning American car. Two girls walk around with pink feathers shooting roof wards from their headbands. On a giant projection screen, washed out black and white film of Neil and Chris is mixed with snatches dusty orange American landscape and high-speed films of car headlight rails through American cities. Up some stairs in the dressing room, Neil and Chris are waiting for their next shot, watching MTV Europe.
“We’ve never done that whole American images thing in a video which every single group has done,” shrugs Chris, perhaps a little disdainfully, “so we thought it would be a laugh to do it
“Chris wanted a Joshua Tree,” mutters Neil, “but we’re officially not taking the piss.”
This is the video shoot for “Where The Streets have No Name (I Can’t Take My Eyes Off You)”, fitted in between the end of tour rehearsals (the previous Sunday the whole show was performed to a large crowd of friends and invited guests at Brixton Academy) and their departure for Japan on Friday. The original idea for the video, Chris says, “was making a video in America, driving down an
Their “call time’ – the time they’re supposed to arrive – was 8.OOam. Neil arrived at 8.10, Chris didn’t get there until 10.15- at 7 he’d Turned his alarm clock off and gone back to sleep – but it didn’t matter; the first shot wasn’t until 10.30. Apparently it’s always like that.
“The whole point of video shots,” says Neil, is to get the Artist here terribly early and then keep them waiting around”.
“They get you here at the crack of dawn,” agrees Chris, “and then say “how would you like a cup of tea and some breakfast?” To which I always say, “Well I’d rather have had it at home.”
Their musings are interrupted by one of the crew who asks, accusingly politely, “can we please have ~You on the set?”
“Yes,” says Neil, pretending to be an utterly snooty pop star, “I think we could possibly manage that.” TThe Pet Shop Boys have already done some preliminary filming for this video. They were each shot down at Brixton Academy – Neil singing and being kissed, Chris standing there -a few days earlier, for the bleached out film being projected on the screen. This morning they have already been filmed in a classic American 50’s convertible car. Now the director is setting up the scenes that will look as though they are being shot through the speedometer and glove compartment of the same car.
In fact this is the magic wand of film being waved: they are not in a car at all. Like many film effects, the success of the final version will depend on the viewer taking in what they’ve already seen – in this case a big shiny convertible stuffed with Pet Shop Boys and entourage – and imagining it’s still there in the next scene. In fact the Pet Shop Boys are now on a couple of tatty seats behind a tatty old bit of wood to represent the front of the car. The camera points through a rectangular letterbox shaped hole, a few keys and cassette cases in front of it, to represent the glove compartment. Trevor and Mark, the dancers, who will look like they are in the back-seat of the car, are actually just sitting on stools. The dancing girls with the pink feathers are supposed to look like
they’re on the back of the car; in fact they’re simply standing behind everyone. In between shots they wrap up in coats, and huddle together, looking cold and insurable. On film this may look like a sunny hot Arizona desert but it’s actually a cold shed in London. EEvery now and then they film a run-through. Neil sings whilst Chris opens and shuts the glove-box and takes the keys. (Neil gets told off in one take for not pretending to drive well enough.) Then Neil sings whilst they film through the speedometer. One imagines that the speedometer would be driven by some clever mechanical device but in fact there is a crew member who crouches below the camera shot with the bottom end of the red pointer between his fingers, wiggling it.
But mostly flitting a video involves a lot of waiting. Chris murmurs that he thinks he has a cold coming on and asks for some cough sweets. Someone is dispatched and returns with some Lockets. “I don’t like them,” he says. “I like those blackcurrant pastilles.” He sighs, and says he’s feeling worse. It’s overwork”.
“”Even I feel overworked at the moment,” agrees Neil.
Seeing his words being written down, Neil chooses this lull in proceedings to inform us all of his three rules of the Music Business. “Rule One is ‘never trust anyone in the media’. Rule Two is ‘never spend your own money’, which we’ve broken on this tour. Rule Three is ‘no-one in the music business can operate a video player’. “I don’t think there’s anyone who doesn’t know how much money we’re losing on this tour,” he laughs.
“I tell taxi drivers,” says Chris.
“I literally told a taxi driver,” hoots Neil. “He said ‘that must be a nice little earner’ so I told him.”
AAnd on Neil drives. His “steering wheel’s is a piece of metal held in place clamped to a stand. I ask whether it isn’t a little odd, especially considering that he can’t drive and hates cars, that this is another video in which he drives.
“Yes,” he sighs. “We’ve had a lot with cars in. ‘Rent’ … ‘Always On My Mind’ … ‘Heart’ But we haven’t done a cat for nine months. And at least we’re not by the seaside”.
Chris interrupts. He has thought of something. “We can’t show this on children’s television.” Neil gives him a quizzical look, as if to ask “why ever not?” “No settles,” says Chris. His blackcurrant drops appear.
They take a break. Arma Andon, their American manager arrives, and persuades Neil to do some American phone interviews. On MTV they play, spookily enough,U2’s video for “Where The Streets Have No Name”. Next, even more spookily, they show “What Have I Done To Deserve This?” Neil tells the American on the other end of the phone. “It’s funny,” he continues, “because when U2 were asked about our version their quote was ‘what
hhave we done to deserve this?”‘
Chris watches “What Have I Done To Deserve This?” “I hate this video,” he says. “I look awful.” On TV, he does his backstage dance. “This is tragic,” he mutters. He gives a running commentary on the videos that follow: The Who’s “My Generation” (“I’ve never really understood The Who. I’ve seen so many pisstakes of it, I can’t take it seriously”), something by Billy Joel (“I just can’t understand his popularity”), “We Are The World”…
“”I love this video,” says Chris.
“It’s my favorite,” agrees Neil. They discuss each paretic pant as they take the microphone.
“She’s ace, Tina,” murmurs Chris. “She’s simply the best.”
Michael Jackson comes on.
“He looks great there,” says Neil. “Just before it went wrong.”
“You did have to tell her,” laughs Neil, talking to Chris, “when you met her: ‘you looked great in the ‘We Are The World’ video. She looked so embarrassed.” “I meant it,” replies Chris, indignantly. He returns to the screen. “These people have got talent,” he sighs.
“They can deliver,” Neil concurs.
“~o wonder we’re not happening in America,” says Chris. “What would we have been doing in this? We’d have just been embarrassed. I’d have been giggling at the back…
AAfter Lunch- there are always caterers at video shoots – Neil has to work out some choreography with Trevor and Mark. (Chris has refuse to dance, “I danced in the last one, and I’ve had enough rehearsing for the show. I can’t be bothered learning another routine”.) Trevor suggests something simple and ’70s: “take the piss out of John Travolta”.
Neil looks over the balcony. “Oh my God! It’s a white horse!” Indeed it is, being led into the warehouse to be filmed. I ask how it fits into the video concept. “Neil,” asks Chris, “why is there a white horse in it? Is it something to do with the desert?”
“Actually Chris,” says Neil, “I’ll tell you whose idea it was.”
“Whose?” “Yours.” “Oh,” says Chris.
I ask the horse’s minder what it’s called.
“”Estupo,” he says. “It’s Spanish for “stupid.”
In the dressing room Arma opens some champagne. “I don’t know why we’ve got champagne,” says Chris. “I’m champagne out…
“Cheers” says Arma. “Here’s to a fabulously successful tour!”
“Chink glasses,” counsels Neil. Everybody’s got to chink or else it’s bad luck”. Everybody chinks.
FFor the next shot Neil – still in what Chris calls his “Frank Sinatra /Dean Martin fifties thing” – has to be filmed lip synching to the song at double speed so that, in the final version, he will appear to be walking in slow motion. He has been rehearsing all morning with a double speed tape of the song and gets it right most times. Then he must dress as a cowboy (“I refused,” says Chris).
As afternoon draws into evening Chris feels increasingly ill and gets increasingly more impatient. Eventually he has had enough. He appears at the bottom of the stairs. “If they don’t film my next bit now, your going. I’m packing my bags.”FFilm people scurry round with “the world is ending” expressions on their faces, but they can’t set up a shot quickly enough. He leaves.
The shoot continues for a few more hours. Neil does his dance with Trevor and Mark; Trevor and Mark dance alone; and Neil sings the song a few times to camera. Long after the scheduled 9.OOpm finish, the final shot is completed, someone actually shouts “it’s a wrap” and taxis are ‘phoned.
Copyright Areagraphy Ltd 1992:
All Articles have been Taken From Literally 1992 Issue 6