Literally 26

Disco 3 2002
 Upon the release of a new album, the Pet Shop Boys usually take time to explain in Literally Something of the songs’ genesis. The release of Disco 3 is no exception. Time on my hands Neil: “Time on my hands” was done right at the beginning of writing for Release, round about the same time as “Home and dry”. Actually Parlophone were very keen on this track but we didn’t think it fitted in with Release and one of the band wasn’t that keen on it.
Whereas the other member of the band was. It doesn’t sound substantially different from the demo, though we remixed it and Chris did some more programming.
Chris: Not much, though.

Neil: It’s my favourite track on the album. There is a sample from a Mahier symphony, but I can’t remember which one. Sometimes we just play another record over something to see what it sounds like, and I had this album of Mahier adagios, slow movements from symphonies, so we put that on and a bit of that sounded good, so we sampled a few bars and repeated it. It gives it that very eerie quality. It’s a song, which fits very well into the Pet Shop Boys work because it’s about being bored.

Chris: “Canon” is the right word to use. The Pet Shop Boys canon.

Neil: It’s a song about being bored: “it’s very nice but it’s not what I’m used to – time on my hands”. In fact in my notebook I had two different titles: “Time on my hands” and “It’s very nice but it’s not what I’m used to”, which obviously we’d thought of at some silly moment, and so I just put them together.

Chris: What do you do when you have time on your hands? I can only think of one thing. Watch the television.

Neil: “70, 80, 90…” is Chris’s. It’s meant to be the Millennium.

Chris: It’s one of my inimitable vocals.
Neil: I read in a review that we’d jumped on the electro clash bandwagon with this track. I’d just like to point out that it was done at the end of 2000, 50 this predates us jumping on the electro clash bandwagon.
Positive role model

Neil: When we were going to put out greatest hits in 2000…

Chris: The last time.

Neil: . . .we had this idea. It was at the end of Nightlife, when we did “Happiness is an option” and “Somebody else’s business”. We did three songs that sampled things: “Happiness is an option” samples that Rachmaninov thing, “Somebody else’s business” started by sampled the Isley Brothers, though it got taken out, and this was Barry White, “You’re The First, The Last, My Everything”.

Chris: I’m always listening to Barry White The Collection. It’s a must have, really. Also, we always liked that Tamperer record.

Neil: We recorded it with Chris Zippel over two visits, but then we decided not to put out a greatest hits that year. It originally had a different bit in it, and that was the version we performed live at Glastonbury. It’s a satire about rehab, about people going into the Priory and coming out and going straight back on drink and drugs. Hence the “back on everything” thing, though “Back on everything” was also a separate song title I had. It was a spoof on that whole culture of famous people saying “I think it’s really important to be a positive role model for kids”, which kind of makes you want to throw up a bit. Then it ended up in Closer to Heaven – it was supposed to be a song that Straight Dave had written so I rewrote the words. I always Thought that it didn’t seem to make any sense in Closer to Heaven but no one seemed to care because it sounded right and gave it a finale. This is the original lyric.
Try it (I’m in love with a married man)

Neil: We’d always like this song. It’s a song written by Bobby 0 in, I think, 1983 and it was recorded by a group he had called Oh Romeo which was some session singers. I think it came out just when we got to know Bobby 0 and we always really loved this record. By his standards it wasn’t at all successful but we always remembered it. We had actually suggested to Tina Turner she should record it when we recorded with her in the mid-Nineties. She wanted to do a big stopper but we didn’t have one so we suggested this. I still think it would have been a hit with her singing it but she didn’t like it.

Chris: I love this song. And sung by a man it’s extremely risqué’. I just love that line: “do you think about me, darling, when you make love to your wife?” How good is that? And also “the world doesn’t understand my affair with a married man”.

Neil: I remember the first time I heard it I was quite shocked by that line.

Chris: It’s got all the elements.

Neil: It’s a very good lyric – even sung by a woman it’s very, very daring. It’s kind of like a country song. You could imagine Tammy Wynette singing it. For our version we couldn’t work out what the words in the middle bit were so I’ve sort of made them up. I love the sound of
it. What’s interesting about electro clash is that it’s brought back the octave baseline.
Chris: It’s brought back lots. It’s brought back cowbells, Linn drums, tom fills – all the things we like. All sorts of things that have been expelled from the face of the earth for nearly two decades

London (Thee Radical BlaMite Edit)

Neil: We met Felix Da Housecat when we were
in Denver on tour. We wanted him to remix a
Song for us and we knew this was coming up as a single so we asked him to remix this. He’s taken a sample of my voice and he’s made a different record really. For the CD we edited it down because it was quite long.

Chris: It’s very Eighties sounding, which is good. It sounded so different to anything else on the album that Tim who mastered our albums did a very good job making it sound part of the same album.

Somebody else’s business

Neil: This was written in 1999 but it didn’t have a verse, and the first time we worked with Chris Zippel in Berlin in 2000 we wrote the verse there. It’s about a placid man dealing with his angry girlfriend. It’s saying that she’s great really, because at least she’s not boring. I’ve always thought this was very catchy. Chris Zippel had a lot of computer plug-ins – what a lot of people call, rather annoying in my opinion, “the Cher effect”. I want to know whether people say that to Madonna when they’re listening to “Music”:
“oh, that flaming ‘Cher effect’ again, Madge”. I love the bit in the second verse where the car drives off.

Chris: We hadn’t done that in a while. I remember writing it, taking the Isley Brothers sample, just the first two chords of “Behind A Painted Smile”. I would always leave them in but Neil would always rather take them out.

Neil: It also samples “Love comes quickly”. We took it off Discography. It might have been Chris Zippel’s idea, or I might have been starting to sing “oooh”s and said, “these sound like ‘Love comes quickly’ – why don’t we just sample them?”

Here (PS B new extended mix)

Neil: Since we first did “Here” Chris said he could imagine a remix of it.

Chris: The version on the album was sort of day one of recording. It just seemed like you could dance it up a bit. This will be the last house-y trance-y thing we ever do’. [laughs] Because we now hate house music. And we’ll never do
Trance ever again. The future is clear. The filature is 1980.

Neil: Or’ specifically, 1981 is the filature. On the vinyl version, on what we call the dub, there’s a new keyboard riff we came up with which just goes all the way through.
If looks could kill

Chris: This was started at Ray Roberts’ studio…
Neil: . . .in about 1983. About the same time as “Rent” and what-have-you.

Chris: It was jam.

Neil: I was singing with the microphone and playing the echo unit and shrieking very loudly and Chris was…

Chris: … I was vamping out.

Neil: I was playing the piano as well.
Chris: Not at the same time?

Neil: I did, Chris. I literally picked the microphone up and walked across the studio and do the [mimes piano part] We wrote two songs the same day – this and “A powerful friend”. We always liked them because they were a bit bonkers – we always felt they sounded a bit like late Soft Cell. We endlessly talked about doing it over the years. Anyway, we dug out the demo last year and did a version for John Peel and then we decided to take it more electronic-y. The original demo had no words really, apart from “if looks could kill…”

Chris: “…they probably will”.

Neil: I was doing something that sounded like words but wasn’t actually, so I had to write them for the John Peel show. It became about confronting a very bitchy person. A very, very bitchy person who gives you those looks that could kill. The song is saying: I don’t care – you don’t scare me, love.

Sexy Northerner (Superchumbo mix)

Neil: Tom Stephan suggested remixing this track because he liked it. He saw us in concert when we were playing the original version.

Chris: What’s interesting is that he’s actually kept quite a bit of the original, which is unheard of for Tom. But he’s made it deep and tribal.
Home and dry (Blank & Jones mix)

Chris: This came about because during the university tour we did one last gig in Cologne and in the Mercedes on the way back to the hotel they had a very good sound system and I put the local radio station on – Neil was in a different car, but everyone in my car said “let’s face it, we all love a bit of trance; who cares if it’s not trendy”. And we turned it up fill whack and had a really good journey back to the hotel. And after that Mitch phoned up the radio station to find out who was the DJ, which was Blank & Jones, and the next afternoon she was having lunch with them and a remix was being spawned. And this is it.

Neil: At the last moment, when we decided to call this album Disco 3, we just thought back to the other Disco albums, and it just seemed obvious that this should be on as well. At this point we realised that in doing the “Here” remix we d used the drum sounds from Blank & Jones, and they had an identical beginning, so at the last minute we had to go back to the cutting room and trim off the start of “Here” because it had exactly the same beginning, which was very finny.

London (Genuine piano mix)

Neil: This was totally done by Chris Zippel.
Chris: And his pianist.

Neil: When Chris Zippel has got your stuff over there on his computer he endlessly works on it and keeps sending endless things over, which is actually quite nice.

Chris: It’s always work in progress.
Neil: Until you say “stop it!”. Even then he carries on. He remixed “Positive role model” for this album. For this, he got a pianist friend in and he re-harmonised the whole song. It reminds me a bit of Ryuichi Sakamoto: “Forbidden Colours”. He did it with the original vocal and you could hear the microphone stuff on it and also there was one note I just thought sounded weird against the new chords he put in, so I sang it again. We considered making this the version on Release; on this album it sort of functions as a chill-out track.

Copyright Areagraphy Ltd 2002: All Articles have been
Taken From Literally 2002 Issue 26