it had the
uplifting element of trance without
being trance. Also, when the drums
kicked in it sounded really heavy.
Everything was already there apart
from the bit after the first chorus.
Neil: Anyway, I was dispatched to
say to Brian Higgins, “can we get
that bouncy track?” which, I’ve
got to be honest, I couldn’t even
I liked all
the songs that sounded a bit like
New Order, one of which I think
turned out to be “The loving kind”.
Chris: I didn’t see any point in
having something that sounded
like it could have almost been us
Neil: When they got the track up
again I thought, oh yeah, I can see
what Chris means about this one.
They’d already had a vague idea
for a chant — Brian or Miranda —
and I had this idea of “don’t have
to be beautiful but it helps”, sol
thought of [chants] “don’t have
to be!”, based on the chant that
When we were doing “don’t
have to be”, Brian was present
and Chris was present, because
Miranda came up with “a big
bucks Hollywood star” and none
of us, including Miranda, liked it,
and we spent weeks trying to come
up with another line. Miranda
and I wrote loads of words for it.
Then Miranda came up with whatI think is a brilliant melody, a
very tricky melody that goes over
the keyboard rifT: “boy it’s tough
getting on in the world when the
sun doesn’t shine and a boy needs
a girl”. I wrote most of the words
but it had a different tune first.
She changed the tune to this and I
thought it was amazingly clever,
and I also thought I would never be
able to learn it. Also then we got
slightly becalmed in it because for
a while Brian didn’t like the “too
much ofeverything...” part.
then he did like it and suddenly
it was in the middle of the song.
Then there was the famous
discussion about whether to have
a double chorus at the beginning
of the song. I suggested the title,
“Love etc.”; there was an email
from Brian which said, “Is this a
hit title?” Because the idea with
“Love etc.” was specifically to
write a hit song.
Neil: Anyway, the song coalesced
very rapidly into being this kind of
anti-materialistic thing. It’s simply
saying that the modern obsession
with wealth and celebrity is not
what makes people happy — what
makes people happy is love.
Probably in its broadest sense.
Chris: Well, that doesn’t
necessarily make you happy either,
does it? I thought, readers, that
love was a catastrophe.
Neil: Yes, but the reason we’re
obsessed with cubes is because,
as in cubism, we look at the same
thing from many different points
of view. And this is this particular
point of view.
All over the world
Neil: This was the last track to
be written on the whole album.
It started off as a song called
“I’m not crying I’m laughing”. It
had the same introduction — the
“oh-way-oh-oh-way-oh” was all
there — then had a different tune
and lyric. It began: “I’m not crying
I’m laughing / I know it sometimes
sounds the same / I’m not crying
I’m laughing / I think happiness is
Chris: The verse music was the
same, but with a different melody. And what wasn’t there was
the chorus. It was also all a bit
swingbeat. What we were trying to
do was to do this rhythm from this
record we’d heard in Mexico.
Neil: That’s why “I’m not crying
I’m laughing” was such a strange
Chris: I’d still like to make
a record using that rhythm
because it’s so complex and so
not European in any way. It was
played in every bar in Monterey in
Mexico by different bands, and you
couldn’t dance to it. The promoter
took me onto the dancefloor to
show me how to dance to this
record and it was just impossible.
It was an amazing rhythm.
Neil: Anyway, Xenomania were
quite happy with this other song. In
fact after “All over the world” was
finished, one day when we were
summoned to see Brian he was
sitting there and humming “I’m not
crying I’m laughing” to himself.
But what happened was that after
we took a month off in August,
both Chris and I came back from
holiday having had mixes of
some of the songs with us, and
we decided “I’m not crying I’m
laughing” was utter rubbish. So we
went into the studio with Tim from
Xenomania and — influenced by the
way Xenomania work — took all
the lyrics off and all the vocals off.
Chris: And I thought, “Why not
carry on the Tchaikovsky chord
progression from the Nutcracker?”
And then it really took off. I mean,
that’s just a really great chord
change. Actually, I don’t think it
is the exact chord change — it’s
my memory of what it might have
been. And then the song went
off into a completely different
direction. But keeping the verse
Neil: It was a really good session
this — it all happened in about two
or three hours.
Chris: It was really, really great.
We just thought, “My God, this is
good.” What was Brian’s famous
quote about this?
Neil: “You’ve just made the album
10% better”. I already had the lyric
in my notebook:
“this is a song
about boys and girls / you hear it
playing all over the world”. Which
sounded to me sort of attractively
Chris: I played the melody for that
on the piano, to those lyrics, and
Neil said it sounded like Shakatak.
And I said, “But it won’t sound
like that when you sing it.”
Neil: There are few worse
criticisms from me than “it sounds
Chris: I know. So you had to sing
it pretty soon afterwards.
Neil: Singing that it was suddenly
amazingly great. Then I came
up with the Bowie-like verse
melody: “There’s something...
that look in your eyes tonight...”
I was suddenly channelling David
Bowie. It’s a funny David Bowie
because it’s David Bowie but not
from one of his most successful
albums. It’s kind of “Loving The
Alien”-era Bowie. Chris and Tim
also spent a long time working on
the rhythm track.
Chris: Tim really beefed the
rhythm up, made it four on the
Neil: It’s a song about love
songs. About how love songs
are universal. Just saying that
wherever you go you hear love
songs. It’s celebrating that. What
they’re saying, and not saying.
Chris: The lyric changed near the
end. It used to say “I love you”.
Neil: I changed it because I think
pop songs are more about sexual
desire than love. Hence “I want
you” rather than “I love you
But if that bit had been in twice I
would have sung “I love you” the
Neil: “Beautiful people” came
about because Jonathan Harvey,
whom we wrote Closer to heaven
with, was writing a TV comedy
series called BeautWul People
and he sent us an email, which I
received just as we were finishing
doing a demo, asking whether we
would consider writing a themesong for it. And so we wrote a
song called “Beautiful people”.
Then I emailed him back to say
we’d written a song, and he said
they wanted something really up,
high-energy disco-y, and I said that
that was so not what we’d written
— that we’d written something that
sounds a bit sad, a bit melancholy.
I used the example of the Oasis
Royle Family one. Anyway, they
didn’t want it, but we loved this
song, and Brian Higgins, when
we first played him songs we’ve
written, really liked this song a lot
Chris: It was fully formed.
Neil: I always think of our demo as
being a bit more folky.
Chris: It didn’t sound folky to me.
The original aim was to be r’n’b.
They’re quite soulful chords. The
exact arrangement was already
Neil: I’m not even sure I re-sang it.
Anyway, folk and soul do meet in
the Mamas and Papas and, even at
this stage, the backing vocals were
supposed to be like the Mamas
and the Papas. When we wrote
this song I loved it to pieces. On
the demo I do a guitar solo — we
didn’t keep that, unfortunately. As
we worked on it with Xenomania
Chris was really keen on it but I
wasn’t that keen because I was
worried it had lost some of the
sympathy. Then we got Owen
Pallett’s orchestration which is
amazing, and Johnny Marr played
on it, and suddenly it all made
sense. I’d thought the drums were
too big before, but now they were
perfect. Funnily enough the lyric
is the same message as “Love etc.” but from a totally different
“Love etc.” is saying
being rich and famous is not going
to make you happy. “Beautiful
people” is somebody wishing
they’re rich and famous. It’s one of
those songs where I imagine it’s a
woman singing it. I imagine she’s
standing by the bus stop in the rain
in London — I actually specifically
have a bus stop for this, on Green
Park near the Ritz, where there’s a
newsstand behind — and she looks
at the newsstand, and it’s pouring
with rain and she’s waiting for the
bloody bus and there’s a traffic
jam and she’s got her shopping
— and she sees all these Hello!
magazines and Heat, and she
thinks “I want to live like beautiful
people”. It was making sense of
the title of Jonathan’s series. It’s
from the same product range we
occasionally do as “Decadance”
— that’s got a similar kind of feel
about it. She’s thinking all this,
then she’s going to get the bus, go
home and make dinner.
Did you see me coming?
Neil: I can’t even remember
Chris: Someone emailed into our
Radio 2 show saying “are some
of your songs complacent?” and
I took that to mean “effortless”.
This is one of those songs. It all
happened in one go.
Neil: I had a ballad that I’d started
writing on the piano at home
called “Did you see me coming?”
Chris had been working on this
backing track and I tried to sing my
ballad, which I could never get far
with. When I sang it over Chris’s
backing track, the tune changed to
what it is now. I was worried the
title sounded obscene. It wasn’t
meant to. My mother used to say
“they must have seen you coming”
if you’d been overcharged for
something. It came from that.
Chris: They’re bloody good
chords. I had to put them into the
computer for the tour the other day
and it took me ages to work out
what they were.
Neil: That was one of those great
moments in writing songs for an
album where I personally thought
we’d written a single. Abit like
when we wrote “Minimal” on
the last album. The song is about
someone walking into a bar and
seeing someone and thinking,
“God, I really fancy them, I could
spend the rest of my life with
them.” I always imagine it to be
a man meeting a woman, and the
woman who sees him coming is a
very, very strong and controlling
person. And she thinks, “yeah, he’s
cute, I could sort of deal with him”
— cause all of a sudden there were
just two of us”. It’s as though she’s
actually managed it; she’s arranged
the situation, told all of her friends
to go away. That’s why he’s saying
“did you see me coming?” — was it
that obvious that I liked you?
Chris: Another love song, isn’t it?
Neil: It’s a very positive love song.
I like the harmonies in the chorus.
In fact the harmonies make the
chorus, I think. I didn’t do any
harmonies until our third album.
Chris: Wasn’t this the one Brian
Neil: . . yeah, that it was “80%
there”. He always liked the
bit where the Gregorian choir
solo comes, because it’s rather
unexpected. He said, “Oh, that’s
beautiful.” We brought Johnny
Marr in, put the guitar on, and they
beefed up the rhythm track. But it’s
one of the ones that’s most similar
to the original. It’s the same vocal
as the demo.
Chris: Great ad libs at the end.
Neil: I’m giving 110% on the ad
libs. That’s me thinking “what
would Dusty do?”
Chris: You normally get hand
gestures in the studio.
Neil: I can only sing like this with
the hand gestures — to get into
Neil: “Vulnerable” again sounds
very like the demo.
Chris: It’s another one that we
played to Brian on our first visit —
audition, I mean.
Neil: The demo was actually in
a different key. We took it down
because I couldn’t sing it. They
just sort of beefed it up. When
we wrote it I always thought it
would be a single, and, when
we first played it to Parlophone,
Nick Gaffield, who is the global
president of A&R for EMI, thought
this was the single rather than
“Love etc.”. He wanted it to be
a duet, and there was talk of us
approaching Carla Bruni, which
was Dave Dorrell’s idea. I could
imagine her singing it. The song
itself is sung from the point of
view of a woman we know. It’s
great to write about someone
you know well because it’s quite
easy. And singing from someone
else’s point of view I find quite
interesting, and even liberating, to
do. It’s someone whose outer shell
is very strong and aggressive but
who inside is really vulnerable,
and really the person is singing to
their partner, who doesn’t appear
to be that important but really is of
crucial importance to them.
Chris: We’re all a bit vulnerable
really, though, aren’t we?
Neil: I think so. I think it probably
really is about me.
Chris: A lot of these songs came
really easily. The music was just
absolutely effortless. It’s a bit of
electropop — it is what it is, really.
Neil: The guitar is actually a
sample played by Chris. I liked
this song because I always felt it
sounded very French, a bit like
“Voyage Voyage” or something.
I think it’s got a particularly
beautiful melody. The sort of
melody that we write that is just
taken for granted, really. But I
sometimes wonder if the whole
idea of melody is old-fashioned
Chris: We should remember that
for the next impenetrable album
we’re going to make. To not have
any. The aim is to make an album
that no one’s going to like.
Neil: What do you hope to achieve
Chris: Satisfaction. I sometimes
think we are too musical. That’s
why rock’n’roll was invented, as
Trevor Horn once said to us.
Neil: No, he didn’t. Brian Eno
Chris: Brian Eno.
Neil: We were, to be fair, arranging
a Noel Coward song at the time.
Chris: Exactly! I think three
chords is too many. Rock’n’roll
was invented to get rid of all of this
musicality, to just have something
really simple that anyone can play,
and that you don’t have to think
about. So I don’t think you’ll be
getting all this musicality from us
on the next album.
More than a dream
Neil: This is the second
Xenomania co-write. It was
originally called “Where the wild
things are”, which was a bad
title, and it went through a lot of
different changes. It was going to
be scrapped at one point. Though
Brian also had announced that it
had a hit introduction. I think it
probably does — if this was Girls
Aloud it probably would be one. I
worried that it was too not us to be
on one of our albums. But at one
point, just when we were on the
verge of scrapping it,
upstairs and wrote the melody for
“coming soon, something good”,
and I loved that melody. I had to
get them to dig out from all these
USB sticks the bit where Chris
had written this melody, and edit
it onto the intro, and Brian loved
that melody coming after the intro,
because the intro is very chirpy.
Again it’s very French. It reminds
me of some French record in the
Eighties like “Etienne Etienne”
but I can’t quite remember what
Chris had also written this
other bit — where it goes “Driving
through the night, you and me...”
which Miranda and I had “lyriced”
when the song was still “Where
the wild things are”. We always
used to refer to it as the Belinda
Carlisle bit. I totally loved that
bit and I really, really didn’t want
to lose it — that’s why I wanted to
carry on with the song. It’s got this
kind of desperateness. Anyway,
it all finally came together. Since
the album came out, people keep
asking us whether the “more than
a dream” thing comes from Obama
— I don’t even remember is the
fact of the matter. There’s a whole
theory that the album is called Yes
because of Obama which simply
isn’t the case.
Chris: It’s very much a promised
land type of thing, isn’t it? The
Chris: So much hope on one
album. It’s unbelievable, isn’t it?
Neil: Sometimes I write lyrics like
that because I know Chris likes
these ravey optimistic things.
Neil: But I think maybe there
was an Obama thing, because
this was written in May last year
when the primaries were just
coming to an end. Anyway, we
had a final session on the song,
writing it, and suddenly it all
came together. When it was called
“Where the wild things are” it was
about going out at night. In the
middle I imagined these two crazy
kids driving this car through the
Blackwall tunnel, going to some
party. Now, a bit like the songs on
Fundamental, it’s a song where
the political and the personal are
the same thing.
It could be talking
about society or it could be talking
about the relationship between two
people — which is what it really is,
actually. Everything doesn’t have
to carry on as it is. You can change
if you want to. I think for the
chorus Miranda wrote the medley
and I wrote the lyrics. In the
verses, I had the idea of “coming
soon, something good”, and then
the second verse Miranda and I
wrote together. So it’s a genuine
collaboration. Brian got involved a
lot in the structure of it.
Building a wall
Neil: “Building a wall” didn’t
really change that much from the
Chris: It did. It changed loads.
Neil: The structure, I mean. The
rhythm track changed a lot. I don’t
really get involved in rhythm
tracks and all those kind of things.
The person who liked this track
was Brian Higgins. Even when it
was finished, Chris and I suddenly
had a move to scrap it.
Chris: The backing track went
through a major transformation.
It went through trance — the verse
melody actually came from the
trance melody that we then legato-
ed into that — and then it went rock.
Neil: Johnny Marr played weird
guitar — we told him to play like
Robert Fripp on “Heroes”. It’s
Stuart Price’s favourite track on
Chris: And also my younger
Neil: There’s something stirring
about it which I liked. I already
had the lyric for “I’m building a
wall, a fine wall” and “protection,
prevention, detection, detention”
— I wrote that walking down the
street one day and sang it into my
telephone. Spoke it, actually. It
was a poem. It must have been
something about the Berlin Wall,
I think. Because the Berlin Wall
was to keep people in, not to keep
Chris: That’s not what they said.
Neil: It’s a funny song. The verse
wasn’t written for ages. I think I
just thought I was going to look at
all aspects of walls. I had actually
built a wall in my garden — not
personally — but had a wall built.
Then there was the Berlin Wall.
Where I grew up in the north of
England we have the Roman Wall
which we used to go to on school
trips, and we used to have picnics
with my family near the Roman
Wall. So I put all that together,
and I decided to sort of make it
about the Cold War and about my
childhood. I was thinking about
The Man From UNCLE.. In
1964, 1965, when I was 10 or
11, I was absolutely obsessed by
The Man From UNCLE..
it’s also, at the same time, about
someone building a psychological
wall around themselves. Also,
it’s using the Berlin Wall as the
emblem of the past, and then using
one’s personal past to see how
one’s got to where one is, why
you’re building your wall. But I’ve
never really sat down and thought
this lyric out. “There’s nowhere
to defect to anymore” was the sort
of thing people used to say when
the Berlin wall came down and
communism ended. Something
that often occurs to me in the
modem world is that there isn’t an
underground anymore — you can’t
opt out anymore.
Chris: My voice is on it because
Neil asked me. It wasn’t my idea.
Neil: I thought “protection,
prevention...” would be good with
Chris: I’m happy to oblige.
King of Rome
Neil: This started off, as it
ended up, called “The King of
Rome”. I had an idea of writing
about the King of Rome, who
was Napoleon’s son. Napoleon
divorced Josephine because he had
to have an heir and she couldn’t
give him an heir, and he married
the daughter of the Austrian
emperor and they immediately
had a son and when he was born
he was declared to be the King
of Rome, because Napoleon was
the King of Italy. Five years later
Napoleon was in exile and this boy
was brought up in the Austrian
court, and yet he was the son of
Napoleon so he was a figure of
some fascination to people. And he
had no family, and he was lonely,
and he didn’t know his father.
He just seemed like an incredible
symbol of loneliness and exile.
It’s a very poetic name, the King
of Rome, and I thought of this line
one day: “If I were the King of
Rome / I couldn’t be more tragic /
my fate to roam so far from home /
in search of my lost magic”.
Chris: I wrote the music. As I said,
everything was just really easy.
The juices were flowing during this
entire writing period.
Neil: You wrote the music for
everything, really, on this album.
Chris: Yeah, I did quite a lot.
During all of this you were doing
driving lessons. That’s what was
happening on this album. He was
having two-hour driving lessons.
Neil: There’s normally a song that
I’ve basically written on the piano
— like “Luna Park”, for instance —
and Chris vibes up. And actually
there isn’t one on this album. I was
learning to drive.
Chris: Having not just one-hour
lessons but two-hour lessons.
Neil: Or even three, occasionally.
And then I’d come back and then
we’d drive to my sister’s for lunch
so I could practise driving, and
then we’d come back, and then
Chris and I would go for a drive,
and then I’d be too shattered to do
anything really after that.
Chris: Neil would fall asleep on
the sofa. Or maybe even go for a
Neil: Or a run.
Chris: Or a run! So actually I
spent a lot of time in the studio
Neil: Luckily I was also churning
out magnificent lyrics.
Chris: Actually, it worked rather
well, the whole thing.
Neil: I was writing the words
for “The King of Rome”, havingwritten pretty much the whole
lyric, I suddenly thought it could
be “The King of pop” instead.
Though I didn’t like the phrase
“king of pop” — “Rome” sings
better. But I was just thinking
what a tragic figure Michael
Jackson is, endlessly roaming the
world. That’s why there’s the very
puzzling second verse: “Beneath
the moon / a new lagoon / we
glide upon the surface”.
arriving in Dubai, and they’ve
built a lake in the middle of the
desert — that’s what I was thinking
of. Maybe the lake’s even in the
middle of a shopping centre.
Though actually I didn’t write that
at first about Michael Jackson — it
was the lagoon which suggested
Michael Jackson to me. Anyway
Brian Higgins wasn’t keen on it
being about Michael Jackson, and
when I told him what it had been
originally called he said, “Yeah,
we’ll go back to ‘The King of
Rome’.” Actually he used to call
this song “Baby come back to me”.
Chris: Or “It couldn’t be more
tragic” — that was his other title for
it. The music never really changed.
I was expecting a bit more
production on it, but Brian liked it
as it was. It was just a drum loop.
Neil: I did re-sing it. The line
“last night I lost a day” comes
from when Chris and I flew from
Chile to New Zealand and lost a
day. I wrote the line down in my
Chris: Well, we nearly lost a life,
didn’t we, on the flight from Chile?
Neil: Quite. The other aspect of
this song is to do with Rebecca by
Daphne de Maurier.
Chris: Which I’m currently
reading and have almost finished.
It’s a page-turner.
Neil: I was thinking about exile,
and on the original version I go
into Rebecca at the end, speaking:
“Last night I dreamt I went to
Mandalay again. It seemed to me
I stood by the iron gate leading to
the drive, and for a while I could
not enter, for the way was barred
to me. There was a padlock and
chain upon the gate.” I quite liked
it, but then I thought it was a bit
pretentious. Also, we’d have had
huge copyright problems.
chord change at the end — for “I
think of your inscrutable pale
face” — is in fact a chord change
from Metamorphosen by Richard
Strauss. I was reading this book
which was a mild influence on the
album, The Rest Is Noise by Alex
Ross, and every now and then
he would give chord changes; he
gave this one and we programmed
it in. Metamorphosen by Richard
Strauss has always been one of my
favorite pieces of music.
Neil: Unlike the rest of the album,
“Pandemonium” was written the
previous year, in 2007, when
we were writing songs for Kylie
Chris: It didn’t change much at all.
Neil: They just beefed it up. When
we wrote it we were very pleased
with, particularly the middle bit,
the bit about “the party’s in full
swing”. I thought we’d written a
terribly professional pop song that
would be suitable for the Spice
Girls to record, because they were
getting back together at that point.
I always thought it was more Spice
Girls than Kylie. I can imagine
all the Spice Girls in a line doing
that swaying little dance that they
do. But the idea for the lyric, as
I was writing it for Kylie, was
about when Pete Doherty and Kate
Moss were going out.
It’s sort of
inspired by that, though it’s not a
documentary of it. But it’s a Kate
Moss type person singing about
a Pete Doherty type of person
who’s chaotic and you never know
what’s going to happen. As it was
written for Kylie, I imagined it
as being sung by a woman, about
this crazy guy she’s going out
with. Someone unsuitable who
they love nonetheless. I really like
the opening line, “Is that a riot or
are you just pleased to see me?”.
There’s a famous Mae West line
it’s based on.
Chris: I think it’s a really good
mates type record. It’s got that kind
of Seventies glam rock feel to it.
Neil: Johnny Marr liked that
Chris: Johnny plays harmonica,
which we didn’t know he could
play. He went to the boot of his car
and whipped out his harmonica.
Neil: We got a load of people from
Xenomania to do the “ooh”s and
“it’s pandemonium”, including
Bob Stanley from St Etienne.
Chris: The chords are just all
really uplifting all the way through.
And it’s got a fantastic middle bit.
Sometimes a good song can be let
down by a forced middle bit, and
this just sounds completely natural.
It’s a very euphoric happy party
record. Which you have to be in
the right state of mind to do. You
can’t force those records. I thinkit was written after dinner. After a
bottle of wine too many.
The way it used to be
Chris: This was a Xenomania
backing track. I absolutely loved
this the first time I heard it, and I
got dispatched upstairs with it.
Neil: This was the easiest
Xenomania one to write. Chris
came downstairs playing this
melody and I immediately sing
“I’m here, you’re there... the way
it used to be” or something, and
the song immediately became “The
way it used to be”.
Chris: I wrote all the melodies
apart from “don’t give me all your
Neil: No, there’s the bit where I
wrote the music — the chords and
everything. That’s the “I’d survive
with only memories” bit.
Chris: Yes, fabulous middle bit,
actually. That made it more than
10% better. Who wrote the “I was
there caught on Tenth Avenue” bit?
Neil: That must be Miranda. I
know I wrote the words of it,
because I phoned up Chris’s sister
because I wasn’t sure whether I’d
imagined that a place called Culver
City existed. The thing about this
song was that it was going to be a
duet all the way through. We were
thinking of asking Tina Turner.
But we didn’t. Miranda and I had
the idea that it was like a film. It’s
the story of a relationship — at the
beginning it’s two people meeting
again after a long gap, and then
you have a long flashback to the
start of their relationship when
they’re first in love.
and I sat down and wrote the
story. They’ve been on holiday to
Rome and then they’ve moved to
Manchester — in the second verse
where it says “over the bridge an
empty scene” I was thinking of the
canals in Manchester — and then
they move to New York, a fatal
mistake, and the relationship falls
apart, and one of them moves to
Los Angeles. In the end, they’ve
met again, and they’re getting back
Chris: A happy ending?
Neil: To denote that, at the end of
the song I wanted to change the
key, but it sounded a bit naff. It
Chris: Tierce de Picardie.
Neil: What does that mean?
Chris: It’s when you suddenly end
on the major chord.
Neil: Returning to the book The
Rest Is Noise — which I was
reading while having driving
lessons and finding a small amount
of time to get involved in the
album — I read about a chord called
a tritone which used to be, in the
Middle Ages, regarded as devilish.
It’s a particular combination of
notes, a major triad with a flattened
fifth so that it has a note that does
not belong in the key, and it has
an amazing quality. We did write
some other stuff using dissonant
chords — some of it is in the ballet.
Chris: “Gin and Jag” is one of
Neil: And there’s a song called
Chris: That was definitely a
way of thinking, to be a bit more
Neil: For instance playing a minor
chord on the left hand, and on the
right hand taking the interval of
the flattened fifth and playing a
whole chord of that, so that you might play C minor and F sharp
minor together as one chord, which
is an amazing chord. I was also
listening to Johnny Greenwood’s
music for There Must Be Blood.
But Chris started writing the music
Chris: This is a bit more tonal,
but it was inspired by interesting
chords that weren’t pop chords.
Neil: I sang “that’s it, the end...”
over the chords Chris had put
down, but the next bit — “a
pilgrimage of grace, you won’t
believe it...” — Chris wrote the
melody to the lyrics.
Chris: That’s not pop, is it?
Neil: I couldn’t sing it at first. I
couldn’t work out the interval.
It’s when you want to bring in the
Chris: The fun bit of this song
is the waltz. It’s such a release.
Waltzes are pretty exciting, I think.
Neil: There’s a waltz in the ballet.
Chris: Waltzes are just so
exuberant, particularly when
you’ve come out of this. And it
was great fun to record — there are
timps and cymbals. When we do a
waltz it’s a Viennese waltz. It was
Neil: I was thinking Roxy Music
would have had a waltz. There’s
a Roxy Music track (“Bitter
Sweet”) on their fourth album. I
just thought it was a fantastically
pretentious thing to do — go into a
waltz and then sing it in French.
Chris: Also, it comes out of the
waltz really beautifully, effortlessly
back into the main song.
Neil: It’s got an orchestral
arrangement by Owen Pallett who
also did “Beautiful people” and
who we got in touch with after
hearing his orchestral arrangements
for the Last Shadow Puppets
album. This lyric took a long
time to develop, because it started
off with me, as I sometimes do,
going through my notebooks or
computer, stringing together good
lines and then trying to make some
kind of sense of it. I mean, just
singing “They’re raising an army
in the north / from York Minister
to the Firth of Forth” is quite
exciting. But then it occurred to me
that “That’s it, the end / but you’ll
get over it, my friend” — which is
actually very similar to “This is the
beautiful friend” — began
with the last thing that Tony Blairsaid in the House of Commons.
And so in my head I gradually
started to think of it as Tony
Blair — or, for that matter, George
Bush - leaving office and trying
to rationalise the mistakes they’ve
made as not being mistakes. And
then looking back to other periods
of history when people have been
sent into exile in effect. It was
quite interesting that when Tony
Blair left he didn’t just leave, he
basically left the country. In the
song, the person being sung about
comes back to earth with a bang.
Chris: It’s the Carphone
Neil: I like the contrast of the
Carphone Warehouse boy phoning
about your mobile and this
incredibly heroic background
music in the background. The
point of that is suddenly returning
to normal life — after Scapa Flow
and raising an army and all the rest
of it, all of a sudden somebody’s
phoning you to ask whether you
want to upgrade your mobile
As I summarised in an
email to the guy who does the
“Pet Shop Boys Song By Song
Commentary” website: “‘Legacy’
is about guilt. How time doesn’t
erase it, how a mistake goes on
being repeated, how a wrong may
be forgiven but not forgotten, how
a past tragedy still haunts. You
try, but you can’t get over it. You
can attempt to explain it away but
controversy arrives. You always
come back down to earth with a
bump. The opening lines are a
quote from Tony Blair.”