Video Of Where The Streets Have No Name/Can't Take my Eyes
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
"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
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.
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.
Tina," murmurs Chris. "She's simply the best."
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.
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".
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."
"Oh," says Chris.
I ask the horse's minder what it's
""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
"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".
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
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
All Articles have been Taken From Literally 1992 Issue 6