a stage with a backdrop of stars and a large egg. There are two small
orange figures wearing pointy hats. One of them is sitting at the top
of a ladder. These are the Pet Shop Boys.
the other side of the room, the real, full-size Pet Shop Boys are still
debating the details of if - and when - they will actually wear such clothes,
With them are David Fielding, the photographer Chris Nash, a clothes maker
and a stylist. A specimen orange suit - made out of the same sort of spongy
material from which ski trousers are often fashioned - lies on the sofa.
A cardboard pointy hat sits on the floor. Unfortunately the only person
with a sufficiently large head to fill it is the observer from Literally,
and so ram intermittently called upon to model it. The resulting spectacle
seems to cause some amusement.
meeting's principal bone of contention seems to be shoes. David Fielding
has suggested that they resemble loaves of bread. Neil and Chris are worried
that this may he just one strange accessory too many.
they could have lights on them," suggests Chris.
the way it feels," says Neil, explaining the problem. "It feels
as though you've got fluffy slippers on.
we could use fluffy slippers?" suggests Chris, logically. Lie is
not being serious.
we come up with some options for shoes?" suggests David Fielding
nods Neil. Lie thinks for a moment. 'I know what would look really good.
they talk, a tape of the second "Can You Forgive Her?" CD single
is playing. When Jolnany Marr's mix of "I Want To Wake Up"
there is some consternation. The instrumental mix has been used; they
would prefer to use the vocal mix. A quick discussion ensues, and Chris
descends the arching stairway to the other side of the office, and arranges
for the new version to be substituted.
talk has turned to how happy -or otherwise - Neil and Chris will actually
be to wear these clothes. They are to be featured not just in photos but
in the song's video, and on forthcoming TV appearances. They discuss Top
Of The Pops.
worst moment is walking from the dressing room to the stage, "says
Neil disagrees, "the worst moment is when you're standing on the
stage, waiting to start."
is an idea that, for the video, they might walk around London - perhaps
across Waterloo Bridge - wearing the clothes.
won't do that," insists Chris. "No way am I going to do that."
get stand-ins," suggests Neil.
didn't like it when we went up the escalator for 'West End Girls',"
Chris expands. "There was a crowd when you got to the top.
weren't even famous then," agrees Neil.
photo session is set for the following week. The meeting is halted. Luke
Goss is appearing on London Tonight to discuss his hook, and Neil and
Chris don't want to miss a moment.
Wore photo studio, North London. In the dressing room Lynne Easton is
applying make-up and the Pet Shop Boys are once more discussing Luke Goss.
Neil has now read his hook - fairly gripping, he says. They also exchange
gossip about Noel Coward, £17 and George Michael. Chris tries
on his pointy hat.
who wears a hat like this?" he says. "That guy at the end of
the Nirvana video, 'Smells Like Teen Spirit'."
he?" mutters Neil, a little bit anxiously.
says Chris, "but it's not striped."
wriggle into their orange body suits.
very ballroom dancing," says Neil.
ice-skating." Nods Chris. "john Curry."
takes some time for the clothes to be adjusted. Chris's trouser legs are
too long, and there is much fishing around his ankles with pins. Neil's
hat doesn't quite balance right. In the end both hats are held in place
by double-sided sticky tape. They have simple black shoes, spray-painted
orange to match the clothes. They wear gloves: orange on their left hands,
and white on their right.
surveys his reflection.
got a tummy," he sighs. "Isn't that terrible?"
you know who's got the biggest waist measurement in the Pet Shop Boys?"
Neil asks me. "Clue: it's not me."
because I'm not vain," Chris retorts, "You wouldn't get a topless
picture of me in Literally.
chat with Lynne.
point of this," Neil explains, "is to give us some sort of images,
and we're fed up with the way we've done things in the past. We want to
intrigue people with the record and the video." They discuss how
they don't plan on doing any interviews in America in the short terms,
and Chris asks Neil why they still pay an American press agent.
got to have someone to say 'no',', Neil points out.
wander out into the studio.
the orange-and-white minstrel show," quips Chris.
is to he photographed first, up a ladder. The photographs are to be shot
by Chris Nash against a white background: a huge white curved surface
which no-one else treads on without removing their shoes, so that dark
scuff marks won't show up on film. These photos will then he combined
by computer with other still-life photographs he has already shot to create
David Fielding's original design. They chose the photographer because
lie is represented by the same company as Eric Watson and they were shown
his portfolio of past work one day, and liked it. The resulting images
- the first proper photographs Neil and Chris have posed for since shooting
the sleeve of "DJ Culture" -will be sent out by Parlophone records
to magazines and newspapers, to accompany any articles about the Pet Shop
sits on the ladder and both Chris Nash and David Fielding shout out instructions.'
try both hands to your breast!. . hands out, like Your're surprised. .
. stick out your fingers, like you're a witch.
"sighs Neil, as be responds to the latter instruction, "this
is very Shakespeare's Sister."
you been going to drama classes on the sly?" teases Chris.
dead straight!" shouts Chris Nash.
know," prompts Chris, "deadpan. Like your vocals."
Neil points each index finger in different direction.
looks like an Italian traffic director," says Chris.
nearly an hour of Neil solo, they do some photos together. Meanwhile lunch
- two plates of sandwiches - arrives. "Can We stop?" asks Chris.
Not yet. Neil explains that, under the strictures of his rather complicated
diet, he does not want to eat any bread. The photographer's assistant
telephones for a salad instead. It's about another half an hour they do
stop. They remain in their orange body suits, but doff the hats. Neil
spends much of the Lunch break on the telephone to Trevor from Ignorance,
discussing ways to promote their white label single (see News). Once he
has finished, Neil and Chris also explain to Literally why they're doing
all of this. For the last few years, Pet Shop Boys photo sessions have
usually consisted of them
some new clothes they'd bought. Why the change?
to start with," says Chris, "there aren't any good clothes in
the shops, are there? And these clothes are all part of the parcel. The
starting point was the idea to work with someone who could develop a look
and a stage set for TV performances, and see it through the video as well
so that it was one constant idea which wasn't just a fashion statement.
Something that carried on what we've been doing with the last show. We
called David Fielding and he presented us with models."
you go on television, it's boring just standing there doing a song."
Says Neil, "and we've done it so many times before that we wanted
to have a mini-production to take onto shows. David Fielding brought about
six different looks in to the office, and we chose this one, because it
was simple, and you can use it in different kinds of ways. There are some
crickets in the whole concept as well - four girls dressed as space age
crickets who come on during the Top Of The Pops production. Chris does
a little dance with them. They have chrome cricket bats."'
the rationale behind looking like this?
was inspired - the dunces caps, anyway -by the references to school in
'Can You Forgive Her?'," Says Neil. "But, you know, we never
really worry about what anything means.
are people supposed to think when they see you?
supposed to think 'oh, it's the Pet Shop Boys', "Says Neil, "but
also that we're doing something that is the opposite to what everyone
else is doing."
is everyone else doing?
being 'real'," Says Neil.
and 'poor'," Says Chris. We're not about poverty."
not about being 'real' either," Says Neil.
what is the opposite of being 'real'?
artificial," Says Neil. "All of this is being carried through
in the album packaging, but I actually can't talk about it yet,"
Says Neil. "What we're doing is so revolutionary - quite seriously
- we haven't told anyone about it."
almost revolutionary, "Says Chris.
"agrees Neil. "When you see it, you will say 'that's almost
that is all they will say about that.
what do the costumes feel like to wear?
comfortable, but a bit tight, "Says Chris.
little bit restrictive," Says Neil.
the really important question are you naked underneath?
"Says Neil. "I'm wearing underpants."
wearing underpants," Says Chris.
underpants as well, y-fronts, from quite a while ago. And a Stussy T-shirt.
So there is still a fashion element to what we do..
it is Chris's turn to be photographed alone. "This is bloody hard
work," he says after a while. "Why don't we ever have simple
ideas?" He has to pose in a variety of poses with a large egg, except
that the egg is not here. It is one of the objects that will be added
on the computer.
done this, there are more photos of them together. "This is the sort
of thing I wake up in the middle of the night, worrying about,"'
says Neil, "thinking [can't possibly goon television wearing this
stupid costume we're designing. But," he laughs, "I'm already
starting to feel comfortable in it."
shouts at Neil to look more innocent. Neil does so, to his satisfaction.
"That's my new wide-eyed and innocent expression,"' Neil says
between rolls of film, "developed for this look I'm like Roger Moore
- I only
act with my eyebrows."'
pose on, David Fielding (who has been working on his own mini-opera festival
of five fifteen minute pieces at the Donmar Warehouse in London, to be
followed by some theatrical readings in Edinburgh) explains these shenanigans
from his point of view.
we've done with the design for the set, which is where these costumes
have come from," he explains, "is we have created a storyline
about two characters who ate horn from an egg. I wanted to create a metaphor
about being horn, and being brought up in what seems to he an alien landscape
on the Earth, and looking out beyond it, looking at the heavens, and thinking
'why are we here?'. For the stage show Chris will have a telescope for
looking at the stars. And then the stars suddenly become real flesh and
blood as women who arrive on Earth, who don't understand why they are
presented with the vision of Neil and Chris looking as they do. And they
find these cricket bats. And so some of the other elements in the song,
which are all about growing up at school and finding the true sexuality
during that period of development behind bike bicycle sheds or cricket
pavilion, are reflected . . . so there are images connected with school
games. The umpire's ladder is tennis, and the chrome bats are cricket,
and of course the women don't quite know how to use them so they do this
strange little dance routine. And the front curtain will have arithmetic
on it, which links into the idea for the costume: a dunce cap images,
but a witty, fantasy version of it, something more distanced."
particular reason. The colors are just an emotional response. Just wanted
something that was a very strong statement. When we do the video then
hopefully what we will actually be doing is putting them in these costumes
in every normal situations, so it just happens to be how they dress.'
they're still going to work, and feeding the ducks in the park, and rowing
on the lake, and maybe bidding for shares at the Stock Exchange. It's
just that their outlook is far more colorful than some of the things that
surrounds them. I was trying to say some of the things we were saying
in the tour, which 'were to do with growing up and so forth, but I wanted
to do that slightly more elliptically. I thought it would be nice if it
had an abstract
quality to it, but that some of that would subliminally come through to
you want people to think when they see it?
want them to think it's fun, but I want them to be beguiled. It's meant
to he diverting in a witty and amusing manner"
Shops Boys have now been here for nearly six hours. "It's 5.25,"
Chris announces at 5.25. "The time is ticking away. I'm out of here
at 6. Regardless of whether we've got any more shots."
only work until six o'clock," agrees Neil.
o'clock watershed," says Chris.
going over the headache threshold," says Neil.
novelty value has worn off," smirks Chris. "I no longer find
the outfits amusing."
they finish, and begin to undress.
been dying for a pee for about three hours," says Neil.
you want to go now?" asks Lynne, who is removing his make-up
he says. "I have a massively strong bladder. I'm like The Queen."
sighs Chris, "is worth it for that feeling you get when you finish.
If you don't work, you don't get that buzz. When [left Michael Aukett's
I just used to run. definitely feel like a large gin'n'tonic."
says Neil, "a large glass of champagne."
think it's good making this kind of effort," says Chris, just before
they dive into separate taxis.
more you put in," Neil pronounces, "the more you get out."
He laughs. "That's the kind of dreary aphorism I make when I'm in
my schoolmaster mode."
last time we put in so much effort," reflects Chris, "was for
the first version of 'Opportunities'."
says Neil, with a chuckle. "Mind you, we only ever used one of the
Areagraphy Ltd 1998: All Articles have been
Taken From Literally 1998 Issue 10