night they played two or three songs as an encore. These songs changed,
though the most common were "Left To My Own Devices", "Before",
"Being Boring", "West End Girls" and the acoustic
version of "Rent". Shortly after the residency they made their
first-ever festival appearances in Denmark and Finland (playing a set
mostly made up of hit singles), and headlined Gay Pride in London. At
the beginning of August, after a holiday, they played one final festival
in Stockholm. Literally kept the following diary:
5.30pm, when Literally arrives, Neil is rehearsing the song "Somewhere"
on the Savoy Theater stage. Chris is upstairs, asleep, in his dressing
room, a Do Not Disturb sign on the door. They have a run-through scheduled
for 6.3Opm. Chris eventually appears, and looks at the films being projected
on either side of the stage. These were filmed a few days ago by the conceptual
artist Sam Taylor-Wood, and show some people from the London art world
and their friends talking, sitting on sofas or dancing, getting progressively
more drunk. The Pet Shop Boys drop in and out of these scenes - whenever
they are off stage they are on the screen, and vice versa.
art," Chris notes. "It's not just a load of people getting drunk
- it's art.,' He smiles wryly. "It's amazing what passes for art
now. You had to be able to paint in the old days."
the dress rehearsal begins, the Pet Shop Boys enter the stage through
their respective doors. Chris's won't shut, and he starts giggling. Between
songs, Neil talks. He has a script, which has been written by the TV writer
David Williams after conversations with Neil, but already he is deviating
from it. At the moment, Chris's keyboard is turned way down. He is yet
to work out what he's going to play in most of the songs. "I don't
want anybody to hear me," he says. "Even though I'm doing rather
amazing stuff at times, a lot of the time I'm thinking: thank God no one
can hear me". Chris performs in a box at the back of the stage, though
earlier in the rehearsals he was going to play further forward on the
stage. "I'm much happier in that box," he says. "I look
like a keyboard wizard. Well, I don't know what I look like, but I feel
like a keyboard wizard. I feel secure."
the interval, they discuss the usual implant matters.
we go to dinner afterwards?" Chris asks.
course," says Neil.
Shearer's favorite pastime is cresting," says Chris. "I'm not
saying he's boring. That's the kind of man we like. His major topic of
conversation is different types of creosote."
run through the second half. Neil comes out for the encores with his acoustic
guitar. He strums a couple of chords. "It's a little bit funny..."
he begins, then stops.
a good song, isn't it?" says Chris.
debate the fact that most artists have one really good song. "Let's
be honest," says Neil, to the handful of people in the theater, "we
haven't got one. We don't have a 'Losing My Religion'. But we do have..."
starts playing the chords to "Rent". Before they play "Before",
Neil introduces Chris by saying, "he's been doing something - but
what? - on the keyboards ...Mr Chris Lowe!" Then he says, "we're
going to play a song.. We like it, though the public don't, apparently.
Though that's been true of most of the songs tonight, probably..."
they sit and discuss how it went. They're not sure.
was all your idea," Chris says to Neil.
run-through. Tonight, Chris plays, and also, between songs, feverishly
takes notes. The realization that the first night is only two days away
seems to have hit him.
Chris complains that someone has been smoking in the corridor where Neil
and Chris have separate dressing rooms. He hates smoking. 'The trouble
with people I like," he reflects, "is that they all tend to
head out for dinner.
shattered beyond belief," says Neil. As well as worrying about the
show itself, there have been some ugly backstage arguments earlier today
between people working on the show. "We'll just have to sack everyone,"
Chris suggests. But the run-
Taylor-Wood was very happy," says Chris.
a nice person she is," says Neil. "You wouldn't think she was
conversation wanders onto the hot news from the world of pop music.
Pellow has disastrously dyed his hair blond," sighs Neil.
bet he doesn't even have a skateboard," snorts Chris, derisively.
who has been in his dressing room reading The Sun, appears at the side
of the stage.
we meant to be doing anything?" he nonchalantly asks Neil.
busy rehearsing, actually," says Neil.
told me," Chris retorts.
says Neil, "we're not rehearsing your bits. We're rehearsing choreography."
listens to the music from the
don't think it's all too loud?" he asks Neil.
possibly," says Neil.
should turn it down," says Chris. "Most of the audience are
going to be over 40 anyway." He enthuses with great gusto about a
new children's TV program with has just started. It's Teletubbies. "Ten
o'clock in the morning," he tells Neil. "Set your video."
when I have breakfast," says Neil. "I might watch it."
rehearse "Somewhere". Neil's voice booms out in the theater,
which is only surprising because Neil is standing in the auditorium without
a microphone in his hand. "Just in case anyone thinks I'm miming,"
he says, "there's the proof... that I am". The truth is that
for most of these songs Neil sings entirely live, but they have only just
recorded "Somewhere" and it is difficult to sing, so he is planning
to sing along over his own prerecorded voice. "If Madonna can do
it," he says, "I don't see why I can't." He shout instructions
to Robbie, the man behind the mixing desk.
the double-track," he says. "And me.. ~
audible," teases Chris.
barely audible," Neil corrects. "But... discretion."
is a camera crew following them around, led by the director Annie Griffin,
making a mini-documentary as a video for the "Somewhere" single.
only one song," Chris tells them. "He's never been able to sing
that song that well. It's a singer's song. That's why Sylvia sings all
the way through. We came out of the Eighties, where it was an advantage
not to be a good singer and a good musician. It's turned round in the
Nineties. ..Unfortunately for us. Now everybody can do everything.. The
musos have taken over." As with many things that Chris Lowe says,
this is a mishmash of truth, paranoia, lie and tomfoolery which is almost
impossible to pick apart. The video director's eyes light up when Chris
says this (a chunk will appear in the video).
you getting anything usably?" he asks, doubtfully.
time you open your mouth," she says.
and Chris discuss what they should do at the very end of the concert.
Should the curtain come down in front of them? Should they take a curtain
don't imagine the applause will be very long," says Neil.
there is any," says Chris.
that it's not silent like Milan," says Neil. In Milan, on the Performance
tour, "Jealousy" finished, the Pet Shop Boys crushed beneath
giant Oscars on-stage, and there was no applause whatsoever. "Eight
thousand people silent after we did our dying scene."
starts laughing. "We did the encore anyway," he says.
in his dressing room, Chris exclaims, "God, the lengths we have to
keep Neil happy... two-and-a-half weeks at the Savoy." The video
crew ask if they can film him being made up. He refuses. "I never
get filmed having make-up on," he explains, "because I don't
rehearsal goes smoothly except for "Rent", in which Chris loses
his way. Afterwards, he is in a mood. "Chris has refused to do 'Rent',"
Neil announces, "because he has forgotten the chords." Neil
gestures towards Chris's sister, Vicki. "Go and talk to him. He's
a professional musician! He's got music A level."
his dressing room, Chris has other things on his mind. He is admiring
the tour program. "Not many groups have a naked picture of Kylie
in the centrespread," he says. "It's not bad, is it?"
the backstage entrance, there are some fans waiting. One of them complains
that the ticket prices are too high.
long as you know that we're losing a bloody fortune," says Neil.
"That's why we're playing a Danish rock festival."
they go to dinner. They discuss Neil's on-stage patter. Chris suggests
that not all of the jokes work.
11 just do sincerity," Neil finally decides.
can't beat sincerity," says Chris.
mother will like it," Neil nods.
funny will happen," Chris promises.
guffaw," Neil sighs. "Don't guffaw on stage. In 'Se A Vida E~'
you nearly gave me the giggles."
head to their respective homes.
is on tomorrow," reminds Chris. "At least there's something
worth waking up for."
first night. This morning Neil has watched - and, more significantly,
the video of yesterday's rehearsal. He is horrified. The mix is catastrophically
has other concerns. He was furious to discover, yesterday, that the merchandise
displayed in the foyer was being hung on cheap plastic hangers. That is
not the Pet Shop Boys way. Today he sweeps in carrying three of his own
hangers, from his flat. "Have you ever seen a hanger like this?"
he says, with pride. "These cost more than the garments."
Neil notes, "is in charge of merchandise."
Chris now discovers that there are two display areas. "It's a disaster,"
he says. Somebody is sent back to his flat to collect more.
has been trying to persuade Chris that they still should perform "Rent".
Chris says that if they can rehearse it five times through without a mistake,
he will consider it. On the stage, they run through it, until Chris is
happy. (Secretly, Neil is sympathetic. "That song," he says,
"it just goes round in a circle. You drift off. I do have a terrible
tendency to drift off and be deep in thought and forget where I am.")
two dressings rooms are filling up with gifts and cards, which have been
arriving at the backstage entrance throughout the day.
like a first night," says Neil. "It's just like it is in the
films. The artists are hysterical, the flowers are arriving."
is interviewed by the video crew.
is a..." He struggles for the right phrase. "Universal man?"
he says. It's clearly not what he wanted to say. "What do you call
man," suggests Literally.
it!" says Chris. Then his brow furrows. "What were Renaissance
men called before the Renaissance?"
they're done, Chris eats the meal Dainton has fetched from McDonalds.
The crew moves onto Neil's room. They ask him to describe Chris. "He's
indescribable," Neil says. "He's unique. He's totally unfettered
-when he wants to do something - by any practical or personal considerations.
life is the same...if he wants to do something, he does it. Nothing stands
in his way. It's quite impressive.. Whereas I'll prevaricate, or be more
diplomatic.. .Or take into account other people's wishes."
voice booms over the backstage intercom. "One hour to showtime."
and Neil sit in Neil's room.
must be mad doing this," says Chris. "I can't wait for it to
get into a really boring routine."
can I," nods Neil.
Easton does Neil's make-up, then Chris's. "I need surgery, not make-up,"
says Chris, and there is much laughter.
not the first time you've said that," Neil points out.
still applies though," Chris sighs.
Lachlan Young, the poet who is supporting them, is halfway through his
set. They must be on-stage in twelve minutes. "What," wonders
Chris, "if I forget to go on?"
first half seems to go well enough, though the sound is bad. During the
interval, they change upstairs from their white suits to their blue ones.
was great when we came on," says Neil.
died down quite quickly," says Chris.
singing along with all the words," says Annie, the video director.
are they?" says Neil, pleased.
a good job there's a lot of words," notes Chris.
second half goes smoothly. "Rent", the first encore, works perfectly.
Over the introduction of "Left To My Own Devices", the second
encore, Neil introduces the cast. It's only "Before", the third
encore, which goes a little wrong, as both Neil and Sylvia lose their
place in the song and start extemporizing in a soulful, but rather nervous,
fashion. ("We had the new experience of me vibing out on vocals,"
Neil laughs afterwards, "trying to find out where I was. I hadn't
the faintest idea.") During the curtain call, Chris drops his trousers
so that the entire audience can see his boxer shorts.
a great moment in pop," says Neil, afterwards.
explains that Les Childs, the choreography and dancer, had said Chris
Neil," Chris teases. "You blundered tonight. It was one blunder
after another. I was shocked at your lack of professionalism."
drink a little champagne with close friends in the dressing room, then
Ivan, the tour manager, tells them that it's time to put in an appearance
downstairs in the hospitality area.
I don't fancy going into a crowded room," says Chris. "I don't
think we should go to hospitality. I don't think we should let them see
us. It'll spoil the illusion."
looks incredulous. "Spoil the illusion! You had your trousers down
ten minutes ago!"
they go, standing on a back street out the back of the theater - it's
too hot inside -with a flock of family members and friends.
you know," says Neil, "it's quite good being in the Pet Shop
Boys. It's like a community."
arrives early to edit the backing track of "Left To My Own Devices"
orchestral opening onto the beginning of tonight's new encore, "West
End Girls". There are a couple of a good reviews in today's papers,
and the London Evening Standard gossip page reports on Chris's dropped
does a TV interview on the empty stage. "I think in the last few
years it has only been the Pet Shop Boys and U2 who have tried to do new
things with live performance," he says. "It's crucial to reinvent
yourself to keep your audience interested and to keep yourself interested."
arrives. Dainton tells him that there's a fire drill. "I'm not moving,"
he says. It's ridiculous. "What do you do if
a fire?" he scoffs. "You dart out of the building as fast as
you can." Then he mutters to himself, "one of the things we
had to study at university was the famous fire in the Isle Of Man."
He reads some quotes by U2 in Select magazine, suggesting that the Pet
Shop Boys care too much about pop music and have treated it as too important.
"No, we haven't," he retorts. "We've tried to denigrate
rock' n' roll. Completely different."
before they go on, the two Pet Shop Boys sit in the production manager's
office. Chris announces that he is turning up the cuffs of his white uniform.
warns Neil. "It's not like that on film." Chris won't match
when he walks between the film and the stage.
one can see," says Chris, unrepentant.
show runs smoothly, and the crowd is far more upbeat and expressive, though
Neil comes in at the wrong time during "Love Comes Quickly".
During the curtain call, a carrot is thrown on-stage.
felt better tonight," Chris says afterwards. "More exciting."
happened to my official contact lens towel?" asks Neil.
not a father," says Chris. "I don't like to make a drama out
exclaims Neil, incredulous.
only wear contact lenses because it's a drama," Chris insists. "The
number of dramas that's caused."
has now got a fourteen-inch TV in his dressing room. One of the backstage
staff says that one time Erasure toured, Vince Clarke got so bored that
he had a TV amidst his keyboards on-stage. One night he announced, happily,
"the reception was good tonight". Eventually, they released
that he didn't mean the crowd. He meant the TV.
Andon, their American manager, is here tonight.
decided we like touring," Neil
him. "I'm already sad that this is finishing in two weeks."
does it feel to be referred to as a national asset?" Arma asks Neil.
not the first time, Arma," Neil replies.
has ordered afternoon tea from the Savoy's room service, and it arrives
- a plate of cakes, a plate of sandwiches, four scones -accompanied by
a waiter and a waitress. "Elton's coming tonight," he says.
"Janet's in charge of it. It's like the Queen coming. Janet's got
the canapes at her house. The diet cokes are all in. There's a little
room set aside for the interval."
asks him why they decided to do this residency. In its way it is a good
question. "This started off as a one-off gig," Neil says. "We
approached Harvey..." - Harvey Goldsmith, the promoter - .... to
do a one-off gig at the London Palladium. Mind you, he told me that Elton
once met him and said he had to play a one-off concert for Polygram, and
the tour ended eighteen months later."
and Neil are pulled away to do an interview for a Dutch newspaper. The
interviewer asks if they are dance fans.
mean ballet?" Chris asks.
likes dance music," says Neil.
no secret," says Chris. "I'm prepared to be quite open about
that. That's the one thing I'll admit to. There are other things I enjoy
more, but I'll not admit them.. Actually..." - by now they are both
laughing - "...It's another kind of dancing."
interviewer struggles on. He asks about their future.
steps in, helpfully. "We've got no future," he says, "we've
got no past..." After about twenty minutes, Neil and Chris realize
that the public are about to be let into the theater.
says Neil. "They're going to open the doors."
looks panicked. "We can't be seen as real people," he says.
have to do one more interview backstage, for a Dutch gay magazine.
got to do this quickly," Chris explains to the interviewer. "Dale
Winton's new show is on in a moment."
is like doing a tour," Neil explains, when the interview starts,
"but people come to us, rather than us come to them.. .1 quite like
the way they sit down."
like sheep," says Chris.
come to the show and do as they are told," Neil laughs. "I am
the Mrs Thatcher of pop."
better," the interviewer asks. "Being in the studio or being
in bed," says Chris. "Beats everything."
Dutchman takes his leave, Chris retires to watch TV, and Neil cleans his
teeth. "I've finally got where I wanted to be," he says. "I've
finally got to be the creature I meant to be. In a theater in the West
pops his head back in. "Is Elton here?"
should be sat down," says Neil.
he stay?" says Chris with mock melodrama. "Will he storm out?"
stays. During the half-time break, Chris watches Lily Savage on TV. Tonight,
as a special treat for the audience, there is an extra act playing during
the interval: a group of synchronized shouters from Northern Finland called
The Screaming Men who Jay Jopling (the art dealer who lives with Sam Taylor-Wood
and who appears in the Pet Shop Boys' on-stage film) has brought over
to London. "How long is it before they're on one of our records?"
the second half, during "It's A Sin", I see Elton John dancing.
Halfway through the second half, Neil changes a lyric in "Friendly
Fire". On most nights he sings the lyric "about me, the tabloids
lied I so I sued them and survived". Perhaps that seems inappropriate
tonight, so instead he sings the occasional variation "about me,
the critics lied 11 ignored them and survived". Half an hour after
the show finishes, Neil and Chris have a dinner date with Elton.
afterwards, before that, the Lowe family come backstage. Mrs Lowe sees
Literally taking notes.
writes down everything you say," she notes.
all approved, Literally points out.
yes," she says wisely, "but who approves it?"
is no show on Sunday. On Monday and Tuesday Literally is Ill.
Neil reports, "the film didn't start, rather annoyingly. It slightly
threw me a bit." They played "Being Boring" as an encore,
as they did on Monday. There was one other innovation: "A man came
on-stage and kissed me." Last night's celebrity guests were Bananarama
who ended up watching Jonathan Harvey's Beautiful Thing back at Chris's
flat. "Consequently," Neil sighs, "Chris didn't get to
bed until six. So he's going to be sacked..."
isn't, of course. They've got their momentum going now: tonight's show
is polished but low key. The only change is that "Love Comes Quickly"
has been lowered in pitch by a tone. ("I've given in," Neil
it does get tedious..." Chris complains in the interval.
always pleased once the first half's over," says Neil. "I'm
always pleased when 'Some Speculation' is over. I, of course, get more
nervous the more the run gets over. It irritates me, It's completely pointless."
Chris has changed into the second half clothes, he sits in his dressing
room, in the dark, watching Frankie Howerd on TV.
they come offstage at the end, they have to pose for some photographs.
says the photographer. "Fifteen photos. Two minutes."
very Melody Maker," says Chris. "It's Q," says Neil.
discuss the leadership battle in the
party. "If William Hague becomes the leader," says Chris, "all
the Labour party have to do is to show on rotation that clip of him as
16-year-old and you couldn't possibly vote for him. Saddo."
Maconie from Q magazine is ushered into the dressing room to ask some
questions about the show.
more about performing the songs," Neil explains.
is a message in the songs, though, isn't there?" says Chris, deadpan.
of the reasons for doing the theatrical shows," says Neil, "was
to hide behind them."
some ways," adds Chris, "it was very sensible."
still miss it sometimes," Neil agrees. "Where are the dancers?
Where are the wigs?"
very much a game of two halves, Brian," says Stuart Maconie.
all about creosote," says Chris.
has another point to make.
always important in a concert to have good entrances and exits,"
exits are the most important," says Chris.
the afternoon Neil and Chris meet at the BBC where they are to pre-record
an interview for Steve Wright's Saturday morning Radio 2 show. While he
sets everything up, Steve Wright asks them how the show's been going.
"The best comment is in the Daily Express," says Neil. "It
says, 'move over Miss Saigon!'."
Wright asks them to talk so he can set the microphone levels.
not planning to say anything anyway," says Chris.
be Saturday morning," Wright advises them, so they remember not to
say it's Thursday.
time?" asks Chris.
see you're a regular listener," says
"It's now the biggest radio show on the planet."
do you think we're doing it?" Chris retorts. "We're not doing
it for nothing, you know."
begin the interview.
doesn't say very much," says Wright, about Chris, to Neil.
might say more than you think," Neil warns him.
talk about the show.
was worried me voice wouldn't hold up," says Neil.
wasn't much to hold up," says Chris.
missus," says Steve Wright.
interview goes on a while. "Longer than we thought," says Chris
when they finish.
record quite a lot," Wright explains, "and take all the crap
Pet Shop Boys catch a taxi down to the Savoy. On the way we pass the department
store Dickins & Jones. Chris points. "Very underrated,"
nods. "I occasionally buy cosmetics there. And clothes. I've bought
just like a New York luggage store," Neil enthuses. "It's a
down Regent Street, stuck in traffic, a man spots them. "See you
tonight!" he shouts, and pushes his video camera through the open
window. "Say hello!" he instructs. He's a bit pushy.
says Chris. "Go away."
they arrive, Neil pops out to see his parents, who are staying at the
hotel tonight. Chris has a nap. Later, they begin to draw up a set list
for the festival dates which follow this residency. They intend to add
some more hit singles, and they will need to rehearse them during soundcheck
over the next few days.
should do 'Let's Make Lots Of Money'," Chris decides. "Do we
have to?" says Neil.
I don't like to do 'I Wouldn't Normally Do This Kind Of Thing',"
Chris reasons, "so it's only fair."
during "The Truck-driver And His Mate", someone chucks a big
Yorkie chocolate bar on-stage. During the interval Chris finds Absolutely
Fabulous on TV. It's the one about Edina's fortieth birthday. They both
sit and watch. Chris says he'd prefer the interval to be half an hour
from now on, to fit in with the TV schedules.
the second half, Chris walks off before - instead of after - "Discoteca".
Releasing his mistake too late, he simply stays backstage. Afterwards,
in the hospitality area, the actor Richard Wilson comes up to Neil.
was wonderful," he says. "A joy."
dead ace, Richard Wilson," says Chris once he's out of earshot. "I
remember him in Crown Court. I used to run home from school at lunch time
and watch it."