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  Literally Issue 21 PARTY IN THE PARK     Page 1 Page 2 Page 3 Back
 
Saturday, July 3rd.
Today, Capital Radio are hosting Party In The Park, an event at which an endless stream of pop stars including, for example, Ricky Martin, Boyzone, Catatonia, Elvis Costello, Madness and The Eurythmics have agreed to play two or three songs each in London's Hyde Park. The Pet Shop Boys have agreed to appear. It is to be the first public unveiling of their new guise, and the first public performance in any form of their new single.
They have arranged to meet at Neil's house. "Right," says Chris, striding through the door. "Let's have some champagne." "I don't have any," Neil says.

Chris doesn't look too bothered. Perhaps his suggestion was mostly bluff. "I'll raid the fridge," he announces. "I'm hungry." He finds some olives and tucks in. They sit around the table and examine some photos of themselves - they need to approve them for an article in the German edition of Rolling Stone. "We've released," Neil sighs, "that, typically, these wigs have the effect of making my face look fat and Chris's look thin..."

.when you want to look thin," Chris says to him, "and I want to look fat..." Chris approves one photo which Neil likes but rejects another. "I can't see any difference in you in these two pictures," Neil says. "Well, I can," says Chris, "and I'm me." "That's why you can," says Neil, arguing one way. "Exactly," says Chris, arguing the other.

It is still a little too soon to head off to Hyde Park. "Shall we go down to the pub?" Chris suggests. "I can give you a glass of wine," Neil says. "No,"Chris replies. "I've gone off wine. I don't think it's good for you." "I'll ignore that," says Neil, a regular wine drinker. "I'll assume that's deliberate provocation." Instead of a drink, Chris looks through a new Larry Clark photo book of teenage killers. Soon afterwards, they leave.
They reach their backstage mobile home
without any fuss at all. "It's very well organized," says Chris. "I'm very impressed. That was all done without one walkie-talkie." Neil greets his family and has a brief chat with Mike Rutherford from Mike And The Mechanics and then another with Elvis Costello. (They natter about Charles Azneavour.) Chris, whose family are also here but who can't find them, gets himself a burger. Then they are called in to do an interview for Capital Radio. The interviewer's first question is to ask how their performance was. "We haven't been on yet," Neil points out. "Oh," says the interviewer. "I thought I'd missed you." He then suggests that people think the Pet Shop Boys have split up.

"We were listed as the 21st most successful singles group of the Nineties," Neil says. "You've had all sorts of peaks and troughs..." the interviewer begins, and Chris grins, mostly at how insolent this sounds. They're asked whether they suffer from pre-performance nerves. "I'm very nervous about performing in front of Prince Charles," lies Chris, deadpan. "I've got the utmost respect for the man." "Are you meeting him at the end?" they are asked. (They have already refused.) "Can't wait," says Chris. "I'm going to pinch his bottom."
Chris offers his thoughts about the event. "It's great you only get three songs from each group. Most rock groups are so boring."

Afterwards, they are bemused by what has just happened. "I think it's rude," Neil says, "asking questions like that. 'People might think you've broken up'. Waffling on about peaks and troughs and things. I thought it was rude. This is ultimately a PR event he's not interviewing us for The Guardian or anything." To further dampen their mood, Boyzone are on stage. Neil and Chris only perk up a little when Ian MacNeil, who masterminds their costumes, and theater director Stephen Daldry turn up. "Are you boys Alright?" Stephen Daldry asks. "Wish we weren't doing this," Chris says, and adds, "we're not doing the royal lineup." He spots something in Ian MacNeil's hand. ~Are you drinking Pimms?" he exclaims.

Ian MacNeil nods. "There's a Pimms tent," he says. "There's a Pimms tent," Chris cries, "and we're drinking cheap white wine?" "Are you singing?" Stephen Daldry asks Neil.
Neil nods. "Yes. Singing to track." (This means that, as with most of the acts appearing today, the backing music is prerecorded but the lead vocals are live.) "It's not the Eighties, you know. You can't mime any more. It's not the good old days." Dantani prepares a drink for Neil. He is asked what it is. "White wine and H20," Dantani replies. ~A blend of secret herbs and spices. 'A blend of bulishit rarely bettered," says Neil.

"I'm not wearing glasses," says Chris. He always wears glasses. "It's going to send shockwaves through the pop industry," Neil says. "I'm going to keep my head down," Chris adds. They wonder whether Prince Charles will watch them or whether he'll go and have a cup of tea. "He'll have heard we're anti-royal," Neil says, "and he'd think, 'Well, I'm anti-PSB. Let's go, Harry and Wills, and talk to Debbie Harry. Let's go and talk about the Northern Ireland peace process with Ronan Keating. I thought they'd broken up, since their heyday in the Eighties..."' "Their peak," says Chris.
"Their so-called peak," says Neil. Chris sits in the make-up chair. "Shall I have the works? False eyelashes. Dusty Springfield eyes." He stares at himself. "There's not a lot to work with, is there?" They are cheered up by the arrival of Mrs Merton, Caroline Aherne. "Isn't she fantastic?" says Chris afterwards, and speculates what fun it would be to be married to her. "Imagine how funny she'd be around the breakfast table, reading the papers.

And what a pair of knockers." They wait on the side of their stage. There are two stages - on the other, Catatonia are just finishing their new single, "Londinium". "She's singing a song slagging off London," Chris laughs. "Isn't that great?" There's a cameraman lingering by his keyboard. "Look how close that camera is to me," he frets, and gestures to his fingers. "I don't know any of the parts." "It'll be OK," Neil insists.

They go on, and begin "West End Girls". Chris looks behind at the video screen projecting Pet Shop Boys footage. The crowd are quieter during the new single "I Don't Know What You Want But I Can't Give It Any More" then perk up for "Go West". At the back of the stage they are watched by Dave Stewart and by the tennis player Monica Sales.

It goes fine, but it's also a bit of an anticlimax: when you have this many pop groups being wheeled on and off stage so quickly, none of them seem so special or memorable. Afterwards, they are led into a TV studio to be interviewed for ITV2. "Don't ask me any questions about Prince Charles or the event," Chris suggests before the interview begins. "I can't stand him, and it's not an honor for us to be doing this." They have to pretend that they haven't been on yet.
So are you looking forward to playing in front of 100,000 people?" Toby Anstis asks. "Yeah," says Neil, with as much enthusiasm as he can muster.

Walking back to the mobile home, they meet Prince Naseem, carrying his baby. 'Isn't Nas just too fantastic?" says Chris, when he's gone. Neil chats a little with Cerys from Catatonia, and then they retire to the mobile home, and discuss where to have dinner. They decide to go for a curry. Neil's brother Phillip turns up.

He has just bumped into Prince Charles, who asked him whether he was working here. He explained that, no, he was here to see his brother in the Pet Shop Boys. Oh," Prince Charles replied. "They've been around some time, haven't they?"
Saturday, July 3rd. Today, Capital Radio are hosting Party In The Park, an event at which an endless stream of pop stars including, for example, Ricky Martin, Boyzone, Catatonia, Elvis Costello, Madness and The Eurythmics have agreed to play two or three songs each in London's Hyde Park. The Pet Shop Boys have agreed to appear. It is to be the first public unveiling of their new guise, and the first public performance in any form of their new single. They have arranged to meet at Neil's house. "Right," says Chris, striding through the door. "Let's have some champagne." "I don't have any," Neil says.

Chris doesn't look too bothered. Perhaps his suggestion was mostly bluff. "I'll raid the fridge," he announces. "I'm hungry." He finds some olives and tucks in. They sit around the table and examine some photos of themselves - they need to approve them for an article in the German edition of Rolling Stone. "We've released," Neil sighs, "that, typically, these wigs have the effect of making my face look fat and Chris's look thin..."

.when you want to look thin," Chris says to him, "and I want to look fat..." Chris approves one photo which Neil likes but rejects another. "I can't see any difference in you in these two pictures," Neil says. "Well, I can," says Chris, "and I'm me." "That's why you can," says Neil, arguing one way. "Exactly," says Chris, arguing the other.

It is still a little too soon to head off to Hyde Park. "Shall we go down to the pub?" Chris suggests. "I can give you a glass of wine," Neil says. "No,"Chris replies. "I've gone off wine. I don't think it's good for you." "I'll ignore that," says Neil, a regular wine drinker. "I'll assume that's deliberate provocation." Instead of a drink, Chris looks through a new Larry Clark photo book of teenage killers. Soon afterwards, they leave.
They reach their backstage mobile home
without any fuss at all. "It's very well organized," says Chris. "I'm very impressed. That was all done without one walkie-talkie." Neil greets his family and has a brief chat with Mike Rutherford from Mike And The Mechanics and then another with Elvis Costello. (They natter about Charles Azneavour.) Chris, whose family are also here but who can't find them, gets himself a burger. Then they are called in to do an interview for Capital Radio. The interviewer's first question is to ask how their performance was. "We haven't been on yet," Neil points out. "Oh," says the interviewer. "I thought I'd missed you." He then suggests that people think the Pet Shop Boys have split up.
"We were listed as the 21st most successful singles group of the Nineties," Neil says. "You've had all sorts of peaks and troughs..." the interviewer begins, and Chris grins, mostly at how insolent this sounds. They're asked whether they suffer from pre-performance nerves. "I'm very nervous about performing in front of Prince Charles," lies Chris, deadpan. "I've got the utmost respect for the man." "Are you meeting him at the end?" they are asked. (They have already refused.) "Can't wait," says Chris. "I'm going to pinch his bottom."
Chris offers his thoughts about the event. "It's great you only get three songs from each group. Most rock groups are so boring."

Afterwards, they are bemused by what has just happened. "I think it's rude," Neil says, "asking questions like that. 'People might think you've broken up'. Waffling on about peaks and troughs and things. I thought it was rude. This is ultimately a PR event he's not interviewing us for The Guardian or anything." To further dampen their mood, Boyzone are on stage. Neil and Chris only perk up a little when Ian MacNeil, who masterminds their costumes, and theater director Stephen Daldry turn up. "Are you boys Alright?" Stephen Daldry asks. "Wish we weren't doing this," Chris says, and adds, "we're not doing the royal lineup." He spots something in Ian MacNeil's hand. ~Are you drinking Pimms?" he exclaims.

Ian MacNeil nods. "There's a Pimms tent," he says. "There's a Pimms tent," Chris cries, "and we're drinking cheap white wine?" "Are you singing?" Stephen Daldry asks Neil.
Neil nods. "Yes. Singing to track." (This means that, as with most of the acts appearing today, the backing music is prerecorded but the lead vocals are live.) "It's not the Eighties, you know. You can't mime any more. It's not the good old days." Dantani prepares a drink for Neil. He is asked what it is. "White wine and H20," Dantani replies. ~A blend of secret herbs and spices. 'A blend of bulishit rarely bettered," says Neil.

"I'm not wearing glasses," says Chris. He always wears glasses. "It's going to send shockwaves through the pop industry," Neil says. "I'm going to keep my head down," Chris adds. They wonder whether Prince Charles will watch them or whether he'll go and have a cup of tea. "He'll have heard we're anti-royal," Neil says, "and he'd think, 'Well, I'm anti-PSB. Let's go, Harry and Wills, and talk to Debbie Harry. Let's go and talk about the Northern Ireland peace process with Ronan Keating. I thought they'd broken up, since their heyday in the Eighties..."' "Their peak," says Chris.
"Their so-called peak," says Neil. Chris sits in the make-up chair. "Shall I have the works? False eyelashes. Dusty Springfield eyes." He stares at himself. "There's not a lot to work with, is there?" They are cheered up by the arrival of Mrs Merton, Caroline Aherne. "Isn't she fantastic?" says Chris afterwards, and speculates what fun it would be to be married to her. "Imagine how funny she'd be around the breakfast table, reading the papers. And what a pair of knockers." They wait on the side of their stage. There are two stages - on the other, Catatonia are just finishing their new single, "Londinium". "She's singing a song slagging off London," Chris laughs. "Isn't that great?" There's a cameraman lingering by his keyboard. "Look how close that camera is to me," he frets, and gestures to his fingers. "I don't know any of the parts." "It'll be OK," Neil insists.

They go on, and begin "West End Girls". Chris looks behind at the video screen projecting Pet Shop Boys footage. The crowd are quieter during the new single "I Don't Know What You Want But I Can't Give It Any More" then perk up for "Go West". At the back of the stage they are watched by Dave Stewart and by the tennis player Monica Sales.

It goes fine, but it's also a bit of an anticlimax: when you have this many pop groups being wheeled on and off stage so quickly, none of them seem so special or memorable. Afterwards, they are led into a TV studio to be interviewed for ITV2. "Don't ask me any questions about Prince Charles or the event," Chris suggests before the interview begins. "I can't stand him, and it's not an honor for us to be doing this." They have to pretend that they haven't been on yet.
So are you looking forward to playing in front of 100,000 people?" Toby Anstis asks. "Yeah," says Neil, with as much enthusiasm as he can muster.

Walking back to the mobile home, they meet Prince Naseem, carrying his baby. 'Isn't Nas just too fantastic?" says Chris, when he's gone. Neil chats a little with Cerys from Catatonia, and then they retire to the mobile home, and discuss where to have dinner. They decide to go for a curry. Neil's brother Phillip turns up.
He has just bumped into Prince Charles, who asked him whether he was working here. He explained that, no, he was here to see his brother in the Pet Shop Boys. Oh," Prince Charles replied. "They've been around some time, haven't they?"
 
 
Some weeks earlier, the Pet Shop Boys were contacted by Radio One, who asked them to compose a piece of music to play on the radio during the forthcoming total eclipse, the first to be visible in Great Britain for over seventy years, on August 11th. They agreed. The week before, they recorded a song called "Casting A Shadow", and prepared to go to Cornwall for its premiere.
 
August 10th, 1999.
The Pet Shop Boys party meet up the day before the eclipse at Paddington station, to catch the train down to Cornwall. Cornwall is where the total eclipse is to be visible - or would be, anyway, if the sky is clear. At any given time in August there is generally a 45% chance of a clear sky, but the forecast is now bad: meteorologists are estimating less than a 20% chance. The Pet Shop Boys must travel down today because it is nearly six hours by train. All the roads are blocked and they have decided (unlike Suede, who are also appearing in Cornwall) that they don't fancy going by helicopter.
Neil and Chris browse in the station book store. "What can I read for six hours?" Chris frets. He plumps for a Ruth Rendell mystery, The Best Man The Die, and Kevin Sampson's music industry satire Powder. Neil chooses Things Can Only Get Better, the reminiscences of a Labour party supporter, and Martyn Harris's Diana: The Final Days.

At 3.33pm, as the train pulls out, Neil says so we re off into the great unknown". Mitch, their manager, hands out photocopied fact sheets about the eclipse ("so you don't have to ask me too many questions," she says) and convenes a meeting about the forthcoming Creamfields show, and an offer to play two concerts in the Middle-East. They discuss money, then Neil reads his newspaper horoscope.
"Start concentrating on your finances," it says. At 3.56pm Chris says: "Right. Are we nearly there?" There is a picnic and some drinks stowed away. Neil suggests they're not touched until Exeter. "Because," he reasons, "when you get to Exeter you think you're already there, and there's about three hours to go." Mitch puts forward some more business proposals, some of which they agree to and many of which they dismiss. She announces that "the Latin Americans are coming in" and hands them the printout of an e-mail. Neil studies it. "That's a great line," he says. "'Jesus is keen to utilize the media'. I bet he is." (Jesus is one of the South American record company executives; it is a common name in the Spanish-speaking world.) The meeting continues. "Right," says Chris, after a while. "Have we said no to enough things on this journey?" Neil begins reading his book about Princess Diana, though he gets a little defensive whenever anyone teases him about it.

'There used to be a half hour time difference in Cornwall, didn't there?" Chris suddenly announces. No one answers for a moment. "That's an outrageous thing to throw in," Neil splutters. 'I think we need to find out about this."
'Why don't we get you to say it on national radio tomorrow," suggests Chris, who rapidly becomes less confident about this fact, "and make you a national laughing stock?" The train rolls on. 'For lunch tomorrow," Chris says, "I want a Cornish pasties." Mitch asks Chris whether he would do a fashion feature for Loaded magazine. 'That's a great idea," says Neil.
I'll do that," Chris concedes, "in return for knocking out two German interviews." 'Germany is a very important market," Mitch reminds him. "You decide," Chris grins. "I like this bartering business."

We reach Exeter. A large bowl of caviar appears, carefully cradled inside an even larger bowl of ice. There is also a large tray of sandwiches. The champagne is opened. "It's our champagne-and-caviar lifestyle," Neil observes. "It is beluga, isn't it?" inquires Chris cheekily.
"You are so pretentious," says Neil. Even after everyone has enjoyed generous dollops, there's plenty Life. "We've got tons of caviar here," Neil says. "Do you know how much it cost?"
Chris looks out the window and admires the countryside. "You know," he says, "if the world ended, it wouldn't take long to be covered in vegetation. It'd be like we'd never been here." Neil worries about the Radio One broadcast tomorrow. The eclipse occurs in the middle of the Radio One Roadshow, on which the Pet Shop Boys have also agreed to appear. It is hosted by Simon Mayo, but Radio One have agreed that the Pet Shop Boys' piece of music will be played undisturbed. Neil wants reassurance. "He's not going to talk over the music, is he?" he asks Helena, the woman from their record company Parlophone.

"No," she says. A rather drunk man wanders towards us and asks for a plastic glass. He may well be hoping for some champagne as well. "I'm an ex-royal marine," he says, "and I just got married." "We need a velvet rope here," Neil mutters, half-ironically. A few minutes later he suggests to Dainton that they offer the rest of the sandwich tray around the carriage. Chris complains about the ring-tone on Mitch's mobile, and insists on returning it. He selects the option called "polite", then telephones her phone with his phone, about two feet away, to check that it works. He nods approvingly at the more restrained noise which results. "Have you heard Moby's album?" he asks. "It's really good."

"It's a masterpiece," Neil agrees. His phone rings. It's Janet Street-Porter. "We're halfway through the six hour train journey," he reports. "We've had the caviar, we're on the champagne... Chris wonders what they'll need on the return journey. "After," he says, "the euphoria of our...what's it called? 'Grasping A Shadow?"'
"'Grasping At Straws'," says Neil, who gets out his CD Walkman and plays himself something by Bach.. Finally, the train pulls into Redruth where they are met by a driver and his minibus. "Are we not limed up?" asks Chris, deadpan. "I can't believe we're really geeing into a minibus. We're an International Priority Act."

They drive into downtown Redruth. Just as we pass some teenagers and Chris says "here's the local youth" one of the girls spits on one of the boys. When she hears a combination of cheers and jeers from the van she raises her fist in triumph. At the hotel, they go for dinner. "Let's get started," says Chris, brandishing a menu. "Yes," says Neil, "because we're in the wiggy wiggy wild west." This leads them to talk about frightening rural-based movies. "Stars' Dogs," says Neil. "Scary film."

"Was it scarier than The Tony Blair Project?" asks Chris. "Yeah," says Neil. "I thought you thought it was the scariest film you'd seen?" Chris says. (They're talking about The Blair Witch Project, which they saw on holiday with Elton John in France.) "It was rubbish." "I was terrified throughout," Neil says. "Me and Elton thought it was crap, Chris reports. Neil mentions that during the holiday Elton John went round singing "You Only Tell Me You Love Me When You're Drunk", and would do an impression of Marlene Dietrich singing "I Don't Know What You Want But I Can't Give It Any More".

Later in the meal, Neil and Chris debate whether you ever really know whether something you do is good. "I knew with 'West End Girls'," Chris says. "Every time we played it, it just sounded great." "I thought 'It's A Sin' was really good when we finished it," Neil says. "And when Derek Jarrnan came round to discuss the video at Advision, I remember playing it to him and thinking it sounded absolutely fantastic." The hotel pianist dawdles through a terrible version of The Beatles' "The Long And Winding Road". "They can't keep time," Chris mutters. "In the bath I listened to the end of Abbey Road," Neil says, "because someone said it made them cry." He pauses. "It didn't make me cry, but it's jolly good."

They begin arguing about "A Day In The Life". Chris maintains that the Paul McCartney bit in the middle - "got out of bed..." - is useless, and ruins the song. "No, it's good," Neil insists, "and it allows you to have the best bit." He half-sings, half-mimes the dramatic transition between that bit and the song's third verse. "This is a classic Neil argument," Chris declares. "Having a crap bit so you can have a good bit." They talk about their recent day at The Of The Pops, when they met Puff Daddy, and were invited to his party that evening. "The music was fantastic," Chris says. "The atmosphere was so good. Puff Daddy got on the microphone and did a bit of MC. He even played..." Chris sings Nub Shoot's "I Can't Wait" - "...That's how good the music was. And Naseem came running up to me.

"Top Of The Pops was a hoot," Neil says. "Madness, Culture Club, Elvis Costello, Catatonia. Cerys told me I looked like Nik Kershaw. Boy George was fascinated by our wigs. They all came to watch us do our number." Neil eats scampi on a plate of spinach: "the dish I have created for myself," he points out. "It looks fetching on the green." Chris has Dover sole. He pokes it with his knife and is a little alairned by the result. "Is that blood?" he wonders. "Do fish have blood?" "Yes," Neil says.
"I didn't know that," says Chris. "Even as I said yes," Neil sighs, "I knew I should say no." Chris asks Helena if she's Turkish. "I've got a bit of Spanish in me," he says. "Not very much. About an eighth." They discuss tomorrow, and are horrified to discover that they are supposed to do their radio interview about "Casting A Shadow" in front of the roadshow audience.

"I can't do that," Chris flatly declares. "Let's get the next train back. I'm sorry, I can't do that. I'll tell you what it'll be like - like when you've won the French tennis open and you do a live interview in front of the whole audience and it's the most embarrassing thing you've ever seen. And I'm not doing it." It is agreed that the subject will be discussed more in the morning. "We can't cause bad feeling," Chris grumbles. "We're hear to spread goodwill." Before they go to bed, Neil and Chris want to visit the sea, so everyone jumps back in the minibus. It is very dark, and the minibus careers down tiny country lanes. "It's interesting," says Neil, "how the person reading The Last Days Of Diana has his Seattle on." On the beach, the sky is clear and we can see stars everywhere. "How can it possibly change by tomorrow morning?" reasons Chris. The milky way's streak runs along the sky. A shooting star trails above us. There is talk of how ours is only one planet round one star inside one galaxy. "It's bloody scary," says Chris. "I don't like to think about it too much." Back in the bus, Neil says, "Well, we're in Cornwall. Fancy that." He sighs. "We're all nicely tired now." "The world's ending tomorrow at 11.11," Chris says, "and the last words we hear will be 'Radio One Roadshow'."
August 11th, 1999
We awake to cloudy skies and newspapers full of Prince Philip's latest gaff, pointing to some messy wiring and saying "that looks like it's been put there by an Indian".
"He's a fool," Chris says, who is ready to leave first. "Why can't he be fired from the monarchy? It's not a 'gaff'. It's a racist remark. The idiot. He's got to go. He's an embarrassment." Neil appears and Chris fills him in. "Well, that's it, really, isn't it?" Neil says. "It's all over. They jump into the minibus. It is about 8.4Oam. "Well, this is exciting, isn't it?" says Neil. Helena tells them that their Simon Mayo interview is at l0.45am.

"So we're not on the stage..." Neil confirms. "So you are on the stage..." she corrects. "So we're not doing that then," Chris chips in. He now asserts that he has never agreed to this interview in the first place. "Something's got to be signed by me to prove to me that I've agreed to do it. I'm not going live on the Radio One Roadshow. I've got a little more dignity than that."
Such concerns are overtaken by a more important discussion: what to have for lunch on the train back to London. Chris still wants Comish pasties, which is also fine for everyone else but Neil, whose diet it would violate. Mitch suggests a couple of dressed crabs for him. "That would be nice," Neil nods. We are caught in traffic. "Isn't this your memory of an English summer holiday?" Neil says. "The sand's damp, you're playing on the beach, and it's sort of cold but you don't mind." A helicopter flies over.

"That's Suede," says Chris. Neil checks up on his astronomy, in case Simon Mayo asks why the song is called "Casting A Shadow". "He's more likely to say 'why are you wearing a pair of silly wigs?"' says Chris, who now threatens to go back to bed and listen to the whole event on the radio. "Right," he says, "I feel carsick." On the radio, Simon Mayo says, "we do have 100% cloud cover." Chris laughs. "100% cloud cover," he repeats.
"I've never been to a Radio One Roadshow," says Neil. The minibus. pulls into a paddock behind a stage on a hill overlooking the sea. A few thousand people are there. Neil and Chris are asked whether they will do a live TV interview from their caravan on BBC 1. Outside, they can hear the songs being played on Radio One, all of which are loosely appropriate: "You Stole The Sun From My Heart", "Kelly Watch The Stars" "Moonlight Shadow", "Total Eclipse Of The Heart", Here Comes The Sun", "Setting Sun", "Ain't No Sunshine", "The Killing Moon" and so on. Helena announces that they don't need to do the Radio One interview at all. "Brilliant," congratulates Chris. "Well done, everyone. That's what I call a result. Come here, cause so much bad feeling that they'll never play us again." Outside, it starts to rain. Chris laughs. "It's brilliant. It's pissing down."
"It was inevitable," says Neil. "It couldn't be better," says Chris. "This makes me tend to believe in God, things like this." "Why?" asks Neil, genuinely curious.

Chris's rather sacrilegious reasoning revolves around the notion that God wouldn't be very nice, and so these kind of disappointments may prove that he exists. "That's a new spin on Christian theology," says Neil. They agree to do the BBCl interview with Emma B, but Neil tells Helena that Emma B must not refer to their wigs and the way they look: "She just has to behave as though we look totally normal". Chris puts on his jacket, and makes an observation. "We need thinner hangers next time," he says. "These hangers are too thick." He sits down, and nearly sits on a cup of coffee. "Which idiot left coffee there?" he says. "That strikes me," says Neil, the culprit, "as the sign of an intelligent but absent-minded person..." He looks around. "Is there a Bog in here?"
Chris points to a door a few feet away: "What do you think that door is? A door to another world? A door to Namia?" In fact, though it is a toilet, it is taped up. "Do you want Bear to take you to the Bog?" Mitch suggests. Neil shakes his head. "No.1 have my legendarily strong bladder." Brett from Suede pops in. "Ever done one of these before?" Neil asks. "Never," says Brett.
"We've got away with it for fifteen years," Neil says. "We got our arms twisted," Brett explains. "They said, 'the Pet Shop Boys are doing it..."' Out front, "Unfinished Sympathy" plays. "The record of the millennium," says Chris. "It just is." The BBCl crew comes in. As they set up the camera, Chris sticks his bum towards it and says, "Here's the only eclipse you're going to see."
During the interview Emma B plays a few seconds of "Casting A Shadow" on a ghetto blaster, and asks about the writing of it.

"We just tapped into some cosmic rays," says Chris. An interviewer for the Dave Pearce show comes in "How long did the track take?" she asks. "How long is it? Two minutes," says Chris. '~It took two minutes to write." "Three days," corrects Neil. "Are you spiritual people?" 'Yeah," says Chris.
"Oh yeah," says Neil. Brett reappears. "Well," he says dryly, "that was the most exciting experience of my life." "You've been on?" says Neil, surprised. He nods. "We mimed to a song."
Simon from Suede joins him. "The words out' and 'wash' come to mind," he says. "In which particular order?" Brett inquires. It has been getting darker over the past few minutes, but only in the way that it does on a very stormy day, then suddenly - at the moment when, far above and out of sight, the moon entirely obscures the sun - the light level drops dramatically. It's not completely dark, but it's very very strange and murky. Neil and Chris peek outside occasionally but spent most of the two minutes watching a TV monitor showing the eclipse above the clouds. On stage, the Pet Shop Boys' "Casting A Shadow" can be heard, but so can Simon Mayo, commentating almost incessantly about what is going on. Two minutes later, the sky's light surges back and it is all but over. "They said there'd be silence," mutters Neil.

"I told you he was going to do that," says Chris. "The whole thing has taken five days," Neil says. "Three days to record the music, and two days here and back..."
"Typically," says Chris, "Radio One had to make it their kind of thing..." A few minutes later, however, he laughs and says, "We've even hijacked the eclipse for promotion! What other world events can we hijack?" They still have to perform to the roadshow audience, miming to "I Don't Know What You Want But I Can't Give It Any More" and "Go West".
"It's funny," Chris points out as he gets ready, "miming on the radio." At least there is an audience. Once they had to mime on the radio in Paris, and they were asked to rehearse it first. "It was us versus the French radio director," Neil remembers. "It was great. We lost, of course." One of Phats And Small's dancers comes in. They have just been miming out there. She says that Radio One played a different version of the song, one to which they didn't have a routine worked out. She shrugs. "So we just started jumping up and down."
Before the Pet Shop Boys go on stage, some complex technical discussions need to take place. Neil's microphone has to be switched on so he can announce the songs, but then switched off on cue so that he can mime. Radio One need to know what he'll say. "Just say, 'hello - I don't know what you want but I can't give it anymore'," suggests Chris. "No," says Neil, wearily. "It sounds too ironic.
Simon Mayo introduces them: "We've never been able to get these guys because they're always too busy, and far too successful for their own good..."
As they perform, Simon Mayo climbs up on the ramp behind the stage on which a screen is mounted, and dances along.

The plan is to leave quickly, so that they can catch an early train. They walk right off stage to the minibus. and Chris, disobeying all wig-protection instructions, has ripped off his wig before he even gets aboard. The minibus. radio is tuned to Radio One, on which people describe how incredible the eclipse has been. "Why won't anyone say 'thoroughly disappointing'?" Chris asks. "They've just got 'yes' people. It's thoroughly under whiling." The mood is a little low.
"I feel used and abused by the whole thing," Neil says. "I'm not doing any more of this," says Chris. On the train, it begins to seem just a little fancier. "You gave 110%," Chris says to Neil, shaking his head. "I did," Neil says.
"I don't know how you do that," says Chris, not without admiration. "Neither do I," says Neil, "but I do." Only now do they really express any regret at missing the rare natural phenomenon around which all this tomfoolery has been arranged.
"I might have to find another eclipse," Chris says. "I knew I should have gone to Northern Iran," Neil agrees. Lunch appears - Cornish pasties for everyone else and, crabs not having been found, a salad sandwich for Neil. It doesn't look particularly nice. "It's hard being me," he notes. After a few mouthfuls he cracks, and tucks into one of the spare pasties. "I don't care," he says. "Even though I'll put on three stone immediately and look like Fat Bastard."

The journey back takes even longer; there are fewer stops, but this train can't go as fast. "We should never have got rid of steam trains," Chris announces. Neil looks baffled. "I don't even think I think that," he says.

Sam Taylor-Wood calls on Neil's mobile, and he summaries the story so far: "We're on the interminable train journey back.. Well, there was torrential rain.. About 120% cloud cover..." He sounds quite jolly about it. For much of the way, everyone sleeps. Finally, we approach London.
"A long train journey," says Neil, "but one which will live forever.. In our hearts.. In our minds...and in Literally..." Chris sighs one final time. "We only do these things for Literally," he says.

August 28th, 1999. The Pet Shop Boys and most of the touring party arrived here, at the Chester Grovesnor Hotel, yesterday, after traveling from London by coach. This morning Chris has been shopping and walking around Chester's old wall; Neil has gone into Liverpool to see its Taste art gallery. This afternoon, in an stately hotel dining room with walls covered in old oil paintings, they do a roundtable interview with six European journalists.
 
"There's always been an element of disguise," Neil tells them, "particularly with Chris..." "I couldn't have done it without a computer to remember what I'd done," says Chris. "I couldn't write it down because I don't have the patience..."
"It's very important that pop music is sexy to look at or interesting," says Neil. "So we went for interesting..." "Why did you start playing live?" they ask. Neil turns to Chris. "Why did we start playing live?" "Oh, so we didn't have to do so many interviews," Chris says. "Unfortunately, it doubled the number of interviews."
"Do you have a demonic side?" they ask. "Demonic side?" says Neil, a little taken aback. "Have you got some skeletons in your cupboard, Neil?" says Chris. "I don't like drama in my private life," Neil says, "so maybe it gets it out of my system on-stage..." The final question is: "What is the essence of Pet Shop Boys music?" Neil thinks about this for a while. "Beautiful music," he answers. "With wigs." Mitch comes in at the end to say that "New York City Boy" is a record of the week on Radio One next week. They're relieved; they don't think it's getting played enough. "That's more like it," says Neil.

"We've turned the corner," Chris says. "Thank goodness for that," says Neil. "The essence of the Pet Shop Boys," says Chris, "is about survival. That's the truth." "Yes," Neil agrees. "But we don't say that." Creamfields - an all-day and all-night dance festival which features six tents of famous DJs until 6am in the morning, with just one live band: the Pet Shop Boys - is on tomorrow. But today they must go to the site to inspect the stage and rehearse. They jump on the tour bus (which is the one usually used by Leicester City football club). Chris talks about the excellence of the new Supergrass single, "Moving". "I need to hear it immediately," Neil declares. "I need to have an opinion about it. I need to put it into my interview spiel."

We drive underneath a bridge on top of which a herd of black-and-white cows are crossing in single file. "You don't often see that, do you?" notes Neil.
"So," says Chris, "the next time we do this journey..." He means that they will be just about to perform. "Oh, don't say that, Chris," Neil beseeches. "It makes me feel sick." "I don't know how you have the nerve to do this," smiles Chris. Neil shakes his head in agreement. "Being bottled off by lots of scousers with Stanley knives who want Paul Oakenfold..."

We drive past a huge Ford car factory, all drab rectangular blocks, and imagine what it would be like to work there every weekday of your adult life. "It's good to see this kind of thing," murmurs Chris. "It gives you some perspective - that actually it isn't that bad doing one roundtable interview for half an hour." Soon we draw within sight of Creamfields. The large blue tent in front of us is where the Pet Shop Boys will be performing.
"It's an International Priority Tent," says Chris. "From their album International Priority Act," says Neil. "Their new single, 'A List': We 're on the A-list/An International Prison Act/ We're on the gay list/Its' an established fact..."
Ivan, the tour manager, has a question. "Do we want our own toilet?" he asks. (Toilets at festivals are a sensitive subject this year after the Manic Street Preachers were pilloried for having their own toilet at Glastonbury.) "Yes!" says Chris.

"No," says Neil.
Inside their tent, the sound engineer is testing the PA by playing Roxy Music's Avalon. "They always play this kind of thing, don't they?" says Chris. "Well-produced albums."
One of the scaffolds strolls over to Neil. "Isn't you?" he asks. "From Pet Shop Boys?" Neil shakes his hand. "I might find you later," the scaffold says. "Get your autograph for my mother." "It's a classic," Neil says. "A Neil Tennant classic: 'my mother loves you'."

Though they are here to rehearse, the stage isn't ready. They go to catering to get some dinner instead. "My yoga teacher," Neil begins, "has informed me that fizzy water is bad for you. Champagne is the only fizzy drink that isn't bad for you." Upon further questioning it turns out that Neil has been doing yoga for precisely one week. His teacher is the same one that Geri Halliwell and Sam Taylor-Wood use.
They linger a while in the evening sun, and then Neil gets up. "I'm going back," he says. "We're getting made up in quarter of an hour."
"Really made up," says Chris, "as we say in Liverpool." They have now decided not to do a full dress rehearsal, but they still have to get into their wigs and clothes because they have agreed to do a Polish TV interview. "This is the last time we wear silly costumes and wigs," Chris complains. "I'm sick to the back teeth of Neil making us dress up in silly costumes and wigs."

There is no toilet at all in the backstage area at the moment. "We need a toilet!" Chris exclaims. "Why did we say no just because of the Manic Street Preachers? It's the best thing they've ever done, having their own toilet."
"Toilets are always an issue at festivals," Neil says. "You've got to have your own toilet," Chris reasons. "We're making a toilet U-turn," Neil says. "Maybe you should call it a toilet Unbend." (In the end, toilets are provided for everyone in this backstage area, and the Pet Shop Boys are quite happy to use those.)
The Polish interview is rather strange. Before they start the interviewer instructs them, rather sternly, to limit their answers to fifteen or twenty seconds, and then asks lots of theoretical questions about pop music which don't really draw answers. After a while they're asked to name their favorite videos. Chris mentions David Bowie's "Ashes To Ashes" and Massive Attack's "Unfinished Sympathy"; Neil says that of theirs it would be "Can You Forgive Her?" or "Being Boring". Neil says his favorite Beatles song is "A Day In The Life" and, when they ask whether he can sing it, says "I can sing all of them, but I'm not going to." The Poles don't seem very pleased.
The stage still isn't ready, so Neil and Chris watch from the middle of the tent. Les gyrates on-stage in his heavy quilt skirt. "He looks unbelievable," Chris says.
"It's unbelievably camp," says Neil

. Finally they get on-stage themselves. Chris's keyboard is set within an old wooden stand, to fit in with the Victorian drawing room set in which they find themselves, but it wobbles terribly. He can't play it like this, and he asks for it to be replaced by a modern stand for tomorrow. Neil, Les and Sylvia run through their "Can You Forgive Her?" dance steps, all singing along - "it's childish, so childish" - to keep time. Then they all run through "Young Offender", "It's A Sin", "I Wouldn't Normally Do This Kind Of Thing" and "New York City Boy". There's not much point doing too much more -all the lights aren't even up yet, let alone programmed. There is a lamp on-stage which Chris is supposed to switch on during the set.
"Which song am I going to switch it on during?" he asks Lee, the production manager. "Just do it as you feel it," Lee suggests.
Chris guffaws. "Oh well," he says. "That'll be a first. 'Do it as you feel it'. We're all about that..." There are also two TVs which silently play movies during the performance: Spartacus and Satyricon. ("I wanted to have The Elephant Man," Neil says, "but Chris thought it was too grotesque. I thought Satyricon was too much of a clinch.")

As they finish, Neil offers some advice to Les. "When in doubt," he says, "either do nothing or groove." On the bus, driving back to Chester, people can smell gas. There is a small flurry of concern until they realize that it's coming from outside.
"I once called the gas board to my old house because I smelt gas," Neil confesses, "and then I released I didn't have gas."
At dinner, they argue about the relative merits of the two "summer of love"s - the hippie one at the end of the Sixties and the rave one which Chris favorers at the end of the Eighties. "Their one didn't last as long," Chris argues. "Our summer of love lasted a decade. Our summer of love changed society."
"Chris," Neil chides, "that one changed society." "I think our one was more fin, though," Chris says. "I mean, they were all stoned the whole time - they couldn't enjoy it, could they?"
August 28th, 1999
. After an midmorning interview with The Observer, Neil and Chris are asked to approve some new photographs. Those Chris really doesn't like, he doesn't simply reject, he rips them to pieces. When this is finished, everyone walks to an old pub in the back streets where we have been told the pub lunches are particularly fine. It is called The Albion. "Do you think it's got a British theme?" asks Chris, mischievously. "Oh, I'm not sure. We're going to a fascist pub."
We are not, though we are going to one with very firm rules of its own: no chips, no big screens, no tomato sauce.
Inside, Neil writes down our food order and gives it to the waitress, to be helpful. "Can someone else write the drinks?" she requests. "I can't read this handwriting." The conversation is suitably surreal. "We're turning Waiting For God into a musical," Neil claims, somewhat implausibly. "It's our new idea. It's the musical we'll be in." He reconsiders this slightly. "Chris can play Godot, so he doesn't have to be there."

The bill comes to £64.96 for ten people. We query it, thinking that it's too cheap. "You're in the northwest now, you know," the waitress says. Chris goes down to the festival site at 3.OOpm, to soak up the atmosphere, but everyone else goes on the bus at 6.3Opm. On the way, everyone watches the newly-finished "New York City Boy" video; there is applause when it finishes. Outside, the sun is slipping down the sky; it's a gorgeous evening. "We're so lucky," Neil says.
Chris is waiting in the dressing room when everyone else arrives. He's been round all the tents. "It's firing," he says. "It's absolutely kicking." He also says he's tired. "At least we've got Sylvia with us," Neil says, and turns to her. "Sylvia, keep it going -when they're flagging, do a fabulous ad-lib."
Chris worries than no one will care to hear them, and then tries to think of reasons why people should be there. "We're larger than life," he reasons. "Also, the music's quite good. And it's quite a good set. We've put quite a lot of effort into this." He sighs. "We must be mad to do this." Even from the dressing room they can hear the crowd roaring at huge volume as the DJs move up from one record to another. They are dragged outside to do a quick MTV interview with Donna Air. Afterwards, she and Neil discuss their common hometown of Newcastle. "Which school did you go to?" Neil asks. "Sosforth High," she says.

"Same as Alan Sheerer," he notes. "But I got expelled," she points out.
Judge Jules finishes his set and on they go. "Young Offender" strikes up. They are supposed to enter amidst a blaze of white light through the door at the back of the stage, but the light doesn't work, so they just walk on anyway. (The other big malfunction is of the lights illuminating the two dancers in front of the screens on either side of the stage who simply can't be seen.) But the crowd are extraordinarily keen. In the first half they also play "Left To My Own Devices", "Domino Dancing" (with new Ennio Morricone flourishes), "I Don't Know What You Want But I Can't Take It Any More" and "It's A Sin" (faster and more percussive, but still including snatches of "I Will Survive") before - as at the Savoy shows - Sylvia performs "The Man Who Has Everything". On the TV screens, Spartans and, strangely, The Elephant Man play.
Behind the stage, Neil and Chris change into white suits. Chris frets about the missing lights. "It was our grand entrance!" he protests.

The second half includes "I Wouldn't Normally Do This Kind Of Thing", "Can You Forgive Her?", "Before", "West End Girls", "Being Boring" (which Neil, a song ahead of himself, introduces as "New York City Boy" to Chris's obvious amusement), "New York City Boy" and "Go West". They bound off stage, both looking fairly perky.
"It wasn't a disaster by any stretch, that," says Chris. "Well done, darlings," says Neil in the dressing room to the dancers. "Yes, well done," says Chris. "I didn't see what you were doing, but well done." They take off the wigs. "Actually, I think that was quite good," Chris says. "I definitely got quite a good feeling off that." He jumps up. "Right! I can't wait to go and dance. I'm going to dance. For inspiration. For perspiration."

Neil takes off his stage shirt. "Do I have a shirt?" he asks. "Shirt for Neil!" says Lee. "Shirt for Neil!" And a shirt appears. From the tent, they can hear dance music pumping once more. "Oh God," says Neil, pretending to be annoyed. "Can't they give this music a rest? I mean, don't tell me they're enjoying it." The drinks begin to flow. The first bus shuttle leaves at 12pm, and Neil goes on it. Chris stays - he wants to dance to David Morales' set. The second and final shuttle leaves at 2am, and most people catch that. Chris still stays. He will be several hours.


Copyright Areagraphy Ltd 1999: All Articles have been
Taken From Literally 1998 Issue 21
 
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