||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
"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..."
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."
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.
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
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
"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
"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
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
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
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,"
. 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
"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.")
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,
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."
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,"
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."
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
"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
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