Miam the Pet Shop Boys' first
American tour for eight years begins tomorrow. They have
been preparing and rehearsing in London for months. Ten
days ago - after a brisk detour in Germany to perform "New
York City Boy" on television - they moved to West Palm
Beach, on the Florida coas~ for final production
rehearsals. Whilst they were there, Hurricane Irene hit,
and both Neil and Chris had to be moved Out of their high
but ocean-facing rooms which were flooded with three
inches of water. (The hurricane did have one beneficial
The lighting designer had been
wondering what to project behind the Pet Shop Boys during
one of the show's more reflective songs, "Only The Wind",
and as the weather worsened his team simply went outside
and filmed the texture and motion of raindrops in the
puddles of the parking lot outside.)
and Chris have their first day off for two weeks. "But not
evening off," Chris complains. This evening they will have
a dress rehearsal and final ran-through, this time on the
set in the Jackie Gleason Theatre Of The Performing Arts
where tomorrow's concert will take place. In the car on
the way to the theatre - two blocks away - they discuss
the film Love And Death In Long Island (which Chris has
just watched and Neil has seen previously) and argue about
whether Jason Priestley is good looking. "Of the
Performing Arts!" whoops Chris, reading the sign as we
drive past the auditorium and into the parking lot. "Not
of Broadway tat." "Quite right too," says Neil. They walk
inside, and stand where the audience will stand tomorrow,
looking up at Zaha Hadid's angular surreal stage on which
they will perform. It's easy when you've been busy putting
together a show like this to set aside the thought that
you will actually soon be performing it in front of
thousands of people. Not any more. "You feel," says Neil,
"the deal is real. As someone once said." Chris stares
"I still can't really believe we're
doing this tour," he says. Then he abruptly announces,
"Right - I've got to go and get my shorts taken in."
Backstage, he fiddles with his new baseball cap. On the
hack it says Pam Star. On the front, Hellhent for
Pleasure. He cups it in his hand, bending it so that when
he releases it the peak will stay in a tighter arch. "For
the desired redneck effect," he explains. Dainton, who has
been despatched to get Chris some Shore pizza (Chris's
favoured brand), rectums with bad news. The Sabre is shut,
and on the door is a sign. "No electric," it says. Dainton
goes hack out to find some alliterative pizza, but while
he is away, the backstage catering opens and Chris keenly
helps himself. "Aren't you having pizza?"
him. "You can't Tums down pork," Chris points Out. They
discuss the first week chart position of Nightlife, which
is disappointing in Britain but good elsewhere. "Did you
hear about Gary Barlow's album?" Chris asks Neil. Neil
looks visibly alarmed, and only relaxes when Chris says
that it only entered somewhere around number 30 in the
British chart. "I thought you were going to say it was
higher than us, says Neil. "I was going to retire..." They
discuss the show. "The set relies very heavily on
lighting, doesn't it?" Chris says. "But, then again, they
all do." "We've finally got tap-dancing in one of our
shows," Neil says. "Keith has taped him self tap dancing,
and he mimes to it."
(Keith is one of the dancers.)
After dinner, they sit by the monitor desk in the
auditorium from where the films and projections will be
intruded. Several of the films are still not ready. They
survey a rough edit of footage to he used during "Young
Offender" (taken from Crnshproof a film by Paul Tickle,
who they know). A little of it is somewhat risqué and the
Pet Shop Boys argue about how long the most explicit
images should be allowed to linger, and whether the film
will need to be re-edited on the nights when their parents
come to the show. In the dressing room, Neil flicks
through the theatre's 1999-2000 season calendar. "Sarah
Brightmlan was here two nights ago," he notes. Chris is
fitted with his new blond wig, which is longer and has
teased dreadlocks shooting out from its scalp. He nods
approvingly. "I feel closer to my self-image now," he
Neil's own new wig appears - it is also longer than
previously versions, but the tufts of hair are more evenly
distributed than Chris's. "That's not your long wig?"
questions Chris. "Yes," Neil says. "It doesn't look very
Edward Scissorhands." "No," Neil says. "We went back to
Beethoven." "We realised," says Ian MacNeil, the theatre
designer who has masterminded the show's wigs and
costumes, "it was going to look too Beetlejuice." Neil
nods. "I might as well have had a handbag." Neil is slowly
made up. "It's good to do the dress rehearsal in the same
place as the first show," he says. "That's how we do it in
the theatre," Ian MacNeil points out. "But then you don't
move to Tampa the next night," Neil says. There is a
"Do you think," Neil wonders, "than the
tampon was invented in Tampa?" He mentions that they've
got to do some TV interviews before the show tomorrow
night. Chris looks surmised ."I thought you'd like to
relax you're vocal chords and gargle and all that kind of
thing..." Chris begins. "Gargle?" Neil exclaims, as though
nothing more preposterous has ever been said. "I haven't
gargled in my life." Chris shrugs. "Well, Concentrate on
the show or something." They discuss why Radio One isn't
playing their records enough in Britain. Chris notes that
the most negative review on Nighthfe is on the Radio One
website. "I think it's all to do with Zoe Ball," he says.
"Or is that just being paranoid?" "I think it's being
paranoid," Neil says, "because Zoe Ball's actually quite
nice. Now that it is in place, Chris re-inspects Neil's
wig. "That's quite good, that," he declares. "I know who
looks like that - that woman in 101 Dolmotions. That's
what they're going to say you look like." "
1 have no
problem with that," Neil says. "I've always liked Cruella
de Ville. She made a big impression on my childhood. I
always preferred her to those dreary poppies." But he's
not quite happy. The wig feelt a little tight. "The thing
it," he explains, asking for it to be loosened, "my face
is very mobile, you know. I do a lot of eye movement,
believe it or not. I'm like Roger Moore. And it feels
weird." He mentions to Chris that he has brought along two
CDs as his suggestions for what they should play before
and after the performance. For before they come on, he
proposes a contemporary r'n'b record by a group called
Bomegrown which he bought in the record section of Urbon
Outfitters in London because he liked the look of the
sleeve and wrongly imagined it was ambient techno; for
afterwards, an old over-emotional version of "Somewhere
Over The Rainbow".
Chris is slightly sceptical about
the first choice. "I'll listen to it with an open mind,"
he promises, "but I don't like anything at the moment..."
"Unless you have anything..." defers Neil. "We could play
some songs from Gary Barlow's album," Chris suggests. "Or
how about some Stockhausen? Then they'll be pleased to
hear us come on playing a tune." Neil pauses for a moment
before replying. "No," he says. There is a half an hour
before the performance. "Am I done?" Neil asloi Clirissie,
the wigs person. "Be's overdone," mutters Chris. Merck,
their American manager, and James, the tour manager, come
in to discuss their forthcoming Toronto connect terse
welts from now. It toms out that the venue had been chosen
before the revised special Dona for their stage set had
been agreed, and that it now doesn't fit, It's too late to
cancel, but if they play there it will be with a very
compromised version of the show.
There's no other venue
available," Merck emphasises. "How about a drive-in
cinema?" offers Chris, somewhat flippantly. "A
supermarket?" Neil slips into his culottes and discovers
that they're too short. "We'll do them tomorrow," promises
Consuela, who looks after such matters. "The point of the
dress rehearsal," Neil notes forlomly, "is that
everything's perfect." Another wardrobe problem
materialises: during the show Neil has to wear a small box
on his waist for the radio microphone which feeds the
music into his earpiece for him to sing to, but the
culottes have not been designed to allow for this. "Maybe
they've had a lot to do today," Neil sighs. "Adjusting my
swimming trunks," Chris whispers. Neil studies himself
some more in the mirror, and begins to worry aloud that
maybe hit wig doesn't look so good after all. Eventually
he sighs and says, "maybe I'm talking absolute bullshit as
usual." "You're getting in a flap," Chris diagnoses. "I'm
getting in a flap," he concedes.
"We're on stage in
nine minutes," Chris observes. Neil looks around. "Where's
my wine and water?" he snaps. "The whole system's falling
apart!" "You have a glass of wine?" asks Chris, apparently
surprised, though Neil has followed the same ritual for
most Pet Shop Boys concerts in recent memory. "It's
approximately two-thirds water, one-third wine," Neil
"I didn't know that," says Chris, then adds, "I
thought it was just wine." "No," Neil explains, "that
would dry your throat out." Chris nods. "It's a diuretic.
If you drink a third, you'll urinate out two-thirds."
James' tells them its time to head to the stage. "Don't
some artists keep their fans waiting?" Chris asks him.
"The ruder ones," Jarnes replies. They take their
positions at the back of the stage on time, but the dress
rehearsal doesn't start as planned. The show begins with a
wash of green static and weaving lines projected against a
screen covering the stage. Tonight this starts and stops
for a while, and then the house lights come back on. There
is a long wait while a technical problem is addressed, and
then the show finally begins. During the first song, "For
Your Own Good", the Pet Shop Boys are not seen in the
flesh. Instead, the artist Bruce Naumanri projects their
rotating heads by a work they admire) as Neil sings the
vocal, live, standing backstage. At the end of a song, a
green line waves back and forth across the screen and a
long orchestrated preastihle eventually turns into "West
End Girls". As the chorus bassline surges in, the screen
Drops and the Pet Shop Boys can finally be seen, Neil
standing directly above Chris on the stage's elevated
limb. Sylvia Mason-James appears midway through the song,
and the four male singers (who have, inevitably, also been
persuaded to dance) appear early in the third song,
That is followed by a radically reworked,
much rougher-sounding "Being Boring", in the middle of
which the dancers and Neil collapse in unison to the floor
and lie there. Neil only rises to one knee as he starts
the final verse. After "Happiness Is An Option", "Can You
Forgive Her?" and "Only The Wind" Neil is standing exactly
where be begun the show, and Tums to the tall diagonal
white swoosh of stage which rises above him to his right,
and which is used to project images and films on during
the show. "Ladies and gentleman," be says (though of
course there are only a handful of people in the
auditorium), "Miss Dusty Springfield..."
The idea is that,
as Neil begins "What Have I Done To Deserve This?", the
screen is filled with pictures and film of Dusty from the
Sixties while her disembodied voice booms Out her parts of
the duet, and then that during the soaring "since you went
away..." part of the song, Dusty will be seen singing the
lines from the original video. But tonight it doesn't work
well at all. To begin with, Dusty's voice can barely be
heard. On the screen, the images of Dusty keep
disappearing, and when it comes to the part where her
voice and image are supposed to be in sync, they are
clearly not. You can also, rather disconcertingly, see the
198? Neil in the comer of the screen, singing along with
himself. The first half concludes with a riotous "New York
City Boy", in which the male singers flounce around
joyously in sailor costumes, and finally "Left To My own
Devices After a fifteen minute break, during which the
computers are loaded with the second half of the show,
they rectum, coming on stage to "Young Offender". They are
now wearing short wigs. Neil goes off towards the end of
"Vampires", during which the singers stand together and
enjoy an extended soulfil extemporisation, and when be
returns with an acoustic guitar to sing "Se A Vida F",
sitting on the slope at the right side of the stage,
surrounded by the other singers, he is without his wig.
Before the second acoustic song, "You Only Tell Me You
Love Me When You're Drunk", Chris leaves the stage, and
returns at the beginning of "I Don't Know What You Want
But I Can't Give It Any More" without his wig, instead
wearing his white baseball cap. During that song, a film
which swoops the viewer through a fituristic architectural
world plays behind them. The set finishes with four
Always On My Mind" (with new, almost gospel
backing vocals), "Shameless" (with a backdrop of tabloid
newspaper headlines and photographs), 'Opportunities"
(during which the part of the stage Neil is standing on is
pushed forward, nearly tripping him up) and "It's A Sin"
(which begins with some abstract, stately church organ
nodding whilst stained glass effigies of the be wigged
Neil and Chris are projected behind them, and which segues
into "I Will Survive" towards the end).
They return in
white hooded tops to play a stoked-up new arrangement of
"It's Airtight" and then, finally, "Go West". Backstage,
they talk over the show. "Dusty was a problem today," Marc
Brickman, the lighting designer, tells them. "She's still
difficult," Neil sighs. "From beyond the grave," adds
Chris. They discuss the idea of playing something slower
and more beautiful as one of the encores. They consider
"Love Comes Quickly". "I can't remember the chords of
'Love Comes Quickly'," Neil says. "Isn't it something to
do with B?" says Chris. They wonder instead whether
"Footsteps" wouldn't work. It is also pointed Out to them
that, in their dark clothes during the second half, they
blend in too much with the singers, and the choreography
becomes a muddled mishmash. Instead, they resolve to wear
the white hooded tops earlier; after the interval. "That
sends out the message," Chris says, "it's a in half, not
the difficult theoretical stuff we've just had."
changes are also cognising and somewhat illogical, so a
new scheme is worked Out. First they decided to change the
order of "...Drunk" and "Se A Vida F" to avoid the awkward
moment when Chris has a wig and Neil doesn't, then they
decide that it will make much better sense if they come on
in the second half without wigs. They will wear the short
wigs, in true encore fashion, as a hair reprise when they
return for "It's Alright". And then, even though it's no
longer necessary to solve the wig problem, they decide
that the new order of the acoustic songs is an
improvement. It's also pointed Out to them that one of the
famous people in the "Shameless" montage is John F.
Kennedy mr, and that in the light of his recent death in a
plane crash American audiences might not appreciate his
appearance here. They issue instructions for his removal.
To add variety, they wonder whether to give the male
backing singers hats at some point in the second half of
the show. Police bats are suggested. "I'm not having
police hats," says Chris firmly. Baseball hats are
suggested. it'll ruin it when you have it," Ian MacNeil
tells Chris. "It's iconic." You don't mess with iconic,"
Neil agrees. White hard hats are suggested. "Let's do
that," Neil says. "It seems to fit the aesthetic."
"Architecture," Chris agrees.
It says," Neil
declares, "'hello everyone, architecture... "Good," says
Chris. "I think we've earned a drink." In the car, Neil
comments that "from a personal point of view, I enjoy
doing this show. Particularly 'Shameless'." They go for
dinner at the Delano hotel where they are staying. "All I
fancy is some caviar," says Chris. "It's too expensive,"
Neil points out. Chris agrees. "I can't afford it," he
says. He scans the menu further. "Oh, charcuterie. I'll
have that. I'm only eating for the sake of it." "Well,"
sighs Neil. "The tour starts tomorrow." Over dinner, Merck
proposes that they appear on a popular MTV show called
Loveline, on which a doctor, a comedian and a guest
comment on callers' sexual problems.
Chris shakes his
head. "I'd he terrible on that," he says. "Chris would say
something so ghastly," Neil says, "we'd never recover from
it." Neil doesn't fancy it much either. "I simply wouldn't
feel comfortable," he says. They have already turned down
The Donny & Morie Show. "It's an eternal tightrope," Neil
says, "somehow being sort of avant-garde and sort of
middle -of-the-road, sort of simultaneously." Sensibly,
they both decide to have an early night. Wednesday,
October 20. They meet for lunch at the Hotel and both
order Virgin Marys - Bloody Marys without the alcohol.
"It's the drink of the tour," Neil says. "We don't even
drink alcohol," Chris claims, implausibly. There has
already been some good news today -Disney may want to use
some of their songs in a new animated movie about clubbing
- but there is also more bad news about the financial woes
of Harvey Goldsmith, who was promoting the British leg of
their tour. It is becoming clear that the situation will
end up personally costing them a great deal of money to
ensure that the tour goes ahead, and there is a fair
amount of anger in the air as they draft a public
statement to explain what is going on. Once that is
finished, Neil worries about what he is going to say in
between the songs tonight. "You need Mandy on the phone,"
Chris suggests. "Mandy Mandelson." "He doesn't write
his own speeches," Neil says. "You need to say three
things," Chris offers. "Education, education, education,"
says Neil. "It's only the wind, only the wind, only the
wind," says Chris. "I think you should be a bit more
personal," he teases. "You've reached a tipe old age.
You've got Tales to tell. Ups and downs..." They discuss
for a while what the dignified version of "hello Miami!"
would be. "I'd say 'hello Miami'," Chris eventually
concludes. Neil suggests that he refers to the fact that
Ricky Martin is also playing in Miami tonight - "I'm going
to say, 'thank you for choosing our show..."' - and works
on a line to link "Happiness Is An Option" and "Can You
Forgive Her?": "this is a song about optimism...
next one, which is the normal business-as-usual bitter and
twisted...which is where we go hack to being bitter and
twisted..." Then he wonders what to say before "You Only
Tell Me You Love Me When You're Drunk". "Can't you say
'here's where I get emotional?"' Merck suggests. "Oh no,"
chides Chris. "That's not believable." "He'll start
laughing," Neil says, looking at Chris. "That'd be a
write-off." He thinks some more. "Can I say 'here's where
we become the Von Trap Family singers'?" he wonders. And
then they discuss whether they can introduce "Sc. A Vida
F" as their "Liven' La Vida Loco".
Chris asks Neil who
"Se A Vida F" is about. "Who isn't it about?" Neil
replies. They discuss the encores. "We can come back on,"
Chris suggests, "and you can say, 'Chris, what do you
think of the show so far?' and I'll say, 'it's alright'."
"You suggested that," Neil sighs, "in 1989." Chris goes
down to the venue at 3 o'clock so that he has time to have
his haircut; Neil follows half an hour later. In the car
park, two fans wait both men. "I bought my first record of
yours when I was 16," one tells Neil. "I'm now 32." "I'd
just like to let you know," the other says, "I appertain
your music very much. And I came out of the closet at the
age of 40." Inside, in Star Dressing Room A, Ian MacNeil
tells them he's worried about the male singers' hard hats.
(They've settled on yellow.) Re's not sure about them, and
would rather wait until Tampa tomorrow.
They talk it over
for a while and decide that they should only use the hats
during "Go west" anyway. Neil looks darkly towards the
corner, where a percolating tureen of coffee sits, filling
the air with the dense, sickly, stale aroma. Two of the
battles the Pet Shop Boys always face on tour are to avoid
plates of cold meat, and to avoid tubs of hot coffee, both
of which make the dressing room smell. "Dairston!" summons
Neil, and when Dainton arrives Neil simply points at the
offending ire. "Nyet," he says. Everyone traipses to the
make-up room downstairs. Ian MacNeil reflects on his
experience of working with the Pet Shop Boys: "When I
first met them," he says, "I said, 'I'm from theatre - I'm
going to be asking why a lot'. And they said, 'darling -
it's pep music - it's not About why, it's about wow'."
Meanwhile Chris re-examines his new wig.
natty dread," he giggles. "It's not too SigueSigue Sputnik
is it?" He laughs. "I'm a rock God." Neil worries about
the dreads hanging over Chris's forehead. "It would be
more PSB without i~" he suggests. Chris overrules him, for
now. "He looks a bit like the guy from the Offspring,
Dexter;" says Merck. "It's a triumph," Neil declares. "The
Pet Shop Boys have got rock'n'roll." They go up onto the
stage to do an interview for a Florida TV show about
style, Deco Drive. Before they begin, the hyperactive
hostess tells them, with inordinate bubbly pride, "I'm
going to close with 'you don't have to he a "West End
Girl" or a "New York City Boy" to love these guys'. So
that will he nice." She almost seems to be expecting
congratulation1. For her first question she asks them
"what's the 411?"; they don't know what this means, so it
has to be explained. (411 is the code you dial on American
telephones for local directory assistance; "what's the
411?" consequently means, "what's the latest
information?") She asks them what it is people love about
their shows. "
The nudity," says Chris, deadpan. Neil gives
a long, serious answer about how the spatial liberation
offered by producing music live on computers led logically
in the past to a theatrical presentation of their songs.
"It's almost like an art installation, this one," he says.
"If you free the stage of musicians you can do all that."
"What arc you hopes for the CD?" she asks. "Hopes?" scoffs
Chris. "We don't have any hopes." "Do you want it to be
the biggest seller of your career?"
she persists. "We
don't think like that," Chris replies. "We're more
interested in the creative side." She asks about the way
they look in their current photos. "The dresses," she
prompts. "Dresses?" says Chris, and - all theatrical
presentation - Tums to Neil abruptly. "I knew they'd think
they were dresses." "They're actually culottes," says Neil
calmly. As they change the camera angle, she tells them
"I'm going to ask you what a West End Girl and a New York
City Boy is." "I don't know what either is," Chris
insists, and looks towards Neil. "What's a 'New York City
Boy'?" "It's a boy from New York City," says Neil,
Apart from the obvious," Chris leaps in.
"Isn't their any depth to it?" Neil laughs. "A West End
Girl," Neil tells the interviewer, "is a girl going out in
the West End on a Friday." "Not on Saturday?" she asks.
"Olin on Thursday," Neil says. "Now, Thursday is the new
Friday in London," Chris explains. "This" says Neil, "is
the 411 on London." On the way hack to the dressing room,
they do another, shorter, more useless TV interview. They
are asked what exactly a Pet Shop Boy is. Chris simply
stares ahead, but Neil methodically tells the story about
the Ealing pet shop and the early hip hop groups with
"Boys" at the end of their nannies. "It's as simple as
that," he says. It's time for the sound check. They begin
with "Discoteca". During "Happiness Is An Option" Chris
sits in the audience seats for a while to listen to the
overall sounds. When Neil sings the line "...I don't think
I Suit my face",
Chris says, "He should say, 'I don't
think I suit this wig."' They are supposed to see the
finished, improved, fixed Dusty Springfield films, hut at
6.05 it still isn't ready. "You know Dusty," Chris says.
"She's still a problem. She's still tuning up late." As
the intro to "What Have I done to deserve this?" begins,
Chris laughs and says, "it's 'Father Figure'." A pause.
"Not on purpose," he adds. They try to run the film, but
it is a disaster. "Not quite ready for viewing," Chris
says. He sighs. "You know, its a lot harder doing a show
that's not theatrical. It's much more hard work." Over
dinner in the backstage catering area, they discuss the
dusty problem, and decide to run very slowly merging
photographs of her tonight instead of the film. Isis
explained to them that the film people have been plagued
with a catalogue of disasters, culminating in a film
transfer this afternoon, which was the wrong format.
"Maybe Dusty doesn't want it to happen," Neil reflects.
"Do you think she doesn't?" Chris worries, then looks
alarmed at him self. "Oh, what am I talking about? I don't
believe in the afterlife." "I think she'd like it," Neil
says. As late-comers arrive at catering, Neil tells them
The roast beef was delicious." "Well," says Chris, not to
be outdone, "the chicken was supreme." In the dressing
room, Neil does Yoga on the floor while Chris lies on the
sofa eating M&Ms. Neil's new radio mic holder is brought
in, a little sachet made from the same striped material as
the culottes and now quite possibly the campest thing on
earth. Merck comes in and reports that none of the
merchandise apart from some skinny S-shirts are here, and
that the Pet Shop Boys are being offered the feeble excuse
that because of last week's hurricane it was all diverted
to Chicago. Fury brews. They go down to the make-up room.
Chris tries to escape from wearing the thick, blackened
eyebrows Which are required, arguing - not entirely
accurately -that because of his glasses it will be
possible to tell the difference.
As be surely expects,
everyone tells him otherwise, and someone begins to say
that if you're going to do something, you should... "...Do
it half-heartedly, that's what I say," Chris chips in.
"That's always been my mono." And, with that, he readily
submits to the eyebrow blackening. A few minutes later, he
yawns. "You're not tired, are you, Chris?" Merck asks. "Of
course I'm tired," Chris replies. "I'm always tired. It's
what I do." His wig goes on, and he now offers a new
interpretation of it. "It's meant to be a bit King's Road,
1977," he says. He decides that the dreadlocks tentacles
hanging over his forehead are too long, and that an inch
should be snipped off each. After the deed has been done,
he beams. "That's better. That's made all the difference.
My wig just got better." "Your favourite wig just got
better;" Neil says. "Why don't we use that as a slogan?"
Chris wonders. "'Your favourite group just got better'."
Now Neil looks at himself in the mirror. "
I love my wig,"
he declares. "Mine," says Chris, still happy, "is a bit
like Fido Dido." The wigs and make-up are on, and me show
doesn't start until 8.1 5pm. "It's only 25 past flaming
7," Neil complains. "Right," Chris announces, "we started
too early, everyone." "I think we could do the whole thing
in one hour," Neil decides. They sit silently. "I'm at the
point of thinking 'why oh why are we doing this?"' says
Neil. This is probably meant as rhetorical, but typically
Claris doesn't take it as such and considers the answer.
"It's not for financial reasons," be says. More silence.
"I love this wig," Chris says. "I don't need to do
anything. it does all the work." He panses for a moment
and then ads, "I've actually taught it to play the
keyboards." They now decide that they want to take these
wigs off again, to that they can get used to putting them
on just before going on stage, and so that Claris can lie
down. Only once this has been reluctantly agreed by
Clsriaaie do they decide not to do it. "I'm going to prude
my lines," Neil say.
"'Good evening, we're the Pet
Shop Boys..."' Claris lightly pokes him at some along
introductions from previous tours. "Claris," says Neil,
"you are welcome to do the introductions yourself..."
"No," Chris declines, "I'm quite looking forward to them.
'That was an old song,
now we're going to do a new
song..."' "Chris!" Neil beseeches. "Don't do this before I
go on, or I won't be able to do it." He practises some
lines, then sighs. "That's one of the problems with being
English. It's much easier to do this stuff in an American
accent. Then you can call them 'you guy..."' "'Do you want
the 411 on our new album,"' Chris mock-announces, "'or
have you all been 86-ed?"' Neil chats about the time they
went to see Elton John and he stopped in the middle of the
song and said "oh silly me!" because he had forgotten to
do "Bennie And The Jets", and simply went back and did it
there and then, and how crazy the crowd went, and they
discuss how much people seem to like those kind of
mistakes. Consuela asks Chris, "do you want to change your
trousers now?" Chris lies there. "I could think about it,"
he says. Rafael from EMI Latino comes in to say hello. He
tells them they look older than when he last saw them.
"Well, you don't look younger either," Chris says. Rafael
nods in acknowledgement. "Less hair," he concedes. "Well,"
says Chris, "we've got more now." They arc called to the
stage. "I'm looking good, feeling great," Neil says.
"Well, feeling great," says Chris. They stand behind the
stage. The green interference Starts up and the Miami
crowd roar. It's 8.15. '1 thought the interference came
before 8.15," Chris says.
"It's part of the show" Neil
says. "I though," says Claris, "it was a transitional
period." Neil looks at Claris. "Oh, shut up," he says. His
next words, into the microphone,
still standing here next
to Claris, are the opening line of "For Your Own Good". In
the Nineties America has in many ways been one of the Pet
Shop Boys' weakest markets - though their albums have sold
consistently they haven't had a hit single for over ten
years - but if there was any doubt whether there was an
audience here keen to see the Pet Shop Boys it disappears
the moment the curtain drops near the beginning of "West
End Girls". At the first clear sight of Claris and Neil,
pandemonium breaks out and never really subsides. Most of
the introductions are simple, though before "Can You
Forgive Her?", Neil gives a version of the lines he was
working on at lunchtime: "That's a song from our new
album. It's an optimistic song...this next song is more of
a typical bitter and twisted kind of thing." At the end of
"What Have I Done To Deserve this?" Neil turns to the
image of Dusty and blows her a kiss. As "Left To My Own
Devices", the final song of the first half, famished,
Neil, standing at the front of the stage, melodramatically
lifts off his wig Chris does the tarne but only as he is
walking off. ruing the half-time interval, they retire to
the dressing room. "So," asks Chris, "'luke' and 'warm'
aren't in the building?" Re smiles at Neil. "It's great
when you take your wig off." "I held my hand above it for
a little while," Neil laughs. "Mainly because I was trying
to work out how to do it." Chris teases Neil about the
Dusty kiss. "Oh, you are a tart," he says. "You're not
going to do it every night, are you?" "I might," Neil
says. "It says so many things. Sort of 'thank you', and
'goodbye' as well." The second half is received as the
first at. During the middle-eight of "You Only Tell Me You
Love Me When You're Drunk", Neil begins singing "all of my
fiends..." then realises he's not pitching right, so he
simply stops, laughs, says "I'll do that again", and goes
...two, three, four...all of my friends..." and is
back in the song. It is something of an Elton John "oh
silly me" moment and the Miami audience simply love it.
During "Se A Vida E" he simply stops playing guitar in the
end because he thinks he's out of tune with it, but it
sounds fine anyhow. "Shameless" still features JFK JR -
and, previously unnoticed, Princess Diana, who may also be
an unfortunate choice - but no one seems to notice or
react badly. After "It's A Sin" finishes and they wave
farewell, they sit on chairs behind the stage quickly
changing and having the short blond wigs glued on. "It's
gonna be alright," says Neil after the first encore, and
then says "I'd like to thank you for Coming to see us
instead of Ricky Martin...", at which point he is around
by the roar of the crowd. Neil introduces everyone; when
Chris is introduced he sticks his tongue out. "I'd
sincerely like to thank you for being such a fabulous
audience on the first night of the tour," Neil announces,
touchingly. "It makes it wonderful for us -thank you so
They are followed backstage, as agreed earlier,
by the crew from MTV Latino. "Chris is in the toilette,"
Dainton explains, in front of them, in the dressing room.
That's slightly more than you all needed to know," says
Neil. During the interview Neil says, "we did this whole
Latin thing three years ago with 'Se A Vida E"'. When they
ask what Nightlife is about, Chris simply says over to
you, Neil." Neil nods. "This is one of my questions," he
tells them, then answers It. They are asked about the way
they look. "It's just what we wear normally," Chris
bluffs. "It's how we feel comfortable," Neil says. Chris
is asked whether he feels as though they are underrated
because they make electronic dance music. "Well, I just
believe you should make the music that you like," he says.
"We called an album Disco when it was S dirty word...I
don't feel vindicated, particularly, but it's obviously
the best musical form, there's no doubt about that." They
ask where the tour will be visiting and Neil lists some
Countries. Chris feigns horror. "You didn't tell me that!"
he says to Neil. "Kept me in the dark..." They briefly
mingle at the meet'n'greet then sign autographs out the
back. "How's Nightlife coming along?" one fan asks.
"What?" says Neil, puzzled.
The musical?" "It's not
called Nightlife," Neil points Out. "What's it called?"
"Not telling you," Neil snaps. "It's a secret." There is
an open-Sir party thrown by their record company on top of
the Sony building, with a panoramic view over the streets
of Miami's South Beach. After that, Neil retires to his
hotel room where he lies on the couch, listening to Bach,
eating olives and cashew nuts. Chris goes on to another
party at a new club run by Ingrid Caesars for a few quiet
drinks and a small dance. "Do you know," he says, late
into the evening,"there's something nice about Americans..
Thursday, October 21.
The bus leaves for Tampa, on
Florida's West Coast, at 11am. The Pet Shop Boys sit at
the lounge in the back. Chris complains about the
supposedly jolly little computerised drawings on the day
sheet: the piece of paper put under the hotel doors of
everyone on the tour at night, telling what they will he
doing the next day, and at what time they will be doing
it. "Girls always like things like that," he buffs. "What
I really hate is when they have a bottle of champagne
cracked open." The bus slowly makes its way through the
Miami suburbs. "Why Can't we just dos season here?" Chris
asks. "I like it," Neil declares. "We'll just do two
months at the Jackie Gleason Theatre." The bus moves on
towards Tampa, regardless, and they talk about the fans
they met last night from all over the world. "It's not
often you meet someone from Lima," Neil notes. "This is
quite a nice bus," Chris says. "It's not too woody." "It's
not too sleazy," Neil agrees. "It's not too fun. A lot of
these buses are very furry.
They realise that it's time
to choose their sleeping place for the tour (though, truth
to tell, the Pet Shop Boys plan to spend very few nights
on the bus). "It's bagging hunks!" says Neil with gusto.
"I think I want to be in the middle," Chris decides. And
they discuss what it is, and isn't, possible to do whilst
lying in such bunks. Chris flicks through a magazine.
"Guess what Bush's album is called' he scoffs. "The
Science of Things." Be says the last word - "things" - in
such a way as to leave absolutely no doubt how feeble he
finds it. James comes back to consult with Neil and Chris
about on-the-road sustenance. "Are we happy with a
truck-stop lunch?" he inquires. "Yes," says Chris. "Or
something in the Egon Ronoy guide." "Or Denny S',"
James suggests. "I'd rather not have Denny S'," Neil says,
"because we know the menu and, to be honest, it's a bit on
the gruesome side." "So, just stop," James concludes. "One
that looks authentic," Neil nods. Neil reads a positive
review of Nightlife in Rolling Stone magazine. "It's got a
great description," he relates. "'Eurotrash disco's answer
to the Grateful Dead'." One comment does, however, puzzle
him - the review says that "Closer to Heaven" has a guitar
hook borrowed from U2. This is doubly perplexing: "Closer
To Heaven" doesn't have a guitar hook, and no one here can
think of any similarity the song has to anything by U2.
Neil declares that we will have to listen to the CD, and
begins rummaging around, looking for his copy of it.
Chris, who thinks it is funny that Neil has brought a copy
of nightlife on tour, says, teasing, "Oh, you've got our
CD". "Chris," Neil retorts, "I've got the album because
you told me I was doing the inflection of 'Happiness Is an
Option' wrong." Even when "Closer To Heaven" is played, it
takes a while to work out what the reviewer is talking
about, but it is eventually decided that the keyboard at
the beginning could be seen to sound a little like the
beginning of U2's "New Year's Day".
At around 2.OOpm the
bus pulls into a truck stop. "We're trailer trash," says
Neil, slightly thrilled. "Always have been. We're having
lunch in a trailer park. I'm so excited." At a diner
called Grandma's Kitchen, they both order pork chops. Ten
minutes later the waitress retums to tell them that
they're all out of pork chops. They re-order, and discuss
an acquaintance who has had sex with one of the cast of
Neil wanders off to the part of the diner
devoted to shopping and returns with a video of the Ian
MacKellen film Apt Pupil to watch on the bus. After lunch,
Neil has to do an interview on the phone from the hack of
the bus with a Denver radio station: "Hello Jerny...it was
fantastic - one of the best concerts we've ever
done...'Varnpires' is kind of about how drugs destroy
relationships, and communication between people....
people stay up all night and sleep all day...in England we
don't say electronic; electronics makes it sound like it's
a completely brand-new form. Krafiwerk released Autobahn
in 1973 and then Madonna does Ray Of Light in 1998 and
suddenly she's doing techno...we did 'DJ Culture' years
ago, in 1991. That was more about the rave scene in away;
thai was when the superstar DJs were just about to
emerge...I particularly like the Chemical Brothers when
they sound electronic. I find it a bit boring when they do
the rock stuff like with Noel Gallsgher...it's not 5 case
of 'intellectualise pop', it's mores case of pop music
that has some kind of integrity to it, that has an opinion
or a point of view - that doesn't exist in pop music at
the moment. It's not an industrial process where you know
they have a certain shelf-life and it's how to maximise
There have been times when pop music was about
something, like the Eighties with the Human League,
Culture Club and ABC - it was a very ambitious
period...Fatboy Slim has the same audience as the Human
League would have had fifteen years ago...l like to write
songs which have wit and humour in them - I'd quite like
to write more of them but we don't think of them that
often. Most of our songs are sincere...the musical is
basically about sex, drugs and fame. Ambition, really....
[Laughs] I like 'sex, drugs and trains'! That's a great
combination. I might remember that...I absolutely hated
Rent. When I saw it on Broadway,
the audience gave it a
standing ovation. Apart from me. It sounded like early
Seventies rock. And I doubted its sincerity - it presented
having IIIV or AIDS as a cutting edge lifestyle. Also,
more to the point, I hated the characters and the music.
It hijacked the emotion of sympathy towards people with
HIV or AIDS, and not to a particularly good purpose...I
don't consider myself represented ass gay person by anyone
else and I don't want to represent anyone else...I think
we're ignoring the fact that we're getting old. Some
people are really old when they're 20.1 think we've always
been really immature...We really like making records;
that's what it really boils down to. We also like making
shows. We like doing new things...in the show you see us
real and unreal. You don't just have to look like you. One
doesn't have to just be oneself all the time. One has the
opportunity to be someone completely different..." As he
clicks off the call, Neil looks at the display and says,
That was 21 minutes 52 seconds". Merck asks whether they
will give "Always On My Mind" to a compilation. Neil,
inspecting the relevant fax, is annoyed that the people
asking don't even know what the song is called - "it's not
'You're Always On My Mind'," he points out - and says he'd
rather give a song which the Pet Shop Boys wrote. "The one
I like putting on at the moment" he says, "is 'Se A Vida
E', to remind everyone we invented Latin music." There is
another request, so strange that they can't even really
take it seriously: that the Pet Shop Boys should perform
the American national anthem in Atlanta before one of the
games of baseball's World Series. "I'd be in the audience,
tittering," Chris says. "No you wouldn't," says Neil
steamily. "Would you be doing it in a yellow wig?" Chris
wonders. "Of course," Neil says.
"They'd think we were
taking the mickey," Chris worries. One other potential
problem: neither of them knows the American national
anthem. Merck tells them they should do it. The TV
audience will be one hundred million people. "I think we
should be able to do 'Go West' as well," Chris suggests.
Re smiles. "It's finny, because you definitely wouldn't be
able to get us to sing the English national anthem." They
arrive in Tampa. Outside the venue, a serious man asks
them to sign a copy of Actually. "Can you use the blue
pen?" he asks. "Why?" Chris asks. "Because the black
yellows over time," the man says. Inside, in the corridor,
Neil asks Peter Schwartz to reduce the gap he leaves
between "New York City Boy" and "Left To My Own Devices",
during which Neil and the four male singers freeze in
position at the centre of the stage. "You can milk it,"
Neil says, "but don't let us stay there all night. Because
I start to cramp..." Chris walks into the dressing room
and its. It's the water. "It's Perrier, not Evian," he
points out. He lies down on the sofa. "Chris travels with
his own pillow," Neil notes, accurately. (It is taken by
the wardrobe department from venue to venue.) After sound
check the singers try on some maroon capes they are now
going to wear during "It's A Sin". There is some debate
about how low they should hang. "When I was an altar boy,"
Neil chips in, "mine came to about here...", and he holds
his hand level with the middle of his calf. By now, the
doors are open and the crowd is filtering in.
show is not yet sold-out, but they are hoping for a
healthy walk-up (the term for people who turn up and buy
tickets on the night). Chris is still on the sofa. "You
lie down," Neil tells him, "during the walk-up." In the
make-up room, various claims to fame are exchanged. Alibi,
their make-up artist, says that she has a pair of golf
clubs, which John F Kennedy gave to Her father. Ian
MacNeil says that his father was one of the press in
Kennedy's Dallas motorcade when he was shot, and, on his
way into a nearby book depository to find a phone, bumped
into a man leaving in a hurry. "My father shook Jimmy
" Neil says. "What was the first town
Jimmy Carter went to outside the United States after he
became President? Newcastle. My father stood in the crowd
outside Newcastle City Centre - Carter walked past with
James Callaghan and they shook his hand." Wigs are
applied. Neil looks at the back of his, worried. "Oh
hello," he says. "What's happened here?" He needs to
monitor that things don't get out of hand: "Just watching
the Nik Kershaw effect," he explains. "I feel a hit like
Side-show Bob," Chris says. Neil chooses this moment to
gargle some water. Chris is understandably outraged. "Did
you see that?" he demands. "'I've never gargled in my
life'!" Neil puts on his striped outfit. "This dress is
only held up by a button," he notes; it seems only polite
to point out, as he always does, that this is not a dress
hot, rather, culottes. Compared with last nigh the
audience is fairly subdued. They don't stand until "New
York City Boy", though that get a standing ovation and
they stay dancing for "Left To My Own Devices." "It's a
family audience," says Neil, backstage, during the
interval. "Is the lighting brighter tonight?" Chris
worries. "I feel very exposed." Merck comes backstage and
For a secondary market we've done really
well." Once they've changed, they wait just behind the
stage set. "Ooh," says Chris, "it's 'For Your Own Good'
now, isn't it?" No, it's not. They've already done that.
"Oh," he nods. "It's 'Young Offender'. I wonder how that
goes down." The second half goes well, though Neil loses
his place in "Opportunities" and mixes up the verse and
the chorus. Before the encores they slip into their short
wigs. "More! More! More '...." shout the crowd. "Less!
Less! Less!" says Chris. During "It's Alright" Neil loses
his place again, and then Sylvia loses hers. "I think we
just about got away with it" Neil says after. "Just
about," says Chris. He reports that some people were
standing at the front with their arms crossed.
girl was asleep," he says, accurately. "Fast asleep." "How
could you sleep with that racket?" Neil wonders. Their
American booking agent comes in, fill of enthusiasm about
"New York City Boy". "That's got a Real shot to be a hit,"
he says. "The first time you hear it it's
familiar-sounding." "Yeah," says Neil. "It sounds like the
Village People." "The last show was more shocking," the
agent says, meaning the 1991 Performance tour. "I was
shocked when I saw it on video," Neil agrees. "It was all
happening behind me. My parents said it was pomographic
and I said 'oh, no...' but then I looked at the video..."
They pile onto the bus fairly quickly, as they must drive
to Orlando, in the middle of Florida, tonight. A bottle of
wine is opened as the bus moves off. "Only paper cups,"
Dainton apologises. "It's an absolute disaster," Neil
commentates. "We could have stolen glasses from the
venue." "That," Chris interjects, "would be stealing." The
Peter, and his associate, Keith, are on the bus
with them. "We're in Rolling Stone as 'the Grateful Dead
of Eurodisco," Neil tells them. "That's a T-shirt in the
making," Keith says. "I have, by the way," Neil says,
"managed to get through forty-five years on this planet
without actually hearing The Gratelul Dead." "The music
wasn't really the point?" Peter says. "Well," says Neil,
"what was the point?" We leave the outskirts of Tampa, not
before deciding that a fine Smash Hits feature would he
Tempura with the Tampered in Tampa. "It's almost worth
doing," Neil says. "And then you go out and buy tampons
with them." Most of the journey is taken up with an
in-depth discussion of a large live-music project, which
the Pet Shop Boys have invented. They arrive at the
Orlando Peabody Hotel, where they last stayed while making
the "Se A Vida F" video, in the early hours of the
morning, but still stay on the bus for a while, continuing
the discussion. When they eventually try to get off the
bus, they discover that the door is locked. After a while
they escape and go to bed.
"Yet!" Neil snaps, in
his imperious voice. "Let's shut the bloody door!" "Can we
have some privacy?" Chris continues. "For once in our
bloody lives," Neil says. "We're trapped in a goldfish
bowl," Chris sighs. "It's like a media circus," Neil says.
They leave quickly to catch a performance of the Cirque De
Soleil, reputedly the most expensive show in the world:
prime seats are being saved for them.
Alright' went down fantastically tonight," Merck tells
them in the limo. "Did it?" says Neil. "Oh, 'It's all
right" it's fantastic," Chris says. "It's the highlight of
the show, musically. When it Sums into New Order." They
are whisked into their seats at the Cirque De Soleil and
told they have missed the best bit, but they're in time
for the final half hour: lots of incredible diving and
leaping from great heights into a pool, parts of which
keep changing back and form into a dry stage. It's
impressive, but possibly a bit pointless.
There's lots of
hooky fake Easter folk music as accompaniment. "The one.
thing I can't bear about Cirque Dc Soleil," says Neil on
the way out, "is the music. It's always awful. I actually
don't like the aesthetic of it, but it is brilliant." "It
was very exciting when they flew off the swing way into
the sky," Chris says. "Incredibly well timed and
everything," Neil agrees.
"I must say, I don't find the
comedy amusing," Chris says. "The attempt at comedy." Neil
nods. "It's that Marcel Marcesu whimsical style." "It's a
very impressive spectacle," Chris concludes. "It's all
about scale." They walk back into the hotel foyer past two
Elvis impersonators. Neil goes to bed, and Chris goes to
the party being thrown downstairs in the hotel's
night-club where people are variously dressed as aliens,
televisions and Michael Jackson. He never finds out
whether the desert rave even existed.
"You know," says Nell, on the bus in the morning,
heading back to Los Angeles, one night in Las Vegas is
long enough." Chris has decided to sleep in and fly back
later. Neil ties to call Elton John, who is apparently
annoyed that he couldn't find Neil at the Los Angeles
hotel, but now Neil can't find Elton. He leaves a message
with the housekeeper. "Tennant," he says. "T-E-N-N-A-N-T."
A pause. "N-EA-L....Thank you...Goodbye." Neil's annoyed
about the scab on his lip: "The reason I shave in the
morning and not before the gig," he says, "is precisely
because of things like this." The bus brakes suddenly.
Neil's coffee goes all over Tom Stephan, their DJ and
musician friend who flew into Las Vegas yesterday. "Wow,"
says Neil. "1 thought we were going to have a crash
there." He looks out of the window. "It's the desert," he
comments, now somewhat blaze about it. "They've got
C5cti." He sees a sign. "It's 28 miles to gas. I wonder if
that means lunch." He goes to the front and suggests to
James that it should. 28 miles later, we pull into the Bun
Boy restaurant. "The Original Bun Boy, Established 1926,
Gateway To Death Valley" - in Baker; next to the world's
On the restaurant tables is an
annoying game, rather like solo draughts, where you have
to jump pegs over other pegs and leave only one peg left.
To our frustration, none of us are very good at it. On his
second try Neil leaves three pint, and checks the
scorecard. "I'm 'about average intelligence'," he recites.
"That's just great, isn't it?" His next two goes he only
leaves two pins. "I'm 'of above average intelligence' - I
can deal with that," he declares, and tucks into his fried
zucchini. "Last night," he says, "during 'Opportunities' I
was getting so excited I was going to spit on the
audience. I was really feeling punky, and I thought, 'I'm
going to gob on them'. But then I thought, 'oh my God,
we'll get lawsuits or something'." he sighs. "I had a lot
of saliva in my mouth," he explains. On the final leg of
the journey he does his interview with Q magazine. As the
bus pulls into the suburbs of Los Angeles he is explaining
how Catatonia asked the Pet Shop Boys to do a remix, and
how they were quite keen but they didn't particularly like
"Karsoke Queen", the song which had been suggested. The
bus goes directly to the Universal Amphitheatre. They
played here in 1991.
"Over there," he points, "is
where I met Ax Rose." He goes through the promotional
schedule for the rest of the North American tour with
Merck. It's unrelenting. "We're working too hard," Neil
tells him. "Even I'm starting to think that. My voice is
croaking, I'm warding off a cold, I'm warding off
conjunctivitis..." Merck tries to persuade them to fit in
an extra flight so they have time for an important
breakfast radio show in Chicago. "Flying is slot of
pressure for me," Neil points out. "I can do it, but it's
a lot of pressure." Neil suggests that Chris does this
interview alone. He sits at a piano and starts fingering
the chords to "Footsteps", which they are thinking of
adding to the encores. "The chords are unbelievably
complicated," he complains. He deflects responsibility.
"Chris wrote them," he says, but as he plays it through he
says, "oh yes, I wrote that bit -
that's the me bit I
understand that..." He looks through some faxes. The
Japanese record company have suggested that the fourth
single from Nightlife be "Vampires" or "In Denial", which
fascinates him. He does hit yoga. Just before 8pm Chris
arrives, and says that he had a sensational lunch in Las
Vegas's version of Paris, just next to their Eiffel Tower.
"Chicken and pomp Irises," he says. "We went to Bun Boy,"
says Neil. "I had the waistline special - chicken with
cottage cheese and fruit - Next to the world's largest
thermometer." Richard Blade, the local DJ celebrity and
their Dinner companion tomorrow, pops in to say hello. "Do
you need to be smart to go to The Ivy?" Neil asks. "No,
you don't," he says, bubbling with enthusiasm. "You guys
are stars!" They confer about the record signing they're
doing before dinner tomorrow, at Threw Records on Sunset
Once they have resolved to wear the wigs,
Chris says they need good lighting, and their lighting
designer Marc Brickman - who is only around because he
lives here - is asked to do it. "It'll make its wow kind
of thing," Neil says. "It'll be like when I saw Batman and
Robin in Blackpool with the Batmobile," Chris says. His
eyes suddenly slight up. "We've got the Hummer stretch! I
knew there was something to look forward to." They are to
arrive at the record signing in a Hummer, a rectangular
tank-like army car which has been extended into a
limousine. Chris even suggests for a moment that they
simply stay in the Hummer and sign records through the
window. "That really would be taking the piss," Neil says.
During the interval Merck comes into the dressing room. He
has noticed that in "Can You Forgive Her?", when Neil
sings "...get yourself a real man instead", he forcefully
grabs his culottes in the crotch area with his hand.
"Where did that come from?" Merck asks.
"I've been doing
it for about four nights," Neil says. In the second half,
during "Opportunities", Neil is thrown an S-shirt. He mops
his brow with it and throws it back into the crowd. A pair
of knickers appears at one point as well. When he
introduces everyone onstage before "Go west" he tries to
get Chris to say "hello". He puts the microphone in front
of Chris three times, and each time Chris pushes it away.
The crowd goes crazy. Finally he relents, and unleashes
his second on-stage utterance of the tour. "Hello," he
says. (Hit first - also "hello" - was in Atlanta.) "We've
got to go and grin'n'grip,"
advises Merck afterwards.
"Grin'n'grip," repeats Chris. "I like it." "AxI Rose isn't
here," Neil sighs. "It's not the same." At the grip'n'grin
they meet various people including Coronation Street's
Natalie Horrocks, who is in town doing a shoot for Hello
magazine. Neil meets a pregnant woman who is having a girl
and tells him she is going to call it Chris neil. On the
way out they spot the two looks alike from the other
night, and stop the bus to greet them. Back on the bus
Neil confesses how annoyed he is at not buying one of the
peg games at the Bun Boy restaurant. When I was in the
Legion of Mary at school," he begins, to a certain amount
of sniggering, "you used to do charitable work and you
used to go to a centre for handicapped kids in Gosforth,
and this kid was mentally retarded and he had webbed
hands, and he used to beat me at draughts and chess...l
was supposed to be helping him."
Tuesday, November 2
. Neil has agreed to appear on the popular MTV programme
called Loveliness in which people phone in with their love
and sexual problems and are given advice by the three
hosts and a guest celebrity. (Chris hat declined to take
part.) "Thanks for doing the show," one of the TV
executives tells him in his dressing room. "We're so
thrilled that you're doing it." "Yes, I can't believe I'm
doing it," Neil replies. The first question, before Neil
is introduced, is from a bloke wondering whether he should
have a threesome with hit girlfriend and her cousin. Soon
Neil is pondering of a 19-year-old from Baltimore who is
worried that's all, be bat done have killed his sex drive.
Be favourite lots of nitrous, apparently. "What is
nitrous?" Neil asks. "Laughing gas," they tell him. "Oh,"
be says. "I don't think we do that in England." The next
caller is a 20-year-old girl who says she was raped when a
virgin and contracted herpes. Adam, one of the hosts, the
one who is supposed to add the comic colour, announces
that they will get back to the rape and herpes after
showing a little of the new Pet Shop Boys videos. He says
this with such spectacular glee and poor taste that
everyone watching backstage in the green room gasps. Neil
tries to raise sensible points - "do you think it's
possible for people to divorce their emotional
relationship from their sex life?" he asks at one point -
but the presenters seem less interested in intelligent
debate than tasteless jokes (the comedian) and patronising
know-all analysis (the medically-trained supposedly
sensible presenter, Doctor Drew).
When Neil mentions
during one answer that he is gay they simply seem
perplexed by this information. Soon Afterwards he is drawn
into an entirely baffling conversation about hot dogs on
sticks. "Well," says Neil, afterwards, still not quite
sure what be has been through, "it was a unique experience
for me. It made me very sad, all these people with their
problems." The executive bounces in to thank him. "I'll
let you know when it airs," she enthuses. "And I'll make
sure I don't watch it," Neil replies, laughing. Next, in
the dressing room, Neil does an interview for a VH 1
history of the pop video (one version of which will
subsequently be shown in December 1999 on Channel 4 in
Britain). Be reminisces about seeing The Supremes on Top
Of The Pops ("you couldn't quite believe they were real,
which is something I've always loved in pop music - like
they were from another planet"), and of David Bowie
performing "Starman" in 1972 ("be put his arm around Mick
Ronson and it was vaguely homoerotic"). He discusses some
favourite Pet Shop Boys videos like "Can You Forgive Her?"
("Actually it's a song about a man admitting that he's
gay"), "Co West" ("it bad a chord change that was very
popular in baroque music") and "Being Boring" ('lust kids
getting ready for a party...MTV were shocked by the naked
man at the start"). As he talks, they have sound problems
eventually they realise that the background noise is
being caused by ice melting in a bucket on the dressing
room table. "I want something to eat," Neil announces. "I
want a hot dog." The limo driver says that he's not
allowed to atop for a hot dog - he bat only been booked to
take us back to the hotel. Eventually he's persuaded to
drop us at The Cajun Bistro on Sunset Boulevard.
"Sometimes it's nice to do something a bit out there,"
Neil reflects, of today's strangeness. "Something you
wouldn't normally do. Extend your repertoire.! Now know I
don't want to be an agony aunt." Be orders some lunch, and
talks about hit first ever visit to America when he worked
for Smash Hits. "It was to see Genesis in Philadelphia.
And I went walking the next manning, and this black guy
stopped me, and I jumped about three feet in the air. He
was, 'I'm sorry, I didn't mean to scare you, I just wanted
some spare change'. I was like the woman in Hoirapray when
she goes to the ghetto.... Phil Collins, I couldn't think
of anything to ask him after twenty minutes. I wasn't very
experienced.! Had no interest in his music. Mike
Rutherford - a very nice man; if he walked in now I'd say
hello to him -drove me to New York in his car because the
tour bus had broken down. He stopped at the toll at the
Midtown tunnel and 'Planet Rock' was playing in the ear
next to us - it was 1982 - and! Thought, 'lam here'." He
mentions that once, at a Prince connect Phil Collins came
up to him and asked him for his autograph for his son."!
thought that was sweet' Neil says. "
A lot of People's egos
wouldn't allow them to do that."
The Q photographer
asks Neil whether he doesn't Want to interview people any
more. "I can't be bothered to," Neil says. "I used to hate
writing. I'd take ages to do anything. I'd sit in the end
room - Room 36, because it was the phone extension - and
it took me ages. It still does. I did the Spectator diary
and it took me three days." He discusses hit other
contributions, "I tried to bring sex into Smash Hits," he
says, "because it was resolutely non-sexual. I used to do
things like ask Paul Weller if he was gay. He quite liked
it, but everyone was quite shocked. I used to be known as
the person who asked Paul Weller if he was gay." "
you've superseded that now," the photographer says. More
memories: "I remember with Culture Club and Haysi Fantasee
it was 'which dreadlocks band do we go for?' and we all
chose Haysi Fantasee. They had a great The Of The Pops
performance...one of those that was to shocking they just
played it anyway." His thought Tums back towards
Loveliness. "Do you think I shouldn't have done it?" he
wonders. "I actually really hated them." Outside the
hotel, a fan comes up to Neil. He explains that he has a
bag of Pet Shop Boys records, which he is planning to
bring to the record signing. Neil pauses, waiting, but he
doesn't ask, so Neil does. "Wouldn't it be better if I
signed them now?" Neil suggests. Neil and Chris meet for
make-up in Neil's bungalow just before 6.3Opm.
how was it?" Chris asks Neil. "I heard it was a bit
disturbing. Do you feel like you prostituted yourself or
do you feel like you've done the world some good?" "A bit
of both," Neil replies. Chris studies the prints he's just
got back taken with his new Lomo camera. He's quite
thrilled with them. "The white border," he says proudly,
"is essential." Chris has just done his Q interview, which
went fine, though he was a bit perplexed by the way the
journalist said "how curious" at the end and then didn't
say anything else. "Neil," asks Chris, "do you think
Bilingual was cold?" "No," says Neil. "I told him very
firmly that it wasn't cold. That it was warm. "Because I
couldn't think of the answer to that one,' Chris says. "I
said I was trying to listen to it in my head and I
couldn't imagine it." They put on the wigs, giggling about
the fuss they are making just for one record signing.
"We've got Pink Floyd's lighting designer," Chris laughs.
"The world's first in-store lit by Pink Floyd's Lighting
designer," Neil says. "They're exploiting the boundaries
of what can be spent once again."
They go through the
rules. They'll try to sign everything, but if the queue is
too long they'll just sign one item per pension. "Alto,"
says Chris, "we're not allowing kissing either," "No
flaming kissing," Neil agrees. They get into the Humber
and drive the few hundred yards down Sunset Boulevard
towards the store. As they go, they imagine what people
will be thinking as they pull up in such an audacious
vehicle. "I'm surprised they've come in this," says Chris.
"It's not very them, is it?" "I'd have thought they'd come
in one of those new Beetles," says Neil. "This," says
Chris, "is more Puff Daddy." Chris realises that he will
have to get out of the limo first. He releases. "I can't
go Out first," he insists. "It's reverse order." "You go
on stage first," Neil points Out, with compelling logic,
but Chris is adamant, and so Neil clambers over him and
steps out in front of the crowd. Chris follows. A man who
works for the store rushes up and explains how much he
likes the Pet Shop Boys. "It's you and Sondheim," he
"Us and Sondheim," repeats Neil, quite liking
the sound of this, but then he feels obliged to point Out,
"Chris isn't a big Sondheim fan." "He's rubbish," Chris
says. The signing starts. "Can you write 'Amanda, with
love...'," one girl asks. "'With love'?" queries Neil.
"That's a little presumptuous." When a fan brings Outs
copy of "Absolutely Fabulous", Neil holds it up to show
the lingering Q journalist, who has been somewhat
dismissive of its place in the Pet Shop Boys' canon.
"Look!" says Neil. "Look!" like Tums to the fan. "Do you
like this record?" "Yes," says the fan, a little
nervously. "See?" says Neil. "Do you not like it?" Chris
asks the man from Q. "I would not have spoken to you if
I'd known. One of our finest offerings..." "I'm not
responding to irony," the joumal it retorts, pauses, then
adds, tartly, "just the one, is it?" "Yes," Neil concedes,
"to be fair." The next fan hats question: "What job would
you never do in the world however much they paid you?"
Neil thinks. "I wouldn't want to be a sewer attendant," he
says. "I wouldn't like to be a coal minor particularly,"
says Chris. The fan tells them that when she asked Sean
Lennon the same question he said, "be Yoko Ono's
assistant". Another kind fan hands them bottles of Dom
"Now we're talking," Chris says.
"Now we're talking," Neil agrees. "We're only accepting
expensive gifts from now on," Chris says. As the fans
queue, Richard Blade grabs their cameras and photographs
them as they get their records signed. One fan seems a
little unwilling for this to happen. Chris advises her to
give in. "You've got to have your picture taken," he
explains. "It's like meeting Santa Claus." "I love the
hair," Neil is told. "It's all our own," Neil replies. "Is
it really?" Chris says provocatively. "No," he says. "Can
you take off your sunglasses?" Neil is asked. "No, it's
part of my look," he says. "When you've got a look, you've
got a look, you know."
They are brought a laser disc of
their second video collection to sign. "It's pure genius,"
Chris reflects, "calling it Promotion." "If you do say so
yourself," mutters Neil. Chris takes the mickey out of
Neil for singing Along with "Radiophone", playing in the
background. "Chris, I happen to like our records," Neil
retorts. A man asks Neil, "Can you tell me how you write
The melodies in the songs?" Neil doesn't immediately reply
and so Dainton says to Neil, "he wants to know how you
write the melodies in the songs." "Dainton," says Chris,
deadpan, "can you translate, please?" "They just come,"
Neil says. "They come quickly." "When you least expect
Chris says. "That's true," Neil points Out. "They
just inspirationalise," summarises Dainton. They have
signed around 500 copies of Nightlife, And plenty of other
bits and pieces, when the queue finally dissipates and
they climb back into the humour. "It'd be great," Neil
comments, "to invade a country in this." A convertible
full of fans, loudly playing "Happiness Is an Option"
follows them. "It's like Argentina!" says Chris. Dinner
with Richard Blade is at The Palm, after which talk of
going clubbing evaporates. Bed beckons.
Wedneiday, November 3.
In the morning, they fly to
Oakland, in North California, from where they will cruse
into San Francisco. "Well," says Neil, off the plane,
"welcome to the Hay Area. You know what I'm going to have
right now - a hot dog." And he does. At the baggage claim
area, disaster looms. Chris's bags are nowhere to be seen.
"Oh well," he says, with a nonchalance which poorly
disguises his fury, "that's them lost then." For about
twenty minutes he refuses to leave the terminal until they
are found. He simply won't budge.
He even considers flying
back to Los Angeles to find them. Neil waits in the limo.
In the end Chris is persuaded that Dainton will stay, but
he is fuming. In the car he gets annoyed that his photo is
taken. "Stop distracting me from being angry," he says. He
is silent for a while, then, as we cross the bridge into
San Francisco, he says: "My bags can't disappear forever.
I can't go 00.1 won't look how I want. It's that
important." "You'll have to do some serious shopping,"
Neil suggests, but Chris is not in the mood for practical
suggestions. "No," he says, firmly. He gets out his Lomo
camera and points it Out of the window. James speaks to
Dainton on the phone. Apparently the bags have been
traced. They're still in Los Angeles. "Thank God for
that," Chris says. "Presumably they haven't apologised,"
They check it, their hotel then head
straight out to a radio interview at a Station called, in
the modem way, Alice, "Why is it called Alice?" Chris asks
the people who work there. None of them seem to know. "How
many times can you call a station Mix or Power?" a bloke
finally responds. "Why so long?" the interviewer asks,
about the gap between their American tours. "Is it because
of all the theatrics?" "Theatrics?" laughs Chris. "Oh,
there's a lot of theatrics go on behind the scenes." "What
do you think" they are asked, "the audience takes away
from the concert?" "Merchandise," answers Chris.
address the rumour that they will not be attending their
San Francisco record signing. "Neil is definitely Turing
up," says Chris. "Chris is probably Turing up," says Neil.
"And there might be wigs." Next door they are interviewed
by a competition winner. "I'm going to probe your psyche,"
she promises. "Ob God," says Chris, "you're not going to
get much out of my psyche." "Do you have one?" Neil
inquires. "I don't have one," Chris confirms. "I think I
need my aura cleansed first." They are asked which CD they
would have on a desert island. "Mine," replies Chris,
"would probably be a CD on how to build a raft from first
principles." From there, they head straight to the
Warfield Theatre. Inside the dressing room S familiar
scene plays out... "Chris," says Neil,
"that's a nice
pot of coffee..." "How many times do we have to tell
people we don't want coffee?" Chris shouts. "It makes the
whole dressing room stink," says Neil, despairingly. A
Brazilian TV crew set up a camera for an interview. "That
sound's not going to bother you, is it?" Neil asks them,
referring to the thumping of the Pet Shop Boys' backing
tracks on the stage filtering through the floor. "Some of
us," Chris says, "call it music." The interviewer asks
them about disco. "In the disco period," Neil says, "I was
probably more into punk rock. I liked Saturday Night
Fever, but I didn't got to discos." "I've always dressed
the same," Chris says. "And always been into disco." "When
I first came to London in '72, maybe '73," Neil says,
"people were first starting to talk about disco, and then
people started to do the bump - maybe that was '74. And
then it got mined by all the Hooked on Classics...but
disco was a very inspirational period as well...
Love'...Electro-dance was invented then, which was an
amalgam of disco and Kraftwerk, really." The interviewer
says that he saw a Pet Shop Boys interview on CNN where
they were asked what the new album was about and Chris
said "more of the same". "Thanks, Chris," says Neil,
shaking his head. Chris Tums to Neil. "I don't have to do
interviews," he points out. After the interview Neil tries
to have a nap - he thinks he has flu coming on - and then
they get ready. Chris slips on his trousers.
he bellows. "Are you sure these are mine?" They're not.
There has been an unfortunate trouser mix-up. "It would
help if I had my own clothes," Chris mutters. (His other
own clothes are yet to arrive. Dainton is still at the
airport.) The concert starts messily. Neil's microphone
isn't tuned up at the start of "For Your Own Good", as so
his voice suddenly comes in two or three lines after it
should have. Near the beginning of the show, after "West
End Girls" (during which Neil sings the third verse twice:
"I thought, 'I don't normally talk as I go down this
ramp"'), Neil says, "it's nice to be back in the Warfield
Theatre in San Francisco - it seems like only yesterday we
were here." lie seems to mean this just as he says it, but
from the way the audience good-naturedly half-laugh and
half-jeer as one, it's quite obvious that the intervening
eight years has seemed like Quite a long waits to them. At
the end of" happens Is An Option" Neil picks up some
flowers which have been thrown on stage and there is a
huge cheer. But, nonetheless, during the interval the
feeling backstage is that the crowd is a little subdued.
"I don't know if I can he bothered to go out there for the
second half," says Chris. He says to Neil, "you're not
giving it as much." "Well," says Neil, shrugging, meaning
that he hasn't felt inspired by the audience to do so. "So
it's, you give some, you get some?" laughs Chris. "So it's
a symbiotic relationship?" "You feed off their energy,
Chris," Neil says. "Your wig went a bit flat during the
first half," Chris adds.
"The back went flat." The
second half is much perkier, on and offstage. They return
to the dressing room to find that Dainton has only just
now arrived from the airport with Chris's bags. They have
been either in San Diego or Sacramento, it turns out, and
then sent back to Los Angeles, and then their new plane to
Oakland has been delayed. "Any apologies?" Chris asks.
"Nothing," Damson says. Chris comments on Neil's second
half stagecraft. "The thigh-slapping," be says. "The
welcome return of the thigh-slap." "Well," says Neil,
"when you've got a microphone you can't clap. That's why
that was invented. The Neil Tennant pantomimes: yes, you
shall go to the ball, Cinders. There's the Katie Kissoon
fake handicap, there's the George Michael over-the-bead,
and then there's the thigh slap..." "Which you invented,"
Chris points out. There is a meet'n'greet to be done.
"We're not doing long, are we?" Chris says "No," Neil
says. "A quick flammable." At the front of the queue is
Barry Walters, an American rock critic who has given them
some of their nicest reviews. The person he brought with
him to the show he introduces as the one who jumped on
Chris during "Your Funny Uncle" on the 1991 tour.
Sitting in a comer is the noted prom film director Chichi
LaRue. Chris meets some fans. "These guys carne all the
way from Sacramento," he is told. "So did my luggage," he
points Out. "How do you do that with your hair?" they are
asked. "They're wigs," Chris explains. "We're open
wig-users," Neil chips in. "Wig abusers," corrects Chris.
"For the follicle -challenged." The man from catering asks
for an autograph. Neil praises the food but then ads, "t
ate too much rice and Toli, and during the show it was
repeating." "It was history repeating on you," says Chris.
They get onto the bus. "The Nineties," says Neil.
"The fabulous Nineties." "I can't wait for it to end,"
Chris says. "Nothing really happened in it,
fundamentally," says Neil. They retire to the hotel bar.
"1 was ready to go back to England," says Chris. "If those
bags hadn't turned up I was on the next plane back to
England." They chat to the waiter who tells them about
local clubs. Describing one, he says "everyone's tweaking
on ecstasy." "It's a new word," Neil announces. "Tweak."
At 12.30 Chris goes off clubbing with Dainton. Neil tells
Alison from Sire about his dog Kevin'. "He gets fan mail
now. Re's in Tower Pulse magazine. Re was a question on
Radio One last week. The builders were in the garden and
Kevin was running around and they were all cheering."
Thursday, Novemher 4
at lunch time, the Pet Shop Boys
walk round the comer to the San Francisco Museum Of Modem
Art. "There's nothing like spending the morning sitting in
your hotel room on the bed in your bathrobe, flicking
through the Internet," Neil says. He has spoken to Elton
John: "Elton says the buzz in Atlanta for our concert is
absolutely fantastic." "The aftershocks," Chris says.
Before art, food. They go to the museum cafe. Soup for
Neil, pizza for Chris. Inside the museum they wander up to
the ticket counter, accidentally skipping a long-ish
queue. "I was going to say 'the line's back there'," the
museum attendant says, "but because of who you are..."
They don't even have to pay. "Because of your contribution
to art," the man says, "you can be my guest...
surveys the architecture and has a quick look of an
exhibition of the photography of famous painters, then
leaves. Neil moves down to the video art floor. "Look!" he
exclaims. "Bruce Naumann." There is a video piece from
1990 in which two heads spin - Raw Material - OK, OK, OK -
which was the precise inspiration for the film of the Pet
Shop Boys' heads during "For Your Own Good". Neil wonders
whether they'll have time to add to the show their other
video-based ideas. The plan was that after the panels are
removed from the front of the stage structure during
"Vampires" that another film should be projected on them,
and they have an idea for a sequence evolving Neil and
Chris. After the museum, Neil shops for second-hand books,
and then pops into the Jill Sander store.
we're officially in a hurry," he announces. He can't find
Anything. Re picks one top up, studies it' then says "1
like that so much I've already got it." He sighs. "I think
I need to go into tweed," he says. But right now, there
simply isn't time for a conceptual shift of that
magnitude. Chris is at the hotel, getting made up for the
inshore. "I'm over-tired," he complains. "I'm suffering
from deja vu all the time. I hate that feeling. You're in
an interview and you know everything you're going to say."
But he won't be curtailed. "There's so many clubs to get
through tonight," he says. "I don't know how we're going
to make it." Before they leave the hotel they have to go
to another room to do a TV interview for a programme
called Internet Tonight. "What do you use the Internet
for?" the interviewer keenly inquires. Chris starts
laughing. "Well, there's only one use for the Internet,
isn't there?" He pauses. "And that's e-mail." "I look at a
lot of music sites," Neil says. "I quite often look at
David Bowie's site...I sometimes think that as a means of
getting knowledge it's easier to gets book." The
interviewer notes that there are about twenty sites
devoted to the Pet Shop Boys. "Twenty!" Neil says.
"There's hundreds of them. Some of them are really good.
There's one called Elusive...Some of them are really
specific. One is called Pet Shop Boys in The Ukraine.
There's several Hungarian ones. I'm impressed and
flattered that People put so much energy into them."
Afterwards they're asked to do some IDs to Camera. The
second one is "
...and you're listening to ZDTV
radio..." Neil thinks about this for a moment. "And you're
going to film it?" he queries. They nod enthusiastically.
Neil and Chris just do it. Chris refuses to walk in the
corridors with the wigs 00,50 he takes his off, and will
put it back on in the limo on the way to the in-store.
Neil keeps his on. "You've got a lot of nerve," Chris
says. Neil says he's not even thinking about it. "What
about the other guests?" Chris says. "Oh, the shame..." A
few minutes later, at the record store, they get out of
the limo. "Oh, the shame..." says Chris. In a back room,
they gather themselves and pressings stack of CD sleeves.
Chris is brought a beer. It's an Anchor Steam, a choice
which rather puzzles him as he had been rather
unnecessarily waken up this morning to be asked which
brand of beer he would prefer at the record signing, and
he had chosen Budweiser. Once Chris has sat down in front
of the long queue, he comes to an appalling realisation.
"I've forgotten my glasses!" he panics. "How did I forget
them?" Dainton runs to fetch them from the hack room.
"That's better," Chris sighs, reunited with the
sunglasses. "I thought it was all a bit bright." To
heighten his sense of well being he is now brought a
Budweiser, which has been swiftly purchased across the
road. He takes a swig. "Budweiser's nice," he says. "It's
got less taste." Two of the first fans tell Chris,
"we've chatted on line with you". "I've never chatted on
line," Chris points out. "I went to a site once and I was
the only one there. Does someone pose as me on the
Intimate? Couldn't you tell by the lack of humour?" "I'm
really nervous," a girl says. "Well," replies Chris, "how
do you think we feel in these wigs?" Neil holds up an
American copy of Behaviour, on which the title is spelt
without a "u". "All the fans complained we didn't have the
British spelling," he recalls. "We prefer the American
spelling." They are given some socks. "Thank you," Chris
says. "You can never have too many socks," Neil says.
Chris it outraged. Bow dare Neil says this? "Be just Stole
my quote!" Chris objects. "He's shameless." Someone brings
up a French seven-inch single, on Which the title of the
song in question is given as "Bow Can We Expect To Be
Taken Seriously?" There is much amused spluttering. "The
French have managed to hide that from us for eight years,"
Neil laughs. A man wants one CD signed for himself, Boris,
and one for his sister Doris. "If they have another one,
what are they going to call them?" Chris murmurs.
"Morris?" Be twigs his second beers. "It's quite an
enjoyable way of drinking,
he says. "There's something
to do between sips. You don't have to think of something
to say between gulps." The next fan apologises for missing
most of last night's show: "We got there late - we only
saw one song." "You know what?" Chris says. "That's still
better than seeing a whole show of another artist."
"Chris?" says a fan. Chris, who has just signed a copy of
Actually, betrays no sign of having heard. The fan just
stands there, waiting. "Chris," Neil prompts. "Sorry,"
Chris says. "I was miles away. I was thinking, no wonder
people think we're taking the Mickey, if we're yawning on
our sleeves." "It's a hit late to worry about that,"
counsels Neil. "I always thought it was a great picture,"
Chris says, "but it's a message, isn't it? No wonder
people say things like 'you're a bit world-weary'. I
always used to Think 'why do you think that?"' "In Denial"
is playing in the background. "I feel like quitting this
job," repeats Chris. "A poignant line..." A serious man
tells Neil, "I teach middle school, and I know you didn't
come out to be a role model, but you've done a lot for
kids..." "Thank you," Neil says. "I love your skirt last
night," another man tells Neil.
"It's not a skirt," he
says, "it's culottes." "Thanks for two decades of fine
music," he tells Chris. "I loved bilingual" "Not many
people like Bilingual I've realised," Chris tells him,
earnestly. "Very cold. Very cold." The Internet Tonight
film crew try to get Neil and Chris to say goodbye to the
camera. They vaguely, half -heatedly wave. A couple of
minutes later, when the film crews are packed up, they say
goodbye for real and Neil and Chris, quite spontaneously,
both cheerily look up and shout goodbye (exactly as the
crew wanted them to before). When this chain of events is
pointed out to them, Chris looks sneakily pleased. "That's
what we're all about," he says. A fan asks Neil "Can you
put something profound?" His pen hovers over the CD
booklet. "Can't think of anything," he says. "Put
'Happiness is an option'," they suggest. "OK," he says,
and does. "Loved the skirt last night," they say, as he
writes. Be doesn't correct them. They sign for about two
hours. Neil says he's hungry. Chris says he's tired. "I
don't know if I can do much more," he says in the limo.
"I'm at breaking point. Is it a, quick restaurant? I don't
want to spend all evening eating." At lO.45pm, near the
end of dinner, his chicken half-eaten, Chris gets up from
the table. No clubbing for him tonight; he's going to bed.
"I just can't do it," he mutters. "We're working too
bloody hard. I've just reached that snapping point where I
have to go to bed." Once he has gone, Alison from Sire
marvels at Chris's decisiveness. "He's decisive when he
wants to be," Neil observes, decisively taking some of
Chris's abandoned chicken from his plate, "but otherwise
he avoids the decision-making process, and then blames
everyone else." After dinner Neil decides that it might be
worth briefly popping into a club. "Let's go for literally
five minutes," he says. "Well, you've got to digest your
food, haven't you?" he reasons. "That's all I'm thinking
of." The visit to Club NRG lasts more than five minutes,
but not long after the drag act has flounced through "Hey
Big Spender", just as the DJ puts on Cheer's "Believe",
Neil says his bed is calling. He is only stopped from
popping into another night-club on the way home because
they won't let anyone in without a photo ID.
"Fancy Neil not being able to Get in,"
says Chris in the hotel foyer. "They didn't think I was
over 21," lies Neil. "It's the law gone mad!" Chris
exclaims. "It's the law gone mad!" "It's the Nanny State,"
Neil says. At the airport, they have breakfast. "This is
possibly the best omelette I've eaten in America," Neil
says, and Chris reads about the Q Awards in the Mirror.
And they catch their Denver plane. Literally will not see
them again until Toronto. Tuesday, November 9. Toronto.
Chris has stayed in Detroit for the night, because be
wanted to get some sleep, but word has all ready been
received that this plan has backfired. He was booked into
an airport hotel, was kept up by plane noise all night,
and is now in a huge mood. He has phoned ahead to say that
a sign needs to be put on the dressing room door saying
"tantrum area". Neil, meanwhile, who took the bus over the
Canadian border (the Customs official told Neil, "I like
you much more than the Backstreet Boys") and arrived at
4am it feeling refreshed and rested. "It was a girls'
night on the boys' bus," he says. The last people to sleep
were him and Sylvia. In the past few days they have been
to Denver, Chicago and Detroit. (In Chicago they nearly
had a serious road accident when their driver tuned the
wrong way down a one-way street. In Detroit, they did
"Footsteps" as an encore, before introducing the band; it
sounded alright but dissipated all the built-up energy.
Neil also added an extra chorus line to the final chorus
of "Being Boring" by accident,
and liked the way it
worked so much that he's decided to keep it from now on.)
Today in Toronto they have a hectic, nightmlare day of
promotion, which they have been dreading all tour, with a
concert to finish off the day. When Chris appears, ten
minutes late, in the lobby, he teems much less testy than
had been predicted, just rather weary. But when there is a
discussion of how a Briton- theme snack can be fitted into
their promotional schedule, he says firmly, "I don't want
snacks - I want a meal." The first interview is on the
Canadian version of MTV Much Music. A frizzy-haired girl
interviews them in the studio, which is in the middle of
the staff's workspace. "It's my first day as a VJ," she
tells them. A Billie video is playing on a screen nearby.
"Urge," says Neil. She asks them whether all their songs
are love tongs. "Well," Neil answers, "the love songs are
love songs. They're not just love songs. And also, when we
write love songs, we try to make them different...We try
to put into songs the kind of things that people say in
real life but that they rarely put into songs."
about the show. "I think architecture is the only art we
haven't plundered yet," Chris explains, "to we've
plundered that." Neil laughs. "So," she says, "it's not a
theatrical show?" "Oh no," says Neil. "It's
architectural." They are brought drinks. "This is a bloody
good cup of tea," Chris notes. "Well, you're in Canada
now," Neil points Out. Chris nods. "You can tell we're not
in America." They are asked to talk about and introduce
Favourite videos. They suggest USA for Africa's "We Are
the World". "Hi, we're the Pet Shop Boys," Chris begins.
"And this is one of our favourite videos," Neil says. 'We
Are The World'," says Chris. "I particularly like the
bit," adds Neil, "where Cindy Lauper rushes forward."
"It's great," says Chris. "It's the best video ever made."
He gets up. "OK," he says. "Sandwich time." Back in the
dressing room, Merck mentions that the streetcar stop
where he first met his wife is just outside this building.
but Chris rejects his. He wants
something better. The next interview is in the same
building, several floors up. Chris takes the lift; Neil
takes the Stairs. Inside a bare room, there is a set built
for the interview: a fair approximation of a hotel room.
"We could have done this in the hotel," mutters Chris. The
interview begins. Lots of questions about the old days.
"We decided to be how we were," Neil says. "Not to pretend
on TV we were having a great time and winking at the
camera. And Chris became the idea of what a keyboard
player is in a dance group." "They were all 'wizards',
weren't they?" Chris remembers. They are asked how it
would compare to "West End Girls" reaching number one in
America if they did it again now. "The first one's more
exciting," Neil says. "The most recent one's tweeter." He
asks about the dynamic of their song writing, and whether
the lyrics or music come first. "Well, actually," Neil
says, "it sort of comes simultaneously." Re asks them
whether they've thought about why it works. "It works
because we don't analyse it, I think," deflects Neil.
No," Chris agrees. "We just copy what everyone else is
doing." Neil laughs wearily. "I don't think I've ever
written a song about Chris, fascinatingly," he says.
"Thank God for that," Chris says. Back in the dressing
room, Chris's second lunch, a burger, has arrived. Neil
poaches some onion rings. They are already due at the next
programme, the Mike Dullard Show (a Canadian David
Letterman rip-off). They rehearse "New York City Boy" on
the stage. "You guys better be good," Bullard tells them
jovially. "That smoke cost $80 and we don't have it. I
have to go downstairs, but depending how this goes we'll
let you know whether you're on tonight." "Oh," says Chris.
"You are Mike." "I am he," Bullard says, "but try to
maintain your aloofness." Only Neil is singing live, and
when they run through the song again they realise that the
bellowed backing-singer shout of "New York City!" is
missing. "It's weird not having that," Neil observes.
"That's OK," Chris smirks. "Its not like it's a national
TV programme, is it?" (It is, of course.) They arrange an
extra microphone. Chris checks with Dainton what the
filmed version of the song looks like on the monitors.
"I'm not in it, am I?" he asks, hopefully. "I don't want
to be in it. It's the reverse of eight years ago. How
times have changed. I really don't want to be in it." They
return to the dressing room, Dainton throwing out a slim,
uncertain man who is lingering there. He turns out to be
Marc Anthony, the Latin singer and actor who is, at this
moment, rather more successful in North America than the
Pet Shop Boys. They do another TV interview in the
dressing room. "My favourite kind of performer," Neil
recites, "you can't really believe that they're real, and
a lot of what we do is an auempt to be less real."
"Where's home?" the interviewer asks. "Wherever we lay our
hat," replies Chris. She Tums to Neil. "You're not wearing
a hat," she observes. "He's homeless," Chris says. Between
the rehearsals and filming of the Mike Bullard show they
have to go to the venue to sound-check. The traffic is
terrible. When they arrive, they play through "Footsteps"
which they plan to put at the end of the show tonight Neil
practises talking over the final piece of music: "Thank
you very much -
You've been a wonderful audience," he says
to the empty hall. "Yes, I like that," he nods. "It's very
showbiz." In catering, Neil talks with some of the
American crew. They tell him that pork is called "city
chicken". "What's Sloppy Joes?" he asks. "What's Sloppy
Joes?" one of them repeats, incredulous. "What planet are
you from?" "I'm from Planet England," he points out. They
take the limo back to the Mike Dullard Show. In the
dressing room, Chris keenly watches the beginning of the
"Got to make sure he doesn't say anything rude
about us," he explains. Their performance is broadcast
with an extraordinary bubble effect superimposed on them,
like the tackiest of Eighties pop TV. It looks so absurd,
surreal and useless, it's quite funny. After they finished
the song they are interviewed. "You haven't seen our
effect," Bullard tells them proudly. "I think you'll like
it." "What did you do?" asks Chris. "The bubble thing,"
Bullard says. He asks: "Were the Village People an
influence?" "Not particularly," Chris says. "Not on that
track." In the limo, Neil reflects, "he was very nice to
us". "Yes," says Chris. "He was. Good thing, too, or he'd
have got it." They take their wigs off in the car, though
Chris won't get out at the venue until his cap has been
fetched from the boot and handed to him. Backstage, they
discuss schedules and plans for New York. "On Thursday,"
Neil says, "I've got to buy something to wear for the
party." "Neil, why don't you go as you?" Chris suggests.
Neil surveys the table in their dressing room. No coffee,
thank goodness, but there is still a problem.
white wine!" he gasps. "The whole tour's falling apart."
This crisis is only averted when he notices, on further
inspection, that there is indeed some white wine on the
table. There is a knock on the door. Chris, who slept
while catering was being served earlier, has ordered an
Indian take-away, and here it is. Neil changes. As he
takes off his offstage socks, he looks at them, and
decides that their time has come. They will not be leaving
Canada. He drops them into the rubbish bin. "These former
soaks...goodbye," he says. The Warehouse, tonight's venue,
is far from ideal -the stage is crammed in halfway along
one long side of an oblong, and most of the crowd have a
poor view. At halftime, Neil and Chris seem a little
disgruntled - "we are playing in a toilet," Chris notes -
though they look on the bright side. "I love having the
audience really low down, at your feet," Chris says. "I'm
less intimidated by them.
" He complains, however, that
someone on his side of the stage put their drunken the
stage. "Damn cheek," he says. "Someone put his jacket on
the stage," Neil reports, "and I kicked it off. Well, I
moved towards it and they took it off." Chris nods.
"Because they know what you're like. You don't like
litter." "If we wanted a jacket on the stage," Neil
reasons, "we'd have had a jacket on the stage. Tan MacNeil
would have designed it." The show finishes with
"Footsteps", which is a bit wobbly, and almost seems an
anti-climax in such a sweaty rock venue as this. They mess
up their exit -Neil walks off before the music finishes,
while Chris is still at his keyboard, which he
understandably feels it is inappropriate to leave before
the song is over. In the dressing room Neil mutters "good,
well, upwards and onwards...we managed to rock Tint", and
helps himself to one of Chris's leftover samaras. At the
meet'n'greet they are pleased to discover that Ian
MacKellen, who is in town filming The X-Mcn, is here. When
Neil and Ian pose together for a photo Neil quickly swaps
sides with MacKellen so that he will be on the right in
the printed photo. "First rule of show-business," Neil
"So it's 'Neil Tennant with Sir Ian
MacKellen'." Mackellen nods, acknowledging that this is
appropriate. "Oh," he concedes, it's your night." Chris
comes over and chats with Ian MacKellen about bow they
could do with hunting stools to sit on at events like
this. They look up to see Neil across the room. "Neil,"
says Chris, "is literally posing for pictures with the
competition winners. Tomorrow they must be up early to do
a final Canadian TV interview and fly to New York...but
there arc clubs to be visited. Chris says lie's too tired.
Neil says he's not coming out tonight. Both of them do.
"That's what you do," Neil explains. "You make your
excuses and stay."
Wednesday, November 1Oth
Chris appears at l0.3Oam, complaining, but without real
vigour. His complaint is about one more of expensive
hotels' illogical habits. "I like the way with 'do not
disturb' signs," he says, "they won't knock on your door,
but they'll ring you." They're both tired, and not happy
about having to do this interview on the way to the
airport. The TV crew has refused to do this morning's
interview in the hotel, so the Pet Shop Boys pile into the
limo. "This interview is approximately five minutes,"
Merck reassures them. "At the outside," says Neil. "And
they better be ready," warns Chris. "And we don't do,
'sorry; can you say that again because the battery's run
out'?" adds Neil. "We're professionals," says Chris.
"We're a Professional outfit." The drive takes about
thirty seconds. Neil and Chris stay in the ear. "You'd
better check they're ready," Chris suggests to Merck.
"There's about a 95% chance of a tantrum," warns Neil.
"Including one from me." They go in to the bar where the
crew has set up. "I missed your show," says the female
interviewer, "but it sounded great." Chris's reply to this
is, not unreasonably, fairly but he laughs as he says it
and it is taken as the joke it nearly is. Then he asks,
"do you always do interviews in a bar?" "We thought it
would be a cool atmosphere, clubby, for you guys," she
explains. The interview begins.
"A lot of the Pet Shop
Boys is about disguises," Neil explains. "I hate dressing
up," Chris says, "but I have to keep Neil happy." "You're
both in your forties," she says, "which is a bit older
than when you started." "A lot older;" Chris says. As they
are unclipped from their microphones, the woman says,
"you're on a promotional tour?" (Merck covers his face.
This is not a good avenue to go down.) "A concert tour;"
Neil says. "You could be forgiven for thinking that," says
Chris, tartly. "Enough already," squirms Merck. She asks
where they're off to. "We're going to New York," Neil
says. "To do some promotion," says Chris, deadpan. "With
the odd concert thrown in." In the airport lounge they
hear that Nightlife has entered the American chart at
number 84. They're a little disappointed - it would only
have needed to have sold a few thousand more to enter in
the top 40, and they think that the difference will have
been made by copies sold on import since it was released
three weeks earlier in the rest of the world. A limo meets
them at the New York airport to take them straight to a
radio interview. Neil shares his in-flight reading: "Got a
write up in the New Yorker. It's a classic - sniffle
enthusiastic. '...Continue to find inspiration in their
rather limited formula..."' It mentions, as though this is
most original observation on earth, that Neil's voice
sounds a little like Al Stewart's. Neil sighs. "In 1971,"
"I played my guitar and sang at a friend's
birthday party, and someone said wow, you sound just like
Al Stewart'. And I thought, 'Who's that?' And I have been
linked with him ever since... "Pity they didn't say 'Al
Green'," Chris chips in. "But you can't have everything."
"...I wouldn't have known who Al Green was," Neil
continues. "And I have zero familiarity with Al Stewart.
Obviously I've heard 'Year of the Cat'..." "Do you know
the classic 'Time Passages'?" Merck asks. "Never heard of
it," Neil says. Merck speaks to Seymour Stein, head of
Sire, their American record label, on the phone. "Everyone
say hello to Seymour," he says, holding up the phone.
"Hello!" shouts Neil. "Hello!" shouts Chris. Neil is hot.
"Have you tuned off the air-conditioning?" he asks Chris.
Chris replies. "It's too cold." Neil opens the
window. Eventually they arrive at WLIR. "We'll be live in
- gadanoks! - Fifteen seconds!" The DI, a woman called
Malibu Sue, tells them. She asks about the stage show.
"It's designed by the intentional-renowned architect Zaha
Hadid," Neil says. "Who?" says Chris, mischievously. The
DJ tells them their look is "Sid Vicious meets Beethoven".
"I like that," Neil Says. "I'm going to start using that
in interviews." "Will we hear all the old hits?" she asks.
"No," lies Chris. "We're not doing any of the old hits.
Lust obscure h-sides." Whilst "New York City Boy" plays,
she asks what song they want her to play next. "What about
'I don't know what it is that you want'?" she suggests. "I
like that," Chris says.
"That's a much better title."
She tells them that she was instrumental in their success
because she played "West End Girls" for eight months on
import. "I basically take credit for your whole career in
America," she says, "so put that in your hat and smoke it.
I expect a thanks on your next record." "We don't do
thanks," Chris says. Back on air, she repeats this Story
of her role in their success. "However," Neil comments,
mischievously, "in LA they all think it's down to KROQ."
While "I Don't Know What You Want..." plays, she asks them
to suggest an old Song. "Shall we play 'Being Boring'?"
Suggests Neil. "Let's," Chris agrees. "That's in the
show," Neil points out, "in a controversial new version."
"It's a pretty Song," she says. 'It was a pretty song,"
Chris says. "We've done it in the style of Limp Bilk it."
She looks somewhat surprised. "No, we haven't really," he
adds. Back on air, she mentions that "its Alright" is
being used in the new Ford car commercial. Though they
have agreed to this, neither of them has yet seen the
advert. "We've sold out now," Chris says. Interview over,
they are asked to do some IDs. On top of the sheet of
paper they are given it says "Upbeat please". Whether
because of this or coincidentally, Chris drones through
the first with a monumental lack of enthusiasm. Neil
starts laughing. "That sounds like you've just entered the
witness box," he says. They start again. In the limo back
into town, Neil Says, "We're going to have an hour off in
the hotel. It's fantastic. I'm going to have a snooze." He
talks about Rage against the Machine, who has entered the
album chart at number one this week. "I'm fascinated by
it," he says, "because my instinct tells me it's all
bullshit and in ten years everyone will say 'what was all
that about?' Whereas they'll still be singing 'Liven' La
Vida Loca'." They ask about the guest list to their New
York party, which is to be held at the legendary disco,
Studio 54, re-opened for one night only. "Names names
names," says Claris. "Has Lulu been invited?" asks Neil.
Merck talks about computers and Neil notes that, in
American word-processing programmes, spellcheckers happily
accept "nightlife" as one word, whereas British
spellcheckers insist that it should be two. A couple of
hours later; Neil is having hit wig put on in his room at
the Mercer hotel, preparing for the New York record
signing. Chris is refusing to put his on until he is in
the Hummer; they have a Hummer again for New York. James
is on hit mobile phone, giving the address of Virgin
records, where the in-store is being held. "It's where
Seventh Avenue meets Broadway," he explains. "Do you want
me to sing it to you?"
They are led in the side entrance,
and sit down at a table with a red curtain in front of it,
expecting the Curtain to open and reveal the queuing fans.
After a few minutes of confusion, it is pointed out to
them that this table and Cretan have nothing to do with
the record signing at all, and that everyone is waiting
for them to come to the real table to that the signing can
begin. One of the first fans gives Neil a card. On the
front it says "For Your Own Good" and when he opens it up
the lyric continues "call me tonight", and there is a name
and phone number. One of the next asks Neil to sign a
laser disc for the film Cool Itorid, which includes
Electronics' "Disappointed" on it. Out of habit, Chris
takes it and begins to sign his own name. "You shouldn't
sign that," Neil points out. "Why? What's on it?" Chris
asks, and looks. "Oh. 'Disenchanted'," he says. Neil has
been referring to the Rolling Stone album review, and the
notion that the audience are "Petheads", moat nights since
Las Vegas. Now they meet the first fan in a home-made
PETHEAD T-shirt. Neil holds ups copy of "Absolutely
Fabulous". "Get Q on the phone!" he hollers. The signing
is more regimented than the previous ones - apparently the
only people allowed to queue are those who have bought a
copy of Nightlife here and have received a special P555 to
stand in line (the shop's rules, not the Pet Shop Boys')
and after an hour or so everything has been signed. Neil
and Chris have been told that they can have some free
stuff from the shop. Chris isn't too bothered -
want to go back to the hotel; I'm not really interested in
music any more -there's nothing I like" - and though Neil
browses through the art hooks, he's not inspired. "It's a
problem when you can have anything," he reflects. "YQu
don't really want anything." On the way back to the hotel
in the Hummer, they reflect on how regimented the signing
was. "I think the next time we do a signing," Neil says,
"it should be a screaming mass. It's too super-organised."
"It was," Ian MacNeil observes, "a bit like filing past
Lenin's tomb." Neil and Chris attend the embers of a posh
$1000-a-head dinner in honour of Seymour Stein, and then
come hack to the hotel, where Neil humps into Simon Ic
Bon, who has just played a Concert with John Taylor.
"Simon!" says Neil. "Neil!" says Simon. And they hug, then
exchange brief pleasantries.. There is an attempt to
gather everyone and go to club, but after various taxi and
limo joumeys it ends in disaster. Chris, in a terrible
mood, goes to bed. So does Neil, then gets up again for a
night-cap. John Taylor wanders by, and greets him. "I was
talking to someone on Saturday who said she'd seen you,"
John Taylor says. "Was that the girl in the health food
store?" Neil says. "Yeah." Another friend comes in, and
asks Neil what everyone did this evening. "We went
nowhere," he says. "We went a long way to nowhere, and
then took a taxi hack."
Thursday, November 11.
Neil has gone to lunch uptown with Elton John and Janet
Street-Porter. Chris is worrying about his new Nike
trainers; there's a weird bump on one side, rather like
the feeling you get when you've got some chewing gum stuck
there, and it's annoying him. They arc scheduled to go to
the venue at 5.15; just before they come down from their
rooms, Simon Ic Bon and Dainton chat in reception. Le Bon
explains that he has a plane to catch. "I would love to go
to the panty," he sighs. "I look forward to your parties
with great anticipation. Your parties are legendary..." In
the limo, Neil and Chris realise they don't know exactly
where they're heading. Chris gets on the phone to Derek in
the production office. "Hi Derek," he says. lt.'s Chris of
the Pet Shop Boys. What's the address of the stage door?"
As the limo crawls north, the two of them discuss the
relative merits, and lack thereof, of Geri Hallwell and
Emma Bunton. "In years to come, Neil proclaims, no one
will be able to remember any of the Spice Girls solo
records. They're all sort of nothing records." At the
Hammerstein Ballroom, they immediately examine the stage.
Chris stands behind his keyboard and asks for Elton John's
box to be pointed out to him.
"I need to check where
to perform to," he explains. He walks away as the music
for "Happiness Is An Option" echoes out of the speakers.
"War," Chris says, "what is it good for." Backstage, he
has a haircut, and tries to clean himself off with a
towel. He's covered in white fluff. "These blasted
towels!" are lumens. "We need pre--washed towels!" During
the sound-check - all of which it conducted with a large,
industrial cleaner standing near the middle of the stage -
Neil investigates where be can have steps down into the
pit so that be can go walkabout and meet the fans up
close. "Yes," he announces, "I'm doing a Bono. I'll shake
lots of hands and then it'll give me a link to
'Shameless'." It's not feasible - they have to leave the
pit access clear in case they need to get fainted fans Out
on stretchers, and so the only way of also having steps
there is to move the crowd barrier, and hence the whole
crowd, a couple of feet Luther back from the stage. Which
seems like a rather counterproductive way to create more
When the last song of the sound-check, "For
Your Own Good", is over, some rather different music comes
through the speakers. "What's this?" Chris wonders. It is
Ian Dury's "My Old Man". "Why are we listening to this?"
he says. "Actually, I did use to like Ian Dury." In the
dressing room, they have the proofs for the Pet Shop Boys
Christmas Card. Farrow, their design company, have
provided five different options, with different graphic
outlines for the top of the Pet Shop Boys wig. They choose
the straggliest, irregular one. Calm is interrupted by the
arrival of Neil's jeans, which he has given to the
wardrobe department to have washes. "They haven I pressed
them down the middle," he moans, esushed. Because they
have. "It'll crive me Insane. That's specifically why I
gave them to you." The wardrobe people assure him they
know how to Get the creases out. He shakes his bead.
"You'll never get the line out." A sigh. "That's an
overwhelming fashion disaster. I can't quite believe
that's happened." Another sigh. "Never mind..." Another
shake of the head. "I so nearly didn't have them
cleaned..." Chris, who has missed all of this, comes out
of the bathroom.
"I've had one of the most momentous
disasters of my life," Neil tells him. "My three pairs of
jeans...Two Gucci, one Jill Sander..." "Creases down the
middle?" gasps Chris. "She claims she can do something
about them," Neil says. Chris shakes his bead firmly.
"Can't. Throw them away." "The fact is," Neil says, "I've
only bad them for three weeks." A few minutes later, one
pair of jeans is brought back for Neil to inspect.
Bafflingly, the crease seems to have gone. Neil is
pleased, but suspicious. "Show Chris," he in Struts. "Just
steam?" Chris asks. "It's never worked before." They get
ready. "These are our last two shows of the millennium in
the United States of America," Mitch says. Neil laughs.
"its not like we've done that many in the first place, is
it?" be says. He looks in the mirror. "The wigs look great
tonight, Christie," he congratulates. "It's a good wig
day." He stands up. "Well," he says, "we're ready." "The
walk," says Dainton. "It's time to go," says Chris. "This
is it," says Neil. "New York City." "It's what we've been
working towards," says Chris. And they walk. Behind the
stage, as the light goes down and the crowd roar, Chris
Tums to Neil with some last minute advice.
forget to bow to Elton," Chris advises. "He is a dame,
after all." Then Chris pretends to be one of the crowds.
"Neil!" he goes. "Neil!" The bass note, which goes with,
the interference noise before "For Your Own Good" booms.
"'Night boat To Cairo'," says Dainton. "It it as well,"
says Chris. "'Nightlife To Cairo'." He Tums back to Neil.
"I hope they're not going to let you onstage without your
past. Do you have a pass?" Neil giggles. Chris starts
half-jogging on the spot. Neil begins tinning. It goes
well. "Elton's going to have a heart stakes," Merck
reports in the interval. "Have you seen him? He's whipping
around likes banshee." "I fancy a voeka and tonic," Chris
says. "You know," says Neil, "it's great having an
Interval. Peter Schwartz pops in to see if he can persuade
them to do "Footsteps" tonight but a little unnerved by a
review in Toronto, which derided it, they decided not to.
"I'd love to sing it,
" Neil says. "I love singing it
-it's my favourite song in the whole show really." But not
tonight. Chris's drink comes. It is made with Belvedere
vodka, which he is assured is fine, though he has his
doubts. "That sounds like a bed and breakfast in
Blackpool," he points out. The mood builds further in the
second half, and the only spanner in the works is that
when Neil moves to play his keyboard at the end of "Go
west" he realises it isn't there, so he walks off; taking
Chris with him. "I like the wig-out at the end," says
Chris, slightly disappointed. "That's the only bit I
like." He gets increasingly annoyed about the mistake.
"It's not often you find me complaining about not
playing," J,e says. Elton Jolso bursts in.
"Absolutely fantastic," he says. "We led the dancing,"
says Janet Street-Porter. Elton looks around, and points.
"There's the wigs!" he exclaims. "Get out of my way - I'll
steal them." Drinks are passed around; Dainton brings
Elton John some M&Ms. More mends arrive, and there is much
merriment. After a while, Neil and Chris go downstairs to
meet some record industry people, and to pose for photos
with Elton, Janet and Seymour Stein. Then they're in the
limo, off to Studio 54. "I hope this party's going to be
OK," says Chris. They pull up outside Studio 54. There's a
huge, unmanageable crowd. It turns out that they need to
drive around to the back. They are bundled inside and led
to a downstairs room - reputedly part of the famous
basement where money was hidden in the ceiling and many of
the greater naughtiness took place. Eventually everyone
migrates to the dance-floor as first Tom Stephan and then
David Morels DJs. "Well," says Chris, "it's a dream come
Friday, November l2
"How are you tills
morning?" Chris asks Neil. (It is a little before three in
the afternoon.) "I had quite a nice time last night," Neil
says. "It was quite a good party," Chris agrees. They have
an interview to do with MTV2, MTV's other channel, at the
Tunnel night-club, where they are to introduce 5 series of
videos which MTV have chosen from a longer list of
selections made by Neil and Chris. The ones MTV have
chosen are Daft Punk's "Da Funk"Last Of The Famous
Intentional Playboys", The Human League's "Don't You Want
Me", Bob Dylan's "Subterranean Homesick Blues",
Grandmaster Flash's "The Message", T Rex's "Bang A Gong"
(Or, rather, "Get It On" as it is known outside America),
Snap's "ithythm Is A Dancer", U2'a "One" (the drag
version), Air's "Sexy Boy", Madonna's "Borderline", Brace
Springateen's "Streets Of Philadelphia", Malcolm MeLaren's
"Buffalo Gals", Stardust's "Music Sounds Better With You",
ABC's "The Look Of Love", Bjork's "All Is Full Of Love",
REM's "Everybody Hurts" and Soft Cell's "Bedsore". Neil
reads through the list. "Wow," he says.
masterpiece." Chris asks whether MTV2 will be filming
their legs. Though they are wearing wigs and the shiny
metallic jackets, he can't be bothered to change out of
his jeans. "Do you think we should?" he asks Neil. "I
think we should," Neil says. "OK," Chris concedes. "We'll
go the whole bog." There is a slight disagreement before
filming starts. The Pet Shop Boys want MTV2 to play "Being
Boring" or "I Don't Know What You Want..." instead of too
many videos from the mid-Eighties, and the producer rather
feebly argues that they don't have a copy of it then has
to backtrack rather awkwardly when Merck offers to have
one sent over rightaway. "It's whole
logistical...political..." she blathers, and says
something vaguely nonsensical about "rights and
clearances". (It seems as though her real reason is
something to do with an approved play-list of videos. The
ones she offers are "West End Girls", "Opportunities" and
"It's a Sin".)
"Shall we just not do the show?" says
Chris, in a perfectly friendly way, as though he is going
Out of his way to make a helpful suggestion. In the end,
they agree to introduce both "Opportunities" and "I Don't
Know What You Want..." as alternatives, and the issue is
quietly swept under the carpet. After filming for a few
minutes, the soundman asks them to stop. "The pants are
really loud," he complains. "The pants are loud?" Chris
repeats. "Yeah," he says. Apparently when Chris shifts
positions, his trousers make too much noise. "You've got
loud trousers," observes Neil. Jancee, the interviewer,
asks them how they stay together. "We don't really think
about it," Neil says. "It's easier to stay together than
to split up, I think," says Chris. "I don't like change."
Afterwards, they film some. For the video introductions.
The cameraman asks for the bubbling columns of coloured
water in the background to be switched off. "I really like
the sound of the bubbles," Neil says. 'I think it's very
relaxing," says Chris. They get turned off anyway. All
this has set Neil thinking. "Does Michael Jaekson still
have Bubbles?" he asks. MTV2 ask for an intro for the
"...Streets With No Name..." video.
They release. "It's
one of the worst videos ever made," Neil explains. They do
one for '...Drank" instead. "The idea," Neil explains,
"was of the aftermath of a party - everyone's tired and
been up all night and been loved up.. .1 particularly like
the hit when everyone stands up and sits down in slow
motion." They drive straight from the interview to the
Hammerstein Ballroom. There's a meeting about their next
British single, but Chris skips it for a nap. "I'm
he tells Neil when Neil returns to the
dressing room, though naturally he isn't too knackered to
complain how tiring their schedule is. "Well, we did have
a party last night," Neil says. "But that's part of it,"
Chris says. "You can't pretend you're not going to have a
party now and again, so it should be built into the
schedule...On this tour, it's been gruelling. I'm glad I'm
not part of the crew - I don't know how they do it." Neil
says he's not necessarily sure that it is harder for the
crew. "You never get to escape the Pet Shop Boys," he
says, "and that's what gets tiring. That, for anyone, is
quite tough." "The problem is," Chris says, "since we last
toured, the mobile phone has been invented. You can't
escape it. It's crap.
" They are told that tickets for
the show tonight are being sold for ~275 on the black
market. "There's a lot of money being made around us,"
Neil says. Time for another interview. This one is for
Denmark. Chris stays flat-out on the couch. "Do you always
agree with each other about decisions?" they are asked.
"Yes, we do," Neil says. "If one of us disagrees, we
didn't do it." "Yeah, pretty much," says Chris. "We have
the power of veto. It's like the European community." The
interviewer asks about their image. "We wanted to look
extraordinary," Neil says. "That was the idea. We didn't
want to look like everyone else in pop music...baggy
jeans. Everyone looks the same now. The style of music
doesn't influence how you dress now. There tribes in music
now. It's a bit boring, that." "It was better when there
was lots of little subcultures," says Chris. "You could
think, 'oh, no, I'm one of these..."' "I thought," says
.uses Dane, "with the dogs, 'what are they up to now?"'
"It's a great picture,
" Neil says. "t don't think you
need to read too much into it. It's a fantastic picture.
Why shouldn't you make yourself into a fantastic picture?
Why shouldn't we do that?" Chris picks up the CD promo of
Drunk" which is lying on a table. "Have you seen the
credit on this? Guitar...pedal-steel guitar...Haas
guitar..." He feigns indignation. "Is this a Pet Shop Boys
record? We're meant to be a synch duo, for God's sake."
"We've made a rock record," Neil sighs. "We're made a
flaming rock record," says Chris. "I'm not very happy
about it, as a fan." They get ready. Chris once again
tries to argue that he doesn't need to wear eyebrows on
stage, because no one can really see them above his
sunglasses. "You should have your eyebrows, Chris," argues
Neil, "as a matter of theory." Though Neil's microphone
doesn't work for a while between "Happiness Is An Option"
and "Can You Forgive Her?", it's another good audience
tonight. "I think it's a better crowd tonight," says Chris
in the interval. As they change they discuss which clubs
they should visit later. Dainton comes in to say he has
just thrown out from the backstage area a man who claimed
to be from MTV. "Re's been ejected," Dainton reports.
"He's now on where Park Avenue meets Broadway."
even wasn't allowed backstage in the interval," Chris
points out. "And he's rock royalty," says Neil. "He was
even scared to come backstage at the end," laughs Chris.
"He knows what you're like." They discuss the stranger
people they have had to deal with on the tour. "I attract
mutters," Chris sighs. "You're a mutter magnet," Merck
says. "Whereas," Neil chips in, "I'm an earbender magnet."
Backstage, after a triumphant seconds half, Chris says,
Hey, that's our last show in America. That's significant.
"Party people!" sings Neil. "We've got to get ftinlty!" A
few minutes later he says, "if fate had taken a different
path I'd probably be Archbishop of West minter. With high
hopes for a cardinal's hat." Chris complains that there's
no hot water in the bathroom. "Chris, it's a dressing
room," Neil says. "You're lucky there's water." It will be
quite late the next day, after a long night's clubbing,
before everyone surfaces. Chris will go out drinking with
friends; Neil will look at some art and then dine at a
Japanese restaurant, and then the party wills start again.
The day after they will fly, a little blearily, to play in
Montreal, after which their 1999 North American tour will
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