Friday, July 20.
final date of there 2000 tour, the Pet Shop Boys fly from
London to Bilbao in Spain, where a four hour drive west
along the coast to Oviedo awaits them. In the airport car
park the driver and Spanish 'remoter confer at some
length. "Marvellous how they all speak Spanish, isn't it?"
Neil. The Pet Shop Boys are performing
tomorrow night at a Spanish festival called Doctor Music,
coming on after Beck.
"I want to watch Beck," says
Neil. "He's a really great dancer."
"I've never really
rated Beck," says Chris. "You can appreciate what he's
doing, but it's not very emotionally stirring."
'I'm a loser, baby, why don't you kill me?'," says Neil.
"Well," says Chris, "that's his one good song."
"I've got a bit of a dodgy stomach," says
Chris. "I think my stomach knows I'm back in Spain." (For
more on its previous visit, see page
"It just knows," Chris sighs.
David's "Fill Me In" comes on the radio.
everywhere, isn't he?" says Chris.
"Oh, is this Craig
David?" asks Neil.
"George Michael rates him."
"George Michael said to me, he thinks Craig
David has got what it takes to break America."
Michael said to me, it must be funny being Bryan Adams,
because he keeps writing hits every year and it doesn't
really amount to anything."
The journey goes on and on.
We only later discover the name of the town we're heading
towards, so we have no idea how much further we have to
go, and nobody's mobile phone seems to work here.
just don't know where we're going, do we?" sighs Chris.
"It's a magical mystery tour," Neil agrees.
they admire the fine Spanish sunset.
it keeps burning, isn't it?" says Chris, referring to the
Finally we reach Oviedo and pass a lit-up fountain
in the town centre.
"I've got one in my garden now,"
Chris says. "I haven't seen it but I think it goes up
about two feet in the air."
Outside the hotel, the
local media approach. Chris slips inside but Neil agrees
to answer a question.
"Why did you call yourselves the
Pet Shop Boys?" he is asked. He can't quite believe it.
"Oh, that's all old news," he says, and steps inside.
They go for dinner in the hotel.
"So," asks Chris,
"what are we doing tomorrow?"
"We're doing a show,
Chris," says Neil, patiently.
"But what are we going to
do in the day?"
"Lie in bed all morning, have
lunch, go for a wander."
Chris is annoyed that the people at the
next table are smoking over dinner.
"The Spanish don't
get killed by cigarettes, because of their diet," Neil
"I just don't like the smell - I don't mind if
it kills them," Chris points out.
"I must say," says
Neil, "I think they've got a cheek suing the tobacco
companies. They do have a health warning on them."
know they've discovered the jelly around the tomato seeds
is very good for you," states Chris.
"According to Joan
Collins," says Neil, "sardines are very good for you. I
thought you'd like to know that. She said to me, they've
got a lot of DNA. I thought, doesn't everything have a lot
After dinner we arrange to meet James and
Dainton at La Orande Tabema, a cider bar near the
cathedral. Outside the hotel, the same crowd still wait.
"Chris," says Neil, "it's the local media. 'Why are
you called the Pet Shop Boys?"'
The woman bounds up to
Chris. She asks her question: "Why are you called the Pet
"I can't remember now," Chris says. "It was
a long time ago. I don't remember."
She has another:
"Why did you decide to go to the Doctor Music?"
something to do," he says.
"What are your musical
"U2 and The Smiths."
"I want to know if
there's anything you'd like to say...
do you think about people in Spain?"
"Sexy?" She doesn't seem to believe this answer, though
she is clearly delighted by it.
"Yes," Chris says.
She has just one more thing she must check. "You are
Chris, aren't you?" she says.
"Yes," he says.
the cider bar, where the waiters pour cider behind their
backs into glasses held near the ground to aerate it, Neil
says: "It's funny when you wake up in the morning and you
don't know where you are. I woke up this morning and I
couldn't think where I was. Then I thought, 'Oh! I'm at
home!' My brain was totally dislocated from my
Chris realises that some grease from the underside of the
bar he's sitting at has got on his Helmut Lang jeans. "Oh
no!" he exclaims. "I've only brought one pair ofjeans.
James! What are we going to do now? We'll have to cancel
"Why don't you just run them under the tap back at
the hotel?" Neil suggests. "Denim's a very tough fabric."
"No," says Chris, "it needs professional help." He frets
some more. "These were dirty denim," he explains, "but
that was designer dirt, not mistake dirt."
Saturday, July 21. When he appears in the
Morning, Neil mentions
that he has just been reading the diary of the Consular
General in Leningrad in the 1930s. Walking to look round
the cathedral the conversation wanders and he mentions
that he applied to the University of Aberystwyth in Wales
to study History and Archaeology. "I got too many crap '0'
levels," he says.
After the cathedral has been
surveyed, Chris arrives for a tapes lunch. They study the
"I like playing at 12.30," says
Neil. "You have the whole day to piss about. Go for walks.
See some churches."
The tortilla arrives. It has
seafood in it; Chris is annoyed. All the food takes its
"They're dragging this out, aren't they?" Chris
"Chris, it's charmingly relaxed," says
Neil. "It's how we eat in Spain. We talk a lot."
Chris, "but it doesn't work if you're English and you
don't talk a lot."
Neil mentions some of the things
we've seen in the cathedral. "It used to be several years
off purgatory just to see holy objects like those," he
points out. This comment leads to a debate about the exact
nature of purgatory, which, says Neil, is a state, which
always eventually leads to heaven.
"Hell is the
absence of God," he says. "Hell is the absence of love."
be crap if it did happen," says Chris, thinking of hell.
"It'd be terrible."
In the early evening, Neil decides
to catch a taxi up the hill above town to see the famous
Austrian churches, the oldest of which - the Santa Maria
Del Naranco - was converted into a church towards the end
of the ninth century. The taxi stops at the one flirtiest
up the hill, the San Miguel De Lillo. "Which you can't get
into," Neil realises, "because it's mysteriously shut.
That's the curse of Neil Tennant." He wanders down to the
lower church. "So," he says, "you probably haven't read
the Incredible String Band story in Major - there's this
bit where they used to hang out with Prince Margaret."
When, Literal/y inquires, did he last play a record by
the noted hippie folk group Incredible String Band?
he says, "by sheer coincidence I played one on Wednesday."
And he talks about Nick Drake, and about how his friend,
the photographer Eric Watson, had owned a copy of Bryter
Later in the Seventies and how much they used to listen to
As we wait for the tour of the church's interior to
begin, he reflects that the Pet Shop Boys have played
about seventy concerts in the last year. "You get into the
rhythm," he says. "Even Chris Lowe himself has literally
suggested writing songs that go down well live, along the
lines of 'We Will Rock You' or 'We Are The Champions' by
Deciding to walk back to town, a likely
path is picked. Neil mentions how "Was It Worth It?" ended
up being played at some of these more recent concerts
alter a Spanish duo sent them a demo CD on which they
strummed the song on guitar. "It was gorgeous," he says.
"It was beautifully." Though Neil's new acoustic version
has a different rhythm it was inspired by theirs, and
incorporates a gap they had worked into the song.
Eventually we realise that the path doesn't go directly to
town, and after much marching up and down hills and roads
in the heat we are still some way from the hotel~ We stop
in a bar, have some drinks and call a taxi instead Back at
the hotel, Chris calls to confer about how useless the new
Morcheeba single is.
At dinner, the food again takes
ages to arrive.
"I don't like it when you're
through your first bottle of wine before you've eaten
anything," Chris says.
"Do you want some more wine?"
the waiter asks.
"Of course he does," Neil says. "We're
rock'n'rollers," says Chris. "I'm going on pissed," Neil
points out. Chris text messages James, who is at the
festival site, to ask how chilly it is there. "BRING
CARDIF," James replies.
"That's not only camp," says
Neil, "that's unbelievably camp."
When they arrive at
the venue, they decide to go over to the stage.
go and see Beck," says Neil.
"Posh and Beck," says
Chris. Chris stands at the mixing desk. During the first
song he announces that Beck is useless and he wants to
find the dance tent, but after a few more he has changed
his mind. "It's already better than us," he says. He is
puzzled, however, by the free-form noise and theatre
experiment, which finishes the show and rather dampens the
otherwise keen Spanish fans' enthusiasm. "Talk about
ending on a down note," Chris says. "Or maybe he's being
very kind to us."
Back in the dressing room he says to
Neil -who watched some of it from the side of the stage -
"Beck was good, wasn't he? Worryingly good. I'm worried
they won't like us."
"They will," Neil insists.
"Why do you think that?" says Chris.
Neil explains, "we have tunes."
"Well, so did he," says
"Not really," says Neil.
A Spanish promoter
they worked with in the winter pops into the dressing
room. "Oh, we tour all the time now," Neil tells him.
"We'll be back next year."
horrible Spanish heavy metal music is coming through the
window from another stage. Studying the schedule we decide
it may be a band called Gluecifer.
"We always have a good
reaction in Spain," says Chris. "I don't know what you're
"I'm not panicking," Neil points out,
They go through the set list. They
decide to play everything on their long set list apart
from "Opportunities". (These include all the songs they
played at Glastonbury - see page 13 - apart from "What
Have I Done To Deserve This?", as well as "Domino
Dancing", "Being Boring" and, after this afternoon's
conversation, "Was It Worth It?")
They come on to a
version of "Cafe Del Mar" by Energy 52, which Chris found
on a Euphoria Chill CD. For the last show of the tour, the
event itself is a little bit of an anticlimax. Everything
goes fine, but until close to the end, the audience is
only modestly enthusiastic.
The keenest reaction
comes from two people on the right side of the stage,
dancing crazily, singing along, and looking with delight
at each other when each new song starts. These are Beck
and his bass player (who, coincidentally, Neil met and
spoke with when he played with Air in London some time
back). At the end Neil says "we love you" three times to
the audience and the show is over.
"Do you know what, I'm quite glad
it's all over,' Chris says, back in the dressing room. "I
was thinking I wanted it to carry on, but now I'm glad."
The Bluestones come backstage for a chat. Neil tells
them about how the computer hard drive crashed four times
during their Hungarian concert. "We've been on the road
for a year," says Chris. "No wonder it feels like a long
time -it was."
They had planned to wait for the crew to
pack up and to have an end-of-tour party backstage, but by
2.30 in the morning they decide they're too exhausted. And
instead of facing the four hour drive again tomorrow, they
fly back home from the local airport, via Madrid, to
recuperate and prepare for their summer holidays.
Copyright Areagraphy Ltd 2000: All Articles have been
Taken From Literally 2000 Issue 23