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Literally Issue 27 Interviews -ISTANBUL
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On the Pet Shop Boys' recent trip to Turkey, Neil agreed to keep a diary and Chris took a digital camera (though Chris persuaded Neil to write the photo captions). This is the result.
"Where are you from, my friend?"
"England." "England? Lovely jubbly! Why don't you come and see my carpet shop?"

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This is a typical exchange as one walks through the old district of Istanbul in the shadow of the Blue Mosque. (They get Only Fools and Horses on Turkish TV)
Chris and I had both been invited to stay with friends in the South of France for a week and so decided, rather than fly back to London, to go straight to Istanbul and have a few days sightseeing. Then we'd rehearse for our festival appearance there. Neither of us had been to Istanbul, or indeed Turkey, before.
So, early on the morning of August 30, we flew from Nice to Frahkfurt and then from Franklurt to Istanbul, arriving at about five in the afternoon. We were met by a young woman called Suna who was working for the Rock 'N' Coke Festival and whose job was to look after us. She accompanied us to our hotel in the old part of the city.


After checking in, Chris and I went straight out to explore the immediate vicinity, admiring the Hagia Sofia, the old Byzantine Cathedral changed into a mosque, and the famous Blue Mosque. Deciding we wanted to see what modern downtown Istanbul is like, we caught a cab up to Taksim Square where it all happens. On a Saturday evening, this part of the city was throbbing with activity, the streets teeming with people out to shop or enjoy themselves. Everywhere were banners for the festival, thankfully with no pictures of us, so we could feel incognito. We went to a bar playing loud local dance music, then to a record shop where I bought some CDs of Turkish dance music (The Future Sound (?{ Istanbul, for instance), and then we stopped for a drink in a open-air bar in a little alley. We were impressed everywhere by the intense buzz of activity. It's something of a clich to say that Istanbul is where West meets East hut none the less that's what fascinated us:

the simultaneous familiarity and unfamiliarity. Over the next few days we set out to explore this.
The following morning we visited the Hagia Sophia and then sat in the courtyard of the Blue Mosque listening to the call to prayers and being harassed by people wanting to sell us stuff (carpets in particular) or give us guided tours. Then we jumped in a taxi for a hair-raising ride back up to Taksim Square, crossing over the river We spent the afiernoon walking around the area called Beyoglu and the main street, stopping off for lunch, wandering through back streets, towards the Bosphorous. We had a cold drink in the old Pera Palace Hotel where Agatha Christie wrote much of Murder on the Orient Express and which still has the atmosphere of the 1 920s. We ventured into a steep, picturesque alley where we were puzzled by a queue of men, each showing ID to a policemen and then proceeding into a courtyard. Someone explained to us it was a brothel.. .we walked down to the river where kids were swimming in the somewhat murky waters. It was hot so we got a taxi back to the hotel.

That evening we ate in a little local caf& and headed back up to Beyoglu and enjoyed the atmosphere. We visited a linle bar called Air where electronic music was playing. The only people in there were us, the barman, the DJ and his girlfriend. It didn't seem like electronic music was so popular here or maybe it was too early for the cool crowd.
The following morning we walked round the Grand Bazaar This is a huge indoor market where you can buy anything (particularly carpets). Believe it or not, we're not great shoppers and we didn't buy anything but we did stop for a coffee in a very atmospheric old cafe'. Later on we walked up to the Suleymaniye Mosque, a huge complex of buildings where Suleyman the Magnificent, Sultan of the Ottoman Empire at its height, is buried. We removed our shoes and went in.
That night we ate at a grand restaurant by the
river. I thought it was an old palace but it turned out to be a grand old police station that had stood disused for many years.
The next day we'd asked Suna to arrange a boat trip down the Bosphorous for us (there's a rhyme for a song there) and spent a very relaxing day looking at the palaces and houses on the European and Asian sides of the river and watching the busy river traffic from cruise liners to Russian cargo hulks to little fishing boats. The boat dropped us off by the Greek Cathedral and I walked with Suna through an old residential area. Here children were playing, men were sitting playing backgammon in men-only cafes, cats were running around. No one tried to sell us a carpet.

On Wednesday morning, we were back on the tourist trail with a guided tour of the Topkapi Palace where the Sultans used to live. In one room relics were displayed, including a hair from the beard of the Prophet and the actual rod with which Moses parted the Red Sea! (Chris viewed this with a considerable amount of scepticism.)
In the evening we were looking for a ~hip" bar (according to the Time Out guide) when there was a power cut. So we had a drink by candlelight in the ~'hip" bar which was otherwise empty. We seemed to keep missing the cool people. A text message on my mobile informed us that our band and crew had just landed...

... which meant that we were no longer on holiday. The following morning our return to work was greeted in Istanbul by torrential rain. Suna met us and we were driven to a little recording studio in a street fill of garages. James Monkman, our tour manager, and Tony Dreads, our stage manager, were waiting for us outside. Inside, Pete Gleadall, Mark Refoy, Dawne Adams and Bic Hayes were already running through songs. We started rehearsing three songs they'd never played before:
'~Opportunities", "Se a Vida e~" and "Suburbia". Afterwards, we all retired to the top floor of their hotel in Taksim Square for a drink.
We rehearsed in the studio for the next two days, playing through the full set several times. It felt rather as though the "Release" tour was just carrying on. Our new manager, David Dorrell, arrived on Friday night on a late flight. We became regulars at a open-air bar/restaurant called Terrace (very cool with a beautiful view), going there three consecutive nights. Chris said it was like being in Ibiza. It was not only cool but chilly. The temperature had dropped somewhat in Istanbul but we were assured that it wouldn't rain for the festival.

Bic, Mark and I had had shiny, sequin-print suits made for this show which would reflect the lights well. Another change from the "Release" shows: this one was to look a little more glam. Seeing our suits, Chris decided he wanted a nacksuit made out of the same fabric and called Jeffrey Bryant, who looks after our wardrobe, to ask if he could make one and have it delivered within 48 hours. Jeffrey (an absolute treasure) dropped everything and Jodie, who works for Dorrell Management, brought it Out with her on Sunday afternoon.
So it was that on Sunday evening at 9 30 the At one-off "glam" Pet Shop Boys made their debut performance in Turkey. The full set-list:
"Home and dry" "Suburbia"

"Se a vida e" "Left to my own devices" "Love comes quickly" "Domino dancing" "New York City boy" 'Always on my mind" "Sexy Northerner" "Opportunities"
"Love is a catastrophe" "Where the streets have no name... "West End girls"
"Go West" Encores: "Being boring" "It's a sin"
We got a very enthusiastic reception from the festival crowd and the following evening flew back to London. (The carpets I'd bought were delivered separately.)

Copyright Areagraphy Ltd 2002: All Articles have been
Taken From Literally 2002 Issue 27

 

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