||On November 1st, 1996,
Shop Boys appeared on British TV program TFI Friday.
They performed two songs, "Single" and "Se A Vida E"
with Sheboom, a four piece brass section, guitarist J.J.
Belle and the six man dance troupe from the "Single"
video. (Neil was singing live, but, despite appearances
and announcements to the contrary, everyone else was
miming.) Between Neil and Chris were interviewed live by
the host, Chris Evans. Literally shadowed their
preparations: Wednesday, October 3oth.
They are at
Nomis studios, supposedly rehearsing. Chris is complaining
about the radio in his taxi on the way here ("I was
listening to LBC - it was totally moronic, a bit like
listening to us over dinner...") and tucking into a plate
of tomatoes, egg, beans and fried bread.
"That's literally fried bread,"
exclaims Neil, vaguely horrified.
"I like fried
bread," says Chris, defiantly.
The song plays, and the
Sheboom! drummers boom loudly. (The dancers are rehearsing
in a separate studio next door.) Neil sings along. 'I
can't hear," he complains. 'This is meant to be a
Chris reads The Sun and The
Mirror, occasionally laughing out loud. He doesn't really
need to rehearse because he's miming. Mind you, he claims
not to have a clue what he is going to mime. "I've
forgotten all the chords," he says. "I'd better find out
from Pete Gleadall what the notes are."
They meet up at Riverside studios,
Hammersmith, where TFI Friday is filmed. Chris is a little
tired. He didn't get to bed until 4.30am, after an evening
which started at the Criterion Brasserie with Neil, and
subsequently took in several venues and encounters with
Steve from Pulp and Alex from Blur They sit in the cafe,
eating, waiting to be called.
"So do you think
children should be caned at school?" Neil asks Jill Wall,
their manager. It's a topic which is currently in the
news. "When I was at primary school the whole school was
once caned," he says. "When I was about 5. The entire
school was caned by the head mistress for making too much
noise in the school playground." Too much noise in the
playground!" laughs Chris. "We all had to queue up," Neil
continues, "all the girls crying. It was like a
concentration camp. Everybody put their hand out and
thwack! It really hurts."
"I've never been caned,"
says Chris. Neil sings along to the cafe background music,
George Michael's "Jesus To A Child", under his breath.
"Oooh, it's a long record, this, isn't it?" he says. "I
always think, can't they speed it up a bit? Just as you
think it's going to finish it's, oh no, he's going round
again." Chris worries about what to give his brother, Tim,
for his birthday tomorrow. He wants to get one of those
Traffic Master computers for his car. Sill Wall gets them
to sign various cheques and legal documents. Dainton
fetches some magazines and chocolate bars from the shop
across the road. Ivan hands out promo one-track CD copies
of "Single-Bilingual" to Sheboom (they look like the
commercial CDs except that the semitransparent paper is
gray) and they queue up next to Neil and Chris to get them
"I had very strange dreams last night," Neil
begins, "about Stephen Dairy. I was walking down the
street in Actin. Action Central. It went on for hours. I
couldn't get a train, I couldn't get a taxi, I was stuck
in Action Central. It was sort of nightmlarish. There were
dogs everywhere. It was a bit like 'Suburbia'. I was
scared I was going to get bitten."
Neil Hannon of the
Divine Comedy walks past. (He's singing his new single,
"The Frog Princess", on the program.)
"He's the new
you," Chris says to Neil. "He's the new, updated,
better-looking version of you."
"Is he not the new
Jarvisr' asks Neil. "He used to write me leners, Neil
Hannon. He's the son of a bishop. He wrote the music for
Father Ted." Neil reminisces about the Pet Shop Boys'
first live performance on TV, on the Old Grey Whistle
Test. "We had two Fairlights, and at the dress rehearsal
one Fairlight wouldn't work, so we did the whole thing
live without rehearsal. Like all of these situations,
there was a loose lead. My hand was shaking while we were
playing 'Later Tonight'. Playing literally live on the
television doesn't happen very often, thank God. It
sounded quite good, but a bit of a shambles as well."
Finally, TFI Friday are ready for them to rehearse.
They run through "Single-Bilingual" on stage, over and
over, while the camera crew work out their shots. Then
they do the same with "Se A Vida t. Chris worries aloud
that they'll end up broadcasting some of the rehearsal. He
wouldn't be happy with that. His green Stussy T-shirt is
creased. A technician asks Chris if his monitors are loud
enough, and whether the balance in them is right, as
though Chris is really playing live. Some of the staff
here don't know that the Pet Shop Boys performance is not
totally live. Nonetheless, it's quite a production. "We're
doing all this work," sighs Neil, "I don't know why we're
not doing a gig. Why don't we do a PA at Heaven tomorrow
night?" He is not entirely serious.
always look ace, don't they?" says Chris.
agrees. "I don't know why they haven't got a recording
"I'd like to be in Sheboom," says Chris.
"It looks like such good fun. They don't let boys in,
though, do they're'
"What are you wearing tomorrow'
Jill asks Chris.
"I don't know," he says. "It depends
who I want to be tomorrow."
The rehearsal takes
Bilingual' I son of quite like
doing," says Neil, "but I don't love it to pieces sort of
thing, whereas 'Se A Vida fl' makes me feel like crying at
the end." Finally, it's over. In the dressing room - "It's
not very big, is it?" says Chris, "and there's not a bed
for a start"
- Chris reads a multiple choke Pet Shop
Boys quiz in a magazine called Bigger And Better. He tries
to answer the questions. "It's not too difficult," he
announces, though he stumbles over the question "who
produced Very' (eventually he gets it: "Oh ..... we did"),
doesn't know how many number one singles the Pet Shop Boys
have had - "No idea," he says, "three?' (the answer is
four) - and is irritated by the description of It Couldn't
Happen Here as "their cinematic flop".
absentmindedly browses through the rest of the magazine.
"Oh my goodness," he says.
Friday, November 1st.
Neil arrives, as scheduled, at 2pm. "I had a dream last
night that I had three pairs of socks and I couldn't find
a matching pair, and Dainton 's banging on the door,
saying 'you've got to go'. It's an anxiety dream. I'm
worried about the interview." He suddenly looks annoyed;
it's because he forgot to set his video at home to tape
There's no sign of Chris. Early reports,
from those who have spoken to him by telephone, suggest
that he is "grumpy" today. Perhaps he won't come. But, at
2.57pm, he breezes merrily in. They are brought cheques.
In Britain all performers must be paid a minimum
performance fee for appearing on television. It's about
They go into the upstairs bar area to rehearse
their interview with Chris Evans. Before the Pet Shop Boys
are announced he has a good shout at the people who work
on the show because they're not applauding loud enough.
Danny Baker, who CO-writes the script, prowls around
looking serious. The Pet Shop Boys don't actually run
through the interview now, they simply take their seats
and Chris Evans just gives them a pep talk about it.
"We'll talk for eight minutes about anything you damn well
like..." - a cheeky laugh - "...Well, anything that I damn
well like." Quite.
Afterwards, in the dressing
room, Neil says, "He thought it was all because of me we
were doing it. I said, no, au contraries..."
that right?" Chris asks. "It wasn't my idea to do the
show. I was always dead against it from day one."
"Were you?" says Neil.
"Yes. I was always the one who
said, no way are we doing TFI Friday?"
"Why did we end
up doing it?" asks Neil, clearly puzzled.
leaves the appropriate comic pause before saying, "Poor
"There you go," says Neil. "There is that."
They begin to get nervous. "I have to have a drink before
we do this," says Neil. "I might have to have a valium."
He's joking. "If we're no good he'll slag us off Neil
worries. "He'll slag us off on the radio."
"Oh, I just
hope we're interesting enough," mopes Chris.
I," says Neil.
"I don't think we will be," Chris
frets. "We're crap at interviews." He licks at a lollipop.
"I haven't had a lollipop in ages. They're really nice."
They discuss how they'll behave as they walk up the
gangway to the bar, the crowd below them. They've been
asked to wave.
"I wouldn't wave," says Chris. "OK,"
says Neil. "I won't wave." "I'd just be snooty," presses
Chris. "It doesn't look good, waving."
11 be enough," Dainton advises. "I don't think we should
come in looking all snooty," worries Neil. "Snooty and
Grumpy are in the building."
It is suggested to them that
they should just look natural.
remotely natural," says Neil, "about doing a live TV
show." He sighs. "I just don't want to be too
ingratiating. That's my big worry." Chris sniggers. "And I
don't want you," he says to Chris, "to be too silent."
"Well," says Chris, "I'm not really in the mood for
talking. Everyone's dead funny that's interviewed on this,
"He's funny," Neil points out.
"We could answer the questions in the style of a
footballer," Chris suggests. "'Well, that's right, Chris
tries to write his brother's birthday card. (He's bought
him the Traffic Master.) "I can never think of anything
else to say apart from 'Happy Birthday'," he says. He
tries to think of something funny. "Maybe I could ask
Danny Baker for a bit of help."
through the tabloids. "Well, I think Sting's hair has
finally gone, Chris, you'll be pleased to know," he says.
"It'll be back," mutters Chris. He has a look at the paper
himself. "God, Sting looks just like Matt Goss in this
'The spitting images,"Neil concurs. Neil
helpfully now chooses to remember that the last time he
went into a bar for an interview in the middle of a TV
show - early in their career, for the Euro-Tube - they
subsequently gave the worst performance in Pet Shop Boys
history, singing "Tonight Is Forever". "It was
excruciating beyond belief," he reminisces. Meanwhile
Chris gets on the mobile phone to his parents. "Hi.. It's
very very nerve-wracking. You're meant to be ninny, aren't
you? There's not much chance of that... Put dad on quick,
before I have to go...HI, dad. We're just about to go on
this TFI thing.. It's very nerve wracking.. It wouldn't be
so bad if we weren't doing an interview."
slips into his speckled, silvery, glistening jumper. Neil
approves. "Chris is reunited with his Issey Miyake," he
says. 'The first time in exactly ten years." Chris
inspects his trousers. They have newsprint on them from
the tabloids. "I can't go on," he bluffs. Lynne Easton
applies Neil's make-up and he worries that he's getting a
spot. She wants to know if he's been plucking his
eyebrows. "I occasionally pull out the Dennis Healey one,"
Chris reads out, from a newspaper TV
pages, their TFI Friday billing. "'Guests are Helen Mirren
and Neil Tennant,"' he hoots. 'Right! Well, in that case
I'm not doing the interview."
'That won't look very
good on the television," Neil warns. "You'll look like a
A man comes in with some TFI contracts
for them to sign. "We've got to read them first," says
Chris. He begins reading one. "Oh, I can't be bothered..."
He just signs it. A man walks past the dressing room door.
"Ugly Bloke's just walked past," notes Chris.
don't think the Ugly Bloke is that ugly," says Neil, and
returns to worrying. "I don't think I'll watch this later.
I think it's best not to see it."
The show has now started.
Eventually they are called through, and perform "Se A Vida
t"', after which they are introduced in the bar by actress
Helen Mirren: "Our next guests are probably the most
famous duo since Adam and Eve. They stand, they frown,
they sing, they play, but rarely do they talk. That's why
it's such a TFI coup to welcome tonight the magnificent,
the precise, the mighty.. Pet Shop Boys!" After which Neil
and Chris make their entrance, and Neil knocks over one of
Will's pub genius tricks on the floor by Chris Evans'
desk. The interview begins with Neil and Chris both
denying that it was them who was previously reluctant to
come on the show, and then Chris explaining his desire to
go on Richard and Judy's show.
"OK, what are your
favorite daytime TV program's, Chris?" Chris Evans asks,
perhaps expecting to get a vague, halfhearted, uninformed
reply. But, of course, Chris really does watch daytime TV.
"The day starts," he says, "with Supermarket Sweep..."
- much laughter from the studio audience ..... and what's
after that? There's a boring thing after that. And then it
kicks off again with Richard and Judy..."
Chris Evans asks about their fabled meeting at a Chelsea
Road electrical shop in 1981.
"So who talked to who
first?" he asks. "Well, it wouldn't have been me," says
""I was going to say it was you," says Neil.
"Oh, was it?" says Chris. "Oh." He proceeds to ask them
about Chris's advice that Neil should write sexier lyrics,
and about their use of one word titles, and then Chris
Evans says to Neil, "now, I know you've got a big house
and you like very expensive paintings..."
haven't got a big house," Neil protests. "I've got a
three-bedroom terraced house in Chelsea." He smiles. "In
Chelsea." And they talk about art. "You don't like anything..."
Chris Evans says to Chris.
"I do. I like modern art"'
Chris replies. "But not much of it."
said about your house once," Chris Evans continues,
"there's no point in buying you housewarming presents
because there's nothing in your house."
Chris agrees. Perhaps. Predictably, Chris Evans has some
suggested housewarming presents: an ashtray, a desk diary
- both refused - and, finally, a straw donkey: "Chris, for
your house, in the middle of your minimalist floor. Do you
"Yeah, I'll take that with me," Chris
says. He grabs the donkey and then says, a little
dubiously, "it is for real, isn't it?" "Of course it, it's for real,"
Chris Evans reassures him. And then asks them whether it's
true that they plan to set up Ant 'n' Dec as the new Pet
"Well," says Neil, not entirely sincerely,
"it's crossed our minds." He points out that Dec went to
the same school as him. They break for adverts. This is
supposed to be the end of the interview - they have done
their eight minutes - but after the ad break they are
called back to the interview desk.
""I forgot to show
something," Chris Evans explains. He plays Chris's
Neighbours clip, and then a snippet of Neil singing
"Suburbia" a capella in the studio. (It was filmed on a
video camera by Chris, and first broadcast on a BBC2
documentary in the Eighties.) Now the interview is over.
They return to the dressing room before the final song. "I
knew Neighbours was a good idea at the time," says Neil. A
few minutes later they perform "Single-Bilingual" and they
Chris Evans pops back into the
dressing room. "We've faded you a bit, the end thirty
seconds," he apologies. "No!" shouts Chris melodramatically.
'The best bit as well," says Neil.
"Is that alight' he
"That was great, thank you," says Neil.
know it's a pig for you to promote..." he says.
"No..." Neil interjects. "...You don't know whether to
feel shameless or..." - Chris Evans continues, somewhat
haphazardly ..... or moral-less.. .Or all these other
""Moral-less?" says Chris.
Evans takes his leave. "I'm just going to shag Helen," he
explains. Chris Lowe gives Tim his much-welcomed
present. Champagne flows in the traditional manner. Chris
thinks up a new TV show, where guests are hooked up to a
lie detector machine and asked questions.
would do it," counsels Neil.
Other members of the Lowe
and Tennant families turn up. Neil and Chris pose with the
donkey Chris Evans gave Chris. They join the drinkers in
the TFI Friday bar for a while -Neil has a quick chat with
Neil Hannon - and then go out for a celebrate dinner at
the restaurant, Julie' 5. Afterwards, they will watch the
""I thought I sounded dreadful in 'Se A Vida says
Neil. "I can't watch it." But he thought the interview
went well enough. "It was marvelous," says Chris. "It was
Copyright Areagraphy Ltd 1997:
All Articles have been TTaken From Literally 1997 Issue 17