tremble clef

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Pet Shop Boys, "Decadence (Unplugged Mix)" (1994)

Last weekend I didn't much feel like going out, even though the Madge party was on, so I had Neil and Chris over to mine for a bit of a do. Nothing over the top, you understand; just a relaxing evening of lolling about. I had my manservant make us a nice fresh batch of Bellinis, and just some beluga and smoked salmon and nibbly things to nosh on. Very civilized. Neil brought some classical and ambient music for the stereo, though Chris was all grumbly about that. "Not bloody Shostakovich again," he groused. To distract him I repeated some scandalous gossip about Robbie and how he came up that new title, who it seems the Boys are re-obsessed with nowadays.

Though I thought the evening was low-key and the caviar decidedly subpar, Neil declared it "quite decadent." "Hardly," I demurred, tossing back my curly blonde locks as if I didn't care. "We should write a song about decadence," Chris hooted.

"In my opinion, possibly our best b-side. I remember..." Neil began, a little bit worse for wear.

"Oh no," Chris groaned. "Hey," I said, "you got him started."

"As I was saying," Neil said in his most imperial voice, "before I was so rudely interrupted, 'Decadence' is our best b-side." "It should be -- it cost a bloody fortune," Chris interjected. Neil ignored him. "I remember Barney saying to me, 'that track's too good to be on a b-side,' and it is. This came about because we were asked to write the title song for Stephen Berkoff's film of his own play, Decadence, which starred Joan Collins. We liked the idea of Stephen Berkoff and Joan Collins, so we wrote this. It was the same period we were doing the 'Absolutely Fabulous' record."

"Did that film even get made?" I asked. Neil and Chris shrugged in unison. Beside the point.

"I only had a vague idea of what the film was about, anyway," Neil said. "My words are actually about a former friend, saying that he doesn't care about anyone, he just cares about money."

"Ha ha! No one in particular!" Chris guffawed. "Certainly not Tom," I jested.

"Decadence often prefigures the end of something," Neil barrelled on, "like the Roman Empire. So the song is comparing someone's personal behaviour to the end of an era. In this instance, the friendship crumbles. You can't have a relationship with someone because they can't tell the truth, they lie, their behaviour's just totally selfish."

"We bloody recorded it with a full orchestra and strings arranged by Richard Niles, and got Johnny in to play guitar, and then decided we didn't like it enough to have it as an a-side. Typical," Chris fretted. "Does anyone spend as much money on b-sides as we insanely do?"

"Quite," I said, "you were practising decadence."

"Don't forget we even did a second, unplugged mix," Neil pointed out.

"More money down the drain," Chris moaned, by now completely reliving the despair that comes from waste.

"Frankly, I prefer the unplugged version," I said. That wasn't true, since the full version is so lush, but it just seemed like the thing to say then. "Well," Neil says, "it was less obvious. The easy thing is always to have a song called 'Decadence' be all overdone, but the simpler unplugged mix goes against that. An interesting contrast. It performs what it advocates, you could say."

"Right," I said. "Because the song actually advocates the opposite of decadence. Frugality. Frugalness? Everybody do the fru!"

"I'm still not happy with that," Chris remarked. "I'm all about hedonism."

"Yes. Yes, you are," Neil said, and with that we each drank another Bellini.

Sources and inspirations: a lifetime of fandom, the Alternative and Very/Further Listening 1992-1994 booklets, An American Boy [RIP], and delusions of grandeur.


  • Dainton interrupts to say, "You know, the most expensive stuff always gets eaten and drank with a quiet classical guitarist sitting in the corner."

    By Anonymous esque, at 8:22 PM  

  • Actually, for some reason Dainton spent the evening muttering non-stop, "Herewego herewego herewego herewego..."

    By Blogger Brittle, at 9:34 PM  

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