Passionati

Posts Tagged ‘Pet Shop Boys’

King’s Cross: Pet Shop Boys, Tracey Thorn & Hot Chip

We danced to PSB on a regular basis at the Pink Elephant in the Oberoi Grand in Calcutta. Or listened to it really loud in my friend George’s Standard Herald as we drove from over-the-top social gathering to another. I never really found the hidden track on the 1987 album, “Actually“, until several years later. And it wasn’t until this year that I examined the song closely (mostly because Tracey Thorn updated it on her 2007 outing which was then remixed by Hot Chip).

The original PSB version is a dreamy, synth track, of course, and feels like a day-after-a-ecstasy trip through the King’s Cross station. The music washes over you in only slightly persistent waves. Layered and yet seemingly stark compared to some of their more produced work. But what does it mean? Is it a horrible premonition of the fire that happened there later that year. Not likely since the album was released several months earlier. Based on reading writing by the group, introspective, a lot people migrated to London, from the North of England, looking for work. Neil Tennant came to study at the Polytechnic of North London.  He’s probably referring to the fact that King’s cross looked like a refugee camp with all the students, tourists, and homeless people. People waited for their train in long queues. Many of these people probably didn’t find work and eventually drifted else where but regardless the place probably felt pallid. Strange since the station was built on the former site of a small pox and fever hospital.

I’ve been hurt and we’ve been had
You leave home, and you don’t go back
So I went looking out today
For the one who got away
Murder walking round the block
Ending up in King’s Cross
Good luck, bad luck waiting in a line
It takes more than the matter of time
And there’s still no guarantee
There is still no guarantee



Fast forward to early 2007, Tracey Thorn records the track as part of the second album (25 years after her first album). You should know Thorn’s work  – she’s collaborated with Massive Attack, The Style Council, and Lloyd Cole & the Commotions. Thorn’s rendition is stark, eerie, and lonely at best. Yet it’s one that works supremely well in the Hot Chip remix of the song – which is unexpectedly energetic, yearning for the 80’s and yet magnificently new.

Click here to listen to the Hot Chip Version.

That’s the journey this song has taken through pop culture. Yet the original stands up – and perhaps that is because of its vagueness, its lack of commitment, and its spareness (compared to some of the other PSB work). Regardless, it’s a gem. One that you should savor.