What Have I Done to Deserve This?

Writers - Lowe/Tennant/Willis
First released - 1987
Original album - Actually
Producer - Stephen Hague
Subsequent albums - Discography, PopArt, Ultimate, Smash
Other releases - 1987 single (UK #2, US #2, US Dance #1)

This song has an unusual history, its origins dating back to Neil's time as a pop music journalist with Smash Hits. While returning home from work one day on the bus, he came up with a "rap" that would eventually evolve into "What Have I Done to Deserve This?" But the "song proper," so to speak, was written in three separate parts by Neil, Chris, and songwriter/multimedia artist Allee Willis. Chris wrote the recurring melodic motif that opens the track and recurs throughout (the one that always accompanies "What have I, what have I, what have I done to deserve this?") as well as the music beneath the "I bought you drinks, I brought you flowers" section, Neil wrote the verses and most of the lyrics, and Ms. Willis wrote the "Since you went away…" part and possibly—at least according to her own recollections—contributed to the music of the verses as well.

The song had been written early enough to have been included on Please, but the Boys were unable to arrange Dusty Springfield's participation in time to record it for that album. (They in fact recorded an early demo of it with Allee singing the part that eventually went to Dusty.) Neil had long been a fan of the legendary and reclusive 'sixties singer—whose 1969 album Dusty in Memphis frequently appears in lists of pop music's all-time greatest discs—and she was very much his and Chris's first choice for the duet. Their record company lobbied hard for Tina Turner, then at her commercial peak of popularity, but our musical heroes stuck to their guns and were rewarded when Dusty came onboard.

The song takes the form of a dialogue between the two characters portrayed by Neil and Dusty. "I imagined the two people as an older woman who's in charge of a building site and a man who works for her," Neil once wrote. "They have an affair, they break up, … and then they both regret it." One of the most poignant lines is nearly buried in the mix toward the end of the song, but is more readily discernable when it was performed live during the "Performance" tour: "We don't have to fall apart, we don't have to fight, we don't need to go to hell and back every night."



Officially released

Official but unreleased

List cross-references