Don Juan

Writers - Tennant/Lowe
First released - 1988
Original album - Alternative
Producer - Pet Shop Boys
Subsequent albums - Introspective 2001 reissue Further Listening 1988-1989 bonus disc
Other releases - b-side of single "Domino Dancing"

A song that ranks at or near the top of the list for "PSB obscurantism." If it weren't for the fact that Neil has affirmed that this song is an allegory of "the political situation in the Balkans before World War Two," it would have been very difficult to figure out. The figure of Don Juan—the legendary Spanish nobleman who lives exclusively for himself, caring nothing for the harm he may do to others (especially women) in his pursuits of pleasure—is apparently a metaphor for Hitler, who is courting his "bride" (Germany, or perhaps even all of Europe), leading her to disaster. "Clues" are offered in the form of various lesser-known figures from pre-war Europe who are mentioned in passing, such as King Alexander of Yugoslavia, King Zog of Albania, and Madame Lupescu. In fact, the mention of these particular persons, all of whom played significant roles in pre-war Balkan history, lends credence to an astute observation on Wikipedia that the song is "a metaphor for the seduction of the Balkans by Nazism during the 1930s." (With the exception of Greece, all of the nations in the Balkans were, for at least a time, German allies during the Second World War.)

In the 2001 reissue booklet for Introspective, Neil states that when he wrote the gist of this song—back in 1978, before he met Chris!—he was striving for "lyrics in the style of Façade by Edith Sitwell." (Chris then quipped, "Was it slightly pretentious?") Neil also noted with some admitted embarrassment his error in referring to "Marie Lupescu." Madame Lupescu's first name was actually Magda.

But perhaps Neil hasn't noticed his other major lyrical mistake in this song. He writes of "films for a Warner brother or Mister Goldwyn-Mayer." But there's no such person as "Mister Goldwyn-Mayer." The famous movie studio Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (more popularly known as MGM) was formed by the merger of three smaller studios—logically enough, Metro, Goldwyn, and Mayer—the latter two of which were run by Samuel Goldwyn and Louis B. Mayer, respectively. Then again, one of my site visitors has suggested that maybe "Mr. Goldwyn-Mayer" isn't a mistake at all—that perhaps it's simply a snide way of referring to a movie executive, much as one could refer to an automobile executive as "Mr. General Motors." But then wouldn't it more properly be "Mr. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer"? Let's just chalk it up to artistic license.

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