If Love Were All

Writers - Noël Coward
First released - 1993
Original album - Alternative
Producer - Richard Niles, Pet Shop Boys
Subsequent albums - Very 2001 reissue Further Listening 1992-1994 bonus disc
Other releases - bonus track with single "Yesterday, When I Was Mad"

By his own admission, one of Neil's all-time favorite Noël Coward songs. Neil realized from close listening that, although it was originally written for a woman to sing, it made for a very powerful gay statement when sung by a man. So he decided to sing it himself.

In essence, the lyrics assert that, as important as love is, there's more to life and that one can live well without it: "If love were all, I would be lonely." But love is not all (contrary to the sentiment more commonly expressed in popular songs), and the narrator is not lonely even without it—at least if you assume that you can take his words fully at face value. True, he longs for the constant love and companionship of another man, but that alone is neither a guarantor of nor prerequisite for happiness. While the "gay statement" that Neil sees here may have been more appropriate for an earlier generation, when gay men indeed had a more difficult time finding enduring love, it undoubtedly still resonates among many listeners.

The big-band instrumentation, incidentally, was arranged and conducted by Richard Niles, who around the same time created a delightful swing arrangement for "Can You Forgive Her?"


List cross-references