Jack the Lad

Writers - Tennant/Lowe
First released - 1986
Original album - Alternative
Producer - Pet Shop Boys
Subsequent albums - Please 2001 reissue Further Listening 1984-1986 bonus disc
Other releases - b-side of single "Suburbia"

In an interview with Andrew Sullivan, Neil stated quite clearly what this song is about: "'Jack the Lad' is about being an individual, daring to do what you want to do. The song refers to Lawrence of Arabia, Oscar Wilde, and Kim Philby. It's also about the application of the idea of individuality to masculinity and not worrying too much about falling down." Elsewhere Neil has said that each of the historical figures referred to in the song "followed their own instincts and philosophies rather than simply obey rules or follow accepted practice." Obviously the Boys find this quality extremely admirable.

A British correspondent tells me that "Jack the Lad" is a common British expression for what Americans might call an "Regular Joe"—except Jack the Lad is very much a man on the move. Generally a working-class guy, he's more successful and has more money than you'd expect. Popular with men and women alike, he's streetwise and may not be entirely trustworthy, but he's so likeable that he's always forgiven. As Neil puts it, "When you're a Jack the Lad type, you can be the fool." In short, he seems to get away with it, whatever "it" is. On a purely musical note, the opening piano motif is, in Neil's words, "a pastiche of Erik Satie." In fact, the chord progression around which the song is built comes from the French composer's Trois Gymnopédies.


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