A New Life

Writers - Lowe/Springs/Tennant
First released - 1987
Original album - Alternative
Producer - David Jacob, Pet Shop Boys
Subsequent albums - Actually 2001 reissue Further Listening 1987-1988 bonus disc
Other releases - b-side of single "What Have I Done to Deserve This?"

Co-written with singer Helena Springs—who had also collaborated with Bob Dylan, among others, and whose association with the Pet Shop Boys stems from her having provided support vocals on the Stephen Hague-produced international hit version of "West End Girls"—an early acetate pressing of this track was reportedly titled "New Life, New Love." Neil once referred to it in a pre-release (1986) interview as "New Love," stating that the song might appear as a solo track for Ms. Springs. As it turns out, she did record and release her own solo version on her 1986 album Helena, which was re-released the following year with a slightly revised track listing and retitled New Love after the song itself. In fact, the Springs version of the song was released first, well before the PSB rendition, now called "A New Life," first surfaced in 1987 as the flipside of the "What Have I Done to Deserve This?" single. Retrospectively comparing versions, Neil said of it, "Hers was much more complicated." It also has additional lyrics, apparently written by the singer herself, that don't appear in the PSB recording.

In many ways a very positive song, it's given a somewhat dark edge via the downbeat music primarily written by the Pet Shop Boys themselves. Because they had envisioned a female singer, the lyrics were written from the point of view of a woman about to leave her husband—indeed embarking on the new life of the title. But, as Neil puts it, "she doesn't know whether she's doing the right thing"; therefore she's leaving surreptitiously, under the cover of night. As she hops aboard a plane and flies away, she looks forward to her new life with the moving lines, "Then rise the daylight sky—how do you get to heaven if you never try?"

In light of Neil's own vocal performance and his stated assertion that he imagines Boy George singing it, it's probably not inappropriate to consider this song from a male perspective as well. On the other hand, it hardly matters; it's equally poignant regardless of narrator's gender.


List cross-references