Writers - Tennant/Lowe
First released - 1996
Original album - Bilingual
Subsequent albums - (none)
Other releases - (none)
With this track Neil and Chris responded to recurring rumors that one or both of them have AIDS. In essence, they simply express how they feel as "survivors" of the epidemic, being able to continue and flourish while so many others, including friends, sicken and die. They're grateful for their good fortune, yet saddened by the loss of so many others. They feel the best thing theyor anyonecan do to commemorate those who have passed on is indeed to survive, carrying on in their stead. "Somehow we'll survive."
Neil has noted, in a 2009 interview with Andrew Sullivan, that AIDS was only one of the inspirations for this song. The other chief inspiration was the suicide of a young woman he used to work with at Smash Hits magazine. In the line about "suits and sequins," the sequins reference is specifically to her: "She was in sequins." So, from that perspective, "The Survivors" isn't just about surviving AIDS: it's about surviving all the terrible things that life can hurl in your path, some of which can lead to premature death.
By the way, Neil has stated elsewhere that, of all their "non-singles," this is the one he most regrets not releasing as a single.
- "Past Embankment Gardens" – Embankment Gardens are a series of connected parks and gardens in the Chelsea and Kensington districts of Greater London, located along the Thames near the Chelsea Bridge and the Battersea Footbridge that crosses beneath it (probably the "windy bridge" referred to in a preceding line). They're prized by Londoners as a peaceful respite in the midst of the city.
- "Saturday girls" – British slang for young urban women in their late teens or early twenties who work in shops, usually as sales clerks. (The term "Saturday girls" possible arose from the fact that such shops often employed young women as additional help for Saturdays when they had more customers than on weekdays.) Less commonly, however, it's been used to refer to certain young gay men who, after spending their work week in more conventional men's attire, dress in drag on Saturday nights, thereby transforming themselves into "Saturday girls." Given the AIDS-related theme that underlies one level of meaning in this song, it's possible—though, as noted above, by no means essential—that Neil may have had this alternate usage in mind as well.
- "Twinsets and pearls" – Twinsets (sometimes spelled as two words, "twin set") have been a staple of women's fashion since the mid-twentieth century. They consist of a sweater (usually a button-up cardigan style, though most often worn unbuttoned) with a matching short-sleeved top. And they are indeed very often worn with pearls.
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