The Survivors

Writers - Tennant/Lowe
First released - 1996
Original album - Bilingual
Producer - Pet Shop Boys, Chris Porter
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 (which by 1996 seemed to have peaked since more effective treatments had recently become available), being able to continue and flourish while so many others, including close friends, sicken and die. They're grateful for their good fortune, yet saddened by the losses around them. They feel the best thing they—or anyone—can 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 Kimberley Leston, a young woman he used to work with at Smash Hits magazine. The lines about "Saturday girls" and "suits and sequins" refer specifically to her ("She was in sequins," as Neil put it). 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.


List cross-references