Sexy Northerner

Writers - Tennant/Lowe
First released - 2002
Original album - Disco 3
Producer - (original b-side) Pet Shop Boys; (Disco 3 version) - Pet Shop Boys, Superchumbo
Subsequent albums - Format, Release 2017 reissue Further Listening 2001-2004 bonus disc
Other releases - bonus track with single "Home and Dry"; bonus disc with the U.S. "special edition" of Release; promo single (US Dance #14)

Having previously appeared as a bonus track on the "Home and Dry" CD single and the U.S. "Special Edition" Release bonus disc, "Sexy Northerner" is rendered on Disco 3 in its previously unreleased "Superchumbo Mix" by Tom Stephan—who, incidentally, is a former boyfriend of Neil's. It was also issued as a promo single for the dance market. Regrettably, this remix adheres to the now-all-too-common pattern of discarding nearly all of the original song's lyrics, melody, and structure in favor of a rather repetitive beat-fest in which random snippets of the vocal are scattered about in a seemingly haphazard fashion. It's hardly even a "song" anymore. Yes, it's fabulous to dance to. But otherwise it's rather uninteresting—and, in my opinion, a tremendous bore to listen to.

In its original (and vastly superior) bonus-track rendition, the lyrics consist primarily of a string of descriptive, envious, somewhat gossipy phrases that express wonder at how the young man summed up by the title manages to get away with all that he does. Among them: "hanging 'round the clubs, gets in them for free" and "drinks a lot of beer (at least he doesn't smoke)." And on and on in a similar vein. The narrator marvels, "How does he do it?" The real kicker is the bridge, when, in describing one of the best things about this guy, Neil repeatedly sings the delightful line, "It's not all football and fags." In other words, this guy has many more interests and topics of conversation than that. Whether "fags" here refers to cigarettes (the more traditional U.K. meaning) or to gay men (the most common U.S. meaning) is uncertain, but the likely double entendre is inescapable.

Some fans have speculated that this song may even be about Chris Lowe, or at least loosely based on him; certainly some of the lines fit. After all, he's a non-smoking northerner who, as in the words of the song, "hasn't lost his accent." I'm not so sure that Chris would permit a PSB song to poke fun at him in such a way—but, then again, the Pet Shop Boys haven't hesitated to poke fun at themselves in the past, so why not now? (And, don't forget, Neil's a "northerner," too.) Still, the Boys have insisted on more than one occasion that this song is "about no one in particular."

It should be noted, by the way, that this is one of the few PSB songs essentially devoid of rhyme, which is a comparatively rare occurrence in pop/rock lyrics in general.



Officially released

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