Leaving

Writers - Tennant/Lowe
First released - 2012
Original album - Elysium
Producer - Andrew Dawson, Pet Shop Boys
Subsequent albums - (none)
Other releases - single (UK #44, US Dance #10)

Elysium opens with one of those songs that, on first listen, seem thoroughly unassuming, even neglible. But that's just a musical trap: after repeated listenings, it gradually insinuates itself into your psyche until you can't get it out of your head. Nor do you particularly want to. It's simply a marvelous song. So, from that perspective, it should come as no great shock that "Leaving" was designated the album's second single, released to radio shortly before the album's release and issued on CD, 12-inch vinyl, and digital downloads in October. In fact, the Boys had originally planned for it to be the first single, but then settled on "Winner" instead on account of the timing with the London Olympic Games.

Neil has said that the album both begins and ends with songs somewhat concerned with death, and the lyrics of "Leaving" leave no doubt about at least the beginning. An interview in the September issue of the U.K. magazine Attitude reveals that this song (which the Boys wrote in 2010) was originally inspired by the death of Neil's parents, both in the space of less than 12 months of each other in 2008 and 2009. It started out with a different title, "Heaven Is a Playground" (or simply "Heaven"), and its basic musical structure had been composed by Chris before they entered the studio. But during the early phases of recording, they came up with a different chorus with a new melody and lyrics, which transformed the song first into "I'm Leaving" and then finally into just plain "Leaving." It's possible, however, that some of those earlier "Heaven" lyrics may have turned up in or have at least influenced the added rap section of Pet Shop Boys' own "Side-by-Side Remix" of the track, with such lines as "I believe in love for all time" and "Our love will never die 'cause love is forever." (Such suggestions of eternity are certainly suggestive of heaven.)

Despite this song's origins with the passing of Neil's parents, that's not what it's "about." Rather, Neil takes advantage of his recent personal experiences with such great loss to apply what he has learned to another situation altogether: the death not of loved ones but of love itself.

Our love is dead
But the dead are still alive
In memory and thought
And the context they provide

Although the narrator acknowledges the death of this love affair, he nevertheless grasps hold of his belief in, essentially, "life after death" for love: "I can still find some hope to believe in love." And on the song goes in this vein, a rumination on how even something or someone "dead" remains, in some senses, very much alive:

… the dead are here to stay
They made us who we are
They're with us every day

Neil was undoubtedly thinking of his parents when he wrote those lines. But, all the same, they apply equally well to our love affairs, which also shape us and continue to influence us even after they've passed on.

Mixes

Officially released

List cross-references