Requiem in Denim and Leopardskin

Writers - Tennant/Lowe
First released - 2012
Original album - Elysium
Subsequent albums - (none)
Other releases - (none)

This song, an "elegy" as Neil has described it, was written by the Boys back during their Yes sessions in early 2008 and was considered for inclusion on that album, but apparently producer Brian Higgins didn't care for it. Even at that time, however, they said that it may need to be at least partially "rewritten" before its ultimate release. Musically it's a surprisingly "jazzy" track—surprising in that the Pet Shop Boys so very rarely dabble in the jazzy—which gives the track a lilting, slightly wistful feel that might be described as "disco lite." Considering the subject matter, however, you might think it an especially unusual musical setting, yet it proves completely apropos.

Unfolding in a manner akin to a stream of consciousness, the song centers on the funeral in early 2006 of famed makeup artist Lynne Easton. In the 1980s' and '90s she had worked with numerous pop stars, the Pet Shop Boys included. (She did their makeup for assorted videos and photo shoots.) Starting with the funeral itself—as Neil recalls in the song's opening lines, "I thought it was like a film… where everybody played themselves as a drama king or queen"—the lyrics then move back and forth in time as he "visualise[s] the flashbacks" to the late seventies and early eighties. As Chris said in the PSB Fan Club publication Literally, "It looks back to when she first came to London and mentions Johnny Rotten and all these people hanging around in King's Road.… so it's like a memoir of the King's Road in the early eighties." Quite a few prominent figures of the period London "scene," including Brian Ferry, Malcolm McClaren, and Derek Jarman, among others (see the full list in the "annotations" below), are then mentioned or alluded to, which serves to provide a strong sense of the glamour and vibrancy of the times.

The chorus suddenly shifts back to the funeral—

This is our last chance for goodbye
Let the music begin
Shining and soaring like a requiem
In denim and leopardskin

—which carries into the next verse ("It ended with the motorbike," referring to the fact that during the funeral Ms. Easton's coffin was brought into the church on a motorcycle sidecar). But memories of the old London scene intrude once again for another go-round before a few more repetitions of the chorus.

"Requiem in Denim and Leopardskin" completes the thematic cycle of Elysium, which ends, just as it had started, with a song inspired by death. But, true to their promise, Chris and Neil make it an ultimately uplifting journey. Both the funeral in "Requiem" and the song itself do precisely what funerals are meant to do: offering a means of saying goodbye while simultaneously inspiring pleasant memories in the minds of those left to carry on.

Annotations

Mixes

Officially released

List cross-references