Requiem in Denim and Leopardskin
Writers - Tennant/Lowe
First released - 2012
Original album - Elysium
Producer - Andrew Dawson, Pet Shop Boys
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.
- Requiem is the accusative (or objective) form of the Latin word for "rest," sometimes also (but less accurately) translated as "peace." It has come to refer to the Roman Catholic mass for the dead, the text of which opens with the Latin phrase Requiem aeternam dona eis, Domine ("Grant them eternal rest, O Lord"), often but not always celebrated within the context of a funeral or memorial service.
- A little more about the woman who inspired this song, Lynne Easton – Nicknamed "Pearl," Lynne Easton played bass for the U.K. punk bands Muvvers Pride and The Spiders in the late 1970s and early 1980s. With her first name sometimes alternately spelled "Lyn" or "Lynn," she later gained greater renown as an in-demand cosmetologist for pop music, film, television, and magazines, with a particular boost to her career coming from her work as chief makeup artist for Boy George and the other members of Culture Club during their peak years. Her cosmetics enhanced numerous music videos, album covers, and publicity photos from the early 1980s to the mid-1990s for such artists as George Michael, Elton John, Belinda Carlisle, Debbie Harry, Robbie Williams, Terence Trent D'Arby, Pepsi and Shirlie, Bananarama, and The Style Council. The Pet Shop Boys were also among her clients; for instance, she did their makeup for their Performance, DiscoVery, and Somewhere concert films as well as for some of their music videos, such as "Can You Forgive Her?" She grew somewhat disenchanted with the world of celebrity culture, however—becoming, in her own words, "burnt out"—and turned increasingly reclusive in the mid-1990s. She died unexpectedly in December 2005 at the age of 46. (Some accounts state she died in February 2006, but my research so far indicates that December 2005 seems more likely. Her funeral/memorial service, however, was indeed in early 2006.)
- Although Lynne Easton herself is not mentioned by name in the song, a great many other people and places prominent in the London "scene" of the period are specifically mentioned, though almost always in an abbreviated manner:
- Lucian - painter Lucian Freud
- David - painter David Hockney
- Bryan - pop star Bryan Ferry
- Blitz - the title of a popular London magazine (but see a further note about this below)
- Zanzibar - another famed London private club
- Hollywood - in California, of course
- Ossie - fashion designer Raymond "Ossie" Clark
- Biba - a famous London clothing emporium founded and run by Barbara Hulanicki
- Johnny - probably "Sex Pistol" Johnny Rotten (John Lydon)
- Malcolm - businessman, performer, and impresario Malcolm McLaren
- Adam - pop star Adam Ant
- Jarman - filmmaker and artist Derek Jarman
- "Let It Rock" - a trendy 1970s clothing shop run by the aforementioned Malcolm McLaren
- Johnson - businessman and fashion retailer Lloyd Johnson, whose London boutiques were frequented by pop stars and other fashionable people in the 1970s and '80s; "A Johnson's leather jacket" (mentioned in the song) was an especially popular item, even iconic
- Keith - hairdresser and salon owner Keith Wainwright
- Smile - the famed London hair salon opened by Keith Wainwright in the 1970s
- "The music was overwhelming… solemn and shabby…" – These words don't refer to the music of 1970s London (though perhaps they might easily have done so), but rather to that of Ms. Easton's funeral. It was commented on at the time for its eclecticism, ranging from classical (an excerpt from Gustav Mahler's Fifth Symphony – solemn) to punk rock (the Ramones' "Sheena is a Punk Rocker" – shabby). Other artists whose music could be heard during the service included T.Rex, David Bowie, Small Faces, Leonard Cohen, and Jeff Buckley.
- "A copy of Blitz in Zanzibar" – A remarkable line for the following reason: it's a mistake. Neil has stated that Chris pointed out to him—well after the song had been recorded and committed to the album, when it was too late to do anything about it (had they been so inclined)—that this line should actually have been "A copy of Ritz in Zanzibar." Ritz was a style magazine in the 1970s, whereas Blitz was a similar 'eighties publication. Since that part of the song concerns the 1970s, Ritz would have been, by Neil's own admission, the more correct reference. As Neil puts it, "I'm really annoyed I got the titles confused!" As for Zanzibar, it was was a trendy bar/restaurant in London's Covent Garden frequented by 'seventies hipsters. So this line refers to a copy of the magazine—Blitz or Ritz, however you wish to look at it—sitting somewhere in Zanzibar. It's especially worth noting, however, that Neil sang "Ritz" instead of "Blitz" in the Boys' live rendition on December 5, 2012 with the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra, a change that he will almost certainly retain in future performances of the song as well.
- "All Hollywood redux" – That is, a "rerun" or "resurgence" of Hollywood. The reference in the song is probably meant to suggest an attempt to recreate Hollywood-style glamour of an earlier period.
- "Poring over old photographs to make it all fake sense" – A perplexing line. I interpret it to refer to the way that people at funerals—especially when people die surprisingly young, as Ms. Easton did—so often try to make sense of it all: the meaning of life itself, or at least why someone should have such a short life. If this interpretation is correct, then the suggestion here is that there is no sense to it. So "making sense" is, in effect, "faking sense."
- "This is our last chance for goodbye" – Neil has said that the song is more or less framed by images from Lynne Easton's funeral. Of course, funerals serve a very real psychosocial function of providing a "last chance for goodbye" to the recently departed.
- "brothel creepers" – A type of shoe with thick rubber soles that, though they had been around since the 1940s, became particularly fashionable in 1970s Britain largely as a result of their being sold by Malcolm McLaren at his London "Let It Rock" shop.
- "Adam's in a Jarman film" – Derek Jarman's 1979 film Jubilee featured Adam Ant in the role of "The Kid."
- "It ended with the motorbike" – As noted above, during Ms. Easton's funeral her coffin was brought into the church on a motorcycle sidecar. Neil told interviewer Matthew Todd of Attitude magazine that the sound heard at the end of "Requiem in Denim and Leopardskin" is "the exact same motorbike."
- "All you need to make it big is sex and style" – Neil and Chris told David Walliams that this line expresses a viewpoint often conveyed by the eighties U.K. magazine The Face as well as by Malcolm McLaren.
- Mixer: Robert Fernandez and Andrew Dawson
- Album version (5:49)
- Instrumental (5:49)
- On the special limited Elysium two-disc CD and vinyl editions
- The key signatures of selected PSB songs
- Real places mentioned by name in PSB songs
- Real people mentioned by name or title in PSB lyrics
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