Blue on Blue

Writers - Tennant/Lowe
First released - 2006
Original album - Format
Producer - Pet Shop Boys
Subsequent albums - Release 2017 reissue Further Listening 2001-2004 bonus disc
Other releases - bonus track with single "Minimal"

A short, fast track with a rocking, repetitive synth line that recalls an earlier PSB sound—so much so that some fans have likened it to songs from their first album, Please. According to the official website, it was written and recorded by Chris and Neil in 2003 around the same time as "Luna Park" and "Casanova in Hell."

The lyrics are built around the seeming paradox that opposites can meet and in at least some ways be the same: "Sky meets the sea—blue on blue." The narrator applies this concept to a budding love relationship in which, by implication, he and his lover are also very different people, virtual opposites, who are nevertheless well matched:

You want to be free
What do you do?
Get yourself where the sky meets the sea
Blue on blue

As the Pet Shop Boys had suggested more than a decade earlier in "Liberation," true freedom is to be found not in absolute independence but rather in coming together in loving union. The concluding image of the song has the narrator and his partner sailing off together toward the horizon where blue meets blue—an emblem, as it were, of their new lives together.

Perhaps the most intriguing aspect of this song is the fact that its minor-key melody and rather harsh arrangement don't seem to "fit" the subject matter. It's just enough to make you wonder whether some other subtext is at work here. Could the fact that "blue on blue" is British military slang for "friendly fire" have some special significance? Could the song be about a lover who has passed away—perhaps of AIDS, which itself could be viewed metaphorically as a form of "friendly fire"? Or is that just an outlandish coincidence? Although Neil concedes (in the May 2007 issue of their fan club publication Literally) that the title is inspired by the Iraq War—

"…the song itself has nothing to do with that—I just thought it was rather a pretty phrase. It's about being with your lover by the sea—the blue of the sky and the blue of the sea. And the metaphor is that two unhappy—i.e. blue—people together can make each other happy."

One of my site visitors has pointed out the noticeable similarity of the basic synth lines of "Blue on Blue" and "Native Love," an old Divine song produced and co-written by Bobby Orlando. To be sure, the two synth lines aren't identical, and the melodies and chord structures of the songs are markedly different, so there's certainly no suggestion of plagiarism. But given the Boys' early association with Bobby O and their well-documented fondness for his music, his influence is clearly at work. It's even possible that this might be a bit of a conscious musical "nod" or tribute, though they've made no mention of such a thing.


List cross-references