The Calm Before the Storm

Writers - Tennant/Lowe
First released - 1997
Original album - Bilingual 2001 reissue Further Listening 1995-1997 bonus disc
Producer - Pet Shop Boys
Subsequent albums - Format
Other releases - bonus track with single "Single-Bilingual"

This "Single-Bilingual" CD single bonus track, recorded live in the studio, is a description of a Sunday afternoon during which Neil and Chris were anxiously waiting for news about how high on the British charts their Bilingual album had debuted. As related in the booklet accompanying the Format b-sides collection, the Boys were staying at a rented house in the town of Henley in the county of Oxfordshire in southern England. The sensory images detailed in the lyrics are all completely accurate. There were insects buzzing about, the housekeeper's dog was barking to be fed, and the sounds of 747 jets from nearby Heathrow Airport roared overhead.

Neil has taken some steps in his lyrics, however, to make it all sound a little less mundane, such as the concluding line about how he had figured out where he "went wrong." In this way he makes the situation seem more like part of an impending personal crisis of some sort, perhaps events that will lead to a serious argument: hence the "calm before the storm" of the title.

As an intriguing sidenote, one of my online correspondents has offered a very reasonable alternate interpretation: that the lyrics strongly suggest a couple waiting nervously for the results of their HIV tests. While this interpretation flies directly in the face of Neil's description of the song's origins, one shouldn't simply dismiss it out of hand. After all, artists, for whatever reasons, do not always necessarily reveal the true meanings of their works. Still, Neil's explanation sounds completely reasonable to me.


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