Delusions of Grandeur

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 "A Red Letter Day"

"It's about fascism," Neil says of this bonus track on the U.K. "A Red Letter Day" CD single. The song was inspired by the 1904 novel Hadrian VII by British author Frederick William Rolfe, alias "Baron Corvo." The novel is about an Englishman who becomes Pope and sets about exacting revenge on those who had previously earned his enmity. This is essentially what the song is about as well. As Neil has stated, "It's a fantasy about how you hate people because they've treated you badly, and so you want to rule the world and get revenge on them." (In discussing this song, Neil has also confessed that, as a child, he himself harbored playful fantasies of becoming the Pope someday.)

As for other influences, the chord progressions are based on those of Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata. I also wonder whether Neil may have been influenced by a 1976 French film comedy with the same title (when translated) as this song; set in 17th-century Spain, it also has revenge as its central theme.

A very popular "non-album" track with fans, its chief weakness (at least from the perspective of this writer, among others) is the fact that Neil's vocal is curiously buried in the mix. Given contemporary recording technology, it's surely intentional, which makes me wonder what the Boys had in mind in having it mixed that way. One of my site visitors has suggested they were aiming for a sound that suggests hollowness, emptiness, and/or distance, as if the narrator were speaking in the enormous ballroom of a palace, addressing an audience from afar—or perhaps even speaking aloud all by himself in such a place, a lonely figure despite his power and prestige.


List cross-references