The Truck Driver and His MateThe Truck-Driver and His Mate

Writers - Tennant/Lowe
First released - 1996
Original album - Bilingual 2001 reissue Further Listening 1995-1997 bonus disc
Producer - Pet Shop Boys
Subsequent albums - Format
Other releases - bonus track with single "Before"; 12-inch vinyl promo

Neil recalled from his youth an advertising slogan for a British candy bar, along the lines of "Big enough for the truck-driver and his mate." He thought this was delightfully funny, what with its probably unconscious homoerotic connotations. So the Boys decided to build a song around the key phrase, adding still more layers of now-conscious macho homoeroticism, including a breathy, wordless "oh-oh-oh" chorus that one commentator has noted may even be suggestive of an orgasm. This rollicking acoustic-guitar-driven track (very unusual for the Pet Shop Boys), which was originally a bonus track on the "Before" CD single, quickly became a fan favorite.

Could this be the closest the Pet Shop Boys have ever come to pure, out-and-out rock? After all, in the Somewhere concert video, Neil straps on his guitar and cries, "Let's rock!" as they launch into this number. (I know the Boys claim to be no longer terribly fond of irony—to quote Neil, "Irony is shit!"—but is this irony or what?) In fact, in early 2012, in an interview promoting the b-side collection Format, Neil confirmed the track's "rock intentions" when he asserted that "Truck-Driver" was the Boys' "take" on the British rock band Oasis, who were approaching their peak of popularity at the time.

The line "Taking coals to Newcastle," unfamiliar to some, is an oft-used metaphor for doing a pointless job—sort of like taking sand to the Sahara—since Newcastle is in the heart of England's coal-producing region. (In addition, Neil spent much of his youth in Newcastle, which could conceivably provide another layer of meaning.) In short, the song's truck-driver finds his work unfulfilling, deriving satisfaction only from the fact that he gets to spend time "talking man to man" with "his mate"—almost certainly his gay lover. After all, you can find them "dancing in the moonlight."

In light of all this, it's worth noting that the sleeve art of an extremely rare 12-inch vinyl promo of "The Truck-Driver and His Mate" takes the notorious "penis graphic" of the "Before" vinyl promo and doubles it, thereby representing the two men of the title. Reportedly only 150 copies were pressed. It's understandable, then, that it ranks among the most highly sought-after PSB collectibles and has been known to fetch prices well into the triple digits.


List cross-references