The Sodom and Gomorrah Show

Writers - Tennant/Lowe
First released - 2006
Original album - Fundamental
Producer - Trevor Horn
Subsequent albums - Concrete
Other releases - (none)

Life is the ultimate reality show.

Sodom and Gomorrah are, of course, the names of two biblical "cities on the plain" destroyed by the wrath of God for their wickedness—the precise nature of that wickedness being the subject of much social and theological debate in recent years. The more historical interpretation, now generally believed only by right-wing types, is that it was the cities' sexual license—especially homosexual license—that incurred God's anger. More recent interpretations, adopted by modern liberal Christians, hold that the "sins of Sodom" were actually more akin to inhospitality and cruelty.

The track opens with a spoken introduction that would do any TV show proud: "Sun! Sex! Sin! Divine intervention! Death and destruction! Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the Sodom and Gomorrah Show!" It then launches into a highly elaborate production wrapped around a narrative in which a somewhat innocent, naive narrator—"a stranger to champagne"—is lured into what at first appears to him to be utter depravity. But it proves a liberating experience that also teaches him "the meaning of the show," suggesting also the meaning of life itself:

You've got to love to learn to live
Where angels fear to tread

In other words, you have to be brave and take chances if you're to get the most out of life. A cloistered life of innocence is hardly life at all. It's in the fullness of life that one finds the meaning of life—which is, in the words of the song, a "once-in-a-lifetime production."

Neil told interviewer Jacqui Swift of the online Sun that when he wrote the lyrics he was "thinking about 24-hour news channels" because of the way they present the world—in particular, its horrors ("death and destruction")—as entertainment. Another source of inspiration is the French author Marcel Proust (1871-1922), the fourth volume of whose great novel À la recherche du temps perdu is titled Sodome et Gomorrhe (often translated as Cities of the Plain). A major theme of Proust's work is the way in which distractions, often of a technological nature, all too often serve to alienate people from themselves and each other. So is "The Sodom and Gomorrah Show" a distraction from reality or reality itself? Perhaps both. That is, television news indeed presents reality—or at least one version of it—but in such a way as often to make it somewhat unreal to us.

Neil has also acknowledged that this song could very easily be interpreted as a metaphor for "coming out," but he points out that it has much broader implications. People of any sexual orientation can try to shield themselves from the world or expose themselves to its "sun, sex, sin, divine intervention, death, and destruction." It would be extremely unfortunate if listeners were to zero in on the "Sodom" reference and think that this is purely a "gay" song.

Incidentally, Chris and Neil wanted to release this as the first single from the album—an idea that their record company vetoed immediately and absolutely. It was felt that radio and television would refuse to air a song with "Sodom" in the title. The Boys scoff at this, noting that much more "offensive" words and concepts are broadcast all the time. And, besides, if the song were banned, might not that have boosted sales? After all, the history of pop music (particularly in the U.K.) is replete with examples of songs that became huge hits despite such bans—and in some cases largely because of them.

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