Domino Dancing

Writers - Tennant/Lowe
First released - 1988
Original album - Introspective
Producer - Lewis A. Martineé, Pet Shop Boys
Subsequent albums - Discography, PopArt, Pandemonium, Ultimate
Other releases - single (UK #7, US #18, US Dance #5)

Neil says that the title of this song was inspired during a stay on the Caribbean island of St. Lucia. "In the evening there was nothing to do except play dominoes; this friend of ours [their personal assistant and Chris's roommate, the late Pete Andreas] always used to beat us, and he used to do this celebratory dance." Despite this prosaic origin, "domino dancing" became Neil's metaphor for a love relationship breaking down because of jealousy. As he once described it, he "created a scenario of, you know, a guy going out with a beautiful girl and all the guys are looking at her on the beach in her bikini or whatever and they’re all dropping dead before her because she’s so gorgeous and so consequently he gets jealous and the relationship collapses…."

But this song has also been widely interpreted as a metaphor for what was going on in the early days of the AIDS crisis: carefree young people dancing (a euphemism for sex; at the very least dancing is, as has been observed, "a vertical expression of a horizontal idea") and subsequently collapsing in succession from illness like rows of dominos ( "Watch them all fall down"). Lending some credence to this alternate interpretation, Neil reportedly said of this song, shortly after its release, that it was their "Numbers," referring to a notorious 1983 track by Soft Cell that is indeed about casual sex.

Neil and Chris had traveled to Miami specifically to work with Exposé producer Lewis A. Martineé, whose work they admired, most notably with his highly successful "girl group" Exposé. This track, which exemplifies the 'eighties electro-Latino musical subgenre commonly known as "freestyle," was the result.

Continuing with the Latino theme, the accompanying video is set in Puerto Rico—at director Eric Watson's suggestion—and became notorious for its thinly veiled homoeroticism, despite a heterosexual veneer. (The final scenes of two shirtless young men—even more obviously posited as "sex objects" than the lovely young woman who served as the ostensible object of their competing desires—tussling among the crashing waves on a beach were frequently cited as evidence by critics.) Since "Domino Dancing" proved to be the Pet Shop Boys' final Top 40 hit in the United States, it has been widely speculated that this video may have had something to do with their declining U.S. popularity thereafter.

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