I'm Not Scared

Writers - Tennant/Lowe
First released - 1987 (Eighth Wonder); 1988 (PSB)
Original album - Introspective
Producer - David Jacob, Pet Shop Boys
Subsequent albums - (none)
Other releases - none by PSB; 1987 single by Eighth Wonder, produced by PSB (UK #7)

In 1987, Neil and Chris wrote and produced "I'm Not Scared" for Patsy Kensit and her band Eighth Wonder, basing it on an instrumental they had written two years earlier with Chris's punning title "A Roma." It was their first-ever "outside" production for another artist. (Actually, although it was released under the Eighth Wonder banner, Kensit is the only member of her band who actually took part in the recording.) The resulting track, released as a single the following year, proved a sizeable hit, reaching #7 in the U.K and proving even more successful in other parts of Europe. The Boys then recorded their own extended and significantly harder-edged version for the Introspective album.

The lyrics are somewhat cryptic, but they could well be about (or at least set against the backdrop of) the 1968 Paris student riots, samples of sounds from which are included in the PSB track. The facts that Patsy Kensit speaks bits of French in her rendition, and her b-side is the same song, only translated into French ("J'ai Pas Peur"), lend additional credence to this interpretation.

On the other hand, it's quite possible that Neil is only using the Paris riots as a metaphor for a troubled relationship and/or the narrator's distressed mindset. The lyrics—which Neil has noted that he sings from a female perspective—take the form of an accusatory monologue by one party in this relationship ("If I was you, I wouldn't treat me the way you do"), who's trying to bolster her own confidence in the face of many difficulties ("I'm not scared, baby—I'll go anywhere"). Despite it all, however, she asserts her continued interest in the person to whom she's speaking, expressing her wistful desire to read his or her mind. And no, she's "not scared" of what she might learn there. So, at least from that perspective, the song remains hopeful.

Neil himself has commented at some length on this song (in the booklet that accompanied the 2001 reissue of Introspective), along the way indicating that he may have written the lyrics specifically with Patsy Kensit in mind: "[S]he was seen as a little girl and a controlled type, and I thought the way that was perceived could be changed.… She seemed to me to be a very strong-willed person, slightly ruthless even, and I didn’t think it was good she was just portrayed as a sexy bimbo." He goes on to say that the underlying concept of the lyrics is that "she’s got this horrible gangster boyfriend who’s pushing her around but she’s going to stand up to him because she’s not scared. The dogs are the hooligans and criminal elements around them."

One of my site visitors has also suggested that the lyrics might reflect the Pet Shop Boys' feelings about the pop press at the time, which frequently offered unwelcome speculation about the personal lives of pop stars. It's an interesting interpretation, and well worth considering. If that's the case, this song could be heard as a statement of defiance: "I'd go anywhere, baby—I don't care." And could that be Neil speaking as a former pop journalist when he sings, "If I was you, I wouldn't treat me the way you do"?

By the way, those who are willing to delve into such things may also be interested in the surprising grammatical controversy that surrounds one of the lines in this song.

Annotations

Mixes

Officially released

Pet Shop Boys rendition:

Eighth Wonder rendition:

List cross-references