Footsteps

Writers - Tennant/Lowe
First released - 1999
Original album - Nightlife
Producer - Pet Shop Boys, Craig Armstrong
Subsequent albums - (none)
Other releases - (none)

Neil has said that closing track of Nightlife is essentially a return to the narrative persona of the opening track, in which the long-suffering female protagonist takes comfort in her realization that, as long as her wayward lover does come home to her at some point in the night—and she hears his "footsteps in the dark"—she'll be satisfied. The recording represents a major stylistic innovation for the Pet Shop Boys; some critics have compared the style to that of late-seventies Neville Brothers, but to this commentator it sounds more reminiscent of early- or mid-seventies soul groups like the Chi-Lites and the Stylistics. (In particular, note the resemblence of the arrangement to the latter group's 1971 hit "You Are Everything.") The use of an electric sitar—a staple of such seventies soul classics—is also new for the Boys. (The credits say it's a guitar, but it sure sounds like an electric sitar.)

I also wonder whether this song may be a very specific nod toward the highly influential American R&B band the Isley Brothers, whose 1977 album Go for Your Guns features a track titled "Footsteps in the Dark." In the Isleys' song, however, the footsteps—real or imagined—that the narrator keeps hearing in the dark aren't those of a returning lover but rather of the paramour with whom he fears his lover is cheating.

Finally, Neil has pointed out that, although they've certainly used choruses and choirs in the past, this track was their first with a full classical choir, which lends the song an almost epic grandeur. It's also superbly produced: if you've never listened to it with headphones, by all means do so! A fascinating and overall quite lovely musical experiment.

Annotations

List cross-references