Closer to Heaven

Writers - Tennant/Lowe
First released - 1999
Original album - Nightlife
Producer - Pet Shop Boys, Craig Armstrong
Subsequent albums - Closer to Heaven (performed by the original cast), Pandemonium
Other releases - (none)

We didn't know it at the time, but this would prove to be the title song from the Pet Shop Boys' 2001 musical created in collaboration with playwright Jonathan Harvey. The title seems to be a pun of sorts, referring both to the track's pervasive, bittersweet "so close and yet so far" blend of joy and sorrow ("Never been closer to heaven—never been further away") and to the popular, almost legendary London gay dance club Heaven. It may even allude to the heaven/hell dichotomy of thrilling but "sinful" sexual activity. That might seem far-fetched until we consider Neil's Catholic upbringing. Even if one has gotten beyond the view of "illicit" sex as sinful, such feelings often remain a subconscious influence throughout one's life.

Neil has suggested that the British band Babylon Zoo (essentially the guise of Jas Mann) was an influence on this track. At least to the ears of this listener, however, it's hard to hear the connection unless it's in the way Neil's vocals are electronically manipulated throughout.

Many fans were surprised that this marvelous song—seemingly a sure-fire hit—wasn't released as one of the album's singles, but this may have been a long-range strategy related to the musical. That is, perhaps they thought that an alternate version from the musical itself might end up being released as a single instead. As it turns out, the show features several different renditions of this song, though to date none have seen single release. What's more, a four-track promo "sampler" disc of songs from Closer to Heaven featured a "Slow Version" that's nearly six-and-a-half minutes in length. The first half is instrumental, followed by somewhat different lyrics.



Officially released

PSB renditions

Closer to Heaven cast album renditions

Official (by PSB) but unreleased

List cross-references