Radiophonic

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

Stylistically and even lyrically one of the most interesting tracks on Nightlife, one that some critics have cited as demonstrating that Neil and Chris retain a musically adventurous streak. Yet the Boys themselves have professed a somewhat "retro" source of inspiration: they "wanted to make an Eighties-sounding song in the vein of Patrick Cowley," the pioneering San Francisco-based producer of synth-heavy disco music who became an early casualty of AIDS in 1982.

Very much in a hi-energy mode, "Radiophonic" sounds almost like one of Chris's instrumental workouts to which Neil has molded lyrics. Those lyrics focus on an extended metaphor in which Neil compares the feeling of falling in love—and, as he told an interviewer for Manchester City Life, of "lying in bed with a hangover"—with loud, driving, pounding dance music ("like a dub sub-sonic beat-box booming bass under the bed") that permeates your brain and body, staying with you, even remaining a part of you long after you've left a dance club. Quite ingenious.

Incidentally, the word "radiophonic" wasn't coined by the Boys. Rather, it dates all the way back to the 1950s when BBC radio producers began experimenting with the musical potential of electronic sound manipulation. They initially described their experiments as "electrophonics," but found that that term already had a totally unrelated medical usage. So they coined the term "radiophonics" to describe their own work. The "Radiophonic Workshop," as it was called, became best known for having originated the Doctor Who theme music. And Neil has admitted to having been a major Doctor Who fan as a child.

As one of my site visitors has pointed out to me, the Radiophonic Workshop often produced music that most listeners at the time found extremely strange and disconcerting. It's likely that this is the metaphor that Neil is evoking in this song: that love can produce just such a sense of oddness and disconcertedness in those whom it strikes, particularly in its early stages.

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