Dreaming of the Queen

Writers - Tennant/Lowe
First released - 1993
Original album - Very
Producer - Pet Shop Boys, Stephen Hague
Subsequent albums - Concrete
Other releases - (none)

Inspired in part by Brian Masters' 1972 book Dreams About HM the Queen and other Members of the Royal Family, this song has been described by Neil as his variation on what is apparently a fairly common English anxiety dream: meeting the Queen under less than ideal circumstances, such as wearing nothing but your underwear. In this case, he's naked. But there's much more to "Dreaming of the Queen" than an unpleasant if mildly comic dream. Rather, it's an extremely dense, haunting track overshadowed by AIDS, filled with images of illness, lost love, and death.

The dream has four main characters: the narrator, his lover (who is now dead), Princess Diana (who was very much alive at the time this song was recorded, but whose marital problems were all too well known), and the Queen herself. When Di (her nickname perhaps serving as a pun on the word "die") sadly states from personal experience, "There are no more lovers left alive," it sends the narrator into his own reverie in which he notes how true this is since "it's happened to me and you" (his lover). When the narrator finally wakes up from this disturbing dream "in a sweat" (an image that parallels the night sweats that are a common symptom of AIDS) and "desolate," he reiterates the fact that "there are no more lovers left alive"—despite the dream having come to an end. It seems clear that the narrator has already lost his lover, probably because of AIDS, and that he himself is now personally coping with the disease. (As a perhaps significant sidenote, Neil has pointed out that the only time he actually met Diana was at a London AIDS hospice.)

Regular site visitor and frequent contributor Jeffrey Durst has observed that this song—and particularly the famous line from the chorus "There are no more lovers left alive"—may have been influenced by the 1964 novel Only Lovers Left Alive by Dave Wallis, or perhaps even more likely by the Wanderers' 1981 post-punk cult-classic album of the same name. After all, 1981 was the year in which Charles and Diana were married, not to mention when Neil and Chris met and when the first cases of AIDS were reported by the U.S. Center for Disease Control (although the term "AIDS" itself wasn't coined until the following year, and retrospective research indicates that there were some pre-1981 cases). Both the novel and the album have been described as "foreboding," bearing strong overtones of death, which makes one or both of them distinctly possible if not likely influences.

Incidentally, Chris wrote the music for this song, which Neil has said is his favorite from Very.

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