The Theatre

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

Early in their career, the Pet Shop Boys were sometimes accused of being solopsists devoid of social conscience. But one need look no further than this song to see how very untrue that is.

At one point in the early 1990s when the Boys were writing songs that would find their way onto Very, Chris read a quote in the newspaper that especially captured his attention. A Tory (Conservative) member of Parliament, Sir George Young—who was also serving as the Minister of Housing and Planning under Prime Minister John Major—reportedly quipped, "The homeless? Aren't they the people you step over when coming out of the opera?" (The precise wording varies from one report to another.) Now, there's some debate as to degree to which he meant this comment to be taken sarcastically. But, whatever the case, it still comes across as rather callous. And also whatever the case, it provided some bitter inspiration to Chris and Neil.

Neil's lyrics draw a pointed contrast between the illusory glitz and glamor of theatre-district nightlife with the squalid reality of urban desperation and homelessness. The verses focus on the former, the choruses on the latter, echoing Sir George's infamous comment:

While you pretend not to notice
All the years we've been here
We're the bums you step over
As you leave the theatre


List cross-references