One advance reviewer suggested that this driving pop tune punctuated by horns (or horn samples) is the most "typically PSB" track on the album. It seemed to have "single" written all over it. The fact that it was never released as such perplexed many fans.
The title—derived from ancient Greek, meaning "all demons"—is a word coined by the great English poet John Milton in his 1667 masterwork Paradise Lost. He used it as the name of the capital city of Hell, where Satan governs his dominion: not at all a pleasant place. It has since come to refer to any extreme state of disorder, confusion, and/or noise. Perhaps appropriately, then, the song has the fairly unusual (at least for them) time signature of 12/8, which contributes to its raucous, somewhat off-kilter mood.
Chris and Neil have said that it was inspired by the volatile (and now defunct) romantic relationship of English model Kate Moss with rock musician Pete Doherty, as conveyed from Kate's point of view (though there's nothing in the lyrics to indicate that they're necessarily from a feminine perspective). The narrator expresses her utter shock and dismay at her lover's outrageous behavior, "crashing everywhere," but acknowledges that it hasn't diminished their love—yet. In fact, she even derives a good deal of excitement from it: "I'm living in ecstasy." Still, we realize—and she surely does as well—that such a relationship can't last forever. The excitement and thrill will wear thin after a while, leaving behind only smashed china, pandemonium's broken remains.
As one of my site visitors has astutely noted, the pandemonium described in this song isn't merely of the physical sort that can be witnessed first-hand by others. It also refers to the inner turmoil—not to mention the "ecstasy"—that the narrator experiences in this relationship, including the way her lover makes her do things she never thought possible (such as "telling perfect strangers that I love you"). This has made me realize that the song may be seen as a latter-day, more extreme cousin to "I Wouldn't Normally Do This Kind of Thing," the narrator of which has similarly been swung for a loop by love.
Like "Beautiful People," this track features harmonica, confirmed by Neil in an interview as having again been contributed by Johnny Marr. The Boys have stated that they originally wrote "Pandemonium" for Kylie Minogue, but she rejected it as well as several other songs they had offered. (I had no idea she was so picky!) Once they decided to include it on Yes they briefly considered nicking its title for the album itself, but then decided against it. As it turns out, they saved it for their subsequent tour and the resulting live album. I get the distinct feeling that Neil and Chris are quite pleased that they kept the song for themselves.
- As noted above, the word "Pandemonium" originated with English poet John Milton (1608-1674), who gave the name to the capital city of Hell in his epic poem Paradise Lost (1667), one of the most influential works in all of English literature. He derived it from ancient Greek to mean "all demons." It now of course come to refer to situations of utter chaos.
- "Is this a riot or are you just pleased to see me?" – The song's opening line is an obvious takeoff on the classic Mae West quip, "Is that a pistol in your pocket, or are you just happy to see me?" from her 1933 movie She Done Him Wrong. (Mighty risqué for the time, wasn't it? It's often misquoted "Is that a banana in your pocket, or are you just glad to see me?" or some other variant with "banana.") As the Boys have restated it, the implication seems to be that the person to whom the song is addressed gets a sexual charge from his misbehavior.
- "The stars and the sun dance to your drum" – It's possible that this line is a sly allusion to two U.K. tabloid newspapers, The Star and The Sun, both of which would often run stories about the Moss/Docherty relationship—"tabloid fodder," as such famous pairings are sometimes described.
- "You're crashing everywhere, it's like you're smashing china" – A line clearly derived from the old English-language metaphorical cliché about a wreckless or accident-prone person being "like a bull in a china shop."
- Mixer: Jeremy Wheatley
- Album version (3:45)
- Instrumental (3:42)
- On the special limited-edition Yes box vinyl set
- Mixer: Xenomania and Pet Shop Boys
- The Stars and the Sun Dub (6:10)
- Available on the etc. bonus disc with the limited edition of Yes
- The Stars and the Sun Dub (6:10)
- Mixer: Stuart Price
- Pandemonium CD live version in medley with "Can You Forgive Her?" (4:05)
Official but unreleased
- Mixer: Stuart Price
- Studio version of mashup with "Can You Forgive Her?" (4:05)
- PSB songs that have been used in TV commercials
- PSB/Doctor Who connections
- PSB titles and lyrics that are (or may be) sly innuendos
- The key signatures of selected PSB songs
- Songs that Neil sings avowedly using a female lyrical persona
- My favorite PSB mashups
- Notorious rumors about the Pet Shop Boys
- PSB songs that have been used in films and "non-musical" TV shows
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