A few weeks back, we looked at the early demos for the Pet Shop Boys musical Closer to Heaven. Those demos would continue over the next couple of years until it finally opened to the public in mid-2001.
Each disc has a slightly different track listing, building on the previous one, but by mid-1999 they had also started replacing songs with versions recorded for the then forthcoming album Nightlife. The previous post covered the first two discs, and now we can jump forward to disc four (2000).
The opening track is the much improved studio version of Tall Thin Men, now transformed into a wonderful cabaret piece which seems well deserving of a proper release somewhere. Then we get a version of For Your Own Good which is very nearly the original album version (it has a bit more on the end after the fade), and is entirely excellent too.
There are then two tracks recycled from the original disc, the rough versions of Something Special and A Little Black Dress, followed by the Nightlife version of In Denial, featuring a guest appearance from Kylie Minogue.
The next new track is the “slow version” of Nine Out of Ten. Transformed from the rather chaotic demo which turned up on disc two,
The original demo of Call Me Old Fashioned turns up again, followed by the original version of Shameless and the b-side recording of Friendly Fire, In Denial Part 2, the album versions of Vampires, and The Only One, the studio versions of Night Life and For All of Us, and finally the completed version of Closer to Heaven.
Disc five adds a number of new tracks into the mix, starting with the wonderfully flamboyant This is Just My Little Tribute to Caligula, Darling (subsequently titled It’s Just…). Neil Tennant‘s vocal performance is quite astonishingly camp, and it makes for a fun recording all round. The Destiny’s Child-flavoured Out of My System is a new track too, although sadly Tennant doesn’t do quite as much justice to it on the demo as the vocalist does on the original cast recording version (released in 2001).
With Nightlife and its accompanying tour out of the way, Pet Shop Boys really seem to have knuckled down to working on the musical at this point, as there are actually five new recordings on this disc. Next is a new instrumental entitled K-Hole, which is a little longer than the completed version which would follow the next year. It’s not a particularly special track either, just a fairly unexciting instrumental which no doubt worked a lot better in the context of the musical.
A new studio version of For All of Us follows, sounding stronger and more confident, and then after the album version of Closer to Heaven we get a new track to close the album, a demo version of subsequent b-side and almost-album-track Positive Role Model. This is a pretty advanced demo, but as with many of the better tracks, even in its demo form it’s rather excellent, and proves the benefit of editorial control during the early stages of the album recording process.
By this stage the contents of the musical must have been fairly well formed, as the four discs of demos from 2001 only contain four or five tracks each. The first focuses mainly on the new show opener My Night, in both edited and full length eight minute form. Never having been fortunate enough to see the musical myself, I can’t really comment, but I suspect this song works better as part of the actual show – the long version starts to get a bit silly after a while as the entire cast crops up and sings “this is my night,” each in a different key. It’s a nice enough song though – classic Pet Shop Boys in many ways.
The third track is a lovely surprise, Something Special, which we heard earlier, now coupled in a rather uncomfortable medley with Home, which would ultimately become Here, far and away the best track on the 2002 album Release. Obviously it’s only half of the track here, but you can still hear how brilliant it’s going to be, although there are a few odd dropouts, so Neil was obviously having some problem with his microphone (well, either that or he was using a lot of naughty words).
The third 2001 disc adds two new tracks – firstly a version of Closer to Heaven entitled Act 1, scene 16, which is essentially a demo of the Slow Version from the free Daily Telegraph CD released at the time of the musical. It works really well, and would have made a good alternative version for the single that never was. The new piano version of For All of Us makes for another serene moment too.
The final disc adds an edited demo of K-Hole, which trims a minute off and turns out to be just a little less dull, and then finally not included on any of these many discs of demos but subsequently unleashed via the official Pet Shop Boys website is a demo version of Run, Girl, Run, recorded by Frances Barber from the cast for a special limited CD available at the merchandise stall. This version is rather lovely, and again would have made for a good PSB track somewhere if they had decided to finish it off for themselves.
As before, I’m not going to tell you where to get these demos – you can collect the original discs if you want, or track down the digital recordings one by one if that’s your preference. There’s more details on the discs here.