It Couldn't Happen Here

Writers - Lowe/Morricone/Tennant
First released - 1987
Original album - Actually
Producer - David Jacob, Pet Shop Boys
Subsequent albums - Essential
Other releases - (none)

Although he borrowed the title (more or less) from American author Sinclair Lewis's 1935 novel It Can't Happen Here, which concerned a prospective fascist takeover of the U.S., Neil's somber ruminations here are somewhat less political and deal not with the U.S. but the U.K. As he himself has pointed out, "It Couldn't Happen Here" grew out of a conversation he recalled having several years earlier with a friend, during which they expressed their belief that the AIDS epidemic, which was beginning to attract attention on account of its rapid spread among the gay population in the States, wouldn't have much of an impact in Britain. As it turned out, that same friend later contracted the disease himself, inspiring Neil to write the song, in which he sadly describes how wrong they had been.

The music was written in collaboration with Italian film composer Ennio Morricone in preparation for a project that evolved into It Couldn't Happen Here, the Boys' fascinating but largely unsuccessful film venture. At the official PSB website, Neil described the composition of the song like this: "Morricone's manager gave us a tape of an unfinished song and told us we could do what we liked with it. Around the chorus melody by Morricone, we wrote verse and intro music and I wrote the words. We never met him." But on another occasion (in an issue of their Fan Club publication Literally), Neil described the circumstances a bit differently, stating how Morricone (or his representatives) had sent them "a funny song about a man building an ark." He went on to add, "We liked the tune of the chorus, so we took the tune of the chorus and wrote a new verse…." (An attempt to provide a succinct step-by-step "recreation" of the process is provided below in the "Annotations.") Details are a bit sketchy, but it seems the Morricone piece from which Chris and Neil borrowed the chorus melody of "It Couldn't Happen Here" may have been originally composed for the 1983 French film Le Marginal, but wasn't actually used. Instead it remained unreleased (and possibly, as Neil described it, "unfinished") until 1999, when it finally saw the light of day as the song "Forecast" by the band Blizzard on the compilation CD Belmondo-Morricone, and still later re-released on an expanded edition of the Le Marginal soundtrack album.



Officially released

Official but unreleased

List cross-references