Do I Have To?

Writers - Tennant/Lowe
First released - 1987
Original album - Alternative
Producer - Pet Shop Boys
Subsequent albums - Actually 2001 reissue Further Listening 1987-1988 bonus disc
Other releases - b-side of single "Always on My Mind"

Neil says that the title of this song, which served as the b-side of the "Always on My Mind" single, was inspired by a phrase Chris often uses when complaining about something. (On a promo trip in Japan, for instance, Neil reports that Chris said it "about 15 times a day.") He wrote the lyrics as if he were talking to a person who's dating someone who already has a steady boyfriend. The narrator of the song—or at least one of the narrators—is clearly worried that he's watching a situation in which one or more people are going to be badly hurt.

I'll be the first to admit that it's a difficult song to understand, at least beyond these basic generalities. The lyrics seem to raise as many questions as they answer, the key one being "Do I have to… "—what? In fact, it sounds to me as if the narrator actually shifts between the verses and the chorus—that two different people are talking. But only Neil could say that for sure. For a very long time, the only thing that I could say with any certainty is that the song involves an interpersonal situation that I, for one, surely wouldn't want to be a part of. Finally Neil provided some clarification in 2018 when, in his book One Hundred Lyrics and a Song, he wrote that this song "describes finding out that your new lover still has an old lover and won't drop him." As I said, I wouldn't want any part of that.

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