Electricity

Writers - Tennant/Lowe
First released - 1996
Original album - Bilingual
Producer - Pet Shop Boys
Subsequent albums - (none)
Other releases - (none)

In this highly innovative track—with its slow, hypnotic "sleaze groove" that sounds like nothing else the Boys have ever released—Neil breathily adopts the role of a professional drag queen specializing in "live lip-sync" performances. (He had a bad cold at the time of the recording, adding an unusual quality to his voice.) It's a bitchy semi-comic portrayal that nevertheless manages to convey the narrator's pride in what he does: "I'm an artist, honey—you gonna get me a drink?"

Disco-Tex and the Sex-o-Lettes, who are referred to in the song's oft-repeated refrain, were a disco novelty act of the mid-seventies, best known for their feather boas, the flamboyance of frontman and former hairdresser "Sir Monti Rock III" (born Joseph Montanez, Jr.), and their biggest hit, "Get Dancin'." (One critic has even credited them, in that particular song, with the single gayest line in popular music history, when Monti gushes, "My chiffon is wet, darling!") Neil chose them for good reason. It surely says a lot about the protagonist of "Electricity" when the standard against which he measures himself is one of the most outlandishly campy acts of the disco era—and, to be honest, not one of the more musically talented.

The sampled lines of dialogue—"What are you doing in San Francisco?" "Get out of here and take this cake with you!" and "What does this mean?" (the latter easily mistaken for "What does it mean?")—were taken from a film that Chris and Neil just happened to catch on the television around the time that they were recording this song. (This echoes how, nearly thirty years earlier, John Lennon had tacked excerpts from a coincidental radio performance of King Lear onto the end of the Beatles' "I Am the Walrus.") The identity of that film remained a mystery for more than two decades; even the Boys didn't seem to know what it was. But finally, in early 2019, fan and site visitor Kurt Belliveau discovered that they came from the 1942 film My Gal Sal starring Rita Hayworth, who's the woman delivering those lines to her co-star Victor Mature. All three lines occur in quick succession starting at about 1:40:52 into the movie, at least as it appears on YouTube.

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