Writers - Tennant/Lowe
First released - 2013
Original album - Electric
Producer - Stuart Price
Subsequent albums - (none)
Other releases - single (UK #196)

Neil and Chris composed this song in the studio—by their own admission "drunk" following an evening in a karaoke bar (or, in another rendering of the story, "an Italian disco night in Berlin")—in February 2011 and then worked on it sporadically through the following spring. Stuart Price also worked on it some and even gave it a one-shot debut in a dance club without the Boys' advance permission, an act they considered both "cheeky" and "thrilling." It became the opening number on their 2013 Electric Tour, which may speak highly of it in terms of how highly our musical heroes regard it. Then again, maybe they simply felt that it makes a stompin' great opener, a function that it indeed serves on Electric.

Essentially a techno-dance instrumental with minimal lyrics and vocals, the latter provided by both Neil and Chris on a roughly even basis, it indeed provides a powerful introduction to the album. It also seems highly reminiscent of Relentess, the Boys' "techno/dance bonus album" from 1993. The word "Axis" doesn't even appear in the song's lyrics—what few of them there are—although "electric" and "electric energy" are repeated many times. This in effect makes it the album's "title song," only without actually sharing the title itself. As the Boys would later reveal (for instance, in the booklet for the Electric Tour), "Axis" originally had far more in the way of lyrics, but for whatever reason they decided to trim them down substantially.

Aside from the aforementioned "electric" and "electric energy," those spare lyrics consist of a repeated series of short phrases related to the underlying "electric" concept, such as "Turn it on," "Power it up," "Feel the power," "Plug it in," and "Charge it up." What does this all have to do with an "axis"? My guess is that the track in and of itself serves the Electric album's "axis," about which it turns, so to speak. (Please see my brief discussion of the meaning of the word "axis" below in my annotations for this song.) It even makes me think back to the punning title of the classic Beatles album Revolver, the album itself having been something that revolved on a spindle as it played. Or perhaps it's that "electric energy" that serves as an axis about which something—dancers? people? life? the world? the universe?—revolves. One other long-shot consideration is New York City's famed Axis Studios, where the Boys have indeed recorded (at least once back in 1995, and perhaps at other times as well) and which is coincidentally located above the legendary dance club Studio 54. Could this fact have helped inspire the song's title?

In keeping with its role as teaser/opener, "Axis" was made available for download on iTunes more than two months in advance of the album Electric. In fact, the Pet Shop Boy's official website regards it as the album's lead single. As it turns out, "Axis" did finally appear as a 12-inch vinyl single the day before the album's release, although its U.K. chart performance seems have hinged upon its status as a downloadable track.



Officially released

Official but unreleased

List cross-references