I'm in Love with a German Film Star
by "Sam Taylor-Wood Produced by Pet Shop Boys"

Writers - Agar/Gogan/Timperley/Williams
First released - 2008
Original album - (none)
Producer - Pet Shop Boys
Subsequent albums - (none)
Other releases - single (UK Dance #1, US Dance Sales #4)

The Pet Shop Boys' official website announced on Valentine's Day 2008 that Neil and Chris had produced and recorded a cover of the 1981 hit "I'm in Love with a German Film Star" with their friend and occasional collaborator Sam Taylor-Wood on vocals. (On the actual release it was unusually billed as by "Sam Taylor-Wood Produced by Pet Shop Boys," with the "Pet Shop Boys" written just as large as Ms. Taylor-Wood's name—unusual in that the producer very rarely receives equal billing with the artist they've produced.) The original was by its writers, the U.K. one-hit wonder The Passions featuring lead vocalist Barbara Gogan—and, yes, it was indeed their one hit. "I've just always liked it," explains Neil in the February 2008 issue of their Fan Club publication Literally. This new version was released on October 27, 2008 on CD and vinyl, the following day on iTunes, and on other digital sites shortly after. It features a PSB radio edit, an extended "Symphonic" mix also by the Boys, and dance remixes by Gui Boratto, Jürgen Paape, and Mark Reeder. Those dance mixes paid off, as evidenced by the fact that it hit #1 on the U.K. Dance Chart.

The PSB website states that their rendition is "partly inspired by Marlene Dietrich," as are the video and the photo that appears on the single packaging. But that's not the case with the Passions' original. Rather, its inspiration was reportedly the British actor Stephen Conolly, who became a star on German television in the 1970s. Intriguingly, the lyrics nevertheless refer to the titular star as "her," lending decidedly lesbian overtones both to the original and to the Taylor-Wood/PSB remake. Much depends, of course, on how you interpret the phrase "in love with." It's worth noting that when the Foo Fighters covered this song in 2005 as a single b-side and track on their album Best of You, they didn't change the gender, in the process rendering it clearly heterosexual. As for the Taylor-Wood package, the Marlene Dietrich "drag" imagery only serves to underscore the "lesbian component," if you will.

The Boys' production is highlighted by marvelous keyboard work—including what sounds like a good old-fashioned Fender Rhodes electric piano (or a digital reproduction) played with an outrageously slow tremolo; heavily distorted, echoey guitar feedback effects; and a harsh, "bending" synth line—all of which are emphasized in the "PSB Symphonic XTD Mix." Chris in particular may have had a lot of fun with this one. Neil, in addition to his co-production duties, appears subtly as a backup vocalist.

By the way, there's an interesting anomaly related to that "PSB Symphonic XTD Mix." The 12-inch vinyl version of the mix is different from the CD and downloadable versions in that it includes, near the start and again near the end, brief samples of Marlene Dietrich singing in German the title of a song she recorded in 1931, "Leben ohne Liebe kannst du nicht" (meaning "You cannot live without love"). Sam Taylor-Wood can also be heard speaking the same line. Neil and Chris had believed that the copyright on the Dietrich recording had expired, rendering it fair game for sampling. When they learned otherwise, they removed the Dietrich sample from the mix. But the 12-inch vinyl copies had already been pressed. So they went ahead and released the vinyl with the sample, and the other editions were released without it.


Officially released

Pet Shop Boys mixes only:

List cross-references