Interviews With Pet Shop Boys
Tracks From Actually
What have I done to deserve this?

Neil: We wrote this in the beginning of 1985. Tom Watkins was managing a songwriter and artist called Allee Willis I think he might have just been managing her art career.

Chris: She had an asymmetric haircut. Because it was the Eighties.

Neil: She was quite a distinguished songwriter, in that she'd written 'Boogie Wonderland' for Earth Wind & Fire, and at the time she had a big hit with The Pointer Sisters' 'Neutron Dance'.

Chris: Since then she's co-written the theme from Friends.

Neil: My way, Tom Watkins said, 'why don't you write a song with Allee?' We'd never written a song with someone else in the same room. EMI used to have a studio in their basement and we went in there. In fact we started off in a rehearsal studio, where Chris threw a strop. He walked out of the studio and I had to persuade him back in. I think he felt under pressure.
Chris: Yeah. I was having to fight to get to a keyboard.
Neil: Then, after the stop, it got quite good. So there's three bits of the song, one by Chris, one by me and one by Allee Willis. Chris wrote the riff which starts the song and the music which is underneath 'I bought you drinks I bought you flowers', I wrote the verse, and Allee wrote, in my opinion the best bit of the song, the 'since you went away...' bit. She was a very good musician and she'd brought an effects unit with her, which she programmed to make the drums sound like Prince.

Chris: I remember there was lots of discussion about what the song meant. I thought, 'does it really matter?'
Neil: She was right, though. I wrote most of the words. The story of the song is that two people have broken up, and they're both in different places regretting that they've split up, and at the end of the song they get back together again. The man is a pathetic feeble wreck and the woman is meant to be this major capitalist. I suppose I disguise the plots of the songs because I sometimes think they're a bit corny and they're not the most interesting part of the song - it's how it's manifested, how it's discussed, and the words that are used to express it. All these things have been said three million times before, so it's how you say them. The details. I wrote the words on the top of a number 22 bus going home from Smash hits one night. I was going down Piccadilly when I thought of 'what have I done to deserve this?', and then I remember driving past The Ritz and thinking 'I bought you drinks/I brought you flowers...' and I even got my pen out of my briefcase and wrote it down. And then Allee went through the lyrics and simplified some of them and said 'what's happening?' I would never have written things like 'hanging around' - I had something slightly more English than that. Me we were very very excited about it and we played the demo to Tom Watkins who was really iffy about it. It was going to be on our first album, and we couldn't think of who could sing the female part, and Nike Slight, who worked in Tom Watkins' office, said, 'well, you like Dusty Springfield so much -why don't you ask her?' And from that point we knew we just had to have Dusty, so Dusty was approached but it never happened. Everyone said she couldn't sing anymore. She had a very bad reputation. Then later, after Please came out, we heard that Dusty wanted to do it.

Chris and I met her and talked through the song.

Chris I think she was wearing a shell suit.

Neil: No. She was wearing black leather.

Chris: I always picture her wearing a shell suit- pink shell suit and Reeboks.

Neil: She did later on, when we recorded the solo album.

Chris: That's the classic Dusty, with straggly bleached hair.

Neil: She came in. Chris and I were sitting in the office in Advising. Frankly, I was terrified. 'What do you want me to sound like?' she asked, and she seemed surprised by the answer: 'you'. And then Chris and I had to go to Newcastle to do 'Paninaro' on The Tube, so we missed her recording the vocal. When we came back, it sounded fantastic. After we had recorded it, Chris and I went off the track, in our classic way. We decided we didn't want it to be a single. It had such an unusual structure and we worried it didn't hang together. But we changed our mind again. Originally the record started with an aeroplane noise, because he comes back to her; but we thought it complicated the issue so we took it off. We remixed our own twelve-inch version [CD2, track 6] with Julian Mendelsohn. It's very Eighties. I like the fact that the bass is louder than the seven-inch mix. Chris. It's got a real build.

Reviews From The Pet Shop Boys
The Making Of
What have I done to deserve this? The single

Chris: "We wrote this with Allee Willis. Tom, our manager, had met her at a party she'd thrown in Los Angeles, because she's also an artist and they shared an interest in art deco and '50s art."

Neil: "She does these huge mobile paintings and he became her agent in Britain. She did a drawing of us (shown on the left) and Tom said we should write together. We were a bit suspicious, as we are about everything, but then Tom said she wrote 'Boogie Wonderland'1. At first we didn't believe him but she had co-written it. This was before I'd even left Smash Hits but she wanted to write with us because she knew 'West End Girls'; the Bobby 0 version was always on the radio in Los Angeles. She told us 'people sit round at dinner parties and discuss this record.' We were amazed.

"I'd already had the basic idea. One day I was going home on the top of the bus down Piccadilly from Smash Hits when I thought of the line 'what have I done to deserve this?' and I remember driving past The Rite and thinking 'I bought you drinks/I bought you flowers/I read your books...' I even got my pen out of my briefcase and wrote it down. I thought then it would be a rap record, a bit like 'West End Girls'. So we met up and all agreed that this was a good idea and the first thing that happened was we vaguely had a row."

Chris: "I walked out at one point. It was difficult. Allee Willis is very powerful and I can't stand having to fight because I'm not pushy and I was having to fight to get to a keyboard. Anyway, eventually it was alright and you got three different bits by three different people which is probably why it's not a song with a traditional verse/chorus structure. Allee wrote the 'since you went away . .' Dusty bit."

Neil: "We were so excited by it that we made a very good proper demo with Allee Willis singing it the next day. She wrote some of the words, by the way. We always wanted Dusty Springfield to sing it but for ages we couldn't get her to agree - if she'd agreed quicker it would have been on 'Please'. EMI were trying to get us to use Tina Turner but we thought Dusty Springfield was more interesting. Eventually we got a phone call saying she'd do it. I was quite nervous about meeting her because I've liked her since I was young but she was very nice. She just came over for the three days. We had to send a walkman over to her hotel with a tape of the song and a lyric sheet so she could refresh her memory and she added every little ad lib that had been done on the demo onto the lyric sheet. I was quite impressed, actually."

Dusty: "I always imagined this in America; I imaged the two people as an older woman who's in charge of a building site and a man who works for her. They have an affair they break up, he leaves the city -say, from Dallas to Atlanta -and then they both regret I'll They're both quite old - that's why, at the end, they say things like 'we could have made a deal'... we could make a compromise. I couldn't decide whether at the end they go off together,; or whether he returns, they haven't made a deal and he's flown off again."