Tuesday, December 1, 2009

beautiful, Christmas gifts

"Yes", the current longplayer from Pet Shop Boys, is not only my favorite album of 2009, it's also another in a long, distinguished, line of high water marks in a career that spans 25 years. It's a bright, brilliant and colorful album by an act with many contemporaries and few imitators. They are a British institution with exceptional vision and taste.

You can imagine my excitement when I was presented with the opportunity to produce a remix for "Beautiful People" this past August. Having worked with PSB during my tenure at EMI in the 90s, as well as having produced remixes for the Grammy nominated, US only single, "To Step Aside" in 1997, I've not only been able to enjoy a career sprinkled with creative endeavors, I've also been lucky enough to work with many acts that have inspired me over the years.

I'm quite proud of the remixes of "Beautiful People". However, a combination of the late receipt of the required parts and EMI's unreasonable deadlines prevented them from being released commercially. Now, with PSB's forthcoming "Christmas" EP about to hit the "shops", it looks unlikely the remixes will be made available on an official configuration.

It would have been great to see them coupled with Ralphi Rosario's remixes of "Did You See Me Coming?" which aren't scheduled for commercial consumption either. This isn't an unusual occurrence. Remember the Arthur Baker mixes of "Suburbia", the Frankie Knuckles mixes of "Left To My Own Devices" or the Love To Infinity mixes of "Saturday Night Forever"?

The campaign behind "Yes" seemed to go off the rails almost from the start. Of course, I'm not intimately familiar with the fine details. But having been involved in the process over the last two decades, I'm able to connect many of the dots. It all started with "Love Etc" being available in very short supply due to manufacturing issues, thus presenting PSB with a single which fell short of the top 10 in the UK.

Then there was the protracted delay between the second single, "Did You See Me Coming?", and the third which was only released in Germany and peaked in their charts at a dismal #65. In the UK, their premiere market, it will be seven months between releases, thus slowing any momentum derived from the Brits and their tour.

It's easy to give opinions in retrospect, but I think "All Over The World" should have been the second single, especially since it was highly touted, critically lauded and a fan favorite at the launch of the album. Immediately afterward, "DYSMC?" would have made the perfect single for the summer.

Early on, PSB seemed to have tapped out their budget on the remixes for "Love Etc", all of which were fine but not terribly exciting. Their own mixes for the single were better than any of the ones they commissioned. Their own reworking of "DYSMC?" was brilliantly executed, as well, and didn't really require any fiddling at the hands of anyone else. Only Richard X's mix of "The Way It Used To Be" made for essential listening among all the remixes from hired hands.

History has clearly proven that PSB have always been adept at issuing remixes of their singles. They typically follow current dance trends and feature cutting edge, hotly tipped producers. Unfortunately, these are the mixes that are often rendered obsolete or outdated as time moves on. The more timeless post productions are the ones that tend to keep the song in tact, don't reharmonize the original too drastically and have a pop crossover appeal. So, when constructing the production for "Beautiful People", I kept that in mind.

My inspiration for the remix came from one of my favorite PSB tracks, "I Wouldn't Normally Do This Kind Of Thing", which features splashes of 60s pastiche much in the same way "BP" does. Additionally, many of my favorite contemporary mixes have been crafted by the current crop of talented producers such as Moto Blanco, Dave Audé, Freemasons and Cahill, all who tend to incorporate the original song into their productions which made me want to push "BP" in a more pop direction similar to the their styles.

Every Christmas, I usually produce a unique CD as gift for my closest friends. It features a few of my favorite songs from throughout the year. Sometimes, if the mood strikes me, I sprinkle in a few of my own efforts. Often, time permitting, I design original artwork around it. A musical Christmas card, if you will.

This year, it was my intention to share my remixes of "Beautiful People". However, after an unexpected outpouring of kind words and support from so many (here comes the pun) beautiful people (50 lashes!), I've decided to make these mixes available to download for a very limited period of time. It's a small of thanks to everyone who has appreciated the work involved in the production process and provided words of encouragement along the way.

The first track is the single mix which has been #1 on Gaydar Radio for nearly two months. Thanks to DJ supreme, Phil Marriott (double R double T) who has been a big supporter of the track.

You will also find the club mix which is a personal favorite. It's really an extension of the single version. Or is the single version an edit of the club mix? You decide.

Lastly, there is "Beautiful Voodoo", a mash up of "BP" and late 80s, Hacienda classic, "Voodoo Ray", by A Guy Called Gerald. Two great tastes that sounds great together. I produced this little gem with well-respected, LA mash up artiste, DJ ShyBoy, with whom I've always wanted to work. Together, after sifting through crates of records, we came up with something a little different rather than shoot straight for the obvious. It turns the song into an eerie, dark and moody number. Not for the faint at heart.

The artwork was designed by my friend, Jeb Edwards (aka £50 Note), a top DJ and creative design artist based in San Francisco. Together we art directed the entire package. Our mutual friend, Bruce Bartlett, mastered the tracks in Toronto. As I'm based right outside NYC, this was truly an internationally produced project.

Both Jeb and Bruce are wonderful. They freely gave their time to make sure this effort looked and sounded great. Of all the people with whom I've worked over the last two decades of my career, they proved to be two of the most talented, dedicated and patient. If you want to explore more from them, check out the masterful work they did with all of the singles New Order released for Factory. They've recreated them in loving detail.

As you might be able to tell, all three of us are deeply passionate about pop music and its many faces. Also, we're fans of Farrow but have been less than enthusiastic about the range of single sleeves for the "Yes" campaign with the original cover of "BP" a particular low point in the PSB cannon. That strikes me as a bit strange since Chris and Neil are very particular about details, style, artwork and their image. So, armed with a scanner, an appropriate photo from the "Pandemonium" tour book and a handful of fonts, Jeb designed the best of any of the recent single sleeves while maintaining the theme of the album.

Without further adieu, ladies and gentlemen, I present to you my very own, three track single for "Beautiful People". It's available in two flavors - 30MB files for iTunes and 110MB FLAC files. Both feature complete, original artwork, as well. Click the following links for maximum joy.

iTunes (30MB)

FLAC (includes artwork, 110MB)

And speaking of Christmas, PSB are about to give their fans the gift of music with a brand new EP, creatively titled, "Christmas".

The festivities commence with a new version of their twelve year old recording, "It Doesn't Often Snow At Christmas", which was previously only available to members of their fan club. Eventually, the Crimbo colored tune made it on to a Starbucks compilation a couple of years ago courtesy of Elton John who curated their holiday collection that season.

The new version of "IDOSAC" is grander with lush orchestration and choral arrangements thanks to Marius de Vries' production. And I love the camp moments they've sprinkled in along the way like the moment when the chorus belts out "Bing Crosby!" and the part where the orchestra breaks into a short snippet of "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing".

The new mix of "All Over The World" strips away much of Xenomania's original, quirky, electronic bits and adds glissando strings and a live, concert orchestra performing segments of Tchaikovsky's "The Nutcracker" replacing the sample featured on the album version, all of which dresses up the production in lavish, bombastic regalia.

Then comes the track I've been harping on about for months when it was first revealed that PSB planned to perform it as part of their current tour. Coldplay's anthemic "Viva La Vida" is an inspired choice of cover. Something Neil and Chris have always embraced with their unique combination of requisite, wry wit and pop reverence. They know a great song when they hear one and are adept at adapting it to their sound.

Incorporating the keyboard figure and some of the lyrics from their own "Domino Dancing" is inspired and continues the mash up theme they have explored this year beginning with their performance at the 2009 Brits right through to their recent live shows. My only criticism is that it doesn't sound as fully produced as I expected. The intro and outro seem just a tad bland and I can't help feeling like I want to hear a more developed arrangement connecting those segments.

Then, we are treated to quite an unusual cover in the shape of "My Girl", originally a #3 hit for Madness in the UK in 1980 after it was released, coincidentally, in the run up to Christmas at the end of 1979. That's exactly 30 years ago for those of you who are counting or in denial.

PSB's "My Girl" starts out in a mournful tone much different from the lager soaked, ska sound of the original. After the darkness of the verses we're back in "I Wouldn't Normally Do This Kind Of Thing" territory with a bright, uplifting chorus.

The extended version of "My Girl", cheekily dubbed the "Our House" mix, is basically two minutes longer than the PSB original with a few minor differences. I would have preferred a remix of "Viva La Vida/Domino Dancing" or "BP".

Overall, "Christmas" is a fantastic addition to their recorded output. A perfect gift for their legion of rabid fans.


  1. Wow, Christmas has certainly come early!

    Thanks for all the work you guys have put into this whole package. It's been great to get this sort of insider knowledge on the process and the business.

    I largely agree with your thoughts on the remixes too. I say 'largely' because the Gui Boratto mix of Love etc. is superb!

    With that, I'm downloading as I type and look forward to having a boogie to your mixes.

    Thanks again!

  2. Thanx so much Vinnie for this beautiful gift! You're very kind to play Santa Claus this year :) The mixes are fab! Love especially the club mix of BP! Have yourself a merry Xmas! Take care, Giac

  3. Thanks from Europe!!!
    Have a nice Christmas time.

    :-) PSB (-:

  4. thank you thank you vinny : your gift is really fantastic.

  5. thank you so much for sharing your remixes of BP : the club mix is gorgeous and makes me actually like the song ! merry Xmas to you.

  6. Great gift, really ! Thanks a lot !

  7. Thank You!! I'm looking forward to hearing your remixes.

  8. Thank you Vinny, your mixes are simply great. It's a shame EMI decided not to use them, as I think they would have elevated the whole BP campaign much more. You were very kind to post them here. I also agree with your comments about the Yes project--fabulous album, not really handled all that well. It was EMI's chance to prove that they were worthy of getting them back in America, only to suffer under the bad timing of recessionary disarray. I don't think I saw or heard a single PSB song or video anywhere in the US this year other than in my store and at their concert.

  9. Many thanks, shame on EMI ;o)

  10. Thank you. Your mixes make something fabulous, quite delicious!

  11. Vinny- you're the best brother man. Thanks for the zip. We all know that EMI handled this release like shit but here's who I would have went with the remixes; I'm going to toss a few names out there...

    1. Danny Tenaglia (US)
    2. Kaskade (US)
    3. Ben Watt (UK)
    4. Eric Prydz (Sweden)
    5. Joris Voorn (Holland)
    6. Lindstrom (Norway)
    7. Josh Gabriel (US)
    8. Serge Santiago (UK)

    EMI should know their target audience- fans of PSB want something better than some generic remix from some middle of the road producer. The same sounds, percs, arrangements, etc. get really old after a while. On the contrary, this is something Depeche Mode (Capitol) does EXTREMELY well. One can tell when labels truly have their ear to the ground and finger on the pulse. We are in the midst of an italo/synth pop/80s (hipster) reemergence and EMI has done a poor job capitalizing on this. Take a look at the labels, players and publishing companies cannibalizing the market place right now- Ultra Records (Patrick Moxey), V2 (Richard Branson), Interscope (Lyor Cohen) and David Geffen (as always). Similiar if not identical labels who carved up the sounds in the 80s (Warner, Geffen, Sony, Elektra, Capitol). No small coincidence. The average music consumer, especially fans of PSB, are certainly able to consume and digest these sounds again. Take a look at the US Top 40- ALL dance music. EMI dropped the ball on this one from an objective business point of view, but I take it personal because it's PSB. One of my professors always says, "Don't get too close to the music." Regardless, one has to be pissed off whether you're a fan of PSB or not because of the potential amount of revenue that could've been earned in this particular scenario. Shame on EMI and Parlophone- I expect better from them. Nothing is to be taken for granted, not even a successful duo PSB and that's exactly what happened.


  12. Thank you very much for this gift! As a professional musician and a PSB fan I know and analyzed almost every remix of their tracks and I really can say that you've done a great job!!! I wish you a very happy Xmas and hope that your remixes will become official PSB releases soon. Thanks again.

    PS=I've done a DYSMC remix too. if you wanna listen


    I'd be glad to have an opinion from such a great remixer as you are!

  13. Thanks! Well, it is not strange that Beautiful
    people only reached the position 65. I live
    in Heildelberg and it was almost impossible
    to buy in the stores. I think there was
    only 4-5 copies in all this city. I think
    this german release was a excuse to sell it
    in PSB store of their webpage.

  14. Thanks for sharing these mixes. How sad they were not released but at least you are giving them to us die hard fans who have been tirelessly searching the internet to find them. And what a sweet treat to have included original artwork to accompany the release. Gives it such a nice not to mention a professional touch. Happy Holidays and thanks again from an avid PSB fan.

  15. Some positivity now:

    This club mix makes my arse wiggle

  16. I've been a fan of yours since about '95 with your remix of Bananarama's 'Prove Your Love' which is still one of my favorite mixes of theirs.

    Anyway, thanks so much for sharing your amazing 'Beautiful People' remixes. You always have such a knack for retaining the essence of the original songs yet elevating it and creating something altogether uplifting. All three are terrific and it would have been a shame for these to not have seen the light of day. (I love the artwork too! Reminds me when I saw the concert this year in Seattle.)


  18. @bigoljohnd - Thank you for the kind words I'm so happy the mixes are going down so well with the fans. Hope you have a terrific holiday, too.

  19. @monkeydrum - Thank you. I'm glad you like the mixes of "BP". I always make an effort to keep the song in tact. It's an important part of the process when I'm producing a remix.

    I'm always amazed anyone remembers any of the projects I've produced. "Prove You Love" is one of my favorites. I'd love to take a crack at something from the new album, "Viva".

  20. @Jams - Mission accomplished. My work is done here. :)

  21. @spEE - It's always great to get feedback from other musicians and producers. Really pleased you like the mixes. The reaction from fans has been wonderful. There are more projects on the horizon!

    Thanks for the support and kind words. I hope you have a terrific Christmas.

  22. @Minge - Happy to hear the mixes are to your liking. They were cooked to perfection! :)

  23. @countpopula - I'm so happy you like the mixes. Seems they have had the desired effect!

    At this point, PSB are a heritage act. It's unlikely they will have success beyond their fanbase. But anything is possible, especially with the internet. You never know when something will resonate with the public.

    I'm really thrilled about the transparency of the internet. Blogging puts me in touch with so many people in ways we couldn't have imagined. And I really enjoy getting immediate feedback on creative endeavors.

    Ten years ago, I would work on a project and the reactions to it could be delayed for up to a year if a record didn't come out right away.

  24. @fabricepsb - Thanks. I really appreciate your patience. I'm so pleased people like them.

  25. @Giac - You are very welcome. I'm starting to look more like Santa Clause. The white hair is really starting to show. Happy to play the part this Christmas. Enjoy the mixes. There are more projects on the horizon!

  26. @Daddy or Chips - Thanks for the kind words. Hope you had a good boogie around the house. The project, besides being commissioned by PSB, was a labor of love. Merry Christmas!

  27. Hi Vinny, The mixes of BP are really sweet. I can hear the respect you have for the group. This is as big a Christmas present as the Christmas EP. Anyway just discovered your blog and it's fantastic hearing your insights. I still have the import Tori Amos Cd single with your great mixes of "In The Springtime Of His Voodoo" which I adored as a teenager. I would love to hear the process and story behind those mixes.

    Also - I hope you get the opportunity to work with Bananarama again, Viva is a great album but a little overcooked - It'd be interesting to see what direction you could take a few of the songs. Merry Christmas!


  28. Thanks for sharing - they are quite tasty!


  29. Wonderful! Thank you for your generosity!


  30. Good that I found your blog you have an awesome gift,I like it. Keep posting!