Co-written with William Orbit, fresh from his huge global success as co-writer and producer of Madonna’s Ray Of Light and Music albums, Pure Shores featured the ethereal, dreamlike electronica that was Orbit’s stock and trade.
Sonically, it was a huge leap – and departure in style – for All Saints, and new territory for songwriter Shaznay Lewis whose musical leanings were very much rooted in R&B up until that point.
The inclusion in Danny Boyle’s Leonardo DiCaprio-starring The Beach helped propel the song – and the band – to a global audience, and it became a huge hit.
Twenty years since its release, Shaznay remembers the song – and the “bonkers” period that was the year 2000.
William Orbit was introduced to us by Pete Tong who was our A&R at the time.
In all honesty I didn’t know that much about William beforehand because that wasn’t really my genre, but he’s one of the nicest people.
Danny Boyle approached William first because he had the track and they called me to write to it.
They showed me less than a minute of a clip [from The Beach] of where it was going to go, [played] the backing track and asked me to write to that based on that scene. It was a free rein once they’d shown me the clip. It was a case of ‘watch this, be inspired, go off and give it a go’. They didn’t really point me in any direction of how they wanted it to be lyrically.
I found it quite easy because I didn’t have to draw from my own narrative or story.
Being given a brief like that, they’d already painted the picture for me. It was quite an enjoyable process because it was the first time I’d done something like that. I love being shown an idea and then being asked to go away and come up with a concept to it. It’s a nice way of storytelling. It would be amazing to do something like a Bond theme.
I was on a plane when I wrote the lyrics.
I was flying to LA to work with William on the song. So I wrote it on the plane and when we landed and I got to the hotel I couldn’t find the lyrics. I’d lost them. So I then had to write it again from scratch. No pressure! [laughs]. It wasn’t exactly the same but can you imagine if that one was better? But you know, it wasn’t such a bad thing because sometimes you have to sit with things, and imagine if I’d stuck to that original version and it wasn’t actually quite right? So it was good that I was able to go back and listen again and tackle it again. Parts of it were the same but I know there were parts that were different.
I came up with the title after writing the song.
I’ve never even thought that it isn’t mentioned once in the actual song.
I am so glad that William came into my life.
Working with him taught me a lot. It opened my eyes to working with people who might not necessarily be on the same page as me and how much I could learn from a different perspective as a writer.
I think such a left-field track like Pure Shores blended well with my style of writing.
It just brought out what I do in a different kind of way and it also opened up my ears and allowed me to love contrast. I like the idea of two people coming from opposite ends of the scale.
I think we appreciate that song so much more now than we even did at the time.
I love it. It’s kind of marinaded like a fine wine.
Everyone’s got a story or a journey with the song.
Twenty years later everybody’s lived with the song, All of us – us girls and the people who bought that song – to be here twenty years later and to be at shows together and to be able to perform it and listen to it and reminisce about where they were at that time. We are really grateful and happy to have done the journey and to be at this point with a lot of those songs. It’s a beautiful thing that people still love the song.
It was a very hectic time. It was bonkers.
We were here, there and everywhere. Once we’d written Pure Shores and Black Coffee with William… those two songs written off the back of our first album were so different and quite a departure in terms of production and where we’d come. We made the first album in such a hub, we did a lot of stuff with [producer] K-Gee, so to go from that to the second album and working with William was very different. To me that was a huge indication as to how huge we’d become and how things were changing. It was quite a significant change but one that moved so fast that I didn’t grasp how much it was changing.
Our biggest dream at that point was just to get on Top Of The Pops.
I think once we’d done that we thought we’d made it! Anything outside of that was beyond our imagination.
We were absolutely freezing cold filming the video.
It was a very long, cold day. There was nothing glamorous about it at all. It’s funny because a lot of people were like ‘oh my god, did you film that video in Thailand?’, to which I reply ‘no we didn’t, we filmed it in Norfolk’. We really got the short straw on that one!
And we hated the clothes.
The stylist wasn’t too impressed that we didn’t like them [laughs].
I’ve only seen The Beach once.
If I saw it now I’d probably think something different, but I remember at the time there was some of it that I didn’t understand. I’d like to go back and watch it again to see what I think now.
People have told me where they’ve done trips to Thailand and they take a boat to where they shot the film and they play Pure Shores.
I don’t know because I’ve never been to Thailand and I think they’ve stopped doing it now, but I just thought that it’s amazing that this song gets played on that beach and we’ve never even been there!
This interview has been edited for clarity and length.