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I n 1996, I wrote a long and personal letter to a long-time friend of mine. She had written a rather personal letter before, and mentioned some specific songs and what those songs had meant to her. Picking upon the topic of specific songs, I recorded a tape for her, filled with Pet Shop Boys songs, and added my very own personal critique. Of course, Being boring was one of them.

Four years later, in autumn 2000, Marcin Wichary contacted me about this review. A couple of years earlier, we had some emails exchanged in which we discussed different songs, upon which I had sent him that Being boring review. Now, he asked me whether I would like to contribute it to his website, to which I agreed. Therefore, the following is this rather personal review from 1996, although I have edited it slightly—after all, not only did I have much time to reflect upon it, but I also felt that looking back at it four years later, my perception and understanding of certain events, on which I had commented before, had developed further.

B eing boring is my favorite, and I think it’s one of the best pop songs ever done. The music is intriguing, and so are the lyrics: they are a free recollection of the singer’s “story,” his early biography. It’s about growing up, although the first part (“in my 1920ies”) can’t be his actual “growing up”—clearly, these 1920ies are used allegorically here (and thus, the “free” recollection).

Nevertheless: after the fictional “teenage parties” where we witness a sheltered youth, the singer moves into reality (“in my 1970ies”) and to a big city (London in this case). He leaves the sheltered—and here, allegoric—days behind him, and steps into an uncertain future; there he stands, with his “haversack and some trepidation”, unsure about his next steps. But it seems that everything goes well eventually—more or less, that is—for we learn that he finds confidence and security in his friends (“We were always hoping that, looking back / You could always rely on a friend”).

Thus we finally arrive in the present, and the situation is somewhat mixed: now he seems to have found his identity (“The creature that I always meant to be”), but scarily enough, the shadow of AIDS looms over him: the lines “All the people I was kissing / Some are here and some are missing” are about his friends, past and present, and some of them have died.

It is this final part of the song which I love most, although my associations run along different lines—indeed, since most of the song could be my own biography as well: “rented rooms and foreign places” aplenty (I recently realized that Dusseldorf is the fifth place, on the first of two continents, I’m living in during the last six years!), “All the people I was kissing / Some are here and some are missing” is apt as well, but it is not that they have died—it is because I have moved away (a death in distance, perhaps). Also, last year, it seemed for a while as if I was on the way of becoming “the creature that I always meant to be”, after I had landed that competition win in Shanghai—but this was shattered eventually, for the people I was working for took that job—and associated merits—away from me (“one steals to achieve”). So maybe this exactly is a guiding principle in my life: I have to continually work on what I want to become... and endlessly so, because it seldom works out right the first time.

Anyway, about this “working it out,” there are a couple of things missing for me presently, both professional and personal. So, taking it a step further, I can’t help but to wonder who—“But I thought in spite of dreams / You’d be sitting somewhere here with me”—that one person will be eventually, again... There’s a little personal anectode connected with all of this, too: in 1991, I visited the Lesser Antilles, and travelled there for two months. In St. Lucia, I met a young woman. We spent some nice evenings together, and on one of these, as we were sitting under some palm tree and talking, she asked me whether I knew any poems (very romantic, the woman). Well, I didn’t really, but then Being boring came to my mind (and the lyrics are a poem, aren’t they, and they are much easier to memorize because of the melody that stays in your head), and I tried to sing this third part to her. My voice is arguably way beyond anything except talking (and I tried to “sing” it the least embarrisingly way), but nevertheless I could sense that the words, despite my poor voice, made a great impact on her. She wrote me, some time later, that a few months afterwards, she did request that song on St. Lucian radio, as a kind of souvernir. Well, I don’t know whether that’s true, because I doubt they’d have a Pet Shop Boys record in St. Lucia, but it makes a nice story—“some are here, and some are missing.”

Also, and that was even before, I put this third part of Being boring on a birthday card I sent to a woman I was madly in love with when I left for London myself (yes, parellels aplenty, though I didn’t take take a haversack with me, and I was very excited).

Summing it all up, this “some are here, and some are missing” holds really some very strong memories and associations for me—and, pointedly enough, during my 1990ies.

For all these reasons, and because it is great music and has great lyrics, it is one of my favorite pop songs ever.

T he above was written in 1996. Four and a half years later, I live yet in another place, but the inherent restlessness has given way to quiet determination: I think I have arrived at “the creature that I always meant to be” (my work begins to find recognition, and my practice is moving ahead), and most importantly, no more “in spite of dreams”: in summer 1999, I met a warm and wonderful woman, and two months ago, we have married. Sometimes, loves comes quickly, and the rest follows.

Jan Dvorak

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