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T en years of Being boring... It also means that ten years have passed since I have become the conscious listener of the Pet Shop Boys music; the songs, the lyrics, the music that for the first time formed an absolutely perfect soundscape for my mind.

In 1990 I was 13 years old; I was a huge fan of Kylie Minogue and Madonna. I didn’t have money to buy cassettes (not to mention compact discs) so I just recorded songs from the radio and played the tapes until they worn out. I knew the Pet Shop Boys existed somewhere; I heard It’s alright on a morning TV show once and thought they were kinda cool, but I didn’t actually associate the sound, the image and the name. And then Being boring was released; I heard the song on the radio and knew it was something special. The DJ said “this was the new single by the Pet Shop Boys, Being boring.” I took all my pocket money, went and bought two cassettes; one was Behaviour, one was KLF’s The White Room.

I listened to Behaviour again and again, trying to find out what made it the perfect album. I only had three other cassettes—two Kylie albums and one by Jason Donovan—so I didn’t have much to compare Behaviour with. It was different to the KLF, but it seemed similar to Kylie/Jason efforts; it was pop music. Why was it different then?

Through the years my collection has grown; in 1990 I had five tapes, in 2000 I have 400 CDs, 200 tapes and some vinyl on top of that. I played my Behaviour tape until it completely worn out; I bought another and it worn out too. Thank God, CD pretty much stands the test of time. So the question comes to mind again: why Behaviour? why Being boring? why then? why now?

I n 1990 I was a 13 years old boy with crush on blonde Australians. Suddenly there were two men, called Pet Shop Boys, who seemed to be a walking contradiction. They make pop music; Kylie makes pop music. Their attitudes, though, were completely different. Kylie’s was “good fun everybody!” They were serious. Surely you can’t be serious about—and in—pop music? It’s a contradiction in terms, isn’t it? You’re not supposed to sing about death; you’re supposed to sing about “life’s a party.” It was weirdly accurate then, when Bruce Weber, the famous photographer, directed a video that, basically, was a huge party. There was something unusual though; the artists were hardly seen in the finished video and—huge surprise—no lip-syncing was encountered. With tens of “new pop sensations” which were invariably happy, thin, beautiful and had interesting things to say, like “we’re now making our first album and it’s a great thing, yeah, we love that, yeah, and kids, we love you too,” Pet Shop Boys suddenly released a single—you know, the song to promote the pop album—about nostalgia for the friends who were gone; song dealing with AIDS, the passing of time, the strange, almost painful feeling of leaving home. No wonder it’s been a flop; the glamorous teenagers didn’t bother listening to it. They were too busy drinking and losing their virginity in the back of a taxi. They were the ideal fanbase for Kylie. The Pet Shop Boys were too busy growing up.

Behaviour was deemed the Pet Shop Boys’ Maturity Statement; it was also their worst selling album at the time. Being boring must have given the fans the collective heart attack when it debuted on the UK chart at number 36; their worst since the original Opportunities peaked at number 121. In critics’ eyes, Behaviour is the best Pet Shop Boys album, and Being boring their best song ever. In the Pet Shop Boys camp, though, things looked different; they came close to splitting, because obviously the public didn’t want them anymore. As Chris Lowe said, “I preferred it when nobody liked our albums, they just bought them.” It was all before Go West, before camp gay anthems, disco revival and stupid costumes; Pet Shop Boys were down the dumper. In this case, the world tour with the theatrical setting and perspective of losing a million pounds was the only sensible thing to do—in the PSB world, that is.

I listen to Being boring today. The strings enter; J.J. Belle’s guitar fades in; bass starts pumping. It’s a song that could be dance; only that you don’t want to dance to it, you just want to sit and listen to every note, carefully touch the erasure of the sound, try to realise how was it possible to create something so totally, astonishingly, terrifyingly perfect. The song is built of three parts; the introduction, then the “main song” itself (beginning with the drum loop that Saint Etienne sampled for their Foxbase Alpha album), then we get back to the chords that began the album, left with the words “we were never being bored...” still in our ears. We’re lost; we’re somewhere the song has led us. But where is it? One answer is “I like it here, wherever it is.” The other? I’m now 23; I’ll probably find out somewhere around twenty thirties. Or maybe I’ll never find out.


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