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Neil Tennant:
Obviously it was inspired by the fact that we’re supposed to be boring or something, and I thought what a good song title it would be. Then I remembered that when I was 18 or 19 all my friends in Newcastle had a party and the invitations quoted this famous Zelda Fitzgerald quote from the 1920s: “we were never bored, because we were never boring.” I spoke to a friend Dave Rimmer recently and told him about this song and he said “I’ve got the invitation in front of me”—it was quite a big do at the time, it was called “the Great Urban Dionysia Party.” The first verse is about finding the invitation: It then says “we were never feeling bored, because we were never being boring.” The second verse is about leaving Newcastle to go to college in London. And someone had said to us “the trouble with you lot is you’ll have experienced everything by the time you’re 18—you’ll have nothing left to experience.” And the third verse is me, now, just thinking where the people are who I was with then. So it’s quite a sad song, but quite jolly too.

Literally 4.

Neil Tennant:
Being boring is about my friends, and how we used to go to parties and stuff. And we all used to want to be pop-stars or actors, or to do something that wasn’t going to be boring. We had this little quote on a party invitation by Zelda Fitzgerald, the wife of F.Scott Fitzergald, who was a writer, and she was talking about a woman in the 1920s, and she said “she was never bored, mainly because she was never being boring.”

Chris Lowe:
We chose to work with Bruce Weber for the video for Being boring. The whole idea for the video is a party. It’s a party scene, and the shooting of the video was very much like a real party. The atmosphere was pretty much as it was captured on the film.

When you release a record that is your favourite one and it performs the least well, it’s kind of unnerving really. The last one that did this was Love comes quickly, which is like our favourite record ever that we’ve made, and it kind of did really badly.

The Word, Channel 4, 1990.

Q Magazine:
Would a later song like Being boring have been written the same way?

Neil Tennant:
I read the phrase, “being boring,” somewhere—probably in one of our reviews—and immediately the tune for that line, We were never being boring, came to me and I went around for ages just humming it to myself. Chris really liked it as a title and immediately came up with some chords. In fact, it’s The Chord Change, isn’t it? If you ever want to write a classic pop song use these chords: A flat, B flat, G minor 7th, C minor. That’s The Chord Change. You can’t go wrong with that. A guaranteed worldwide hit.

Chris Lowe:
They’re the chords to Rick Astley’s Never Gonna Give You Up, Stock Aitken and Waterman used to love The Chord Change. All their good songs have those chords in.

Neil Tennant:
We used The Chord Change on Being boring, King’s Cross and the chorus of Domino dancing. But the thing that gives Being boring that lift, that feeling of optimism is the key change between verse and chorus. The verse ends on a G major—“never fee-ling bored”—and the obvious thing would have been for the chorus to follow in C but we lifted it up a semitone and went into The Chord Change.

But the rest of the lyrics took forever to write. I had that, We were never being boring part and that was it. Then I got a vague tune for the opening line of the verse which is in C major—“When you’re young, you find inspiration in”—F major—”anyone who’s ever gone”. That’s a very Beatlesy progression. Then I remembered this invitation I got for a party in Newcastle which quoted “She was never bored because she was never boring.” So the first verse is about finding that party invitation. Then I had to try and complete the picture. It’s quite a long melody line in the verses as well, so that made it more difficult. And with the chorus, I knew what I wanted to say but it was hard to say it within such a tight, specific tune. But I sat there, I was in Munich, with a typewriter and tried to write the rest of it. That’s why you get, “Now I sit with different faces / In rented rooms / In foreign places.” Because that’s exactly what I was doing.

Q Magazine, 1992.

Chris Lowe:
“Typical dead-pan vocals.” Actually, they’re not dead-pan at all. They’re kind of charged with tons of emotion.

About the Pet Shop Boys, BBC Radio One.

Neil Tennant:
They’re good titles aren’t they? And there’s some good ones on the LP—How can you expect to be taken seriously? and Being boring which is all about not being boring although people are bound to make lots of jokes about that one. We’re asking for it really. Especially as it’s probably going to be the next single. So can I set the record straight—we’re not boring at all.

Smash Hits, 1990.

Neil Tennant:
We don’t set out to be camp. I think we’ve done camp thing. For instance It’s a sin is pretty camp, isn’t it? I don’t think West End girls was very camp. I don’t think Being boring was very camp.

Capital Q, 1994.

Süddeutsche Zeiten:
What happenend to this friend?

Neil Tennant:
That’s a sad story. He got a librarian, thats the job I always dreamed of, too. Three years ago, this friend died of AIDS, one track, that is on a Pet Shop Boys-LP called Behaviour, is about him and my youth. The text is about teenagers, who dress up in white and meet at parties. The refrain says: We were never being bored. We’ll always have the time to think of our dream. Being boring is my famous track of the Pet Shop Boys. The critic called it a masterpiece, that sounds good but means nothing to me.

Oxford Union:
What are the factor that make you release records? Is Being boring an exception being more personal?

Neil Tennant:
They all mark stages in our life. In the late 80s we were international pop stars and after that we could write songs that were reflective of life. Being boring came after a friend died and I wrote a song about it.

Oxford Union, 1995.

Oor Magazine:
As the one who writes the lyrics, are you influenced by AIDS?

Neil Tennant:
Yes, in fact since our second CD. In 1986 a good friend of mine from Newcastle died from AIDS. That was rather traumatic. He was the first person who I knew had AIDS, and also the first who died of it. On Actually there is a song called It couldn’t happen here, which is about the people who thought that the AIDS virus could not spread all over England. On Behaviour, our CD before Very, there is a song called Being boring, which is about an other friend who also died of AIDS. That is a very autobiographical song. We had grown up together and both moved to London together at the same time. When we were young we had the philosophy that our lives should never become boring. The lyrics describe what happened to us.

Oor Magazine, 1994.

Neil Tennant:
AIDS entered my life in 1986. A very good friend of mine, whom I grew up with in Newcastle, was diagnosed with AIDS in that year, and he died two and a half years later. The song It couldn’t happen here on Actually was specifically about the experience of finding out his diagnosis. Being boring on Behavior was about him dying.

New Musical Express:
It’s not the first time you’ve addressed AIDS in your songs.

Neil Tennant:
We always have done, maybe because I had a friend who had AIDS, one of my closest friends from Newcastle. When we were doing Actually it was against the background of a close friend being in a hospital bed. I think as time goes on people get more and more hardened to AIDS, but at that time it was rather traumatic.

It couldn’t happen here from Actually is about AIDS, and of course Being boring is after this friend of mine had died. Today I find myself knowing quite a few people who have AIDS, and I think it’s good to write about it.

New Musical Express, 1993.

A lot of people identified Very as an album about youth culture after AIDS.

Neil Tennant:
When we were writing Actually, in 1986, a very good friend of mine was diagnosed as having AIDS. Being boring was kind of about that experience. And the song Hit music was about what happens when you take sex out of the disco. The function of the dance club has been permanently changed by AIDS. It ceased to be place for mating rituals and become more a place of companionship. This was increased by house music, then rave music and by people taking ecstasy. And that’s been reflected in our lyrics. People are just starting to notice more. This record, I think, is happier, after Can you forgive her?

Neil Tennant:
Being boring, I think, is one of the best songs that we’ve written. For me it is a personal song because it’s about a friend of mine who died of AIDS, and so it’s about our lives when we teenagers and how we moved to London, and I suppose me becoming successful and him becoming ill.

We did the video for that in America with Bruce Weber, who does all the Calvin Klein shots with Marky Mark. He had this idea of getting a house in Long Island and filling it with all of these beautiful models and just seeing what happened throughout the day. It’s great. I remember our American manager was on the plane with George Michael’s manager, and he said “George has just done this video. It’s got all the top models, and it’s cost a fortune,” and Arma (our American manager) said “Well that’s funny because the Pet Shop Boys have just done a video with all the top models, and they all did it for nothing!” (laughs). It’s a great video, though. It’s one of my favourite videos to date.

(ironically) There’s your English eccentric... going back to your question about direct political writing, Shipbuilding was both a directly political song conceived around the idea of shipbuilding as a metaphor for the situation in general, and a powerful piece of art. But it was a personal comment on the issue, and a statement of anger. Likewise, my response to AIDS has been tempered by personal experience. So I’d write a song called Being boring, but I wouldn’t write a song called “Increase Funding For AIDS Research.”

O Zone, BBC 2, 1993.

Chris Heath:
With of his lyrics do you like best?

Chris Lowe:
I like the lyrics to Violence. I think the lyrics to Being boring are really good. What’s the word? “Elegiac.” I think the lyrics to West End girls are really good. Actually, generally I think Neil’s lyrics are fantastic. The great thing about them is they’re not just cliché after cliché. Everyone of Neil’s lyrics has a meaning: they’re saying something new or saying something old in a new way. And I think he’s unique in that respect.

Literally 8.

Neil Tennant:
This is our favourite song on our fourth LP, Behaviour. It wasn’t a big hit when released as a single in 1990 but, the following year, when we didn’t include it in our Performance tour, so many people complained that we eventually added it as an encore and it invariably got the best reception of the night.

Discography booklet.

Do you think you will ever again compose a song that will equal (or even surpass!) the epic proportions of Being boring?

Neil Tennant:
Yes, we wrote one two weeks ago... [it is rumoured that Neil has been thinking about Birthday boy, which was released in 2002]

Pet Shop Boys Online website, 12th December, 2000.

Hi boys, I would like to know which is your favorite PSB song, your favorite PSB album and the song you hate the most, but that we can find on an album?

Pet Shop Boys:
1. Being boring 2. The last four. 3. Not that keen on What keeps mankind alive?

Pet Shop Boys Online website, 1st June, 2001.

What’s your favourite PSB song?

Neil Tennant:
Probably Being boring. It’s a very beautiful song. And there’s a lot of personal emotions in it. I love its sound. When you make music, it is very important to get the right sound. And Being boring is probably the only Pet Shop Boys song I’m 100% satisfied with.

Radiocentras, 4th June, 2001.

Chris Lowe:
We wrote it in Scotland. Neil bought a gitar.

Neil Tennant:
We decided to go to Glasgow because we’d been there on tour in 1989 and liked it. We hired a little studio in a grim part of West Glasgow and there was a guitar shop next to the studio where a man made guitars so I bought this electric guitar. We did the music for My October symphony, The end of the world, Being boring and a rock song which has never materialised called Love and war, which I always imagined Bryan Adams singing: “now you know the score / that all is fair in love and war / and this is a war.” But the one plan we had when we went there was to write a song called Being boring and we wrote it very quickly. I can remember Chris deciding that the song itself should go up into the chorus like a Stock Aitken Waterman record—it’s actually very influenced by them in the way it changes key completely, going up a semitone. The verse resolves on G and then it goes up to A flat for the chorus which is a very Stock Aitken Waterman thing to do. We were quite impressed by the way they’d always just shift up for the chorus. I’d got the idea of writing a song called Being boring after someone in Japan said something about us being boring; it just seemed to be a very musical phrase and I wrote it down. And I liked the idea of confronting this image of the Pet Shop Boys being boring by actually writing a song called that.

I thought only we could write a song called Being boring. And then it gave me the idea of writing about this friend of mine from Newcastle who’d died and whose funeral was written about in Your funny uncle. It’s just about our lives together. He threw a party in Newcastle in 1972 where you had to dress in white, and it was called The Great Urban Dionysia, and it had a quotation on the invitation from 1922, from Zelda Fitzgerald, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s wife, which the phrase “being boring” had made me think of. The quote was: “...she covered her face with powder and paint because she didn’t need it and she refused to be bored chiefly because she wasn’t boring. She was conscious that the things she did were the things she had always wanted to do.” It just made me think about the way our lives had gone. It’s three verses, in three different decades. When we were recording it, we thought at one point of having musical references to the different decades, but in the end we didn’t. The first verse is set in the 1920s, when the woman writes the invitation, then we move forward to the hedonistic 1970s when I’m moving to London to seek my fame and fortune. Someone said to us, “the trouble with you lot is that you’ll have experienced everything by the time you’re 18—you’ll have nothing left to experience.” And then it moves to the start of the 1990s, when my friend has just died. It’s just the sadness of having a close friend die, because I always thought he’d be somewhere there with me. When we were teenagers we would always discuss that we weren’t going to settle for boring lives, we were always going to do something different. And then when it came down to it, I did become a pop star and at exactly that time he became very ill.

Chris Lowe:
We had loads of problems with this song getting the key right.

Neil Tennant:
The vocals are almost hushed. It’s recorded very very quietly, and I wanted it to sound like it was someone whispering in your ear. It’s hard to sing. That’s why we didn’t do it on the tour in 1991, though eventually we added it as an encore because people—Axl Rose, for instance—complained. The version which opens Behaviour started off as the twelve-inch mix. We got Julian Mendelsohn to do a twelve-inch mix because the track didn’t sound vibey enough, and as we often do we hope that a twelve-inch mix will give us ideas which we can use on the original version, as it did in this case. You’ve got J.J. Belle playing the guitar forwards and backwards on it, and Dominic Clarke played this plastic tube—that’s the noise you can hear at the beginning. We were just having a laugh in the studio.

Chris Lowe:
The faster you spin it, the higher the note.

Neil Tennant:
The instrumental section at the beginning was actually recorded at the end of the track, and then edited onto the start. You can also hear the influence of rave. The Funky Drummer sample is on Being boring, except that it was replayed.

Chris Lowe:
Harold Faltermeyer took for ages doing it, because the Synclavier wouldn’t quantize to what it needed so he had to do it all mathematically.

Neil Tennant:
Being boring was released as the second single from Behaviour. We were in our office one Sunday afternoon doing a photo session and it went into the charts at number 36. I remember looking at each other. The following week it did go up, and it limped into the top 20. But it’s one of those songs—it took on a life of its own, and suddenly everyone really really liked it. Now it’s one of people’s favourite songs by us.

Chris Lowe:
It just shows that chart positions aren’t the be all and end all. Heart isn’t in the same league as Being boring.

Behaviour / Further listening 1990-1991 booklet.

So, video is important for you?

Neil Tennant:
It depends. Sometimes it’s something you just have to do, but given that you have to do it, you put quite a lot into them. I think Being boring is the best video we’ve made, that and Domino dancing. It’s very beautiful and captures the feeling of the songs. We like beautiful things. In America they only show it on the Playboy channel. They can’t deal with male nudity—they find it too shocking. They can deal with female nudity.


Chris Lowe:
We could stop being in our videos.

Neil Tennant:
That’s a good idea.

Chris Lowe:
I’m bored by us.

Neil Tennant:
I’m totally bored by us. Watching those interviews on video yesterday totally sickened me. I’m totally bored by us... actually, I think one thing we do well is press interviews. I think the press interviews we’ve had this time have been really good. I think the interviews you’ve done are really good. I just don’t know that we should be seen in the TV age. And I think the solution for us is to be like the Being boring video, where we’re in it but not in it.

Interview transcribed from the book Pet Shop Boys versus America, 13th April, 1991.

Chris Lowe:
[commenting on 1997’s Stonewall concert] It was our greatest moment, our finest hour.

Cruise Magazine caught with Neil in Miami in the midst of tour rehearsals and asked him a few questions...

Hi Neil!

Neil Tennant:

What’s the one thing you’ve always wished you’d been asked in an interview, but no interviewer has ever asked you about?

Neil Tennant:
There isn’t anything, really.

In all the songs you’ve written over the past 18 years what song would you like to remembered for?

Neil Tennant:
Being boring (from Behavior, titled after a quote by Zelda Fitzgerald, dealing with the death of a friend of Neil’s from AIDS).

Cruise Magazine, May, 2002.

Neil Tennant:
It felt at the time—and it comes over in our book, Pet Shop Boys versus America—like the whole thing was a struggle. The [1991’s Performance] show was so complicated to put on, and Behaviour was’st selling particularly well, compared to Introspective before it, which is our best-selling album worldwide. So it was quite a tough period, and it’s only now you can look back and think, “oh it was great,” but at the time it didn’t feel like that.

This is a classic Pet Shop Boys thing: the NME goes on about Behaviour being our best album, but as far as I can recall they didn’t fucking love it at the time. In pop music, you’re always compared with what’s happening now. Quite understandably, one of the complaints about the Pet Shop Boys is “why aren’t they doing what thingy is doing?”

So in 1990, it was “why aren’t they doing dance music? Because the Happy Mondays are really popular and the whole Manchester thing is going on.” But when you remove Behaviour from that context it sounds fantastic.

Peter Van Doffs:
So it follows that the lowest-charting single from Behaviour, Being boring, is now talked of as your best-ever song.

Neil Tennant:
Yeah. With Being boring we thought it was all over. I’m such a trainspotter, I can remember chart positions. We were doing a photo session and EMI phoned and said, “it’s gone in at 36” and Chris and I looked at each other with abject horror and thought “time to get a job” and now everyone likes it.

[The article is accompanied by the photo captioned
“the Being boring video from 1991 (sic!): ‘We thought it was all over.’”
The photography, though, is from the Was it worth it? session]

Record Collector, 2002

Matt Walker:
But you’ve been guilty of putting a lot of effort into your videos in the past.

Neil Tennant:
Oh, I’m not talking about effort, I’m talking about just relying so much on special effects and a big budget. I think that’s fine if you’ve got a strong idea. What I’m really talking about is that making a record costs so much money and then the video costs ten times that amount, so where is the emphasis there? Is it on the music or the video? It’s just ridiculous. On our last album we spent so much more time and money making videos than we did making the album. After all, we’re in this to make music, not to become filmstars.

I’m not knocking the films and videos we’ve made—they’re gorgeous. I think we might work with Bruce Weber again, for example. It’s just how much they cost really. I mean, Bruce Weber doesn’t come cheap, but you get a beautiful end result, so...

Footloose Magazine, April, 2002.

Aussie Girl:
I know you expect all your songs to chart well, but was there one song you were really surprised about how well it did and was there another song that you thought would do better than what it did?

Neil Tennant:
Heart getting to number one was a surprise. We thought Being boring would do better.

Pet Shop Boys Online website, July 2003.

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