et Shop Boys teamed with German composer Harold Faltermeyer, which
resulted in a distinctive sound of the whole Behaviour
album. Faltermeyer—of Beverly Hills cop
and Top Gun themes fame—is known for
his wide use of analogue synthesizers. That, combined with Pet
Shop Boys’ talents, was the reason for Behaviour—considered
Neil & Chris’ most adult album—to sound adequately mature.
Being boring starts with an exceptionally beautiful, more than one minute long introduction, every second of which reveals more and more different instruments, layers and textures. Could you imagine piano or even a guitar in a synthesizer-driven band? Here you have all of them. And, what’s more important, they never sound out of place.
Then the introduction is abruptly over and the actual song begins. And what already seemed perfect is getting even better. We hear haunting strings Chris Lowe is famous for and beautiful, half-whispered vocals of Neil Tennant. What’s more—even letting lyrics alone no verse is same as the other. And only a couple of seconds are enough to put us in a mood we won’t want to leave by the end of the song.
The whole composition is so astonishingly perfect, it makes one want to cry and laugh at the same moment. Parallelling the lyrics, the music cannot be described as either “happy” or “sad.” It depends on who and when is listening to Being boring. And this is probably the most important strength of the song—it can’t simply be labeled and forgotten. As cannot be the Pet Shop Boys themselves.
|t is hard to write about music because what takes pages of description becomes obvious after just a minute of listening. And it’s very hard not to fall in love with Being boring after this one minute.|
hanks to the booklet accompanying 2001’s Behaviour reissue, we
learned a little bit more about the process of recording the album:
They began work on Behaviour, which would turn out to be their most moody and contemplative album yet, with a fairly straightforward sense of purpose. “At the time,” Neil remembers, “I believe we were thinking of bringing out an album of fab pop songs, like ten Kylie Minogue singles.” They decided that they wanted, for the first time since Please, to make an album with one producer. They also had a couple of specific musical guidelines they wanted to follow: “We had the idea before we started that we were going to use analogue synthesisers, and we weren’t going to use samples, because even by the beginning of 1990 everything was mega-samples, and we wanted to make something much cleaner. We thought it would sound fuller and more original if all the sounds were programmed for it.”
When they considered who might be able to create such analogue sounds, they thought of the German disco records of the seventies made by Giorgio Moroder, a train of thought which led them to Harold Faltermeyer, who had been Moroder’s programmer and had since achieved success on his own, most famously with the instrumental Axel F.
“At the end of 1989 Chris and I flew to Munich to meet him,” recalls Neil. “He has a positive museum of ancient synthesisers. And he had an engineer from America, Brian Reeves, who worked on a lot of Donna Summer records.” They agreed to make the album in Faltermeyer’s Munich studio over ten weeks the following spring, in two blocks with a month’s break in the middle.
Neil enjoyed being in Germany rather more than Chris did. “We stayed in this little apartment hotel in the centre of Munich,” says Neil. “They were very ordinary rooms.”
“Very depressing,” says Chris.
“I kept wanting to hire a suite in the best hotel in Munich,” Neil recalls, “but Chris wanted to save the money.”
Chris hated that he was away from the rave culture explosion he’d been enjoying back home. “The Germans then hadn’t heard of house music,” he says. “There was nowhere to go. Miserable times. I felt like I was missing out on so much that was happening in England—it was possibly the most exciting time in English culture ever including the Sixties, and we were in Munich. But Neil liked it.”
“I used to like walking in the English garden,” Neil says. “I occasionally went to the opera. I like the beer; I liked the buildings. Every morning we had a hired BMW and we would drive to Munich airport and pick up the English papers—Chris would park the car and I would rush in—and one morning I got back in and there was a strange man sitting there. I’d got in the wrong car.”
“Because everyone has a grey BMW,” says Chris.
“We were listening to Violator by Depeche Mode,” Neil remembers, “which was a very good album and we were deeply jealous of it.”
“They had raised the stakes,” Chris agrees.
Harold Faltermeyer lived on a kind of private estate just outside Munich. The Pet Shop Boys would arrive a little before midday, have a cup of coffee and begin work. They would usually order in pizza for lunch. Around four o’clock they would adjourn to his beer hut in the garden for some of Faltermeyer’s German draught beer. “And,” says Chris, “he’d tell us anecdotes about Giorgio Moroder.” On the property Faltermeyer had his own abattoir. (He is a keen hunter. “He makes his own sausages,” Chris observes.) At one point during the recording process they tried feeding the vocals through the abattoir, re-miking a speaker in there for a reverb effect. “It didn’t really work out,” Neil says.
In Germany, they kept to the concept of using analogue synthesisers and no samples, but when they returned to London to mix the album at Sarm West, they somewhat relaxed these rules. However, they were still resolved to release an album which sounded consistent, and made the final song selection with that in mind, at the last minute removing Miserablism and replacing it with The end of the world.
“When this album came out people said they were amazed that the whole rave thing seemed to have passed us by,” says Neil. “We, of course, thought we had shamelessly jumped on the rave bandwagon.”
“The thing is, we were ahead of it, because some of Behaviour is like deep house,” reasons Chris, “and the naff old reviewers were still trapped in acid house. Whereas we had moved on.”
The original version and the remixes.
Information about Harold Faltermeyer.
Interviews, some regarding music.
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