So, where were we? Ah yes, the Pet Shop Boys, and our run down of their 1o greatest songs (our A sides) and the next 10 best (our B sides). It’s all in honour of their current single “Winner” which – ironically – isn’t really a winner at all. But these songs are… For introduction and general love letter to the band click here.
A Side – Being Boring
A few facts about “Being Boring”. 1. It was the first indication that the band’s vast commercial appeal of the late 80s – known by fans as the “imperial phase” – was beginning to fade, with the single slumping to a disappointing number 20 in the singles charts, their least successful single since “West End Girls”. 2. This is probably due to the fact that it broke the PSB’s established modus operandi, which tended towards understated verse/ MONSTER chorus/ understated verse/ MONSTER CHORUS. In “Being Boring” this is substituted for understated verse/ understated chorus/ understated verse/ understated chorus. 3. It has since become a fan favourite (PopLifer reader TeaLovingDave names it their best “without a doubt” and the subject of more study and writing than any other song by the band – it is now always at the core of their live performances. 4. Famously and bizarrely, Axl Rose is a declared obsessive fan of the song, and somewhow alchemised its gentle subtlety into the overwrought pomp of “November Rain”. 5. It is a creation of astonishing grace and beauty, both a celebration of the optimism of youth and a regretful farewell to it, a hymn to the importance of friendship and a heartbroken tribute to those lost along the way. 6. For the few people who hadn’t yet worked out that Neil Tennant was gay, it might not have been obvious that the horrifying plague of AIDS accounted for the lost friends: for those who knew, the impact of the lyrics could and still can leave them suddenly gasping for breath, awash in tears. 7. It has what may well be the sexiest video of all time, in which the Pet Shop Boys wisely stand aside and wryly watch Bruce Weber’s beautiful young things romp through the kind of party we always wanted to be invited to but never were. Key lyric: “All the people I was kissing/ Some are here and some are missing/ In the 1990s”.
B Side – Rent
It might have taken Neil Tennant a long time to announce that he was gay, but let’s face it – he wasn’t exactly hiding the fact. Calling this song “Rent” was the first of many heavily dropped hints, and the fact that the rent of the title actually refers to the money paid by a rich benefactor for his mistress’ flat and not a rough trade Scouser hanging around Picadilly arcade in London and offering sex for cash doesn’t make it any less nudge-nudge. It’s actually one of the few Pet Shop Boys songs to have dated conspicuously in terms of its sound (“Opportunities” has fared similarly badly), but Tennant’s elegant storytelling and seductive if occasionally strained melody more than compensate it. The duo later reworked the tune into a vast orchestral melodrama with Liza Minnelli, and to PopLifer’s excess-loving eardrums at least, that version is even better. Key lyric: “You dress me up, I’m your puppet/ You buy me things and i love it.”