Don’t Forget the Songs-365: Mach Tres: Day 73
Tues. April 8, 2013
Pet Shop Boys
When reminiscing about Pet Shop Boys second single from 1990’s Behavior, ‘the quiet other one,’ or better known as the multi-instrumentalist of the duo Pet Shop Boys, Chris Lowe described the composing of their most beloved yet still underrated “Being Boring” when he succinctly said, “We wrote it in Scotland. Neil bought a guitar.” Oh yes, it was guitarist’s J.J. Belle’s distinctive Wah-Wah guitar riff at the opening that signals “Being Boring,” is not your average Pet Shop Boys dance inspired number. “Being Boring” is the song that turned Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe from another electro pop band to respected electronic and lyrical artists.
Neil Tennant talked about the genesis of writing “Being Boring” when he explained, “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 Dionysian, 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.”
You get that sense of post modern nostalgia when experiencing the pop song greatness that is “Being Boring.” What makes “Being Boring” so memorable is its state of timelessness which Neil Tennant talked about when he said, “Its 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, and 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.”
Lowe recalled having problems getting the right key for “Being Boring” Tennant remembered this about recording “Being Boring,” “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 Behavior started off as the twelve-inch mix. We got Julian Mendelssohn 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.”
Later on Chris Lowe actually opened up about “Being Boring” and admitted, ““Being boring” is one of our favorite songs ever. It just goes to show that what you’d like yourself might not be the most commercial, which is constant dilemma we realized in this business. It’s such a moving song, so sad and everything.” “Being Boring” is such a classic song even mystically, mysterious front man of Guns ‘n Roses is a fan as Neil Tennant explained when he said, “I remember being surprised when we played at the Universal Amphitheatre in Los Angeles in 1991, because Axl Rose from Guns’n Roses came backstage and said how much he liked the show, and he said “But why didn’t you play ‘boring’ man, I just love that song” and… (laughs) that’s a very bad imitation of him, and I thought “Wow, Axl Rose likes “Being Boring.””
Neil Tennant talked about the legacy of Pet Shop Boys most beloved singles when he said, ““Being boring” was a key song for us, since it was very, very autobiographical. It was about friend of mine—he became a teacher and then he contracted AIDS. And he was diagnosed with AIDS in 1986, just the time we’ve become very, very successful. We were sort of more or less childhood friends. And then he died in 1989. And so it was just an autobiographical song, just trying to look at our lives and—you know—what we wanted to do. When we were fifteen, we used to say “when I grow up, I’m not going to do anything boring, I’m going to do something special” and it was just looking at the way our lives have gone since then. And it was the first time I did a lyric that was completely autobiographical.”
I believe “Being Boring” is the most perfect song because Neil Tennant penned a universal pop song that anyone on the planet can relate to, growing old, falling and losing the ones we loved most. “Being Boring” is not only a touchstone for Pet Shop Boys, It’s no cliché, folks, Neil Tennant wrote about what he knew best, the lead songwriter of Pet Shop Boys, opened up and penned one of the most memorable British pop songs of not only the 1990s but of the last fifty years. I’m not talking hyperbole folks; it’s no coincidence that The Guardian UK pen an article entitled, “Why Pet Shop Boys Being Boring is the most perfect pop song.” Wake up and rediscover what you’ve been missing, 1990’s “Being Boring” might just be the greatest pop song you’ve never heard. Do you’re self a favor and relive the glory, the love and the memorable loss of “Being Boring” again.