Those of you who are more frequent visitors to this blog are probably wondering why on earth have I bought this in the last few days. I mean, its in my Disco series post so I’ve got two copies! Well, not quite. My old copy of Disco 2 came in a totally mangled case (it was smashed to smithereens almost). I wasn’t happy about that at all and then I saw that a bonus disc version existed, but it was US only, so I put it on the wishlist and figured I’d get it eventually. One day, I was browsing on Amazon and saw that my seller of choice on Amazon (Zoverstocks, who I thoroughly recommend and whom have supplied me with virtually every used CD/DVD I own. As a bonus, they are very reasonable too) had managed to get a copy: for £1.99! Naturally I loved this and ordered it with my latest group of orders. The second disc consists of 3 b-sides, the RAF Zone Dub of Yesterday, When I Was Mad and the 7″ of I Wouldn’t Normally Do This Kind Of Thing. The only new track for me is the YWIWM mix, but I can’t complain for the price!
Well, this will come across as an incredibly soppy post in places. But today, as I celebrate two years of being a Pet Shop Boys fan I felt it was appropriate to reflect on the impact they’ve had one me. Honestly, they’ve had a massive impact, and this is coming from someone who up until that Glastonbury 2010 performance, whilst loving music with a passion I couldn’t have said any artist had changed my life. Moreover, I didn’t believe that it could really happen, although a part of me wish I could have felt that personal connection with an artist. It was to be though, at a time when I wasn’t looking for such an artist, that they would just appear.
I began listening to them during a period of self discovery I guess. I wasn’t depressed, but self confidence isn’t something I have a lot of. Confident in the sense that I personally know and am comfortable with who I am and what I’m about, but until a few years ago that wasn’t transferring into my interactions with others much at all. I didn’t act certain ways to fit in, but I also wouldn’t have given myself permission to express myself. In the area I live and the school I went too, it was very clicky. There was a strict way of acting that was deemed as cool, and if you didn’t conform with that then dear help you. I suffer very badly from gutate type psorasis as well as a mild form of epilepsy so that naturally put me at a disadvantage. Without even trying, I didn’t fit in. It begin to feel so bad that deep down inside I felt that there was something wrong with me: In many respects I hated teenage culture and didn’t want to belong to it. Such a stance could result in some very unhappy times at school though.
When I began listening to Pet Shop Boys music, there was something immediately about their music which I thought was brilliant. They were naturally eclectic but you still felt they were just normal people that you could identify with. They also seemed to bring together so many different things in their work: historical references, pop culture references, different forms of art yet still make some of the most accessible, intelligent pop music my ears had the fortune to hear. However, once I watched them in interviews I realised that I loved them as people just as much.
As people, they struck me as naturally eclectic but still empathisable. I personally loved that, and their aforementioned eclectiness reminded me of myself I guess. Its hard to convey on a blog, but everyone who meets me always says that I’m quirky. Even at school a teacher said that my speech I wrote for English GCSE was very good because it was lively and quirky just like me. People tell me that I have natural eccentricity about me which is totally genuine. I guess in school I tried to hide it, but you can’t hide who you are naturally and it would come out sometimes, only to reduce me firmly to laughing stock status. I’ve no idea why, but seeing how Pet Shop Boys were naturally eccentric and weren’t afraid to do what they wanted to was something I really aspired to. I particularly loved how they could manage that yet still retain respect of their peers. Seriously, how do they do that? This was a question I asked myself many times. Also, as someone who’s strongest subject academically was English and who hopes to be a music journalist, you can imagine Neil being a particular inspiration there.
One day, I was listening to Can You Forgive you her, and a line: “she’s made you some kind of laughing stock because you dance to disco and don’t like rock” made me take note. My word, it summed me up a treat! Honestly, I could spend ages talking about how their lyrics have helped me but I shall save that for another post. My music taste, being based very much in electronic music and just retro music in general really can result in a few raised eyebrows from my peers. The whole retro culture thing was something I struggled with too. I loved it, but where I live to be into it at my age isn’t cool. At all. Nor is the idea of intelligence sometimes it feels like. To be seen as intelligent automatically gave you uncool status. Anyone who knows me knows that, whilst I’m no genius, I’d favour brains over fitting in with some trend. Its a hard thing for me to articulate, but I guess Pet Shop Boys made me realise that no matter what, being intelligent is always the more admirable quality, and ultimately pays off dividends: after 30 years they are still making music and are revered by critics and a variety of artists from Elton John to The Divine Comedy after all whilst many groups from the same era have sadly disappeared. Honestly, that level of inspiration from someone was something that I had never experienced before really, which in itself should show how much their music and them as people mean to me.
Of course, they’ve changed my life in other ways too. Through Pet Shop Boys I discovered Electronic, which led to New Order, which led to Joy Division, and through those last three bands I found myself developing a general passion for the Manchester music scene. I’ve met some friends simply by being a fan of their work and I would be proud to call them amongst some of my closest and most trusted.
They’ve given me a lot of fun personal memories too: For my 18th birthday dinner West End Girls was played at the request of my aunt in the restaurant we were eating in. There’s a running joke in my family that they just seem to turn up everywhere. Like a few days ago I recorded a TOTP archive programme, without knowing many of the acts that were on it: sure enough Pet Shop Boys turned up with Always On My Mind. Even the day I became a fan was significant: 26th June 2010 which was the day after the 5th anniversary of my grandmother’s death, whom I was very close to as was the rest of my family. Sometimes it really is like they’re inescapable in my house, and they’ve become synonymous with me. My highlight though had to have been the autograph they sent me for my 18th birthday, which you can see pictures of in this blog. I know it sounds a little daft, but for me it sort of symbolises my little connection I have with Pet Shop Boys. I guess it wouldn’t be an exagerration to say its a connection I only have with a select few artists.
I guess, all in all, two years ago I wouldn’t have believed a band could change your life so much and come to mean so much to you. Now though, I know otherwise: and moreover, I’m proud to say it.
For my music tastes, 26th June changed everything for me. In 2010, watching the TV for a few hours in the evening on that night would be a routine thing for me to do, only this time it would bring a fair amount of repercussions that would have an impact on years to come.
I was flicking through the TV with my father, Glastonbury Festival was in full swing, so there was plenty of coverage. None of the acts on TV really interested me, and Dad turned the channel that was broadcasting the headline performance of the Other Stage. The headliners? None other than a certain Pet Shop Boys.
I can be fussy when it comes to watching new things, I have to be a certain mood for testing new shows or music out, otherwise I won’t be able to tell how much I’ve actually enjoyed it. And that night was one of those nights. Dad had said to me though, as he was leaving the room, that back in the day, they had a good sound and maybe I should give them a chance. I did watch their Brit Awards performance a year prior to that and had quite enjoyed it. I had been meaning to listen to their greatest hits, but with GCSE’s I just didn’t have time, especially as I was doing an incredibly demanding music course. Tonight though I just wasn’t in the mood, and got up to change the channel. Then something made me take note.
Their stage show was epic, I can’t remember the exact song that I started watching but I definitely caught about five or six tracks at least if not more. I remember seeing the elaborate costumes and stage design and I definitely sensed that they weren’t your average duo. Never the less, I found the show oddly captivating, and a song began playing called “What Have I Done to Deserve This” I began really enjoying the song, even singing along with it by the end of the performance. I started to really enjoy their sound, but when Se A Vida E, mixed with elements of Discoteca and Domino Dancing and culminating in a brilliant cover of Coldplay’s Viva La Vida, that’s when I knew I had to check these guys out properly. I ended up with the TV speakers blasting and dancing around my living room like an idiot. Once the show had finished I stood up and applauded, something I’ve never done before or since. Yes, I had been wanting a new artist to get into for a few months prior to this, and now I think I found them. Song after song I enjoyed, they were an odd group for me because after Yes and PopArt I can’t say I heard each album then in turn, it was more individual tracks which built up. Even then though, would I know the impact the had on me? Of course not….
If you squint hard enough at the name bottom left in green, you’ll probably work out why I bought this! For those of you who don’t know, prior to finding fame as lead vocalist of Pet Shop Boys, Neil Tennant was actually an editor for Smash Hits between 1982-1985. This book isn’t vintage though, it was actually published in 2006. A good friend of mine, Jaleen, bought the book before me and recommended it to me saying it was worth the purchase. It was something that I wanted to get, but even still I walked into it by complete surprise! In town, there is literally the largest bookstore (mainly second hand) that I have ever seen, right beside the collectables store were I found Electronic – Disappointed on 12″. Seriously, this place is huge and navigating round it can be hell! Anyhow, the first time I had been there I felt their music book selection was a little underwhelming but this time they had much more. Including this gem! It’s also in brilliant condition, it literally looks brand new! The book is brilliant fun, basically it compiles quite literally, the best of Smash Hits. Honestly, initially I just bought it because it featured a foreword by Neil Tennant, but there;s so much humor in the book and various other artists that I like (including articles on Pet Shop Boys too) that it more than justified the cheap £3 I payed for it!
I just love this t-shirt! I had been hunting high and low for a Joy Division T-shirt in Belfast to no avail (Urban Outtfitters were stocking an Unknown Pleasures vest for the ridiculously overpriced £30 though). My parents had got me this, in Dublin would you believe! They had been staying down there to see something, and they found a shop that just sold band T-shirts and nothing else. My Dad had asked did they have Pet Shop Boys t-shirts (you have to try I guess) but to no avail. Thy did have Smiths and Joy Division t-shirts though, so they chose this one. Its a lovely shirt!
I got this from Big Bang, on the same day I got my Pet Shop Boys Introspective vinyl. This is a 7″ of Electronic’s overlooked track Feel Every Beat, which was from their self titled debut album. This was a little bit dearer than the Disappointed 12″ vinyl that I own, but it still came to cost a really reasonable £3. As a bonus, it came already in a protective plastic case so its in better condition than my Disappointed vinyl slightly. I have to admit, I’m suprised I even managed to find this because I wouldn’t have thought that Electronic were going to be easy to shop for in terms of rarities but so far they have been easy enough! This also is another little bit of history: this is my first (of many hopefully) vinyls that were issued on Factory Records!
So as you all know by now, a few days ago saw the leak of a new Pet Shop Boys track from upcoming album Elysium. This will obviously be a slightly harder post for me because I have absolutely no source material to base my opinions on whatsoever, so I could have interpreted the track and album title completely the wrong way. I have to say, so far I’m really enjoying the track even though it was completely different to what I had imagined what I thought would be the results of their sessions with a hip hop producer. I’m definitely glad this won’t be single, its just not commercially viable at all. I love the synths and really, the whole mellow feel of the track makes me think of Behaviour almost. Many fans have noted the bleak lyrics and have speculated that they reflect a possibility of retirement after this album, personally however I’m not so sure. The lyrics are very sad, but listening to it I don’t think the invisibility that the narrator of the song (I’m pretty sure the lyrics are autobiographical about their career really.) is something that is coming up. The lyrics state “I’ve become invisible” so for me, they’ve already arrived at this state of non-existence or whatever the song may be trying to convey. Honestly, at the moment I think the song is about then reflecting their growing age, and how that makes them stand out in the pop world, arguably the style of music that is most centered around youth, youth again being discussed in the lyrics. As for the album title Elysium? Again, I don’t think its about retirement. It could be that this is the start of a new phase for Pet Shop Boys, plus this is also their first album of the new decade. Whilst the album does mean afterlife, it can also be used to describe an ideal condition or place for someone but one that is make-believe. Personally, I think this may be an album about them coming to terms with the fact that they probably will never reach the commercial peaks of the 80’s and that this “afterlife” could be symbolic of them working in a musical environment without constraints. I’m going to really go far-fetched here, it may also symbolize a possible change in their handling of their career: I mean CD sales at the moment are incredibly poor so maybe things like physical single’s are coming to an end. I don’t think this will be a commercial record though; with Yes and Together I felt that was one last stab at commercial success, but with Together really not being a hit they may have re-evaluated or something. Even their choice of producer: young and more experienced with hip-hop seemed like a bizarre choice in itself and whilst I did worry they were going to attempt to sell out initially: judging by Invisible and comments from Popjustice that called the songs “complicated” and noted their “warm and reflective” character; I think they’ve possibly attempted to make anything but a commercial album. Personally, that was the direction I was hoping they’d take: very electronic, but a bit more experimental than Yes. This is all speculation at the moment, but for now I simply cannot wait for September!