And so we reach the 1990s. Pet Shop Boys had, in just five years, become one of the UK’s most popular groups, notching up twelve Top 20 hits (including four #1s) and three albums that had all gone Top 3.
This post covers the period September 1990 – October 1991 and will be one of the longest in this series. There were four singles lifted from the album Behaviour, itself released in October 1990
So Hard was released on 24th September 1990. It is about “two people living together; they are totally unfaithful to each other but they both pretend they are faithful and then catch each other out”, which seems akin to David Gedge territory. Musically, it is very much of that late 80s/early 90s era – I certainly see it as a fairly close cousin to songs found on Technique, the 1989 masterpiece from New Order.
mp3: Pet Shop Boys – So Hard
mp3: Pet Shop Boys – It Must Be Obvious
The b-side is a love song. Less full on musically than most of the material from the 80s and tempo wise, more akin to what was going to unfold over the next decade and beyond. It’s not too cruel to say that it found its place as a b-side as the tune doesn’t really go anywhere.
I don’t normally want to get into the whole remix thing with singles, but given that the KLF did some work on So Hard……….
mp3: Pet Shop Boys – So Hard (The KLF versus Pet Shop Boys)
There’s a real nod to It’s Grim Up North as well as the choral aspect to Left To My Own Devices in the opening section of the track.
Being Boring was released on 12th November 1990.
The duo’s fourth album, Behaviour had hit the shops a month previously. It had entered the charts at #2 in its first week, but unlike the previous three albums, it failed to sustain sales over any extended period. One of the reasons for this were some negative reviews that focussed on the downbeat nature of many of the tunes and lyrics.
This lack of sales extended to Being Boring which only reached #20, the first time since the re-release of Opportunities that a PSB single hadn’t gone Top 10. The version released as a single was a couple of minutes shorter than the album version, but was still ignored by daytime radio. Nor could anyone see the very stylish black & white promo video, which had been made by fashion photographer Bruce Weber, as it was subjected to a ban thanks to it containing some shots of full-frontal male nudity.
mp3: Pet Shop Boys – Being Boring
mp3: Pet Shop Boys – We All Feel Better In The Dark
Does anyone else immediately think of Need You Tonight by INXS when hearing the opening notes of this b-side? And then it sounds like an early Human League number…..before going all creepy and soundtrack like. It’s one that Chris sings on and, as you’d expect, it’s more experimental and edgy than most other PSB songs.
Being Boring, despite its poor sales, has become a real anthem over the years and is never far from the top of any lists when PSB fans mention their favourites. It also has tended to close the live shows over the years.
Fun fact. I didn’t know this until doing a bit of research for this posting, but the music for Being Boring, along with a couple of other tunes, was written in Glasgow. The duo had so enjoyed the city when they played there on tour in 1989 that they later decamped to a small studio in the west end of the city to come up with some new material.
The next single was released on 11th March 1991.
The plan was that How Can You Expect To Be Taken Seriously? would be the third single to be lifted from Behaviour. It was going to be a very different mix from the album version.
Whether it was the fact that Being Boring hadn’t done so well, or that the album had, by the beginning of February 1991, dropped out of the Top 75 after less than four months, but there was a change of mind. The duo had recently recorded a HI-NRG, and very camp, cover of one of the biggest selling rock songs of the 80s for possible release later in the year, but this was brought forward to March 1991 with the decision that it be a double-A side with the remixed ‘Seriously’.
mp3: Pet Shop Boys – Where The Streets Have No Name (I Can’t Take My Eyes Off You)
mp3: Pet Shop Boys – How Can You Expect To Be Taken Seriously?
I still think this is one of the best jokes ever played on the music industry. The title of the original PSB song on one side of vinyl while the other seems to poke a bit of fun at how serious U2, (and others like them) and their fans, were beginning to take themselves. The deadpan delivery of the vocal on ‘Streets’ is such a contrast to the way Bono had thrown his everything into his performance of the song back in 1987 when The Joshua Tree had sold across the world in tens of millions. And adding in the refrain of an easy-listening number from the 60s was just genius……
It was a timely reminder that music can and should often be about having fun.
The 12″ release had a new PSB composition included – I’m assuming it was meant to be the original b-side until the change of plan.
mp3: Pet Shop Boys – Bet She’s Not Your Girlfriend
Another New Order-esque tune, but with a frantic and all-knowing manic lyric from Neil, makes this one of my favourite PSB b-sides. It wouldn’t have sounded out of place on the Electronic album which was just a few weeks away from being released…..
On 28th May 1991, the fourth and final single from Behaviour was released. I’ve used the CD cover of Jealousy – the picture of Neil was used on the 7″, while the picture of Chris adorned the 12″ – with them coming together for the CD version.
This was the closing song on the album. As was becoming the norm, it wasn’t a straight lift for the 45. The remix this time is about thirty seconds shorter but utilises a real orchestra at the end instead of relying on a sampler.
mp3: Pet Shop Boys – Jealousy
mp3: Pet Shop Boys – Losing My Mind
The b-side is the duo’s take on a song, written by Stephen Sondheim, for the 1971 musical Follies. It wasn’t their first involvement with the song, as back in 1989 they had played on and produced a version that had taken Liza Minelli back into the charts since the 70s. It’s still a staple of the PSB live shows.
I’ll finish things off with a little extra as a thanks for making it this far.
There was also a limited edition CD single issued in the UK.
As well as the extended mix of Jealousy which had been released on the 12″ vinyl, there were two bonus tracks. One was a new mix of So Hard, the first single to be lifted from Behaviour, while the other was an extended version and fresh mix of one of the best tracks on Behaviour and which must at some point have been under consideration as a single.
mp3: Pet Shop Boys – This Must Be The Place I Waited Years To Leave (extended mix)
Pet Shop Boys spent the first half of 1991 on tour, It began in Japan on 11th March, and took in the USA, Canada, France, Belgium, Germany, Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Czechoslovakia, Austria, Hungary, Yugoslavia, Switzerland, Italy, Spain, Holland, the United Kingdom and ending in Ireland on 17th June.
The year ended with the release of a Greatest Hits compilation, including two new songs, both released as singles. That’s exactly where this series will be heading next week.