Pet Shop Boys Top 25 Countdown – 5-1
5. Later Tonight from Please, 1986 – This dolorous song from Please, permeated by an air of deep longing and regret, was recorded “live” in the studio, with Tennant seated on a stool amid dimmed lighting and Lowe playing the piano in the background. Music journalist John Gill has pointed out the decidedly gay subtext of the song, which was reportedly inspired by Tennant seeing a handsome boy walking past the Smash Hits office window. Tennant confirms, “This is the most gay song we’ve ever written and no one noticed at the time.”
4. Nothing Has Been Proved from Concrete, 2006 – Recorded live during a Radio 2 concert at London’s Mermaid Theatre, this is the Pets’ version of a song they originally wrote for the 1989 Profumo Affair film Scandal, and released by Dusty Springfield on her album Reputation. The events as described in the song, though necessarily abbreviated and vague, are essentially accurate. The people described in the song, such as Stephen Ward, are equally real, though Tennant cites them by first name only.
3. Left To My Own Devices from Introspective 1988 – There’s no denying the element of autobiography implicit in this, the second single from third studio album Introspective. Tennant has confessed that he indeed played the English Civil War general to his toy soldiers as a boy, as described in the song, although he admits that he was actually a Cavalier rather than a Roundhead. Another autobiographical aspect lies in the fact that, according to Tennant, his “friend who’s a party animal” is none other than British pop journalist Jon Savage. A pounding dance classic.
2. Rent from Actually, 1987 – The third single from Actually, Rent is commonly viewed as a narrative by a rent boy, although Tennant has directly denied this interpretation, stating that he wrote the lyrics from a female viewpoint. Indeed, Liza Minnelli later covered this song on her Results album. Yet, in an April 2007 interview on British TV program Hardtalk Extra, Tennant conceded that he and Lowe quite enjoyed being “provocative” with the title, which, as he put it, “obviously came from the phrase ‘rent boy'”.
1. Being Boring from Behaviour, 1990 – With so many classic tracks to choose from, it wasn’t easy picking our all-time favourite, but we feel this brilliant track, the opening number from Pet Shop Boys’ 1990 masterpiece Behaviour, is as good a candidate as any. The lyrics are inspired by a quote from Zelda Fitzgerald, novelist and wife of US author F Scott Fitzgerald (“someone’s wife, a famous writer in the 1920s”), who wrote, “She refused to be bored chiefly because she wasn’t boring.” The fact that Tennant found this quote so inspiring is very revealing, and he uses it as a springboard for a heartfelt rumination on the path his life has taken. He’s stated that the song was inspired, in particular, by the AIDS-related death of his long-time friend Chris Dowell, whose funeral had also inspired Your Funny Uncle a B-side to It’s Alright.
Pet Shop Boys have cited this melancholy but gorgeous track, recorded in Glasgow, as one of their finest achievements and personal favourites, and it’s proven to be a popular song among their fans as well. (Even Axl Rose of the Guns N’ Roses, a fan of the Pets’ music, is rumoured to have complained when the song was initially left out of the set for the 1991 Performance Tour – it was later reinstated as an encore.) Not only are Being Boring‘s melody and arrangement heart-achingly beautiful, but Tennant chips in with one of the most moving lyrics, including the marvellous line, “I never dreamt that I would get to be the creature that I always meant to be.”