Being Boring – Pet Shop Boys
Being Boring, a single by Pet Shop Boys is 30 years old today. It is one of my favourite songs by one of my favourite pop groups and as such, I felt I needed to mark the occasion. What better way than with an episode of Art on your sleeve. These podcasts often complement articles that I’ve written for Classic Pop magazine and this episode is no exception. In the episode I talk about the photography of The Douglas Brothers, an English duo that featured in my Pop Article for issue 38 of the magazine in March 2018, and still available digitally from the publisher at THIS LINK.
It is the Douglas Brothers’ photography that was used on the cover designs for the single, all laid out by regular Pet Shop Boys graphic designer, Mark Farrow, in 1990.
The photography of the Douglas Brothers has featured on the record sleeves of a diverse roster of artists including: Alison Moyet, Prefab Sprout, Bryan Ferry, Paul Young, Claudia Brücken, Toyah and Texas. It is always recognisable as they have a unique signature style that harks back to photographic pioneers of yesteryear such as Eadweard Muybridge and Julia Margaret Cameron.
Neil Tennant has spoken in detail about what Being Boring is about and this is included in the podcast, but to quote from his book, One hundred lyrics and a poem published by Faber & Faber in 2018:
“An autobiographical elegy for my best friend from Newcastle whom I’d known since we were teenagers; he died in 1989 aged only thirty-four… The title was inspired by a Japanese review which said we were ‘being boring’. I liked the bouncy rhythm of this phrase and confronting the criticism of our famously deadpan presentation. The teenage party referred to in the first verse was in July 1974 (actually, I had just ceased being a teenager) and the invitation quoted Zelda Fitzgerald, the wife of Scott Fitzgerald, from an article, ‘Eulogy on the Flapper’, published in Metropolitan magazine in 1922: ‘She was never bored mainly because she was never boring.’ In the second verse I leave Newcastle on the train to study in London wearing platform shoes (it was 1972) and assuming I would never move back. In the third verse I am a Pet Shop Boy recording in Munich, while back in London my friend has died and other friends are ill.”
The remarkable video for the single is also briefly mentioned in the podcast which was shot by Bruce Weber in Long Island, USA.
When Being Boring was 10 years old, this tribute website was set up by designer, writer and typographer, Marcin Wichary, it contains so much additional information for those wishing to dig even deeper into the development and cultural impact of the song. I hope you enjoy this episode, if you do, please subscribe at Apple Podcasts HERE and if you’re very nice, you could even leave a review. Art on your sleeve is also available on several other popular platforms including Spotify and Soundcloud.
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