Tuesday, 26 June 2012
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.
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.
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.
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.
Sunday, 24 June 2012
Saturday, 23 June 2012
Friday, 22 June 2012
These are the main Pet Shop Boys books (along with Catalogue) you could say. These are also very old items I own in terms of release date, Literally, which is on the left is over 20 years old and was released in 1990. Neither of these are your typical biography, they are actually tour diaries would you believe! Literally chronicles them during their 1989 tour, and Pet Shop Boys Versus America deals with the American leg of their Performance tour. Interestingly, a book in the same vein for their Discovery tour was written, but as they were behaving badly on tour supposedly it will probably forever remain unreleased. I've only read Versus America so far but found it an interesting read and I am reading Literally once I finish the Madonna biography I am currently reading!
Thursday, 21 June 2012
This was my first Pet Shop Boys book that I got. I actually got this not long after becoming a fan, I got this in September 2010 as a treat for getting back into school for sixth form. When I got it I was still utterly clueless about their work for the most part (with a discography as expansive as theirs can you blame me really? I'm STILL learning). The book focuses on the art and visual end of their music, giving comprehensive information with regards to their artwork. As you can imagine, its certainly very detailed as they've always payed great attention to how they have presented themselves. The only slight shame (and its such a lovely book I feel bad even saying this really) is that because the book was released in 2006 to commemorate 20 years, its obviously become outdated quite fast given their work rate. Its a beautiful piece of work though and a perfect tribute to a band who really do deserve to call themselves artists in the truest sense of the word!
These are my two slightly quirkier Pet Shop Boys books. The first one is official and the second is unofficial. Annually is to date the oldest Pet Shop Boys (in terms of release date) item that I own, it was released in 1988. The original plan was that the annual would become a festive tradition for the Christmas season but alias, sales didn't justify production for a second year and the book has remained a one off release. Special is similar really, although with Special it does kind of feel like it was written towards your stereotypical teenage girl pop fan or something (is it any wonder I love it?). Both of these are very lovely little books, even if they are really only for the completists like myself!
Tuesday, 12 June 2012
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!
Saturday, 9 June 2012
Thursday, 7 June 2012
This is The Jackson 5 at Motown 25. Whilst many people will remember the iconic performance Michael Jackson gave of Billie Jean much better, I'm going to be incredibly controversial and say I think this is a better performance, although in terms of career and popularity Billie Jean did far more and is easily the more iconic and talked about of the two. This is noteable for being the first performance with Jermaine Jackson since he left the group although Randy Jackson also joins the brothers on stage midway through for this conformance. The performance is a Jackson 5 hits medley, very similar to the hit melodies performed on The Jackson's tours and Michael's own solo tours which would still be a few years off. Having said that, the performance isn't just a straight copy of these tour medleys, as Never Can Say Goodbye was never used in such medlies but is before I'll Be There here. I've no doubt that I'll be There must have been a particularly poignant performance as Michael sings with Jermaine there. The performance of I'll Be There is beautiful, and probably my favourite overall performance of the song. Jermaine's microphone had technical problems, leading to Michael to act fast and share his microphone with Jermaine, and for me just makes the performance look all the more touching! The main reason I prefer it to Billie Jean is because Michael sings live here wheras he mimes Billie Jean. I think this is a good example that Michael could sing live, even though his high octane dancing on tour would often limit his voice and could sometimes make his voice sound a little worse for wear, and in other cases he simply would just had to have mimed a performance. Sadly, whilst Billie Jean has been released officially on DVD as part of Thriller 25, this performance does seem to have been largely forgotten about. The only place this has been made officially available is on the Motown 25: Yesterday, Today and Forever VHS which is a shame. I would really love a DVD compilation of individual performances of Michael Jackson's that contains both this and the much praised 1988 Grammy's performance, as this is him at the peak of his powers I feel!