Still gay for the Pet Shop Boys after all these years

I might've gone with a different pair of glasses.

I might've gone with a different pair of glasses.

My music taste is all over the map. It has been ever since Dad brought home a U2 album way back in 1984, forcing me to realize that everything else I liked sucked. Much of my collection falls in one of the following categories…

  • depressing, suicide-inducing, singer-songwriter stuff
  • droney, feedback-laden guitar rock
  • poppy poppiness with poignant lyrics
  • down-tempo, instrumental DJ fare

My taste map does miss large swaths of the music landscape. Polka, for example, is notably absent. So too is Reggaetón, though I expect to hear that damn “La Gasolina” song about 400,000 more times from passing cars by summer’s end. (Would someone please revoke Daddy Yankee‘s Jackson Heights privileges?) Despite the thousands of albums in my apartment and on my computer, one act gets an inordinate amount of airtime, 20 some-odd years after they came on the scene. Every afternoon, almost without fail, I play at least one Pet Shop Boys album.

I became a fan back in my mullet days, cruising the suburbs in an orange Chevy Citation blasting “West End Girls” and “Opportunities.” The subtext of the album  eluded me completely; I was in high school and apparently a little sheltered. Most non-gay suburbanites moved on when the act’s mainstream popularity waned in the early 90s, but not me. Still oblivious to their music’s major theme, I continued to buy everything they put out. The music – lush, layered and perfect for driving under the streetlights with the windows down – just moved me.

For what it’s worth, I figured out what they were singing about some time in the early 1990s, probably around when they covered the gay anthem “Go West.” I felt a little stupid for not putting it together sooner. If not the lyrics, then the frequent use of harps and all male choruses probably should have clued me in somewhere along the line. In my defense, the early stuff is a little vague with the pronouns; they’re a lot less coy about sexuality these days. And it didn’t much matter to me one way or the other. It’s music, and I was a fan.

The Pet Shop Boys in the afternoon habit started maybe five years ago. Sick of all the CDs in my office, I brought some stuff from home, including their classic Very. One afternoon, about the time the caffeine jones usually set in, the album found its way into the stereo. Those first symphonic bursts jolted me out of my stupor. And then Neil Tennant started to coolly bemoan the difficulties of the gay experience. I was awake and right there with him – young and fabulous, cruising the streets of Chelsea on a Friday evening. (Oh, to be gay and in the city!) Except I wasn’t, I was still sitting at my desk facing a pile of work. But things seemed a little better. Playing it the next day, and the day after that, had the same effect.

I kept the album at work. My officemate would cheer “yes” under her breath whenever I put it on, and not out of sarcasm. She meant it, and later bought the Discography to play at home while housecleaning. I brought in other Pet Shop Boys albums to mix things up a bit. The brooding, turn-of-the-decade (80s to 90s) Behaviour became another favorite. Gaying things up got us through the long afternoons at work.

I was soon laid off from that job, and not too long after, so was my officemate. We both found other jobs pretty quickly. The office environment at my next company was a little more corporate than at the record label. And an afternoon pick-me-up mattered more than ever. I felt a little self-conscience turning to the Pet Shop Boys again. Someone might catch me rockin’ out to old keyboard music on my iPod, and I’d lose my reputation as a dude. As it turned out, nobody at this job or subsequent ones cared.

Unemployment lets me play the Pet Shop Boys whenever I want and as loud as I want. (He’s an easygoing boss.) And I do. Wifey isn’t here, and the cats don’t care. Some days it’s the newer stuff; some days I revert back to early albums. Some days the music creates a weird mashup with the ice cream man’s jingle from the street below. And some days I’m free to sing and dance around the apartment undisturbed. The obvious homosexual references no longer make me cringe at my own youthful ignorance. We were all stupid once. These days it’s all just music that makes me smile. And I’m glad to have it.

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  1. Underemployed wrote:

    Found a job possibly up your alley

    10k a month with subsized rent and meals…

    to twitter, fb etc.

    check out the details – deadline is soon!.

    Wednesday, May 6, 2009 at 9:24 am | Permalink
  2. Norm wrote:

    Thanks for the job lead, Underemployed. Unfortunately, I don’t drink. The job description is making me want to start.

    Wednesday, May 6, 2009 at 1:33 pm | Permalink
  3. Bridget wrote:

    YES! When that synthesized brass starts sniping at the opening of “Can You Forgive Her?” my mood still soars by 1000%. Good to know that we’re probably listening to it at the same time everyday.

    I just watched the video and I don’t think you can blame yourself for not initially picking up on the gaiety. Talk about oblique…

    Anyway, I still owe you that essay. Until then, I’ll be getting festive at 4pm while toiling away at my counterfeit jeans operation in my car hole.

    Wednesday, May 6, 2009 at 10:51 am | Permalink
  4. underemployed wrote:

    Norm, the BEST wine tasters SPIT – spit bucket necessary!

    Wednesday, May 6, 2009 at 5:05 pm | Permalink
  5. Mike S wrote:

    LOL….I saw the Pet Shop Boys in concert in Phoenix about a year and a half a ago and if there was any doubt in my mind that they were gay it was laid to rest then….don’t think I every saw anything so flamboyant, never saw Liberace though.

    No worries on not figuring it out though, I was a huge Judas Priest fan growing up and who knew that Rob Halford was gay and many of the songs were about being gay. I became friends with Rob Halford years later but always felt awkward about this and just pretended like it didn’t exist.

    Guess the music is the only thing that matters really.

    Tuesday, May 26, 2009 at 12:39 am | Permalink

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