Quintessentially

For general discussion of Pet Shop Boys topics.
Post Reply
Message
Author
Dog
Posts: 1770
Joined: Thu 30 Oct 2003, 11:41 pm
Contact:

Quintessentially

#1 Post by Dog »

A few questions on the same subject if you don’t mind. It’d be great to hear opinions.

If, as is often written, Pet Shop Boys can be seen as quintessentially English, what is it about them that you feel represents Englishness?

I’d be particularly interested to hear from non-English fans who first encountered England through the lens of PSB, maybe back in the 80s. What did you imagine Pet Shop Boys’ England to be like?

What would you say are their most English songs and lyrics?

Maybe you consider Pet Shop Boys to operate beyond these confines. We know they are far from insular and often look abroad for their influences.

Views appreciated!
Woof.

User avatar
Gabby
Posts: 766
Joined: Sun 17 Jan 2016, 6:31 pm
Contact:

Re: Quintessentially

#2 Post by Gabby »

I realise you specifically want non-english input but as a Brit I think their persona of coming across as middle class aloof (Neil) and working class non conformist (Chris) has something to do with it.

As with many artists of the 80s they were both well educated (university level) and I'd suspect relatively affluent but knew that there was a disparity when it came to the power the Conservative Party weilded over the classes. They set about telling those stories through their music.

They walked a thin line there, because they modeled an affluent lifestyle (what average person could afford Armani suits and Miyake sunglasses?) but still managed to be of the people.

They didn't flaunt this glossy look though (think Duran Duran). Its quite a feat when you think about it to carry glamor without rubbing it in the faces of your fan base who spend what little they might have on your products.

I'm not trying to paint them in a bad light but I do think that duality also speaks to their Englishness. The Noel Coward aesthetic, that has a unique ability to shed light on the horror of reality.

User avatar
telys
Posts: 464
Joined: Tue 23 Jun 2015, 9:03 pm
Contact:

Re: Quintessentially

#3 Post by telys »

Dog wrote: Mon 26 Apr 2021, 10:50 pm A few questions on the same subject if you don’t mind. It’d be great to hear opinions.

If, as is often written, Pet Shop Boys can be seen as quintessentially English, what is it about them that you feel represents Englishness?

I’d be particularly interested to hear from non-English fans who first encountered England through the lens of PSB, maybe back in the 80s. What did you imagine Pet Shop Boys’ England to be like?

What would you say are their most English songs and lyrics?

Maybe you consider Pet Shop Boys to operate beyond these confines. We know they are far from insular and often look abroad for their influences.

Views appreciated!
Have never thought of PSB as quintessentially English. I didn't encounter England through the lens of PSB, only London. But I did learn a lot of english (the language) through them. And of course the way Neil pronounced years (yaars) on This must be the place opened up new horizons for diversity of dialects.
Sorry to say this but TBH the country of England/Britain, apart from London of course, was and still is of very little interest for foreigners, a pity perhaps. That's why lyrics like Burning the heather or Sexy northerner are just a sack of words, no meaning. Songs about London on the other hand you could always relate to.
----
You've got me all wrong

Dog
Posts: 1770
Joined: Thu 30 Oct 2003, 11:41 pm
Contact:

Re: Quintessentially

#4 Post by Dog »

Gabby wrote:I realise you specifically want non-english input but as a Brit I think their persona of coming across as middle class aloof (Neil) and working class non conformist (Chris) has something to do with it.

As with many artists of the 80s they were both well educated (university level) and I'd suspect relatively affluent but knew that there was a disparity when it came to the power the Conservative Party weilded over the classes. They set about telling those stories through their music.

They walked a thin line there, because they modeled an affluent lifestyle (what average person could afford Armani suits and Miyake sunglasses?) but still managed to be of the people.

They didn't flaunt this glossy look though (think Duran Duran). Its quite a feat when you think about it to carry glamor without rubbing it in the faces of your fan base who spend what little they might have on your products.

I'm not trying to paint them in a bad light but I do think that duality also speaks to their Englishness. The Noel Coward aesthetic, that has a unique ability to shed light on the horror of reality.
Yes, I think you are right. Class of course is in itself a very English thing. I always liked the juxtaposition of the clothes and the settings of the photos. Chris used to moan about his “horrid flat” with the one brown wall. They both “had it” and “didn’t have it”; they were outside and inside; northerners in the south; they were cool by not being cool. I like the idea that this dichotomy is rooted in a kind of Englishness.
Woof.

User avatar
JJ Naas
Posts: 375
Joined: Thu 16 Mar 2006, 6:46 pm
Contact:

Re: Quintessentially

#5 Post by JJ Naas »

I wasn't smart enough to pay attention to any class related issues in the songs, so it was mostly atmospheres and characters and sceneries that I paid attention to. Class issues came more to the fore when I read Literallys that were transcribed on the Absolutely PSB web site.

My first album was Very, so the fantasy land videos didn't reveal much. Dreaming of the Queen and The Theatre summoned images of London and the royalty. Soon after that I found a VHS of It Couldn't Happen Here from a local library, and the gritty and seedy views of England were quite different after the fantasy land of the Very videos. The chilly seaside and a B&B house with bay windows were forever etched into my mind as 100% English things. Suburbia offered vivid images of what average life was like, although I didn't know it was about the suburbs of L.A. While I Imagined them as English suburbs, I could also project that image to my own childhood surroundings, suburbs are a bit similar world over. It's A Sin's gloomy Catholic images with incense, monks and emphasis on sin was maybe the most exotic English thing of all. I don't think I ever met a Catholic person or visited a Catholic church during the first 18 years of my life.

User avatar
telys
Posts: 464
Joined: Tue 23 Jun 2015, 9:03 pm
Contact:

Re: Quintessentially

#6 Post by telys »

JJ Naas wrote: Tue 27 Apr 2021, 9:41 am Soon after that I found a VHS of It Couldn't Happen Here from a local library, and the gritty and seedy views of England were quite different after the fantasy land of the Very videos. The chilly seaside and a B&B house with bay windows were forever etched into my mind as 100% English things.
The ITCHH film sort of showed what England outside of London was.... utterly boring and lacking any appeal. Which in fact it probably isn't. So PSB really were anti-english in that film.
----
You've got me all wrong

Dog
Posts: 1770
Joined: Thu 30 Oct 2003, 11:41 pm
Contact:

Re: Quintessentially

#7 Post by Dog »

telys wrote:
Dog wrote: Mon 26 Apr 2021, 10:50 pm A few questions on the same subject if you don’t mind. It’d be great to hear opinions.

If, as is often written, Pet Shop Boys can be seen as quintessentially English, what is it about them that you feel represents Englishness?

I’d be particularly interested to hear from non-English fans who first encountered England through the lens of PSB, maybe back in the 80s. What did you imagine Pet Shop Boys’ England to be like?

What would you say are their most English songs and lyrics?

Maybe you consider Pet Shop Boys to operate beyond these confines. We know they are far from insular and often look abroad for their influences.

Views appreciated!
Have never thought of PSB as quintessentially English. I didn't encounter England through the lens of PSB, only London. But I did learn a lot of english (the language) through them. And of course the way Neil pronounced years (yaars) on This must be the place opened up new horizons for diversity of dialects.
Sorry to say this but TBH the country of England/Britain, apart from London of course, was and still is of very little interest for foreigners, a pity perhaps. That's why lyrics like Burning the heather or Sexy northerner are just a sack of words, no meaning. Songs about London on the other hand you could always relate to.
I am sure you are right that England holds little interest for many. That is fair enough.

Sexy Northerner and Burning the Heather are interesting examples. Are you saying that their lyrics are “too English” and therefore lost in translation?
Woof.

Dog
Posts: 1770
Joined: Thu 30 Oct 2003, 11:41 pm
Contact:

Re: Quintessentially

#8 Post by Dog »

JJ Naas wrote:I wasn't smart enough to pay attention to any class related issues in the songs, so it was mostly atmospheres and characters and sceneries that I paid attention to. Class issues came more to the fore when I read Literallys that were transcribed on the Absolutely PSB web site.

My first album was Very, so the fantasy land videos didn't reveal much. Dreaming of the Queen and The Theatre summoned images of London and the royalty. Soon after that I found a VHS of It Couldn't Happen Here from a local library, and the gritty and seedy views of England were quite different after the fantasy land of the Very videos. The chilly seaside and a B&B house with bay windows were forever etched into my mind as 100% English things. Suburbia offered vivid images of what average life was like, although I didn't know it was about the suburbs of L.A. While I Imagined them as English suburbs, I could also project that image to my own childhood surroundings, suburbs are a bit similar world over. It's A Sin's gloomy Catholic images with incense, monks and emphasis on sin was maybe the most exotic English thing of all. I don't think I ever met a Catholic person or visited a Catholic church during the first 18 years of my life.
Yes, arguably there isn’t a whole lot of glamour or romance in Pet Shop Boys’ England. Even The Theatre is obviously from the perspective of the outsider. It Couldn’t Happen Here may be Jack Bond’s England but it is one based on Neil and Chris’s own backgrounds. A portrait of the mundane, the forgotten and the places in between... Not exactly West End Girls: The Movie.
Woof.

User avatar
telys
Posts: 464
Joined: Tue 23 Jun 2015, 9:03 pm
Contact:

Re: Quintessentially

#9 Post by telys »

Dog wrote: Tue 27 Apr 2021, 1:59 pm
telys wrote:
Dog wrote: Mon 26 Apr 2021, 10:50 pm A few questions on the same subject if you don’t mind. It’d be great to hear opinions.

If, as is often written, Pet Shop Boys can be seen as quintessentially English, what is it about them that you feel represents Englishness?

I’d be particularly interested to hear from non-English fans who first encountered England through the lens of PSB, maybe back in the 80s. What did you imagine Pet Shop Boys’ England to be like?

What would you say are their most English songs and lyrics?

Maybe you consider Pet Shop Boys to operate beyond these confines. We know they are far from insular and often look abroad for their influences.

Views appreciated!
Have never thought of PSB as quintessentially English. I didn't encounter England through the lens of PSB, only London. But I did learn a lot of english (the language) through them. And of course the way Neil pronounced years (yaars) on This must be the place opened up new horizons for diversity of dialects.
Sorry to say this but TBH the country of England/Britain, apart from London of course, was and still is of very little interest for foreigners, a pity perhaps. That's why lyrics like Burning the heather or Sexy northerner are just a sack of words, no meaning. Songs about London on the other hand you could always relate to.
I am sure you are right that England holds little interest for many. That is fair enough.

Sexy Northerner and Burning the Heather are interesting examples. Are you saying that their lyrics are “too English” and therefore lost in translation?
One perfectly understands the words but at the same time it's obvious that the lyrics have a contextual meaning within England that is lost on a foreigner. "Burning the heather" makes me think of a slash-and-burn agriculture creating swidden lands.
Sexy northerner is graspable. Here in Sweden we have northerners as well, usually lumped together as a bunch of slow speaking, tobacco chewing people hardend by years in the mining or logging industry. I really don't know what concept of the the english Northerner is all about.
Shopping and King's Cross are about british culture but the politics of Thatcher were common knowledge in Europe and railway stations in London weren't a foreign concept in the days of interrail.
One english thing that as a swede you have no problem at all understanding is the insular feeling with regards to the continent. So Single-Bilingual is perfectly understandable.
----
You've got me all wrong

User avatar
retrofuturist
Posts: 3492
Joined: Mon 08 May 2006, 12:31 am
Contact:

Re: Quintessentially

#10 Post by retrofuturist »

Greetings,

Pet Shop Boys have always seemed of their own world, to me.

Perhaps Britain, or Europe more generally, has made that a more viable proposition than if they were American, where music is more obviously part of an "entertainment industry", replete with its crass and forthright "glitz and glamour" mode of presenting and promoting artists. That particular "shameless" world seems much harder to harmonize with their more subtle and innate theatrical leanings, or Chris's public reticence, which is perhaps the way in which they truly are "quintessentially" English - a unique tension of the reticent and the theatrical.

Retro. :)

Scottydog
Posts: 100
Joined: Tue 03 Apr 2018, 11:22 am
Contact:

Re: Quintessentially

#11 Post by Scottydog »

telys wrote: Tue 27 Apr 2021, 10:02 am
JJ Naas wrote: Tue 27 Apr 2021, 9:41 am Soon after that I found a VHS of It Couldn't Happen Here from a local library, and the gritty and seedy views of England were quite different after the fantasy land of the Very videos. The chilly seaside and a B&B house with bay windows were forever etched into my mind as 100% English things.
The ITCHH film sort of showed what England outside of London was.... utterly boring and lacking any appeal. Which in fact it probably isn't. So PSB really were anti-english in that film.
This is hilarious. So many UK towns and villages are now desperate to sign up PSB as their heroes to put off the convoys of visitors and European camper vans that descend on them every year. Who knew there was so much more to their national treasure status! Maybe they should promote using Brick England in foreign tourist offices.
As a ‘sexy northerner’ myself I love the subtle way that Neil often uses his northern English roots in his lyrics and the way he speaks. His phrasing often reminds me of my Newcastle grandmother. I’m sure that most of them are lost on people outside of the UK but it’s also interesting when they put their own slant on them. Or don’t.
If I thought what you’d think I wouldn’t even be here.

User avatar
telys
Posts: 464
Joined: Tue 23 Jun 2015, 9:03 pm
Contact:

Re: Quintessentially

#12 Post by telys »

Scottydog wrote: Wed 28 Apr 2021, 9:24 am
As a ‘sexy northerner’ myself I love the subtle way that Neil often uses his northern English roots in his lyrics and the way he speaks. His phrasing often reminds me of my Newcastle grandmother. I’m sure that most of them are lost on people outside of the UK but it’s also interesting when they put their own slant on them. Or don’t.
What is actually in the concept of The Northerner in England? Is it just the rural-urban/periphery-centre contrast or is there more to it?
----
You've got me all wrong

Dog
Posts: 1770
Joined: Thu 30 Oct 2003, 11:41 pm
Contact:

Re: Quintessentially

#13 Post by Dog »

telys wrote:
Scottydog wrote: Wed 28 Apr 2021, 9:24 am
As a ‘sexy northerner’ myself I love the subtle way that Neil often uses his northern English roots in his lyrics and the way he speaks. His phrasing often reminds me of my Newcastle grandmother. I’m sure that most of them are lost on people outside of the UK but it’s also interesting when they put their own slant on them. Or don’t.
What is actually in the concept of The Northerner in England? Is it just the rural-urban/periphery-centre contrast or is there more to it?
I think you pretty much have it. I am from the north of England. Our national media is centred in London which helps perpetuate the notion that the further away from this hub you are, the more of an outsider you are. Stereotypically the north is less affluent and less cosmopolitan and property prices are cheaper, and northerners are friendlier, hardier and more straight talking. But clearly that’s not an entirely true and fair picture. I do feel that “northerners in London” / “outsiders inside” / “in the inner sanctum” is part of PSB DNA.
Woof.

Scottydog
Posts: 100
Joined: Tue 03 Apr 2018, 11:22 am
Contact:

Re: Quintessentially

#14 Post by Scottydog »

telys wrote: Here in Sweden we have northerners as well, usually lumped together as a bunch of slow speaking, tobacco chewing people hardend by years in the mining or logging industry. I really don't know what concept of the the english Northerner is all about.
The fascinating Sami people? You couldn’t get more contrast between north and south as that which in no way reflects northern England. Even in northern Scotland we don’t reach that level of ruggedness. Chris in ICHH is the perfect image of a sexy northerner to me. Some people think the song was written about him. He denies it.
I never considered that things such as ‘Sunblest’ ‘Jack the Lad’ or burning heather mean little outside the UK. I know people in London who didn’t understand burning heather! Personally I love that PSB are brave enough to do that occasionally and don’t care.
I think setting ICHH in a stereotypical English seaside town was deliberately brave too. It would have been so easy and dull set in London. Interesting that you say it looks boring and lacks appeal. My favourite tv series The Bridge made Malmö and Sweden in general look seriously depressing and miserable. In reality it mostly isn’t.
If I thought what you’d think I wouldn’t even be here.

User avatar
telys
Posts: 464
Joined: Tue 23 Jun 2015, 9:03 pm
Contact:

Re: Quintessentially

#15 Post by telys »

Scottydog wrote: Fri 30 Apr 2021, 7:35 am
telys wrote: Here in Sweden we have northerners as well, usually lumped together as a bunch of slow speaking, tobacco chewing people hardend by years in the mining or logging industry. I really don't know what concept of the the english Northerner is all about.
The fascinating Sami people? You couldn’t get more contrast between north and south as that which in no way reflects northern England. Even in northern Scotland we don’t reach that level of ruggedness. Chris in ICHH is the perfect image of a sexy northerner to me. Some people think the song was written about him. He denies it.
I never considered that things such as ‘Sunblest’ ‘Jack the Lad’ or burning heather mean little outside the UK. I know people in London who didn’t understand burning heather! Personally I love that PSB are brave enough to do that occasionally and don’t care.
I think setting ICHH in a stereotypical English seaside town was deliberately brave too. It would have been so easy and dull set in London. Interesting that you say it looks boring and lacks appeal. My favourite tv series The Bridge made Malmö and Sweden in general look seriously depressing and miserable. In reality it mostly isn’t.
Oh, yes the Sami (semi nomadic), something to be proud of. The diversity of Scandinavia is immense. But I wasn'treferring to that ethnicity.
Haven't seen The Bridge but if you ask med Malmö is extremely depressing. For many years I thought Neil sang "sunblast" and that it meant something like a sudden sunrise :D
They should write a song about Lindisfarne or the battle at Stamford Bridge although those topics sound more like they fit an Iron Maiden song. Anyway, Neils lyrics are a perfect teacher of the english language.
----
You've got me all wrong

Post Reply

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: Bing [Bot], Google [Bot] and 43 guests