Love – The Pet Shop Boys Way


Music is a universal constant; there’s a reason that, when NASA sent out the Voyager probe to see what’s out there in this huge, possibly empty galaxy, music was one of things that they included on the big data record that they were hoping any aliens would find.

Music binds us together.  There are songs about political issues, social issues, emotional issues, heck, even comedic issues!  Of course, musicians also have a lot to say about the other thing that binds humanity together:  love.  Love songs have dominated the airwaves since Caveman Grog bonked Cavewoman Mog on the head, dragged her back to his cave, and then sang about his love for her over the campfire to all of his other caveman buddies.  (A little known historical fact:  Mog ended up inventing the wheel and getting away from Grog’s cave, after leaving some weird markings on his cave wall.  This is the first known instance of “break-up via text message”)

I am not a musician, but I do love good music.  And the Pet Shop Boys are good music.  No, wait, come back!  They are!  After doing a recent one-hit wonder post on my own blog where I referenced them (they are definitely *not* one-hit wonders), I went on a Pet Shop Boys binge, listening to all of their 80s hits again, watching Youtube videos, and generally doing Pet Shop Boys-related things that really annoyed my wife (thankfully, she puts up with these odd breakouts).  After listening to their Discography CD, it dawned on me:  They sing about almost every aspect of love and relationships there is that exists in the world!  Or they will if they keep cranking out original CDs and stop re-releasing Greatest Hits CDs in every shape and form.  I’m serious!  I’m also foaming at the mouth, but I’m serious!

Just look at what we have on the Discography CD:

1) West End Girls

What could be a better illustration of love between two different sides of the street?

“In a West End town, a dead end world
The East End boys and West End girls”

It’s all there in black and white!

Ok, maybe not that clear.  But I’m sure what they are singing about is the class differences between girls from one side of the tracks and guys from another, and how they have to overcome their differences to make their relationship work.  I mean, with lyrics like this:

“Sometimes you’re better off dead
There’s gun in your hand and it’s pointing at your head
You think you’re mad, too unstable
Kicking in chairs and knocking down tables
In a restaurant in a West End town
Call the police, there’s a madman around
Running down underground to a dive bar
In a West End town”

How can it be anything else?

Clear as crystal, I say.

2) Love Comes Quickly

This one you don’t have to actually work for, like you did the previous one (my back still hurts from the contortions it took to do that).  And it’s actually almost a universal truth, too.

“Love comes quickly whatever you do
you can’t stop falling
Oooh Ooooh”

Ok, the “oooh” part may not be universal, but whatever floats your boat.  The rest of it is definitely true.  Love does come when you least expect it, and sometimes the less you’re looking for it, the harder you fall.  I spent years looking for love in all the wrong places (whoops, wrong music genre!) and it was only when I just left myself open to experience everything that life has to offer, that’s when it hit me.

“You can fly away to the end of the world
bur where does it get you?
Cause just when you least expect it, just what you least expect”

You just have to hope that when it does blindside you, it doesn’t do it with a 2×4 to the head.  That hurts, as I know from experience.

3) What Have I Done to Deserve This

I think this one’s so obvious that I shouldn’t have to say any more.  But I will, because I’d hate to spread any confusion here.

This song is clearly about how both parties in a love affair can have their own agendas:

“You always wanted a lover
I only wanted a job
I’ve always worked for my living
How am I gonna get through?”

And how it’s only when we realize that we’ve got a poisonous relationship and the other party starts getting defensive about the whole thing that we know it’s time to break it off.  For some reason, we can’t get that person off of our minds despite having done the right thing:

“Since you went away I’ve been hanging around
I’ve been wondering why I’m feeling down
You went away, it should make me feel better
But I don’t know, oh”

This highlights the kind of traps that we can fall into in any kind of relationships. Treacherous ones from which we derive no benefits, yet we miss them when we’ve finally excised them from our lives.  We feel nostalgic for the “good times” that we had during the relationship instead of realizing that it was truly everything that we aren’t looking for in a companion.

That may not be what the Boys intended the song to mean, but that’s what I’m getting out of it.

Funny, but I started off this song looking to do some ironic comedy and instead I think I’ve made an incisive point!  Maybe I should have tried this in college.

4) Rent

Another song about different sides in a relationship getting something different out of it.  Again, we come into relationships with our own agendas, and as long as both parties are fine with it, then everything’s good.

“And look at the two of us in sympathy
With everything we see
I never want anything, it’s easy
You buy whatever I need

But look at my hopes, look at my dreams
The currency we’ve spent
I love you, you pay my rent
I love you, you pay my rent”

We never do hear her side of the story, but obviously she’s getting something out of it too.  The guy has fallen in love with her, but it’s not clear if it’s reciprocated or not.  Maybe he’s just a boytoy to her?  If so, is he happy with it?  It sounds like it.  Or maybe he just needs a place to stay.  Sometimes, material needs, as well as physical needs, are important in a relationship:

“And look at the two of us in sympathy
And sometimes ecstasy
Words mean so little, and money less
When you’re lying next to me”

This is almost a textbook example of an unhealthy relationship, but where neither party seems to mind it.  I don’t see this ending well if she never does love him, though.  We all need emotional fulfillment at some point.  Eventually, money and sex just aren’t enough.  It appears this guy hasn’t reached that point yet.

Hopefully he won’t become the Kato Kaelin of this relationship.

5) Always on My Mind

Another easy one (hey, this blogging thing is a piece of cake!).  This song is clearly about how important communication is in a relationship.

“Maybe I didn’t treat you
Quite as good as I should
Maybe I didn’t love you
Quite as often as I could
Little things I should have said and done
I never took the time

You were always on my mind
You were always on my mind”

Yes, you may be so in love with somebody that they are everything to you.  But if you don’t say it to the other person occasionally or, more importantly, act like they are the most important thing in the world, then how are they supposed to know you feel that way?  I’ve seen relationships end due to this blind indifference over such a seemingly obvious point.  It doesn’t matter how you feel, if you don’t communicate that to the other party.

And no, while having a plane fly overhead with a huge banner proclaiming your love for her is cool once, it won’t work over the long haul.  It gets old after a while.  Not to mention expensive.  Simple words and actions are more than enough.  Say “I love you” out of the blue, bring her home some flowers, or even better, a Team Canada Roberto Luongo hockey jersey!  Nothing says “I love you” like that!

Unless she’s an Alex Ovechkin fan.

6) Heart

This is a song all about the love that consumes us when we are so totally devoted to the other person.  In this one, material and physical needs aren’t at the forefront.  No, this is pure emotion.

“Every time I see you something happens to me
Like a chain reaction between you and me
My heart starts missing a beat
My heart starts missing a beat”

This is the kind of love that we all desire.  When you do find it, you hold it close and treasure it, because it is can be a rare thing.  It’s the kind of love that you often feel right at the beginning of a relationship.  This can fade away sometimes, but as long as it builds into something deeper and more meaningful, then that’s ok.

I couldn’t think of a more fitting song about the beginning of a love affair.

And if it lasts past the time you both see each other when you wake up on a normal morning for the first time (i.e. you didn’t have sex last night), then you know it’s for the long haul.

7) Domino Dancing

One of my favourite songs, this is about the one-sided love we feel when the other person obviously doesn’t feel the same way.  In the song, the woman is obviously not in love with him the same way because her eye keeps roving to other guys.

“I don’t know why, I don’t know how
I thought I loved you, but I’m not sure now
I’ve seen you look at strangers too many times
The love you want is of a different kind”

She’s obviously more interested in a fling, the physical sensation of a romp in the sun, dancing the night away and then maybe sex on the beach.  He wants something a bit more stable and pure (though the hot sex would be a nice bonus).

“I thought that when we fought I was to blame
But now I know you play a different game
I’ve watched you dance with danger, still wanting more
Add another number to the score”

This is the definition of an unhealthy relationship, and thankfully the guy seems to be realizing this.  Two different people, two different priorities, and they will never match.  He’s lamenting this (probably because the sex is great) but I think he’s coming to the right decision.

When you can compare the lovers your girlfriend has to dominoes lined up in a row, I think it’s time to find a new girlfriend.

8 ) Left to My Own Devices

A song about how sometimes we can’t allow ourselves to fall in love due to outside circumstances.

“I could leave you, say goodbye
Or I could love you, if I try
And I could
And left to my own devices, I probably would”

Maybe you’re just so different that it will never work.  Maybe you’re a Star Wars fan and she’s a Trekkie.  Maybe you like Manchester United and he’s an Arsenal fan.  Sometimes, there’s just no hope, no matter what love is there.

Ok, this is all a stretch, but I just love this song, and I wanted to pass that along.  Left to my own devices, I might have reconsidered including this one…

9)  Jealousy

Finally, the destroyer of so many otherwise healthy relationships rears its ugly head.  No post about love can be complete without addressing this issue.  What happens when the green monster looms in your relationship?

“Where’ve you been?
Who’ve you seen?
You didn’t phone when you said you would!
Do you lie?
Do you try
To keep in touch? You know you could
I’ve tried to see your point of view
But could not hear or see
For jealousy”

Trust is so important in a relationship.  If you can’t trust the other person when you’re not around, then you have no business being in the relationship in the first place.  One of the things that can get lost in an otherwise healthy relationship is our own sense of self.  Sometimes we have to go out on our own and do something without the other person being involved.  We need our own space. Too much togetherness can make you feel trapped, no matter how much you love the other person.  It’s during these alone times that you’re trusting that the other person is not doing anything that will harm your relationship.  Without that trust, jealousy breeds.

So what if she’s talking to another guy over there by the wall?  You trust her, you know that she loves you, and she would never do anything to hurt you.  Maybe he’s just asking directions.  Maybe he’s checking to make sure her tonsils are ok.  Yes, I realize that he shouldn’t be doing that with his tongue, but doctors have their own unique methods sometimes.

Ok, maybe it is time to find another girlfriend.

I could go on, of course.  There are so many Pet Shop Boys songs out there that I could probably write a book.  However, I will spare you any more ruminations at this time.  You can clearly see that if there’s an aspect of love and relationships out there, the Pet Shop Boys have covered it in some fashion.

And however they did it, you know they did it in a really cool manner.