Like Anu Silfverberg so perfectly expressed in this column, there are all sorts of odd artificial divisions between people: people who are cat people and people who are dog people, people who got picked first for team sports and those who got picked last, or people who understand the Pet Shop Boys and those who don't. I am more of a cat person, I was always picked last for team sports, and I love the Pet Shop Boys.
My first memory of Pet Shop Boys is their music video for It's a Sin. I was nine or ten. I had gone to my best-friend-at-the-time Anna's home after school, and they had MTV. Of course I didn't understand the lyrics or the dark atmosphere of the video, not to mention the cultural context of the song, but I loved the tune the first time I heard it. I remember the moment quite vividly.
I was in my early teens when I eventually bought three Pet Shop Boys vinyl albums at a second hand music store: Actually, Introspective and Behaviour. The type of music I listened to at the time tended to stick to your usual quiet-teenager-with-issues type of menu: Morrissey, The Smiths, Depeche Mode, R.E.M., U2, Suede, early Radiohead. My fascination with the Pet Shop Boys didn't quite fit the bill, at least at first glance. The deep melancholy of their music is often only palpable to true fans; others tend to dismiss it as simple electro-pop. So what if digging Willie Nelson would have given me more street cred when I was a teenager; to me, the Pet Shop Boys' version of Always On My Mind was the best there is, and well, being the superbly unpopular student I was, I never had a chance with street cred anyway.
I bought Very when it first came out in 1993. I was 15. It was my first experience of enjoying new Pet Shop Boys material with other fans. Not that I knew of any other fans, but the moment was meaningful to me anyway. I loved Very, I still do. The follow-up, Bilingual, was my first Pet Shop Boys disappointment a few years later, and I became a lazy fan. It just hit me today that there are four (yes, four!) Pet Shop Boys albums I have not listened to actively. I keep going back to the old ones, the good ones, the ones I have had for almost twenty years, on vinyl. There is a part of me that now understands how people get stuck on the music they have always listened to, how people tend to stop looking for new interesting music after a certain age. It hit me that I need to get my act together and get my hands on the albums I don't have. Unlike a lot of my old favourite groups, the Pet Shop Boys are still active.
A couple of nights ago I dreamt of visiting the Princeton Record Exchange, and I was desperately looking for Pet Shop Boys cds. The piles of cds were close to toppling over my head, and I was in a hurry. The only cd I could find was their first album Please, which I already have on cd. In the dream I also argued with someone over Neil Tennant's name: that someone kept insisting that his name was Sean, not Neil. I bet that someone was a dog person, and that he got picked first for softball.