As Much Fun As Poppin' Bubble Wrap: Pet Shop Boys - The Pop Kids
This week I have mostly been listening to The Pop Kids, the latest release from the Super album by the legendary Pet Shop Boys. I have been a fan of theirs ever since their greatest hits album Discography came out in 1991 (which was before they had even covered The Village People’s Go West, now arguably one of their most recognisable hits). Of course they had caught my attention several years before then – I can still vividly remember being enthralled by their synthy sounds in 1987 as I watched them perform It’s A Sin on Top Of The Pops, my mother accompanying Chris Lowe on keyboards as the reflection of her doing the ironing intruded upon the top right hand corner of the screen. It was back at a time when we cared about chart positions - and they had just reached the number one spot!
Eighties nostalgia aside, The Pop Kids is reaching me on an emotional level beyond pop-tastic foot-stomping, resurfacing memories not from my childhood, but from my time as a student at The University of Wales, Bangor. It isn’t particularly because I was listening to a lot of PSB at the time, it’s more to do with a pop-related change that occurred in my life during the latter half of my days there. Musically, I had been in the wilderness for some years, unsure of which genre or artists I really gelled with. It may sound odd to say that you don’t really know what it is you like, but my tastes have always been so eclectic that I had always ‘just-kinda’ liked a bit of everything. Although I had been happy living in such a state for most of my life, by the time I was at University I was really starting to itch for a niche that I could scratch at.
Then I met Tom.
Several years younger than myself, when I first met him I wrongly assumed he would be into some hip, cool indie bands I’d never heard of and probably hated, but as it turned out he was into a lot of cool old pop groups - including many I’d never heard of and hardly any I hated. We immediately hit it off and before you could say ‘Seven and the Ragged Tiger’ he had converted me into a fully-fledged 80s pop buff. It wasn’t long before this New Bro-mantic affair was proving to be a gateway to gig hunting, and the next thing I know I’m stood in a field at an 80s Rewind event in Shrewsbury shouting at the top of my voice, telling Belinda Carlisle to sing her song Summer Rain (as it was Summer and it had started raining it made perfect logical sense, not that she would oblige).
Often talking excitedly with disinterested friends about our appreciation for pop over whatever was considered more 'credible' and 'cool' at the time, it wasn't long before we had a reputation for liking and being knowledgeable about 'shit' music. In light of my increased fascination with pop music during my time at university, is it no wonder that some of the lyrics of The Pop Kids provoke many wonderful memories and nostalgic feelings within me? Neil Tennant’s words echo in my mind like the ghost of student past, ‘Remember those days… we both applied for places at the same university… our obsession with the music scene…
Wherever we went
Whatever we did
We knew the songs…
They called us the pop kids
Cause’ we loved the pop hits
And quoted the best bits…
We were so sophisticated
Telling everyone we knew
That rock was overrated’.
I was pleasantly surprised to discover that the tune was inspired by real life events not too dissimilar to my experiences. In a press release for the song Tennant explains that ‘it is about a friend of mine who moved from Birmingham to go to Kings College in London to study history and he made friends with a girl there. They both loved pop music and they used to go clubbing all the time and because of that they were known as the pop kids’.
Many, many gigs later, including one of the Pet Shop Boys at the MEN, Tom and I are still good friends, and although we are now distanced by a couple hundred miles, we still try to meet up a few times a year for the occasional pop gig, because just like Neil Tennant’s friends, we were and forever remain, pop kids.