Songs That Soundtracked the AIDS Epidemic: Pet Shop Boys “Being Boring”
by the late 1970s, homosexuality had been decriminalized in multiple states including iowa, nebraska and wyoming. with the hypervisibility of disco, which served as a trojan horse ushering queer culture into the mainstream, any and everything seemed possible for queer and trans people. if the 70s were the ball, and by most recollections they were, then 1980 was the clock that struck midnight.
by the summer of 1981, the AIDS epidemic almost rendered the party over. all of the dreams and possibilities had to contend with the distractions of pain, stigma and loss, the pet shop boys’ 1990 single “being boring” eloquently captures the experience of existing between youthful hopefulness and the queer reality of life in the 1980s.
the pet shop boys are britain’s most successful pop duos. after forming in 1981, the duo scored a number of hits on both sides of the atlantic and crafted a catalogue of introspective and emotionally driven modern dance-pop songs that still resonate all these years later.
“being boring” is a somber song about the innocence of hope, the excitement of experience and the pain that accompanies self-realization. written by group member neil tennant, the song was inspired by the death of a friend who died of AIDS complications and is told over three phases of their lives.
neil said of “being boring”:
“The first verse is all my friends in Newcastle, and this friend of mine was one of them. It just described that what we and our aspirations were. And then the second verse I moved to London with an idea to go to Polytechnic. And it describes an excitement of that. And then the third verse is looking back at what’s happened and I’m doing what I’m doing, and he’s dead. I mean, it’s quite simple. When you got your best friend you just know he’ll always be around, and that not being the case.”
released in november 1990 as the second single from their fifth album “behaviour,” “being boring” reached #20 in the UK. it’sbeautiful black and white music video was directed by fashion photographer bruce weber. the stunning visual depicts a a group young adults at a party being in community and being queer. doing everything but being boring.