Boy Strange

Writers - Tennant/Lowe
First released - 1999
Original album - Nightlife
Producer - Pet Shop Boys, Rollo
Subsequent albums - (none)
Other releases - (none)

This song evolved from an earlier instrumental piece the Boys had written titled "Playing in the Streets," part of which can still be heard in this track's instrumental lead-in. "It sounds like kraut rock," Chris has noted, to which Neil replied, "A bit like Bowie, I think." Neil has often noted the profound influence David Bowie had on him in his youth, and musically this track betrays the Bowie influence perhaps more than any other they've recorded (that is, unless you count their collaborative remix of Bowie's own "Hallo Spaceboy"). Note how acoustic guitar, piano, and phase-distortion are used—very Bowiesque. This would have been very much at home on any of Bowie's albums from the early 1970s.

The lyrics deal with the way in which we sometimes become romantically, sexually, or otherwise intertwined with people who ultimately prove unhealthy to us. As Neil told an interviewer around the time the album came out, "The new song 'Boy Strange' may sound gay, but the inspiration was two girls I know whose lives have been ruined by picking up men who are gorgeous, who then went on to f___ up their lives." As the closing line puts it, "Why would you inflict him on you?"

An intriguing but purely speculative possible connection is with Joni Mitchell's song "A Strange Boy," which concerns the narrator's relationship with a somewhat immature young man who simultaneously excites and annoys her. But it's perhaps not such an unlikely connection when you consider that Neil has cited Joni's album on which it appears, Hejira, as among his personal favorites.

Another promising hypothesis has been posed by one of my site visitors, who suggests that the designation "Boy Strange" may be an amalgam of the names Boy George and Steve Strange—lead singers of the bands Culture Club and Visage, respectively—both of whom were icons of the early 'eighties "New Romantic" scene (itself heavily influenced by David Bowie) and frequent clubgoers before they gained their pop-music fame. Considering the Boys' obvious interest in pop and club cultures, this is certainly a distinct possibility.


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