The Patience of a Saint
by Electronic

Writers - Sumner/Marr/Tennant/Lowe
First released - 1991
Original album - Electronic (Electronic)
Producer - Bernard Sumner, Johnny Marr
Subsequent albums - (none)
Other releases - (none)

Although Neil has written and recorded a couple other songs with Johnny Marr and Bernard Sumner as part of their Electronic project ("Getting Away with It" and "Disappointed," with Neil singing lead on the latter), this cut from the 1991 Electronic album is the only one on which both Neil and Chris are co-writers and performers. As Sumner himself has said of this song, Chris "wrote a lot of the music." Thus it merits inclusion here as a "Pet Shop Boys track." The narrator (or perhaps, as we shall see, narrators) of this song is something of a bastard, set in his carefree ways, who admits that he's difficult to live with. "How could I change? I live without restraint." Knowing himself as well as he does, he concedes (perhaps with some misplaced pride) that he "would try the patience of a saint."

Interestingly, this song is a duet between Neil and Bernard Sumner. A duet between two men singing a song about a close personal relationship is eye-opening, to say the least. Of course, they may in fact be voicing the same character; that is, two singers, but only one persona. But if they are indeed singing two different dramatic parts, so to speak, then there's no avoiding the implications of this song as describing a gay relationship—in which case both men admit they're difficult to live with, that they would try the patience of a saint. Therefore, though they may be bastards, they're also saints for putting up with each other. And suddenly a song that previously sounded misanthropic, even antagonistic, becomes quite moving and poignant. In short, these two people, for better or worse, are made for each other.

It's worth noting that, in his 1990 book Pet Shop Boys, Literally, Chris Heath writes of how Neil and Chris first met Johnny Marr in early 1989 "while helping New Order's Bernard Sumner with his solo LP." Since this Sumner solo album never materialized, and since Marr and the Boys were all involved, it suggests the possibility that "The Patience of a Saint" originated from this period. In other words, this track may have been planned and recorded as a Sumner "solo"—with Marr, like Chris and Neil, appearing simply as guests—but was later repurposed as an Electronic track only after Sumner and Marr decided to form their duo.

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