Can You Forgive Her?

Writers - Tennant/Lowe
First released - 1993
Original album - Very
Producer - Pet Shop Boys, Stephen Hague
Subsequent albums - Disco 2, PopArt, Smash
Other releases - single (UK #7, US Dance #1)

The opening song and first single from Very is set to one of the Boys' most deliriously over-the-top arrangements. Tennant tells the poignant, almost comically pathetic story of a young man who refuses to accept his own gayness. He's persistently tormented by his girlfriend, who's aware of his insecurities (particularly with regard to his memories of love for a male school chum) and uses them against him to get him to behave according to her wishes. Neil insists that it's not autobiographical—thankfully, since he manages to evoke an almost palpable sense of self-loathing in the central character.

As he has done on more than one occasion (see "Up Against It"), Neil borrowed the song's title, but not its subject matter, from a literary work, in this case a Victorian novel by Anthony Trollope. Chris wrote the music in 6/8 time. As Neil puts it, this time-signature, which is unusual for them, "makes it sound sneaky."

By the way, one of my site visitors pointed out something that had completely evaded me for years. I had always taken the couplet that opens the second verse—

You drift into the strangest dreams
Of youthful follies and changing teams

—specifically the "changing teams" part—as simply referring to the homoerotic environment of the sports locker room, a powerful source of temptation, titillation, and fantasy for gay teenagers and adults alike, closeted or not. I'm sure that's indeed its primary meaning. But it could also be an extremely clever double entendre that uses the popular metaphor of "changing teams" to describe switching from one sex to another in choice of sexual partners, which is highly pertinent considering that the song's protagonist is struggling with his sexual orientation. I love how PSB lyrics are rich enough that you can continue to make new discoveries long after you've first heard them!



Officially released

Official but unreleased

List cross-references