release date: 22 October 1990
chart: UK #2, DE #4, US #45
Behaviour, the fourth Pet Shop Boys studio album, was released in October 1990. "This was five years from 'West End girls'," notes Neil. "Five years in pop music is a long time." Since their previous album, Introspective, the Pet Shop Boys had produced the album Results for Liza Minnelli, also writing most of its songs, had collaborated with Bernard Sumner and Johnny Marr on the first Electronic album, and had appeared onstage for the first time in America when Electronic supported Depeche Mode at Dodgers Stadium in Los Angeles. They had also left Tom Watkins' management operation and set up their own office, run by Jill Carrington.
They began work on Behaviour, which would turn out to be their most moody and contemplative album yet, with a fairly straightforward sense of purpose. "At the time," Neil remembers, "I believe we were thinking of bringing out an album of fab pop songs, like ten Kylie Minogue singles." They decided that they wanted, for the first time since Please, to make an album with one producer. They also had a couple of specific musical guidelines they wanted to follow: "We had the idea before we started that we were going to use analogue synthesisers, and we weren't going to use samples, because even by the beginning of 1990 everything was mega-samples, and we wanted to make something much cleaner. We thought it would sound fuller and more original if all the sounds were programmed for it."
When they considered who might be able to create such analogue sounds, they thought of the German disco records of the seventies made by Giorgio Moroder, a train of thought which led them to Harold Faltermeyer, who had been Moroder's programmer and had since achieved success on his own, most famously with the instrumental 'Axel F'.
"At the end of 1989 Chris and I flew to Munich to meet him," recalls Neil. "He has a positive museum of ancient synthesisers. And he had an engineer from America, Brian Reeves, who worked on a lot of Donna Summer records." They agreed to make the album in Faltermeyer's Munich studio over ten weeks the following spring, in two blocks with a month's break in the middle.
Neil enjoyed being in Germany rather more than Chris did. "We stayed in this little apartment hotel in the centre of Munich," says Neil. "They were very ordinary rooms."
"Very depressing," says Chris.
"I kept wanting to hire a suite in the best hotel in Munich," Neil recalls, "but Chris wanted to save the money."
Chris hated that he was away from the rave culture explosion he'd been enjoying back home. "The Germans then hadn't heard of house music," he says. "There was nowhere to go. Miserable times. I felt like I was missing out on so much that was happening in England - it was possibly the most exciting time in English culture ever including the Sixties, and we were in Munich. But Neil liked it."
"I used to like walking in the English garden," Neil says. "I occasionally went to the opera. I like the beer; I liked the buildings. Every morning we had a hired BMW and we would drive to Munich airport and pick up the English papers - Chris would park the car and I would rush in - and one morning I got back in and there was a strange man sitting there. I'd got in the wrong car."
"Because everyone has a grey BMW," says Chris.
"We were listening to Violator by Depeche Mode," Neil remembers, "which was a very good album and we were deeply jealous of it."
"They had raised the stakes," Chris agrees.
Harold Faltermeyer lived on a kind of private estate just outside Munich. The Pet Shop Boys would arrive a little before midday, have a cup of coffee and begin work. They would usually order in pizza for lunch. Around four o'clock they would adjourn to his beer hut in the garden for some of Faltermeyer's German draught beer. "And," says Chris, "he'd tell us anecdotes about Giorgio Moroder." On the property Faltermeyer had his own abattoir. (He is a keen hunter. "He makes his own sausages," Chris observes.) At one point during the recording process they tried feeding the vocals through the abattoir, re-miking a speaker in there for a reverb effect. "It didn't really work out," Neil says.
In Germany, they kept to the concept of using analogue synthesisers and no samples, but when they returned to London to mix the album at Sarm West, they somewhat relaxed these rules. However, they were still resolved to release an album which sounded consistent, and made the final song selection with that in mind, at the last minute removing 'Miserablism' and replacing it with 'The end of the world'.
"When this album came out people said they were amazed that the whole rave thing seemed to have passed us by," says Neil. "We, of course, thought we had shamelessly jumped on the rave bandwagon."
"The thing is, we were ahead of it, because some of Behaviour is like deep house," reasons Chris, "and the naff old reviewers were still trapped in acid house. Whereas we had moved on."
The sombre images of the Pet Shop Boys, some red roses and an abandoned chair which appeared on the album sleeve were taken by Eric Watson. "We had this idea for the photographs with the roses because we'd been to Liza Minnelli's apartment in New York and she had this fantastic photograph, I think by Richard Avedon, of Judy Garland as a tramp holding a huge bunch of red roses," says Neil. "So we just nicked the idea of the huge bunch of red roses and suggested it to Eric. We got all the roses from about three florists in Fulham because we wanted trillions of them."
"They didn't have the thorns removed either," says Chris. "It was very painful."
"But there was something luscious about it - the beautiful red roses," says Neil. "At the end of the session Eric had the idea of photographing just the chair and the roses. Then we did the solo portraits, and Eric thought they were too brutal, but we really liked them."
"I like that picture of me," Chris reflects. "I think I should always be photographed from behind."
"Mark Farrow had the idea of using the four photographs like that," remembers Neil. He says that one detail has always annoyed him: "I've always thought the full stop after the word Behaviour is over-designed. It looks a bit naff. I probably thought it looked cool at the time but now I think it's irritating, because it's not a sentence."
For the American version of the album, in deference to local spelling custom, it was released as Behavior. Neil remembers the title Behaviour as being Chris's idea. (Chris says he can't remember. "Was it? I've got no idea. I don't see why I should take the blame for it.") "It seemed to sum up the album," says Neil. "I think we felt this was a much more personal-sounding album. I think we were fed up at this point with the whole notion of irony that we particularly got landed with, because of records like 'Opportunities'. Behaviour seemed completely un-ironic and slightly serious. This is basically a sad album, from 'Being boring' through to 'Jealousy', with the exception of 'How can you expect to be taken seriously?' which is a satire. I suppose 'So hard' which is about the end of a relationship, is funny as well. But otherwise they're all rather sad songs."