“Oh, we’re all bored to death talking about Margaret Thatcher.”
So said Neil Tennant, in a SVT 1 interview with one of Sweden’s top broadcast journalists, Stina Lundberg Dabrowski.
It was the closing moments of 1990. The year had seen the toppling of Britain’s longest serving and most dominant Prime Minister of the 20th century, and, with delicious synchronicity, the song that was in the charts the week she cried off out of Downing Street was Being Boring, the second single from the fourth Pet Shop Boys album Behaviour.
For reasons best known to herself, when Stina interviewed the seminal pop duo on her Dabrowski programme in the days following the demise of Thatch’s fascist groove thang, she requested that Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe answer questions while she does the laundry. Though with their trademark negative energy coupled with that infamous “we wouldn’t normally do this kind of thing” reticence, Ver Boys refused to go to her home.
I’m assuming, she had a real life washer and drier set up, but PSB, wearing variations of the clothes they’d sport on the cover of what was intended to be the next PSB 45, Jealousy, insisted the exchange was conducted in a more professional location at the Sveriges Television (SVT) studios in Stockholm, where a beautiful mini launderette was created. Naturally, Chris wasn’t keen.
“It was terrible. I was very unhappy about it. I was in a sulk during it… It was degrading.”
You can read the full throwback to Neil and Chris’s recall of the conversation below, but for now, a handy, topical transcript of the Thatcher section, which has been slightly edited for purposes of clarity.
Stina (struggling with the mangle): I’m doing it all by myself, you know. You’re supposed to help me! At least give me your foot.
Chris (grumpily): Go on Neil, you do it.
Neil: We’re all bored with talking about Margaret Thatcher. Bored to death… We’ve had 11 years of her. But actually, it’s funny — I don’t know if people know it or not — Mrs Thatcher’s always been really disliked in Britain, but now that she’s gone, the day she left she was probably more popular than she’s ever been before, because people felt a kind of sympathy for her.
Stina: Didn’t you?
Neil: Kind of a personal sympathy. I think Mrs Thatcher is the most overrated politician there’s ever been in Britain. I don’t really think she achieved very much. I think it’s all kind of image, really.
Stina: But didn’t it feel like a kind of mother had deserted the house when she left? Feet.
Neil: No, it didn’t feel like that. It felt kind of incredible. It felt amazing. I think it felt sort of liberating in a way.
Stina (to Chris): You agree?
Chris: Er, yeah, I think it was sad, the way she went. Because there’s a picture her in the papers — (camply) you see, I don’t like doing the housework, I just don’t do it! — and she was crying in the back of the car away from everything, and your heart kind of went out for her a bit. I think it’s quite sad.
Stina: But you don’t want her back, do you?
Chris: Well, I don’t like John Major either. He’s just far worse than Maggie.
Stina: So who would you prefer? Are you kind of radical people?
Chris: I don’t think there’s anyone in British politics that’s any good, really.
Neil: The problem is is that the Labour leader in Britain isn’t very good either. I mean, I would vote for Labour but the leader, Neil Kinnock, I think they should get rid of him as well, because I don’t think he’ll win an election.
Stina: You don’t seem to be content with anything. The pop stars are pretty boring, the politicians are pretty boring. What do you like?
Neil: We like, erm… going out. Our friends.
Chris: The few that we have.
At least she didn’t ask them to jump. No, actually she did and they did, however halfheartedly. Dabrowski’s famous gimmick in her television series involves asking the guest to jump in the air, as the camera freezes for a final shot as the credits roll.
The full Tennant/Lowe meet is just not available online, but from the following episode go to 2:10 for the chat and 7:00 for So Hard in the studio.
However, the famously feisty exchange with Thatcher five years later certainly is available in all its uncompromising glory. That’ll be the one where the Lady wasn’t for jumping.
“Margaret Thatcher is the toughest person I’ve ever met,” Stina told the local.se. “I didn’t care much for her politics but she was very smart and had a great sense of humour. It was a fun idea but horrible to have to ask the question.”
Then aged 70, Thatcher’s response to the request was utterly priceless, point blank refusing to do something so “silly” “puerile” and “absurd.”
“My dear, I wasn’t used to talking, I was used to doing. I made great leaps forward, not little jumps in studios.”
Ooh, check the ego on that!
She had a point though. Grr.
Pet Shop Boys’ Smash: The Singles 1985-2020 includes So Hard, Being Boring and Jealousy and is available in a multitude of audio/visual formats in June.
She was never being boring: The wit and wisdom of Margaret Thatcher is here
I’ll give you ten good reasons to say Behaviour is Pet Shop Boys’ greatest album is here