Thursday, 8 February 2018

Songs I Hated When I Was A Kid #7: Paninaro

Back in the 80s, as previously discussed, while all my cool mates (wait... should that read: my one cool mate? Or: my one "cool" mate?) told me I should like the Smiths, I remained resolutely uncool. That same "cool" mate was also a huge fan of the Pet Shop Boys and New Order. I'm afraid the less said about New Order, the better. I know they're adored in many corners of the blogosphere, but I never got them, and also have an unpleasant teenage memory directly connected to them which has always prevented me from giving them a try. Also, they crossed the line too far into dance music for me, 'nuff said.

The Pet Shop Boys, though, I did actually like when I was a teenager. I remember being very excited by their early singles (West End Girls, Opportunities et al.) and even splashing out on a 7" copy of their smashing Dusty Springfield collaboration, What Have I Done To Deserve This? Yes, they trod the line between pop and dance, and I suspect if Chris Lowe had had his way, they'd have veered much more towards the latter, but Neil Tennant's arch, Noel Coward-esque lyrics always kept me interested...

Except on Paninaro.

Paninaro was the b-side of Suburbia, another cracking PSBs single, albeit one I didn't actually own until I finally bought their Greatest Hits collection many years later... so I wouldn't have even heard Paninaro if it wasn't for my "cool" mate. The song is ostensibly about the European youth culture movement of the early 80s in which Italian teenagers dressed in trendy fashions like those illustrated above (Timberland, Levis, Armani etc.) and swore an oath of allegiance to consumerism. They even had a fast food hamburger as their mascot!

The thing that really stuck in my craw about Paninaro though wasn't the Patrick Bateman style obsession with brands ("Armani, Armani, ah-ah-Armani") nor was it the robotic Blackpudlian delivery of Chris Lowe on the non-chorusy bits (this was one of the few PSBs songs where Lowe was allowed near a microphone... for obvious reasons). No, what really got my goat was the sample from an old Pet Shops Boys interview in which Lowe states...

"I don't like country and western. I don't like rock music, I don't like rockabilly or rock and roll particularly. I don't like much, really, do I? But what I do like, I love passionately."

In the context of the song, in the context of the fashion, in the context of the entire ethos of Paninaro, that quote works well. But I didn't get any of that when I was 14. All I got was my "cool" mate parroting this quote endlessly to justify his own teenage obsession. It was particularly galling because I liked C&W, I liked rock, I LIKED rock 'n' roll. Plus, 6 months earlier he'd been a massive Queen fan just like me. Where had that old friend gone? And then came the New Order incident... well, a story for another time, I think.

Listening back now, I have nothing against Paninaro, other than it's not very good. It's dated far worse than any of the band's A-Sides, but it was bound to do, being so linked to a fleeting fashion of the time. Unlike the other songs in this series then, I'm not going to post the video... but here's the link if you want it. Instead, here's a much better song by the Pet Shops Boys: one of many. They were - and still are - an excellent British pop band.


  1. Interesting take on this Rol.

    I've always liked PSB from the outset and I regarded Paninaro as something in which they sort of poked fun at themselves. I agree that it's not dated all that well, certainly in comparison to other material from the era and I do get why it annoyed you from the outset.

    New Order? I'm just sorry that the ongoing Sunday series at my place hasn't changed your mind!!


  2. I always read those posts, JC, as your obvious love for the band shines through and makes them interesting to a fellow musicologist. But the tunes themselves... Apart from Blue Monday and True Faith... They just leave me cold, I"m afraid.


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