Randy McDonald (rfmcdpei) wrote,
Randy McDonald
rfmcdpei

  • Music:

[MUSIC] Pet Shop Boys, "Can You Forgive Her?"

I bought a copy of the Pet Shop Boys' 1993 Very the other day. I was familiar with the hit singles--"Can You Forgive Her?", "I wouldn't normally do this kind of thing," "Go West"--and some of the non-single tracks, but I never listened to the entire album. I like it, and yes, they are a very very gay group indeed.

"Can You Forgive Her?" is the first track on the album, and my favourite alongside "Dreaming of the Queen." The analysis provided by Wayne Studer, at his Pet Shop Boys Commentary site, gets to the song's pith.

Set to one of the Boys' most over-the-top arrangements since "It's a Sin," 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 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 [. . .], 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."




Another night with open eyes
Too late to sleep, too soon to rise
You're short of breath, is it a heart attack?
Hot and feverish you face the fact
You're in love, and it feels like shame
Because she's gone and made a fool of you in public again
You're in love, and it feels like pain
Because you know there's too much truth in everything she claims

So ask yourself now: Can you forgive her
If she wants you to?
Ask yourself: Can you even deliver
What she demands of you?

You drift into the strangest dreams
Of youthful follies and changing teams
Admit you're wrong, oh, no, not yet
Then you wake up and remember that you can't forget
She's made you some kind of laughing stock
Because you dance to disco, and you don't like rock
She'd make fun of you, and even in bed
Said she was gonna go and get herself a real man instead

So ask yourself now: Can you forgive her
If she begs you to?
Ask yourself: Can you even deliver
What she demands of you?
Or do you want revenge?
But that's childish, so childish!
(But that's childish, so childish!)

Remember when you were more easily led
Behind the cricket pavillion and the bicycle shed
Trembling as your dreams came true
You looked right into those blue eyes and knew
It was love, and now you can't pretend
You've forgotten all the promises of that first friend
It's bad enough, she knows how you feel
But she's not prepared to share you with the memory

So ask yourself now: Can you forgive her
If she begs you to?
Ask yourself: Can you even deliver
What she demands of you?
Ask yourself now: Can you forgive her
If she begs you to?
And ask yourself: Can you even deliver
What she demands of you?
Or do you want revenge?
But that's childish, so childish!



I first heard the song in the mid-1990s, on MuchMusic. I had the mp3 from mid-2001. And yet, I missed the screamingly obvious gay subject matter completely.

I did a good job of this. I wasn't trying to repress anything at any conscious level, mind. When I did catch on (11:55 PM Atlantic Standard Time, 4 February 2002), it came to me as a complete shock. When I had been asked the previous year if I was gay--someone interested in me, I wonder?--my automatic answer was "no," and I then wondered why someone would think this about me. I compartmentalized superbly. And then it all came crashing down and the connections were made at record speed and I was left to stare stunned at the computer monitor.

Another night with open eyes
Too late to sleep, too soon to rise
You're short of breath, is it a heart attack?
Hot and feverish you face the fact


My mind isn't as transparent to my gaze as I'd like. I find this unsettling.
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