Jul 04

PET SHOP BOYS – “Hey Headmaster”

FT + New York London Paris Munich6 comments • 1,190 views

There is a type of critical practise which I have decided to call Carmodism (cf). It involves hearing echoes of political events in contemporary pop records and vice versa – divining invisible connections that can, when the intuition is right, cast entirely new lights on pop (and politics).

I am not very good at Carmodic readings of pop. But this song was an instance where I was sure I’d got it right. “Hey Headmaster”, released in the Autumn of 1993 as a B-Side, was clearly – clearly – a cutting sketch of the Major government’s disintegration into impotence and squabbling after Black Wednesday. The well-meaning but ineffectual head of a tradition-choked English public school, “being patient with the boys who fool [him]”, struggling to cope with rebel factions and staff apathy – this seemed the perfect metaphor for the uselessly ‘decent’ John Major. The song (a melancholy jewel, incidentally) ended with a repeated plea – “Hey Headmaster, aren’t you gonna go?”

And then I get the re-issued and well annotated Very and lo and behold, not a mention of John Major from Neil and Chris – it’s about a school, and was written ages before the group even formed, before anyone had heard of the ‘grey man’. But the great thing about Carmodic criticism is that intentionality can be discarded completely – if the divined political reading is strong enough then it can override such fripperies. In other words, I was right and still am. Damn it.


  1. 1
    LucaZM on 11 Nov 2016 #

    Funny how this was just ressurected by a bot, somehow it just feels kind of timely…

  2. 2
    AMZ1981 on 23 Oct 2019 #

    Interesting indeed that a bot has resurrected this. Can You Forgive Her was among the first singles I ever bought and this was a rare example of a `proper` B side that was worth listening to in its own right.

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    litigation management software on 18 Dec 2019 #

    Fascinating in reality that a bot has revived this. Would you be able to Forgive Her was among the primary singles I at any point purchased and this was an uncommon case of a ‘legitimate’ B side that merited tuning in to in its own right.

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