Young Offender

Writers - Tennant/Lowe
First released - 1993
Original album - Very
Producer - Pet Shop Boys, Stephen Hague
Subsequent albums - (none)
Other releases - (none)

The history of rock and pop music is full of songs that deal with the "generation gap." But rarely do they do so within the context of a possible sexual relationship. In "Young Offender," a middle-aged man speaks to someone much younger, defensively expressing his uncertainties about their actual or, perhaps more likely, prospective relationship. The lyrics could be read either as the older man speaking directly to the younger man or as the secret thoughts of the older man, imagining what he might say to a young guy whom he is merely observing.

The lyrics include one of Neil's most celebrated lines, "I've been a teenager since before you were born." It clearly serves a double purpose. Most obviously, it calls attention to the age difference between the narrator and the younger person to whom he's speaking—at least 13 years, and possibly a good deal more. But the fact that he uses the present-perfect tense ("I have been") rather than the past tense ("I was") also suggests that he still thinks of himself, at least in some ways, as quite youthful. In other words, while he may "chronologically" be around 40 years old (as Neil was at the time this song was released—although, of course, we shouldn't assume that the narrator really is Neil), he may still feel emotionally or "spiritually" like a teenager. In that sense, he's never stopped being a "teenager." So the present-perfect tense for an ongoing action or state of being is appropriate.

Meanwhile, the music has a distinctly "techno" feel that includes "beeping" sounds common to computer games, highly appropriate to the scenario described in the lyrics of the younger man playing a computer game while the older man looks on somewhat bemusedly. ("I haven't a clue," he confesses.) The Boys have, in fact, noted that this and certain other Very tracks were influenced by the music of computer and video games of the period. As it turns out, both the music and the title originated with Chris, with Neil building his narrative upon a strong foundation provided by his musical partner.

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