[nb: I am not going completely chronologically with this business. Almost, but not quite. So 1987 will be happening tomorrow.]
Possibly the saddest Pet Shop Boys song, “Your Funny Uncle” is the B-side to “It’s Alright,” the duo’s well-meaning but rather heavy-handed 1989 single about how music will outlive war and environmental destruction. It also appears on Alternative, their 1995 double-album of B-sides.
The brief song describes the funeral of Neil Tennant’s friend, who died of an AIDS-related illness in 1989, and particularly focuses on the silent hostilities between the friends and family of the deceased. Strained relationships between the victim and an uncaring family are sadly common in 1980s AIDS narratives, so it’s interesting that the third verse of “Your Funny Uncle” focuses on a relative who tries to acknowledge (if not accept) the social world of a nephew that he knows nothing about. According to Tennant, his friend “did have an uncle, who had been in the army all of his life and suddenly found himself at the funeral of his evidently gay nephew who’d died of AIDS. I think it must have been quite a difficult situation for him, but he was really nice and dignified and spoke to all of his nephew’s friends.” The song is quite somber, obviously, being released just months after the friend’s passing. But also there’s just a hint of hesitant optimism at the end.
Barely over two minutes long, with three verses, no chorus, and a string quartet played entirely on keyboards, “Your Funny Uncle” is more melancholy and, I think, more affecting than both “It Couldn’t Happen Here” and “Being Boring,” the other two songs about Tennant’s friend. (I mean don’t get me wrong, those songs are sad and affecting, too. But if I had to choose just one…)
PSB also used “Your Funny Uncle” to close concerts on their 1991 tour. Chris Lowe took a nap on stage while Tennant, in white cowboy hat and angel wings, sings the song alone.