PET SHOP BOYS
SONGS FROM THE 80S
by Mark Nobes, chief editor
The duo's second proper studio album Actually went triple-platinum in the UK - I say "proper" because DISCO which was released before in November 1986 was a remix album.
Actually has often been described as the perfect pop album, and I tend to agree. The highlight of this album was the massive No.1 hit "It's a Sin", a dramatic song about lead-singer Neil Tennant's troubled childhood.
This was certainly the best 80s album by the pair, and gave them some of their biggest hit singles, including "What Have I Done To Deserve This?" which featured Dusty Springfield, and gave her a career boost.
The duo have worked with many other artists, of course, also composing Eighth Wonder's "I'm Not Scared".
So far in their outstanding career, Pet Shop Boys have released eleven studio albums, four compilation albums, two live albums, four remix albums, one extended play and fifty-five singles.
The first Pet Shop Boys single, "West End Girls", was originally released in 1984, but only reached No.121 in the UK charts. They didn't do any better with their second single "Opportunities" which stalled at No.116.
However, in 1985 a re-release of "West End Girls" reached No.1 in both the UK and USA charts. The first album, Please, was a big success and reached No.3 in the UK album charts achieving Platinum.
Does anyone else remember an amusing performance on Top of the Pops where Neil and Chris dressed as each other for their first hit single?
The song's massive success propelled the Pet Shop Boys' 1986 debut LP Please into the Top Ten of the album charts in the UK. Written by the duo, the song was influenced by the hip hop scene and includes what can be best described as a posh boy English rap by Neil.
TS Eliot's poem The Wasteland was the inspiration for "West End Girls", apparently. It has to be said that there is much confusion about the lyrics, with some people believing that the song is about Newcastle Upon Tyne and not the East and West End of London. However, some sources state that there was a gay club in the Chinatown part of London called "The Dive Bar" at the time, and the line "a dive bar in a west end town" refers to this. Neil Tennant did not come out as being gay until the 90s, so maybe he was trying to drop hints right from the beginning of his pop career?
Three more hit singles were released from the Please album; "Love Comes Quickly" (No.19), a re-release of "Opportunities" (No.11) and "Suburbia" (No.8). In these days singles sold in much higher quantities than they do now, so all of these would probably outsell even the No.1 single today.
Please was a strong debut album that was full of intelligent pop songs that deal with a whole array of issues including love, hate and thatcherism - the line "let's make lots of money" from Opportunities was on the mind of every thatcherite yuppie during the 80s.
This is the sleeve for the original 1984 12 inch vinyl single which was produced by Bobby Orlando and became a club hit in the U.S. and parts of Europe. After the boys signed with EMI, the song was re-recorded and produced by Stephen Hague. The new version was released in October 1985, topping the charts in the UK. The single topped the U.S. charts in 1986.
PET SHOP BOYS AND LIZA MINNELLI "LOSING MY MIND"
Although the song has been covered by numerous artists including Shirley Bassey, Elaine Page and Cleo Laine, the Liza Minnelli version remains the most commercially successful.
Heart was Pet Shop Boys fourth and final chart-topping single and stayed at the top of the charts in the UK for three weeks during April 1988. It was the last single to be released from the synthpop duo's biggest-selling album Actually (3x Platinum in the UK and described as the "perfect" pop album by some critics) and their tenth single release overall.
I still have the CD single which is gathering dust somewhere, but I must dig it out again to listen to the b-side, which is a little gem entitled I Get Excited (You Get Excited Too), which is so good that I think it should have been released as an A-side at some point
Domino Dancing was influenced by Latin pop and was the lead single from the 1988 album, Introspective. It's not one of the Pet Shop Boys strongest songs from the 80s, but it still reached No.7 in the UK and No.18 on the U.S. Hot 100 chart and No.5 in the U.S. dance charts.
Below: The cover of the Domino Dancing single...
Left To My Own Devices
The second single from Introspective featured a real orchestral arrangement arranged by the American composer Richard Niles. Pet Shop Boys regularly include an orchestra in their live shows. The single was edited down to 4:43 to make it radio friendly, although the original album version lasted for over 8 minutes. In the very dimly lit video (see the playlist at the top of the page), we see Neil and Chris on an invisible floor.
More Recent Releases
The thirteenth studio album was released on 1st April 2016 on the duo's own record label x2. It is available on vinyl, CD and as a download.
This album was released on July 15th 2013, and was the boys first album not to be released on the Parlophone label, instead, being released on their own label x2.
Elysium was the 2012 album by Pet Shop Boys, and you can hear a free snippet of each track by clicking the album sleeve image above. It seems to be dividing opinion amongst the customer reviews at Amazon, with some describing it as "dull" or "boring", mainly because it's not quite as upbeat as their Yes album. I guess you can't please all of the people all of the time, but the majority of people have given the album very good reviews, with some claiming it's their best work yet, although those reviews are likely to come from hardcore fans of Tennant and Lowe.