Pet Shop Boys

From Academic Kids

Pet Shop Boys (often used without the definite article "the") are a highly influential UK electronic music act. Founded in the early 1980s, the duo (Neil Tennant, Chris Lowe) enjoyed immense critical and commercial success, starting with their first single "West End Girls" in 1985. They are one of the most consistently successful duos in pop music. They have had four Number One singles in the UK: "West End Girls", "It's a Sin", "Always on My Mind" (a cover of an Elvis Presley hit), and "Heart". Another well-known single, "What Have I Done to Deserve This?", was a collaboration with Dusty Springfield which led directly to a resurgence of interest in her music.

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Contents

Origins

On August 19, 1981, Tennant and Lowe met by chance at an electronics shop on the Kings Road in Chelsea. They later began to write songs together. After rejecting the name West End, they settled on the name Pet Shop Boys, a name they had previously used to describe some friends of theirs who ran a pet shop in Ealing.

At the time, Tennant's day job was reporting for teen pop magazine Smash Hits. Tennant was sent to interview The Police for the magazine, and, while in New York, had lunch with one of his idols, producer Bobby Orlando. Soon after, Tennant, Lowe and Bobby O' wrote and recorded their first versions of many of their early hits, most notably West End Girls. Pet Shop Boys later cut their contractual ties with Bobby O' and instead signed with the Parlophone label.

Sound and image

Neil Tennant has consistently and sincerely labeled the Pet Shop Boys' music as "disco". Their music's trademark sound is a combination of pure synthesised pop, with sometimes slightly over-the-top instrumentation, contrasting with Tennant's laconic vocals, sometimes spoken-word or rap. Their lyrics (mainly written by Tennant) are articulate, stylish and poetic, often with a melancholic undertow. Strong studio production values mark out their work.

Visually, the group grew to favour avant-garde tailored fashions. The duo were frequently accused of lacking stage presence, said to be a deliberate reaction to the hyper-cheerful boy band music of the time demonstrated by, for instance, Wham!. A typical early performance featured Lowe in the background hitting the occasional note on a Fairlight synthesizer keyboard and Tennant singing but otherwise unanimated in the foreground. However, later productions were elaborate exercises in costume and production design more reminiscent of modern opera than pop music. (Indeed, one tour was designed by former U.K. National Opera designer and architect Zaha Hadid.)

Role

Pet Shop Boys are significant figures in queer culture for such songs as "West End Girls", their cover of The Village People's "Go West", "Can You Forgive Her?", "It's A Sin", and their anthem "New York City Boy" among many others. They have even written a song about a young male fan spending a night with allegedly homophobic rapper Eminem called "The Night I Fell In Love". Their 1990s single "Being Boring" remains a testament to the gay experience and the devastation wrought by the AIDS crisis; the video remains one of their more popular.

Neil Tennant came out in an interview in the British magazine Attitude, published August 1994, though his lyrics had been rife with gay allusions for a decade. Chris Lowe is notoriously private about his personal life, but was rumored to be involved with Pete Andreas, who died of AIDS. Their b-sides collection entitled Alternative was dedicated to his memory.

The Pet Shop Boys were key performers in a planned 2001 tour of out gay musicians, entitled Wotapalava, that was later canceled. They have performed with Elton John as well as gay icon Liza Minnelli, for whom they produced an LP, Results.

Trivia

PSB have a penchant for choosing one-word album titles - often amusing ones, when used in conjunction with the group name. For example, when asking for a copy of their first album, Please, record-shop customers would sometimes have to say, "Can you help me find the new Pet Shop Boys album, Please?". Because of this polite title, their first album was a big hit in Japan. It is said that the band choose album titles based on words they'd been using frequently during the album's production, such as Actually, Please, and Disco.

In 2000, Pet Shop Boys collaborated with Jonathan Harvey to write the musical Closer to Heaven. The musical ran for less than a year at the Arts Theatre in London and is due to be restaged at the Brisbane Powerhouse on Wednesday 8th June 2005. In September 2004, Pet Shop Boys appeared at a free concert in Trafalgar Square, London where they performed a new soundtrack to accompany the seminal 1925 silent film Battleship Potemkin.

Neil Tennant was also involved as producer, singer and musician with Bernard Sumner and Johnny Marr's Electronic project, being featured in three songs from the act—"Getting Away With It", (the first single) "The Patience of a Saint", and "Disappointed". Chris Lowe also contributed to "The Patience of a Saint". Additional co-producer credits go to Boy George's "Crying Game" (1992), a dance/club version of Blur's "Girls And Boys" (1994), and David Bowie's "Hello Spaceboy (1996) to which Tennant also lent his vocals.

The abbreviation "PSB" is an incronym of the MOS Technology 6502 machine language mnemonic code ORA, meaning "OR with accumulator".

As of 2003, Pet Shop Boys are ranked by Billboard's Joel Whitburn (in his book Billboard's Hot Dance/Disco 1974-2003) as the #4 most successful act on the US Dance/Club Play charts, behind only Madonna, Janet Jackson and Donna Summer.

Discography

Albums

1980s:

1990s:

2000s:

The first six studio albums were rereleased in 2001 in deluxe two-disc editions. The second discs were entitled "further listening" and contained b-sides, remixes and unreleased songs from the album's era.

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Singles

1980s:

  • "West End Girls" (first release) (1984)
  • "Opportunities" (first release) (1984)
  • "West End Girls" (second release) (1985) #1 UK; #1 US
  • "Love Comes Quickly" (1986) #19 UK
  • "Opportunities" (second release) (1986) #11 UK; #10 US
  • "Suburbia" (1986) #8 UK
  • "It's a Sin" (1987) #1 UK; #9 US
  • "What Have I Done to Deserve This?" (1987) #2 UK; #2 US
  • "Rent" (1987) #8 UK
  • "Always on My Mind" (1987) #1 UK; #4 US
  • "Heart" (1988) #1 UK
  • "Domino Dancing" (1988) #7 UK; #18 US
  • "Left to My Own Devices" (1988) #4 UK
  • "It's Alright" (1989) #5 UK

1990s:

  • "So Hard" (1990) #4 UK
  • "Being Boring" (1990) #20 UK
  • "Where The Streets Have No Name (I Can't Take My Eyes Off You)/How Can You Expect to Be Taken Seriously?" (1991) #4 UK
  • "Jealousy" (1991) #12 UK
  • "DJ Culture" (1991) #13 UK
  • "Was It Worth It?" (1991) #24 UK
  • "Can You Forgive Her?" (1993) #7 UK
  • "Go West" (1993) #2 UK
  • "I Wouldn't Normally Do This Kind of Thing" (1993) #13 UK
  • "Liberation" (1994) #14 UK
  • "Absolutely Fabulous" (credited to Absolutely Fabulous [Pet Shop Boys with Jennifer Saunders and Joanna Lumley]) (1994) #6 UK
  • "Yesterday, When I Was Mad" (1994) #13 UK
  • "Paninaro '95" (1995) #15 UK
  • "Before" (1996) #7 UK
  • "Single-Bilingual/Discoteca" (1996) #14 UK
  • "A Red Letter Day" (1997) #9 UK
  • "Somewhere" (1997) #9 UK
  • "I Don't Know What You Want But I Can't Give It Any More" (1999) #15 UK
  • "New York City boy" (1999) #14 UK

2000s:

  • "You Only Tell Me You Love Me When You're Drunk" (2000) #8 UK
  • "Home and dry" (2002) #14 UK
  • "I get along" (2002) #18 UK
  • "London" (2002)
  • "Miracles" (2003) #8 UK
  • "Flamboyant" (2004) #12 UK

US Billboard Dance/Club Play Chart History

  • 1986 "West End Girls" #1
  • 1986 "Opportunities (Let's Make Lots Of Money)" #3
  • 1986 "Love Comes Quickly" / "That's My Impression" #10
  • 1986 "Suburbia" #46
  • 1986 "Disco" (all cuts of EP, during a time in which Billboard's policy allowed an entire album or EP to chart at once if most or all of the tracks were getting significant club play) #12
  • 1987 "It's a Sin" #3
  • 1987 "What Have I Done To Deserve This?" (with Dusty Springfield) #1
  • 1988 "Always On My Mind" #8
  • 1988 "Domino Dancing" #5
  • 1989 "Left To My Own Devices" #8
  • 1989 "Introspective" (EP, see above comments for Disco) #15
  • 1990 "So Hard" #4
  • 1991 "How Can You Expect To Be Taken Seriously?" / "Being Boring" #19
  • 1991 "Where the Streets Have No Name (I Can't Take My Eyes Off Of You)" #4
  • 1993 "Can You Forgive Her?" #1
  • 1993 "Go West" #1
  • 1994 "I Wouldn't Normally Do This Kind Of Thing" #2
  • 1994 "Absolutely Fabulous" #7
  • 1995 "Yesterday When I Was Mad" #4
  • 1995 "Paninaro '95" (rerecording of a track originally found on the "Disco" EP) #4
  • 1996 "Before" #1
  • 1997 "To Step Aside" #1
  • 1997 "Somewhere" #19
  • 1999 "New York City Boy" #1
  • 2000 "I Don't Know What You Want But I Can't Give It Anymore" #2
  • 2001 "Break 4 Love" (released as "Peter Rauhofer + Pet Shop Boys = The Collaboration") #1
  • 2002 "Home and Dry" #44
  • 2003 "Sexy Northerner" #15

Filmography

  • It Couldn't Happen Here
  • Highlights (concert video)
  • Television (music video collection)
  • Performance (concert video)
  • Videography (music video collection)
  • DiscoVery Live In Rio (concert video)
  • Somewhere (concert video)
  • Montage (concert video)
  • PopArt (music video collection, up to 2003)

Bibliography

External links

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