Pet Shop Boys Top 25 Countdown
25. Always On My Mind from Introspective, 1988 – Pet Shop Boys, then at the peak of their popularity, were among a number of artists invited to perform an Elvis Presley song on a 1987 British TV show commemorating the tenth anniversary of The King’s death. Not particularly big fans of Elvis, the boys were initially cool to the idea. One of the reasons they chose Always On My Mind was because it came from Presley’s “bloated vegas period”, as Lowe calls it. The album version, Always On My Mind/In My House was a nine-minute dance epic.
24. We All Feel Better In The Dark (After Hours Climax) from Disco 2, 1994 – This track is considered by many to be Chris Lowe’s masterpiece – and was perhaps acknowledged as such by the boys during their 1991 Performance tour, in which an elaborate dance sequence was sat to an extended version of the song. Lowe explains that the track was inspired, in part, by a cassette tape he bought at a health-food store near the studio where he and Tennant were working. The tape was titled The Secrets Of Sexual Attraction.
23. Closer To Heaven from Nightlife, 1999 – We didn’t know it at the time, but this would tun out to be the title song from Pet Shop Boy’ 2001 West End musical, created in collaboration with playwright Jonathan Harvey. The title seems to be a pun f sorts, referring both to the track’s bitter-sweet, “so close and yet o far” blend of joy and sorrow (“Never been closer to heaven – never been further away”), and the legendary gay club Heaven, just down the road from the Arts Theatre where the musical ran for five months.
22. Where The Streets Have No Name from Discography, 1991 – Tennant and Lowe have said that they were drawn to U2’s original version by the opening guitar sequence, which struck them as being similar to the sort of repeating riff that might be played on a synthesiser. Their remake, Where The Streets Have No name (I Can’t Take My Eyes Off You) is one of the most insidious deconstructions of rock mythology you’ll find anywhere, revealing the original to be the dance track that it is but tries hard not to be.
21. No Time For Tears from Battleship Potemkin, 2005 – On 12 September 2004, before an estimated audience of between 15,000 and 25,000 in London’s Trafalgar Square, Pet Shop Boys debuted a score they’d composed for the Russian director Sergei Eisenstein’s 1925 silent film classic Battleship Potemkin. This slow, beautiful song, produced in collaboration with German musician Sven Helbig (Dresden Symphony Orchestra), was a highlight of the set and has gone on the be regarded as a true classic of the Pet Shop Boys repertoire.
20. Before from Bilingual, 1996 – In some ways a restatement of the boys’ 1986 single Love Comes Quickly, this track is noteworthy for a rather ambiguous line about “a man who loved too much – he ended up inside a prison cell”. Many Pet Shop Boys fans assumed that these words referred to Oscar Wilde, but Tennant later revealed that his inspiration for the track was actually notorious American Football star-turned-actor OJ Simpson, whose murder trial was taking place wjile the Pets were in the studio recording Bilingual.
19. Home And Dry from Release, 2002 – Direct yet poignant in their simplicity, the lyrics to this, the opening track on Release, are permeated by a mood of mild anxiety, arising from the long-distance separation of lovers and the necessity of transatlantic flights – a subject that Tennant concedes has taken on new weight in the aftermath of 11 September, though he wrote the words before that fateful day. The song’s narrator misses his lover, who’s far away on business, and looks forward to the day when he’s “home and dry”.
18. Flamboyant from Pop Art, 2003 – Like How Can You Expect To Be Taken Seriously?, this track addresses one or more unnamed celebrities. Tennant has said that it’s about no one in particular, but rather an “archetype”. That archetype might be desribed as (to put it bluntly) an “attention whore”. As Tennant told an interviewer, “It’s about the importance of flamboyant people in our way of life. People like Oscar Wilde and Quentin Crisp, Boy George and Marilyn, Elton John and David Beckham… Anyone with a bit of sparkle.”
17. King’s Cross from Actually, 1987 – Already rather ominous-sounding, Actually‘s closing track took on an even greater sense of foreboding when, two months after its release, in November 1987, a fire at King’s Cross Tubestationleft 31people dead. Tennant sings solemnly about seeing “dead and wounded on either side, you know it’s only a matter of time”. After the disaster, some music magazines carried adverts directing readers to a premium phone line where they could hear the song, the proceeds for the calls going to fire victims.
16. Go West from Very, 1993 – It was Lowe’s idea to cover the Village People’s 1979 hit. Tennant was reluctant at first, but he soon warmed to the idea and later conceded that, as usual, Lowe’s idea for a remake was right on target. This transforms the original celebration of the “gay American Dream” – California sunshine, brotherhood and sex – into an intensely ironic yet assertive and strangely uplifting disco dirge, haunted by AIDS. In the process, the Pets elevated the Village People’s semi-classic to fully fledged classic status.