Shop Boys Special (1988) - 62 pages
Publisher: Grandreams Ltd
not sure which came firstthis book or the next onebut this one "feels"
like the first. It's very much an unofficial "pop-star cash-in" targeted
to the Boys' legions of fans during their "imperial phase." In particular,
it seems aimed primarily at teenage girls who might have harbored romantic fantasies
about one Boy or the other, if not both. For instance, there are horoscope pages
that provide Neil's and Chris's astrological signs and reveal how compatible they
would be with every other sign. (Did you know that Libras can be "a little
flirtatious, just to prove to themselves that they can still attract the opposite
sex"?) Filled with lots of early photos of the Boys and bits of fun Smash
Hits-style trivia, it's a facile yet delightful period piece.
Shop Boys, annually (1988) - 62 pages
Publisher: World International Publishing Ltd.
Shop Boys had originally envisioned publishing a book such as this every yearhence
its title. But whether on account of insufficient sales or insufficient interest
(or both), those plans came to naught, leaving this book the unique testament
to those plans. Completely under their control (unlike the preceding publication),
it succinctly covers a wide range of the Boys' activities and interests during
1987 and '88, including the
album Actually, the singles "It's
a Sin," "What Have I Done to Deserve
This?" "Rent," "Always
on My Mind," and "Heart"
(along with their respective videos), the establishment of their official fan
club, "candid" photos, fashions, and favorite records by other artists.
It even has a crossword puzzle, but you'll wreck its value as a collectible if
you were actually to do it. Speaking of which, this book has indeed become highly collectible; copies in mint or even just good condition can fetch prices in excess of $1,000. No joke.
Sounds: Pet Shop Boys - The Mega-Mix Annual (1988)
- 35 pages
Author: Huw Collingbourne
ISBN n/a (not available or not applicable)
extremely rare and quite slim U.K. paperbackactually, little more than a
one-off magazinealso appeared at the height of the Pet Shop Boys' popularity.
I don't own a copy and know virtually nothing about it, although it apparently
great many photos, quotes by and about the Boys, a discography, chart positions,
a trivia quiz, astrological information, an "A-Z" section, and the like. Clearly another cash-in, but that's understandable:
as the aphorism goes, one should strike while the iron is hot, and in 1988 there
weren't many hotter irons in the pop-music fire than the Pet Shop Boys. Of course,
despite its title, it proved no more an "annual" than the preceding
Shop Boys, Literally (1990) - 342 pages (2nd ed.)
Author: Chris Heath
Penguin/Da Capo Press
ISBN 0-670-83616-8 (first edition)
ISBN 0-306-80494-8 (second edition)
first truly "essential" PSB book. Journalist Heathwho through
the years has become the Boswell to the Pet Shop Boys' Johnsonaccompanied
Chris and Neil on their first concert tour (MCMLXXXIX) in Asia and Britain. As
a result he produced this combination travelogue, interview compendium, and textual
documentary. Ranging from June 1989 to August 1990, we get a quasi-intimate peek
into the daily lives of the Boys that's both remarkably candid in what it includesour
heroes can seem downright petty at times, but you have to admire them for
allowing that apparent pettiness to be recorded for posterityand just as
remarkably discreet in what it leaves out. First published in 1990, the second
edition (1992) proved a bit lengthier with the addition of some new material.
Shop Boys: Introspective (1991) - 192 pages
Author: Michael Cowton
Publisher: Sidgwick & Jackson
informative "band biography" that is, as stated in its own sleevenotes,
"based on interviews the Boys have given to the media and with their friends,
colleagues and other members of the entertainment industry who have watched their
surreal rise to stardom." (Surreal?) There's little if anything original
here, but it very neatly compiles other sources into an extremely convenient package.
By turns fascinating and frustrating, it makes for interesting though hardly essential
Shop Boys versus America (1993) - 250 pages
Author: Chris Heath
Publisher: Viking/Penguin Books
a sequel to the preceding Heath volume Pet Shop Boys, Literally, this book
follows a similar format, covering the period of March-April 1991 (with an April
1993 epilogue) as it documents the Boys' first North American tour. It's particularly
valuable for its behind-the-scenes, play-by-play account of their ill-fated appearance
on The Tonight Show. Although it has the same basic strengths and weaknesses
as the preceding book, the former definitely outweigh the latter, again making
this essential reading for anyone greatly interested in the Pet Shop Boys.
Shop Boys (1996) - 48 pages
Publisher: La Máscara
know very little about this slender Spanish-language publication, although it
appears to be part of a series about popular music stars, "Idolos del pop"
("Pop Idols"). It has also apparently proved successful enough to warrant
a second printing in 2000.
If I were more proficient in Spanish (which I studied in high school and college
but have practiced very little since then), I would probably order a copy for
Shop Boys de A à Z (2003) - 126
Author: Vincent Laufer
Publisher: L'Express Editions
own a copy of this French text, either. (My
French is no better than my Spanish, probably sufficient for me to get the gist
of any given passage, but every seventh word would surely have me scrambling for
my Petit Larousse.) As its title (translated "Pet Shop Boys from A
to Z") indicates, it's a PSB mini-encyclopedia, covering their work and career
via alphabetically organized entries. But I can't attest to its accuracy or completeness. I might have been willing to work around my inadequacies with the language if
the cover art hadn't been so appallingly cheesy.* And while it's true that you
can't judge a book by its cover, a bad cover does nothing to enhance one's faith
in the contents, especially when there are other obstacles to overcome as well.
notwithstanding, I find it immensely interesting that both of these non-English-language
books (and, by coincidence, page 165 of my own 1994 book Rock on the Wild Side)
employ the "Can You Forgive Her?"
striped cone-capped getups to depict the Boys. It appears that these costumes
rival the "tuxes and yawning" cover of Actually,
Chris's "Boy" cap, and his infamous Issey Miyake blowup jacket in terms
of their sheer iconographic power.
Shop Boys Catalogue (2006) - 336 pages
Philip Hoare and Chris Heath
Publisher: Thames & Hudson
big glossy tome documenting nearly all (note: nearly all) of the visual
output associated with the Pet Shop Boys' career up through 2005, this high-quality
prestige piece is clearly designed to affirm the Boys' status both as artists
and as patrons of the arts. The real drawing cards here, however, aren't the copious
illustrations themselves but rather the accompanying textual commentaries. Your
guests will pick it up from your coffeetablewhere it belongs, mind
you, right there on prominent display, rather than tucked away on a shelfand
skim through, glancing at the pictures. You, on the other hand, will actually
read it. An exquisite work, only the occasional intentional omissions (such as
items that were deemed "unofficial," uninteresting, or too similar to
other illustrated examples) and very minor errors render it less than perfectand
even that is a somewhat debatable assessment.
Pet Shop Boys (S'il Vous Plait?) (2014) - 118 pages
Author: Anthony Coucke
Publisher: Books on Demand
A French-language purported biography (the title of which is essentially that of their first album Please, only of course in French as well, more literally translated as "If it please you") that covers their entire career up through the Electric album. I'm afraid I know very little about this book, although its table of contents (which I've examined on Amazon) seems to indicate that its first half is devoted to an album-by-album retrospective of their work and the second half consists of assorted lists and profiles of various artists and producers who have worked with them through the years. I'd surely buy it if only to learn more about it if (1) it weren't in French, (2) it weren't so pricey for a comparatively slim paperback, and (3) I thought I'd learn anything from it that I didn't already know. On the other hand, if you're fluent in French but not already well-versed in all things PSB and wish to learn more, it might very well be worth the price.
Pet Shop Boys: Plural (2016) - 528 pages
Author: Francisco J. Barbero
Publisher: Milenio Publicaciones
This hefty Spanish-language tome, five years in the making and described on Amazon as a "comprehensive" biography of the Pet Shop Boys, is reportedly "peppered with numerous anecdotes and details, many unknown to the general public." I don't own it and haven't read it, so I must rely on second-hand information to provide further details of my own (of which I don't yet have any).
Smile If You Dare: Politics and Pointy Hats with the Pet Shop Boys (2016) - 119 pages
Author: Ramzy Alwakeel
Speaking for myself—but surely for many others as well—if any PSB album deserves the book-length analytical treatment, it's their brilliant fifth studio collection, Very (which also happens to be my all-time favorite PSB album). And this book does it justice. It's an imaginatively, at times even beautifully written, deeply insightful extended love letter to the album. The author's exegetical treatments of the associated videos are a particular treat. My only complaint (a small one) is that it all but ignores a few of the songs. Nevertheless, I think it's safe to say that if you love Very, you'll love this book. And if you don't love Very, this book may help persuade you otherwise.
Annually 2017 (2017) - 64 pages
Author: Chris Heath and Pet Shop Boys
Publisher: Pet Shop Boys Partnership (?)
Twenty-nine years after the first edition of Annually (see above), Neil and Chris resurrected the annual-publication concept in the wake of the cessation of their official Fan Club and the irregular appearances of its associated magazine Literally. In essence, it's very much like any one of those issues of Literally, only larger and hardbound. It presents detailed "behind-the-scenes" information about their most recent releases and activities, responses to fan questions, lyrics of recent single bonus songs, and lots of photos. And the striking fuchsia coloration of its front and back covers will help ensure that it never gets lost on your bookshelf. It was accompanied by a special bonus CD of what seems in effect to be a single of the Super song "Undertow," with an added remix of "Burn" and a new studio recording of Stuart Price's new Super Tour arrangement of "Left to My Own Devices." Offered in a limited edition from the official PSB website, Annually 2017 very quickly sold out, which resulted in some fan frustration as well as copies appearing in short order on third-party sites at tremendously inflated prices.
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