How long have you been a PSB fan? Have you been a fan of theirs from the start?

I first heard the Pet Shop Boys in 1986 when "West End Girls" became a big hit on U.S. radio. I distinctly remember hearing it for the first time on my car radio while driving home from work.* My initial impression was, "Gee, Al Stewart has adopted an interesting new sound." Imagine my surprise when I learned shortly thereafter that it wasn't Al Stewart at all!

I liked the Pet Shop Boys' subsequent U.S. hits well enough as radio fodder, but I never liked them enough to buy any of their records. It wasn't until late 1992 or early 1993, while I was doing research for a book I was working on about gay male depictions and influences in rock music (more about that elsewhere), that I picked up a copy of Discography on the advice of a friend. Well, it knocked me out—especially songs that hadn't been hits in the U.S. and I had never heard before, such as "Left to My Own Devices," "So Hard," and "Being Boring." Discography quickly became a regular on my CD player.

Then, a few months later, when Very came out and garnered glowing reviews, I picked it up as well. And it absolutely floored me! It immediately became one of my all-time favorite albums. I decided at that point to buy all of the Boys' albums, which I did in short order. I loved them all. When I learned that their singles contained non-album tracks, I started snatching them up as well. In short, I was hooked.

Incidentally, one of my greatest regrets is that I didn't become a fan until about two years after the Boys brought their brilliant Performance show to Minneapolis, where I was living at the time. The venue where they played was a mere 15-minute walk from my home! Yet I didn't attend the concert—in fact, I wasn't even aware of it—because I wasn't following the Pet Shop Boys back then. Oh, the irony!

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*In fact (and this is going to sound unbelievable, but it's absolutely true), it was while I was crossing the I-35W bridge across the Mississippi River in Minneapolis—the same bridge that disastrously collapsed during another evening commute roughly 21 years later on August 1, 2007, killing 13 people and injuring more than a hundred. By then, however, I was no longer living in Minneapolis. And if it seems strange to you that I should remember so specifically where I was when I first heard "West End Girls," it's actually something of a pattern with me. I can remember where I was when I first heard a great many songs and artists (a rather extreme example being the time I nearly drove my car off the road when I first heard Cher's "Believe"). It must have something to do with the way my mind works—the way I personally "connect" with music.