PSB Music Videos - Capsule Descriptions

Here I provide very brief subjective descriptions of each of the Pet Shop Boys' promo music videos. Because I deal with the songs themselves in their primary entries on this website, I don't go into detail concerning the songs' or the videos' "meanings." I simply want to provide basic information and some of my own opinions.

Note: The "Fans' ratings" reflect the outcome of online polls that I've conducted in which I've asked my site visitors to rate each of the "primary videos" on a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 indicating "one of the worst PSB videos" and 5 indicating "one of their best." I then correlated the resulting average ratings to a five-star system, with the videos with average ratings above 4.250 (among them the highest-rated video of all, "Being Boring") given a five-star rating ★★★★★ and those with average ratings below 2.000 (the only two being "Home and Dry" and "Winner") given a no-star ("bomb") rating bomb, with gradations every 0.250 points. Half-star ratings (½) are included, so that the full range of star ratings is no stars (bomb), half-star (the only one in that category being "Did You See Me Coming?"), one star, one-and-a-half stars, two stars, and so on, up to five stars. I also offer my own personal ratings, although mine do not employ half-stars. Also, my own ratings correlate very closely with the number of stars (that is, my rating of 1 equals 1 star, my rating of 2 equals 2 stars, and so on), with the only deviation being my assigning of a theoretical zero rating (and thus a "bomb") to my single least-favorite PSB video, "Home and Dry." But since the averages for my site visitors' ratings, being averages, cannot possibly hit the extremes of 1 and 5, an average rating of, say, ★½ actually indicates a higher numerical figure than my own personal rating of ★★. In other words, it doesn't make much sense to compare the fan average rating for any one video to my own rating for that same video. It makes much more sense to compare average ratings for different videos to each other, and my own personal ratings for videos to each other as well.


Opportunities (Version 1)
1985 - Directed by Andy Morahan and Eric Watson
Fans' rating: ★½   Wayne's rating: ★★

In their first video—though you wouldn't know it from watching Videography—Neil appears vaguely Hasidic (what's up with that?) while standing chest-deep in the service pit of an auto garage, periodically morphing into what appears to be a disintegrating mummy. He eventually crumbles into dust, while Chris merely hovers about looking rather sexily detached from it all. A curious beginning.


West End Girls
1985 - Directed by Andy Morahan and Eric Watson
Fans' rating: ★★★½   Wayne's rating: ★★★ 

The classic PSB "look and feel" is established with Neil and Chris walking the streets of London, Neil singing and Chris looking sullen from behind while occasionally "fading" away. Literal in some ways, enigmatic in others, this video proved fundamental in turning the Boys into stars. In fact, it has supplied its share of iconic imagery and has been parodied on more than one occasion.


Love Comes Quickly
1986 - Directed by Andy Morahan and Eric Watson
Fans' rating: ★½   Wayne's rating: ★★ 

A surprisingly effective rush job (generated in the wake of the success of "West End Girls") featuring close face or head-and-shoulders shots of various people interspersed with Neil (and occasionally Chris), while Chris rolls around on a superimposed grid of some sort. Quite arty, actually.


Opportunities (Version 2)
1986 - Directed by Zbigniew Rybczynski
Fans' rating: ★★½   Wayne's rating: ★★ 

Chris, dressed like a construction worker (complete with hardhat—shades of the Village People!), and Neil, at times sporting an "Uncle Sam hat," exchange items and revel in impressive-for-the-time camera trickery. It hasn't aged well, however. In retrospect, it's surprisingly cheap-looking, especially considering the "name director" and the expense involved.


Suburbia
1986 - Directed by Eric Watson
Fans' rating: ★★★   Wayne's rating: ★★★ 

The Boys walk about and pose in a rather humdrum, rundown suburban Los Angeles landscape, alternating between looking fashionably out-of-place and miserably domestic together (with a German shepherd, perhaps playing upon the name of their duo?) in a metaphorical living room. This is where the rumors may have begun.


Paninaro
1986 - Directed by Chris Lowe and Neil Tennant
Fans' rating: ★½   Wayne's rating: ★

A "homemade" affair filmed by Chris and Neil themselves using a hand-held camera on the streets of Milan. Rather nondescript but nonetheless oddly fascinating.


It's a Sin
1987 - Directed by Derek Jarman
Fans' rating: ★★★★½   Wayne's rating: ★★★★★ 

What a difference a few hits make—namely, a much bigger budget. Neil is on trial for his life before a medieval inquisition, with Chris serving as his jailer. The personified Seven Deadly Sins make cameo appearances. The implication at the very end is that Neil has been burned at the stake, but that's open to interpretation.


What Have I Done to Deserve This?
1987 - Directed by Eric Watson
Fan's rating: ★★★★   Wayne's rating: ★★★★ 

One of the archetypal documents of their "imperial phase." Our Boys are dressed in tuxes amidst the goings-on backstage just before the curtain goes up, complete with big-band musicians and scads of Vegas-style showgirls. Chris nearly holds his own with Neil and Dusty Springfield (who pops up at regular intervals for her various solos) as he mimes a couple notes on his trombone (which he can actually play) and does a quick dancing leap. Blink and you may miss it.


Rent
1987 - Directed by Derek Jarman

Fans' rating: ★★★½   Wayne's rating: ★ 

Neil serves as chauffeur for a well-off but unhappy "kept woman" who is actually in love with "poor man" Chris, whom she meets and kisses at the train station. Somewhat cinematic, as befitting a director of Jarman's stature, but oddly unaffecting.


Always on My Mind
1987 - Directed by Jack Bond
Fans' rating: ★★½   Wayne's rating: ★ 

The Boys pick up and engage in a cryptic exchange with psychotic hitchhiker Joss Ackland amidst various brief scenes, delivered in the style of a movie trailer, from their film It Couldn't Happen Here. All music videos are, in effect, "commercials," but this one seems even more like a commercial than most.


Heart
1988 - Directed by Jack Bond
Fans' rating: ★★★★½   Wayne's rating: ★★★★ 

Chauffeured by Chris, aristocratic groom Neil brings his new bride to his Eastern European castle, only to have her stolen away by a Dracula-like vampire portrayed by Ian McKellen. This thing is fraught with psychosexual overtones.


Domino Dancing
1988 - Directed by Eric Watson
Fans' rating: ★★★★½   Wayne's rating: ★★★★ 

Even more psychosexuality in one of the Boys' most infamous videos—often a target of discussion and criticism. A tropical setting finds Chris and Neil looking on as two often-shirtless young men (clearly themselves posited as sex-objects) vie for the attentions of a lovely but callous young woman. The shirtless lads wind up wrestling each other in the surf. More rumors ensued. An extended version of this video simply draws the drama out a little more.


Left to My Own Devices
1988 - Directed by Eric Watson
Fans' rating: ★★   Wayne's rating: ★★ 

The Boys stand upon and look down through clear plexiglass flooring as images of performing gymnasts are superimposed above them. After the preceding extravaganzas, this has all the looks of intentional scaling-back. U.S. MTV refused to air it, reportedly because they considered it "too dark." (It makes you wonder whether better lighting might have extended PSB's run as mainstream hitmakers in the States.)


It's Alright
1989 - Directed by Eric Watson
Fans' rating: ★★½   Wayne's rating: ★★ 

Chris and Neil share the screen with lots of babies who are obviously meant to represent the future that's presumably going to be "alright." The highlight is the part where a baby briefly "dances" to the beat.


So Hard
1990 - Directed by Eric Watson
Fans' rating: ★★★½   Wayne's rating: ★★★

A drama of jealousy unfolds among a group of young men and women as the Boys disjointedly look on, flanked by two large black men (one of them their friend and "handler" Dainton Connell) who, in a perhaps mild parody of contemporaneous Public Enemy videos, appear to serve as their bodyguards. Again there's an extended version that provides more of the same.


Being Boring
1990 - Directed by Bruce Weber
Fans' rating: ★★★★★   Wayne's rating: ★★★★

One of their most acclaimed videos, in which Chris and Neil appear only fleetingly amidst beautiful young people (often scantily clothed, when clothed at all) cavorting about during a fabulous weekend at a Long Island mansion—a setting apparently chosen on account of its connection to The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, the husband of Zelda Fitzgerald, who provided the quotation that inspired the song in the first place. Got all that?


How Can You Expect to Be Taken Seriously?
1991 - Directed by Liam Kan
Fans' rating: ★★★   Wayne's rating: ★★★★★

Against a plain white background and video projections, and assisted by a couple of models and a pair of break/lock dancers, the Boys parody preachy, pretentious rock stars.


Where the Streets Have No Name (I Can't Take My Eyes Off You)
1991 - Directed by Liam Kan
Fans' rating: ★★½   Wayne's rating: ★★★★

In an obvious sequel or continuation of the preceding video, that plain white backdrop reappears as the setting for more of the Boys' antics, as this time they have fun with assorted forms of "mythic American" imagery—the West, driving about in a convertible, Las Vegas showgirls, and the like—clearly inspired by (and perhaps effectively commenting on) U2's own The Joshua Tree-era dalliance with mythic Americana.


Jealousy
1991 - Directed by Eric Watson
Fans' rating: ★★★½   Wayne's rating: ★★★★★

Another drama of jealousy, this time erupting into violence on two fronts (heterosexual and homosexual) in a rather posh nightclub where Neil and Chris are performing. Notice the prominent use of green—the color of envy.


DJ Culture
1991 - Directed by Eric Watson
Fans' rating: ★★★½   Wayne's rating: ★★★★★

An amalgam of surreal imagery underscores the song's critique of superficiality in both pop and political culture, with Neil portraying (among others) Oscar Wilde, a soccer referee, and a fat-farm doctor, and Chris portraying (among others) the judge at Wilde's trial, a soccer fan, and a fat-farm attendant. In this writer's opinion, this is the PSB music video that most greatly enhances the song it promotes—which was already pretty terrific to begin with.


Was It Worth It?
1991 - Directed by Eric Watson
Fans' rating: ★★½   Wayne's rating: ★★★★

The Boys perform in a joyous, raucous nightclub populated by all manner of youthful humanity, many in bizarre costumes, and prominently featuring drag queens. For part of the video, in keeping with the dress code, Chris wears his oddest hat ever—which is saying a lot considering the competition, including the next video.


Can You Forgive Her?
1993 - Directed by Howard Greenhalgh
Fans' rating: ★★★★★   Wayne's rating: ★★★★

One of the strangest PSB videos, in which Chris and Neil, in orange jumpsuits and pointy hats, appear alternately in real and computer-generated landscapes that they share with an emu, a large blue egg, flying orange balls, and assorted other oddities—all of which seem to have nothing whatsoever to do with the song itself. And that, my friends, is the whole point.


Go West
1993 - Directed by Howard Greenhalgh
Fans' rating: ★★★★½   Wayne's rating: ★★★★★

In another computer-generated environment, the Boys (including a chorus of Chrises) expand the multiple levels of meaning in this song by commenting satirically on the collapse of communism in Russia, suggesting that the former Soviets are now "going West." This is the third PSB video to offer an extended version, in this case launching into a kaleidoscopic visual feast set to the Brothers in Rhythm "Ming's Gone West Second Movement."


I Wouldn't Normally Do This Kind of Thing
1993 - Directed by Howard Greenhalgh
Fans' rating: ★★★★   Wayne's rating: ★★★★★

So far each Very video is more computer-generated than the one before it. This one features Neil and Chris as a moptopped digital-age Lennon and McCartney, becoming characters in a video game and cavorting amidst a frenzy of techno-psychedelia, complete with a pair of banged, catsuited go-go dancers. In short, a coalescence of 1960s style and sensibilities with 1990s technology. One of the greatest PSB videos, at least in this writer's opinion.


Liberation
1994 - Directed by Howard Greenhalgh
Fans' rating: ★★★½   Wayne's rating: ★★★★★

The ultimate totally computer-generated video, in which the Boys (aside from a few quick headshots of Neil singing) don't appear at all except as digitized facsimiles of themselves, again with pointy hats but this time with wings, flying through a cyberscape of constant, dizzying motion—a visual expression of the song's title.


Yesterday, When I Was Mad
1994 - Directed by Howard Greenhalgh
Fans' rating: ★★★½   Wayne's rating: ★★★★

The computer stuff is toned down a few notches, but it's still there. Chris's only appearance is as disembodied heads, while Neil plays dual roles as a bitchy commentator on the Boys' live performances and as himself, now straightjacketed and confined to a hellish mental hospital. (Note: I had originally rated it just three stars, but my opinion has improved since then; I now rate it a four-star video.)


Absolutely Fabulous
1994 - Directed by Bob Spiers and Howard Greenhalgh
Fans' rating: ★½   Wayne's rating: ★★★

Jennifer Saunders and Joanna Lumley, in their Ab Fab roles of Eddy and Patsy, guest star in a thoroughly (and appropriately) silly homage to their comedy hit, which alternates between footage from the show and new sequences with the Boys dressed in dazzling white baker-dervish costumes. I love the ad-libbed bit where Chris reacts with amused, unguarded shock when "Eddy" lifts his fez.


Paninaro '95
1995 - Directed by Howard Greenhalgh
Fans' rating: ★★½   Wayne's rating: ★★★★

Light-years beyond the "homemade" original, this video focuses primarily on Chris, who shares the limelight with sculpted male dancers (possibly the same ones who joined them on the DiscoVery tour) and background-singing Neil, who seems to be undergoing significant stress as he constantly morphs back and forth between his usual appearance and that of some kind of spikey creature. I think most would agree that this is the most homoerotic PSB video, "Domino Dancing" notwithstanding. (At least the DD video had a heterosexual veneer. This one doesn't even have that.)


Before
1996 - Directed by Howard Greenhalgh
Fans' rating: ★★   Wayne's rating: ★★

Neil and a trio of background vocalists sing while commingling with computer-manipulated graphic imagery. Chris is just "there" now and then. Attractive enough but rather dull.


Se A Vida É (That's the Way Life Is)
1996 - Directed by Bruce Weber
Fans' rating: ★★★    Wayne's rating: ★★

In a video worthy of the Beach Boys, Chris and Neil enjoy themselves with a variety of young people at a Florida waterpark. In what may not be a first but certainly a rarity in imagery created by Bruce Weber, less-than-svelte people actually make fleeting appearances.


Single-Bilingual
1996 - Directed by Howard Greenhalgh
Fans' rating: ★★★★   Wayne's rating: ★★★★

A comic turn set an airport, with Neil portraying a hapless, mildly geeky Euro-businessman and Chris a security guard amidst a chorus of drummers. There's an especially nice moment when Neil tries in vain to pick up a young woman in the hotel bar.


A Red Letter Day
1997 - Directed by Howard Greenhalgh
Fans' rating: ★★½   Wayne's rating: ★★★

Heavy-handed but effective symbolism, with the Boys just two of seemingly thousands of everyday people standing in endless lines, waiting for something that is obviously long overdue in coming.


Somewhere
1997 - Directed by Annie Griffin
Fans' rating: ★★   Wayne's rating: ★

The excerpted performance of the West Side Story classic from the Boys' Somewhere shows at the Savoy Theatre, as seen in the Somewhere VHS/DVD, intercut with preparatory and backstage footage.


I Don't Know What You Want But I Can't Give It Any More
1999 - Directed by Pedro Romhanyi
Fans' rating: ★★★★   Wayne's rating: ★★★★

Neil and Chris are gradually transformed into "Nightlife beings" with spikey orange hair, wide black eyebrows, and very unusual costumes partly inspired by Japanese samurai. This look will reappear (in slightly modified form) in the next two videos as well. Much of the imagery in this particular video owes a debt to the 1971 George Lucas film THX 1138. A slightly altered version of the video was created for the sake of those outlets that, in an arguably over-sensitive impulse, refused to show the hypodermic needle.


New York City Boy
1999 - Directed by Howard Greenhalgh
Fans' rating: ★★★   Wayne's rating: ★★★★

A teenager is encouraged by the singing Neil to explore the streets of Manhattan, highlighted by a visit to a time-warp-resurrected Studio 54 complete with reasonable facsimiles of Andy Warhol, Bianca Jagger, John Travolta (as his Saturday Night Fever alter ego, Tony Manero), and various other period/scene habitués. My personal favorite is the checker-jacketed clone of Roy Lichtenstein, who would sometimes turn himself into his own work of pop art. Once again two versions were made—one "censored" and the other "uncensored"—though the variance is so minor that you risk driving yourself mad simply trying to differentiate one version from the other.


You Only Tell Me You Love Me When You're Drunk
2000 - Directed by Pedro Romhanyi
Fans' rating: ★★★    Wayne's rating: ★★★★

The Boys—repeatedly replicated via digital trickery—appear amidst a throng of unconscious bodies that suddenly spring to life and begin dancing mid-song, only to collapse again. Most unusually, Chris lip-synchs Neil's singing during one short scene. Just as with the other Nightlife-era videos, there are two versions that are barely distinguishable. In this case, the edit apparently removes an extremely brief flash of partial nudity that, despite my repeated attempts to "catch" it, has always escaped me.


Home and Dry
2002 - Directed by Wolfgang Tillmans
Fans' rating: bomb             Wayne's rating: bomb

Surely the most self-conciously "arty" PSB video, focusing on mice that inhabit London's subway tunnels. Just to remind you that it is indeed a Pet Shop Boys video, Chris and Neil make a couple of brief cameo appearances, miming the song playing in the background. You either love it or hate it—and it seems that a lot more fans have the latter feelings than the former. It's noteworthy, however, that this is the first music promo video to show Neil playing guitar.


I Get Along
2002 - Directed by Bruce Weber
Fans' rating: ★½   Wayne's rating: ★

Party preparations amongst the young and almost creepily beautiful creatures who tend to inhabit Bruce Weber videos. Again, the Boys appear only briefly. It all seems to have nothing whatsoever to do with the lyrics. The extended version of this video includes a portion of the song "E-mail" tacked onto the end.


London
2002 - Directed by Martin Parr
Fans' rating: ★★½   Wayne's rating: ★★

The best of the Release-era videos is comparatively generous in showing lots of Neil and Chris, presenting them as humble street-musicians playing for spare change on the streets and in the subways of London. Neil again plays guitar; Chris holds a small portable keyboard in his lap. They actually earned a few dollars from passers-by while filming the video. Meanwhile, bitplayers portray the Russian emigrees described in the lyrics.


Miracles
2003 - Directed by Howard Greenhalgh
Fans' rating: ★★★½   Wayne's rating: ★★

Brief headshots of Neil singing (and occasionally Chris just "being") mixed in amidst elaborate hyper-slo-mo imagery involving models and lots of water. It's obviously meant to convey an overall sense of beauty and wonder—appropriately enough given the song's lyrics and mood. But, despite a few lovely moments, it's not an especially memorable video.


Flamboyant
2004 - Directed by Nico Beyer
Fans' rating: ★★★★½   Wayne's rating: ★★★

One of the Boys' funnier vids. They appear in several faux ads—parodying the phenomenon known as "Japandering," in which celebrities who wouldn't be caught dead in a TV commercial in their native land gladly hawk all manner of goods on "foreign" (especially Asian) television—interspersed with excerpts from an actual Japanese game show in which contestants perform elaborate visual stunts, focusing on one team's preparations for their own moment in the sun.


I'm with Stupid
2006 - Directed by Blue Source (Rob Leggatt and Leigh Marling)
Fans' rating: ★★★½   Wayne's rating: ★

Little Britain comedians Matt Lucas and David Walliams—the latter a professed major PSB fan—star in low-budget spoofs of the "Can You Forgive Her?" and "Go West" videos, with Neil and Chris themselves providing a captive audience. (It makes you wonder whether they actually consider themselves captives of their fame.) Many fans would have preferred something more directly related to what this song was really about. Or would that just have made it too obvious?


Minimal
2006 - Directed by Dan Cameron
Fans' rating: ★★★★   Wayne's rating: ★★★

A marvelously stylish affair in which Neil and Chris mime a performance of the song, playing a much larger role than they did in the preceding vid. It's in color, but you'd hardly know it considering the overwheming black and white of the costumes and sets; only the fleshtones give it away. In keeping with the gist of the song, it's both minimalistic and very arty.


Numb
2006 - Directed by Julian Gibbs, Julian House, and Chris Sayer
Fans' rating: ★★½   Wayne's rating: ★★

An extremely (and appropriately) somber black-and-white sequence of frozen imagery largely borrowed from classic Soviet films of the 1920s and '30s (but not Battleship Potemkin, as some believe). The Boys don't even appear until the last twenty seconds or so.


Integral
2007 - Directed by Lawrence Blankenbyl, Jeff Wood, and Wade Shotter
Fans' rating: ★★★½   Wayne's rating: ★★★

In a world obsessed with security and surveillance, all of our actions, our images, even our very identities can be captured onto little cards that may come to dominate our lives. Highly innovative, even by PSB standards, this video includes (1) embedded coding that provides the technologically savvy with interactive links to thematically associated websites and (2) quick digitized images of the faces of dozens of fans who showed up as "extras." It comes in two versions: a lo-res b&w version for small screens and low bandwidth, and a hi-res full-color version that takes the lo-res edition and displays it on cards set in various locales.


Love etc.
2009 - Directed by Han Hoogerbrugge
Fans' rating: ★★★★   Wayne's rating: ★★★

In the Boys' first cartoon/animated video (if you don't count the computer animation of "Liberation"), we find them literally bouncing around in a videogame-like world. It's certainly appropriate for such a bouncy track. Life is the game and love is the prize—but only if you can maneuver around all the distractions. There's so much going on that it demands repeat viewings just to take it all in.


Did You See Me Coming?
2009 - Directed by Douglas Hart
Fans' rating: ½   Wayne's rating: ★★

Neil and Chris, often in silhouette, mime the song against an ever-changing backdrop of black-and-white geometric Pop Art projections. Though it hails from a similar aesthetic, it's not as much a "'Minimal' video revisited" as that brief description and a still shot suggests. But I wonder why they didn't go the full Pop Art route and use lots of color, which would have minimized the "Minimal" resemblance. I do, however, like the way they take advantage of the lyric's repeated "It was just the two of us" to focus entirely on just the two of them.


All Over the World
2009 - Directed by Blue Leach
Fans' rating: ★   Wayne's rating: ★

Closely akin to a good old-fashioned live "performance video," a rarity for PSB. (Any video at all was a surprise considering they didn't bother to produce one for the preceding German-only "Beautiful People" single.) Employing live footage from one of their Pandemonium Tour concerts (though the audio is the studio recording), it intersperses segments of them performing the song with scattered bits from other numbers. Hardly groundbreaking, but it does manage to convey pretty effectively just how much fun a PSB show can be.


Together
2010 - Directed by Peeter Rebane
Fans' rating: ★★½    Wayne's rating: ★★★

Shot at five separate locations in and near Tallinn, Estonia. Chris and Neil make short appearances near the start and end, with the storyline focusing on a group of male street dancers and female classical dancers. At first they appear in virtual competition with each other in a "dance-off," but then they begin to work together (appropriately enough) to their personal, social, and artistic benefit. At the end, however, it seems the whole thing may have been only in the imagination of one of the young men, an everyday laborer. Ah, but there's an enigmatic touch: a lipstick-kiss now on his cheek. With its rather large scope compared to the previous several PSB music videos, this is a refreshing throwback to the larger-scaled vids of the Boys' "imperial phase."


Invisible
2012 - Directed by Brian Bress
Fans' rating: ★★   Wayne's rating: ★

A somber and vaguely disturbing piece by artist Brian Bress, adapted from his pre-extant video art-piece Fancy Dress Ball (Brian), which had caught the Boys' eyes at a gallery in Los Angeles. It depicts a series of abstract, slowly moving human figures camoflauged against equally abstract backdrops, rendering them difficult to see clearly. So while they're not as "invisible" as the song suggests, they're highly suggestive of looming invisibility. Neither Chris nor Neil put in an appearance—no, that's not them in the abstract costumes, but rather the artist, Mr. Bress—which makes our musical heroes the truly invisible figures in this video.


Winner
2012 - Directed by Surrender Monkeys
Fans' rating: bomb            Wayne's rating: ★   

The video's storyline focuses on a female roller-derby team, and specifically on one member, a young transgender man who dresses in roller-derby drag. The Boys, who (again) don't appear at all, expand the song's "victory canvas" to include not only the winning roller-derby team but also the personal victory of that one character's gender nonconformity and the acceptance exemplified by his/her teammates. A curious but also quite daring approach.


Leaving
2012 - Directed by Pet Shop Boys
Fans' rating: ★½   Wayne's rating: ★★

Footage from a live performance during the Elysium album launch event in Berlin, rendered in black-and-white and "mashed" with shots from the city's mass transit system (probably intended to suggest a means of "leaving"). Imagine the entire thing in color instead of black-and-white, and then answer this question: which seems "classier"? Yes, that's why they removed the color, and that's why this is such a nice video. Not exceptional, but nice. Well, that plus the fact that the Boys themselves are featured extensively in it.


Axis
2013 - Directed by Luke Halls and Jude Greenaway
Fans' rating: ★★★½    Wayne's rating: ★★★

A visually stunning cornucopia of "techno-pagan" imagery, blending modern technology with ancient, mythical sexuality, perhaps suggesting dance as the environment (or the axis?) where the two meet. It's got lasers, tunnel effects, dancers (sometimes wearing buffalo heads, making them, as astutely noted by one commentator, minotaurs), and two silhouetted figures walking toward the camera. Clearly meant to represent Chris and Neil themselves (if it isn't actually them), they're dressed in appropriately science-fictionish garb. For all we know, this all may not really "mean" anything, but it sure as heck gets the juices flowing. And in case you haven't noticed, it starts and ends with an axis made of light.


Vocal
2013 - Directed by Joost Vandeburg
Fans' rating: ★★   Wayne's rating: ★

Created, as described on the official PSB website, from "authentic amateur film footage shot at various raves in the late 80s, along with some footage from the Haçienda in Manchester," this video certainly befits the song's celebration of dance music. Understandably, there's no sign of the Boys, and the whole thing practically cries out "low budget." But, hey, times have changed, so we might as well get used to it.


Thursday
2013 - Directed by Justyn Field
Fans' rating: ★½    Wayne's rating: ★★

Having forgone a video for the immediately preceding single, "Love Is a Bourgeois Construct," the Boys come back with a clip filmed in Shanghai during the Asian leg of their Electric Tour. It's dominated by concert crowd shots and recurring images of Neil—as well as a disco-ball-headed Chris, guest vocalist Example, and the tour's two dancers—appearing on Jumbotron screens overlooking the city's streets. I'm just not terribly fond of the exaggerated shoulder pads of Neil's suit: they evoke memories of Joan Collins in Dynasty.


Twenty-something
2016 - Directed by Gavin Filipiak
Fans' rating: ★★½    Wayne's rating: ★★★

It's not the first time that a PSB video took its song in an unexpected direction, even to the point of shifting its interpretation more than a few degrees. (See "Go West" for a notable example.) Likely inspired by the song's Latin stylistic origins, the video for the second single from Super—but the first to receive the "full video treatment"—focuses not on the yuppie-esque figures that seem to inhabit the lyrics but instead on a down-and-out Latino family coping with the harsh socio-economic realities of their Southern California urban environment. This video has two official versions, the second (with additional footage) set to the Los Evo Jedis mix.


"Peripheral" PSB Music Videos

A few additional items don't belong to the "main corpus" of PSB music videos, but they're still worth noting.


Always on My Mind
1987 - Directed by Jon Scoffield (?)

The Boys first recorded "Always on My Mind" for the 1987 U.K. television special Love Me Tender, which commemorated the tenth anniversary of Elvis Presley's death. Rather than perform live, they mimed it in specially created footage very much in the style of a music video. It's accented by hot lighting, deep shadows, studio fog, and a railroad motif that may stem from the song's highly propulsive arrangement. Chris and Neil appear in what amounts to leather drag, probably inspired by popular images of "tough" early Elvis in the 1950s—though I wouldn't rule out other inspirations as well. Personally, I find this visually arresting "quasi-video" preferable in many ways to the "official" vid described above.


Casting a Shadow
1999 - Directed by (?)

Created to accompany the instrumental track that the Boys created for play during the 1999 total solar eclipse. This video appears as a bonus on an enhanced CD single of "New York City Boy." It simply offers actual filmed footage of the eclipse itself.


For Your Own Good
1999/2001 - Directed by Chris Bird and Ben Whittam-Smith

The Pet Shop Boys' 1999 tour opened with this song, accompanied by a stage projection showing highly processed images of their "Nightlife heads" rotating back and forth as assorted "electric" and lighting effects flashed around them. This sequence later appeared as a "bonus video" on the 2001 Montage DVD.


She's Madonna
2007 - Directed by Johan Renck

The Boys don't appear at all in this video—which many fans would say is a good thing. But it deserves inclusion here because the song was recorded and released credited to "Robbie Williams featuring Pet Shop Boys." So, from that angle, it's a "PSB music video." Robbie spends much of the time in drag and shares the screen with a bevy of drag queens. Not that there's anything wrong with that. Sure, Robbie pushed the envelope and generated publicity. But it did nothing to enhance the song's success. In fact, it proved to be one of Robbie's lowest-charting singles, peaking at only #16 in the U.K. It also did nothing to combat widespread public perception of PSB as a "gay act."


Did You See Me Coming? (experiment)
2009 - "Directed" by Pet Shop Boys and Andy Crookston

Chris and Neil got their tour manager, Andy Crookston, to use his cell phone to capture them walking around the German film studio Babelsberg. Neil appears to be singing into his own cell phone, though perhaps he's just listening to the song so as to facilitate his lip-synching. Apparently they thought the resulting low-quality footage might serve as all or part of the single's video. But it turned out to be too low in quality to use.


Memory of the Future (lyric video)
2012 - [director unknown at this time]

The only "official" video created for this single simply showed the lyrics scrolling back—à la the opening of Star Wars—against a rather ominously cloudy sky. A major disappointment for many if not most fans, it begs a question: why only a "lyric video" rather than a "standard" music video? To put it another way, what might this suggest about the state of the Pet Shop Boys' career, the status of music videos, and/or the current pop music industry in general?


Inner Sanctum Super launch video
2016 - [director unknown at this time]

On January 21, 2016, to formally announce the April 1 release of their new album Super, the Pet Shop Boys debuted a very short video (just 57 seconds) showing young people dancing in ecstasy amidst lasers (thus maintaining the "banging and lasers" motif of their preceding album, Electric), interpersed with shots from the interior of London's Royal Opera House, where the Boys would be performing in a four-night "residency" the following July—all set to an excerpt of the Super "taster" track, "Inner Sanctum." It would seem an effective tool for depicting and generating excitement. I'll have to leave judgment as to how effective it actually was to others.


The Pop Kids (lyric video)
2016 - [director unknown at this time]

As with "Memory of the Future," our musical heroes opted for only a lyric video for their first single from their 2016 album Super. A sign of the times, no doubt. But as bright and colorful as it is, most fans would likely be inclined to agree with one among their number who opined, "Not so super."


Derek Jarman's PSB Projection Videos

Filmmaker and artist Derek Jarman, who had directed the promo videos described above for "It's a Sin" and "Rent," also created a series of rear-screen "projection videos" for the Pet Shop Boys' 1989 tour. These served as backdrops to the performances of various songs onstage. These short films—which really aren't "music videos" in the conventional sense—were released in 1993 on the VHS tape Projections. Included were two additional Jarman films (for "Violence" and "Being Boring") that accompanied a 1992 PSB charity gig at Manchester's Haçienda club. Not included, interestingly enough, was the backdrop projection that Jarman had filmed for "Nothing Has Been Proved."

After going for years without my own copy of Projections, I finally picked one up in August 2008 from Amazon.com. In summary, Jarman's projections are generally artier than "official" PSB music videos, but that doesn't mean that they're better. In my opinion, they're decidedly inferior. But, then again, they really weren't meant to be viewed as standalone works, so it's unfair to judge them as such. In fact, as can be observed in the Highlights video record of the 1989 tour, they're quite effective in their "stage backdrop" context.


Opportunities (Let's Make Lots of Money)
1989 - Directed by Derek Jarman

Images of an attractive model, ostentatiously luxuriating in her wardrobe, furs, jewelry, and other accoutrements of wealth—interspersed with assorted other imagery, such as bits of sparkler-type fireworks, gold coins, and people working with account books and calculating machines—dominate this rather uninteresting piece.


Heart
1989 - Directed by Derek Jarman

Lots of happy people—including Jarman himself—dancing around a moving camera. A considerably simpler yet happier affair than the original "vampire video," let me tell you. No psychosexual dramas here!


Paninaro
1989 - Directed by Derek Jarman

A really strange sequence that seems to suggest a close relationship between fashion and violence. Intercut with Italianate scenery (both natural and man-made), two female models fight with knives, eventually killing each other. Meanwhile, a male model—whom, I believe, is supposed to represent a "paninaro"—adjusts his sunglasses, combs his hair, hugs a dog (a Dalmatian, to be precise), and generally looks very pleased with himself. A funeral for one of the dead women, who appears to ascend into heaven, brings it all to a close. I did mention that it was strange, didn't I?


It's a Sin
1989 - Directed by Derek Jarman

Although Jarman had also directed the original "Neil-at-the-inquisition" video, he created a new sequence for concert backdrop purposes—essentially a montage alternating between presumed sin and decadence and nightmarish imagery. Does it buy into the idea that two young men being, shall we say, intimate is sinful, does it parody that very notion, or does it merely suggest that sinfulness is something that can accompany homosexual as well as heterosexual relationships without being an essential component of them?


Domino Dancing
1989 - Directed by Derek Jarman

An extremely arch-looking Spanish flamenco dancer and scenes from a bullfight. Interesting for about 30 seconds, but it gets old real fast. Give me the original.


King's Cross
1989 - Directed by Derek Jarman

Black-and-white footage shot in and around the titular London railway/subway station. In some ways a companion piece to Jarman's "Rent" music video, it even features some of the same shots of Chris, or at least very similar ones, obviously filmed at the same time. Unfortunately, there's little else to it, though it befits the song's somber mood.


Always on My Mind
1989 - Directed by Derek Jarman

Just an animated collage of fluctuating colors (I'm tempted to call it "kaleidoscopic," but it's hardly reminiscent of a kaleidoscope) that finally becomes a little more interesting toward the end when black-and-white headshot footage of made-up Neil and Chris—first Neil, then Chris, and ending with them staring at each other, all the while looking about as dour as they've ever appeared, and that's saying a lot—is superimposed atop the still-animated, still-colorful backdrop.


Violence
1989 - Directed by Derek Jarman

Photos and old film stock related to Egypt inexplicably juxtaposed with shots of an oddly made-up man smoking and a guy wielding a whip. Surpassingly strange—and surprisingly amateurish-looking until you understand that Jarman was working with a very small budget and derived this video from a short film titled Garden of Luxor that he created early in his career, back in 1972, when indeed he was little more than an amateur.


Being Boring
1989 - Directed by Derek Jarman

Jarman again dips into his own history, taking grainy black-and-white footage from his very first film, Studio Bankside, to accompany one of the Pet Shop Boys' greatest tracks. While it certainly doesn't compare to the original video, it oddly works, apropos to the song's air of melancholy. Even the people who appear in it—friends and acquaintances from the director's younger days—seem like less glamorous, more bohemian, and more fully clothed counterparts to the characters in the original Bruce Weber vid.


The Pandemonioum Tour Projection Videos

For their 2009 Pandemonium Tour, the Pet Shop Boys commissioned the U.K. firm onedotzero industries (I'm never sure how I should capitalize the names of businesses that engage in that cutesy all-lower-case affectation in their print and online materials) to create new background videos for a number of the songs. Among them are the following.


Heart
2009 - Directed by Sam Pattinson and/or Luke Halls for onedotzero industries

Large-scale pixelation evolves into heartrate-monitor imagery and then floating heart-shaped balloons. It's all quite attractive, if a tad obvious. Then again, if forced to choose between attractive obviousness and unattractive abstraction, I'll take the former any day.


Pandemonium/Can You Forgive Her? (mashup)
2009 - Directed by Sam Pattinson and/or Luke Halls for onedotzero industries

Chris and Neil stand in boxes that constantly flash alternating fluorescent colors, looking up at the camera whenever Neil sings, surrounded by dancers and increasingly invasive large-scale pixelation (again). It's almost claustrophoblic. But more than claustrophobia, I suspect it's actually meant to convey the pandemonium described in the more dominant of the mashup's two songs. If that's indeed the case, then it succeeds admirably.


Love etc.
2009 - Directed by Sam Pattinson and/or Luke Halls for onedotzero industries

It's the "Love etc." music video, Part 2, employing precisely the same imagery, though in a somewhat altered form. In fact, it's almost as if we were looking at the original video from a different angle. I'm pretty sure that's not really the case, but it's an extremely tempting conceit.


Two Divided by Zero
2009 - Directed by Sam Pattinson and/or Luke Halls for onedotzero industries

For all of its conceptual simplicity—perhaps even because of it—this is a singularly effective background vid. Take panoramic nighttime shots of New York City (chosen no doubt because it's mentioned in the lyrics), computer-render the buildings, bridges, trains, and airplanes with wildly active colors—as if they'd been taken over by neon lights brought to life on steroids—and synchronize it all to music. You get this striking visual display that captures the escapist mood of the song perfectly.


Suburbia
2009 - Directed by Sam Pattinson and/or Luke Halls for onedotzero industries

Countless cube-headed, business-suited figures ride infinite escalators, forming kalaidescopic patterns of red, black, white, and gray. Incredibly simple in one sense, yet just as incredibly complex in another, it makes for a nearly overwhelming kinetic backdrop that breathes new life into a song that has, at least in the minds of some fans, become something of a "PSB chestnut." Perhaps that's even why it received this marvelous treatment.


West End Girls
2009 - Directed by Sam Pattinson and/or Luke Halls for onedotzero industries

The most abstract of the Pandemonium Tour vids consists almost entirely of bands of laser-like lights shooting about in near chaos. It's the computer-generated equivalent of those "dancing waters" shows that used to be so popular in Las Vegas before they started popping up in so many other venues, thereby cementing their status as the clichés they quickly became. In other words, it's all very nice to look at, but it's even nicer to look at the thing for which it serves as a backdrop. Basically, it does its work subliminally. From a purely existential viewpoint, it's damn near brilliant at achieving its purpose: to disappear into the overall experience, contributing greatly without calling attention to itself.


PSB Guest Appearances in Other Artists' Music Videos


Nothing Has Been Proved - Dusty Springfield
1989 - Directed by Michael Caton-Jones

Neil and Chris are reporters—the former taking notes, the latter snapping photos—as Dusty sings this atmospheric number written and produced by the Boys for the film Scandal, scenes from which are interspersed throughout the video.


Getting Away with It (Version 1) - Electronic
1989 - Directed by Greg Copeland and Judith Briant

Undoubtedly a very inexpensive video to produce, but nevertheless effective—especially compared to the alternate version that came afterward. Bernard Sumner, Johnny Marr, and Neil Tennant just sit in the studio performing (OK, miming) the track. Clear, crisp, and extremely enjoyable in its disarmingly low-key way. I just wish Bernard had a better haircut, that's all.


Getting Away with It (Version 2) - Electronic
1989 - Directed by Chris Marker

Bernard just stands there singing and looking somewhat forlorn, Neil sings backup (but doesn't actually appear until about halfway through the video), and Johnny plays the guitar—though he was apparently filmed separately because of another commitment at the time. Abstract non sequitur graphics weave around them. Bernard and Neil then take turns lying down and spinning on some sort of giant wheel—or at least that's it looks like. They apparently made this as an alternative to the original because somebody felt it would have a greater chance getting airplay on U.S. MTV.


Disappointed - Electronic
1992 - Directed by Howard Greenhalgh

Neil, now handling lead vocals, stands in a wheat field as two dancers don't really do much dancing but instead do other things, such as run with flags and twirl giant censers. Bernard holds letters up to the camera, spelling "Electronic" out of sequence. Johnny plays guitar again. Rest assured, it looks much better than I make it sound. Most notably, this may be where Neil first encountered director Howard Greenhalgh, whom the Boys would soon tap to helm the remarkable Very videos.


Do the Right Thing - Ian Wright
1993 - Directed by (?)

Wright dominates this video, as he should. But Chris, who co-wrote and produced the track for the U.K. soccer/media star, makes a couple of fleeting appearances by himself, with the two of them appearing together in black-and-white footage only briefly at the very end. Chris waves cards at the camera—and, at the end, at Ian himself—playfully mimicking a soccer referee warning or penalizing a player for fouls or otherwise inappropriate behavior. (During his football career, Wright had a knack for earning a lot of such cards from the refs.)


Hallo Spaceboy - David Bowie
1996 - Directed by David Mallet

Since you never see them together, I strongly suspect that Bowie and the Boys were filmed separately for this vid, which would have been vastly better if the powers that be hadn't inserted all manner of additional footage sampled from a variety of sources (for instance, a brief snippet of Bela Lugosi, I believe from either The Raven or Devil Bat). Cool lighting effects, though.


I Can Change - Brandon Flowers
2015 - Director unknown at this time

Mr. Tennant makes a fleeting cameo appearance in the lyric video for this song by The Killers' lead vocalist Brandon Flowers from his second solo album, The Desired Effect. Neil mouths the words of his equally brief spoken contribution to the recording: "And when you're looking for a change…."


Honorable Mention for the Director

Cicero - Heaven Must Have Sent You Back to Me
1992 - Directed by Chris Lowe

Although he doesn't appear in it, Chris directed this video for one of the singles by the Boys' early 1990s protégé Cicero. The generous amusement park footage may be an homage to Chris's resort hometown of Blackpool. You're free to speculate about the inspiration for the equally generous shots of the singer's bare chest.


…and if we really stretch it —

Success - Sigue Sigue Sputnik
1988 - Directed by (?)

A still shot of Neil and Chris, lifted from the "West End Girls" video—or perhaps from a publicity photo taken from the video—appears for a split second along with those of several other artists (including Boy George) in this video by Tony James and company. (That's PSB in the center frame of the second row.) No problem: the two acts were on the same label. The site visitor who told me about this recalls seeing a version in which the Boys actually mouth the song's "Sex, Fun, Success" refrain, but that's not what's currently running on YouTube. Does anyone else recall seeing this?


I've Got Your Music - Saint Etienne
2012 - Directed by (?)

A delightful little video in which everyday people display copies of what are apparently meant to represent their favorite vinyl records. PSB releases, most of which feature images of one or both Boys, appear with pleasant regularity. (Somehow I doubt that any of those instances were shot in the United States, though I'd love to be proven wrong on that point.)


Meet Me in a House of Love - Cut Copy
2013 - Directed by Trouble Hands

The face shot of Neil from the cover of Discography can be seen within a Sgt. Pepper-ish montage of celebrity faces that repeatedly appears in this video by this Australian band led by Dan Whitford. (In the image shown here, look just below Whitford's left arm. Incidentally, I've searched for Chris, but I haven't found him.)


Finally, a couple of "wannabes" often mistakenly identified as official PSB videos:

It's a Sin (unofficial)
Year and director unknown

A really well-made, professional-looking video featuring a dancing nun and a dimly lit dormitory full of underwear-clad young men and women. Likely inspired by the Boys' own performance of the song in their famous Performance stage show, it has appeared on YouTube and elsewhere, often touted as an "official" PSB video. Considering its high quality, it's an understandable error. But an error it is: this is not an "official" Pet Shop Boys video.


The Survivors (unofficial)
1998 - Directed by Paul Shapiro and Ernest Weber (?)

This computer-generated vid—clearly inspired by and very much in the style of the official "Liberation" video—was an unsolicited piece created by a couple of guys in an effort to earn a PSB commission. They did it, as Neil has said, "to show us what they were capable of." But the Boys decided against asking them to work for them. So while this video was the result of a highly professional effort to become "official," it actually isn't.