Major PSB VHS/LD/DVD Releases

The Pet Shop Boys have had quite a few major video releases on VHS videotapes, laserdiscs (LDs), and/or DVDs. (And this doesn't even include limited-edition promos and several other video releases in which they and/or their music have appeared alongside other artists' work, such as the Twentieth-Century Blues video, in which they mime "Sail Away" and "If Love Were All" before a live audience, and their guesting in David Bowie's "Hallo Spaceboy" video, available on his Best of Bowie DVD.) Here are brief descriptions of these major PSB video releases.

Television (1986) - approx 30 minutes - VHS, LD

The Boys' first video release featured their earliest music videos interspersed with brief excerpts from assorted TV appearances, including their somewhat remarkable guest slots on Soul Train and Video Soul. (It's often forgotten how popular "West End Girls," in particular, was on U.S. black music stations.)


laserdisc

Neil pre-fame, ca. 1982
VHS

Showbusiness (1988) - approx 30 minutes - VHS, LD

Their second collection of music videos is distinguished by the fact that it boasts the extended version of the "Domino Dancing" video, which wouldn't turn up again until the 2003 release of the PopArt DVD. Otherwise, it offers nothing that wouldn't later become available on Videography. Interestingly, the Japanese laserdisc version had a different cover, running order and track lineup (leaving out "Heart" and "Domino Dancing"), and title: I Like It Here, Wherever It Is.

It Couldn't Happen Here (1988) - approx 82 minutes - VHS, LD

Either you love it or you hate it. The Pet Shop Boys' notorious feature-length film was directed by Jack Bond and featured acting performances by Joss Ackland and Barbara Windsor, among others. Surealistic, even rather absurdist in tone, you simply have to see it for yourself and form your own opinions. The following songs are included:

Note: The image shown on the right for this release is actually one of at least five different ones that I've seen for it. Obviously the packaging differed from one release (time, place, and/or format) to another.

Highlights (1990) - approx 33 minutes - VHS, LD

Highlights is what's left over from what had originally been intended as a full-length film, directed by Derek Jarman, of the Boys' first full-scale tour. But Chris and Neil, as well as Jarman himself, were apparently rather dissatisfied with the quality of much of the show as it came across on video. So they cut back on the contents of the released version, including only what they felt were the better performances. Bootleg versions of the entire show, however, are apparently available.

Promotion (1991) - approx 33 minutes - VHS

The Pet Shop Boys' third collection of music videos covers the period of the albums Introspective and Behaviour. Like Showbusiness, it offers nothing that wouldn't soon become available on Videography aside from an extended version of one video—in this case, "So Hard." And even that would later become available on the PopArt DVD.

Videography (1991) - approx 80 minutes - VHS, LD

Until the release in 2003 of PopArt, a good case could have been made that this was the PSB video to own: a nearly complete history of the Boys up to 1991 as conveyed by chronologically arranged music videos, with the previously unavailable "DJ Culture" offered to attract fans who already owned the preceding releases. We might quibble with the omissions (Where is the second "Opportunities" video? Why not the "homemade" video for "Paninaro"? Why was "Was It Worth It?" left off of the U.S. and U.K. tapes, appearing only on the videodisc and the Japanese tape?), but with such a wealth of material, those are just quibbles. A stunning collection that would be superseded only when the Boys finally got around to putting out a much more updated video collection on DVD (see PopArt, below).


VHS package

DVD package

Performance (1992) - 105 minutes - VHS, LD; 239 minutes (incl. commentary) - DVD

To many if not most fans, this is the quintessential "live" PSB show. Wildly ambitious and imaginative, it had critics delving into their thesauruses to find new words of either praise or scorn. Conceived, designed, and staged by opera and theatre directors David Alden and David Fielding, and choreograhed by Jacob Marley, Performance featured a large troupe of dancers, three backup singers, and elaborate costume changes. In fact, the show was so elaborate that the Boys reportedly lost a bundle of their own money putting it on. We're forever in their debt. Speaking on a purely personal note, it was this video that absolutely cemented my fandom. Before I saw it, I liked them for their music. But I grew to love them after this show.

The DVD edition—with a number of extras, including running commentary by the Boys and rehearsal footage—was released in late September 2004 in the U.K. It's an all-region DVD but in the PAL format, which largely limits its TV playability to the U.K., most of Europe, Australia, New Zealand, and some parts of South America. (It won't play on my Region 1 DVD player, but it will play on my computer.) An NTSC DVD hasn't yet been released in the U.S., but it was released in Canada in November 2004 and can be readily ordered online from various retail sites. It has even turned up in some "brick and mortar" stores.

At any rate, the featured songs are:

*On the original VHS version of Performance the "I Can't Take My Eyes Off You" lyrics and melody had to be excised from the audio track on account of copyright difficulties, leaving just "Where the Streets Have No Name." On the DVD, this original edit is retained for the ordinary stereo mix and the commentary track, but on the Dolby 5.1 Surround Sound and DTS mixes the "I Can't Take My Eyes Off You" lyrics and melody are restored.

Projections (1993) - approx 45 minutes - VHS

This videotape consists of rear-screen projections and videos that director Derek Jarman created for live Pet Shop Boys performances, most particularly their first tour (the one documented in part by the Highlights video). As such, it's perhaps less a "Pet Shop Boys video release" than the others in this list, but it nevertheless provides intriguing visuals as accompaniment for a number of their songs. Note, however, that in the cases of the hit singles, these are not the same as the better-known music videos.

Various (1995) - approx 30 minutes - VHS, LD

Picking up where Videography left off—though unfortunately still overlooking "Was It Worth It?"—Various presents the music videos from the Very era. All of them feature sophisticated computer-generated graphic imagery to varying degrees, including the completely computer-generated "Liberation" and "Go West (Part 2)." The title is a play not only on the album Very but also on the fact that Neil and Chris appear in various guises, changing with each song. Though largely superseded by the release eight years later of the PopArt DVD, Various is still distinctive and highly collectible as one of only two "legitimate" sources of the "Absolutely Fabulous" video (the other being the 1994 TV show retrospective Absolutely Fabulous Moments).

DiscoVery (1995) - approx 96 minutes - VHS, LD

Punning again on the recent album titles Very and Disco 2, DiscoVery is a live concert video recorded in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. It documents the borderline-shocking sexual "choreography" of the two male and two female dancers on this particular tour, which (legend has it) almost got the Boys arrested in Singapore. Nevertheless, it represents a significant scaling-down from the elaborate Performance show. Perhaps Chris and Neil decided to actually earn a profit for themselves this time around.

Incidentally, the song that plays over the closing credits is "Together (Wherever We Go)" from the 1959 musical Gypsy (music by Jule Style, lyrics by Stephen Sondheim), sung by the immortal Ethel Merman, who originated her role as Mama Rose in what is widely considered one of the great triumphs of her long and storied career. Its use here is undoubtedly a commentary on Chris and Neil's friendship and musical partnership: "Wherever we go, whatever we do, we're gonna go through it together." Some might also regard it as a somewhat "campy" selection.

Somewhere (1997) - approx 91 minutes - VHS, DVD

For their next round of live shows in June 1997, the Pet Shop Boys decided not to go to the fans but rather have the fans come to them. They set up a two-week residence in London's historic Savoy Theatre—appropriately enough given the theatrical origins of their most recent hit single, a remake of the West Side Story classic "Somewhere"—and performed there in concert, using a very simple yet artistic staging that employed backdrop projections created by Sam Taylor-Wood. They were accompanied by just one backup singer (stalwart Sylvia Mason-James) and one dancer. This video is both a fascinating documentary of backstage preparations for that show and of course the show itself.

Montage (2001) - approx 110 minutes - VHS, DVD

This is a "modified" record of the Pet Shop Boys' Nightlife tour show—modified in that, rather than presenting a "direct" videotaping of the performance, the images are "treated" in various ways, resulting in sometimes dramatic visual effects. Hence the title Montage. This strategy, however, proved extremely controversial among fans, many (though certainly not all) of whom found the imagery distracting and annoying. Unlike the VHS tape, the DVD release is enhanced with bonus material: the music videos of the three Nightlife singles plus a fourth "hidden" video of the onstage projection for the opening "For Your Own Good."

PopArt (2003) - approx 180 min (+ commentary) - DVD

Perhaps the most hotly anticipated Pet Shop Boys video release since Videography: a nearly—yes, only nearly—complete collection of their music videos in DVD format with newly remastered sound. Although it hasn't yet been officially released in the United States, editions from certain other countries (such as Canada, Mexico, and Argentina) will play on U.S. DVD players and are somewhat readily available. The PopArt DVD boasts a number of videos previously unavailable in general distribution, such as "Was It Worth It?" "Paninaro '95," "Single-Bilingual," and "A Red Letter Day," among others. It also features extensive audio commentary by Chris and Neil themselves, together with their "house chronicler," Chris Heath. Perhaps the biggest disappointments are that it doesn't include "Absolutely Fabulous" (the Boys would have had to license it from the Comic Relief organization, which owns the rights), "Miracles," and "Flamboyant" (the latter two of which were completed too late for inclusion). Still, it's an absolute treasure for the fans!

Pet Shop Boys: A Life in Pop (2006) - approx 175 min - DVD

This is the full-length, 142-minute version of the television documentary that first aired in greatly truncated form on U.K. Channel 4 on May 24, 2006. As the title indicates, it's a "video biography" of the Pet Shop Boys, with running narrative and commentary provided by Neil and Chris themselves as well as a number of guests, including Robbie Williams, Brandon Flowers, Trevor Horn, Bruce Weber, and this site's webmaster, among others. The DVD release includes not only a lot of footage not included in the original broadcast, but also more than 30 minutes of extremely attractive bonus features: the PSB music videos from "Miracles" to "Numb" as well as rare footage from several live television appearances through the years. Released in the U.K. in late October 2006, it was never officially released in the United States. But NTSC editions that play on U.S. DVD players have been issued in other countries, such as Canada, and have been widely available in the U.S. as imports. Whatever the case, it's essential viewing for all PSB fans—and I'd say that even if I didn't appear in it myself.

*Caveat emptor: Some editions (such as the Australian PAL and Canadian NTSC) do not include the "Flamboyant" video, whereas others (such as the UK PAL and Japanese/Hong Kong NTSC) do include it—or at least some of them do: although it was included in the original issue, it was reportedly deleted from subsequent pressings. Further complicating matters is the fact that, even for that those that do include it, "Flamboyant" is not listed anywhere on the packaging or enclosure, but rather appears only on the onscreen DVD menu itself. Apparently copyright restrictions in various jurisdictions related to that video's use of Japanese game-show footage accounts for its deletion. So if you have a copy that includes the "Flamboyant" video, count yourself very fortunate.

Cubism (2007) - approx 114 min - DVD

Released in May 2007 in the U.K., Germany, and several other countries, and two months later in the United States, Cubism documents the Pet Shop Boys' Fundamental tour show, filmed at their November 14, 2006 concert in Mexico City. According to the official website, the Boys chose the title because "the ingenious staging … designed by Es Devlin revolved around a cube which formed the backdrop to the show." In addition to the concert itself—filmed in high definition and recorded in 5.1 Surround Sound—the disc features several bonus extras, including a 13-minute behind-the-scenes documentary and audio commentary with Chris, Neil, and the director, David Barnard. There are two variations on the outside slipcase packaging—one featuring a shot of Chris and the other featuring Neil—although the internal montage-style graphics are the same for all copies.

Pandemonium (2010) - approx 127 min - DVD (with CD)

We have 21st-century technology to thank for the fact that a concert video can be scheduled for mass release less than two months after the show that it documents. The DVD of the Pet Shop Boys' Pandemonium Tour performance, filmed at London's O2 Arena on December 21, 2009—the next-to-last date of the tour—was released in mid-February 2010 in the U.K. and various other nations, with the U.S. release following in late March. Accompanied by a live audio recording on CD (with only 17 of the songs, mixed differently than on the DVD, which has its own entry on this website), it precisely matches the actual setlist that evening when you count two of the "extras": the performances of "My Girl" and "It Doesn't Often Snow at Christmas," which were part of the encore. It also includes audio commentary by Chris, Neil, and set designer Es Devlin as well as several other bonuses, including the music videos for the singles from Yes.

… plus—

UltimateUltimate (2010) - approx 184 min - DVD (with CD)

For the holiday 2010 shopping season (and reportedly to meet contractual obligations), the Pet Shop Boys released on November 1 a single-CD hits collection titled Ultimate Pet Shop Boys, which has a separate entry on this website. But its "special edition" features a bonus DVD with various live U.K. television performances (mostly from Top of the Pops) spanning the Boys' entire career: 27 hit singles plus their entire Glastonbury 2010 show. Fans had long been clamoring for such a set, making the 2010 holidays extra-special for faithful Petheads.

The track list is as follows: