The early tracks that the Pet Shop Boys recorded with Ray Roberts and Bobby 'O'
The Pet Shop Boys wrote and recorded a number of their early songs before they hit it big with the 1985 releases of "West End Girls" and the album Please, both produced by Stephen Hague. Most of these early "pre-fame" recordings have seen the light of day either officially or—more often than not—unofficially. But there's a good deal of confusion about the precise origins of many of these early recordings made with Ray Roberts and/or with Bobby 'O' Orlando. This page represents my attempt to clarify matters.
Some of the earliest PSB recordings of all have been mistakenly identified as "Bobby 'O' demos." For instance, the unreleased tracks "Bubadubadubadum," "In the Club or in the Queue," and "Oh, Dear" are often cited as Bobby 'O' demos, as has an early demo version of "Jealousy." But these were demoed circa 1982-83 in a small London studio belonging to Ray Roberts before they ever met and worked with Orlando. In fact, it was these earliest demos that Neil shared with Bobby 'O' as part of his successful effort to persuade him to work with them.
A short while afterward, in late 1983 and early 1984, Chris and Neil recorded thirteen of their early songs in New York City with their first "true" producer, Bobby Orlando, better known in the music world as Bobby 'O'. A songwriter and recording artist in his own right, Bobby 'O' was the man primarily responsible for (among many other things) the 1982 cult dance classic "Passion" by The Flirts, which proved a major influence on the early style of the Pet Shop Boys. The story of how Neil and Chris ended up working with him is too well known for me to repeat it here; besides, I've already related it elsewhere on this website.
Only four of the Boys' Bobby 'O' recordings were ever officially released, although demos of all the others have emerged "unofficially" on bootlegs and unauthorized downloads. Most of these songs were subsequently re-recorded with other producers and released in newer versions on the albums Please and Actually and/or subequent singles, although it wasn't until as late as Very that one of them finally saw the official light of day. The sole exception—apparently the lone song that's definitely and utterly unique to the Bobby 'O' sessions—is the eponymous "Pet Shop Boys," released as a b-side to the Bobby 'O' single versions of "West End Girls" and "One More Chance."
The following table attempts to encapsulate the history of these early PSB songs, listed in alphabetical order:
|Song||Ray Roberts demo||Bobby 'O' recording||Early version officially released?||Subsequent alternate version first official release|
|Bubadubadubadum (aka All My Wasted Time)||Yes||--||No||Never - officially unreleased|
|I Get Excited (You Get Excited Too)||--||Yes||No||1988 single b-side produced by PSB|
|I Want a Lover||Yes||Yes||No||Please version produced by Stephen Hauge, Blue Weaver, and PSB|
|If Looks Could Kill||Yes||--||No||Disco 3 version produced by PSB|
|I'm Not Scared¹||Yes||--||No||Introspective version produced by David Jacob and PSB|
|In the Club or in the Queue||Yes||--||No||Never - officially unreleased|
|It's a Sin||Yes||Yes||No||Actually version produced by Julian Mendelsohn|
|Jealousy||Yes||--||No||Behaviour version produced by Harold Faltermeyer and PSB|
|Later Tonight||Yes²||Yes||No||Please version produced by Stephen Hague|
|Love Comes Quickly||Yes||--||No||Please version produced by Stephen Hauge|
|A Man Could Get Arrested||--||Yes||Yes||1985 single b-side produced by Bobby 'O' and PSB³|
|Oh, Dear (aka Walking Down the High Street)||Yes||--||No||Never - officially unreleased|
|One More Chance||--||Yes||Yes||Actually version produced by Julian Mendelsohn|
|Opportunities (Let's Make Lots of Money)||Yes||Yes||No||1985 single and Please versions produced by Stephen Hague, J.J. Jeczalik, and Nicholas Froome|
|Pet Shop Boys||--||Yes||Yes||No subsequent versions/releases|
|A Powerful Friend||Yes||--||No||2010 limited-edition vinyl single produced by PSB|
|Rent||Yes||Yes||No||Actually version produced by Julian Mendelsohn|
|That's My Impression||Yes||Yes||Yes4||1986 single b-side produced by PSB|
|To Face the Truth||Yes||--||No||Behaviour version produced by Harold Faltermeyer and PSB|
|To Speak Is a Sin||--||Yes||No||Very version produced by PSB and Stephen Hague|
|Two Divided by Zero||--||Yes||No||Please version produced by Stephen Hague|
|West End Girls||--||Yes||Yes||single and Please versions produced by Stephen Hague|
It's interesting to note that the number and total length of the recordings made with Bobby 'O' strongly suggest the complete tracklist of a full-length album. Sure enough, Neil and Chris had originally planned on recording their first album with Bobby 'O', only they were talked out of it by their newly hired manager, Tom Watkins, and their subsequent contract with EMI inspired them to re-record everything anew. But how might history have been different—very different indeed—if the first Pet Shop Boys album had indeed been produced and released by Bobby 'O'?
1A song that evolved into "I'm Not Scared" was written and demoed in Ray Roberts's studio, although it apparently wasn't titled "I'm Not Scared" at that time and subsequently underwent substantial changes before its official release. The precise history of this recording seems a bit murky.
2The Boys have expressed some uncertainty as to whether they recorded "Later Tonight" at Ray Roberts's studio before later recording it with Bobby 'O'.
3It's unclear as to whether the officially released b-side version of "A Man Could Get Arrested" is the exact same recording as the one they had recorded with Bobby 'O' in 1984 or whether it was re-recorded.
4The Bobby 'O' demo version of "That's My Impression" has seen the "official" light of day only as a limited-edition promo release.
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