My 5 favorite PSB single sleeves

Rent 1. "Rent"
     Photographer - Eric Watson; Design - Mark Farrow and Pet Shop Boys
Dramatically backlit in the nighttime darkness of a railway station, casting long, deep shadows in our direction, Neil and Chris stand glaring at us in striking black and white, looking more than a little like rough trade. It's perhaps the single most sexually charged photo ever taken of them, especially with regard to Chris's aggressive, spread-legged stance, partially obscuring Neil. Is it any wonder that, all things considered—including, of course, the lyrics—more than a few people assumed the song was about male prostitution?
It's a Sin 2. "It's a Sin"
     Photographer - Eric Watson; Design - Mark Farrow and Pet Shop Boys
Like a still from a somewhat arty film set on the wrong side of the tracks, it essentially invites you to devise a plot to explain the situation depicted there. From what I've read, that's precisely the effect they and photographer Eric Watson were going for.
Where the Streets Have No Name (I Can't Take My Eyes Off You) 3. "Where the Streets Have No Name (I Can't Take My Eyes Off You)"
     Photographer - Lawrence Watson; Design - Mark Farrow and Pet Shop Boys
A "discovered" shot—not posed but taken spontaneously by photographer Lawrence Watson at Tokyo's Narita Airport during the MCMLXXXIX Tour—it captures Neil looking for all the world (and quite by accident) like an absolute snob, fairly dripping with millionaire pop-star snootiness. It's the sort of photo that most other pop stars would have done everything they could to suppress. Not our Boys. They graced the sleeve of a single with it, thereby ensuring it far greater exposure than it might otherwise ever have achieved. An utterly admirable form of chutzpah, that.
Love Comes Quickly 4. "Love Comes Quickly"
     Photographer - Eric Watson; Design - Mark Farrow and Chris Lowe
Zoom in on Chris, his eyes mysteriously cast into deep, obscuring shadow by the brim of his "BOY" cap, unshaven, t-shirt, leather jacket, vaguely menacing. Love comes quickly, does it? It ranks right up there with the cover of Actually and the much later "Can You Forgive Her?" cone-caps as being among the most iconic PSB images ever.
Memory of the Future 5. "Memory of the Future"
     Photographer - Pelle Crepin; Design - Mark Farrow and Pet Shop Boys
My #5 slot boiled down to a toss-up between this and the sleeve of "DJ Culture." So what gave this one the final edge? Let's just say it makes me miss so very, very much a music video that was never made of Chris and Neil in the guises they adopted for this photo shoot. Ironically, I find myself longing not for the future but for a time past when undoubtedly such a video would have been made. Oh, yeah, it's kinda creepy, too—creepy in a good way—suggesting a sterile, clonish, virtually colorless dystopian future that no red-blooded human being would actually wish to inhabit.

Interestingly, this is the only one of of my favorites (including what would be #6, the aforementioned "DJ Culture" sleeve) that doesn't make strong use of chiaroscuro, the pronounced contast of light and dark in a composition. I suppose that says something about my own tastes in the graphic arts.

Memory of the Future

Honorable Mention - The limited-edition 12-inch promo singles of "Before" and "The Truck-Driver and His Mate"

Not that I'm terribly fond of these sleeves per se—although the copy of the one of them that I happen to own is among my most prized PSB collectibles—but I can't help but respect the almost unthinkable audacity it took actually to release these things. The nerve of it is nothing short of astounding. So they're not so much "favorites" as sheer marvels.