PSB songs that have been used in films and "non-musical" TV shows
This list doesn't include:
- films or shows primarily concerning the Pet Shop Boys themselves, such as It Couldn't Happen Here, Pet Shop Boys: A Life in Pop, or the episode of The South Bank Show focusing on them;
- live performances by the Boys appearing as guests, even on shows that aren't primarily known for music;
- renditions in variety shows or music-related documentaries (both of which I would consider "musical" TV programs);
- occurrences as "bumper music" (such as when a news show uses a brief segment of a song as a lead-in to or lead-out from a commercial break) or as easily overlooked "ambiance" or "background noise" (such as the song playing faintly on the radio during a scene); and (of course)
- the Boys' own score for Battleship Potemkin.
Not just one but several occurrences, which isn't surprising considering it's the Boys' biggest hit:
- Its first appearance was very early ona Christmas Day 1985 episode of the British comedy Only Fools and Horses titled "To Hull and Back." Denzil is playing the song on his boom box while walking to work.
- Another early use (April 1, 1986) was in "Sleep Talkin' Guy," a second-season episode of the lighthearted U.S. "romantic action show" Moonlighting.
- Years later, it appeared in the November 18, 2002 episode of tlc, a short-lived U.K. "hospital comedy."
- It played in an episode of The Simpsons ("Three Gays of the Condo") that originally broadcast on April 3, 2003. It's featured during a sequence in which Homertemporarily living with a gay couple in the aftermath of a spat with Margetries on some new clothes while on a shopping spree with his new friends. (At least they had the good sense not to use "Shopping.")
- It barely counts considering its extreme brevity, but a fragmentary segment of "West End Girls" can be heard in the April 23, 2006, episode (titled "Roger 'n Me") of another U.S. animated comedy, American Dad. A one-second snippet can be heard during a phone message instructing a character to to go to the "West End" of a shopping mall.
- The Brazilian telenovela (i.e., soap opera) Selva de Pedra (Forest of Rock) also aired "West End Girls" in 1986.
- "The Creeper," a 12th-series episode of the U.K. mystery Midsomer Murders (which, interestingly, appears actually to have had its first airing outside the U.K. on September 27, 2009), includes "West End Girls" in several scenes set during a party that proves central to the plot.
- In Victoria Wood: Seen on TV, a BBC2 retrospective about the career of the British comedian (or, as they used to say, comedienne) that first aired on December 21, 2009, "West End Girls" can be heard during a sequence focusing on her following in gay clubs.
- The sketch-comedy show Goodness Gracious Me, which ran on BBC from 1998 to 2001 (and before that on radio 1996-1998), had a recurring bit with the "Minx Twins"—a couple of Asian-British teenage girls who hang around "inappropriate" places (such as gay bars and outside men's toilets), complaining about unwanted male attention and making assorted rude comments. "West End Girls" very often served as the background music for these skits.
- It's worth noting that the original "rough cut" of the 2001 thriller/fantasy cult hit Donnie Darko, which played at the film's world premiere at that year's Sundance Film Festival, included "West End Girls" during a dance sequence. But, apparently because the parties involved couldn't come to the necessary legal and financial agreements, the PSB song was excised from the general-release version of the movie and Duran Duran's "Notorious" was substituted in its place. Pity.
- The November 2, 2010 episode of the BBC2 sitcom Whites features one of the cast members—Amit Shah, I believe, although I could be mistaken—performing a cover version of "West End Girls."
- If you really stretch it, you might say that another "cover" of WEG was used on the July 26, 2007 episode of the U.K. E4 network's Fonejacker comedy series. It was in a sketch in which Kayvan Novak's recurring character of Mr. Doovdé phones a record shop clerk asking him to identify a song he's looking for, only he doesn't know the title. So he sings bits of "West End Girls," but uses ridiculous nonsense lyrics, which ends up cracking up the clerk—who, incidentally, fails to recognize the song.
- It could be heard playing in the January 1, 1992 episode of the long-running British soap opera Coronation Street in a scene set at a New Year's Eve party, and again in the May 22 episode that same year in a dance-club setting.
- I should also note that the popular Canadian teen TV show Degrassi: The Next Generation, which titles every episode after a pop song, dubbed its January 31, 2005 episode "West End Girls"—although the song itself was nowhere to be heard.
- On November 24, 2012, the third episode of the U.S. cable network's comedy/drama (aka "dramedy") Wedding Band features two of the titular band members, Barry and Stevie (portrayed by Derek Miller and Harold Perrineau, respectively), performing an "impromptu" rendition (only the first verse and chorus) of "West End Girls" on glockenspiel (or something like it) and cello, with the two of them trading off on vocal (Barry raps the verse, Stevie sings the chorus).
- The Argentine TV comedy Graduados (Graduates)—which centers on a group of friends who went to high school together back in the 1980s and makes frequent use of flashbacks to that decade—has employed a number of PSB songs. "West End Girls," for instance, could be heard on the May 16, 2012 episode.
- In the September 28, 1986 episode (titled "Video Nasty") of the British sitcom Only Fools and Horses, WEG plays in the background during the opening scene, which is set in a pub.
- The 2013 film Diana, which deals with the final years of the life of the late Princes of Wales, includes a scene in which a distraught Diana tries to console herself by heading out to a dance club (complete with glitterball), where she ends up dancing to "West End Girls."
2. In the Night
The version of this track that appears on the Disco album served as the original theme music for the long-running British fashion program The Clothes Show (1986-2000). As the show moved into the mid-1990s, its producers asked Chris and Neil if they could remix it to make it sound "more contemporary." Instead of a remix, the Boys re-recorded an entirely new version in 1995, which then served as the theme music for the remainder of the show's run. This new version also served as one of the bonus tracks for the single "Before." In November 1988, the sixth episode of the first series of the U.K. comedy show Alexei Sayle's Stuff featured a parody of The Clothes Show, during which (naturally enough) they used the original version of "In the Night." In addition, a brief bit of the song could be heard in the March 24, 2011 episode of the BBC 2 Scotland sketch comedy Limmy's Show starring Brian Limond. It's in a rather engimatic little skit in which Limmy and his girlfriend are eating at a restaurant. The waiter comes by, lifts and holds up the spoons they've used to eat chocolate pudding, and (wordlessly but somewhat flirtatiously) seems to suggest there's something naughty about it. They all start laughing. Limmy suddenly jumps up and starts disco-dancing with the waiter (to the strains of "In the Night") while his girlfriend and others joyfully clap along. Then, just as suddenly, Limmy stops dancing and sits down, and the music stops. Cryptic, to say the least. And an instrumental portion of "In the Night" was used during the second episode of the BBC Four architectural documentary The Brits Who Built the Modern World, which first aired on February 20, 2014.
The popular U.K. television game show The Krypton Factor ran for almost two decades, from 1977 to 1995 (and reruns are still airing even now), challenging teams of contestants to compete in assorted challenges that tested their mental and physical abilities. The music that regularly played in the 1988 episodes during the scoring at the end of one of the rounds was the Pet Shop Boys' "Left To My Own Devices." That same year, Coronation Street played it during a household scene on its December 7 episode. More than two decades later, it could be heard about three-quarters of the way through the BBC3 documentary The Truth About Tanning, an exposé of the dangers of tanning beds hosted by Girls Aloud member Nicola Roberts, which first aired on February 4, 2010. (I don't have any information yet about the context in which the song was used, however. It's worth noting, of course, that Nicola's group Girls Aloud had recorded the PSB co-authored track "The Loving Kind" back in 2008.) Meanwhile, the Argentine TV comedy Graduados (Graduates) used "Left to My Own Devices" on its April 9, 2012 episode. And the first episode of the four-part BBC television show Your Money, Their Tricks, airing on July 3, 2013, used the song during a segment on how much it costs to buy popcorn at U.K. cinemas these days.
4. So Hard
Neil once referred to the fact that this song was used in an episode of the popular nineties U.S. nighttime soap Beverly Hills, 90210. It played during a party scene in the first-season episode titled "BYOB," which originally aired on January 10, 1991.
Portions of this song, relatively new at the time, were heard during the third season (set in San Francisco) of MTV's pioneering reality show The Real Worldmore specifically in the episode titled "You Gotta Have Art," which first aired on July 21, 1994. And, very interestingly, it wasn't the familiar single/album mix of the song that could be heard on the cafe jukebox on the October 25, 1995 episode of the U.K. soap opera Coronation Street but rather the MK Remix.
Surpassing "West End Girls" in frequency of usealmost certainly on account of its salient topicalitythis song boasts the following occurrences:
- The 1987 U.S. two-part NBC TV movie Billionaire Boys Club includes "Opportunities," but it's not the Pet Shop Boys' original. Rather, it's a cover version—but by whom? Incredibly, the film's closing credits don't say. The music and instrumentation are pretty good facsimiles of the original, but the singer is unmistakably not Neil. It plays during a montage sequence that, interestingly, focuses not so much on making money as on spending it. Of course, for most people the point of one is the other.
- It's featured in a scene set in (wouldn't you know it?) a gay dance club in an episode of the U.S. sitcom Living Single titled "Swing Out Sisters," which first aired on March 20, 1997. (To be fair, the producers probably chose that song not merely for the "gay connection" but also to serve as sly commentary on the surprise revelation of a heterosexual male character working at the club as a bartender, which he explains by the unusually large tips he gets there.)
- It appears in the American TV drama Joan of Arcadia; in the episode titled "Wealth of Nations," which was originally broadcast on October 29, 2004, Joan and a friend were selling clothes to raise money while "Opportunities" played in the background.
- In a particularly high-profile usage, "Opportunities" serves as the opening theme music of the U.S. "reality show" Beauty and the Geek, which premiered on June 1, 2005. (It has also served the same function for the Dutch versionas it almost certainly will for any other version that should appear.) The line "I've got the brains, you've got the looks" proved irresistible for this program, in which stereotypically brainy/nerdy guys are teamed with stereotypically attractive/dumb gals in a competition to see which pair can learn and benefit the most from each other and thereby win a big cash prize. "Let's make lots of money"a perfect match!
- It appears as background music to a montage depicting "yuppies" on cell phones in the fourth episode (titled "Revolution!") of the BBC 2 documentary Andrew Marr's History of Modern Britain (focusing on the years 1979-1990), which first aired on June 12, 2007.
- Maybe it's a stretch, but on the September 14, 2007 edition of the HBO show Real Time with Bill Maher, there was a discussion of Bill and Hillary Clinton's marriage, during which guest Drew Carey briefly sang the chorus ("I've got the brains, you've got the looks ").
- Getting back to the Boys' own version, "Opportunities" also plays in the November 18, 2007 episode of The Simpsons, titled "Husbands and Knives," during a montage of Marge appearing on magazine covers in the wake of her success with her own women's fitness center.
- The February 8, 2008 episode of the U.S. crime drama Psych includes a portion of the song during a segment in which several characters are walking through an alley toward their waiting limousine.
- The February 20, 2008 edition of the U.S. morning news institution Today (I say "institution" because it was the first U.S. nationally broadcast news show and has been a fixture on NBC for more than fifty years now) played this song during a story about celebrity baby pictures being sold to magazine.
- On March 9, 2008, BBC Four first aired a documentary titled The Rise and Fall of the Ad Man, which covered the British advertising industry during the 1970s and '80s. "Opportunities" could be heard during a sequence focusing on the firm of Saatchi & Saatchi, which spent much of the early eighties expanding rapidly by buying out competitors.
- The June 15, 2009 episode of the BBC2 show The Supersizers Eat… (in which the hosts, a restaurant critic and a comedian, discuss and sample the cuisines of different historical periods) deals with "food of the 1980s." A segment that focuses on eating on the floor of the stock exchange (I kid you not!) is accompanied by—what else?—"Opportunities." Is this a case of someone using an ironic song, which they may not actually realize is ironic, in what they regard as an ironic manner because they believe the irony stems from them rather than from the songwriters? That, of course, would be ironic.
- During the second part of the BBC3 comic documentary The Noughties… Was That It?, which first aired on November 11, 2009, "Opportunities" was used during a segment about the ascendancy of "celebrity chefs."
- The January 25, 2010 episode of the five-part BBC2 series Delia Through the Decades—a career retrospective of popular U.K. cooking show host Delia Smith—focuses on the 1980s. Not surprisingly a PSB tune pops up, and just as unsurprisingly it's "Opportunities." By this point there's can be no doubt that this song has taken on near-totemic significance as a sort of "objective correlative"—or symbolic shorthand, if you will—for the decade of Maggie Thatcher and Ronnie Reagan.
- It was also used by BBC London News early the week of August 15, 2011 (sorry, but I can't be any more specific than that) to accompany a story about a bargain-price bakery chain where every item of food costs no more than £1.
- Episode 43, first airing on October 15, 2010, of the British show Homes Under the Hammer briefly used "Opportunities" during a segment in which one of the hosts discusses how the home then under consideration might be expanded and developed to increase its value on the market, bemoaning the fact that it isn't meeting its full financial potential. (Actually, as it turns out, this show has apparently re-used "Opportunities" on a number of subsequent occasions; I won't bother listing these other instances.)
- It could also be heard in an episode of the 1990s U.S. series Clueless (based on the hit movie of the same name). The episode in question, "Cher, Inc." first aired on December 20, 1996, and it focused on the central character Cher starting her own company making and selling "muff purses." Sounds like a natural to me!
- On March 9, 2012, Episode 3 of the BBC2 series Melvyn Bragg on Class and Culture used "Opportunities" as the background to footage from the 1980s of urban businesspeople indeed making lots of money. (The same episode at another point featured a clip of Tony Blair's famed 1997 "Cool Britannia" party at 10 Downing Street, during which Neil could be briefly glimpsed.)
- It was used at length during a segment of the BBC "technology consumer news" show Click on October 21, 2012.
- Considering everything, it's hardly surprising that BBC News would use "Opportunities" as background music during more than one of their April 8, 2013 news reports on the death of former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.
- The May 3, 2013 edition of the BBC One daily newsmagazine The One Show featured a segment on "unusual Christians" (such as a heavy metal fan and a former football hooligan), during which "Opportunities" played while focusing on a worker in the financial sector. (Whether that really is an unusual field of endeavor in this day and age for Christians is another matter altogether. Jesus himself may have felt so but, then again, he did recruit a tax collector as one of his disciples.)
- The documentary Rewind the Tube, which first aired on U.K. Channel 4 on September 20, 2013, dealt with the history of the famed 1980s British music show The Tube. "Opportunities" (featuring a snippet of the song's second video) was used during a segment about the cultural shift toward "yuppiedom" during the Thatcher era. (One might consider this a borderline case of being a "non-musical" rather than "musical" TV show, but in this case I'm erring on the side of inclusivity.)
- Season 2, Episode 2 of the U.S. TV comedy Raising Hope (first airing November 15, 2013) used "Opportunities (Let's Make Lots of Money)" in a mildly punning fashion by playing it during a montage sequence depicting how Burt and Virginia literally make money by printing inflationary amounts of their own barter-currency "Burt Bucks."
Reportedly plays during a bar scenea singles bar, no doubtfocusing on the character Anna in a Series 2 episode of the popular mid-1990s BBC2 TV show This Life, which concerned a group of young solicitors and barristers (aka "lawyers" and "attorneys" in the States) sharing a house in London. I'm not sure of the precise episode or the original air date, but it would have been sometime from March to August 1997.
Plays over the closing credits of the "Fair Enough" episode of the U.S. "teen angst" cartoon Daria. This episode first aired on July 13, 1998.
In what was likely an intentionally ironic act of foreshadowing, this song was playing in the background just before an unforgettable moment in the December 31, 1998 episoode of the popular, long-running U.K. soap opera EastEndersunforgettable because it involved the sudden, unexpected death of one of the show's most popular characters, Tiffany Mitchell (portrayed by Martine McCutcheon), struck and killed by an automobile outside the Queen Vic Pub. (As testament to its status, EastEnders fans voted this the single episode they most wanted to watch again, resulting in its being reshown on the show's 15th anniversary in February 2000.) Also, the October 23, 2008 episode (titled "How I Got My Posh") of the U.K. comedy/drama series Beautiful People includes a scene set in a hair salon in which this song is playing on the radio.
10. Too Many People
Again playing over Daria's closing credits, this time the episode titled "Lane Miserables," which was originally broadcast on July 14, 1999. The producers of Daria must have liked the Pet Shop Boys.
Not the Boys' original version but a cover by Robbie Williams, which plays in an episode of Friends ("The One with the Routine") that originally aired on December 16, 1999. It appears during a dance sequence in which Joey pursues his current love interest, Janine. Robbie's version also appears on the Friends Again soundtrack album as well as on his 1998 album Let Me Entertain You. One of my site visitors distinctly remembers, however, the Pet Shop Boys' own single version being used as background music during a go-kart segment that appeared during the 1994 season of MTV's popular The Real World series, set that year in San Francisco. I haven't yet been able to confirm this independently or find the precise date. Also in 1994, on January 7 and again on January 12, "Normally" played on the ol' cafe jukebox on the U.K. soap Coronation Street.
The chorus alone has guaranteed its use on a number of TV shows, most of which have everything to do with the title but nothing to do with what the song is actually about. For one thing, it has proven extremely popular "bumper music" on home shopping shows. No further comment needed about that. These, however, are a little more interesting, if in most cases all too predictable:
- The earliest use that I'm aware of occurred in 1989 in an episode of the British automotive series Top Gear. Host Jeremy Clarkson is describing a bunch of Japanese "supermini cars." He takes one of them into a Tokyo drive-through shopping mart as "Shopping" plays in the background.
- It appears in an episode of the U.S. show Lizzie McGuire titled "Last Year's Model," first broadcast on September 28, 2001. In deeply clichéd (and misguided) fashion, it plays while Matt iswhat else?shopping.
- Much more intelligently, it's used during a sequence about the selling off of publicly owned companies in the aforementioned fourth episode of the BBC 2 documentary Andrew Marr's History of Modern Britain, which first aired on June 12, 2007.
- It could be heard in the second episode (June 22, 2009) of another documentary series, BBC4's The Secret Life of the Airport. Unfortunately, its usage there swung back to a much more facile, superficial context: duty-free airport shopping. I guess a lot of people either don't listen to the verse lyrics, don't understand them, or simply choose to ignore them.
- The fast-paced U.K. comedy program The Kevin Bishop Show used it (again very superficially) on July 30, 2009 in a sketch focusing on a rather flamboyant American sales clerk who gushes to a British couple about England and the royal family, getting his "facts" badly confused in the process.
- The first part of the BBC3 comic documentary The Noughties… Was That It?, which originally aired on November 4, 2009, played "Shopping" during a segment about Internet shopping.
- The April 11, 2010 episode of NBC TV's The Today Show had a segment on "Extreme Couponing" that featured "Shopping" during (yawn) a shopping trip.
- The January 5, 2012 episode of the BBC2 show Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is, in which people buy antiques and collectibles at auction in an effort to earn profit for their selected charities, reportedly also played "Shopping," although I have no information at this time about the specific context.
- Series 1 Episode 12 of Gadget Geeks, which first aired on April 2, 2012 on the U.K. subscription channel Sky 1, features a segment reviewing assorted e-book readers (such as Kindle), during which they played a brief segment of "Shopping."
- The March 2, 2013 episode of the BBC Breakfast news show used the song at length during a segment set in a shopping center (hence…) where shoppers were being treated to free squash lessons. (The sport, not the vegetable!)
- The long-running Australian TV travel show Getaway reportedly used "Shopping" in an episode involving you-know-what in London. (Unfortunately, I've so far been unable to track down the original air date of this episode.)
- It could be heard on the June 13, 2013 episode of the popular BBC show Homes Under the Hammer.
- Another BBC show, Bargain Hunt, used it in the background at one point during its July 30, 2013 episode.
13. Break 4 Love
This PSB/Peter Rauhofer collaboration plays a prominent role in the tense, overlapping closing scenes (continuing into the closing credits) of Episode 209 of the U.S. version of Queer As Folk, which first aired on March 10, 2002.
14. Music for Boys
Considering the relative obscurity of the song, this is one of the more surprising PSB tracks to be used on a TV show. It can be heard in "The Beast of Royston Vasey," the fourth episode (first airing on February 1, 1999) of the BBC comedy series The League of Gentlemen, in which it serves as background music during a segment about a school theatre production on the subject of homosexuality.
This song was used during the fourth episode (originally airing October 8, 1995) of the relatively short-lived U.S. TV drama Central Park West.
The Pet Shop Boys' hit version of this song can be heard in these TV shows and films:
- The January 11, 1988 episode of the British soap Coronation Street includes this track emanating from a television set being watched by one of the characters.
- During the opening scenes of the third-season premier episode (titled "Family") of the U.S. crime drama Cold Case, originally broadcast on September 25, 2005.
- On April 28, 2007 in a BBC special titled The Return of 'Allo 'Allo featuring the original cast of that popular 1980s sitcom. A montage of clips focusing on Lt. Gruberthe recurring gay character (wouldn't you know?) played by Guy Sinerwas accompanied by this track.
- In a scene set at a gay costume party benefit in the 2007 Adam Sandler comedy I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry.
- In a complete 180° twist, as the regular theme music of the Italian agricultural news show Agrisette.
- In the closing scene of the 2009 Spanish film El cónsul de Sodoma (The Consul of Sodom), a biography of the poet Jaime Gil de Biedma (1929-1990). The scene depicts the elderly poet watching a naked young man dance to the song.
- The August 22, 2011 episode of the UK soap EastEnders featured it playing in the background during a scene in which a pair of female characters pose as a couple in order to attend an '80s-themed lesbian/gay convention. (Now that's something this writer wouldn't mind attending himself! )
- I've learned that "Always on My Mind" has been used at some point in 2012 on the Argentine TV show Graduados, but I haven't yet determined precisely which episode.
- Episode 5 ("Truly, Bradley, Deeply"), Series 2 of the BBC show The Peter Principle, which first aired on February 28, 2000, played the PSB version of the song over its closing credits. (A different rendition by another artist—similar to the Elvis Presley version but not by him—occurs during a dream sequence of the same episode.)
- First airing on May 28, 2005, the second-season "Witches" episode of the British crime drama Murder in Suburbia featured a scene in which a school choir is singing this PSB classic.
- The old Pet Shop Boys Club newsletter (the rather primitive predecessor to Literally) stated in its February 1987 edition that "Suburbia" had also been used on at least three different occasions on the popular, long-running U.K. soap opera EastEnders.
- More recently, it was used in the BBC4 show Electric Dreams, the premise of which involves taking a "typical" suburban British family through a 30-day/30-year journey (1970-1999), in which each day represents a year and each episode represents a decade. Each day the family members can use only the technology that was available in the corresponding year. "Suburbia" played in second episode—which debuted on October 6, 2009, and which, aptly enough, focused on the 1980s—during a sequence in which the father used a Sinclair C5 to run errands around town. (The Sinclair C5 was an electric car—actually more like big electric tricycle—that appeared in 1985 and proved an unmitigated commercial disaster. The company apparently lost a bundle of money on it. Considering the C5's top speed of 15 mph and the serious safety concerns it raised, it's hardly surprising that few people actually wanted to own one.)
- Appropriately enough (considering the sound effects), "The Full Horror" mix of "Suburbia" was used to build up to the announcement of the winner on the December 26, 2012 airing of the U.K. ITV special That Dog Can Dance, in which guests and their dogs performed routines for a panel of judges.
- The July 4, 2013 edition of BBC One's Homes Under the Hammer made use of "Suburbia" as well.
On January 2, 2007, BBC2 broadcast This Life + 10, a one-off sequel to This Life (described above in this list's entry for "Single"). This song plays in the background during a scene in which the gay character, Warren, is having a lengthy conversationwhich soon turns into a political argumentwith several of his heterosexual friends.
19. One More Chance
The instrumental introduction of this song—looped, I believe, in order to extend its length without running into the vocal—is briefly used in a March 18, 1988 episode of the long-running BBC documentary series Arena that focuses on the work of the American photographer Robert Mapplethorpe. (The particular scene in which it's heard deals with the New York gay bar scene of the late 1970s, which introduces a segment about some of Mapplethorpe's most controversial photos, often involving blatantly sado-masochistic and/or fetishistic subject matter.) A little less than a year later, "One More Chance" also served as background music during an illusion performed by the famous magician David Copperfield in his March 3, 1989 U.S. (CBS) television special The Magic of David Copperfield XI: The Explosive Encounter. And a 2003 U.K. Channel 4 TV documentary titled The 100 Greatest Movie Stars put "One More Chance" to work as background music during its segment on their pick for #62, Robert Downey, Jr. (The rankings were based on the results of a poll of British viewers.) Considering the ups and downs of that particular actor's career, it's an understandable choice.
Used several times in the fourth episode (titled "Revolution!" and originally broadcast June 12, 2007) of the BBC 2 documentary Andrew Marr's History of Modern Britain, most notably during a sequence concerning Margaret Thatcher's fall from power largely as a result of the poll tax controversy. (The site visitor who was kind enough to tell me about this documentary cites the intense irony of the use of this songthe opening track from the PSB score to a film classic associated with Russia's communist revolutionin an program that deals largely with the victory of capitalism over trade unions in Thatcherite Britain.) In addition, "Comrades!" could also be heard in the February 13, 2011 episode of the BBC1 series Countryfile in a segment about foot and mouth disease and its effect on British cattle farmers. (Obviously the ominous mood of this track comes in handy for such things. ) Another BBC1 series, Country Tracks, also used "Comrades!" on October 23, 2011, apparently in a bit about Britain's Sandhurst Military Academy.
21. It's a Sin
Quite a few, not surprisingly for such a hugely popular song—though what is surprising is the large gaps between its earlier uses:
- The August 31, 1987 episode of the perennial British soap opera Coronation Street features "It's a Sin" during a scene in which the sound system for an upcoming party is being tested. (The song continues in the background until one of the characters asks another to "switch that row off.")
- It plays during a party scene in the January 17, 1992 episode (titled "Doctoring") of the British sitcom Watching.
- In the 2003 film Party Monster, it reportedly can be heard in the background during a hullucination scene when James (Seth Green) overdoses after Michael (Macaulay Culkin) tells him about killing Angel (Wilson Cruz).
- It's one of two PSB songs appearing in the 2005 Italian film Melissa P.
- The July 4, 2007 episode of the hit show Big Brother (U.K. edition) featured "It's a Sin" being played in its entirety during the housemates' "Sinful Party." The cast seemed to be having a great time dancing to it.
- The March 13, 2008 edition of the BBC1 political news show This Week used "It's a Sin" during a segment about the Vatican having recently announced a list of "modern sins," including such things as damaging the environment, experimenting on humans, and excessive wealth.
- The 2009 film Bronson includes a scene in a mental institution set to "It's a Sin." In the words of the film's protagonist, the "loonies" dance to the song. In light of the fact that the film is based on the true story of Charlie Bronson, notoriously known as "Britain’s most violent prisoner," that particular choice of music seems entirely appropriate. Incidentally, director Nicolas Winding Refn seriously considered asking the Boys to write and record a complete original soundtrack for the film, even going so far as to meet with them to discuss the possibility. But Chris and Neil found themselves much too busy at the time to take on the project. Besides, according to Refn, it turned out he "couldn't afford" the Boys.
- An orchestral cover of "It's a Sin"—possibly the 1987 rendition by the London Symphony Orchestra, although I'm not at all sure about that—was used as background music during a sequence of the September 29, 2009 BBC4 show Charlie Brooker's Gameswipe during which the host is describing (and the screen is depicting) some extremely violent video games.
- A May 10, 2010 special episode of the long-running British soap opera Coronation Street was devoted to the actress Maggie Jones, who portrayed the character of Blanche Hunt on the show from 1974 until just before her death in December 2009. "It's a Sin" played briefly during a sequence that dealt with Blanche's suspicions that her son-in-law Ken might be gay.
- On March 14, 2012, BBC2 aired a special current-affairs documentary titled Rights Gone Wrong? that dealt with conflicts arising out of competing moral perspectives on "human rights" in Britain—that is, instances in which one person's or group's rights apparently conflict with those of another person or group. Whose rights take precedence? Can "human rights" go too far? A very brief segment of "It's a Sin" could be heard roughly 21 minutes into this troubling program, which was presented by Scottish journalist Andrew Neil (who, incidentally, once listed "Being Boring" among his Desert Island Discs).
- The April 30, 2012 episode of the U.K. Channel 5 TV show 10 Things I Hate About… focused on the year 1987, so it's appropriate that they picked "It's a Sin," one of the big hits of that year, to play during a segment about a libel case brought by politician/writer Jeffrey Archer against the Daily Star newspaper after it had published allegations about his supposed financial dealings with a prostitute. It certainly kills two birds with one stone, in a matter of speaking.
- "It's a Sin" could be heard in the first episode (which debuted May 31, 2012) of the three-part Sky Atlantic documentary God Save the Queens, which celebrates popular gay performers in Britain in the years since the ascension of Elizabeth II to the throne, focusing on how they have helped change public attitudes toward homosexuality.
- The September 14, 2013 edition of the Sky1 TV show Now That's History! used this song as background music at one point—a timely choice given that the show focused on news stories of 1987.
22. Being Boring
This is the other Pet Shop Boys song used in the 2005 erotic Italian film drama Melissa P. It was also heard at one point in the Brazilian teledrama Meu Bem Meu Mal (My Good, My Bad) at some point in the early 1990s.
Hurricanes are by no means unheard of in Britain, but they're certainly a rarity. So it's perhaps not surprising that in 1997, when the BBC ran The Great Storma tenth-anniversary documentary on what was technically not a hurricane but a hurricane-like system that struck southern England and northern France on October 15-16, 1987, doing massive damage and claiming at least 19 livesthey included this song at one point as background music.
24. I'm with Stupid
The TV movie Clapham Junction, which first aired on U.K. Channel 4 on July 22, 2007 as one of a series of special programs in its 40 Years Out series (commemorating the fortieth anniversary of the decriminalization of homosexual acts in Britain), includes a disturbing segment that makes use of this song. One of the main characters, portrayed by Paul Nicholls, is picked up by a guy at a London gay club and goes back to his apartment. His host puts on some music and they start talking. The man starts to make a pass at Nicholls's character, who says he that likes the track playing ("I'm with Stupid") and asks him to turn it up. As he does so, Nicholls approaches from behind and strikes him with a glass ashtray. The dazed, bloodied man pleads with Nicholls, asking why he did that, to which Nicholls replies, "'Cause I hate the fucking Pet Shop Boys!" (or words to that effect; I've read differing reports). He then proceeds to beat the guy up, forces the contents of the ashtray down his throat, and urinates on him. Not a pretty scene. Neil and Chris were absolutely livid when they learned that their music had been used in this wayand who can blame them? After they made their intense displeasure clear to the appropriate authorities, both "I'm with Stupid" and the reference to the Pet Shop Boys themselves were deleted from subsequent reruns of the program.
25. Birthday Boy
The August 26, 2007 episode of the ongoing BBC documentary project Child of Our Time, which follows the lives of 25 children from all over the United Kingdom born in the year 2000, included a brief portion of this song.
The same episode of Child of Our Time noted just above for "Birthday Boy" featured this PSB track as well, playing during a segment in which children were asked whether various "cartoon stereotypes" (such as person with green hair, a very slow runner, and so on) should be included or excluded from the group.
27. I Want a Dog
The February 11, 2008 broadcast of the NBC morning news show Today included a bit of the Introspective mix of this song during a report on employers reading their employees' email. (It obviously wasn't chosen for its theme but probably for its sound.) Considering that less than two weeks later the same program used "Opportunities" (see above), it makes you suspect that someone who makes decisions about their on-air music must be a PSB fan. A brief segment of the Introspective version can also be heard during a party scene in the 1995 French film Nelly et Monsieur Arnaud (English: Nelly and Mr. Arnaud).
Part of this song plays near the conclusion of the 1999 Italian film comedy Vacanze Di Natale 2000.
An April 2004 episode (exact date unknown) of the BBC show Football Focus apparently played this song during a concluding montage of "flamboyant" goals being scored. The June 9, 2008 episode of the BBC2 show Mary Queen of Shops—a sort of "fashion store makeover" program starring fashionista Mary Portas—also included "Flamboyant." I haven't seen the show myself, but I imagine it was incredibly appropriate. And the "Michael Mayer Kompakt Remix" of the song was used on the soundtrack of the 2008 ski film Turbo.
The September 7, 1987 showing of the U.K. soap Coronation Street includes this song during a scene set in a dance club. It's also heard in the second episode (February 18, 2005) of the short-lived U.K. Channel 4 sitcom Nathan Barley, though I'm afraid I don't know anything more about the context in which it's used. And the September 14, 2013 edition of the Sky1 TV show Now That's History! (focusing on news stories of 1987) played it in the background at one point.
The Pet Shop Boys' hit rendition of this standard can be heard almost in its entirety in the final episode (titled "How I Got My Globe") of the aforementioned U.K. series Beautiful People, which aired on November 6, 2008. It plays as the two young central characters, Simon and Kylie, are exploring London for the first time.
A brief excerpt from one of the "Felix da Housecat" mixes of this PSB song could be heard in the original version of the documentary-style telefilm about parkour Jump London, which first aired on U.K. television in 2003. The excerpt is so brief, in fact, that if you sneezed a couple times in a row at the wrong moment, you'd probably miss it. So it's perhaps no great loss that it was deleted from the film's DVD release. "London" could also reportedly be heard playing in the background on the radio during a scene in a 2003 episode of the U.K. soap EastEnders.
In 2003, the publisher of the U.K. gay soft-porn magazine Euroboy released a direct-to-video film titled Euroboy Tender Young Lust. Like the parent magazine (so to speak), the film was softcore, but adults-only nevertheless. Quite surprisingly—or not, depending on your perspective—this Pet Shop Boys song was used in the film. The video cover even states "Music by Pet Shop Boys," and the Boys are thanked in the credits.
34. The Noise
Although it can be considered a "song" in only the loosest sense, Chris and Neil created this somewhat experimental instrumental piece in 1996 for a short-lived Saturday morning U.K. television music magazine with the same title.
35. Domino Dancing
It could be heard playing on a café jukebox in both the October 19 and 31, 1988 episodes of the U.K. soap Coronation Street. It was also used in the Brazilian teledrama O Salvador da Pátria (Saviour of the Native Land?) during its run in 1989. But then it seemed to "vanish" until it was finally used once again—and again in Brazil—in the November 18, 2011 episode of that country's gay-themed TV comedy series Macho Man, when it served as background music for a scene set in a hairdressing salon.
36. Love etc.
This song quickly proved itself extremely popular for use in TV shows. Examples so far include:
- The British soap opera EastEnders has long used PSB as incidental background music, often playing on a jukebox. (Several examples are listed above.) The tradition continued when "Love etc." could be heard on the June 9, 2009 episode and again on September 28, 2009. (It was the opening scene of the latter episode, which featured two gay characters. As one of my site visitors has observed, it "seems that in a scene with two gay characters there has to be a song featuring a gay singer.")
- "Love etc." has also played on more than one occasion (June 15 and 16, 2009, at least—perhaps others as well) on the popular German soap Verbotene Liebe ("Forbidden Love").
- It was used in the British TV special When Diets Go Wrong, an at times disturbing look at the horrible personal disasters that can occasionally occur as a result of attempts to lose weight, which originally aired on BBC3 on June 11, 2009. I don't yet know, however, the context in which it was used.
- The "Beautiful Dub" mix of the song served as sporadic background music for the September 26, 2009 ITV1 special When Piers Met Sir Cliff, in which host Piers Morgan interviews Cliff Richard at the latter's palatial mansion in Barbados. (Considering the song's subject matter, could there be some subtle commentary there?)
- The February 16, 2010 episode of the controversial British "dramedy" Shameless played the song during a party scene set in the local pub.
- The second episode of the three-part BBC2 documentary series History of Now: The Story of the Noughties, titled "All Together Now?" first aired on January 7, 2010 and included both the album/single version of "Love etc." (played over the end credits) and its "Beautiful Dub."
- The July 18, 2011 episode of the U.S. NBC morning program The Today Show employed "Love etc." as the music accompanying a segment titled "Obsessed in America: Why Are We Fascinated with Breasts?" No joke.
- The October 23, 2011 episode of the BBC1 show Countryfile also used "Love etc." during a segment encouraging viewers to submit pictures for the 2012 Countryfile calendar.
Episode 36 of the popular Colombian show Yo soy Betty, la fea ("I'm Betty, the Ugly One"), a telenovela that ran from 1999 to 2001—and which was subsequently spun off into more than a dozen versions in other languages, such as the U.S. hit Ugly Betty—featured a flamboyantly gay character singing a very brief excerpt (the title line) of this PSB hit. Not being fluent in Spanish, however, I'm not quite sure of the context.
Famously used as the background music for a montage run on a BBC Match of the Day broadcast in early July 2006 dealing with England's elimination from the World Cup competition (soccer to my fellow Americans, but football to much of the rest of the world). Although "Numb" was already under consideration by the Boys and their record company as a potential single, this montage proved so popular that it may well have provided the final nudge, resulting in it becoming the third single from Fundamental.
Served as background music during a "montage-ish" sequence on an early June 2009 episode of the Brazilian "reality show" A Fazenda ("The Farm"). The instrumental mix was also one of several PSB tracks that were used in Autumn 2011 episodes of the U.K. television show Countryfile as background music to display photo submissions for its 2012 calendar competition. And that same instrumental could be heard at one point in the background of the February 24, 2012 episode of the British children's show Incredible Edibles, a program that's apparently devoted to demonstrating to kids just how unusual, bizarre, and/or outright disgusting items that pass for food can be. Of course, that's all a matter of taste, isn't it?
In January 2001, the third episode of the fifth series of the U.K. political comedy show The Mark Thomas Comedy Product played "Rent" over the closing credits. Appropriately enough, the episode—titled "Michael Meacher" after the then-current Minister of State for the Environment—took said politician to task for alleged hypocrisy for his socialist critique of owners of multiple properties when he was himself apparently a very much landlord. "Rent" is also used in the 2009 Romanian film Cea mai fericita fata din lume ("The Happiest Girl in the World"), in which it can be heard in a scene near the beginning playing on a car radio. And "Rent" found its way into the May 14, 2012 episode of the Argentine TV comedy Graduados.
Used in the second episode (titled "Zellers letzter Auftrag," meaning "Zeller's Last Order") of the eighth season of the popular German police drama Siska, which originally aired on March 4, 2005. It's playing in the background on a radio or stereo in a scene in which the title character, Siska, and another police officer visit a computer shop to interrogate a worker there suspected of murder.
42. King of Rome
A telenovela from Brazil, Viver a Vida ("To Live the Life"), makes recurring use of this PSB track as something akin to the "romantic theme music" of one of the couples who are at the heart of the story. One (but not the only) example occurs in Part 4, which first aired on September 23, 2009. I can't help but wonder whether the song's own theme and mood suggests a possible tragic outcome to their story.
The "Liberation" music video—specially recreated to emphasize its three-dimensional quality—was featured in the 2000 film CyberWorld, a compilation of 3D animation that also includes the famous 1995 "Homer³" segment from The Simpsons, an excerpt from the movie Antz, and various other examples of three-dimensional animated rendering on the computer. By virtue of that same video, a short excerpt of "Liberation" was also used in the TV special The Greatest Ever 3D Moments, which first aired on U.K. Channel 4 on November 21, 2009, and during which the onscreen commentators talked about it briefly.
44. Beautiful People
This song was used in the December 23, 2009 episode of the BBC1 "school drama" Waterloo Road. It played in the background during a scene set in a hallway involving two separate conversations between pairs of teachers. There didn't seem to be any "thematic connection," so to speak, unless it was simply to suggest that these particular teachers are "beautiful." (Or is that they, like the narrator of the song, merely want to be "beautiful"?) Then again, I've always regarded teaching as quite a lovely profession—though as a former teacher I may be a bit biased. Also, the instrumental mix was also one of various PSB tracks used in Autumn 2011 episodes of the U.K. TV show Countryfile as background music while showing photo submissions for its 2012 calendar competition.
Maybe it doesn't really count, but a modified version of the Pet Shop Boys' "Absolutely Fabulous" video was featured in an "Ab Fab" TV special titled Absolutely Fabulous Moments, which was originally broadcast on July 24, 1994. (I'm not sure on which network it first ran, although I believe it has been shown on both BBC America and Comedy Central.) If, however, you don't wish to count that, then several other more recent television occurrences surely do qualify. In the U.K. Channel 4 documentary Growing Up Gay, first broadcast in 2002, it could be heard briefly playing in "real life" during an interview segment a little more than three minutes into the program. Also, both the February 22, 2009 episode of the U.K. cooking competition show Celebrity Come Dine with Me and the premier episode of the seventh series/season of the U.K. edition of Celebrity Big Brother, which aired on January 3, 2010, used "Absolutely Fabulous" for background music at certain points. Later in 2010 (on August 29), BBC4 first broadcast the documentary Blackpool on Film, in which the ''Rollo Our Tribe Tongue-in-Cheek Remix'' of "Absolutely Fabulous" could be heard during a sequence that focused on the famed "Blackpool Illuminations"—which are, after all, pretty fabulous. The April 29, 2013 edition (Series 17, Episode 14) of the BBC program Homes Under the Hammer also briefly employed a remix of this track.
46. A Red Letter Day
A three-part BBC4 documentary titled Crude Britannia: The Story of North Sea Oil—the title pretty much says what it's all about—uses this song during a sequence in its third episode (which first aired on July 2, 2009) concerning the Labour Party regaining power in 1997 and the widespread optimism that followed in its wake.
47. Go West
The Boys' hit rendition was used in the August 30, 2010 first episode of the fifth series of the popular U.K. "reality show" Coach Trip. The show deals with groups of strangers, traveling in pairs, who travel together by bus to various destinations. From time to time they vote on the couple whom they would least like to accompany them any longer, with two-time "winners" getting the boot. The last pair left win the game. Considering the show's travel theme, "Go West" seems a more than appropriate choice of music. Going back quite a few years, the November 15, 1993 episode of Coronation Street featured it on the old cafe jukebox. And the December 9, 1994 edition of the BBC sketch comedy show Harry Enfield and Chums also made use of it in one of those situations, always good for a laugh or two, in which a naive "straight" guy goes into a gay bar without realizing it's a gay bar. In this case, he doesn't even realize when he's being hit upon and, after getting drunk, ends up going home and sleeping with another guy. Much more recently, it could be heard on the March 12, 2013 edition of the popular BBC One morning auction/home-improvement show Homes Under the Hammer, which has a long reputation for playing songs thematically linked to the houses and/or persons onscreen at the time. And the April 26, 2014 episode of BBC's Holiday Hit Squad used it to accompany a segment about vacationing in the English county of Cornwall—part of what the British call the "West Country," thereby explaining the choice of song.
It took more than a decade of Christmases for PSB's 1997 stab at a holiday standard to make it onto a non-musical TV show. But it could finally be heard on a December 10, 2010 episode of the perennial U.K. sudser EastEnders. It can be heard playing in the background on the jukebox in a pub scene in which two characters have a decidedly non-Christmasy conversation. One of my site visitors has astutely suggested that the song serves "to amplify and echo the lack of Christmas spirit in this scene." And almost exactly a year later—on December 8, 2011, to be precise—EastEnders once again used the song in another pub scene. It's becoming a holiday favorite!
On April 11, 2011, BBC4 aired a TV documentary titled The Great Estate: The Rise and Fall of the Council House, concerning the era of state housing for the U.K. working classes. This program used in its title sequence an instrumental loop taken from this PSB song and a brief segment of Neil's vocal. It was surely chosen for the lyrics' expression of frustrated utopian idealism, which meshed quite nicely with the theme of the documentary. This song was also used at the very end (continuing over the closing credits) of the final episode (February 27, 2014) of the three-part BBC Four architectural documentary The Brits Who Built the Modern World.
It could be heard in the background during a scene in the August 18, 2011 episode of Coronation Street, the U.K.'s longest-running soap opera.
Used as the background music for a segment on swearing at policemen on the November 24, 2011 episode of the popular BBC political news show This Week. (Apparently it's no longer an arrestable offence in the U.K. to swear at a policeman.) Incidentally, the host of This Week is journalist Andrew Neil, who happened to choose "Being Boring" as one of his Desert Island Discs when he appeared on that program several years ago.
This track was used in the 1987 U.K. TV miniseries The Beiderbecke Tapes, although I don't have any details at this time regarding how it was used.
On both April 27 and May 23, 1988, this song could be heard playing in a cafe jukebox on episodes of the U.K. soap opera Coronation Street. Incredibly (considering that it was a #1 hit in the U.K.), the next instance of "Heart" on a non-musical film or TV show didn't occur for nearly a quarter-century, when the January 18, 2012 episode of the BBC show Daily Politics played it during a retrospective montage of political film footage from, sure enough, 1988. And that was quickly followed up with another occurrence, on the January 27, 2012 episode of the U.K. soap Eastenders, playing in the background at the neighborhood pub (where PSB music is clearly a perennial favorite). But it sounded as though it was the "live" rendition from the Pandemonium CD. "Heart" is also one of several PSB songs that have been used on the Argentine TV comedy Graduados; it could be heard during a reunion party scene on the December 19, 2012 episode. And the March 29, 2013 edition of Piers Morgan's Life Stories used the song's Dance Mix as background music during a segment that summarized the career of Swedish actress Britt Ekland, the focus of that evening's show.
Dusty Springfield's hit version of this Tennant-Lowe song was reportedly used in early 2002 during a second-series episode of the U.K. sketch comedy Big Train. I haven't yet been able to determine the precise date of its initial airing, but it was during a segment parodying Christine Keeler, a key figure in the Profumo Affair—which was of course the subject of the song to begin with.
55. Do I Have To?
A most surprising song to grace a TV show. It could be heard in the background in a scene set in a posh restaurant in the February 17, 1988 episode of the venerable U.K. soap Coronation Street.
It's not just twentieth-century PSB songs that have found their way onto Coronation Street. Its March 1, 2013 episode featured this latter-day single (though, interestingly, the album version, not the single mix) playing prominently in the background at the Rover's Return pub for more than two minutes. And another British soap opera, Emmerdale, used the song in its February 17, 2014 episode, playing in the background during a scene in which several characters are discussing HIV—hopefully a coincidence and not some sort of purposeful suggestion of linking PSB with HIV.
57. Breathing Space
The March 17, 2013 episode of the BBC Two show Toughest Place to Be a… dealt with the topic, "Toughest Place to Be a Farmer." The place designated as being the toughest to be a farmer was the Samburu district of north-central Kenya, home of the Samburu, who traditionally earn their living as keepers and herders of dairy cattle. "Breathing Space" was used at one point in this episode: a most appropriate selection if one indeed regards the open country of north-central Kenya as offering lots of breathing space. The instrumental version of the song could also be heard on the August 4, 2013 edition of the BBC One program Countryfile, focusing on the scenic Wye Valley bordering England and Wales; again, an apt choice of music.
The Brazilian telenovela Flor do Caribe ("Flower of the Caribbean") featured this song on its March 20, 2013 episode as background music during scenes set on tropical beaches. (It was probably chosen more for its sound than its meaning.)
As of early May 2013, the Israeli television show Dana's Morning was reportedly using this PSB song as its opening theme music.
Played briefly in the background during a segment about electricity and the U.K. electric power industry on the March 25, 2013 episode of the BBC One daily newsmagazine The One Show. I suppose the fact that the song really doesn't have anything to do with electricity in that sense didn't bother the producers.
This track could be heard playing in the background during a report on the July 11, 2013 edition of the BBC 2 news show Newsnight about the Caucasus-region nation of Georgia moving from corruption toward greater "transparency."
In one of the quickest-ever uses of a PSB song on "non-musical" television, an instrumental portion of this Electric track could be heard on the July 29, 2013 episode of the U.K. version of Big Brother, just two weeks after the album's release.
Not quite as quick (considering that it actually debuted online more than two months ahead of Electric), "Axis" was employed as background music during a July 25, 2013 BBC2 special covering the RHS Tatton Show—a large horticultural exhibition with show gardens. It could also be heard in the background during a report on the U.K. health service on the November 12, 2013 edition of BBC2's Newsnight.
The instrumental version of this song was used on the August 4, 2013 episode of the BBC One show Countryfile—the same episode that also included another Elysium track, "Breathing Space," as noted above (#57).
Played in the background (probably from a radio) during a domestic scene in the September 25, 1996 episode of Coronation Street.
Used in the October 24, 2013 edition of the BBC program Homes Under the Hammer.
A brief instrumental segment could be heard in the first episode of the BBC Four architectural documentary The Brits Who Built the Modern World, which first aired on February 13, 2014.
One of several PSB tracks instrumental segments of which were used in the second episode, first airing on February 20, 2014, of the BBC Four documentary The Brits Who Built the Modern World. "Paninaro" was also used for several years as the theme music of a Portuguese educational television program titled Universidade Aberta (Open University). Since he didn't own a copy of the recording at the time, one of my site visitors in Portugal used to get out of bed early every Saturday morning just to hear it! Now that's dedication!
69. I'm Not Scared
Another track for which an instrumental portion provided some background music during the second episode (February 20, 2014) of the BBC Four documentary The Brits Who Built the Modern World.
I also distinctly remember a Pet Shop Boys song being played over the closing credits of an episode of the U.S. public television "gay features" show In the Life sometime around 2003-2004, give or take a year. But, for the life of me, I can't remember which song it was or find any information as to when precisely it aired. (Something tells me that it may have been "New York City Boy," but I wouldn't bet the mortgage on it.)
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