Pet Shop Boys
(not to be confused with "Theme for the Pet Shop Boys")

Writers - Orlando/Tennant/Lowe
First released - 1984
Original album - (none)
Producer - Bobby Orlando, Pet Shop Boys
Subsequent albums - (none)
Other releases - (none)

Surely the most mysterious track in the entire PSB catalog. The b-sides for the early "Bobby O era" single versions of "West End Girls" and "One More Chance" were various permutations of a track titled "Pet Shop Boys"—a mainly instrumental, hip-hoppish number that features barking dogs, howling coyotes, and other zoological sounds as well as repetitive "vocoderized" vocals that are largely unintelligible aside from the words "Pet Shop Boys." The composers are listed as "Orlando/Tennant/Lowe," Orlando of course being Bobby O himself.

To muddy the waters further, there's another, completely different Bobby O-produced track titled "Theme for the Pet Shop Boys" (later given the alternate title "To the Pet Shop Boys"), highly derivative of "West End Girls" and characterized by repeated shouts of "Pet Shop Boys" by male voices that obviously aren't Neil's and/or Chris's. Tellingly, the composers of this "Theme" are cited as "Elvine/Tess," both of which (Elvine and Tess) are known pseudonyms of the German producer Manfred Alois Segieth, who is also associated with the Pet Shop Boys via his "Hurricane Mix" of "One More Chance." As it turns out, Neil and Chris themselves had little or nothing to do with this "Theme," which was actually performed by a group called the Hurricanes—or, as spelled on some if its releases, "Hurricans"—one of Segieth's projects.

On the other hand, the Boys clearly lay claim to "Pet Shop Boys" (not the "Theme") in the Nightlife tour program, where it's included along with all of the other songs that had been written or performed by PSB up to that point. There Chris only says of it, rather cryptically, "The musical possibilities of animal noises." As Neil has put it, it was "just us playing around on the Emulator," an early sampler. Neil has also described how, after he and Chris had returned to Britain from recording with Bobby O in New York City, he played for his colleagues at Smash Hits some of their fruits of their labors: "The track everyone liked best was 'Pet Shop Boys' because it was weird." Neil has also pointed out that it doesn't appear on Alternative because he and Chris don't own the rights to it. (Apparently Bobby O does.) So it's safe to say that "Pet Shop Boys" is indeed part of the "true PSB canon," so to speak, whereas "Theme for the Pet Shop Boys" isn't.

Incidentally, Michael Cowton, in his 1991 book Pet Shop Boys: Introspective, quotes Bobby O in reference to an unreleased version of "Pet Shop Boys" to which he similarly held the rights:

"It has never been released because I own it. I didn't release it because it didn't feature enough of them. It is a twenty-eight-minute piece, like a concerto, with all classical piano. It is unusual and very abstract. Some parts are disco, others break-dancing, with different rhythms and patterns, yet it is one continual flow of music."

Astounding! Will this ever emerge from the limbo where it has ostensibly languished now for more than two decades?

An especially intriguing aspect of this track concerns its precise relationship to the duo's chosen name. I—and surely nearly everyone else—had always assumed that they named it after themselves. But a 1996 interview (printed in the July 2010 issue of the PSB Fan Club publication Literally) with the late studio owner and engineer Ray Roberts, who worked with Neil and Chris during their pre-fame days, suggests that the reverse might actually be true. Roberts states that they had recorded and even titled the song "Pet Shop Boys" before they had settled on it as their own moniker. Could it be that they named themselves after the track rather than the other way around?

Fun fact (or is it?—a fact, that is) – Allegedly there exists (or at least once existed) an unreleased 28-minute version of this track. Fans can debate amonst themselves whether it's a good thing that this has never seen the light of day.


Officially released

List cross-references