What's New? – Recent Updates & Additions

October 18, 2017

Thanks to Steve N. for sharing his observation that the concluding lines of "The Calm Before the Storm" could be a playful reference to an earlier Pet Shop Boys track, "You Know Where You Went Wrong." I've mentioned this in a new annotation to my commentary on "Calm."

October 17, 2017

Thanks so much to Craig Aston for pointing something out to me that had completely gone over my head. But I think I can be excused since it's a matter that concerns 1980s British politics, and it would have been off the radar for an American like me. Craig noted that a certain line from "Call Me Old-Fashioned"—"If you're so wet, why don't you get on your bike?"—carries connotations that associate it with the supporters of Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. And if that sounds far-fetched to you, I strongly suggest you read my new second bullet-point annotation to my commentary on the song before making your final judgment. Craig's assessment, which I've expanded upon using additional information I've gleaned online (particularly from Wikipedia), seems pretty darn convincing to me. Thanks again, Craig!

October 16, 2017

I've heard back from Mikael Bjornfot, granting me permission to credit him for his contribution of information yesterday (see below) regarding a very rare clear-vinyl edition of Introspective, which I've now included in my admittedly non-authoritative list of what I believe are the ten most valuable/collectible Pet Shop Boys releases. I've therefore added his name to my Thank You page.

October 15, 2017

I've posted the final results of last week's survey, Part 1 of my question about whether each of the Pet Shop Boys' music videos for their singles enhanced, detracted from, or had no effect on my site visitors' appreciation of the corresponding single. That first go-round dealt with the "first half" of their canon of singles thus far. Naturally, my new poll for the week ahead is Part 2 of this question, this time asking about the "second half." Thanks again to Andrew Smith for proposing this survey question!

Having received his permission to do so, I'm crediting Daniel Sierro for sharing his honest assessment of the book Pet Shop Boys (S'il Vous Plait?), as noted yesterday (see below), and I've added his name to my Thank You page. Thanks Again, Daniel!

Based on information I've received from site visitor Mikael Bjornfot, I've updated my non-authoritative list of the current ten most collectible PSB releases based on value to include (at #4) an extraordinarily rare clear-vinyl three-disc edition of Introspective. Thank you, Mikael!

October 14, 2017

I extend my thanks to Oliver Hermes for sharing his own interpretation of "A Powerful Friend" that I've noted in a new second bullet-point annotation to my main commentary on the song. As I state there, I don't personally agree with his alternate reading of the song—and, in fact, it runs counter to what the Pet Shop Boys themselves have said about it—but I do find it intriguing, sufficiently so to make it well worth mentioning.

Thanks as well to regular site visitor Daniel Sierro, who recently purchased a copy of the book Pet Shop Boys (S'il Vous Plait?), which is included on my page devoted to books about PSB. He wrote to share with me his succinct review. In short, he feels it's of such poor quality that it "doesn't deserve to be bought." So I've amended my brief entry for that book to note his reservations about it.

October 12, 2017

Thanks to Henry for correcting me on a blunder I made on October 4 (see below) when I identified the "recreated" drum loop on which "My October Symphony" is likely based as having come from James Brown's "Hot Pants" rather than the closely related track "Hot Pants – I'm Coming, I'm Coming, I'm Coming" by Brown associate Bobby Byrd. I've made this correction in the appropriate annotation to my commentary on that Pet Shop Boys song.

October 8, 2017

I've posted the final results of this past week's poll about my site visitors' willingness (or lack thereof) to "invest" in the Pet Shop Boys if they should ever choose to make that an option. This week's survey is the first of two parts in which I'm asking whether each of the Boys' official music videos enhanced, detracted from, or had no effect on your enjoyment and/or appreciation of the corresponding single. This week I'm asking this question of the first half (roughly) of their singles, and next week I plan on asking about the second half. Thanks so much to Andrew Smith for suggesting this question!

Thanks also to John Hunt for sharing his observation that the 1993 Aswad track "Smile (Ragga Mix)" may have influenced PSB's "Euroboy," perhaps even being the source of a sample—although, speaking for myself, I sincerely doubt the latter. I discuss this in a newly expanded second bullet-point annotation to my commentary on the song.

I've been mulling over an email exchange I had roughly two weeks ago with regular site visitor Michael Fick, who felt that I ought to do more to help disabuse some people of the notion that Chris is a "junior partner," so to speak, in the Pet Shop Boys, who doesn't make as much of a contribution to their music and success as Neil. Actually, I think I already do a pretty good job of this throughout my website. But, after thinking about it a while, I've decided to make one further adjustment in response—namely, to add a new paragraph to my pre-existing entry at #4 in my list of "My (least) favorite Pet Shop Boys myths" that "Chris doesn't 'do' anything." The addition specificaly concerns a certain famous line in "Opportunities (Let's Make Lots of Money)." Belated thanks for the nudge, Michael!

October 7, 2017

Thanks to Andrew Shaw for correcting me—at least I'm pretty sure he's correcting me—on one word from the lyrics of the soon-to-be-released "In Slow Motion." I had originally heard "from behind real time" toward the end of the song, but Andrew told me that he believes it's actually "far behind real time." Listening again, I think he's right. In the absence so far of any "official" lyrics, I'm going to go with that. So I've revised what I have to say about that line accordingly. Thanks again, Andrew!

October 6, 2017

There's a brand new dance number by a trio who call themselves Miles End that I've now added, with only slight uncertainty, at #46 in my list of tracks by other artists that sample the Pet Shop Boys. It's called "Vet Store Girls" (not subtle), and it sounds very much as though it samples so liberally from "Home and Dry" that it all but qualifies as an outright cover or even a radical remix of the song. I'm pretty confident that the vocal is Neil's own voice, only digitally transposed downward several steps, enough to make him a lot like sound like someone else. I haven't seen the songwriting credits yet, but undoubtedly Chris and Neil will be listed as co-writers. (If not, we can expect lawyers to get involved in short order.) Excerpts from the recording can be heard on several websites, including Traxsource and Amazon. I'm indebted to the Pet Shop Boys Community Forum for bringing "Vet Store Girls" to my attention.

I may be violating my own prohibition against "amateur" productions, but I've added to my Tennant-Lowe covers page a delightful new acoustic rendition of "I Wouldn't Normally Do This Kind of Thing" performed in a folksy/countryish style—yes, you got that right!—by a guy named Kyle Gregory. Check it out on YouTube!

October 5, 2017

I've updated my entry for "In Slow Motion" (a bonus track with the reissue of Elysium) to provide my preliminary analytical commentary on the song. Please keep in mind, however, that the sheer "newness" of this song means that I may very readily make additional updates and revisions to what I have to say about it in the days ahead.

The nominees for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame "Class of 2018" were announced today, and I'm pleased to see that several of my favorite artists other than the Pet Shop Boys were nominated: Kate Bush, Depeche Mode, and the 'til now criminally overlooked Moody Blues. I think Kate and DM are long-shots at this point (though it's gratifying that the latter's nomination, along with that of the Eurythmics, would appear to open the door to a future PSB nod), but I believe the Moodies have an excellent chance despite longstanding critical antipathy for them—which explains why they've never even been nominated until now, though they've been eligible for literally decades. I'm also glad that The Cars, listed among my "second tier" of faves, were also quite deservedly nominated. "And why do you care?" you might ask, especially considering the R&RHOF's somewhat dubious nature and history, at least in the minds of many. Well, I can spell it out the same way as one of that institution's past honorees, Aretha Franklin, once so famously did: R-E-S-P-E-C-T.

October 4, 2017

As documented on my "On This Day in Pet Shop Boys History" page, my "pre-fame PSB biography," and, of course, many other places online as well, today is Chris Lowe's birthday. Happy birthday, Chris!

Thanks so much to Henry for a most interesting email in which he raised a number of points, a few of which I'm drawing upon to make some updates. First, he noted that the rhythmic/percussive pattern of "My October Symphony" may be sampled from or, as I suspect is much more likely the case, based on (but "recreated" in the studio) an oft-sampled drum break from James Brown's 1971 hit "Hot Pants"—a characteristic that it shares with literally scores if not hundreds of tracks by other artists. (One of them, which Henry specifically called out, is the 1989 U.K. hit "Fools Gold" by The Stone Roses.) In this way, it shares a significant trait with "Being Boring," the rhythm of which is similarly recreated based on a famous drum break from a different James Brown recording, "Funky Drummer." I've long cited the latter among the "exceptions" stated in the introduction to my list of Pet Shop Boys tracks that sample recordings by other artists, but I've newly noted it in a new annotation to my main entry for "Being Boring." By the same token, I've provided a new annotation on this subject for "My October Symphony" as well. Henry also noted the delightful coincidence that New Order released in 1993 a song titled "Young Offender," the same year in which PSB released a track—but of course a totally different song—with the same name. Compounding the coincidence is that both albums—New Order's Republic and PSB's Very—were co-produced (or, at least in the case of the latter, given "additional production") by Stephen Hague. I've mentioned these facts in a new annotation to my commentary on "Young Offender."

October 1, 2017

I've posted the final results of my survey of the past week, in which I asked my site visitors about how often they hear Pet Shop Boys music on the radio these days. My new poll for the week ahead was inspired by an interview I heard on the radio several days ago in which a high-finance entrepreneur was talking about how his company was negotiating with several pop music artists to develop arrangements whereby they will offer "shares" or "bonds" on their past and/or future output, essentially enabling people to "invest" in their careers. The artists would receive a large upfront payment from this public offering, and the investors could with time possibly reap huge rewards from the dividends of their investment—or, of course, as with any investment, they could lose their shirts, never earning back what they had invested. So this made me wonder how many PSB fans might be willing to "invest in the Pet Shop Boys" in this way. Would you be interested if the Boys were to engage in such an enterprise? That's what I'm asking this week.

Related to this week's poll, thanks to long-time site visitor Phil Elam for clarifying for me the involvement—or, more accurately, the lack of involvement—of Eminem in the fact that shares of much of his past catalog will be up for investment. Actually, it's the partial share in his work owned by his former collaborators, the Bass Brothers, that will be made available to outside investors. Eminem's share, however, is not available in this "royalty sale," and he has apparently distanced himself from it. I've therefore removed him as an "example" in my introductory text for the survey question. Thanks again, Phil!

Thanks also to Grims for pointing out that the Pet Shop Boys themselves are credited as the producers of the track "The Night Is a Time to Explore Who You Are." I've now made that update in my main entry for that song.

September 30, 2017

I learned yesterday that Neil and Chris aren't the only contemporary composers to have written a ballet titled The Most Incredible Thing—but they are the first. Five years after the Tennant-Lowe work premiered, another ballet with the same title, based on the same Hans Christian Andersen story, but written by American composer Bryce Dessner, debuted with the New York City Ballet. I've noted this in a new annotation to my main commentary on the Tennant-Lowe work. As I state there, I find it unconscionable that other artists should create such a work only five years removed from a predecessor in the same artistic genre with the same title and based on the same story. That's just my opinion, but I suspect many others would feel the same—Pet Shop Boys fans not the least among them.

On a different subject altogether – This has nothing whatsoever to do with PSB, but I thought you might get a kick out of a dream I had last night that demonstrates how the Pet Shop Boys certainly aren't the only artists to appear in my dreams. I dreamt that I was a contestant in one of those television singing competitions like Pop Idol and its U.S. counterpart, American Idol. In this case, each contestant was paired with a pop music star who would serve as his or her "sponsor" and "coach." In my case, I was paired with one of my "other" favorite artists, David Bowie, looking very much as he did during his middle-period albums Station to Station and Low. Bowie suggested that, for my song in the competition, I sing (get this!) the opening theme song from the old 1970s TV show All in the Family, singing both Archie's and Edith's parts, mimicking their voices (which I'm actually able to do in real life with fairly reasonable comic accuracy). I woke up while we were rehearsing the song, so I'll never know how I would have fared in the competition. Not very well, I imagine, David Bowie's coaching notwithstanding. wink

September 27, 2017

Thanks so much to "Toaster in the Bath" for a most interesting email exchange in which we discussed a number of points, including the suggestion that "Ring Road" qualifies for my list of Pet Shop Boys titles and lyrics that are or may be sly innuendos. I've added it there as a new entry at #16. Toaster also proposed a couple of possible poll questions, both of which I will seriously consider for future use.

I'm going to be extremely busy—downright preoccupied—over the next several evenings with personal business that has nothing to do with PSB or my website, so I may not have a chance to make any further site updates until Saturday. (I may, but I may not.) There's also a 50/50 chance that I'll be a little later than usual making my usual "switchover" from my current survey to a new one for the week ahead. If that should turn out to be the case, I hope it doesn't pose any inconvenience for you.

September 26, 2017

Thanks to, if I'm not mistaken, a first-time correspondent from Finland, Nuppu Eskelinen (whose name I've added to my Thank You page), for sharing with me a new "Pet Shop Boys/David Bowie connection" involving the city of Turku and a song dedication. I've now noted this on my page that lists my other favorite artists.

Thanks also to longtime site visitor Rory Simpson for raising a question that I did my best to answer as follows. Rory asked my opinion of the assertion that has often been made that "West End Girls" is the first rap song to hit #1 in the United States. After offering the caveat that I'm certainly no expert in the field of rap, I told Rory that, personally speaking, I had always felt the claim that "West End Girls" was the first rap song to reach U.S. #1 is rather questionable. But I suppose it all boils down to how one defines "rap." Consider Blondie's huge 1981 hit "Rapture," which certainly had a major rap component and indeed held the U.S. #1 spot for two weeks. Was it a "rap song"? I would say yes, although a "hardcore rap fan"—a "purist" of the genre—would probably say no. Would that same "rap purist" consider "West End Girls" a "rap song"? Maybe, maybe not—though I suspect not. Now, I would say that WEG is, at least from my perspective, no more or less a "rap song" than Blondie's "Rapture." If you count one, then you should count the other. Therefore, by that reckoning, WEG would not be the first rap song to hit #1 in the States. I'm not enough of a rap fan to be able to say what indisputable "rap song"—one that even our theoretical rap purist would assess as "rap"—first hit U.S. #1. That's a subject for someone with more expertise in the genre. So, that's my take on it.

Finally, thanks as well to another longtime visitor, Michael Fick, for taking issue with a statement I made way back in 2005 in conjunction with one of my polls that year. At that time I had written in a footnote to the results that, in my opinion, the "division of creativity" between Neil and Chris was somewhere around 60/40, a conclusion that I had reached on the assumption that Neil was nearly (not quite, but nearly) 100% responsible for PSB lyrics, whereas their contributions to PSB music was closer to 50/50, leaning a bit toward Chris's side. After pointing out to Michael that that statement was, after all, more than a decade old, I assured him that I'm now more inclined to view it as closer to a 50/50 split overall rather than 60/40. So I've just made a corresponding "2017 update" there.

September 24, 2017

I've posted the final results of last week's poll, in which I asked my site visitors to pick their favorite (or who they consider the "best") from among the directors of more than one of the Pet Shop Boys' music videos. This week's survey is a rather simple one, but more "experiential" in nature. I'm simply wondering about how often you hear PSB music on the radio these days, regardless of the radio format: terrestrial, satellite, or internet—assuming, of course, you listen to the radio at all. (There's an option for those who don't, too.) Thanks to porkchopkid for suggesting this question!

By the way, I've collected a pretty large backlog of future poll questions—some that I thought up myself, and others suggested by various site visitors. It's going to take some time to work our way through them all. Thanks so much for all of your input!

September 23, 2017

Here's a marvelous multi-layered cross-genre coincidence for you – Last night, we watched with some friends a DVD of their choosing, the 2016 movie A United Kingdom, which deals with one of the most important figures in the history of Botswana, former king and later first president of the republic, Seretse Khama. So there's the first level of the coincidence: it was only a little over a week ago, on September 14, that I was able to add Botswana to my "A World of Pet Shop Boys Fans" page (see below). As it turns out, in the second level of the coincidence, a rather minor but extremely instrumental character in the film is none other than Anthony Benn, who is of course name-checked as "Tony Benn" in the Pet Shop Boys song "Love Is a Bourgeois Construct."

Meanwhile, I've finished reading David Bowie Made Me Gay: 100 Years of LGBT Music—I'm a very fast reader, a skill I had to cultivate in order to survive grad school—so I now have a confession to make. I think it's better than my own book Rock on the Wild Side. This is not to say that the author, Darryl W. Bullock, is a "better writer" than me. No, I think we're pretty much on a par in that respect. Rather, it's to say that, if you're interested in the history of "gay music," then Mr. Bullock's book is the better investment. To be sure, the two books have very different approaches and focal points. They essentially belong to two different genres: Bullock's book is primarily history, whereas mine is primarily cultural analysis. If you want greater depth and analysis on individual songs, dealing only with the "rock era," and you don't mind the author's strongly subjective perspective, then my book would indeed be your best bet. But if you want a broader, less in-depth but much more comprehensive historical take on the subject—one that, in my own opinion, is ultimately the greater contribution to literature in the field—then Mr. Bullock's book is the one you want. In my defense, I will note that I published mine 23 years before he published his, and I didn't have the benefit of the internet as a research tool back then. (Oh, the envy!) That, however, is extraneous. The final fact is that, if you want to buy or read only one book on the subject, then, in my opinion, David Bowie Made Me Gay: 100 Years of LGBT Music is now the book for you.

For a guy who generally prefers a highly subjective approach to scholarship, I can sometimes just be too damn objective for my own good.

September 21, 2017

You may have seen or heard news reports—such as this one—that Neil and the Boys' long-time musical assistant (and fanciful candidate for the status of "Third Pet Shop Boy") Pete Gleadall were "mugged" a few days ago in Rio de Janeiro, one day after performing at the Rock in Rio festival. The official Pet Shop Boys website posted today that Neil merely had his pocket picked, losing his iPhone. No word there as to what Pete lost, but since some reports say that money was stolen as well, perhaps he lost more. Whatever the case, it's of course a tremendous relief to know that they're safe and, as Neil has put it, are "Otherwise enjoying Brasil!"

Meanwhile, I've added to my "PSB Links" page a new link to a blog by a regular site visitor who goes by the moniker "lonelyheroine," where she shares some of her creative writing, often including references to the Pet Shop Boys. I extend my thanks to her for sharing her PSB-influenced creativity with us!

September 20, 2017

I was reading my new book last night (see below) instead of watching the evening news, so I didn't even know about yesterday's horrible earthquake in Mexico until this morning while I was getting ready for work. As the Pet Shop Boys acknowledged today on their official website, they have many fans in Mexico, and I know I also have many regular site visitors there. Needless to say (but I'll say it anyway), our thoughts are with them, and we wish them all the best for their safety and security.

Speaking of that book, David Bowie Made Me Gay: 100 Years of LGBT Music, I've now finished the first three chapters (dealing with several LGBT performers of the first two or three decades of the twentieth century), and I must say that I'm thoroughy enjoying it. Although I already know a great deal about the subject, I'm finding that I'm learning even more—always a good sign—and I'm quite delighted by both the author's extremely engaging writing style and his obviously meticulous research. The matter of research also helps provide me with a better sense of why he may not have referred, at least directly, to my own previous writing—namely, that he draws mainly, whenever possible, from primary sources (the cultural artifacts themselves as well first-hand accounts, contemporary articles, original biographies, and the like), whereas my own book Rock on the Wild Side is not a primary source, but rather a secondary one (in my case, critical commentary and analysis). At least I have enough evidence thus far to rationalize it that way, which makes me feel so much better. wink At any rate, I'll keep you posted on my progress.

September 19, 2017

For the second time in less than a week I've discovered a new remake of "Domino Dancing" by a Brazilian artist: this time singer/DJ/producer Cahe Nardy. Naturally, I've now noted it on my page that lists cover versions of Pet Shop Boys songs. And if you would like to hear it for yourself, it's available on YouTube.

I've just received in the mail a new book that I ordered from Amazon, David Bowie Made Me Gay: 100 Years of LGBT Music, by British author Darryl W. Bullock. It's a fairly thick tome, and I'm looking foward to reading it. I'll get started this evening. But the first thing I did upon opening the package—yes, the very first thing—was to check its index and bibliography to see whether there's any mention of me and my own 1994 book Rock on the Wild Side: Gay Male Images in Popular Music of the Rock Era. Unfortunately, no. Oh, the disappointment and dismay! It makes me wonder how someone could research and write such a book nearly a quarter-century after its publication and not refer to it, especially since it was, I believe, as widely distributed in the U.K. as in the States. Be that as it may, the second thing I did was to check the index for references to the Pet Shop Boys. Of course, there are quite a few. But, at least on initial inspection, there aren't as many or as much said about them as we dedicated fans might think. Then again, we are dedicated fans. These extremely preliminary quibbles aside—and they may well be overshadowed by a complete reading—it nevertheless looks like a quality production. As I said, I'm eager to read it. I'll let you know how it turns out when I'm all done.