Wayne's Little Online Book of PSB Lists
(Part 1)

The contents of all six Lists pages appear below. Clicking on any given link may take you to a different Lists page.

I've moved my tables of UK/US chart performance and PSB songs "live" to my new "Extras" section.

10 things the Pet Shop Boys did to commit career suicide in the United States

It’s an ugly truth, a horrible reality, and a total embarrassment to all U.S. Pet Shop Boys fans. After being major hitmakers in the States during the late 1980s, the Boys have since then been reduced to a hitless "cult band" in America (aside from their tremendous ongoing success on the dance charts) while remaining major stars just about everywhere else—even becoming the best-selling duo in the history of the British charts. How did this terrible thing happen?

The answer is simple: Neil and Chris committed "career suicide" in the U.S. Now, don’t misunderstand me. I don’t think they did anything "wrong." I wouldn’t change a thing about them or the way they’ve handled their career. But, as fantastic as they are, they doomed themselves in America.

Well, that's America's loss. It didn’t happen all at once. It happened in stages, step-by-step. The U.S. mass market would have forgiven them one, two, or even three or four of the steps I’m about to describe. But, taken altogether, it spelled American career suicide.

Here they are—the ten things that the Pet Shop Boys did to commit career suicide in the United States:

1. "Opportunities (Let’s Make Lots of Money)"

I talk about this track at some length in the main portion of my website, including how it made much of the U.S. public extremely suspicious of the Boys almost from the get-go. In short, pop stars in the U.S. aren’t supposed to be so blatantly calculated and opportunistic. You say, "But Neil and Chris weren’t being ‘themselves’ in that song—they were merely playing roles." Yes, precisely. But the mass of the American record-buying public isn’t sophisticated enough to understand such concepts as a "lyrical persona." (Besides, in Ronald Reagan's America—as in Margaret Thatcher's Britain—the idea that a couple of guys could be so mercenary about pop stardom seemed downright realistic.) And while most members of the U.S. public do comprehend satire, they often don’t perceive it when it’s handled with any degree of subtlety. "Weird Al" Yankovic they get. "Opportunities," many of them didn’t.

2. The Disco album

By the 1980s, "disco" had become a dirty word in America. Remember: "Disco sucks!" Even the people who were still brave enough to continue making disco music weren’t calling it "disco" anymore. It was "dance music." Same thing, just a different label. The Pet Shop Boys, contrarians ever, went ahead and titled their first remix album Disco. Strike two.

3. Neil yawning on the cover of Actually

Again, I discuss this at length in my entry for Actually and even devote a special page to the image's iconic status. To summarize, Americans don’t like it when their stars yawn. At least not unless they’re yawning at something that they themselves would think is boring or "uncool." They especially don’t like them yawning, it would appear, directly in their faces, perhaps even at them. Chris's odd expression—halfway between a vacant blank and a scowl—didn’t help matters, either. They’re even wearing tuxedos. Rock stars do not wear tuxedos, unless they’re getting an award from the President, and not always then. "Just what are these guys about, anyway?"

4. "Shopping" and "Rent"

If the cover of Actually weren't enough, it had these two songs on it. Even fewer people understood "Shopping" than understood "Opportunities." A lot of music critics cited it as evidence that the Boys were triviality incarnate. And U.S. rock stars are anything but trivial, right? Besides, real men don’t sing about shopping. Hell, they don’t even like to go shopping, much less sing about it. Of course, "Shopping" isn’t really about shopping, but that went right over most people’s heads. And then there's "Rent," sung from the perspective of either a kept woman (according to Neil) or a rent boy (according to widespread interpretation). Either way, it doesn't play well in Peoria.

5. "Always on My Mind" not appearing on Actually

The Boys committed a cardinal sin with this one. They released a hit single that wasn’t on the current album. And "Always on My Mind" was a big hit in the U.S. So people expected to find it on the most recent album, the one released just a couple months before. Wrong. Major source of frustration. Of course, the U.S. record company knew this and so rush-released a "special edition" of Actually that featured a second disc, the 12-inch single version of "Always on My Mind." That only exacerbated the situation. Now fans who had already bought Actually felt ripped off. The result: nobody was happy.

6. The "Domino Dancing" video

Now we’re really getting down to it—the final days of the Pet Shop Boys’ tenure as major U.S. hitmakers. The "Domino Dancing" video received a lot of airplay on MTV. But, despite its heterosexual veneer, the video’s blatant homoeroticism, in which those two shirtless young guys were even more obviously posited as sex-objects than the girl who was their ostensible object of desire, was just too much for the bulk of their American fan-base to handle. "Domino Dancing" became a U.S. Top 20 hit for the Boys, but it would prove to be their last.

7. The Introspective album

Neil himself has noted how Introspective was a major blow to their U.S. popularity. How so? I mean, it’s a drop-dead brilliant record, right? Yes, it certainly is. But that’s not the point. You see, when U.S. consumers go out to buy an album, they expect the songs on that album to be pretty much exactly the same as the hit versions of the songs playing on the radio. Now, "long versions" are OK—in fact, they’re excellent. U.S. consumers usually like it when the album version of the song is the "real" version, and the hit single is just an edited "short version." But that’s not what Introspective was all about. The versions of the two major U.S. hits on that album, "Always on My Mind" and "Domino Dancing," weren’t the "unedited" originals of the hit singles. Rather, they were drastically remixed. Thus, from the American consumer’s perspective, the singles were the "real" versions, and the album versions were exactly what they were: extended dance remixes. Since the greater mass of the U.S. record-buying public has little use for extended dance remixes, Introspective indeed proved highly detrimental to PSB’s popularity in America.

8. "Where the Streets Have No Name (I Can’t Take My Eyes Off You)"

By now our heroes were virtual has-beens on the U.S. singles chart. U2, on the other hand, were at their peak of popularity in America. And then along come Chris and Neil, who treat U2 with such apparent disrespect. (As The Edge was reported to have quipped, "What have I, what have I, what have I done to deserve this?") Yes, it’s a brilliant deconstruction and demythologization, but who the hell knows and cares about "deconstruction" and "demythologization," anyway? This only confirmed what most of the U.S. record-buying public had long suspected about the Boys: they were not to be trusted.

9. The "Performance" tour

Chris and Neil didn't go on a live concert tour in the U.S. until 1991—which itself probably did serious damage to their longterm American success. When they finally did tour in America with their "Performance" stage show, they wanted it to be anything but your typical rock concert. That is, they wanted to do more than stand up there and perform their songs, trying as best they can to replicate the sound of the records. Unfortunately, that’s precisely what most American concert-goers want and expect. First the delay, then the unexpected. Once again, the original thing turned out to be the wrong thing by U.S. standards.

10. Neil "comes out" publicly shortly after the release of Very

The final nail in the coffin, though the body was already pretty cold at this point. From Neil's personal perspective, it was undoubtedly the right thing to do—but not if you want to be a major star in America, at least until the further decline in homophobia. Unless your name is Elton (and, unfortunately, even he has now apparently worn out his welcome, not having had a Top 40 pop hit for several years), you cannot be a major ongoing mainstream star in the United States and be openly gay. You can be gay and in the closet. Or you can be open and achieve limited success as a flash in the pan or as a recurring bit-player. But not as a major ongoing mainstream star. At least not yet. Hopefully that will change, and soon. Meanwhile, Neil’s coming out has regrettably pegged the Pet Shop Boys as a "gay group" in the United States—more or less by definition a cult band.

And that’s how the Pet Shop Boys went in ten easy steps from being major hitmakers to a hitless cult band in the U.S.

The 10 PSB songs that used to play on a local "80s oldies" radio station*

  1. West End Girls
  2. West End Girls
  3. West End Girls
  4. Opportunities (Let’s Make Lots of Money)
  5. West End Girls
  6. Always on My Mind
  7. West End Girls
  8. It’s a Sin
  9. West End Girls
  10. West End Girls

*This station has, unfortunately, switched formats and no longer plays "oldies." So now there are no radio stations in my local area that play the Pet Shop Boys at all aside from the extremely rare anomaly.

My 20 favorite PSB songs, period
  1. Being Boring
  2. I Wouldn’t Normally Do This Kind of Thing
  3. Tonight Is Forever
  4. What Have I Done to Deserve This?
  5. To Step Aside
  6. It Always Comes as a Surprise
  7. One in a Million
  8. Liberation
  9. Left to My Own Devices
  10. How Can You Expect to Be Taken Seriously? (particularly the Brothers in Rhythm video mix)
  11. I’m Not Scared
  12. Shameless
  13. Birthday Boy
  14. The Sodom and Gomorrah Show
  15. King of Rome
  16. It's a Sin
  17. I Made My Excuses and Left
  18. Can You Forgive Her?
  19. I Didn't Get Where I Am Today*
  20. Bet She's Not Your Girlfriend

*My estimation of this song has grown tremendously in the years since it was released. During one of my "Rating Project" polls back in 2004, I personally gave it a rating of only 6. But if I were to rate it today, I'd give it a 9 or maybe even a 10. It just goes to show how tastes and evaluations change with time.

The only 2 PSB songs I don't like
  1. The Sound of the Atom Splitting

    Call me old-fashioned, but is a melody too much to ask for in a song?

  2. Love Is a Catastrophe

    I liked it better when I thought it might be a parody of mediocre, self-pitying rock balladry. But it's not, which just leaves me disliking it. I have to concede, however, that the Boys' April 2002 live performance of this song on Later… with Jools Holland came across surprisingly well, almost redeeming it in my eyes. Almost.

And if by chance you're pissed off at me after reading this, please remember those two great aphoristic truths: (1) One man's trash is another man's treasure, and (2) There's no accounting for taste—mine included.

My 10 favorite PSB albums, in order*
  1. Very**
  2. Behaviour
  3. Fundamental
  4. Bilingual
  5. Yes
  6. Introspective
  7. Please
  8. Actually
  9. Nightlife
  10. Release

*Not counting Discography or PopArt, the latter of which would have to be the album I'd take with me if I were allowed only one on a desert island. But I've always considered "greatest hits" and "best of" collections to be cop-outs in "best album" lists. So I've disqualified those two albums.

**Very isn't merely my favorite Pet Shop Boys album; it's one of my five favorite pop/rock albums of all time.

My 4 least favorite PSB albums

 1. Disco 2

There are some fans for whom this isn't their least favorite PSB album. Just not very many of them.

 2. Essential

The title is a misnomer. This limited-edition release from 1998 isn't a bad album by any means, but it's hardly "essential." In fact, it's pretty much only for completists like me. I think I've listened to it twice all the way through since I bought it.

 3. Disco 4

Taken strictly on its own merits, I quite like this album. But, with all those tracks by other artists simply remixed or "re-produced" by Chris and Neil (with their occasional support vocals added), is it really a "Pet Shop Boys album"? The very fact that you can ask such a question without sounding like an idiot explains its appearance in this list.

 4. Disco

In my opinion it's much better than Disco 2, and it's more fully a "PSB album" than Disco 4, but remix albums by their very nature are largely redundant affairs. And since "In the Night" and "Paninaro" were later made widely available on Alternative, this album is rendered more or less "nonessential."

My 5 favorite PSB album covers

 1. Actually

For the reasons that I cover quite nicely in my main entry for the album, if I do say so myself.

 2. Very

Incredibly innovative, not to mention eye-catching. It also made me nostalgic for my childhood Lego™ set. It's a pity—understandable, but a pity nonetheless—that the original design is no longer available in new copies of the album, having been replaced by a mere photo of the original packaing.

 3. Please

A marvelous study in the effectiveness of minimalism.

 4. Alternative

I particularly like the lenticular photo of the special edition, which allowed it (appropriately enough) to "alternate" between Chris and Neil.

 5. Release

A high-detail botanical print—very classy. Or is it just my taste? A rather tongue-in-cheek 1994 book titled The Unofficial Gay Manual by Kevin Dilallo and Jack Krumholtz states that hanging botanical prints—"not expensive but look it"—on the living room wall is typical of gay households. Hmmm—

My 10 favorite PSB remixes (not counting hit single and original album versions)

  1. I Wouldn’t Normally Do This Kind of Thing (Voxigen Mix by Gary Jones and Chris Le Blanc)
  2. How Can You Expect to Be Taken Seriously? (Extended Mix by Brothers in Rhythm)
  3. Did You See Me Coming? (Possibly More Mix by Pet Shop Boys)
  4. Jealousy (Extended Mix by David Jacob)*
  5. A Red Letter Day (Trouser Autoerotic Decapitation Mix by Trouser Enthusiasts)**
  6. What Have I Done to Deserve This? (Disco Mix by Shep Pettibone)
  7. It’s a Sin (Disco Mix by Stephen Hague and Pet Shop Boys)
  8. It’s Alright (Extended Version by Trevor Horn)
  9. New York City Boy (The Almighty Definitive Mix by Martin Norris and Jon Dixon)
  10. Rent (Extended Mix by François Kevorkian)

*Boosted a notch for quoting Othello.
**Boosted two notches by virtue of the title of the mix.

My 10 favorite PSB b-sides

  1. Shameless
  2. I Didn't Get Where I Am Today
  3. Bet She's Not Your Girlfriend
  4. The Resurrectionist
  5. Your Funny Uncle
  6. Hit and Miss
  7. The Truck Driver and His Mate
  8. Delusions of Grandeur*
  9. We All Feel Better in the Dark
  10. Nightlife

*Docked a couple notches because Neil's vocal is buried so deep in the mix.

My 5 favorite non-originals covered by PSB

  1. Go West
  2. Where the Streets Have No Name (I Can't Take My Eyes Off You)
  3. It's Alright
  4. Losing My Mind
  5. Always on My Mind
My 5 favorite PSB videos

 1. I Wouldn't Normally Do This Kind of Thing

Astounding techno-psychedelia with a two-pronged theme: (1) What if the sixties had had access to nineties technology, with Tennant-Lowe in the roles of Lennon-McCartney? – and (2) What are some things that Chris and Neil wouldn't normally do? The end result is one of the most imaginative and visually exciting music videos made by any artist.

 2. How Can You Expect to Be Taken Seriously?

Neil and Chris parody major rock stars. Neil's takeoff on Springsteen, in particular, is delightful.

 3. It's a Sin

I love the personifications of the Seven Deadly Sins.

 4. Liberation

Remarkable computer-generated imagery that beautifully complements the song. In fact, I would've ranked it even higher if only there had been a little more of the Boys in it.

 5. DJ Culture

Possibly the PSB video that most enhances its song. Striking, often gorgeous imagery—alternately amusing and profound—synched to the text to provide a very literal symbolic reading to a lyrically challenging piece. Seeing Neil in the role of Oscar Wilde on trial never fails to move me.

My 5 least favorite PSB videos

 1. Home and Dry

OK, so it's art. Doesn't mean I have to like it. If I wanted to watch rodents scurrying about, I'd watch a nature documentary—except every nature documentary I've ever seen is more interesting than this.

 2. Rent

Love the song, but the video bores me to tears. Sorry.

 3. Paninaro

I appreciate the do-it-yourself aesthetic, I really do. But just because Neil and Chris are brilliant songwriters and recording artists doesn't make them brilliant video directors and filmographers. And they know it, too, which is why they made only one video like this. I appreciate that even more.

 4. I Get Along

The Bruce Weber schtick—more or less random videography focusing on beautiful young people who look like they've just stepped out of an Abercrombie & Fitch catalog—was marvelous more than a decade before for "Being Boring," and still quite nice several years later for "Se A Vida É." But by this time it was starting to get old. Or maybe it's just me—getting old, that is. Regardless, I tend to hit the Skip button on my remote.

 5. I'm with Stupid

Terrific song, and I'm quite fond of Little Britain. So how come I don't like what David Walliams and Matt Lucas are doing in this video? I'm sure it was meant to be quite funny but, personally, I've never found it particularly amusing. It's not actually bad—just disappointing. The fact that the Pet Shop Boys themselves make only a brief concluding cameo appearance in their own music video hardly helps matters. I just can't help but feel that it could have been so much better.

My 7 most beautiful PSB "musical moments"

It's of course a matter of personal opinion, but these are the seven brief moments that strike me as simply the most beautiful things, musically speaking, that the Pet Shop Boys have recorded to date.

  1. The bridge/middle eight in "DJ Culture"

    "Now, as a matter of pride, indulge yourself...." I get the shivers nearly every time I hear it: a gorgeous descending chord progression that lends an air of almost unbearable sadness to lyrics alluding to the sometimes desperate measures people take to try to make themselves happy.

  2. The transition from the bridge to the last verse in "To Step Aside"

    "Or will spring bring rain and summer burn…?" The string-synth run immediately preceding these words absolutely launches the final series of troubling questions posed by the Boys in this song, given even greater urgency by the recurring keyboard gallop underlying the lyrics, now sounding more insistent than ever.

  3. Neil's half-gasped multitracked "ohs" in "King of Rome"

    "Oh, baby come back…." It's such a heartbreaking plea because you know that it's totally in vain. Yet you don't even need the words to grasp that. Just the sound of it, frail and other-worldly, conveys a sense of utter despair.

  4. The background saxphone part in the last verse of "It Always Comes as a Surprise"

    "… If you've a broken heart, I'll help it mend." This unexpectedly jazzy touch grants lovely and wholly optimistic support to the narrator's heartfelt declaration of love. Add to that a subtle, almost imperceptible shift in the chord progression from what had occurred in the preceding verses, and you can't help but feel that his love will be fully returned.

  5. The final rendition of the chorus in "Birthday Boy"

    "Oh, baby, do you remember…." Powerful enough in its two previous renderings, but the third and final, backed by a choir—with Neil initially allowing his vocal to fall ever so slightly behind the tempo—is the most trenchant of all. It effectively dares you not to see the parallels between Jesus and modern-day victims of hatred and violence, and does so with a hymnal quality that wouldn't be out of place in a cathedral—or at least a cathedral in which synths, samplers, and guitars were more than welcome.

  6. The first chorus of "Hit and Miss"

    "… Waiting, I'd been waiting so long for this." What a wondrous chord progression! I just wanna melt. So lovely—some of the richest vocal harmonies ever found in a PSB track. And such a mix of emotions—joy and sorrow inextricably intertwined since one makes the other possible, if not inevitable. It's having been so sad that makes happiness all the sweeter; it's having been so happy that makes sadness so hard to bear.

  7. The concluding orchestral chords of "Left to My Own Devices"

    The orchestra speaks volumes throughout, transforming Neil's semi-autobiographical musings into a grandiose statement of personal independence. But it's those huge final chords that drive home the fact that every individual person's life is, after all, his or her own epic journey. Come to think of it—and harkening back to my college class in aesthetic philosophy—it may not actually be so beautiful as it is sublime.

5 guest appearances by Neil and/or Chris in other artists' music videos

1. "Nothing Has Been Proved" - Dusty Springfield

Chris and Neil, who wrote and produced this latter-day hit for Dusty, appear as reporters in the video.

2. "Getting Away with It" - Electronic

Neil, who co-wrote the song with Sumner and Marr, appears in his role of backup singer, though at times he's more like a co-lead, sharing vocal duties with Sumner.

3. "Disappointed" - Electronic

This time Neil takes front and center in the role of lead singer. (From this perspective it may not be altogether appropriate to call this a mere "guest appearance.")

4. "Hallo Spaceboy" - David Bowie

The Boys appear intermittently in performance scenes that alternate with those featuring Bowie himself. While Chris plays keyboard, Neil sings backup—once again sometimes more like a co-lead.

5. "Do the Right Thing" - Ian Wright

Chris makes several brief appearances in the video for this song, which he co-wrote and produced for U.K. soccer star Ian Wright. Perhaps surprisingly, Chris doesn't wear dark glasses. Perhaps not surprisingly, he's wearing a hat—in this case, a striped wool cap.

The 10 biggest PSB hits on the U.S. Billboard "Hot 100" singles chart*

 1. West End Girls (#1)
 2. What Have I Done to Deserve This? (#2)
 3. Always on My Mind (#4)
 4. It's a Sin (#9)
 5. Opportunities (Let's Make Lots of Money) (#10)
 6. Domino Dancing (#18)
 7-8. (tie) Love Comes Quickly (#62)
 7-8. (tie) So Hard (#62)
 9. Suburbia (#70)
10. Where the Streets Have No Name (I Can't Take My Eyes Off You) (#72)

*"New York City Boy," "I Don't Know What You Want But I Can't Give It Any More," and "Break 4 Love" all would have made this list if it were based solely on sales since those three singles reached #53, #66, and #51, respectively, on the Sales chart. But, unlike the singles that are listed here, they didn't make it onto the "Hot 100" because of an almost total lack of radio airplay.

Would you care to see the Boys' complete U.K. and U.S. pop singles chart history?

The 10 biggest PSB hits on the U.S. Billboard dance charts

  1. West End Girls (#1 Club Play [two weeks], #3 Dance Sales)
  2. Before (#1 Club Play [two weeks], #7 Dance Sales)
  3. Love etc. (#1 Club Play, #2 Dance Sales)
  4. New York City Boy (#1 Club Play, #4 Dance Sales)
  5. Break 4 Love (#1 Club Play, #6 Dance Sales)
  6. To Step Aside (#1 Club Play, #8 Dance Sales)
  7. What Have I Done to Deserve This? (#1 Club Play, #12 Dance Sales)
  8. Did You See Me Coming? (#1 Club Play; #19 Dance/Electronic Albums*)
  9. Go West (#1 Club Play, #25 Dance Sales)
  10. Can You Forgive Her? (#1 Club Play, #31 Dance Sales)

*Curiously, "Did You See Me Coming?" appeared on Billboard's Dance/Electronic Albums chart in June 2009, listed as an "EP," probably on account of its bonus tracks (remixes and "b-sides"). It would appear that Billboard had discontinued its old Dance Sales chart for singles by that point.

The status of PSB in Joel Whitburn's Hot Dance/Disco 1974-2003

Joel Whitburn's Hot Dance/Disco 1974-2003 (published in January 2004 and available from Record Research), lists the performance of hits on the U.S. dance charts as reported by Billboard magazine. I'm pleased to report that the Pet Shop Boys are cited as the fourth most successful artist in the history of the U.S. dance charts, behind only Madonna (#1), Janet Jackson (#2), and Donna Summer (#3). (In case you're wondering how certain other artists fared, at least at the time of the book's publication, Prince ranked #5, Michael Jackson #6, Whitney Houston #8, Depeche Mode #10, New Order #13, Erasure #17, and George Michael #25. Those rankings have surely shifted a bit in the intervening years, but, according to my calculations, PSB still has a solid hold on the #4 position.)

According to this fascinating book, PSB can also claim these further distinctions:

  • the most successful male artists on the U.S. dance charts
  • the most successful duo or group
  • the most successful non-Americans
  • the eighth most successful artist of the 1980s
  • the sixth most successful of the 1990s
  • #3 in the number of dance hits (28), exceeded only by Madonna and Janet Jackson*
  • #5 in the number of Number One dance hits (8), surpassed by Madonna, Janet Jackson, Donna Summer, and Whitney Houston**

*In the years since the publication of Joel Whitburn's Hot Dance/Disco 1974-2003, the Pet Shop Boys have raised their total to 34. (Note that this is based on Billboard's Dance Club/Play Chart, which is Whitburn's source, not the apparently now-defunct Dance Sales chart.) But they're still at #3 behind Madonna and Janet. For more detailed information about the Boys' performance on the U.S. dance charts, please visit my page devoted to that topic.

**I must note, however, that in the years since the book's publication (and as of May 2010), the Pet Shop Boys have fallen to a tie (with Deborah Cox) for ninth place in the number of #1 dance hits, despite their 2009 #1's "Love etc." and "Did You See Me Coming?" raising their total to 10. They've been knocked down by Mariah Carey and Kristine W, who now have 15 Dance #1's apiece, Beyoncé with 14, and Rihanna with 11. Madonna (40), Janet Jackson (19), Donna Summer (15), and Whitney Houston (13) still exceed the Boys' number of #1s as well.

The 10 most successful PSB albums on the U.S. Billboard charts

I'm ranking the albums solely according to their peak positions, regardless of the amount of time they spent on the chart. So this should not be interpreted as a ranking of actual sales.

  1. Please (#7 peak, charted for 31 weeks)
  2. Very (#20, 17 weeks)
  3. Actually (#25, 45 weeks)
  4. Yes (#32, 2 weeks)
  5. Introspective (#34, 22 weeks)
  6. Bilingual (#39, 6 weeks)
  7. Behaviour (#45, 25 weeks)
  8. Release (#73, 2 weeks)
  9. Disco 2 (#75, 3 weeks)
  10. Nightlife (#84, 3 weeks)

PSB U.S. and U.K. gold and platinum records

In the United States, gold albums () are awarded by the RIAA (Record Industry Association of America) for sales of 500,000 units and platinum albums () for sales of one million units. In the United Kingdom, gold albums are awarded by the BPI (British Phonographic Industry, Ltd.) for sales of 100,000 units and platinum albums for sales of 300,000 units. Double-platinum () and triple-platinum () awards are simply for the respective multiples of those sales figures.


U.S. Award
U.K. Award















No PSB singles have received gold or platinum awards in the U.S. In the U.K., however, the following singles have won gold awards, which for U.K. singles signified sales of at least 500,000 units. (A little later, in 1989, the rules were changed, lowering that figure to 400,000.)

U.K. Award

"West End Girls"

"Always on My Mind"

Finally, it's certainly worth noting that Liza Minnelli's PSB-produced album Results also earned a U.K. gold record. (If the BPI is like the RIAA in this regard, an album's producer as well as the performing artist receives the award.)

The U.S. sales figures for PSB albums

Beginning in 1991, Nielsen Media Research began implementing the computerized SoundScan system to track music sales. On two separate occasions, Keith Caulfield of "Ask Billboard" (at billboard.com) has provided the official SoundScan tallies for U.S. sales of the Pet Shop Boys albums released since 1991. These figures are accurate as of October 2004 and May 2006 (except for those for Fundamental and PopArt, which are from October 2006). I've also included in the tallies the minimum U.S. sales figures for the pre-1991 albums based upon RIAA gold- and platinum-record awards (as described above). Pre-1991 albums are listed in chronological order; post-1991 albums are listed in descending order according to sales figures, which are rounded to the nearest thousand:

PleaseMore than 1,000,000 units sold1
DiscoLess than 500,0002
ActuallyMore than 500,0003
IntrospectiveMore than 500,0003
BehaviourLess than 500,0002
As of Oct '04
As of May '06
except where noted
Disco 2
Disco 3

1Since the RIAA has awarded Please a platinum album, it must have sold at least one million units in the U.S. Since it has not, however, received a double-platinum award, it must not yet have sold at least two million.

2Since the RIAA has awarded Actually and Introspective gold albums, they must have sold at least a half-million units each in the U.S. But since they haven't been awarded platinum albums, they must not yet have sold at least a million.

3Since the RIAA has not awarded Disco and Behaviour gold albums, they must not yet have sold at least a million units.

4The RIAA has awarded Very a gold album because at least a half-million copies have been shipped to stores in the U.S., although the SoundScan figures for actual sales are somewhat less.

5Fundamental: As of early April 2009.

6PopArt: As of late October 2006. If the PopArt sales seem unbelievably low, keep in mind that its U.S. sales suffered terribly from the fact that it wasn't released in the States until nearly three years after it was released in Britain and elsewhere, by which time the vast majority of Americans who wanted it had already bought it as an import. The rationale—if rationality was involved at all—behind the decisions to delay the U.S. release for that long and to release it at all in the U.S. after such a lengthy delay is one of the great mysteries in the history of the handling (and mishandling) of PSB product by the recording industry. Yes, I understand that the Boys having had more than one U.S. record company had something to do with it. But you'd think the legal wrangling could have been overcome in a much more timely manner for the mutual financial benefit of everyone involved. Greed, greed, greed. I sometimes suspect record industry executives still think we're living in the pre-Internet age, when it was genuinely difficult to buy imports and consumers were at their mercy. Then again, I suppose the existence of the Internet is, much to their chagrin, an escapable reality of their lives.

7Yes: As of late September 2009.

The 10 longest PSB song (or track) titles

This ranking depends on definitions. I'm counting the number of individual characters in the titles, including subtitles, punctuation marks, and spaces. If you count the titles of individual songs only, then the two songs in the medley at #1 would have to be counted separately, and #2 thus becomes the "winner." In this case, however, I'm counting the length of the title of the track. By that criterion, #1 is the clear winner.

  1. Where the Streets Have No Name (I Can't Take My Eyes Off You) - 61 characters
  2. I Don't Know What You Want But I Can't Give It Any More - 55
  3. It's Just My Little Tribute to Caligula, Darling - 48
4-5. (tie) This Must Be the Place I Waited Years to Leave - 46
4-5. (tie) You Only Tell Me You Love Me When You're Drunk - 46
6-7. (tie) How Can You Expect to Be Taken Seriously? - 41
6-7. (tie) I Wouldn't Normally Do This Kind of Thing - 41
8-9. (tie) The Boy Who Couldn't Keep His Clothes On - 40
8-9. (tie) Opportunities (Let's Make Lots of Money) - 40
 10. Try It (I'm in Love with a Married Man) - 39

The 10 longest PSB album tracks (not counting bootlegs, "special editions," or Disco albums)

The whole matter of track length is imprecise. Which figure do you use? The "official" figure often marked on album covers or discs? Sometimes it's incorrect. The figure that appears on the digital readout of your CD player or computer? Often it varies from one device to another. (Yes, I've tried it!) So what figures do I use here? Simple. I've checked various sources—album covers, CD readouts, online references—and then picked the figure that appears most often for each track. Majority rules, if not always definitively!

  1. 9:24 - It's Alright (on Introspective)
  2. 9:05 - Always on My Mind/In My House (on Introspective)
  3. 9:00 - Drama in the Harbour (on The Battleship Potemkin)
  4. 8:10 - Left to My Own Devices (on Introspective)
  5. 7:41 - Domino Dancing (on Introspective)
  6. 7:23 - I'm Not Scared (on Introspective)
  7. 7:23 - After All (on The Battleship Potemkin)
  8. 7:10 - The Grind (on The Most Incredible Thing)
  9. 6:50 - Odessa (on The Battleship Potemkin)
  10. 6:48 - Being Boring (on Behaviour)
The 10 (actually 12) longest commercially released "official" PSB remixes
  1. 12:33 - Liberation (E-Smoove Mix)
  2. 11:57 - Paninaro '95 (Angel Moraes Girls Boys in Dub)
  3. 11:47 - Se A Vida É (Deep Dish Dub)
  4. 11:29 - Left to My Own Devices (Disco Mix)
  5. 11:25 - I Don't Know What You Want But I Can't Give It Any More (Morales Club Mix)
  6. 10:55 - New York City Boy (Thunderpuss 2000 Club Mix)
  7. 10:54 - New York City Boy (Morales Club Mix)
  8. 10:46 - Break 4 Love (Friburn & Urik Tribal Mix)
  9. 10:41 - Somewhere (Trouser Enthusiasts Mix)
  10. Three-way tie:

The 10 shortest PSB tracks

Commercially available tracks only, not counting bootlegs or some of Disco 2's brief "megamix-style" excerpts of full-length mixes. Also, I don't count official PSB ringtones here.

  1. 0:14 - Generic Jingle
  2. 0:32 - Opportunities (Reprise)
  3. 0:52 - Our Daily Bread
  4. 1:04 - Transfer
  5. 1:14 - Postscript*
  6. 1:17 - God Willing
  7. 1:32 - Stormy Meetings
  8. 1:41 - Where the Streets Have No Name (I Can't Take My Eyes Off You) (Eclipse Mix)
  9. 1:47 - Prologue
  10. 1:48 - The Miracle - Ceremony

*I prefer to count and time "Postscript" as a separate track in spite of the fact that on the Very CD it actually "tracks" as part of "Go West."

PSB songs with lyrics that don't contain the title

This list doesn't include instrumentals ("Casting a Shadow,," "KDX 125," "The Living Daylights," and "The Noise"), which of course by their very nature don't have lyrics and therefore can't include the title.

 1. Between Two Islands

 2. The Calm Before the Storm

 3. Fugitive

 4. K-hole

 5. The Night I Fell in Love

 6. Postscript

 7. Transfer

 8. Legacy

 9. Love etc.

The "etc." occurs nowhere in the lyrics.

10. All or Nothing

Except for snippets of Neil singing "And there she goes" in the background, the lyrics of this song are almost entirely in Japanese, and the few smatterings of English don't include the title. Of course, it's distinctly possible (even likely) that a Japanese translation of the words "all or nothing" appears in the lyrics, but there's no doubt that the English title itself never appears.

11. Paninaro '95

This may be trifling on my part, but although the word "paninaro" occurs prominently in this track, the number 95 never appears in the lyrics. Nor would you expect it to.

12. Vampires

Although the word "vampire" (singular) is used repeatedly in the lyrics, "vampires" (plural) appears only in the title.

13. Je T'aime…Moi Non Plus

True, it wasn't written by Neil and Chris, but they did record it, and in a rendition that doesn't include the French title (whereas the original did), so it merits inclusion here. It does, however, include the Boys' English translation of the title: "I love you… but not more than me."

14. Where the Streets Have No Name (I Can't Take My Eyes Off You)

Not only does Neil never actually sing the title of the "I Can't Take My Eyes Off You" portion of this track, but even in the original version Frankie Valli sings "Can't take my eyes off of you" rather than the title, "I Can't Take My Eyes Off You."

15. Viva la Vida

The lyrics of neither Coldplay's original nor the Boys' cover (which they mash with their own "Domino Dancing") contain the title—Spanish for "live the life."

And perhaps—

16. I Don't Know What You Want But I Can't Give It Any More

I know the "official" printed lyrics include the repeated title verbatim in the chorus. But, at least to my ears, I never once hear Neil singing the pronoun "I" before "don't know what you want but I can't give it any more." Maybe he "clips" it so much that it's barely noticeable.

By the way, I don't include "Saturday Night Forever" in this list because, although the words "Saturday night" and "forever" are separated by punctuation and appear on separate lines in the printed lyrics, they do appear back-to-back and are sung in that sequence: "(Saturday night, Saturday night) forever and ever."

Finally, it's not a "PSB song," so it doesn't qualify for this "list proper," but the lyrics of Chris's remake of the old New Order track "Subculture" with Stop Modernists don't contain that song's title, either. Then again, that sort of thing was hardly unusual for New Order, who were as famed for their lyrics-without-the-titles as the Pet Shop Boys are for their single-word album titles.

11 (or 12) songs on which Chris sings (or "speaks") lead

I'm not counting songs in which Chris's voice can be clearly heard but in which he takes a decidedly secondary role, such as the original 7" version of "I Want a Dog," in which he recites a list of dog breeds during the instrumental break. In such cases Neil is nevertheless the lead singer. No, I'm focusing here on songs in which Chris's voice is either dominant or at least equal to Neil's. There aren't many of them—

 1. Paninaro/Paninaro '95

Neil sings the repeated "Paninaro—oh, oh, oh" chorus, but Chris speaks what amounts to the verses and bridge.

 2. One of the Crowd

This time Neil sings the bridge (nothing more than the title), but Chris sing-speaks the verses and chorus in a voice that's heavily distorted, almost to the point of unintelligibility.

 3. We All Feel Better in the Dark

The Neil-chorus, Chris-verses pattern again, but at least this time Chris's voice isn't electronically distorted—only somewhat buried in the mix.

 4. Music for Boys

Essentially an instrumental, though Chris's distorted voice intones the title at strategic points. That may be Neil singing the repeated "oh, yeah" line, sped up to sound like one of David Seville's chipmunks.

 5. Postscript

For the first time in recorded history, Chris actually sings in his natural voice, though multi-tracked to the point that, when I first heard this, I thought it was the same male chorus that handled the background vocals on the preceding song, "Go West."

 6. Euroboy

Chris and Neil pretty much share the lead vocal in this track, with Chris's voice disguised through the use of a Vocoder.

 7. Somewhere (Extended Mix)

Although Chris's voice is heard little if any in most mixes of this PSB remake, he's quite prominent in the Extended Mix, in which he recites some of the lyrics of another song from West Side Story, "One Hand, One Heart"—effectively taking the lead, however briefly, during that part of the track.

 8. Lies

Chris's second full-fledged singing vocal, and not so heavily multi-tracked this time around.

 9. Time on My Hands

Chris does the recurring "count up" throughout the song, and although Neil repeatedly sings a couple of lines of more substantive lyrics, his voice is so profoundly distorted that he's essentially unintelligible. It boils down to a co-lead vocal between the two of them.

 10. This Used to Be the Future

In this song Neil, Chris, and guest Phil Oakey of The Human League trade off lead vocals. It qualifies as Chris's third recorded instance of outright, traditional singing as opposed to "speaking" or even "speak-singing."

 11. Subculture

True, it's not a "PSB song" (rather it's by Stop Modernists, with whom Chris guests), but it's certainly a lead vocal by Chris. In fact, it's his "biggest" lead to date, with more "air time" than ever before and no discernable studio treatment to speak of.

And possibly—

 12. Je T'Aime…Moi Non Plus

Chris has stated that the "male part" in this duet with Sam Taylor-Wood is performed by a Macintosh computer, but I'd be surprised if Chris's own voice didn't play at least some part in the proceedings.

Other songs in which Chris's voice can be heard

These are the songs not covered in the preceding list in which Chris's voice can also be heard—often (though certainly not always) "vocoderized" or otherwise distorted:

And maybe (but on account of distortion, "vocoderization," or other factors it's difficult to tell for sure without confirmation):

One of my site visitors has also reminded me that you can very briefly and faintly hear Chris sing-speaking along with Neil's main vocal at one point in the "Heart" video. (The same is also true of Ian McKellen's vampire and the actress who plays Neil's bride.)

I should note that Chris has asserted that his voice is not in the chanting chorus of "Love etc." He and Neil concede that it was in there at one time, but they "took it out."

Studio tracks on which Neil plays the guitar

Neil has played the guitar live in concert on such songs as "Suburbia," "Rent," "Se A Vida É," and "Was It Worth It?" But there's only a handful of cases in which it's a documented fact—or at least, from the evidence, a very strong likelihood—that he's playing guitar on studio tracks. That doesn't mean that these are the only tracks on which he plays guitar (usually acoustic, but sometimes electric); nor does it necessarily mean that there's not another guitarist on some of these tracks as well. (Note: Guitar samples played on a keyboard don't count.)

  1. Domino Dancing
  2. It Must Be Obvious
  3. How Can You Expect to Be Taken Seriously?
  4. The End of the World
  5. The Truck Driver and His Mate
  6. Hit and Miss
  7. You Only Tell Me You Love Me When You're Drunk
  8. Boy Strange
  9. Out of My System
  10. Home and Dry
  11. I Get Along
  12. Birthday Boy
  13. Luna Park
  14. Gin and Jag
  15. Beautiful People (demo)
    Neil plays guitar on the demo version of this song, which was made available for listening on the official PSB website. But his guitar apparently isn't used in the album version.

    And if you stretch it a bit—
  16. I Want a Lover
    Neil plays bass guitar on this last track. (Well, it's a guitar, isn't it?)

It's very likely that Neil also plays guitar on some other tracks on Release aside from the three listed above (#10-12), "London" being an especially good candidate. But those are the only three for which we so far have definite confirmation of Neil's guitar work.

A partial list of synths/samplers used by the Pet Shop Boys

I've managed to piece together the following incomplete list of synthesizers (both analog and digital, including samplers) used by the Boys. If you know of additional synths/samplers that they've definitely used, please let me know via email, including the source of your information (magazine article, personal observation, etc.).

  • Akai S1000 Sampler
  • Akai S1000HD Sampler
  • Akai S3200
  • Akai S900
  • Alesis A6 Andromeda
  • ARP 2600
  • Emagic Logic Audio Sequencer
  • E-Mu Emulator
  • E-Mu Emulator II
  • E-Mu Emulator II+
  • E-Mu Drumulator
  • E-Mu Morpheus
  • E-Mu Orbit
  • E-Mu Proformance Plus
  • E-Mu Planet Phat
  • E-Mu Proteus 1
  • Fairlight CMI Series II
  • Fairlight CMI Series III
  • Korg KAAOS Pad Dynamic Effect/Controller
  • Korg MicroKorg
  • Korg M1
  • Korg M1r
  • Korg M3
  • Korg Prophecy
  • Korg Triton
  • Korg Triton Extreme
  • Kurzweil K2000/K2500
  • Kurzweil PC-88
  • LinPlug RM IV drum machine
  • Moog Voyager
  • Moog*
  • Native Instruments Maschine
  • New England Digital Synclavier
  • Nord Electro
  • Nord Electro 2
  • Nord Lead 2
  • Nord Lead 3
  • Nord Modular G2
  • Oberheim DMX drum machine
  • Oberheim Matrix 1000
  • Oberheim Matrix-12
  • Oberheim OB8
  • Oberheim SEM
  • Oberheim Xpander
  • PPG Modular Synthesizer 300
  • PPG Wave 2.2
  • PPG Wave 2.3
  • Roland 700 Series
  • Roland PC-200 MKII
  • Roland A-50
  • Roland AlphaJuno 1
  • Roland CR78
  • Roland D-50
  • Roland JD-800
  • Roland JP-8000
  • Roland Juno-106
  • Roland Juno-60
  • Roland Jupiter-8
  • Roland JV1080
  • Roland JV2080
  • Roland JX-10
  • Roland MKS50
  • Roland MKS80 "Super Jupiter"
  • Roland P300
  • Roland R-70
  • Roland S770
  • Roland SC88
  • Roland SPD-8 Triggers
  • Roland TB-303 Bassline
  • Roland TR-808 drum machine
  • Roland TR-909 drum machine
  • Roland U110
  • Roland VG8 guitar processor
  • Sequential Circuits Prophet 5
  • Studio Electronics Midimoog
  • Waldorf MicroWave
  • Waldorf MicroWave XT
  • Waldorf Wave
  • Yamaha DX1
  • Yamaha DX7
  • Yamaha TG33**
  • Yamaha TG500
  • Yamaha TX81Z

I'm indebted to Gareth Edwards for contributing a good deal of information to my list above, for which I'm very grateful.

As for other keyboards, Chris has been known to play acoustic piano and a Fender Rhodes electric piano. Bits of organ can also be heard in several PSB tracks (such as "Go West," "Shameless," and "Decadence"), but in each case it's uncertain whether it's an actual organ or a synth or sampler mimicking the sound of an organ.

*In addition to the aforementioned Moog Voyager, they've certainly used other, older Moog models as well as additional analog synthesizers, particularly while recording Behaviour and its associated b-sides. But I'm uncertain at this time regarding the exact models. However, the Moog Modular, of which Behaviour producer Harold Faltermeyer is especially fond, seems a likely candidate.

**In response to a September 2003 question on the official PSB website, Chris cited the "Roland TG33" as a common source for string synth sounds on PSB recordings. Yet I haven't been able to find any other references online to a "TG33" synth by Roland. There is, however, a Yamaha TG33. Chris may simply have confused the synth manufacturers.

The key signatures of selected PSB songs

This is a somewhat arcane little list—some might even call it neurotic—but I'm rather proud of it. I've figured out (or, in a few cases, some of my online correspondents have figured out for me) the key signatures of a number of Pet Shop Boys songs. I certainly don't claim certainty, however, so if you know for sure that I'm wrong about any of these, or if you know the key signatures of any PSB songs that are missing here, .

  • All Over the World - F major
  • Always on My Mind - G major
  • Being Boring - A minor (verses) and Aflat major (chorus)
  • Can You Forgive Her? - B minor
  • Casanova in Hell - A major
  • Closer to Heaven - C minor
  • Delusions of Grandeur - G minor (verses) and G major (chorus)
  • Did You See Me Coming? - D major (although I believe the bridge is in a different key, possibly B minor)
  • A Different Point of View - C major
  • Discoteca - C minor
  • DJ Culture - C minor, with an E minor bridge
  • Do I Have To? - C minor
  • Domino Dancing - A minor
  • Dreaming of the Queen - Bflat minor
  • Electricity - E major
  • The End of the World - G major
  • Flamboyant - Bsharp major
  • Footsteps - Eflat major
  • For Your Own Good - E minor
  • Forever in Love - C minor
  • Go West - C major, modulating near the end to D major
  • Happiness Is an Option - Csharp minor
  • Heart - A minor
  • Here - C major
  • Home and Dry - Aflat major
  • How Can You Expect to Be Taken Seriously? - G minor
  • I Don't Know What You Want But I Can't Give It Any More - F minor
  • I Get Along - G major
  • I Get Excited - A minor
  • I Want a Dog - A minor
  • I Want a Lover - A minor
  • I Wouldn't Normally Do This Kind of Thing - D major
  • If Looks Could Kill - C minor
  • I'm Not Scared - C minor
  • In Denial - C major, with a Csharp major bridge
  • In the Night - C minor
  • It Always Comes as a Surprise - Aflat major
  • It Couldn't Happen Here - C major
  • It Doesn't Often Snow at Christmas - G major
  • It's a Sin - C minor
  • Jealousy - C major
  • King's Cross - F minor
  • Later Tonight - E minor
  • Left to My Own Devices - A minor
  • Liberation - Bflat major (verses) and D major (chorus)
  • London - C major
  • Losing My Mind - Esharp major (PSB version); G major (Liza Minnelli's version)
  • Love Comes Quickly - B minor
  • Love etc. - D minor
  • Love Is a Catastrophe - A minor
  • Luna Park - G major
  • A Man Could Get Arrested - C minor
  • Miracles - D minor, but ending on a D major chord
  • Music for Boys - C major
  • Nervously - C major
  • New York City Boy - D minor
  • Numb - C minor
  • The Night I Fell in Love - E major
  • One and One Make Five - mainly D minor, with an F major bridge
  • One in a Million - A major, modulating near the end to B major
  • One of the Crowd - A minor
  • The Only One - F major
  • Only the Wind - A minor
  • Opportunities (Let's Make Lots of Money) - C minor, modulating for the final chorus to Csharp minor
  • Paninaro - C minor
  • Positive Role Model - C minor
  • Radiophonic - A minor
  • A Red Letter Day - F major
  • Rent - A minor
  • Se A Vida É - A major
  • Sexy Northerner - E minor
  • Shameless - A minor (verses) and A major (chorus)
  • Shopping - A minor
  • Single - Dsharp major (verses and bridge) and C major (chorus)
  • So Hard - A minor (verses) and C major (chorus)
  • Somebody Else's Business - C minor
  • Suburbia - C major
  • The Survivors - Fsharp major
  • That's My Impression - C minor
  • The Theatre - Eflat minor (chorus) and Eflat major (verses)
  • This Must Be the Place I Waited Years to Leave - B minor
  • Time on My Hands - A minor
  • To Face the Truth - A major
  • To Speak Is a Sin - A minor
  • To Step Aside - C minor
  • Tonight Is Forever - C minor
  • The Truck Driver and His Mate - C major, modulating at times to Dflat major
  • Two Divided by Zero - Esharp minor
  • Vampires - Fsharp minor
  • Violence - A minor
  • Was It Worth It? - C minor, modulating at the end to Esharp major
  • West End Girls - E minor
  • What Have I Done to Deserve This? - C major
  • Why Don't We Live Together? - C minor
  • Yesterday, When I Was Mad - C minor (verses) and C major (chorus) – It has been suggested that it would be more accurate to say that this song is in the F Dorian modal key, which has the same notes as C minor but which resolves on F, although it actually ends on a Bsharp major chord. This only serves to underscore the harmonic complexity of this track.
  • You Choose - A minor
  • You Only Tell Me You Love Me When You're Drunk - C major
  • Young Offender - Dsharp major
  • Your Funny Uncle - Aflat major

It would appear that Chris and Neil have a particular fondness for the keys of A minor, C minor, and C major. Chris himself has confirmed this: in response to a fan's question about his favorite key for composing, he stated in the July 2010 issue of Literally that it's "either C minor or A minor." But he was quick to add, "Not exclusively."

There are more lists in Part 2. Simply click the "Next" button below.

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