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"
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 elseeven becoming the
best-selling duo in the history of the British charts. How did this terrible thing
The answer is simple:
Neil and Chris committed "career suicide" in the U.S. Now, dont misunderstand
me. I dont think they did anything "wrong." I wouldnt change a thing
about them or the way theyve handled their career. But, as fantastic as
they are, they doomed themselves in America.
that's America's loss. It didnt 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 Im about to describe. But, taken altogether,
it spelled American career suicide.
they arethe ten things that the Pet Shop Boys did to commit career suicide
in the United States:
(Lets Make Lots of Money)"
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. arent supposed to be so blatantly
calculated and opportunistic. You say, "But Neil and Chris werent being
themselves in that songthey were merely playing roles." Yes,
precisely. But the mass of the American record-buying public isnt 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 dont perceive it when its
handled with any degree of subtlety. "Weird Al" Yankovic they get. "Opportunities,"
many of them didnt.
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 werent 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 dont like
it when their stars yawn. At least not unless theyre yawning at something
that they themselves would think is boring or "uncool." They especially dont
like them yawning, it would appear, directly in their faces, perhaps even at
them. Chris's odd expressionhalfway between a vacant blank and a scowldidnt
help matters, either. Theyre even wearing tuxedos. Rock stars do not
wear tuxedos, unless theyre getting an award from the President, and not
always then. "Just what are these guys about, anyway?"
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 dont sing about shopping. Hell, they dont
even like to go shopping, much less sing about it. Of course, "Shopping"
isnt really about shopping, but that went right over most peoples
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.
"Always on My Mind" not appearing
Boys committed a cardinal sin with this one. They released a hit single that wasnt
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
were really getting down to itthe 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 videos 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
has noted how Introspective was a major blow to their U.S. popularity.
How so? I mean, its a drop-dead brilliant record, right? Yes, it certainly
is. But thats 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
OKin fact, theyre 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 thats 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," werent the "unedited" originals of the hit singles.
Rather, they were drastically remixed. Thus, from the American consumers
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 PSBs popularity in America.
the Streets Have No Name (I Cant 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, its 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 1991which 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, thats
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.
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 dobut 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, Neils
coming out has regrettably pegged the Pet Shop Boys as a "gay group" in the United
Statesmore or less by definition a cult band.
And thats how the Pet Shop Boys went
in ten easy steps from being major hitmakers to a hitless cult band in the U.S.
- West End Girls
- West End Girls
(Lets Make Lots of Money)
- West End Girls
- Always on My Mind
- West End Girls
- Its a Sin
- 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.
- Being Boring
- I Wouldnt Normally Do This
Kind of Thing
- What Have
I Done to Deserve This?
Always Comes as a Surprise
in a Million
- Left to My Own Devices
- How Can You Expect to Be
Taken Seriously? (particularly the Brothers in Rhythm video mix)
- Im Not Scared
- Birthday Boy
- The Sodom and Gomorrah Show
- King of Rome
- It's a Sin
- I Made My Excuses and Left
- Can You Forgive Her?
- I Didn't Get Where I Am Today*
- 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 Sound of the
Call me old-fashioned, but is a melody too much to ask
for in a song?
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.
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 tastemine included.
*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.
isn't merely my favorite Pet Shop Boys album; it's one of my five favorite pop/rock
albums of all time.
There are some fans for whom this
isn't their least favorite PSB album. Just not very many of them.
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.
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.
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."
For the reasons that I cover quite nicely
in my main entry for the album, if I do say so myself.
not to mention eye-catching. It also made me nostalgic for my childhood Lego
set. It's a pityunderstandable, but a pity nonethelessthat the original
design is no longer available in new copies of the album, having been replaced
by a mere photo of the original packaing.
A marvelous study in the effectiveness
I particularly like the
lenticular photo of the special edition, which allowed it (appropriately enough)
to "alternate" between Chris and Neil.
A high-detail botanical printvery 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
Wouldnt Normally Do This Kind of Thing (Voxigen Mix by Gary Jones and
Chris Le Blanc)
Can You Expect to Be Taken Seriously? (Extended Mix by Brothers in Rhythm)
- Did You See Me Coming? (Possibly More Mix by Pet Shop Boys)
- Jealousy (Extended Mix by David Jacob)*
Red Letter Day (Trouser Autoerotic Decapitation Mix by Trouser Enthusiasts)**
- What Have I Done to Deserve
This? (Disco Mix by Shep Pettibone)
- Its a Sin (Disco Mix
by Stephen Hague and Pet Shop Boys)
Alright (Extended Version by Trevor Horn)
York City Boy (The Almighty Definitive Mix by Martin Norris and Jon Dixon)
- Rent (Extended Mix by François Kevorkian)
a notch for quoting Othello.
**Boosted two notches by virtue of the title of the mix.
Didn't Get Where I Am Today
She's Not Your Girlfriend
Truck Driver and His Mate
- We All Feel
Better in the Dark
*Docked a couple notches because Neil's
vocal is buried so deep in the mix.
- Go West
the Streets Have No Name (I Can't Take My Eyes Off You)
- Always on My
I Wouldn't Normally Do This Kind of
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.
How Can You Expect to Be Taken
and Chris parody major rock stars. Neil's takeoff on Springsteen, in particular,
It's a Sin
I love the personifications of the Seven
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
Possibly the PSB video that most enhances its
song. Striking, often gorgeous imageryalternately
amusing and profoundsynched 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.
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 documentaryexcept every nature documentary I've ever seen is more
interesting than this.
Love the song, but the video bores me
to tears. Sorry.
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
I Get Along
The Bruce Weber schtickmore or less
random videography focusing on beautiful young people who look like they've just
stepped out of an Abercrombie & Fitch catalogwas 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 megetting old, that is. Regardless, I tend to hit the Skip button
on my remote.
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 badjust
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.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
"Nothing Has Been Proved"
- Dusty Springfield
and Neil, who wrote and produced this latter-day hit for Dusty, appear as reporters
in the video.
"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.
"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.")
"Hallo Spaceboy" - David Bowie
The Boys appear
intermittently in performance scenes that alternate with those featuring Bowie
himself. While Chris plays keyboard, Neil sings backuponce again sometimes
more like a co-lead.
"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.
End Girls (#1)
Have I Done to Deserve This? (#2)
Always on My Mind (#4)
a Sin (#9)
(Let's Make Lots of Money) (#10)
Domino Dancing (#18)
7-8. (tie) Love
Comes Quickly (#62)
(tie) So Hard (#62)
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.
you care to see the Boys' complete U.K.
and U.S. pop singles chart history?
- West End Girls (#1
Club Play [two weeks], #3 Dance Sales)
- Before (#1 Club Play [two weeks], #7 Dance Sales)
- Love etc. (#1 Club Play, #2 Dance Sales)
York City Boy (#1 Club Play, #4 Dance Sales)
4 Love (#1 Club Play, #6 Dance Sales)
Step Aside (#1 Club Play, #8 Dance Sales)
Have I Done to Deserve This? (#1 Club Play, #12 Dance Sales)
- Did You See Me Coming? (#1 Club Play; #19 Dance/Electronic Albums*)
West (#1 Club Play, #25 Dance Sales)
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.
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.)
to this fascinating book, PSB can also claim these further distinctions:
- the most successful
male artists on the U.S. dance charts
most successful duo or group
most successful non-Americans
eighth most successful artist of the 1980s
sixth most successful of the 1990s
in the number of dance hits (28), exceeded only by Madonna and Janet Jackson*
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.
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.
(#7 peak, charted for 31 weeks)
(#20, 17 weeks)
(#25, 45 weeks)
- Yes (#32, 2 weeks)
(#34, 22 weeks)
(#39, 6 weeks)
(#45, 25 weeks)
(#73, 2 weeks)
- Disco 2
(#75, 3 weeks)
(#84, 3 weeks)
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.
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.)
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.)
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:
than 1,000,000 units sold1|
3 || |
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.
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.
the RIAA has not awarded Disco and Behaviour gold albums, they must
not yet have sold at least a million units.
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.
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.
of late September 2009.
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.
the Streets Have No Name (I Can't Take My Eyes Off You) - 61 characters
Don't Know What You Want But I Can't Give It Any More - 55
It's Just My Little Tribute
to Caligula, Darling - 48
(tie) This Must Be the Place I Waited
Years to Leave - 46
You Only Tell Me You Love Me When
You're Drunk - 46
How Can You Expect to Be Taken
Seriously? - 41
I Wouldn't Normally Do This Kind of
Thing - 41
8-9. (tie) The
Boy Who Couldn't Keep His Clothes On - 40
(tie) Opportunities (Let's
Make Lots of Money) - 40
Try It (I'm in Love with a Married
Man) - 39
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 sourcesalbum covers, CD readouts, online referencesand
then picked the figure that appears most often for each track. Majority rules,
if not always definitively!
- 9:24 - It's Alright
- 9:05 - Always
on My Mind/In My House (on Introspective)
- 9:00 - Drama
in the Harbour (on The Battleship Potemkin)
- 8:10 - Left
to My Own Devices (on Introspective)
- 7:41 - Domino
Dancing (on Introspective)
- 7:23 - I'm
Not Scared (on Introspective)
- 7:23 - After
All (on The Battleship Potemkin)
- 7:10 - The Grind (on The Most Incredible Thing)
- 6:50 - Odessa
(on The Battleship Potemkin)
- 6:48 - Being
Boring (on Behaviour)
- Liberation (E-Smoove Mix)
- 11:57 - Paninaro '95
(Angel Moraes Girls Boys in Dub)
- 11:47 - Se
A Vida É (Deep Dish Dub)
- Left to My Own Devices (Disco
- 11:25 - I
Don't Know What You Want But I Can't Give It Any More (Morales Club Mix)
- 10:55 - New York
City Boy (Thunderpuss 2000 Club Mix)
- 10:54 - New
York City Boy (Morales Club Mix)
- 10:46 - Break
4 Love (Friburn & Urik Tribal Mix)
- 10:41 - Somewhere
(Trouser Enthusiasts Mix)
- Three-way tie:
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
- Generic Jingle
- Opportunities (Reprise)
- Our Daily Bread
- 1:04 - Transfer
- 1:14 - Postscript*
- God Willing
- 1:32 - Stormy
- 1:41 - Where the Streets Have
No Name (I Can't Take My Eyes Off You) (Eclipse Mix)
- 1:47 - Prologue
- 1:48 - The Miracle - Ceremony
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
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.
Between Two Islands
Calm Before the Storm
Night I Fell in Love
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.
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.
Although the word "vampire" (singular)
is used repeatedly in the lyrics, "vampires" (plural) appears only in the title.
T'aime…Moi Non Plus
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."
Where the Streets Have No Name (I Can't Take
My Eyes Off You)
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."
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.
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
Neil sings the repeated
"Paninarooh, oh, oh" chorus, but Chris speaks what amounts to the verses
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.
All Feel Better in the Dark
Neil-chorus, Chris-verses pattern again, but at least this time Chris's voice
isn't electronically distortedonly somewhat buried in the mix.
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.
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
Chris and Neil pretty much share the lead
vocal in this track, with Chris's voice disguised through the use of a Vocoder.
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.
Chris's second full-fledged
singing vocal, and not so heavily multi-tracked this time around.
on My Hands
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."
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.
Moi Non Plus
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.
These are the songs not covered in the
preceding list in which Chris's voice can also be heardoften (though
certainly not always) "vocoderized" or otherwise distorted:
maybe (but on account of distortion, "vocoderization," or other factors it's difficult to tell for sure without confirmation):
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
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."
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 factor at
least, from the evidence, a very strong likelihoodthat 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.)
- Domino Dancing
- It Must Be Obvious
Can You Expect to Be Taken Seriously?
- The End of the World
Truck Driver and His Mate
- Hit and Miss
Only Tell Me You Love Me When You're Drunk
- Boy Strange
of My System
- Luna Park
- Gin and Jag
- 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
- I Want a Lover
plays bass guitar on this last track. (Well, it's a guitar, isn't
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.
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
Logic Audio Sequencer
- E-Mu Drumulator
CMI Series II
CMI Series III
- Korg KAAOS Pad Dynamic Effect/Controller
- Korg M1r
- Korg M3
- Korg Prophecy
- Korg Triton
- Kurzweil PC-88
RM IV drum machine
- Moog Voyager
- Native Instruments Maschine
England Digital Synclavier
- Oberheim DMX drum machine
Modular Synthesizer 300
- PPG Wave 2.2
- PPG Wave 2.3
- Roland 700 Series
- Roland PC-200 MKII
- Roland A-50
- Roland AlphaJuno
- 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
TR-808 drum machine
TR-909 drum machine
VG8 guitar processor
Circuits Prophet 5
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.
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.
This is a somewhat arcane little listsome
might even call it neuroticbut 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
on My Mind - G major
Boring - A minor (verses) and A major (chorus)
You Forgive Her? - B minor
- Casanova in Hell - A major
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)
Different Point of View - C major
- 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
- Electricity - E major
- The End of the World - G major
- Flamboyant - B
- Footsteps - E
- For Your Own Good - E
- Forever in Love - C minor
- Go West - C major, modulating near the
end to D major
- Happiness Is an Option - C minor
- Heart - A minor
- Here - C major
and Dry - A
- How Can You Expect to
Be Taken Seriously? - G minor
Don't Know What You Want But I Can't Give It Any More - F minor
Get Along - G major
- I Get Excited
- A minor
- I Want a Dog - A
- 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 -
- In Denial - C major,
with a C
- In the Night -
- It Always Comes as
a Surprise - A
- 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
Cross - F minor
- Later Tonight
- E minor
- Left to My Own Devices
- A minor
- Liberation - B
major (verses) and D major (chorus)
- C major
- Losing My Mind - E
major (PSB version); G major (Liza Minnelli's version)
Comes Quickly - B minor
- Love etc. - D minor
Is a Catastrophe - A minor
- Luna Park - G major
Man Could Get Arrested - C minor
- D minor, but ending on a D major chord
for Boys - C major
- Nervously -
- 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
in a Million - A major, modulating near the end to B major
of the Crowd - A minor
Only One - F major
- Only the
Wind - A minor
(Let's Make Lots of Money) - C minor, modulating for the final chorus to C
- Paninaro - C minor
- Positive Role Model - C minor
- Radiophonic - A minor
Red Letter Day - F major
- A minor
- Se A Vida É - A major
- Sexy Northerner - E minor
- A minor (verses) and A major (chorus)
- A minor
- Single - D
major (verses and bridge) and C major (chorus)
Hard - A minor (verses) and C major (chorus)
Else's Business - C minor
- C major
- The Survivors - F
- That's My Impression
- C minor
- The Theatre - E
minor (chorus) and E
- This Must Be
the Place I Waited Years to Leave - B minor
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
- Two Divided by Zero
- Vampires - F
- Violence - A minor
- Was It Worth It? - C minor, modulating
at the end to E
- West End Girls - E minor
- What Have I Done to Deserve This? - C
- 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 B
major chord. This only serves to underscore the harmonic complexity of this track.
- You Choose - A minor
Only Tell Me You Love Me When You're Drunk - C major
Offender - D
- Your Funny Uncle - A 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."
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