Pet Shop Boys B-Sides
September 15, 2012 1:52 PM   Subscribe

In 1984, British synthpop duo Pet Shop Boys released the first version of West End Girls (which after being rerecorded would arguably become one of the first #1 rap records). As a b-side, they included Pet Shop Boys, an eponymous track largely created by their (then) producer Bobby Orlando. This was only the first in a career-long focus on b-side tracks that continues to this day...

Leaving out remixes, as full a list as possible of almost 30 years of Pet Shop Boys b-sides (as culled from Discogs listings of their singles releases):

1984:
Pet Shop Boys
1985:
A Man Could Get Arrested
In The Night
1986:
Was That What It Was?
That's My Impression
Paninaro
Jack The Lad
1987:
I Want A Dog
A New Life
Do I Have To?
You Know Where You Went Wrong
1988:
I Get Excited (You Get Excited Too) [this version not the b-side version]
Don Juan
The Sound Of The Atom Splitting (extended version, original mix not available)
1989:
One Of The Crowd
Your Funny Uncle
1990:
We All Feel Better In The Dark
It Must Be Obvious
1991:
Losing My Mind [by Stephen Sondheim, from Follies, also recorded by Liza Minnelli for her PSB-produced album Results]
Music For Boys
Bet She's Not Your Girlfriend
Miserablism
1993:
Too Many People
Hey, Headmaster [incomplete, ~1min]
What Keeps Mankind Alive? [Brecht/Weill]
Shameless
1994:
Decadence
If Love Were All [live-ish performance, Noël Coward]
Euroboy
Some Speculation
In 1995, most of these tracks were assembled onto the double-length release Alternative.
1995:
Girls And Boys (Live In Rio) [Blur cover]
1996:
The Calm Before The Storm
Confidential [recorded as a demo for Tina Turner]
The Truck-Driver And His Mate
Hit And Miss
Betrayed
How I Learned To Hate Rock & Roll
1997:
The View From Your Balcony [b-side from the non-album single Somewhere, from West Side Story]
The Boy Who Couldn't Keep His Clothes On
Delusions Of Grandeur
1999:
Silver Age
Screaming
The Ghost Of Myself
Casting A Shadow
Lies
Sail Away [live-ish performance, Noël Coward]
2002:
Positive Role Model [from the PSB-composed musical Closer To Heaven]
Sexy Northerner [for some reason, this has a bit of silence at the end]
Always
Searching For The Face Of Jesus
Between Two Islands
Friendly Fire [another demo for the musical Closer To Heaven]
2003:
We're The Pet Shop Boys [cover of My Robot Friend, also done by Robbie Williams & PSB]
Transparent
2004:
I Didn't Get Where I Am Today
2006:
In Private [w/ Elton John]
Blue On Blue
No Time For Tears [original version from the PSB score for Battleship Potemkin]
Party Song
Bright Young Things
The Resurrectionist
Girls Don't Cry
2009:
Gin And Jag
We're All Criminals Now
After The Event
The Former Enfant Terrible
Up And Down
In 2012, most of these tracks were assembled onto the double-length release Format.
My Girl [Madness cover]
Viva La Vida / Domino Dancing [Coldplay cover]
2010:
Glad All Over [Dave Clark Five cover]
I Cried For Us [Kate & Anna McGarrigle cover, performed by Neil at Kate McGarrigle's memorial at Royal Albert Hall]
2012:
A Certain "Je Ne Sais Quoi"
The Way Through The Woods [words by Rudyard Kipling]
I Started A Joke [Bee Gees cover]
posted by hippybear (59 comments total) 83 users marked this as a favorite

 
and a recent performance: Electronic Beats presents Pet Shop Boys live in Berlin
posted by Z303 at 1:59 PM on September 15, 2012 [3 favorites]


(which after being rerecorded would arguably become one of the first #1 rap records)

There is no argument, they are about 6 years after the first rap record. even Blondie jumped on the rap bandwagon in 1981
posted by kanemano at 2:08 PM on September 15, 2012 [9 favorites]


Excellent post, as always.
posted by immlass at 2:14 PM on September 15, 2012


One of the best parts of being a post modern heterosexual male is the ability to declare The Pet Shop Boys fucking rock, and I don't care who knows it.
posted by Keith Talent at 2:18 PM on September 15, 2012 [17 favorites]


There are some frighteningly sticky earworms in this post. I'm not clicking your second link, for fear of it refusing to my head for weeks. Weeks.
posted by .kobayashi. at 2:20 PM on September 15, 2012


to leave my head. Leave. don't know where that word went. It was there a moment ago.
posted by .kobayashi. at 2:20 PM on September 15, 2012


What has Metafilter done to deserve this? Seriously though, awesome post.
posted by Renoroc at 2:22 PM on September 15, 2012


The Pet Shop Boys have always had the best blend of musical sincerity and lyrical ironic detachment. Miserablism is incredible.
posted by migurski at 2:23 PM on September 15, 2012


I am not normally a fan of Massively-Linked Music FPPs (MLMFs), but I have been forced to listen to a Beatles cover band for the last 4 hours, so this is like a sweet balm to my abused soul. Thank you.
posted by GenjiandProust at 2:24 PM on September 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


and a recent performance: Electronic Beats presents Pet Shop Boys live in Berlin

Thanks for that. I knew this was happening, but then failed to actually watch it. It's nice to see it here.

Frankly, the first 3-4 times through their new album Elysium has been pretty boring for me. Not exactly sure why it all feels so flat and lifeless. Maybe it will grow on me over time.

The same tracks performed in this video you linked have helped breathe new life into the material for me. And have gotten me stoked for the rumored US tour they may be undertaking in the next year or so. I saw them on their last tour (Pandemonium, for the Yes album), and it was one of the best concerts I've ever attended. Been jonesing for more since then.
posted by hippybear at 2:36 PM on September 15, 2012


I must hear the blur cover, not available in my country. Don't drive me to the torrents YouTube. Can anyone help with a link that's not region restricted?
posted by Keith Talent at 2:37 PM on September 15, 2012


Three or four years ago I followed them around MACBA (they were in the queue in front of me, it wasn't a stalking thing). Amusingly, Neil strolled ahead and was quite vocal while Chris stayed a couple of paces behind, nodding occasionally and not saying anything. Like Gilbert and George, even in unguarded moments they're still the Pet Shop Boys.
posted by tigrefacile at 2:43 PM on September 15, 2012


Frankly, the first 3-4 times through their new album Elysium has been pretty boring for me. Not exactly sure why it all feels so flat and lifeless. Maybe it will grow on me over time.

I got a review copy a few weeks before it came out and it took five or six listens to really sink in. It's very much a late night, early morning sort of record for big stretches, a complete departure from the prime time pop of Yes, and I don't think I'm far off in comparing it to Behaviour, which is probably my favorite now but I distinctly remember going "Wait...what?" when it came out.

(I do think "Face Like That" is one of their best songs ever. I find it enthralling and ecstatic and clever and, like "Pandemonium," something that is tinged with irony but still manages to be genuinely celebratory.)
posted by beaucoupkevin at 2:44 PM on September 15, 2012


(And I believe that "West End Girls" was the first 'rap' record to reach #1 in the UK. A fine distinction, to be sure, but they are a British band.)
posted by beaucoupkevin at 2:47 PM on September 15, 2012


(I am an unreasonably massive Pet Shop Boys fan, so I am glad Hippybear made this post so I didn't disgust you all with my fannishness.)
posted by beaucoupkevin at 2:47 PM on September 15, 2012


DISCO POTENTIAL
posted by mintcake! at 2:50 PM on September 15, 2012


I don't think I'm far off in comparing it to Behaviour, which is probably my favorite now but I distinctly remember going "Wait...what?" when it came out.

Yeah, I'm hoping it will take on the same overwhelming state of awesome which Behaviour now holds. I remember being baffled when that was released, but as I get older it has turned out to have possibly the most depth of any PSB album overall.
posted by hippybear at 2:50 PM on September 15, 2012


DISCO POTENTIAL

If you have a link to this, please share it. I spent nearly a half-hour digging around all the corners of the internet I could think of, and it doesn't seem to be available anywhere.
posted by hippybear at 2:52 PM on September 15, 2012


As long as it's not another Release, right?
posted by beaucoupkevin at 2:52 PM on September 15, 2012


Hey, uh, Hippybear? Here's a link to "Disco Potential" on my music blog Disco Potential, back when it was more of a general Tumblr.
posted by beaucoupkevin at 2:54 PM on September 15, 2012 [3 favorites]


Oh hey, an early birthday gift! Thanks.
posted by The Whelk at 2:56 PM on September 15, 2012


You're awesome. Thanks beaucoupkevin. That was the only b-side I wasn't digging up.
posted by hippybear at 2:57 PM on September 15, 2012


RAW SEX (RIP Simon Brint)
posted by Sys Rq at 3:00 PM on September 15, 2012


I am an unreasonably massive Pet Shop Boys fan

Ditto
posted by readyfreddy at 3:01 PM on September 15, 2012


Oh man, beaucoupkevin, that's rad. Those Bilingual-era tracks rule. Every budding PSB fan should find those 'further listening' 2-CD sets RIGHT NOW.

I LOVE Release...
posted by mintcake! at 3:07 PM on September 15, 2012


If anyone hasn't listened to "Your Funny Uncle" before, please listen ASAP. It is really a moving song. Be prepared to cry. Backstory is here in brief. Neil talks about in something I've seen but I'm not sure which documentary or other thing it was.
posted by cushie at 3:14 PM on September 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


I LOVE Release...

I liked a few tracks from it, but I can not listen to it as an album — "Birthday Boy" may be the single worst song they've ever recorded — and the live show was one of the most boring concerts I've attended. Nobody goes to a Pet Shop Boys show to hear boring adult contemporary, rockist revisions of classic tracks. Nice scarf, though. One of the better pieces of band merchandise I've purchased.

(I am totally threadsitting and it's not even my damn thread.)
posted by beaucoupkevin at 3:20 PM on September 15, 2012


I think I Didn't Get Where I Am Today is one of the more interesting, revealing PSB b-sides, frankly. It's completely unexpected in style and execution.
posted by hippybear at 3:22 PM on September 15, 2012


(they were in the queue in front of me, it wasn't a stalking thing).

Coincidentally, I also met Chris and Neil while waiting in a queue (they were behind my friends and I)

The place: Disneyland, in line for "Pirates of the Carribean" The time: their first ever trip to the states, the same week "Please" was released. I had already been a HUGE fan of "West End Girls" and "Opportunities" from the 12" singles that preceded the album. (my jacket that day I had painted with a graffiti styled "West End Boys" logo, along with cartoons of me & my friends. We were about 15)

Obviously, PSB were not household names at the time, so I was likely the only one there who recognized them. But there they were, right behind us! I turned to my friend: "I'm definitely gonna pick up the new Pet Shop Boys album this week." "Yeah, me too." Then I turned to them: "Say, do you guys happen to like the Pet Shop Boys?" "Like them? We are them!"

Lots of laughs and admiration, then we rode Pirates and Haunted Mansion with them, and took pictures over the course of an hour or so before parting ways.

I'm honestly not sure who was more thrilled: we as fans meeting them, or they, for being recognized and adored in their first trip to the U.S.
posted by ShutterBun at 3:23 PM on September 15, 2012 [30 favorites]


(first trip as a band, I should clarify. And he may have meant specifically California)
posted by ShutterBun at 3:27 PM on September 15, 2012


I'm waiting for them to eventually get around to doing a covers album; their one-off cover versions have pretty much all been great.
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 3:32 PM on September 15, 2012


(Their first trip to the US was in 1984 to record the original "West End Girls" with Bobby Orlando in New York. Don't ask me who the 18th president was, though.)
posted by beaucoupkevin at 3:32 PM on September 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


I liked a few tracks from [Release], but I can not listen to it as an album

TOO MUCH AUTOTUNE.

Here is a great song though.
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 3:39 PM on September 15, 2012


their one-off cover versions have pretty much all been great

It's certainly the only time I've ever enjoyed 'Viva La Vida.'
posted by mintcake! at 3:39 PM on September 15, 2012


West End Girls

Huh. I guess you can't say MetaFilter doesn't teach us things: after hearing this song for over twenty years, I just learned that it isn't actually about "eastern boys and western girls," which is what I had always heard it as.
posted by Forktine at 3:49 PM on September 15, 2012


Love Pet Shop Boys, Hate Bobby Orlando.
posted by alex_skazat at 3:54 PM on September 15, 2012


Great post.

The Smiths released really great B Sides (although Morrissey repackaged them relentlessly), as does Radiohead.
posted by four panels at 4:33 PM on September 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


"Paninaro" takes me back to being 12 or 13. The other kids liked Jive Bunny. I loved Pet Shop Boys and Jimmy Somerville. Yeah, that summer was a bit awkward in terms of social standing..
posted by kariebookish at 4:37 PM on September 15, 2012


I love the Pet Shop Boys. I love hippiebear. This is the perfect FPP.
posted by Joey Michaels at 4:45 PM on September 15, 2012


Friends laugh at my music library when they encounter my 9 days of Pet Shop Boys and various remixes. They're responsible for my interest in electronic music and spurring me into studying it alongside classical. The Full Horror Mix of Suburbia is one of my favorite pieces of music, with Jack the Lad on the B-side. Thanks for this post.
posted by Revvy at 4:48 PM on September 15, 2012


I love you, Hippybear.
posted by to sir with millipedes at 4:51 PM on September 15, 2012


I just learned that it isn't actually about "eastern boys and western girls," which is what I had always heard it as.

Imagine living in Wisconsin and hearing them name-check Lake Geneva.
posted by dhartung at 5:06 PM on September 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


Finally digging into this post and...

Nearly all the pre-1996 videos linked in the FPP are blocked in Canada, as it seems EMI is extremely dead set against promoting their products here.
posted by Sys Rq at 5:34 PM on September 15, 2012


It's briefly mentioned in the post, but Liza's PSB-produced album, Results, is a special kind of gay insanity that is not to be missed.
posted by roger ackroyd at 5:44 PM on September 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


Liza's PSB-produced album, Results, is a special kind of gay insanity that is not to be missed.

If for nothing else, to hear her cover of PSB's Rent, which is a take on the song which is barely hinted at in the original version.
posted by hippybear at 6:40 PM on September 15, 2012


Great post; but now I'd be interested in seeing an exhaustive list of all of the versions/remixes of West End Girls itself.

(The "remixed" version of WEG that hippybear links to is some remix from 2003, a version that doesn't sound anything like the version I remember from the '80s....)
posted by AsYouKnow Bob at 6:43 PM on September 15, 2012


Um... no. That's a remaster of the 1985 track from Please. It's not a remix, and it is for all intents and purposes the version of the song which went to the top ten of a zillion countries back then. I'm not even sure if the original 1985 master of the song is easy to find online.

remaster != remix

If you're able to find the version which you remember, please link it here. I'd be curious to hear it.
posted by hippybear at 6:51 PM on September 15, 2012


Is this what you're thinking of, AsYouKnow Bob? That's the original Bobby O mix.
posted by beaucoupkevin at 8:21 PM on September 15, 2012


I've always liked Pet Shop Boys and Pink Floyd more than anything. My proverbial "deserted island" music. It's odd because they're as far apart as can be.
posted by rainy at 8:21 PM on September 15, 2012


(The original mix of "West End Girls," by the way, only made it to 121 on the British charts. It took the Stephen Hague mix to really make it work.)
posted by beaucoupkevin at 8:26 PM on September 15, 2012


I bought a LOT of top 40 vinyl singles as a kid. Usually the b-sides were only ever worth listening to once, but you could always count on the Pet Shop Boys for some interesting remix, or in the case of "Don Juan", a song that was every bit as good as the a-side ("Domino Dancing").

Great post!
posted by tantrumthecat at 8:45 PM on September 15, 2012


Well, thanks everybody (...and sorry for the minor WEG derail...).
A glimpse at Wiki shows that there were several versions of the 1984 version, AND several different versions of the 1985 version:
7" UK (1984 release) "West End Girls" (Nouvelle version) – 4:10
12" UK (1984 release) "West End Girls" (extended mix) – 7:50
7" Belgium (1984 release) "West End Girls" (Nouvelle version) – 4:10
7" Germany (1984 release) "West End Girls" (Nouvelle version edit) – 3:21
7" Canada (1984 release) "West End Girls" (Original 7" version) – 4:14

(The titles "Nouvelle version" and "original 7" version" do not appear on any releases. They are names created by fans in order to distinguish the different versions.)

7" UK (1985 release) "West End Girls" – 3:55
10" limited edition – UK (1985 release) "West End Girls" (10" mix) – 7:05

12" UK (1985 release) "West End Girls" (dance mix) – 6:31 / "West End Girls" – 3:55
12" The Shep Pettibone Mastermix – UK (1985 release): "West End Girls" (The Shep Pettibone Mastermix) – 8:09 / "West End Dub" – 9:31
(My dim memory is that I bought one of the 12" imports - Wiki would indicate that it was the "Shep Pettibone Mastermix" - and I was pissed that it didn't include the stock version, only a couple of remixes. But it's also possible that I had imprinted on the 10" version, which I had heard in London.)
posted by AsYouKnow Bob at 8:50 PM on September 15, 2012


Its not even arguable. That's not a rap song.
posted by Ironmouth at 9:07 PM on September 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


That's not a rap song.

How do you define "rap?" Do you define it separately from "hip hop?" Rapping occurs plenty of times in a non hip-hop context. Red Hot Chili Peppers and Cake do rhythmic speech to a beat. They make rap records without the accoutrements you'd associate with hip hop, but you can easily imagine them doing it over a looped, dusty groove. Same for "West End Girls." Tennant speaks with a rhythmic cadence that relies on the beat.
posted by beaucoupkevin at 9:23 PM on September 15, 2012


Neil Tennant regards it as a rap record.
"When we wrote the song, it was meant to be a rap record. It was influenced by Grandmaster Flash. If it had been sung or spoken in an American accent or rap accent you've had realized it was a rap record and the verses are rapped."
posted by hippybear at 9:28 PM on September 15, 2012


Although technically it wasn't a B-side, this seems like an ideal time to profess my enduring love for their cover of "Where the Streets Have No Name/I Can't Take My Eyes Off You," the release of which prompted Bono to proclaim "What have we done to deserve this?"
posted by Dr. Zira at 11:00 PM on September 15, 2012


Just happened to stumble upon this site just a few days ago - Interpretations and analyses of every song written or performed by Pet Shop Boys

Neil and Chris have said that they were drawn to U2's "Where the Streets Have No Name" by the opening guitar sequence, which struck them as similar to the sort of repeating riff that might be played on a synthesizer. And they claimed that they made it into a medley with the old Frankie Valli chestnut "Can't Take My Eyes Off You" (the original leaves "I" out of its title, while the Pet Shop Boys include it) simply because harmonically it seemed the natural thing to do.

It's certain, however, that they had something much more in mind. In fact, this track is one of the most insidious deconstructions of rock mythology that you're likely to find anywhere. It completely takes the wind out of U2's sails, essentially revealing the original to be precisely the dance track that it is but tries hard not to be. This is underscored in the video and during their "Performance" tour through the use of imagery from the American West, albeit with fey twists. "In our live concert," Neil has stated, "'Streets' was meant to be totally the opposite of anything U2 would ever be—all these dancers and me in a pink satin suit." Turning it into a medley with such an innocuous love song further subverts the song's lyrical mythos, even trivializing it. A musical non sequitur, it can only be explained as outrageous satire, implicitly suggesting that there's little if any substantive difference between the two songs.


"It's just show business. There's no difference between Whitney Houston and U2."
– Neil in an interview circa 1988

posted by FireballForever at 11:18 PM on September 15, 2012 [3 favorites]


The first time I fell out of love with someone was over a pet shop boys album. Had this massive crush on this girl from high school. She was rich and popular and pretty, but she liked me enough that we would hang out at the shuttle stop and share music on our Walkmans.

The first time she listened to my new pet shop boys album she said, in free translation, "This is faggot music. Are you fucking gay?".

All those deep, complicated eternal teenage feelings I had for her just were not there any more. I can't even remember her face, but I am loving this post.

Thank you mister original poster from the depths of my long curly beard.
posted by Doroteo Arango II at 11:21 PM on September 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


It's kind of amazing how just in the last couple of years, officially sanctioned music videos on Youtube have gone from somewhat difficult to find (and often quickly taken down) to a situation where almost anything you can think of, well, there it is.

This pleases me a great deal, especially as watching old clips from the first few years of MTV reminds me of what enormous pleasure I took in the first few years of the 1980s sitting in the Pit Pub at UBC for many, many, many hours, drinking 49 cent rye and cokes and watching these newfangled music videos. Ah, to be young again.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 10:28 PM on September 16, 2012


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