This is a series of blogs devoted to the best ten Pet Shop Boys songs of all time, not presented in any particular order. Each has an A side and is followed by a B side, a song so good it nearly made it and would have been a top ten for any band who aren’t as incredible as the Pet Shop Boys. For our hymn to the glorious PSBs click here.
A Side – Can You Forgive Her?
Startling though it may be to us now, Neil Tennant wasn’t always an out and proud homosexualist (despite dropping a few light hints such as “It’s A Sin” or “Rent”) but it was around the time of “Very” that he finally revealed one of the least well kept secrets in pop to Attitude Magazine. “Can You Forgive Her?” probably left him with little choice: its portrait of those faltering first steps into gay love (“behind the cricket pavilion and the bicycle shed”) and the subsequent vengeance of a girlfriend upon learning of the secret (“she’s gonna make a fool of you in public again”) could hardly have been more clear. The fact that its fantastically smart lyrics were delivered in one of Tennant’s most teasing, serpentine melodies and that the synthesised orchestral riff was a seething, slashing monster makes this one of the Pet Shop Boys absolute and undoubted triumphs. The video was a splendidly silly step into pop surrealism, too, finally erasing the image of Neil Tennant as eternally grey-suited and Chris Lowe as perpetually hiding in an oversized puffa jacket. Key lyric (and one of the best in all pop history): “she’s made you some kind of laughing stock because you dance to disco and you don’t like rock.”
B Side – Heart
Originally written with Madonna in mind (and the fact that they chickened out of presenting it to her is one of pop’s greatest frustrations: how well it would have sat on “True Blue”, hopefully dispensing with the monstrous “Jimmy Jimmy”), “Heart” ended up instead giving the Pet Shop Boys their fourth and final UK number one, capping off their self-described “imperial period” perfectly. You can hear that it was written with Madonna in mind: “Heart” is no frills Pet Shop Boys, pure and simple pop shorn of any hidden meanings or unnecessary musical complications. It’s gorgeous pop froth, and one of the most loveable moments in the PSB canon, if not quite distinctive enough to make it to the top 10. Key lyric: “Beat. Heartbeat. Beat. Heartbeat.”
Our next A side and B side coming soon!