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 – West End Girls
An almost whispered lyric, made up of wry couplets with no narrative sits on top of an arrangement without a truly memorable hook. A video with a tall man in an overcoat and a shorter man who never smiles walking moodily around a selection of London’s more obvious locations. This was how the Pet Shop Boys introduced themselves to the world and created one of the UK Chart’s most unusual and welcome number 1s. The videos would get better.Even the songs would get better but West End Girls had a set a standard and the Pet Shop Boys had set their idiosyncratic rules of engagement with pop culture: “Sometimes you’re better off dead/There’s a gun in your hand and it’s pointing at your head.”
B Side – Suburbia
Swapping West End Girl’s muted streetsounds and lack of obvious hook for barking dogs and an earworm piano melody, Suburbia is the more obvious contribution to 80’s pop (arguably saving their career after neither Opportunities nor Love Comes Quickly made the top 10). Hook, downbeat verse, big brash chorus, repeat, slight pause, isolate melody for finale. That’ll make Now 8. No worse for it either. The lyric is a camp Mike Leigh/Madness fusion (yes, that is possible) and has dated rather beautifully – a felt pen and a bus stop seem like a twee reason for police sirens to wail. How we lived in more innocent times. The sound you can hear is Plan B sniggering. The song you can hear is rather fine, IF NOT QUITE TOP TEN: “I only wanted something else to do but hang around.”