Pet Shop Boys are an English electronic dance music duo, consisting of Neil Tennant, who provides main vocals, keyboards and occasionally guitar and Chris Lowe on keyboards and occasionally on vocals.
Pet Shop Boys have sold about 100 million records worldwide.. Since 1986, they have had 42 Top 30 singles and 22 Top 10 hits in the UK, including four Number Ones: "West End Girls," "It's a Sin," "Always on My Mind," and "Heart."
At the 2009 BRIT Awards, Pet Shop Boys received an award for Outstanding Contribution to Music. The duo's latest album, entitled Yes, was released on 23 March 2009.
Formation and early years (1981?1984)
Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe met in an electronics shop on Kings Road in Chelsea, London in August 1981. Recognising a mutual interest in dance music, they began to work on material together, first in Tennant's flat in Chelsea and from 1982, in a small studio, in Camden Town. It was during these early years that several songs that would later appear on future albums were created, including "It's a Sin," "West End Girls," "Rent," and "Jealousy."
Starting out, the two called themselves West End, because of their love of London's West End, but later they came up with the name Pet Shop Boys, which derived from some friends who worked in a pet shop, in Ealing. They said that the new name "sounded like an English rap group."
Their big break came in August 1983, when Tennant was assigned by Smash Hits to interview The Police in New York. The duo were obsessed with a stream of Hi-NRG records, made by New York producer Bobby Orlando, simply known as Bobby 'O'. According to Tennant: "I thought: well, if I've got to go and see The Police play, then I'm also going to have lunch with Bobby 'O'." They shared a cheeseburger and carrot cake, at a restaurant called the Apple Jack, on 19 August (two years to the day since Tennant and Lowe had met) and Orlando suggested making a record with Pet Shop Boys, after hearing a demo tape that Tennant had taken with him. In April 1984, the Orlando-produced "West End Girls" was released, becoming a club hit in Los Angeles and San Francisco. On 2 November it was voted "Screamer of the Week" by listeners of Long Island, New York radio station WLIR. Though the track did not do well in the UK, it was a minor hit in France and Belgium.
Signing with Parlophone: the debut album Please and the remix album Disco (1984?1986)
In March 1985, after long negotiations, Pet Shop Boys cut their contractual ties with Bobby 'O', with a settlement giving Bobby 'O' significant royalties for future sales. Hiring manager Tom Watkins, they signed with the London-based Parlophone label. In April, Tennant left Smash Hits (where he had progressed to the position of deputy editor) and in July, a new single, "Opportunities (Let's Make Lots of Money)," was released, reaching number 116 in the UK. The B-side to this single, "In the Night," later resurfaced, in a longer remixed version, as the opening track to the duo's first remix album, Disco, in 1986. This version was also used as the theme for the UK television series The Clothes Show.
Unperturbed by the low chart position, the band returned to the studio in August to re-record "West End Girls" with producer Stephen Hague. Released in October 1985, this new version initially entered the charts at a similarly low position, but began a slow rise, so that, by January 1986, it achieved the top spot. It was subsequently Number One in the USA, Canada, Finland, Hong Kong, Ireland, Lebanon, Israel, New Zealand and Norway and sold an estimated 1.5 million copies worldwide. It remains the most-heard Pet Shop Boys song to date.
After the success of "West End Girls," Pet Shop Boys released a follow-up single, "Love Comes Quickly," on 24 February 1986. The single reached number 19 in the UK Singles Chart and was followed by their debut album, Please, on 24 March. In June 1986, the band announced a European tour; however, their plans for a theatrical extravaganza proved to be too expensive and the tour was cancelled. Please started Pet Shop Boys' penchant for choosing one-word album titles, which Neil Tennant has since stated is now a Pet Shop Boys "signature thing", akin to e.e. cummings' use of exclusively lower case letters. New versions of second single "Opportunities (Let's Make Lots of Money)" and album track "Suburbia" were also released in 1986, followed by a remix album, Disco, in November.
"Imperial phase" with Actually, the four UK Number 1s and the movie It Couldn't Happen Here (1987?1988)
1987 started with Pet Shop Boys receiving both BRIT Awards and Ivor Novello Awards for "West End Girls". Later, on 15 June, they released what became their second Number One single, "It's a Sin." The single caused some controversy: Neil's school, St. Cuthbert's Grammar School, in Newcastle-Upon-Tyne, chastised him in the press, while Jonathan King accused them of plagiarising the Cat Stevens song Wild World. Pet Shop Boys later sued King and won damages, which were donated to charity. The video to "It's a Sin" also saw their first collaboration with director Derek Jarman.
The continued success of "It's a Sin" was followed by the release of "What Have I Done to Deserve This?," on 10 August. Co-written with Allee Willis and also featuring Dusty Springfield on vocals, the single reached number two on the UK Singles Chart and the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 chart. Although the duo had wanted to release this track on their debut album already, they had been unable to track down Springfield and were reluctant to record it with any other female singer, despite their record company's suggestions. Springfield's manager finally contacted them in 1987, following the release of Please and towards the end of that year, she travelled to London to record "What Have I Done to Deserve This?" with them. It was the first track to be recorded for the duo's second album. Pet Shop Boys had been told that Springfield was "difficult" to work with and even that she could no longer sing; however, her performance on the track put any such concerns to rest and they began a collaboration with her, which lasted until the end of the decade. Included on their then forthcoming second album Actually, the song became a massive worldwide hit and resurrected Springfield's career, leading to her 1990 album, Reputation, on which Pet Shop Boys were major contributing producers. This duet was also the start of a series of collaborations with high profile musicians, going on throughout the band's career.
Also in August 1987, Pet Shop Boys appeared on Love Me Tender, a UK television programme, on ITV, commemorating the tenth anniversary of Elvis Presley's death. They were asked to perform one of their favourite Elvis tracks and they narrowed it down to two options, "Baby Let's Play House" and "Always on My Mind," eventually settling on the latter. Curiously enough, their Presley cover would later be re-released in a