20 Things You May Not Have Realised About The Pet Shop Boys

The Pet Shop Boys are an English ‘synthpop’ duo who formed in 1981 and are quite simply one of the greatest acts of the 80s and early 90s.

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It would take too long to list all their classic albums and singles, but it’s safe to say that if you’ve never taken the time to listen to the amazing electronic pop genius of Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe then you should start now, whilst at the same time reading the following ‘12 Things You May Not Have Realised About The Pet Shop Boys’!

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1. They Are The Most Successful Duo In UK Music History

The Pet Shop Boys have sold more than 100 million records worldwide, and have achieved a whopping forty-two Top 30 and twenty-two Top 10 singles in the UK Singles Chart.

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Because of this success they are listed as the most successful duo in UK music history by The Guinness Book of Records.

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2. Tennant Was Deputy Editor At A Classic 80s Magazine

Before forming the Pet Shop Boys, Neil Tennant worked as a journalist and writer at several publications, including becoming the deputy editor of Smash Hits!

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3. Their Albums All Have One Word Names

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The boys have always named their albums with one word, which is simply because Tennant wanted a running theme throughout their career.

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4. They Had Four UK Number Ones

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Can you name their 4 UK number ones?

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They are ‘West End Girls’ (which also hit the top spot in the US), ‘It’s a Sin’, a cover of Elvis Presley’s ‘Always on My Mind’ and ‘Heart’.

5. One Of Their Biggest Hits Was Written For Madonna

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Do you know which of their Number One singles was actually written for Madonna? It was ‘Heart’, but sadly (or maybe gladly) the queen of pop turned it down!

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6. They Have Collaborated With Loads Of Music Artists…

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The boys have collaborated with more than 20 music artists over the years, including David Bowie, Elton John and Robbie Williams.

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7…But Kylie Turned Them Down

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In 1994 Kylie Minogue rejected a song the boys had written for her called ‘Falling’, but she did eventually collaborate with them on the song ‘In Denial’ in 1999.

8. An Animal Rights Group Asked Them To Change Their Name

They were asked to change their name by animal rights group PETA to raise awareness of cruelty to animals in pet shops.

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They refused, but did agree that it “raises an issue worth thinking about.”

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9. They Thought They Had ‘Come Out’ Via One Of Their Singles

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Although Neil Tennant never really discussed his sexuality at all until 1994, he felt sure that they had ‘come out’ back in 1986, saying:

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“Do you remember the record ‘Love Comes Quickly? The cover image was Chris wearing that Boy cap, and I just thought, that’s incredibly gay! We’re out!”

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10. They Created A West End Show

In 2001 the boys created a West End show called ‘Closer To Heaven’, but sadly it only ran for five months before being cancelled.

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11. Chris Appeared On Neighbours

Do you remember Chris Lowe’s appearance on Aussie soap Neighbours in 1995?

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It was far from being a big part, he simply drove to the street and asked where the local recording studio was before driving off.

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12. David Named Himself After Neil

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Doctor Who actor David Tennant, whos real name is David McDonald, named himself after Neil Tennant for his stage name.

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Who knew that The Pet Shop Boys and Doctor Who would have something in common.

13. Their first ever single didn’t actually do that well

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OK so whilst most people would be delighted to record a song that made it into the UK Singles chart, but considering the success that the Pet Shop Boys later achieved it’s still quite surprising! Their first single ‘Opportunities’ only ended up reaching position #116.

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It was released a second time and worked its way up the charts by around places – it hit #11 in the UK, #10 in the US, and became a top-40 hit in a number of other countries worldwide including Canada (#22), Germany (#25), Ireland (#14), and the Netherlands (#30),

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Luckily the boys weren’t bothered by the #116 placing of ‘Opportunities’. Instesad they went back to the studio and teamed up with producer Stephen Hague to record a new version of ‘West End Girls’.

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The rest, as we all know, is music history.

14. “West End Girls” was inspired by Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five

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In a 2010 conversation with Interview Magazine, Tennant pointed out that the rhythm of the rap in their hit ‘West End Girls’ is almost exactly the same as the one in ‘The Message’, except that Tennant obviously delivers his lines in an English accent.

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This has led the duo to (tenuously) claim that they actually charted the first ever rap record at #1 in America, but sadly ‘nobody believes us’. We believe you guys!

15. “It’s a Sin” doesn’t sound like Cat Stevens’ “Wild World.”

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Music fans may be aware that this claim has been repeatedly made by British DJ Jonathan King, who has long been making his thoughts public on the similarity between the two songs.

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King was so convinced that plagiarism was at work that he wrote a column for The Sun denouncing the similarities between the two hits. He even went so far as to record and release his own cover of ‘Wild World’, using an arrangement which was pointedly similar to the Pet Shop Boys’ ‘It’s A Sin’.

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Obviously annoyed at this very public denunciation of their work, Tennant and Lowe instigated defamation proceedings. However, King decided to settle out of court, make a public apology and also donated money to the Jefferriss Research Foundation, a charity specifically chosen by the Pet Shop Boys.

16.  “What Have I Done to Deserve This?” was co-written by Allee Willis, who also co-wrote the theme to Friends (“I’ll Be There for You”)

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We all know the upbeat theme song from Friends and many of us were probably sick of hearing it back in the 90s-2000s!

However, Allee Willis – who co-wrote ‘I’ll Be There For You’ – was actually an established songwriter before that particular hit. She teamed up with Tennant and Lowe to compose a song that would later became a duet between the Boys and music legend Dusty Springfield.

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Some of Willis’ other hits include: “Boogie Wonderland” and “September” by Earth, Wind & Fire, “Neutron Dance” by the Pointer Sisters, and one of the coolest movie-montage songs ever, Joe Esposito’s “You’re the Best” (from The Karate Kid).

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Interestingly, this was the first collaboration the Pet Shop Boys did with a co-writer who was working with them in the same room.

17.  Their cover of “Always on My Mind” was originally performed for a TV special commemorating the 10th anniversary of the death of Elvis Presley

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In 2004, their cover of ‘Always On My Mind’ was voted the second greatest cover song ever recorded! It came behind Jimi Hendrix with his unforgettable version of Bob Dylan’s ‘All Along The Watchtower’.

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Unfortunately, the special studio recording of their cover was never released on video, much to the disappointment of fans.

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However, the tracks are still available on the net, including performances by  80s artists such as Kim Wilde (“One Night with You”), Boy George (“Teddy Bear”), and the Blow Monkeys (“Follow That Dream”).

18. Sir Ian McKellen appears in one of their music videos

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Sir Ian once admitted on his official homepage, McKellen.com, that he had never heard of the synth duo before music video director Jack Gold asked him if he’s appear in the video he was about to create for the pair.

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Speaking of the experience, McKellen stated, “I got a weekend with Europe’s heartthrobs in Belgrade,” adding that one of his favourite moments occurred during their time off when the trio decided to go out for some drinks.

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“The nightclub…was playing PSB all evening, unaware that the originals were supping cocktails and watching the dancers,” he said. “I urged them to announce themselves, but Chris – who dislikes bullshit – vetoed that.”

19.  “Left to My Own Devices” features contributions from two members of The Buggles

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One of the contributions is a little more obvious, granted. ‘Left to my own devices’ was produced by Trevor Horn, a collaboration which would mark Horn’s first studio outing with the Boys.

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However, the second is a little less obvious – in the liner notes for Introspective‘s 2001 re-issue, Tennant disclosed that “Trevor got his mate Bruce Woolley to sing backing vocals on it because he could sound like me and I wasn’t available.”

20. The bassline of “Suburbia” is virtually the same as that of Madonna’s “Into the Groove.”

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You can find a reference to these two songs in the liner notes to the 2001 reissue of Please. Chris Lowe – who actually wrote the music for the song – stated that the bass lines are almost identical.

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Be sure to share this post with your fellow 80s kids, so they too can take a nostalgic look back at this legendary pop duo!