Please 7½ ( 1986 )
Two Divided by Zero / West End Girls / Opportunities (Let's Make Lots of Money) / Love Comes Quickly / Suburbia / Opportunities (Reprise) / Tonight Is Forever / Violence / I Want a Lover / Later Tonight / Why Don't We Live Together?
Neil Tennant and? Well, it is a question. You could answer truly by saying when David MacDonald the actor needed a stage name to join equity that he became David Tennant by choosing the Pet Shop Boys frontmanís surname. Many would say that unlike a Doctor travelling in space and time Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe only ever existed in the 80s. This is an entirely untrue yet popular common opinion.
One tune from this album after 3 months on the market eventually wound up at number one, 'West End Girls' initially not even charting. It got re-recorded, gradually picked up radio-play then suddenly was always on the radio. I must admit at this point, in case you did not know, that I'm from England. I realise The Pet Shop Boys have a big cult following in the USA, naturally a big gay following in the UK but also just a pop audience following in general - although less so these days.
A small very tiny history - before joining massive hit making studio EMI - Pet Shop Boys had recorded demos in New York with Bobby Orlando (no, I've no idea either) who they largely based their sound upon. Bobby had recorded with The Flirts (no, I've no idea either) who were an influence on The Pet Shop Boys sound. In the 80s Pet Shop Boys hit big and you couldnít turn on the radio without hearing a Pet Shop Boys single repeated endlessly. This was quite annoying because Pet Shop Boys singles tended to be 4 or so minutes long during which a 30 second chorus would be repeated for about 3 of those minutes.
To the album 'Please' in particular then?
Sorry, we have an aside - I love Chris Lowe for his sense of melody but especially for his visual stance that Neil would always be stood in front. Watch Pet Shop Boys 'West End Girls' video where Chris is almost a fading out ghost. Such a presentation style has continued to this day and fans still love Chris especially because he did such a thing despite enjoying wearing many of the same silly costumes and hats Neil proudly wore.
To the album 'Please' in particular then?
I just said as my wife was singing/humming along to 'Opportunities' that I was going to comment on the fact many Pet Shop Boys singles had the same 30 second chorus repeated for about nearly the entirety of the song. She laughed and I was so pleased and said 'Not just me then'? Of the first five songs on this record, you have a Kraftwerk influence very clear throughout 'Two Divided By Zero' and no brass instrument influences despite Chris Lowe growing up playing one. You have the thoroughly brilliant 'Suburbia'. The singles can be a right pain in the backside as already stated, 'West End Girls' is iconic and has great words and a brilliant video but goes on far too long - 'Opportunities' has dated terribly lyrically.
'Tonight Is Forever' should have been the second single for my money, or the third, they did release four from this record? This song does not really follow the small verse with good words sang quietly then a great big chorus repeated endlessly. Ok, it does, but I love the theme of the lyrics and the synth sounds go in one stage so beautifully, simply and just sail across. Chris Lowe has admitted to stealing beats and sounds then programming then in, yet everybody did that back in the day. Oh, 'Love Comes Quickly' was that a single? I didnít think so, but I seem to remember it so well and it sends thrills through me.
You almost expect rapping after the instrumental start of 'Violence' confirming Chris Lowe stating he borrowed beats from Eric B & Rakim, Public Enemy and all sorts of people. Chris and the producer Stephen Hague would cut these up to just sounds rather than using the beats wholesale. 'I Want A Lover' wants to be an early 80s Disco New York classic and I do like the lyric "I donít want a drink or five." The closer 'Why Donít We Live Together?' again demonstrates a yin and yang of this Pet Shop Boys perfectly with Chris sticking some New York disco all over the intro then subduing it when Neil comes in with a relationship lyric. Never once mentioning genders Ė quite cleverly so. The chorus mind you, as in Pet Shop Boys tradition, is still drummed into your head with all the subtly of a nuclear bomb blast.
Disco 7 ( 1986 )
In the Night (Arthur Baker's Extended mix) / Suburbia / Opportunities (Let's Make Lots of Money) (Ron Dean Miller and Latin Rascals' Version Latina) / Paninaro (Pet Shop Boys and David Jacob's Italian mix) / Love Comes Quickly (Shep Pettibone's Mastermix) / West End Girls (Shep Pettibone's Disco mix)
The sleeve cover is a still of Chris Lowe from the promo video of "Paninaro" which was directed by the Pet Shop Boys themselves. A few b-sides are here. By the way I hate all these rate your music "well, one day I was walking down the road" type reviews. Well, one day I was walking down the road and a squirrel jumped out and it looked a bit like Chris Lowe! Obviously, such things are nonsense. Oh, and I am turning this into 'one of those' by putting up random stuff. I am! I long for the days people just wrote about the music. In those days spirits were brave, the stakes were high, men were real men, women were real women and small furry creatures from Alpha Centauri were real small furry creatures from Alpha Centauri. Naga Munchetty is looking particularly attractive this morning on BBC Breakfast and Sally Bundock continues to be my favourite news presenter since Trevor MacDonald in the early 80s. All of which is distracting me from talking about the actual music!
See what I did there?
'In The Night' was a b-side and some bloke later remixed it, hence the appearance here. It is blooming brilliant and this appearance far better than a poor fate as the b side of 'Opportunities'. 'Disco' was a canny release by the way and spent seventy two weeks on the UK album charts. For a sense of contrast, 2019's 'Super' spent three weeks on the album charts in the UK, so you could say 'Disco' did well? Well, 'Suburbia' subtitled 'The Full Horror' for some reason thumps quite undecisively out of the speakers. Oh but it still sparkles! Just shy of nine minutes long in remixed form, 'Suburbia' is quite full of eighties excess to a ridiciulous degree. To the excuse in the room 'Opportunities' (here subtitled 'Version Latina') is thankfully only five and a half minutes long. All the tales of Chris Lowe and producer just piddilingly about with sounds in the studio ring especially true here. There is a quite frankly stupid section full of eighties sounds yet tiny, thin sounds. Tiny thin sounds pumped up with great, gregarious whizzes and whangs - because you could. The whooah and woo backing vocals during 'Love Comes Quickly' remain, thankfully intact. A fairly subtle remix here, but did we need a nine minute long 'West End Girls'? It seems we did.
Now, even though 'Disco' is not really better than 'Please' - in nearly every way imaginable - it still manages to be enjoyable. I say that even though the final nine minutes are some of the most ill-judged remix work ever.