Cher and Bono. Simon and Garfunkel. Bert and Ernie. These are just few of the most famous duos in pop culture. But do you know who the Guinness Book of World Records’ most successful UK musical duo is? We’ll give yah a hint, pets and the West End. Still haven’t got a clue? Well let us take you back with The Petshop Boys.
It was a chance meeting in a humble Chelsea, London electronics store during the summer of 1981 that would spark Chris Lowe and Neil Tennant’s musical career together. It was not until a year later that they began experimenting with their groundbreaking sound, during which some of their most famous songs like West End Girls, It’s a Sin, and Rent would be created. The Boys were first known as West End, but changed it soon after they got inspiration from hanging around their friend’s pet shop. While the group was still developing who they were, Neil Tennant had been working for the UK Magazine Smash Hits. During an interview assignment in New York City covering The Police, the group was able to sneak in a cheeseburger and carrot cake with producer Bobby O. They had been following his work of Hi-NRG records and it was sometime between their burgers and dessert that they slipped Bobby O their demo. The result of this collaboration is one of their most successful and signature tracks, West End Girls
It was a smash hit around the dance scene, but after signing to a deal with EMI, they officially released another single, Opportunities, which did not do so well on the charts. With the help of synth’s pioneering producer Stephen Hague, the group reworked the track a bit and released it again in 1985. This time it was a hit across the boards. The song would stay at #1 on the Billboard charts for 20 weeks in 1986. Success was not over for the Boys and West End Girls. In 1987 it won best single of the year at the BRIT awards, and close to 20 years later it was awarded by the British Academy of British and Songwriters as Song of the Decade for 1985-1994.
The song was off their debut album Please, and with the success of their next single Loves Come Quickly, the group announced their first major European tour. With visions of theatrical staging and over the top lighting, the tour was unfortunately cancelled due to budget issues.
Not allowing the cancelled tour to deter them from other artistic outlets, in 1987 they began the work on a film that would incorporate tracks off the album Actually. What was planned to only be an hour-long piece, it grew into a full-length musical entitled It Could Happen Here. Tennant has been quoted as stating that the reason for the film was to satisfy fans due to the bands reluctance for tours (Chris Heath). Though highly conceptual, the film did not do well with critics. Check out a clip below:
Their history is expansive and the PSB have really never stopped creating and releasing successful music. Throughout the 90s, they produced four albums: Behaviour (1990), Very (1993), Bilingual (1996), and Nightlife (1999). In retrospect, the PSD were definitely groundbreaking and truly original artists, expressing their sound and look in a way completely their own. Frequently sporting the fashions of Miyake, Yohji Yamamoto, and even incorporating California staple Stussy during their shows, the band continues to develop their style and esthetic.
More recently, the Boys have been touring all over the world, still to sold out crowds. Last year, at the famed Glastonbury Festival, they performed a set that critics have noted as “one of the most spectacular Glastonbury moments ever” (Bernadette McNulty for The Telegraph UK). Ever growing their musical endeavors, in 2010 they worked on an adaptation of the Hans Christian Andersen story The Most Incredible Thing. And this time it wasn’t a play; it was a full out ballet. This year they announced another leg of their Progress Live world tour with the group Take That.
In a cultural and musical climate that is saturated with individuals and groups proclaiming themselves as “different”, “unique” and “avant garde”, it is important to point that newer artists are really just recycling looks and sounds from decades past. The sounds of the popular dub and electro movements of the past 5 decades are rooted in none other than the PSB’s early work. And although the PSB can be described as different from manufactured pop stars, they are in reality just that. Pop icons. Their music has always been geared for the pop audiences, but what we at M.I.S.S. and fans alike can agree on is that they took the whole notion of “pop music” to a whole other perspective. They helped expand the tastes of the masses and, though it may be cliché, opened the door for the acceptance of unique and experimental sounds to enter the Top 40 waves.
Hopefully this will get your Domino Dancing on this weekend, courtesy of The Petshop Boy and us West End Coast girls at M.I.S.S.
Here’s some more PSB Goodies:
Love Etc (Gui Boratto Remix)
All Over the World
We really could go on and on…
For more information on The Petshop Boys visit:
- The Music Link List – 1.12.2010
- We Got The Beat : Jesse Boykins
- Reminisce With M.I.S.S.: Wham!
- Bat for Lashes – Laura Official Video
- The Music Link List – 3.02.2011