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    10 Surprising Facts About 10 Pet Shop Boys Singles

    29 years ago today, Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe – the synthpop duo better known as Pet Shop Boys – released their first single on Parlophone Records, “Opportunities (Let’s Make Lots of Money).” In celebration of this momentous anniversary, take a look and a listen back at this song and nine other classic singles from the PSB discography and, in the process, perhaps learn a few Pet Shop Boys facts that you might not have known before.

    1. Today’s anniversary is actually of the first time “Opportunities (Let’s Make Lots of Money)” was released as a single, which was a flop.

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    In fairness, it’s hard to call a single that manages to make the UK Singles chart at all a full-on flop, even if its greatest achievement was hitting the less-than-lofty position of #116. Still, you have to admit that when its stats are placed up against the second time it earned a release, when it hit #11 in the UK, #10 in the US, and proved to be a top-40 hit in Canada (#22), Germany (#25), Ireland (#14), and the Netherlands (#30), it certainly doesn’t seem like a proper success, either. Thankfully, the boys couldn’t be bothered by the low chart placing of “Opportunities”: they went straight back into the studio, teamed with uber-producer Stephen Hague, and recorded a new version of their 1984 indie single, “West End Girls,” which – as we all know – turned out quite well.

    2. With “West End Girls,” the Pet Shop Boys were more or less attempting to emulate Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five.

    In a 2010 conversation with Interview Magazine, Tennant noted that the rhythm of the rap in “West End Girls” is exactly the same as the one “The Message,” except that he delivers his in an English accent. In addition, he observes that he and Lowe often boast that their song was the first #1 rap record in America, “but nobody believes us.”

    3. Neil Tennant was convinced the Pet Shop Boys had “outed” themselves with the cover of the “Love Comes Quickly” single.

    Although Tennant never really discussed his sexuality one way or the other until 1994, when he acknowledged that he was gay in conversation with the UK magazine Attitude, he mused in a 1999 interview for the Montreal Mirror how he felt quite sure that they’d effectively answered the question as far back as 1986. “Do you remember the record ‘Love Comes Quickly’?” he asked journalist Mireille Silcott. “The cover image was Chris wearing that Boy cap, and I just thought, "That's incredibly gay! We're out!"

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

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    So said Chris Lowe in the liner notes to the 2001 reissue of Please, anyway….and he’d be the one to know, as he was responsible for writing the music for the song. If you’re wondering, though, Tennant’s lyrics for “Suburbia” were indeed inspired by the 1984 Penelope Spheeris film of the same name.

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

    Or if it does, it didn’t sound enough like it for UK DJ Jonathan King to be allowed to loudly and annoyingly continue making the disparaging claim in a public forum. King so firmly believed in the similarities between the two songs that, after announcing his feelings on the matter in his column for the UK newspaper The Sun, he went on to record and release a cover of “Wild World” as a single, using an arrangement which was pointedly similar to that of “It’s a Sin.” Annoyed, Tennant and Lowe instigated defamation proceedings, but King ultimately settled out of court, making an apology as well as a donation to the Jefferriss Research Foundation, a charity specified by the Boys.

    6. “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”).

    Don't get the idea that Willis is just a TV theme writer who got lucky, though: by the time she teamed up with Tennant and Lowe to compose the song which would go on to become a duet between the Boys and the late Dusty Springfield, she'd already co-written "Boogie Wonderland" and "September" for Earth, Wind & Fire, "Neutron Dance" for the Pointer Sisters, and one of the greatest movie-montage songs of all time, Joe Esposito's "You're the Best" (from The Karate Kid). It was, however, the first time the Boys had ever co-written with someone while they were actually in the same room as them.

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    According to Tennant’s recollections in the liner notes to the 2001 reissue of Actually, “There's three bits of the song: one by Chris, one by me and one by Allee Willis. Chris wrote the riff which starts the song and the music which is underneath 'I bought you drinks, I bought you flowers,’ I wrote the verse, and Allee wrote, in my opinion, the best bit of the song: the 'since you went away' bit. She was a very good musician and she'd brought an effects unit with her which she programmed to make the drums sound like Prince."

    7.Liza Minnelli recorded a cover of “Rent” with an orchestral arrangement by Angelo Badalamenti of Twin Peaks fame.

    “It makes it sound like it's from a Broadway show,” Tennant has said of the cover, which appeared on Minnelli’s 1989 album, Results. Badalamenti’s appearance on the song, by the way, is bookended by two other occasions when he crossed paths with the Pet Shop Boys: in addition to arranging the orchestration on Actually’s “It Couldn’t Happen Here,” he also arranged the strings for “This Must Be the Place I Waited Years to Leave” and “Only the Wind” in 1990’s Behaviour.

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    8. 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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    Their version of the song went down so well that they decided to record a studio version, one which was named in 2004 the second greatest cover song ever recorded, second only to the Jimi Hendrix Experience’s take on “All Along the Watchtower.” Sadly, the special in question – Love Me Tender: A Tribute to the Music of Elvis Presley – has never been released on home video, but its contents continue to float around the ‘net, including some only-in-‘87 performances by Kim Wilde (“One Night with You”), Boy George (“Teddy Bear”), and the Blow Monkeys (“Follow That Dream”).

    9. The video for “Heart” features a vampire played by none other than Sir Ian McKellen.

    In a Q&A on his official homepage, McKellen.com, Sir Ian admitted that he’d never heard of the Pet Shop Boys before director Jack Gold asked him if he’d appear in the video he was helming for the duo. As a result, said McKellen, “I got a weekend with Europe's heartthrobs in Belgrade,” adding that one of his favorite moments came during their downtime, when they went out for a few drinks. “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.”

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

    Okay, so you probably already know about one of them – the swirling, string-laden song was produced by Trevor Horn, in his first studio outing with the Pet Shop Boys – but you may not know about the other: in the liner notes for the 2001 reissue of Introspective, Tennant revealed that, in the process of adding the final touches to the track, “Trevor got his mate Bruce Woolley to sing backing vocals on it because he could sound like me and I wasn’t available.”

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