If you’re just joining us, check out the About This Project link for details. Basically, I make playlists of all the singles by certain musical artists and then try to order them using the guiding principle “do I like each song more than the last song.” I define “single” in a broad enough way to include any song that was released as a purchasable single in any format in any country; as a promotional single in any country; as a video; or generally any song that I know charted anywhere. My main sources are Wikipedia (mostly reliable) and Discogs (reasonably reliable). I welcome editing feedback since sometimes I favor speed over spelling.
Not by design, but this section of the list includes a higher-than-usual number of covers and collaborations. I feel like I don’t have a lot of interesting or insightful things to write about most of the songs in this section (assuming I ever do) so apologies to all.
70. Try It (I’m In Love With A Married Man)
Legendary producer Bobby Orlando produced The Pet Shop boys first batch of singles – all from before their first album. This included the original single versions of “West End Girls” and “Opportunities” and the only single version of “One More Chance.” The versions of the first two songs that broke into the charts were markedly different (and, in many ways, improvements). Orlando produced a number of successful dance acts including Oh Romeo – a band that was essentially Orlando with a number of singers and models. A female vocalist sang the original version of this song and it takes on a bit of a different meaning when sung by a man even in 2006. Presumably, the married man who Tennant is singing about presents himself as straight to the world. Closeted married men are an occasional theme of the Pet Shop Boys work (including, for example, “Can You Forgive Her?” and the upcoming “In Private”). I like the electronic “try it try it…. try my love” backing vocal and that Tennant’s lead is so relaxed that it refuses to get up from your couch even though its past time to go home.
69. Sexy Northerner
US promo single released in 2006
“Sexy Northerner” was originally the b-side of “Home and Dry” (#87) but was later remixed and released as a promo single 12″ titled “Sexy Northerner (Superchumbo Remix).” I rather enjoy the original (Pre-mix?) version of the song because it achieves that balance of sounding like the Pet Shop Boys but also sounding like they’re exploring a different aural dimension. You’ll note that when they’ve played this live, Neil Tennant plays acoustic guitar. While this is certainly not one of their major songs, it’s a very fun tune with a catchy (if not entirely safe for work) chorus.
68. I’m in Love with a German Film Star (Sam Taylor-Wood featuring Pet Shop Boys)
Sam Taylor-Wood (now Sam Taylor-Johnson) is a British artist primarily known for her film work and photography (particularly the John Lennon biographical drama Nowhere Boy). In 2008, she enlisted the Pet Shop Boys to help her create a cover of The Passions’ only hit, “I’m In Love With A German Film Star.” While the Pet Shop Boys served primarily as producers on this single, they received feature credit on the single so it warrants inclusion here. The original version of this song is a classic of early 80’s post punk which Taylor-Wood and the Pet Shop Boys rework into a laid-back dance tune. Like the other songs in this section of the list, it might not be a stone-cold classic but you could surely find worse ways to spend 3:44 of your life.
67. Break 4 Love (as “Peter Rauhofer + Pet Shop Boys = The Collaboration”)
US Single released in 2001
Cover of a song originally recorded by Raze (1988)
The Collaboration was a semi-ongoing project led by famed Austrian DJ Peter Rauhofer that allowed him to create singles with a couple of different artists. In 2001, he and the Pet Shop Boys had a #1 US Hot Dance Club hit under The Collaboration name with this cover of Raze’s “Break 4 Love.” The Pet Shop Boys (particularly in this century) have been pretty open to working with different producers and exploring different styles. While this song sounds pretty different from their pre-2001 work thanks to Rauhofer, they’ve since released several singles in similar stylistic veins. I love the opening (“Right now….”) and the arrangement but (overall) I’m just not that crazy about this particular song. I think Rauhofer and the Pet Shop Boys do a commendable job of making me like it despite myself so hurray for that.
Digital Download and 12″ Single from Electric (2013), released as a single in 2013
You might miss them if you’re not paying close attention, but “Axis” does in fact have lyrics. Apparently, Tennant was playing with a delivery style inspired by how Madonna sang “Erotica” (#34) but the vocal is pretty buried in the mix. It’s pretty clear that “Axis” is meant to be a bit of a thrown gauntlet – the Pet Shop Boys announcing that they’re back to full electric dance music again after a few albums that explored a more pop-oriented sound. This piece is undeniably catchy and if there’s a fault, it’s that it could be by any of a number of contemporary EDM artists. None-the-less, I dare you to listen to this and not want to dance. Double dog dare.
65. In Private (featuring Elton John)
The Pet Shop Boys were instrumental in reviving the career of the great Dusty Springfield thanks to their “What Have I Done To Deserve This?” duet (coming up somewhere in the next 64 entries). Tennant and Lowe went on the contribute four songs (nearly the entire second side) of her 1990 comeback album, Reputation. This track was the album’s biggest hit and the album (overall) was Springfield’s best-selling record since 1970. In 2006, the Pet Shop Boys enlisted Elton John to record their own version of this tune. As with “Try It (I’m In Love With A Married Man)” (#70), the lyrics are about a person having a secret affair. Also like the former song, by switching the vocalist from a woman to a man, the song takes on additional layers. By keeping the affair secret, the singer is both protecting the relationship an allowing the married man to remain closeted. Tennant and John both provide strong vocal performances and the song has a certain pleasant “throw back to the 90’s” feel to it.
Fifth single from Bilingual (1996), released as a single in 1997
Cover of a song by Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim from the musical West Side Story (1957)
Let me just say that I love how the Pet Shop Boys reinvented the Village People’s “Go West” – they turned a bit of campy fun into a pretty moving piece of AIDS-era hope for a better life. We’ll encounter that song higher up on the charts. I think they were attempting to do something similar with this cover of an all-time classic tune from “West Side Story.” I very much respect the intent of this song and have grown to like it quite a bit more than when I started compiling this list (I initially ranked it dead last). However, I find myself comparing it to the soaring, rich Broadway versions of the song and, in that context, the Pet Shop Boys version is a bit of a let down. It does capture a certain subdued sadness that lies at the heart of being part of a marginalized group of people (no matter how successful you might be as an individual) and the beat is typically infectious. It is patently unfair to rank this a bit lower than I otherwise might because it doesn’t rise to the heights of the original West Side Story soundtrack version featuring Reni Grist, but, I mean, listen to it.
63. The Truck Driver And His Mate
UK Promo single released in 1997
Neil Tennant plays guitar when they perform this tune live too. I pretty much love this song and I’ll just say my only issue with it is I want the lyrics to be three verses longer. I want to know more about the eponymous duo’s romance – like where they travel to and if they live together when they’re not on the road. The backing vocals (“ah-ha-ah-ha-ha”) are delightful, the music (which Tennant says sound like Oasis) is fun as can be and Tennant’s vocal is earnest and warm. It sounds to me like he has great affection for his characters here and, thus, I have great affection for his characters. Best of all, the piece was inspired by an advert for Yorkie chocolate that claimed the bar was big enough for a truck drive and his mate. Found art! Very dada.
62. All Over The World
Fourth single from Yes (2009), released as a single in 2009
“All Over The World” is built in part around a section of Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s “The Nutcracker, Act 1: No.2 “March.”” At first, I found that a little heavy-handed and grating, but it grew on me over the course of several listens. When I first made my list, it included 86 songs because this one didn’t pop up on the Wikipedia list of the band’s singles but it is listed as a single on the Wikipedia entry for their album Yes. Further research reveals that it was in fact released as a promotional single in conjunction with the release of their 2009 Christmas EP.
61. Paninaro ’95
First single from Alternative (1995), released as a single in 1995
The Pet Shop Boys share an excellent ear for reworking their songs. I only moderately liked their original version of “Paninaro” (#74) but I like the ’95 remix moderately more, at least in part because of the inclusion of a brief Chris Lowe rap. The tune is tightened up considerably and given a little extra production oomph. I like it, I do, I just like 60 of their songs more.
Coming Soon: One of the band’s biggest hits – which they’ve pretty much ignored since it was a hit.