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History

June 2023

On June 16, a new Pet Shop Boys compilation, Smash, presenting 55 Pet Shop Boys’ singles from the years 1985 to 2020 in chronological order, is released. The title was Chris’s. “I was thinking of the artist Roy Lichtenstein,” says Chris. “It seemed very Roy Lichtenstein: Pow! Wham! Smash! And there’s also, ‘It’s a smash!’ – that’s what people used to say about singles. Also, there is the connection with Neil and Smash Hits.” Its sleeve is a combined, distorted version of previous Pet Shop Boys’ sleeves. “Listening through, I felt quite proud of the whole thing,” says Neil. “This astonishing number of singles over such long period of time. And I think the last CD is really good. You sort of imagine a moment where you might think, ‘this is all a bit dodgy now’, but in my opinion that doesn’t happen.” 

SMASH – The Singles 1985-2020

April 2023

On April 14, a new Pet Shop Boys’ EP, Lost, is released digitally and as part of the latest edition of the Pet Shop Boys periodical, Annually 2023. Lost was planned as a four track EP of songs that were originally demoed in 2015 for Super though now, in some cases, seemly newly relevant. Its title — taken from the first song, “The lost room”, inspired by a film about military school bullying and written in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Crimea — “also seems,” says Neil, “to represent a sort of larger, philosophical or political point, where there’ve been times recently where the world feels a bit lost in terms of the direction it’s going in.” This sense is further amplified by the last-minute addition of a fifth song, a more recent composition “Living in the past”, which the Pet Shop Boys had posted on social media two months earlier in rough demo form, accompanied by a video in which Vladimir Putin appeared to shapeshift into Joseph Stalin. 

Lost

December 2022

On December 31 the Pet Shop Boys perform at the Hogmanay celebrations in Edinburgh. Their set includes a new version of “Paninaro”, its first performance for thirteen years. 

September 2022

On September 17 in Toronto the Pet Shop Boys play the first of 13 co-headlining shows with New Order across North America on the Unity tour. The idea that the two groups might tour together in this way was one that Chris has floated some years before: “I just thought it would be something I’d like to go and see.” (The tour’s eventual name, Unity, was Bernard Sumner’s counter-proposal to Chris’s initial suggestion, United.) The two acts alternated opening and closing the show, both performing, as New Order preferred, full ninety-minute sets; before, and in between, Paul Oakenfold DJ-ed. “It felt like,” says Neil, “to use our age-old word, an event. It felt like an event for us and for the audience.” 

June 2022

On June 26, the Pet Shop Boys perform for the third time at the Glastonbury festival. For the first seven songs, a technical glitch forces Chris to perform hidden behind a screen, but eventually he is revealed. “After that,” says Neil, “it was a real adrenaline rush.”

May 2022

On May 10, after two pandemic-related postponements, the Pet Shop Boys’ Dreamworld: the greatest hits tour – originally scheduled to begin in May 2020 – finally opens in Milan. 

March 2022

On March 22, “Purple Zone”, a single credited to Soft Cell and Pet Shop Boys, is released. The song had originally been recorded by Soft Cell alone for their forthcoming Happiness Not Included album but after the Pet Shop Boys expressed enthusiasm for the as-yet-unreleased song after hearing Soft Cell perform it at the Hammersmith Apollo in November 2021, an initial invitation to remix the song led to its reworking as a collaboration, and to a joint video shoot in a south London pub. “We’ve always acknowledged Soft Cell,” notes Chris. “It felt like a real moment,” says Neil. 

Purple zone

January 2022

In the opening minutes of the New Year, the Pet Shop Boys appear on British TV as special guests on the now traditional televised New Year’s Eve pop star performance, this year by Years and Years’ Olly Alexander at London’s Riverside Studios. They joined him for two songs, “It’s a sin” and “Dreamland”. (In a more normal year this would have been a live broadcast, but due to the pandemic it has been recorded several weeks earlier, on December 8.) 

December 2021

On December 26, the Pet Shop Boys host a three-hour radio show, Pet Shop Boys, Takeover, on BBC Radio 2 between 9pm and midnight, playing a selection of favourite songs; a broadcast also billed by Radio 2 as “Neil and Chris’s Unpredictable Party Playlist”. (The show has been pre-recorded on the afternoon of December 13.) The Pet Shop Boys have recorded five new jingles for the show, titled “Takeover”, “Strings”, “Beautiful”, “Boxing Day” and “Electric”, and introduce a joyously eclectic selection of music, including records by Matt Monro, Alcazar, Paul Weller (their recent remix of his song “Cosmic Fringes”), Gloria Ann Taylor, Eric Prydz, Françoise Hardy and The 1975. “We’ve only ever done radio when we can play records that we want,” says Chris. “I love doing radio. There’s something very satisfying about broadcasting to the nation.” 

May 2021

On May 7, a new Pet Shop Boys song, the ten-minute “Cricket wife”, is released on CD (accompanied by “West End girls (New lockdown version)”) with the periodical Annually 2021. “Cricket wife”, written during lockdown, began as an extended piece of music created by Chris. “My mum asked me if I would write a piece of classical music for her,” he explains. “I thought, ‘Well, I’ve got nothing else better to do.’ ‘Classical’ in inverted commas, obviously – I’m no classical composer. In the style of classical music.” When Neil received it, it struck him that it might fit a poem he had written some years before. “It’s really about my parents,” he says. “My father played cricket for many years.” 

Cricket wife

On this day

1987

‘It’s a Sin’ is released as a single.

1994

The Boys perform on an Italian TV show, images from which later appear on the Disco 2 cover.

2002

They perform in Zurich, Switzerland.

2005

Chris and Neil are in London’s Angel Studios with Trevor Horn supervising the recording of orchestral parts for several songs on their next album: ‘Integral,’ ‘Luna Park,’ and ‘Casanova in Hell.’

2006

The Boys kick off their summer European tour with a concert in Skien, Norway.

2009

The Pandemonium Tour comes to Zurich.

2011

Still in Cardiff for the second of their two shows there with Take That, Neil and Chris post on their official website that they’ve been taking time during the tour to write songs in their hotel rooms on a ‘portable studio…. using Pete Gleadall’s iPad to control the mix.’

2012

They work on two portions of A Man from the Future: ‘Other Ranks’ and ‘The Memory and the Control.’ In the evening they watch the England vs. Sweden ‘Euro 12’ soccer match, which England wins (and which Neil describes as ‘pretty amazing’).

2013

The Pet Shop Boys perform at the Sónar Festival in Barcelona.

2014

They bring their Electric Tour show to the Motorpoint Arena in Cardiff, U.K.

2020

The Boys’ 1988 film It Couldn’t Happen Here, directed by Jack Bond, is re-released today in the U.K. by the British Film Institute in a Region 2 dual-format (DVD and Blu-ray) package, including assorted special features. On this same day, Neil re-records vocals for ‘Love Is the Law’ at a lower key.

2022

The Dreamworld Tour comes to Stockholm, Sweden.

2023

The Boys perform at L’Olympia in Paris.