On January 12 the Girls Aloud single, "The Loving Kind", is released and reaches the top ten. It is a song co-written by the Pet Shop Boys and Girls Aloud's regular producers, Xenomania, the British production team led by Brian Higgins, and was originally written in sessions for the next Pet Shop Boys album. When Chris expressed reservations about the song — "I didn't think it was breaking new ground for us" — Brian Higgins asked whether he could record it with Girls Aloud, an idea they eagerly encouraged. "Thrilled to pieces by that," says Chris.
On February 18 the Pet Shop Boys are given the Outstanding Achievement Award at the Brit awards, and invited to perform at the close of the ceremony. "I think we're really accepting this award on behalf of pop music, more than anything," says Chris beforehand. "A very underrated form of music."
On March 16 the single "Love etc." is released. It is written with, and produced by, Xenomania, and was planned as the first single from early on in the sessions for the new Pet Shop Boys album: "I think it somehow manages to sound like typical Pet Shop Boys without sounding like any record we've ever made before. It's a post-lifestyle anthem. I think it's quite appropriate for the time. What the credit crunch seems to reveal is: if you take the shopping out of society then precisely what is left? The song is saying life isn't just about wealth and shopping."
On March 23 the album Yes is released. Unlike their previous album, when the Pet Shop Boys first started writing songs for what would become Yes they had no fixed scheme either sonically or in terms of subject matter. “We ended up writing a group of really poppy songs,” says Neil, “and therefore we decided we would approach the producers Xenomania because they seemed to us like the most interesting and imaginative pop producers at the moment.” Three of the eleven songs on the final album would also be written with Xenomania: “It’s an interesting process. It stretches you and brings new things into your vocabulary.” Johnny Marr — “he famously years ago described himself as the Carlos Alomar of the Pet Shop Boys” — returns to play guitar and also the harmonica, the instrument's first appearance on a Pet Shop Boys record. “We can’t seem to remember how we came up with the title Yes,” says Neil. “Our official story is that we may have taken it from the famous Yoko Ono exhibition in 1967 where you had to climb up a step ladder — as John Lennon famously did — pick up a magnifying glass, look at a tiny word written on the ceiling, and the word was ‘yes’. I think it partly came from that.” (Chris adds: “We thought No was a bit negative.”)
On June 1 the single “Did you see me coming?” is released. “It’s a very positive love song,” says Neil. “When we wrote it, I was worried the title sounded obscene. It wasn’t meant to. My mother used to say, “they must have seen you coming” if you’d been overcharged for something. It came from that.” On its release, the abundance of remixes (including an epic one by the Pet Shop Boys themselves which includes a whole new part of the song structured as a personal ad) and extra songs in the various single formats prods the website Pop Justice to note: “Just to be clear on this, what we have here is a single package that includes Pet Shop Boys, Richard X, Xenomania AND Stuart Price, a sort of high octane pop supergroup for the post-physical post-single post-actually-making-money-from-single-releases music landscape.”
On June 10 a new Pet Shop Boys tour, Pandemonium, had its premiere at the St Petersburg Ice Palace in Russia. The show is designed by Es Devlin. “There are elements of chaos in it where the whole thing literally falls down,” says Neil. “Lots of cubes,” says Chris. “Es likes cubes, I think. But also the Yes album sleeve is made of squares.” The show is split into four, unannounced sections, the last three of which are New York, Ballad and Celebration. The first section is nameless.
On October 2, “Beautiful people” was released as a limited edition single, only in Germany. “Funnily enough the lyric is the same message as ‘Love etc.’ but from a totally different perspective,” says Neil. “‘Love etc.’ is saying being rich and famous is not going to make you happy. ‘Beautiful people”’ is somebody wishing they’re rich and famous. It’s one of those songs where I imagine it’s a woman singing it. I imagine she’s standing by the bus stop in the rain in London – I actually specifically have a bus stop for this, on Green Park near the Ritz, where there’s a newsstand behind – and she looks at the newsstand, and it’s pouring with rain and she’s waiting for the bloody bus and there’s a traffic jam and she’s got her shopping – and she sees all these Hello! magazines and Heat, and she thinks ‘I want to live like beautiful people’. She’s thinking all this, then she’s going to get the bus, go home and make dinner.”
On November 4 a new Pet Shop Boys compilation, Pet Shop Boys Party, is released only in Brazil, at the request of a local record company, largely collecting together songs that had become popular through their use in Brazilian soap operas, most recently “King of Rome”.
On November 9 a new album, The Performance, is released by the Welsh singing legend Shirley Bassey, the album taking its title from “The performance of my life”, the previously-unreleased Pet Shop Boys song she sings on it. They have been asked to contribute by the album’s producer, film composer David Arnold. “It was written from the perspective of a diva,” says Neil. “Someone whose life is their performance and whose performance is their life. A female diva looking back on her life. I had the idea for the lyric and Chris started writing a piece of music for it.” In an interview coinciding with the album’s release Shirley Bassey explains that the song “got right into my head and made me sob and not many songs do that. Now I feel I don’t need to write a book – the record is my autobiography”.
On December 14 a new Pet Shop Boys EP, Christmas, is released. It includes a new version of their 1997 Christmas song, “It doesn’t often snow at Christmas”; a new version of the Yes song “All over the world” with an orchestra on it; a version of a medley that has been a highlight of the Pandemonium shows, combining “Se a vida e” with Coldplay’s “Viva la vida”; and two mixes of their version of Madness’s “My girl”.
On This Day
'West End Girls' is named the 'International Hit of the Year' at the Ivor Novello Awards.
The Pet Shop Boys perform in Montreal, Canada, the final gig on the North American leg of their Performance tour.
They begin working on a demo of a song drafted by Neil two years before, 'Breathing Space.'
Starting with a backing track composed by Chris, they work on what quickly becomes 'Entschuldigung!' and essentially complete it in a single day.
The Boys appear in concert this evening at the Majestic Theatre in Dallas, Texas. Earlier in the day they did some 'touristing' in Dallas. Neil visited the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum to see what he subsequently describes on their website as the former president's 'strangely fascinating paintings of world leaders.'
In London, Neil attends the special live 20th anniversary celebration of the BBC Radio 3 classical music program Private Passions with his friend Janet Street-Porter.