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History

February 2019

On February 8, the Pet Shop Boys release a new four-track EP, Agenda. (Physical copies are released the following month.) It includes four tracks, “Give stupidity a chance”, “On social media”, “What are we going to do about the rich?” and “The forgotten child”, songs they felt had something in common but which might not have fit comfortably on their forthcoming album. “You’ve got three satirical songs and one rather sad song,” says Neil, “but they all have, broadly speaking, political themes. I think it’s because of the times we’re living through.” For a time, they planned on calling the EP Satire. “Then Agenda came along,” says Neil, “and it just seemed better.”

Agenda

March 2019

On March 14, the Pet Shop Boys appeared with Trevor Horn’s band for his Roundhouse Gala 2019 charity concert, performing “Left to my own devices” and “It’s Alright”, both featuring the opera singer Sally Bradshaw.

April 2019

On April 12, a DVD/Blu-ray, Inner Sanctum, is released, a document of the Pet Shop Boys’ return performance at the Royal Albert Hall in July 2018, directed by David Barnard. Also included were a double CD of the soundtrack and footage of their Rock In Rio performance on September 15, 2017. 

Inner Sanctum

June 2019

On June 29 the Pet Shop Boys appear as surprise guests towards the end of The Killers’ headline set at the Glastonbury Festival. Brandon Flowers had called them in February when they were working on their new album in Los Angeles with Stuart Price (who also regularly works with the Killers), interrupting a barbeque in Price’s garden. Neil and Chris agree to perform two songs: their version of “Always on my mind” and the Killers’ “Human”, in a medley arranged by Stuart Price. They travel to Cardiff the day before to rehearse during the Killers’ soundcheck for a concert at Cardiff Castle. Backstage at Glastonbury, Neil and Chris meet some of Flowers’ family. “One of Brandon’s brothers proudly said, ‘you know, it was me who had the Pet Shop Boys’ records that Brandon used to listen to’,” says Neil. “He was taking full credit.” 

July 2019

On July 10, a new revival of Closer to Heaven opens at Above The Stag Theatre in London and runs until the end of August. Its director, Steven Dexter, has made some changes to the plot which Neil and Chris like. They find themselves surprised both by how old the musical now and how contemporary it seems. “It’s a period drama,” Chris notes. “This is a show that is now seventeen years old,” Neil says, “but all of its attitudes make more sense now.”

August 2019

On August 5, the one-woman show Musik opens at the Assembly Rooms, Edinburgh, as part of the Edinburgh Fringe festival. It features Frances Barber reprising, and greatly expanding upon, her role of Billie Trix from the 2001 musical Closer to Heaven, in a further collaboration between Jonathan Harvey and the Pet Shop Boys.  This is the realisation of a notion that had been gestating for nearly two decades. “The idea of Musik has been around since Closer to Heaven because Chris and I liked the character of Billie Trix and we thought that Jonathan wrote for her so well,” says Neil. “We thought for ages: wouldn’t it be good to have a show where she just talks and sings a few songs?”  For many years, it was Jonathan Harvey who was reluctant to revisit this world but he eventually came around.  As well as Closer to Heaven’s “Friendly fire” and the Billie Trix single “Run girl run”, the show includes four previously-unheard songs: “Mongrel”, “Soup”, “Ich bin Musik” and “For every moment”. The first three have been written for the show; the fourth was written years ago but never used. For a while the show was to have been called Mongrel – a poster is even designed using this name – but then they decide it is “too ugly as a title”.  The show follows the memorable contours of Billie Trix’s life, with all its calamities and triumphs, an arc brainstormed by Jonathan Harvey and the Pet Shop Boys who together expanded her story far beyond what had previously been revealed in Closer to Heaven and the biographical sleeve-notes on the “Run girl run” single. Based on these discussions, Harvey wrote the script. “It really is Jonathan at his very best,” says Chris. After an acclaimed three-week run in Edinburgh, the show transfers in September for five nights at London’s Leicester Square Theatre. 

September 2019

On September 11, a new Pet Shop Boys single, “Dreamland”, is released.  (A physical version appears the following month.) The first single from a forthcoming Pet Shop Boys’ album, “Dreamland” is a collaboration with singer Olly Alexander from the British band Years & Years who co-wrote, and duets on, the song. When the three of them met up at the Pet Shop Boys’ London studio in early 2017, notionally to write for the next Years & Years album, Olly Alexander mentioned that the previous day he’d been to Dreamland, the seaside-town amusement park in Margate. “And I said,” Neil recalls, “‘oh, that’s a great title for a song’.” Chris had already written a backing track. “We sort of vibed out:  ‘I heard there’s a dreamland…’,” says Neil. “We were in the middle of the refugee crisis when we wrote this. It’s a kind of amnesia / where all problems seem to disappear / and you don’t need a visa / you can come and go and still be here. I love that line, because it’s completely meaningless – you can come and go and still be here – but I sort of know what it means.” “I remember taking the demo back after we’d done it and dancing around the kitchen,” says Chris, “thinking ‘God, what a great song this is – the sort of music I like!’”

Dreamland

On September 15, the Pet Shop Boys headline Radio 2 Live In Hyde Park in the centre of London. “When we got on the stage I was amazed at how big the audience was,” says Neil. “Even though I actually knew that there were 49,000 people there, or something like that, it still looked pretty epic.” They were joined onstage by Beverly Knight, who had added unrehearsed backing vocals to “It’s alright” at the Roundhouse concert that March, for “What have I done to deserve this?”, and by Olly Alexander for his first live performance of “Dreamland”. (The Pet Shop Boys had rehearsed their set by playing a “surprise” club show the previous night at 229 on Great Portland Street in the centre of London, but without Knight or Alexander.)

On September 20, the play My Beautiful Laundrette opens at the Curve Theatre in Leicester.  Adapted by Hanif Kureishi from the screenplay to his 1985 movie, and directed by Nikolai Foster, the play features seven new piece of Pet Shop Boys music, two with vocals. The production also uses several Pet Shop Boys recordings from the 1980s

October 2019

A further four-week run of Musik starring Frances Barber is announced at the Leicester Square Theatre is announced for February 2020.

On this day

2000

An article in Billboard reports that the Pet Shop Boys are working on several new tracks for a ‘best of’ collection, scheduled for release in the fall. They will later postpone plans for this album, putting it off until 2003.

2007

Back in the U.K. following a couple of shows on the continent, the Boys perform at the Eden Project in Cornwall.

2011

PSB and Take That perform this evening in Hamburg, Germany.

2013

Neil is one of more than a hundred internationally known musicians who have signed an open letter posted today by Amnesty International calling for the release from prison of the members of the band Pussy Riot, who had been found guilty and jailed a year earlier for an act of protest in a Russian cathedral.

2016

This evening: the third ‘Inner Sanctum’ show at the Royal Opera House.

2017

The Pet Shop Boys perform at the Tall Ships Races Music Festival in Turku, Finland.

2019

The first rehearsal for Musik.