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History

January 2020

On January 2, “Monkey business”, the third new song from the forthcoming Pet Shop Boys album, is released.  Their first version of the song had been written in the Super era. The chorus existed first; the verses came later, inspired by Neil imagining what Mick Jagger might sing if this were a Rolling Stones song. “We actually did the demo with Stuart Price,” says Neil, “and suddenly the whole thing was rocking.” “I would never have thought it was going to end up this good,” adds Chris. “We’ve actually written,” Neil concludes, “almost for the first time in our career, a groove song.”

On January 24, a new Pet Shop Boys album, Hotspot, is released.  This is the third album made with Stuart Price, one which they had decided some time ago would form some kind of trilogy, if only a loose one. “All three albums sound quite different,” Neil points out. “In that the first one is basically a dance album, the second one is a pop album, and this one…” Chris completes the thought: “I would say it’s a transitioning album. It has elements of the previous, but then it’s moving towards where we might be going next.” There is a sense in which they consider this a Berlin album – an initial ten-day recording session took place in Berlin in November 2018 at the legendary Hansa studios, and three of the songs (“Will-o-the-wisp”, “You are the one” and “Wedding in Berlin”) are about, or set in, Berlin. “Being in Hansa had a profound effect,” Neil reflects, “using this old equipment, as well as what we normally use. The album’s got a sound.” “It’s dirtier, isn’t it?” says Chris. “It sounds more analogue,” Neil elaborates. “Because it is, actually.” Nevertheless, recording continued in Los Angeles, where the album was also mixed; that had its own impact: “To mix, we went to the Record Plant where they made a lot of r’n’b and hip hop and contemporary pop records, and that had an influence on the sound as well.” Initially, Neil and Chris thought of giving the album a German title – “we wanted a German word that everyone knew in English” – but nothing suitable suggested itself. “And one day it occurred to me that Berlin was the hotspot of the Cold War,” says Neil. “Also ‘hotspot’ is an internet thing. And also, when I was a kid, it was an old-fashioned term for a popular club or something where you’d listen to the latest jazz or something. It just floated to the top and stayed there.”

Hotspot

April 2020

On April 17, a CD featuring the Pet Shop Boys’ recordings of their seven new songs from My Beautiful Laundrette is released as accompaniment to the latest edition of the Pet Shop Boys’ periodical, Annually 2020. The following week, one of these songs, “Night sings”, appears on a BBC Radio 3 programme, Singing with Nightingales, in which the folksinger Sam Lee broadcast live from a forest in Sussex. As the title suggested, “they played it with nightingales singing over it.” 

On April 24, “I don’t wanna”, the fourth and final single from Hotspot, is released. “I don’t wanna” grew out of an instrumental Chris had written, inspired by the Tracey Thorn song “Dancefloor”, and, ironically, the song it became is, says Neil, “ a song about how listening to a pop song inspires someone.”  As an extra track accompanying the  release, the Pet Shop Boys have also recorded an updated version of one of their earliest, previously unreleased songs, “New boy”. “It was written when I was at Smash Hits,” says Neil. “It’s about two girls fancying a new boy.”

I don't wanna

May 2020

On May 6 Bruce Springsteen, who in response to world events has started a lockdown radio show From My Home To Yours on Sirius radio, offers his first public acknowledgment of the Pet Shop Boys’ cover of his song, “The last to die”, on Electric, playing it on his show and referring to it as “a great version”. (Later this year, in December, he will also play “It’s a sin” and “Go West” back-to-back, and declare, in between them, “I love the Pet Shop Boys!”)

On May 31, a new version of “West End girls”, “West End girls (New lockdown version)”, is premiered as the finale of the online gay pride event Smithsonian Presents: Project Pride. After the Pet Shop Boys had been asked to contribute to this project earlier that month, Chris suggested that they revisit this song. “My idea was to take out the chorus,” he says. “So you don’t get the bassline in the chorus. That was the big idea.” As the Pet Shop Boys were quarantining in different places, Neil recorded his new vocal on his iPhone’s Voice Memos app,  and they each shot solo footage on their iPhones, combined by Luke Halls for the accompanying video. That same month, the original version of “West End girls” was named by The Guardian as the greatest-ever number one single in the British chart. 

June 2020

On June 15, 33 years after its initial release, the movie It Couldn’t Happen Here is released on DVD and Blu-ray. “I think more pop stars should make films,” says Neil. “All pop stars do now is make a documentary where at some point they cry.” 

It Couldn't Happen Here re-released

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.