Writers - Tennant/Lowe
First released - 1987
Original album - Actually
Producer - Julian Mendelsohn
Subsequent albums - (none)
Other releases - (none)

One of the Boys' most grievously misunderstood songs. People who weren't paying close attention often thought it an exemplar of the supposed superficiality and triviality of the Pet Shop Boys' concerns. But a careful listening reveals that this is hardly about cruising the mall for bargains with credit card in hand. Rather, it's a sly commentary on the privatization efforts of Thatcherite Britain—the selling of government-owned national industries to private corporations—of which the somewhat socialistically inclined Boys heartily disapproved. If you doubt it, consider the opening lines:

We're buying and selling your history
How we go about it is no mystery

And then these later words:

I heard about it in the House of Commons
Everything's for sale

Still, that simple yet insidiously catchy chorus ("We're S-H-O-P-P-I-N-G, we're shopping") proved so indelible that the verses were easily overlooked. Hence, one of the songs that should have persuaded early observers that PSB was anything but trivial very often had the opposite effect.

It's worth noting, however, that this track did have its origins in the much more mundane activity that most people associate with it. "The song started as a joke," according to Neil in the 2001 Actually reissue booklet, "with Chris and I walking down Oxford street singing 'S-H-O-P-P-I-N-G' when we were shopping." It was only later, after Neil realized that he "couldn't think of anything particularly interesting to say about shopping," that the Boys transformed it into their socio-political commentary on selling off nationalized industries. "We were obviously against it," Neil added.

Stylistically, this song bears the influence of the "new wave funk" band Cameo, best known for their big 1986 hit "Word Up," which Chris and Neil both loved. They decided to try writing a song in that style, and "Shopping" was the result. They even sought out Cameo's Larry Blackmon to produce the track, but nothing came of that part of the plan. In addition, Chris has suggested that the spelling-out of the title was inspired by the 1982 cult classic "Passion" by The Flirts, which similarly spells out its title, and which both Boys loved.



Officially released

Official but unreleased

List cross-references