In Memoriam

Here I list and succinctly describe various now-deceased individuals who have, in my opinion, played especially important roles in the professional careers of the Pet Shop Boys. It is not my objective here to list every single person no longer with us who has played any role whatsoever in their lives and work. Rather, it is to pay tribute to that relatively small number who repeatedly played highly distinctive if not irreplaceable roles in their lives and work as the Pet Shop Boys. Further, their names would be immediately recognizable to most dedicated PSB fans. To prevent this list from getting out of hand, I reserve the right to be the final arbiter of inclusion. But I readily concede that this is a largely subjective estimation on my part.

Persons are listed here in the order in which they passed away.

Christopher Dowell (1954?-1989)

Chris Dowell was a close childhood friend of Neil's in and around Newcastle. During their teen years in the early 1970s they formed an acoustic folk band called Dust, in which both of them played guitar. After the dissolution of the band, they remained close friends. When in the early 1980s Neil formed a new musical partnership with Chris Lowe, Dowell—who, like Neil, was gay—expressed a measure of jealousy at Neil spending so much time with this "new Chris," which served as Neil's inspiration for the lyrics of "Jealousy," the very first song that he wrote with Lowe. Dowell would later become, under increasingly tragic circumstances, the inspiration for several other songs in the Pet Shop Boys' catalogue as well. "It Couldn't Happen Here" stemmed from Neil's recollection of a conversation he'd had with Dowell in 1985 about how, in their opinion, the burgeoning AIDS crisis among gay men in America would have little impact in Britain. As it turns out, they were sadly mistaken; in 1986 Dowell become one of the thousands of British gay men who would contract the disease, moving Neil to write the song's lyrics. After Dowell passed away in 1989 in the AIDS ward of St. Mary's Hospital in London, with Neil at his bedside, Neil turned the experience of his funeral into "Your Funny Uncle." He reflected further and most poignantly on Dowell's death in "Being Boring," particularly in the lines "But I thought in spite of dreams/You'd be sitting somewhere here with me."

?The year of Chris's birth as stated above is at minimum approximate and most likely accurate, based on his childhood friendship with Neil, who was born in 1954. Neil has in fact confirmed that the two of them were the same age. I've also discovered the location in East Sussex, England, of a grave for a "Christopher Dowell" with the years of his life listed as 1954-1989; whether this is the same Christopher Dowell is uncertain, but it seems quite likely. The image of Dowell shown here—I admit not a very good one—is based on what is unfortunately the only photograph that I've been able to find of him. Taken in the 1970s, it's extracted from a much larger photo that shows Dowell playing guitar with Neil, apparently practicing together with other members of Dust. Like all of the images on this page, it's derived from photos or videos available online and rendered in a "sketch-type" format.

The best known 'public' photo of Chris Dowell, taken while he and Neil were playing guitar while practicing their music for Dust

Peter Andreas (1963-1994)

A close friend and personal assistant to the Pet Shop Boys who had known them since 1984. For five years he also shared living quarters with Chris and was rumored to be his lover, which has never been either confirmed or denied by the PSB camp. (He was sitting next to Chris at the 1988 BRIT Awards ceremony, at which the Boys were named "Best British Group." His image shown here is derived from a still frame of a video of that occasion.) In addition to his supporting role in their personal and professional lives—and making fleeting guest appearances in the "Suburbia" and "Jealousy" music videos—Pete is known to have inspired, either directly or indirectly, several of the Boys' songs. "A Man Could Get Arrested" was based on events that occurred the night they first met. The recurring "you knows" in "You Know Where You Went Wrong" came from Pete's fondness for the phrase, which he often used to punctuate his speech. "I Want a Dog" was triggered by a comment he once made about indeed wanting a dog, but only a chihuahua because he had such a small apartment at the time. The title of "Domino Dancing" was inspired by Pete's habit of doing a little dance whenever he would win at games of dominos with them. (Appropriately enough, he took the photos that appeared on the single's sleeves. He had also snapped the "PSB on TV" photo that became the cover of Disco.) Chris composed "Postscript" as a testimonial to him while Pete was in the late stages of the AIDS-related illness that would claim his life the following year. And it's more than likely that "Paninaro '95"—in particular the new lyrics added since the original "Paninaro"—was similarly inspired by Pete's passing. As a perhaps final public tribute, Neil and Chris dedicated their Alternative b-sides collection to him.

Pete Andreas as he appeared sitting next to Chris when PSB won a BRIT award in 1988

Derek Jarman (1942-1994)

Director, filmmaker, artist, author, and more, Derek Jarman was a man of many talents and interests. Already famous well before the Pet Shop Boys even existed as a duo—especially in more avant garde circles for such films as Sebastiane (1976) and Jubilee (1978)—he first became involved with them when they asked him to direct their music video for "It's a Sin." (Neil and Chris had recently seen and been thoroughly impressed by his 1986 film Caravaggio.) It was followed soon after by his second video for them, "Rent." Jarman then served as the director for their first full-scale tour, MCMLXXXIX, which was visually enhanced by a series of back-projection videos he created, subsequently documented on the Highlights and Projections video releases. (He even made a brief appearance in the back-projection for "Heart.") While continuing to work on assorted other non-PSB projects, such as his acclaimed films The Last of England (1987) and Edward II (1991), Jarman had become a good friend of the Boys and socialized with them on a fairly regular basis. He has even been quoted as once saying of them, "Of all the music people I’ve worked with, they put the most trust in me." Jarman spurred them to take part in several AIDS-related charity functions (one of which inspired them to cover "Go West") before he himself succumbed to the disease on February 19, 1994. Years later, in 2021, Neil was one of several friends and associates who contributed short essays to a limited edition publication of excerpts from Jarman's diaries (focusing on his garden) titled Modern Nature.

Derek Jarman

Dusty Springfield (1939-1999)

This great British vocalist produced a string of classic hits in the 1960s, including the releases that would essentially ensure her enshrinement in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame: her legendary 1968 album Dusty in Memphis and its biggest hit single, "Son of a Preacher Man." When, however, the hits dried up in the 1970s, she went into semi-retirement and became a virtual recluse, which conversely served only to enhance her legend. When the Pet Shop Boys asked her to duet with them on their 1987 single "What Have I Done to Deserve This?" it seemed a move totally out of left field, but it ultimately provided both the Boys and Dusty with one of their all-time biggest hits and ended up revitalizing her career. They co-helmed her 1990 comeback album Reputation, which granted her two further PSB-penned hit singles, "Nothing Has Been Proved" and "In Private." They also considered recording a cover of the U2 ballad "One" with her in the early 1990s, but those plans came to naught. She died from breast cancer on March 2, 1999, knowing that she was about to be inducted into the aforementioned Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, but not living to see the actual ceremony. Both Neil and Chris attended her funeral, and Neil served as one of the eulogists. At that time he said of her, "She was fab and, because of her music, she always will be."

Dusty Springfield

J.J. Belle (1955-2004)

A guitarist known for recording with numerous artists—including George Michael, Madonna, Janet Jackson, Whitney Houston, Grace Jones, Paula Abdul, Tina Turner, When In Rome, and Jimmy Sommerville—Belle specialized in dance-oriented music and did some of his best-known work with the Pet Shop Boys. His guitar can be heard prominantly on a number of their tracks, including "Heart," "Being Boring," "Where the Streets Have No Name (I Can't Take My Eyes Off You)," "Liberation," and "Se A Vida É," among others. He also appears on the album that the Boys produced for Liza Minnelli, Results. And he served as a backup musician (just offstage until the very end) for their famed Performance tour, as documented on VHS and DVD. He lost his prolonged battle with lung and brain cancer on November 26, 2004.

J.J. Belle

Lynne Easton (1959-2005)

Although she first made a name for herself in late-seventies punk rock as bassist for the U.K. bands Muvver's Pride and the Spiders, Lynne Easton (who sometimes spelled her first name "Lyn" and "Lynn") gained her greatest notoriety the following decade as one of the foremost makeup artists and hair stylists for the first "MTV generation" of pop stars. George Michael, Debbie Harry, Bananarama, Elton John, Belinda Carlisle, Terence Trent D'Arby, The Style Council, Robbie Williams, Yoko Ono, and many others benefitted from her cosmetological skills in their music videos, photo shoots, onstage performances, and television appearances. In particular, she is credited with helping to define and refine the "look" of Boy George as the lead singer of Culture Club. In addition to handling the makeup and styling for some of the Pet Shop Boys' own publicity photos and videos (including "Can You Forgive Her?"), she was chosen by Neil and Chris to perform those services on their Performance and DiscoVery tours and their 1997 Somewhere Savoy Theatre stint. (In her capacity as makeup artist for the latter, she even appears in the "Somewhere" music video.) In the early 2000s, however, she retired from cosmetology and reportedly lived in semi-seclusion during her final years, devoting time to animal-rescue and -welfare, before passing away unexpectedly in December 2005.* Inspired by her funeral service, the Pet Shop Boys wrote the song "Requiem in Denim and Leopardskin" as a tribute both to her and to the late-seventies/early-eighties London scene of which she was so much a part.

*No cause of death has been made public. Some online sources have inaccurately stated that her death occurred in February 2006. But Neil recorded in his diary attending her memorial service on December 15, 2005, so a February 2006 date is impossible.

Lynne Easton

Dainton Connell (1961-2007)

Nicknamed "The Bear," Connell was the Pet Shop Boys' friend, personal assistant, and at times bodyguard and "minder" for nearly two decades, from 1989 until his death. A frequent if not ubiquitous presence at their personal appearances for much of that period, Dainton has the distinction of appearing in several of their music videos: "So Hard," "Jealousy," "Was It Worth It?" "A Red Letter Day," and "Somewhere." His voice can be heard in the "Here we go… He were go…" sample found in the Very track "One and One Make Five." He also recorded with Chris an obscure track in the early 1990s titled "Here Comes the Bear" (aka "It's the Bear"), which saw posthumous limited release in 2008. While on a visit to Moscow in October 2007, he took part in a birthday celebration for Chris. Very shortly afterward, in the early morning hours of October 5, he was killed as a passenger in an automobile accident—an event that understandably shook the Boys terribly, Chris in particular. They subsequently performed at a special benefit concert in his memory.

Dainton Connell

Ray Roberts (1941?-2010)

As the owner of a small basement recording studio named "Camden 8" on Murray Street in the London suburb of Camden Town, songwriter/producer Ray Roberts played a brief but vital role in the story of the Pet Shop Boys. It was there in the early 1980s that Neil and Chris wrote some of their earliest songs together and recorded their first demos. Without the inexpensive recording facilities he provided, the fledgling songwriting duo might never have gotten their career under way. It was, in fact, demos recorded at his studio that Neil shared with Bobby 'O' Orlando in New York City, which led to their first recording contract and the initial release of one of those songs, "West End Girls." Other songs written and/or demoed at Ray's studio include "Opportunities (Let's Make Lots of Money)," "Love Comes Quickly," "It's a Sin," "Rent," "If Looks Could Kill," "To Face the Truth," "I Want a Lover," "That's My Impression," "A Powerful Friend," "Jealousy," an early version of a song that eventually became "I'm Not Scared," and possibly "Later Tonight," as well as the unreleased tracks "Bubadubadubadum," "Oh, Dear," and "In the Club or in the Queue." Although they would go their separate ways by 1985—PSB having outgrown the services he could provide—they did so on good terms and retained fond memories of each other. He received a "special thanks" in the liner notes for their debut album Please as well as a gold record for it. Years later, in 1996, he contributed audio commentary for the radio documentary About Pet Shop Boys. Chris and Neil were saddened to learn of Ray's death in May 2010 and expressed their condolences on their website.

?The year of Ray's birth as stated above is uncertain, based on indefinite information.

Ray Roberts

Eric Watson (1955-2012)

A photographer and videographer who helped establish, perhaps more than anyone else aside from Chris and Neil themselves, their visual image during the early years of the Pet Shop Boys' career. Having worked with Neil in the early 1980s at Smash Hits magazine—Watson was the magazine's principal photographer when Neil was a writer and assistant editor—he was asked by the Boys to take their earliest publicity photos in 1984. He remained their primary photographer for the next decade. Watson's work graced the sleeves of more PSB singles than that of any other photographer, including such iconic shots as those associated with "West End Girls," "Suburbia," "It's a Sin," "Rent," and "I Don't Know What You Want But I Can't Give It Any More," among others. He also directed or co-directed the bulk of their first decade's worth of music videos, including the career-launching "West End Girls," their "What Have I Done to Deserve This?" collaboration with Dusty Springfield, and the notorious "Domino Dancing" (of which Neil reportedly remarked, "The homoeroticism was all Eric's idea"). All of this is not to ignore his significant body of work outside of the "PSB world" as well. Watson fell victim to a massive heart attack on March 18, 2012.

Eric Watson

Peter Rauhofer (1965-2013)

A genuine legend of dance music, Austrian-born Grammy-winning producer, DJ, and remixer Peter Rauhofer earned fame not only with his own dance hits under the names Club 69 and Size Queen but also for his seemingly countless remixes of other artists' work. Madonna, Kylie Minogue, Cher, Christina Aguilera, Rihanna, Scissor Sisters, Destiny's Child, Whitney Houston, Mariah Carey, Britney Spears, Seal, Depeche Mode, Janet Jackson—the list goes on and on—are just some of the many artists who benefitted from his remix and production skills. In 1999 he created for the Pet Shop Boys several remixes of "I Don't Know What You Want But I Can't Give It Any More." The following year PSB (primarily Neil) worked directly with Rauhofer on a remake of "Break 4 Love." Released in 2001 as by "The Collaboration," it became a U.S. #1 dance hit. PSB and Rauhofer also worked together on another cover, "Kitsch," but they were dissatisfied with the results and it remains unreleased. Nevertheless, the Boys were preparing to ask him to remix one of the tracks from their then-forthcoming album Electric when news arrived of his diagnosis of brain cancer—which, with shocking speed, took his life soon after, on May 7, 2013.

Peter Rauhofer

Frankie Knuckles (1955-2014)

Born in New York City but making his home in Chicago, Frankie Knuckles (born Francis Nicholls) earned the sobriquet "The Godfather of House" for having pioneered in the 1980s what became arguably the single most pervasive, influential style of dance music of the post-disco era. In fact, house music took its name from Chicago's gay club the Warehouse, where Frankie served as musical director. The Pet Shop Boys tapped him to remix two of their songs—"I Want a Dog" and "Left to My Own Devices"—but his indelible stamp ensured that they would become two of the all-time most popular PSB remixes. The former even served as the version of the song that would appear on Introspective, thereby effectively supplanting the original b-side to "Rent" as the best-known and perhaps even definitive version. Aside from just those two tracks, his frequent influence on the Boys is unmistakable. Every number with traits of the house style bears his mark, among them the aforementioned "Left to My Own Devices" as well as "It's Alright," "Always on My Mind/In My House," "Was It Worth It?" "Bet She's Not Your Girlfriend," "Occupy Your Mind," "Vocal," and "Happy People," not to mention most of Very, several songs on Super, and scads of remixes. Always in demand as a remixer, Frankie went on to score a number of huge dance hits under his own name, including four U.S. Dance #1s. Yet he still once found time to serve as DJ for a special rave-style birthday party for Chris. Having been diagnosed with diabetes in the mid-2000s, he succumbed to complications from the disease on March 31, 2014. Shortly after, Neil and Chris began dedicating some of their show-ending Electric Tour performances of "Vocal" to him.

Frankie Knuckles

David Bowie (1947-2016)

Any attempt to summarize the phenomenal life and work of David Bowie in a single paragraph would be woefully inadequate. He is, almost inarguably, one of the most important figures of the post-Beatles years of rock/pop music. So instead let's focus here simply on his relevance to the career of the Pet Shop Boys. Longtime fans, Chris and Neil in 1996 remixed (more accurately "re-produced") and performed on the single version of Bowie's "Hallo Spaceboy." They also appeared together in the video and performed the song live together at that year's BRIT awards ceremony. The Boys subsequently asked Bowie to remix "I Get Along," but he declined on account of his schedule at the time. Bowie also served as the avowed inspiration for the PSB song "Friendly Fire." Neil once said that whenever he and Chris perform "Sexy Northerner" he has to restrain himself from impersonating Bowie vocally. Neil has also noted that he was "channelling David Bowie" for part of the song "All Over the World," which has, in Neil's words, a "Bowie-like verse melody." Bowie was involved in the Threepenny Opera anniversary project that led to the Boys recording "What Keeps Mankind Alive?" Years later, Neil invited Bowie to take part in his Twentieth-Century Blues Noël Coward tribute project, but he declined. It's quite likely that there would have been other "PSB-Bowie connections" in the years to come had the Thin White Duke not passed away unexpectedly (at least to the general public) on January 10, 2016 following a long but unpublicized struggle with liver cancer. Neil and Chris movingly eulogized him on their official website with the words "We are all Bowie's children. He inspired us and changed our lives." Several years later, in 2024, they would cover Bowie's classic "All the Young Dudes" in a live rendition on BBC Radio Two's Piano Room.

David Bowie

Allee Willis (1947-2019)

Ordinarily I wouldn't include someone here who had only one true "PSB connection," but Allee Willis's was so significant that it bears memorializing. The one song she co-wrote with the Pet Shop Boys, "What Have I Done to Deserve This?"—she composed the "Since you went away…" section and contributed to other parts as well—became the second-biggest hit single they ever charted in the United States, rising in February 1988 to #2 (its peak position in the U.K. as well). It thus helped establish them firmly as bona fide stars on this side of the Atlantic. It also proved instrumental in the revitalization of Dusty Springfield's career. (Willis apparently helped persuade Dusty to work with Neil and Chris in the first place.) As the Boys noted on their official website in the wake of Willis's passing, "Our then manager, Tom Watkins, introduced us to her in 1985 and we were very impressed that she had co-written Earth, Wind & Fire's classic 'Boogie Wonderland.'… [She was] so much fun to be around." In addition to the two aforementioned songs, she was also responsible in part for a number of other pop hits, including "September" (again by Earth, Wind & Fire), "Neutron Dance" (the Pointer Sisters), "Lead Me On" (Maxine Nightingale), and "I'll Be There for You" (The Rembrandts), famed as the theme for the hit television sitcom Friends. Her further claims to fame include co-composing the Tony-nominated score for the stage musical The Color Purple and her work as graphic artist, set designer, and art director. A heart attack took her life on December 24, 2019.

Allee Willis

Tom Watkins (1949-2020)

The Pet Shop Boys' first manager, Tom Watkins played a key role in getting their career off the ground and in their early success. Originally in the music business as a graphic designer—his own XL Design company would design the sleeves for the first several PSB singles—Watkins branched out in 1984, setting up Massive Management, which counted PSB among its earliest clients. Shepherding them from 1984 to 1989, he negotiated their contract with Parlophone and guided them through their first big hit, "West End Girls," and what Neil would later describe as their "imperial phase" with four U.K. #1 singles. Neil once described Watkins as "a big man with a loud voice" and later "a genuine larger-than-life personality," characteristics that no doubt contributed to his reputation as an aggressive and often quite successful manager. Although Watkins and PSB parted company in 1989—a split that, though initially amicable, would eventually prove somewhat acrimonious—Watkins subsequently achieved further success managing other artists, most notably Bros and East 17 (the latter of whom he encouraged to cover "West End Girls" in 1993). He also worked as a songwriter and producer. It's generally acknowledged (and Watkins reportedly himself believed) that the character of Bob Saunders in the musical Closer to Heaven and his big number "Call Me Old-Fashioned" are based at least partly if not primarily on him, and Neil has forthrightly stated that Watkins inspired the PSB song "Decadence." Plagued in his later years by health issues that necessitated his retirement from the music industry, he focused more on art collecting (long an interest of his) and writing, publishing in 2016 his co-authored memoir Let's Make Lots of Money: My Life as the Biggest Man in Pop, its title obviously taken from the PSB hit "Opportunities." (The original subtitle was Secrets of a Rich, Fat, Gay, Lucky Bastard.) His February 24, 2020 death wasn't announced to the general public for two weeks. No particular cause of death was specified at that time, though he had previously suffered several strokes and was known to have other serious health problems, including diabetes and liver cancer. (The London Telegraph, the only major outlet to indicate a cause of death, reported it simply as "cancer.") Upon learning of his passing, Neil posted on their website, "Chris and I will always be grateful for his efforts on our behalf in the early days of our career and we have many memories of fun times with him back then."

Tom Watkins

Angelo Badalamenti (1937-2022)

Although American composer Angelo Badalamenti was best known for his haunting film scores, perhaps most notably his collaborations with director David Lynch (including Blue Velvet, Mulholland Drive, and Twin Peaks), he also served as the orchestral arranger for a number of popular songs by artists as diverse as Nina Simone, David Bowie, and Siouxie Sioux, among others. It was in this capacity that he contributed to the Pet Shop Boys' career, first working with them in 1987 by scoring the song "It Couldn't Happen Here." A few years later they tapped him to arrange "Nothing Has Been Proved" and "Rent" for their production work with Dusty Springfield and Liza Minnelli respectively. On their 1990 album Behaviour he arranged the orchestral parts for the songs "This Must Be the Place I Waited Years to Leave" and "Only the Wind." They reached back to Badalamenti's arrangements of "Nothing Has Been Proved" and "Rent" in 2006 for their live renditions of those songs with the BBC Concert Orchestra, as documented on their live album Concrete. They drew upon his talents again when he arranged "Four Songs in A Minor," sung by Chrissie Hynde at their 2013 BBC Proms concert. And at the Boys' 2017 charity performance with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra for the Teenage Cancer Trust, they employed Badalamenti's arrangements of "It Couldn't Happen Here," "This Must Be the Place…," "Rent," and "Later Tonight," the latter lifted from its use in "Four Songs in A Minor." The Pet Shop Boys paid tribute to him on their website several days after he passed away of natural causes on December 11, 2022, at the age of 85.

Angelo Badalamente