My 5 favorite non-originals covered by PSB

  1. Go West

    Not since 1967, when Aretha Franklin covered "Respect" (after which Otis Redding half-jokingly lamented, "That little girl done took my song away from me"), has any artist so completely and utterly made another artist's song their own. Of course, it's not just how they performed it but why they did it that makes the Pet Shop Boys' rendition unforgettable, allowing historical circumstances to impart to it a devastatingly bittersweet edge that its writers and original performers (the Village People) could never have dreamed of—or rather, if I may coin a word, "nightmared" of. Even after all this time, especially when the mood is right, hearing it can still put a huge lump in my throat.

  2. Where the Streets Have No Name (I Can't Take My Eyes Off You)

    Almost unbelievable in its audaciousness, and conceptually even more brilliant than "Go West": a deliberate act of rock heresy that throws U2, Frankie Valli, ZZ Top, and PSB themselves into a king-sized blender and cranks it up way past 11. OK, so that's a mixed metaphor. If they can so effectively mash up such disparate songs, I can mash up such disparate metaphors.

  3. It's Alright

    The Introspective version came first: much closer to the Sterling Void original, but its rough edges smoothed out to the point of becoming one of the finest examples ever recorded of the power of house music to be both ecstatic and hypnotic. Then came the single, which, with producer Trevor Horn's invaluable assistance, they totally reconfigured into a vibrant synthpop extravaganza. Each time I listen to one or the other, it leaves me convinced that, yes, that one is better. Fortunately, there's no need for me to have to choose between them.

  4. Losing My Mind

    I hope no one will take offense if I make the somewhat tongue-in-cheek observation that the Pet Shop Boys producing a dance-music arrangement of Liza Minnelli singing a Stephen Sondheim show tune is, like, the gayest thing ever. Mind you, the Boys are arguably the least "gay" part of the formula. If, say, Prince, U2, or even Bruce Springsteen had produced it, it would still be gayer than a cadre of unicorns prancing around a rainbow maypole. That PSB actually did it is just icing on the cake. (Then again, they did think to do it, didn't they?) As for the Boys' own version, I agree with Liza that the "crazy screams" should have been excised. But that doesn't stop me from loving it. Indeed, I like their version every bit as much as hers, which is terrific.

  5. Philadelphia

    Actually, I was hesitant to include this one in the list since the Pet Shop Boys' 2002 remake of this Neil Young song has never been officially released except as a live track that was available at one time for fans' listening pleasure on the Boys' own website and another live performance videotaped for television broadcast. For a while there they were suggesting that they might release a studio rendition, perhaps as a b-side. But now, after two decades, it seems highly unlikely except perhaps as a bonus on some future career-retrospective boxed set. Pity, though, because their take on this AIDS-inspired elegy is absolutely superb. It would have held its own alongside the best of their originals on Release.