New York City Boy

Writers - Tennant/Lowe/Morales
First released - 1999
Original album - Nightlife
Producer - Pet Shop Boys, David Morales
Subsequent albums - PopArt, Pandemonium, Ultimate, Inner Sanctum, Smash
Other releases - single (UK #14, US Sales #53, US Dance #1)

The second single from Nightlife became the Boys' seventh #1 dance-chart hit in the United States. Stylistically it's an outright homage to the Village People, from the small but full-throated male chorus to the dead-on late-seventies disco track. It's such an homage, in fact, that pre-release rumors had it that the Village People were appearing as guest vocalists. That's not the case—studio backup singers fill that bill. In June 2003 I submitted a question to the official PSB website, asking whether the Boys had ever seriously considered asking the Village People to sing backup on this track. Neil replied, "I think the idea was mooted"—which, considering the British definition of the word "moot" ("debatable") as opposed to the American definition ("dead" or "irrelevant"), means that the idea was probably debated but obviously abandoned.

At any rate, this track (written in collaboration with its co-producer, the prolific DJ/remixer David Morales) seems to be one of those songs you either love or hate: some have derided it as an uncharacteristic PSB lapse in taste, while others have celebrated it for the rousing tribute that it is. It's noteworthy that "New York City Boy" was the first PSB track to make it onto Billboard's pop chart since 1991's "Where the Streets Have No Name (I Can't Take My Eyes Off You)" (as opposed to the dance charts, where our musical heroes were fixtures throughout the nineties). It got all the way up to #53 on the Sales chart without making it onto the Airplay chart, indicating that the single sold extremely well in the U.S. for a single with nary a shard of help from pop radio. No doubt it was the combination of New Yorkers and gay dance-club fans that did the trick.

Regarding the line "If you don't get that mix, it's gone 86," which many people find perplexing, Neil has said that it's American slang for something that has disappeared and is no longer available. Interestingly enough, its most likely roots are also in New York City. While there's some debate about the matter, the most widely accepted explanation is that it originated in the 1920s at Chumley's, a Greenwich Village speakeasy—still in existence but just a plain old bar nowadays—which had a reputation for throwing out disorderly customers. Since Chumley’s address was (and still is) 86 Bedford Street, people would joke that if you went there you might end up getting "86'ed." So perhaps it would be more accurate to say that it refers to something that has been "tossed out" or discarded.



Officially released

Official but unreleased

List cross-references