What's New? – Recent Updates & Additions

May 22, 2017

I'm deeply saddened by the horrible news regarding the explosion this evening at a Ariana Grande concert at the Manchester Arena (where the Pet Shop Boys had performed their Super Tour show just this past February 19). The most recent reports that I've heard place the confirmed number dead at 22 [updated on May 23] and those injured at more than 100, with 59 requiring hospitalization. Authorities are now saying that it appears to be the work of a suicide bomber. Whatever the case, I'm sure all our thoughts, prayers, and well-wishes go out to the victims, their families and loved ones, the concert attendees, and the people of Manchester, as well as the United Kingdom in general.

May 21, 2017

I've posted the final results of my survey of the past two weeks, in which I asked my site visitors to choose their favorite sequence of three consecutive Pet Shop Boys singles. As I mentioned when I first launched this poll, I let it run for two weeks not only to parallel the earlier two-week consecutive-albums survey, but also to conduct an experiment and test a theory. You see, most of my weekly polls end up with fewer than 400 voters, whereas I've found that these recent two-week surveys have attracted a total of more than 500 voters. And that's not just because the questions themselves may be more popular. On the contrary, I found that at this time one week ago, when I would have ended this last poll if it had run for just one week, there were in fact fewer than 400 voters. So my polls do indeed attract a larger turnout when they run for two weeks.

One of my long-time regular site visitor/contributors recently suggested that I ought to consider switching from weekly to biweekly polls for the summer months (at least here in the Northern Hemisphere). I found this a most intriguing idea, allowing me—and perhaps many of you—to spend a little less time on the computer during this period. The larger voter turnout for these recent two-week surveys provides further evidence that this is a pretty good idea. So, yes, I'm planning on doing precisely that. Starting with my first June poll—the one that will begin on Sunday, June 4—and continuing through August, my polls will run for two weeks rather than just one. Of course, I reserve the right to change my mind at any point and for whatever reason, such as exciting new developments in the "PSB universe" that call for more surveys. But I promise not to change the schedule without giving you plenty of advance notice.

In the meantime, we return to the weekly schedule for what's left of May. Thus, this week's new poll will run for just one week. And it's a "rerun" of a question I've asked before. But the first time around was a little more than 12 years ago, during the week of April 24, 2005. Between the facts that there are undoubtedly some different voters this time around and that some of the responses may have changed even for those of you who took part the last time I asked this question, I figure it's OK to ask again. Besides, I'm changing the question just a bit, as I like to do with my re-runs. I'm asking you to indicate the most you've ever paid for a Pet Shop Boys-related item (and here's the difference from last time) not counting concert tickets and/or VIP "meet 'n' greets." (The first time around, ticket prices were included.) Thanks so much to Mark B for suggesting this question!

On my PSB covers page I've now noted an excellent new remake of "Domino Dancing" by a somewhat mysterious Spanish DJ/producer who calls himself Beat Al Mar. I'll try to learn more, including the name of the female vocalist. If you would like to hear it for yourself, it's available on YouTube.

May 18, 2017

Thanks so much to Andy P for letting me know about a delightful promo video posted by BBC Radio 2 host Sara Cox in which she is cleverly "inserted" in several classic 'eighties album covers, including (not surprisingly) Actually. I've now noted this on my page devoted to takeoffs on that iconic image. And if you would like to see the video itself, you may be able to view it on Sara's own Twitter page.

Thanks also for Rory Simpson for informing me of Erasure's recent appearance on The One Show, during which Andy Bell affirmed that there's no rivalry between the Pet Shop Boys and Erasure and that he's a fan of the Boys. As he put it, "We get on really well." I've used this to make a slight update to a pre-existing "PSB-Erasure connection" on the page that lists my other favorite artists.

May 17, 2016

The Pet Shop Boys continue to add dates to their Super Tour, with the latest new show (announced today on their website) scheduled for September 2 in the U.K. town of Gateshead, just across the River Tyne from where Neil Tennant himself grew up in Newcastle. I've now added this date and venue to my PSB Tours page.

May 16, 2017

The Pet Shop Boys' official Facebook page (followed soon after by their official website) has announced that they will be performing in Lima, Peru, on Septmber 27. I've now added this date to my tours page.

I found an interesting (if in some ways infuriating) podcast recording on YouTube in which a guy compares the chorus of the 1970 Bee Gees classic "Lonely Days" to the chorus of another classic—the Pet Shop Boys' "Opportunities (Let's Make Lots of Money)"—and proclaims them to be so similar as to suggest the latter is an instance of musical plagiarism. And, to be sure, there are strong similarities. But they're not, at least to my ears, similar enough to constitute copyright violation. The rhythmic patterns of the two choruses are quite unlike each other, and their respective second lines ("Where would I be without my woman?" vs. "Let's make lots of money") employ completely different melodic steps. If you have any doubts, try singing the words of one song to the music of the other. Either way, it doesn't work. So, no, I don't believe Neil and Chris ripped off the Brothers Gibb.

That being said, however, copyright violation lawsuits have been filed in even flimsier cases. The big difference is that those flimsier lawsuits are nearly always filed by unknown and/or far less successful songwriters with little to lose and much to gain from questionable legal action. In the case of the Bee Gees vs. Pet Shop Boys, there's much to lose and relatively little to gain. (Barry Gibb and his brothers' heirs are undoubtedly extremely well-off financially.) Therefore I seriously doubt the Boys have anything to worry about. It's very unlikely any action would be taken—and if it were, our musical heroes would almost certainly withstand the challenge and be vindicated.

Meanwhile, the people who made this allegation in the first place should think twice about pressing the matter much further. Remember what happened way back in the late eighties when Jonathan King persisted in his efforts to convince the world that the Boys had plagiarized Cat Stevens's "Wild World" with "It's a Sin"? They sued him, and he lost.

May 15, 2017

Several additional September concert dates in Brazil were announced today on the Pet Shop Boys' official website, so I've updated my PSB Tours page accordingly.

Thanks to Andrew Shaw for a couple of minor but very helpful suggestions to improve the "user-friendliness" of the new annotation for "New York City Boy" that I added yesterday (see below).

Danish one-time X Factor contestant Martin von Seelen has posted his new acoustic rendition of "It's a Sin" online. As weary as I am of what has become the cliché of picking that particular PSB song to cover, I've added it to my Tennant-Lowe remakes page, and I invite you to check it out on YouTube.

I'm fascinated by the ongoing neck-and-neck race for first place in my current survey. The sequential-single trios starting with, respectively, "It's a Sin" and "Can You Forgive Her?" have been battling for the top spot for most of the past week, trading the peak position on several occasions. As I write this, the "It's a Sin" triad holds the lead, but (as always) not by much. I'm really intrigued to see which of these groups of three winds up the "winner" this coming Sunday.

May 14, 2017

Just a little reminder/explanation – Because my earlier poll on favorite "PSB album triads" ran for two weeks, my senses of balance and fairness requres that I run my current poll on your favorite "PSB single triads" for two full weeks as well. I'm also using this opportunity to conduct an experiment and test a hypothesis, but more about that a week from now when the current poll ends. In the meantime, the voting continues—and thanks so much to those of you who have already voted! Stay tuned for the final results one week from today.

Regular site visitor David B has shared a fascinating observation that suggests a possible "musical link" between "New York City Boy" and "Hearts and Flowers," a sentimental piece dating back more than a century with which you're undoubtedly familiar even if you don't know it by name. You can read about it in a new concluding bullet-point annotation added to my already lengthy list of annotations to my commentary on that song. Thanks so much, David!

May 12, 2017

The Pet Shop Boys' official website announced today that they will be performing in Brasília on September 17. I've added this show to my PSB Tours page.

Thanks to Steve N for letting me know that Jacques Lu Cont (an alias for Stuart Price) remixed the 2005 Depeche Mode single "A Pain That I'm Used To," a fact that I've now employed among the "PSB-DM connections" on the page devoted to my other favorite artists.

May 11, 2017

I had hoped that "Undertow" would have appeared by now on the Billboard Dance Club Songs chart, where Pet Shop Boys singles are most likely to make an impact on the U.S. charts these days. But, unfortunately, there's still no sign of it on the latest edition of that chart, published within the past 24 hours or so. Nevertheless, I haven't given up hope; I know from experience that sometimes songs take a surprisingly long time to debut there. We shall see what the next few weeks bring.

While listening earlier today to the PSB rendition of their song "Love Life," I noticed something that had previously flown under my radar, so to speak. It's the inclusion in its instrumentation of what sounds very much like a Fender Rhodes electric piano. And while the Fender Rhodes has been positively commonplace in popular music for close to fifty years now—yes, it could be heard sporadically even farther back, but began to be quite common only in the early 1970s—it's very unusual in Pet Shop Boys recordings. I discuss this minor but, at least to me, interesting point in a new bullet-point annotation to my commentary on that song.

Thanks to Frank Müller for pointing out that my mention of original Kraftwerk member Wolfgang Flür in today's "On This Day in Pet Shop Boys History" page was missing the diaeresis mark (often also referred to as an "umlaut," though that's technically an error) over the u—now corrected. Thanks as well to another regular site visitor, who has asked that I not mention his name, for reporting an embarrassing (and, remarkably, unreported until now) typo in my current poll, also now corrected.

Further thanks to Mark B for letting me know that "Building a Wall" could be heard in today's edition of the BBC TV show Homes Under the Hammer, which has shown a penchant for using PSB tracks. I've noted this in a brand new entry for that song at #81 my list of their songs used in non-musical films and television shows.

May 7, 2017

I've posted the final results of last week's poll, in which I asked my site visitors how much they like (or dislike) each of the tracks associated with the Pet Shop Boys' most recent release, the single "Undertow." Perhaps somewhat surprisingly, my new poll for the week ahead will once again run for two weeks—but this time not because I'm going on sabbatical. On the contrary, I plan on being active and "available" the whole time (knock on wood). Rather, I have several other reasons for allowing it to run for two weeks, not the least of which is that it's a "sequel" to my other recent two-week survey, during which I asked you to pick your favorite three-album sequence of consecutive PSB studio albums. This time I'm asking you to choose your favorite three consecutive singles by the Boys, and I think it's only fair to allow everyone just as much time to vote on the question of singles as on the one for albums. Thanks so much to Retrofuturist for offering this terrific suggestion!

I have some important caveats, however, about this poll question. The matter of "Pet Shop Boys singles" is not nearly as clear-cut as that of their studio albums. Singles where, for instance? And just what does and doesn't constitute a genuine "single"? It's not as obvious nowadays as it used to be. And which ones count as singles by the Pet Shop Boys as opposed to someone else? It can be a little hazy in a few instances.

I realize full well that, no matter what choices I make, someone will disagree and take issue with some of them. So I've set up the following criteria:

I think that pretty much does it. But, in general, if you disagree with the choices I'm offering, please don't bother writing to me about it. Even if I've made an outright, honest-to-goodness mistake, I simply can't do anything to change the selections once people have started voting. And, as I said, no matter what I do, someone will disagree. If I were to satisfy you, I'd surely dissatisfy someone else. So let's all just get along. If you complain, you'll only end up making me feel bad about it sad —and you really don't want that, do you? Remember: when you get right down to it, it's no big deal.

A quick follow-up on my May 4 notice below: the official Pet Shop Boys website has just cited "minor copyright issues," with resolution expected soon, as the cause of the delay in announcements regarding the new reissues. Formal announcements have been rescheduled for later this month. This likely accounts for the leaks and, as it soon transpired, rapid withdrawals of those tracklistings, which now appear to have been authentic but unauthorized, premature, and potentially inaccurate. Time will tell.

May 4, 2017

PSB fans online are abuzz with news of seemingly "leaked" tracklistings for the "Further Listening" bonus discs for the upcoming reissues of Nightlife, Release, and Fundamental, appearing on at least three other websites. (No such lists thus far, however, for Yes and Elysium, at least as far as I know.) While these tracklists may indeed be completely legit and accurate, they may also prove to be speculative, preliminary, or even outright hoaxes. I've been burned on that sort of thing before. And, as I type this, there's no "official" word about it yet from the official Pet Shop Boys website (though by the time you read this that may have changed). The fact that these tracklists have appeared for only three albums at this time actually lends some credence to them; if they were hoaxes, the perpetrator would almost certainly have gone all out and created lists for all five albums. Nevertheless, I'm going to hold off on offering those tracklists here until we know more for sure. In the meantime, thanks so much to those of you (no fewer than five!) who have already written to me about it. I appreciate it!

May 3, 2017

The official Pet Shop Boys website announced today that they will perform on July 31 in Lucca, Italy, as part of the Lucca Summer Festival. I've now noted this concert date on my PSB Tours page.

May 2, 2017

To my list of performance parodies of the Pet Shop Boys I've added, at #45, information about a 2012 track titled "(There Can Only Be) One Winner" by the U.K. band The Various Assortments, performing in the guise of "Pie Shop Boys." I invite you to check it out on YouTube. And thanks so much to Paul Program, who happens to be a member of the band and a co-writer of the song, for telling me about it!

Thanks as well to Henrik Guldberg for letting me know that "It's a Sin" was used as the closing song on the most recent episode of the popular Norwegian teen-drama series Skam ("Shame"). Henrik tells me, however, that he really doesn't deserve the credit; rather, it goes to his girlfriend, Maja Demi, who was the one who heard it and then let him know. So thanks to you both! I've now noted this in the entry for that song at #21 in my list of Pet Shop Boys songs used in non-musical films and TV shows.

You may get a kick out of a quiz recently posted online that asks you to identify Pet Shop Boys songs from a single line of their lyrics. I found it terribly easy myself; perhaps not surprisingly, I had a perfect score, as I suspect most of you would as well. I'm sure it's much more challenging for more casual fans. Still, you may enjoy it.

Finally, thanks to Brian Nicholson for informing me that syndicated reruns from the 1980s of Casey Kasem's classic American Top 40 radio show will apparently focus this coming weekend on the Billboard singles chart for May 10, 1986, at which time "West End Girls" was the #1 song in the U.S. So you should be able to hear that track and any comments that Casey may have had to offer on it (he would very often would comment on the songs, such as by providing background information about the track itself and/or the artist) if you catch the show toward the end. I've located a list of stations and times in the States; and here's an alternate list (provided by Brian) with U.K. start-times. But if none of these stations is convenient for you—or if you simply don't feel like waiting—it's already available online on (where else?) YouTube. Casey starts talking about WEG shortly after the 1:00:30 mark. Thanks so much to John M. from SoCal for pointing out this "preview."

May 1, 2017

I've posted the final results of my survey of the past two weeks, in which I asked my site visitors to choose what they consider to be the best sequence of three consecutive studio albums by the Pet Shop Boys. This week's survey (which will run for just six days instead of the usual seven) focuses on the Boys' most recent releases: the new remixes of "Undertow" and "Burn" plus the studio recording of the Super Tour arrangement of "Left to My Own Devices." In short, what do you think of each? – love? like? neutral? dislike? detest? Let the debates begin!

Having received his permission to do so, I've now added Oliver Hermes to my Thank You page in recognition of his catching and reporting a typo, as noted yesterday (see below). Thanks again, Oliver!

Thanks also to Mark B for letting me know that this evening's live broadcast on the BBC of the world snooker (billiards) championship finals employed "Heart" as background music during a montage of scenes from previous finals matches. I've noted this in the entry for that song at #53 in my list of Pet Shop Boys songs used in non-musical films and TV shows.

April 30, 2017

My "website sabbatical" for the second half of April is coming to an end. Tomorrow (Monday, May 1) I'll be ending my survey on three-album sequences and launching a new poll for the week ahead, although it will run one day shorter than usual on account of the transition occurring on a Monday rather than today (Sunday).

I have a backlog of site updates to make, which I'll be phasing in later today and/or early tomorrow. As I do so, of course, I'll point them out here. For instance, I've already posted the following adjustments:

Stay tuned for the new poll! In the meantime, thanks to all of you for allowing me my little respite from the cyberworld. I feel thoroughly refreshed.