What's New? – Recent Updates & Additions

September 23, 2018

I've posted the final results of my previous poll, in which I asked my site visitors to respond to two questions about the inevitable—but hopefully not to come for many years yet—final studio album by the Pet Shop Boys. My new survey for the next two weeks is inspired by the fact that this coming Thursday marks the silver (25th) anniversary of the release of the Pet Shop Boys' album Very. It's no secret that Very sits at the pinnacle of my list of PSB albums, but I'm wondering what you think of it after all these years. Do you consider it their all-time greatest studio album? Their worst? Or something in-between?

Since today signals the end of summer here where I live in the northern hemisphere, you might be expecting me to end my summertime biweekly/fortnightly polling schedule and resume weekly surveys. I do indeed plan on resuming my weekly poll schedule—but not yet. For personal reasons that I would prefer not to delve into, I'm going to continue the every-two-week schedule for another six weeks, until the first Sunday in November. Along the way, one of those upcoming polls will run just a little longer than two weeks, while another will run a little less. I'll provide the relevant details when the time comes. Until then, I hope you will excuse this delay in resuming my weekly polls. And, as always, I tremendouly appreciate your participation in them!

September 17, 2018

Thanks to a couple of my site visitors for separately telling me about two interesting new items, both involving Germany in one way or another. First, Daniel B. informed me of the 2015 novel 89/90 by German author Paul Richter, which earns a spot in my chronological list of published novels that mention the Pet Shop Boys by name. Daniel was also kind enough to provide a translation of the original German text, although I've modified it a bit to take a little better advantage of idiomatic English. Second, Marco Lucht told me about yesterday's episode of the German television show Kaum zu glauben! ("Hard to Believe!"), which employed the PSB track "Winner" during one remarkable segment. So I've created a new entry for that song at #85 in my list of Pet Shop Boys songs that have been used in non-musical films and TV shows. Thanks again, Daniel and Marco!

Shifting gears a bit, at the end of my current survey, which concludes this coming Sunday, I will start a new poll that concerns the question of the "greatest" Pet Shop Boys album—although, as a word of warning, the actual form that question takes will probably not be what you think it will be. wink I'm just sayin'. At any rate, today I read a piece by one of my favorite film critics, the deeply insightful Mick LaSalle—whose film criticism often extends well beyond the movies into wider cultural critique—that I found quite prescient and well worth considering when pondering this upcoming question. Since I deal with popular music, not movies, I'm taking the liberty of substituting the word "album" in the following excerpt where LaSalle originally wrote "movie," but the thrust of his observation remains the same:

[A]t a certain level of quality, deciding which great [album] is the greatest is a matter of deciding what you most value and what you can live without, a process that not only is subjective but also involves subjective judgments about things other than the [album]. Ultimately, all art can be considered flawed because of what it leaves out. Nothing can encapsulate the fullness of life. But great art seduces us into not feeling the absence of what's missing, even as it throws a shadow larger than itself, suggesting a larger world. How these elements are perceived changes from person to person and is subject to fashion, so no [album] can be the best.

That's something I will be pondering as I approach my next survey, and perhaps you can, too.

September 16, 2018

Thanks so much to John McFadden for telling me about a segment this morning on Bobby's Late Breakfast, a program on the independent Irish radio station Newstalk, during which reporter/presenter Henry McKean talked about his fondness for the Pet Shop Boys' debut album, Please. Listening has enabled me to add McKean to my list of celebrity fans of PSB outside the field of music. (His love of the Boys' music clearly extends well beyond just that one album.) If you would like to listen yourself, it's available online; the "timing" isn't available, but the pertinent portion begins roughly halfway through the program.

September 14, 2018

Thanks to Alex O'Brien for sharing with me his alternate interpretation of "Shopping," which I've now described in a new final bullet-point annotation to my commentary on the song. In the process, I also expanded a bit on my main commentary as well. Actually, I don't think this new interpretation is so much an "alternative" as it is complementary to the standard (and, I strongly believe, still essential) one that concerns the privitization of nationalized industries in Britain during the Thatcher era.

One of my regular site visitors has asked me about the fact that I have an http website address as opposed to https, which results in Chrome and perhaps other browsers indicating that my site is "Not secure." He was concerned that this might discourage some potential site visitors and was wondering whether I would be doing anything to address the situation. As I replied to him, I've decided against investing the additional time, effort, and especially money—an average of about $300 per year!—it would require for me to register and set up a "secure" site. "Security" of this sort is generally important only for websites that require registration for use (in other words, a username and password), collect personal, confidential information, and/or take online payments of any sort (via credit cards, PayPal, bank accounts, and the like). I don't do any of those things, so my site really doesn't need to be "secure," particularly considering the costs involved. If I lose some site visitors who are scared off by my "Not secure" status, that's life. I'm not losing any sleep over it. But I have added a new note about this to my home page. Thanks to John M. for asking me about it!

I know I have a number of regular site visitors in North and South Carolina, which are being battered and flooded today by Hurricane Florence. On a more personal level, I have relatives in North Carolina, and even more in neighboring Virginia, where I grew up. So the storm and its effects are very much on my mind right now, and will continue to be in the days ahead, which will probably bring even more flooding further inland. I'm also thinking about the Philippines, Taiwan, and China, currently coping with the threat of Typhoon Mangkhut. I've never been in the direct line of fire of a hurricane, but I have experienced a few sideswipes, and those are bad enough. I hope everyone stays safe, or at least as safe as possible under the circumstances.

Only peripherally related to the Pet Shop Boys – For those of you who may erroneously think of Chris Heath only as the Boys' Boswell (for his books Pet Shop Boys, Literally and Pet Shop Boys versus America, not to mention his all-but-ubiquitous contributions to their assorted publications and tour booklets through the years), you may be interested in his lengthy interview article, "The Untold Stories of Paul McCartney," newly published in GQ and available online. It's receiving a good deal of attention on account of some of the more remarkable revelations Heath was able to pull from the usually quite guarded Sir Paul. If you're the least bit interested in McCartney and/or the Beatles, I highly recommend it.

September 12, 2018

Thanks to Thomas Hoheisel for asking me a question that has inspired a few minor adjustments on my page devoted to "Requiem in Denim and Leopardskin." He asked me how I knew that the line about someone in a tux refers to Bryan Ferry when the official lyrics for the song (both on the Pet Shop Boys' own website and in the booket accompanying the 2017 reissue of Elysium) state "Brian in a tux" (my emphasis; note the difference in spellling). As I replied to Thomas, Neil himself has said that the song does refer to Bryan Ferry—among many others, of course. What's more, Ferry is very commonly associated with wearing a tux; he once complained to an interviewer that "People think I wake up in the morning and put on a tuxedo." So I firmly believe the reference is all but indisputable. On the other hand, how does one account for the misspelling in the lyrics? I don't. I can't explain it. So I've made note of this apparent discrepancy in my commentary on the song, correcting my own spelling error (replicating the lyrical mistake) in the process. Thanks again, Thomas!

September 9, 2018

I've posted the end results of my survey of the past two weeks, in which I asked my site visitors to choose their favorite song written by the Pet Shop Boys on the subject of lost love. My new poll for the next two weeks is an unusual "two-parter," the first question of which was suggested by site visitor Dwight R. of Midlothian, Virginia (more about that shortly), asking whether you would prefer the final track on the final PSB album—whenever it is released, and I'm sure we all hope that's not for quite some time—to be an uptempo "stomper" or a quieter, more contemplative song. The second question is my own addendum to that one, asking whether you would prefer to know in advance whether that final PSB album is their last or whether you would prefer discovering that fact only later, after a good deal of time, when it is announced or becomes apparent in retrospect that it was indeed their last.

Getting back to Dwight living in Midlothian, Virginia, it's an outer suburb of the state capital, Richmond, that I happen to have visited a great many times because my sister Linda lived there for roughly thirty years. She moved away a couple of years ago, so I may never set foot in Midlothian again. But it is indeed a small world, isn't it? At any rate, thanks so much, Dwight, for your poll suggestion! I've just now added your name—and, as you requested, your location—to my Thank You page.

I've long felt that YouTube is the single best thing ever to emerge from the internet. Today I found further reinforcement in the form of a pair of new videos (here and here) starring a parrot named Rupert "singing" along with "What Have I Done to Deserve This?" OK, so the only words he actually mimics successfully are "What have I" and "Since you went away." But he also makes a valiant effort to replicate some of the percussion and synth parts. Check it out and see if it doesn't put a big smile on your face.

September 8, 2018

From the "Only Peripherally Related to PSB" department – A short while ago I heard on the radio a song that I really like but which I don't believe I've heard in at least 20 years and had all but completely forgotten about—and, more to the point, which I firmly believe bears the strong influence of the Pet Shop Boys. It's the 1991 hit "Temptation" by the New York-based singer/actress Corina. I thoroughly enjoyed hearing it again, and I was struck by the way her spoken intro echoes a similar device used by Neil on such tracks as "Love Comes Quickly" and "Why Don't We Live Together?" I can't help but think it also boasts a very "Chris" bass-synth line. And, finally, could its lyrical theme (temptation, of course) have been inspired by "It's a Sin"? Whatever the case, if you would like to hear this track for yourself—perhaps evoking memories of your own—it's readily available online, such as here on YouTube. Enjoy!

September 6, 2018

Thanks to Dóra Szekeres for letting me know that "A Different Point of View" could be heard in today's new episode of the U.K. TV show Homes Under the Hammer—a program that has not only used that same song previously but has used a number of Pet Shop Boys tracks through the years. I've noted this latest usage in the entry for that song at #15 in my list of PSB tracks heard in non-musical films and television shows.

September 4, 2018

You've probably already seen it, but in case you haven't, the Pet Shop Boys' official website announced today that Chris and Neil are currently on holiday following their summer tour, but will later this month resume work on their next album, which is being produced once again by Stuart Price (thereby completing the long-promised "Price trilogy"). The posting noted that "so far [they] have 21 new songs." Great news!

September 3, 2018

Thanks so much to Robbie Daw for pointing out that the chorus of "The Pop Kids" bears the likely stylistic influence of the 1991 dance hit "Playing with Knives" by the U.K. band Bizarre Inc.   As I note in a new first bullet-point annotation to my commentary on the song, this would seem quite a clever maneuver on the Boys' part considering that the very first line of their song invites us to "Remember those days—the early 90s."

September 1, 2018

Having received his permission to do so, I've now added Pedro Sá to my Thank You page in recognition of his valuable input a couple days ago (see below). Thanks again, Pedro!

Meanwhile, I've encountered the latest in the seemingly endless, long-clichéd stream of metal remakes of "It's a Sin," this one by the self-proclaimed one-man "industrial metal band" Scrawb, who has three indie digital albums plus one EP to his recording credit. Of course, I've noted this on my page that lists cover versions of Tennant-Lowe songs. If you would like to hear it for yourself, it's available on YouTube.

August 30, 2018

Thanks to Pedro Sá for giving me a good nudge about what he had regarded as a different interpretation of "Was It Worth It?"—having to with Neil falling in love—than what I was offering here, although in my opinion our two interpretations are actually quite closely related. Whatever the case, in response to Pedro's input, I've added a new paragraph to my commentary on that song. And in the course of my researching it, I discovered Neil's own reference to the likely influence of the 1989 Black Box hit "Ride on Time," which has lead me to add "Was It Worth It?" to my list of Pet Shop Boys songs for which they've acknowledged the influence of tracks by other pop artists.

August 26, 2018

I've posted the final results of my poll of the past two weeks, in which I asked my site visitors to choose up to twelve recent (2010s) Pet Shop Boys single b-sides that would, in their opinion, make the best imaginary studio album. My new survey was suggested by a site visitor who was curious to discover what you all regard as your favorite PSB-composed song on the theme of "lost love." So she and I have put together a list of "candidate" songs for you to choose from. But, of course, we may have overlooked your own personal favorite PSB lost-love song, so I've included the familiar "some other song" option. Whatever the case, thanks so much to Mary E.—whom I've just added to my Thank You page—for suggesting this terrific question! And while we're on the subject of my Thank You page, I've also added Dóra Szekeres's name there in recognition of her contribution of information yesterday (see below).

August 25, 2018

Site visitors have recently informed me of a few things that certainly deserve mention here. First off, Danny Bende has noted a striking musical similarity between "Northern Lights"—the brand new single by Soft Cell, their first since 2003—and "One Hit Wonder," a Pet Shop Boys track formally released in 2016, although it was first heard online the year before as the theme for the German web-TV music show The One-Hit Parade. If you conduct a side-by-side comparison of the two tracks, you'll almost undoubtedly hear what Danny (and I) hear. Soft Cell's "Northern Lights" is readily available on YouTube, as is (in case you don't have it readily available) PSB's "One Hit Wonder." It jumps right out at you, doesn't it? I don't think any actual sampling is involved on Soft Cell's part, and the main piano/digital keyboard riffs of both songs, while very similar, are not identical. Considering the relative obscurity of the PSB recording, the resemblance is quite possibly coincidental. But it's still remarkable. Thanks for pointing this out, Danny!

Secondly, a new Hungarian site visitor, Dóra Szekeres, has observed a delightful "name-dropping" of the Pet Shop Boys in a case of loose translation. In the dubbing of the Season 3 Episode 20 of the popular U.S. 2000-2007 television comedy-drama Gilmore Girls, the line "Stay home and dance around in my underwear to the Monkees' greatest hits" is rendered, in Hungarian, as "Stay home and dance around in my underwear to the best of the Pet Shop Boys." I imagine this was done because the Monkees probably aren't familiar to many if not most people in Hungary, whereas the Pet Shop Boys apparently are. At first I didn't think this fact "fit" anywhere long-term on my website. But then it occurred to me that, yes, it does indeed merit a spot on my page devoted to "Strange But True Incidents Involving the Pet Shop Boys." So I've added it as the (for now) last item there. Thanks so much, Dóra!