What's New? – Recent Updates & Additions

February 25, 2020

Several of you have asked if, despite ending my biweekly polls, I'm still planning on running a "Rating Project" survey for the songs of Hotspot and its associated single b-sides—and, if so, when. The answer is Yes and, barring unforeseen difficulties, starting this coming Sunday, March 1. Now that the album has been out more than a month, I'm looking forward to seeing how you all rate these new Pet Shop Boys songs. And I hope you're looking forward to rating them! So please be giving some thought to that. I'll be using the usual scale of 0 to 10 based on how each song compares to all other PSB songs—not on how they compare to other artists' songs. Stay tuned!

February 24, 2020

Fantastic news today for North American PSB fans! – The Pet Shop Boys and New Order have announced a co-headlining tour of North America for later this year. Dubbed "The Unity Tour" and beginning September 5 in Toronto, the two bands will play complete sets, alternating as opening act each night. I've added a section for this new tour, including all the dates and venues announced thus far, to my PSB Tours page.

By the way, considering this PSB/New Order "tour collaboration," don't you think chances are awfully good for a live performance of one or two Electronic songs? After all, "Getting Away with It" was a hit (albeit a relatively minor one) in both the U.S. and Canada. And who wouldn't want to hear a live performance of "Disappointed," too?

Speaking of "Getting Away with It," thanks so much to Kevin Crossman for noting a dating error on my page for that song. I had listed its year of release as 1991, but it was actually released as a single in 1989. It was the Electronic album, to which the song was later added (it didn't appear on its first U.K. edition), that was released in 1991. I've now made the appropriate corrections.

February 22, 2020

Thanks to a terrific new interview with Neil on the Rock's Back Pages podcast, I've learned that "One More Chance" was influenced by the 1986 single "Love Can't Turn Around " by Farley "Jackmaster" Funk & Jesse Saunders featuring Darryl Pandy. I've now noted this fact on my page that lists Pet Shop Boys songs avowedly influenced by specific tracks by other artists.

February 21, 2020

Annually 2020, scheduled for publication in April, can now be pre-ordered from the online Pet Shop Boys Shop. It will include a seven-track CD of music that the Boys wrote and recorded for the stage production of My Beautiful Laundrette. Hence I've made some corresponding updates to my page for that show.

February 20, 2020

Thanks to Sasha Dixon (whose name I've added to my Thank You page) for reporting a spelling error on my Pet Shop Boys tours page. I've now made that correction.

February 19, 2020

Thanks to Steve N. for calling attention to the fact that, since (as noted here on February 16) Neil has stated that "Hoping for a Miracle" is about Tony Blair, three particular lines in the song might be referring very specifically to him: one literally ("A meadow in Oxford where you sat in the sun"), one metaphorically ("On Waterloo Bridge you got lost in the fog"), and one punningly ("A child of the sun"). I've noted these observations in my pre-existing annotations about those lines on my page devoted to that song.

February 18, 2020

The Pet Shop Boys have just announced that they will be headlining the Release Athens Festival on July 1. I've accordingly added this date to my PSB Tours page.

February 17, 2020

Thanks so much to Robert Goldstone for catching and reporting a careless spelling error on my part—now corrected, of course—in my entry for "Hoping for a Miracle."

Having received his permission to do so, I've added Eamonn Bolger's name to my Thank You page in recognition of his info contribution yesterday (see below). Thanks again!

February 16, 2020

Thanks to Nathan A. (whom I've added to my Thank You page) for sharing evidence in Neil's own words that "Hoping for a Miracle" is "about" former Prime Minister Tony Blair, which I've noted in a new final paragraph in the main body of my entry for that song.

In addition, thanks to Eamonn Bolger for clarifying a point about when "Pomp and Circumstance" is played at U.K. sporting events, in response to which I've slightly modified my wording in the first bullet-point annotation to my commentary on the song "Happy People."

It's just been announced that the Charlotte Ballet, which staged The Most Incredible Thing in 2018, will have an "encore" run of the Tennant-Lowe ballet in 2020, from September 26 through October 3. In fact, it's the opening show for the North Carolina dance company's celebratory 50th anniversary season. The original 2018 run, despite some early technical difficulties, was critically hailed as a "dazzling spectacle…. slick, fast-paced, funny, poignant, and unashamedly romantic." It appears that tickets to TMIT aren't yet for sale, although full-season subscriptions are apparently now available.

February 14, 2020

Happy Valentine's Day! It's of course a great day to celebrate love—and perhaps that includes love of the Pet Shop Boys and their music!

Thanks to Andrew Shaw for telling me about a remarkable incident recently reported in the press that merits inclusion among my "Strange But True Stories Involving the Pet Shop Boys." Although the PSB involvement is extremely peripheral, their music is "involved," so I think it's quite deserving.

February 13, 2020

Thanks to Thomas Hoheisel for noticing and reporting several typos on my website on scattered pages. I've now made those corrections.

Thomas was also one of several site visitors who have now weighed in on the subject of "Schlager music," which I mentioned here on February 5 (see below), soliciting your input. After reading what they all have to say on the matter, I've decided that, at least from my own perspective of relative ignorance, it would be best for me not to delve into that particular subject here on my website. It seems, at least to me, that "Schlager" is rather imprecise; that is, what is or isn't Schlager seems quite subjective. What strikes one listener as "Schlager" may not strike another that way, so people can readily disagree.

If I can venture to offer a concise definition, it sounds to me that "Schlager" is simply non-confrontational German pop music, most often about love, that's easy to sing and/or dance along with. As one site visitor pointed out, if "Only the Dark"—or, for that matter, any other songs on Hotspot, for which indeed most of you who wrote to me on this subject offered other candidates—might be considered Schlager music, then quite a few other Pet Shop Boys songs from throughout their career might just as readily be considered Schlager music, if only minus the obvious "German connection."

In light of all this, I've decided not to pursue the subject of Schlager music further. The subject doesn't seem to offer anything that helps me better to understand or appreciate their work. And as a second- (or third-) hand observer of the matter, I'd rather not discuss it further than risk writing erroneously out of ignorance. But I extend my sincere thanks and appreciation to all of you who wrote to me about it, including Heinzi, who first broached the subject.

Meanwhile, the Pet Shop Boys have announced that they will be performing in Istanbul on July 3. I've added this prospective date to my PSB Tours page.

February 12, 2020

Thanks so much to Tom M. for sharing his observation that David Bowie's 1993 album Black Tie White Noise begins with an instrumental titled "The Wedding" and ends with a full-fledged song titled "The Wedding Song," both of which include the sound of church/wedding bells. He suggests that ending Hotspot with "Wedding in Berlin" might be more than mere coincidence, which I've noted in a new annotation to my entry for that song. I've also added this speculation to my "PSB connections" for Bowie on my page that lists my other favorite artists.

February 11, 2020

Last night I was looking over some of my lists, and I "zoomed in" on my 25 favorite Pet Shop Boys songs, wondering whether I need to update it in any way. After all, I don't include there any songs from the "Stuart Price era"—the albums Electric, Super, and Hotspot (though it may be somewhat premature to consider tracks from the latter)—along with their associated bonus tracks and other miscellaneous songs released during this period. Thinking this over, I seriously pondered adding three tracks in particular: "Burn," "Into Thin Air," and "Will-o-the-wisp." But then which three would I delete from the list of 25 to make room for them? Ultimately, I found that I simply couldn't delete any of them. I have to confess that, when it comes right down to it, I prefer each of those 25 to each of those three newer songs. Of course, I could expand my list of favorites to 30, and I may indeed do that at some point in the near future. So I'll let the Hotspot tracks as well as all the other recent songs "percolate" a bit longer in my aesthetic consciousness before I finally decide to expand the list.

By the way, I'm also not yet ready to include Hotspot in my list of the Pet Shop Boys' studio albums in descending order of how much I love them. It's still too early for me to determine where it fits in that tally. Give me another few weeks, maybe even a month or so.

Dave F. wrote to ask about something that I had briefly alluded to on my now-deleted "nagging mysteries" page—namely, speculation as to whether the Dub Mix of "Was It Worth It?" contains a sample from Depeche Mode's "Personal Jesus." This question has been raised several times before, but it has never been answered, perhaps because the Pet Shop Boys themselves may not know the answer. At any rate, rather than resurrect my old "mysteries" page, I've now reiterated this speculation in a new annotation to my commentary on that song.

It's a sad fact of popular culture that when "legacy artists" (which can probably be defined in the world of popular music as artists who have been around for, say, twenty years or more) release a new album, its typical chart-trajectory is to debut at its peak position and then fall completely off the chart the following week—or, at best, two or three weeks later. So it doesn't surprise me that Hotspot, after debuting last week on the Billboard primary album chart at #100, has now fallen off. Fortunately, it still remains on the main U.K. album chart this week, though it did peak at #3 last week. So I've updated my table for the Pet Shop Boys' performance on these two charts accordingly.

February 10, 2020

Thanks to Andrew Shaw for pointing out that "rock" is a slang term for crack cocaine, which I believe is worth citing in a new annotation to my commentary on "At Rock Bottom." Andrew was also kind enough to let me know that a framentary song, "Cover Me in Chamomile," is briefly sung in Musik, which I've now noted in my introductory paragraphs for that stage show. Since it hasn't yet been released in any form, I've also added it to my alphabetical list of unreleased Tennant-Lowe songs.

Thanks also to Danny Bende for suggesting that "Music for Boys" may contain a sample from the Haçienda Version of "Violence." This had never occurred to me, but in comparing the two tracks, I must now agree that this sounds right—only it raises a very, very perplexing question. I discuss this seeming paradox, including several possible explanations, in a new annotation to my entry for "Music for Boys."

As I noted here on January 23, quite a few site visitors have informed me that "It's a Sin" can be heard in trailers for the new film Greed. We don't know yet, however, whether it's used in the actual film itself, so I'm holding off on saying so in my list of Pet Shop Boys songs used in non-musical films and TV shows. Marc R, however, has just informed me that TV commercials promoting the movie also feature "It's a Sin." So I've now added it at #11 in my list of PSB songs used in TV commercials. Thanks, Marc!

February 9, 2020

Thanks to Marc R. for catching a longstanding typo (ironically, in the word "spelling," which suffered from three Ls) in my entry for "One of the Crowd." It's now corrected!

I've added a new annotation to my commentary on "You Are the One" concerning some sampled dialogue that appears in the song on at least some preview copies of Hotspot. I'm indebted to one of my regular site visitors (who shall remain anonymous) for letting me know about this.

Reading the posted lyrics of "At Rock Bottom" on the Pet Shop Boys' official website provides further insight into the song, so I've updated my commentary accordingly.

February 7, 2020

Thanks to Marco Lucht for letting me know that "At Rock Bottom" (the b-side of the "Monkey Business" single; I'm still waiting for my copy to arrive) was produced by Stuart Price. I've updated my entry for that song accordingly.

Thanks as well to Cristian Thomas (whose name I've added to my Thank You page) for encouraging me to make several neglected updates to my page devoted to the Pet Shop Boys' remixers.

And thanks to Jane Morley for clueing me in on the fact that Neil was seen in the audience at last night's performance of Gerald Barry's opera Alice's Adventures Under Ground at London's Royal Opera House. I've added this to my "On This Date in Pet Shop Boys History" page, although it won't show up there for another year—minus one day, of course.

February 6, 2020

Thanks to Jeff Schapira for noticing a one-word difference in the printed lyrics of "Hoping for a Miracle" on the official Pet Shop Boys website and how it's actually articulated by Neil in the recorded song. I've noted this in a new next-to-last annotation on my page for that song. I also mention there another difference that I noticed the very first time I compared the printed lyrics to the recording, but which I didn't feel worth discussing until now, despite another site visitor having previously written to me about it. It's now simply a case of "OK, since we're on the subject…."

Thanks also to both Coen and Andrew Shaw for informing me of a brand new interview with the Boys in the Melbourne Herald Sun that includes some marvelous revelations. First of all, a DVD/Blu-ray of It Couldn't Happen Here is scheduled for release later this year, probably in June. Second, the long-withheld song "New Boy" (previously titled "A New Boy in Town") will soon be released as the b-side of the fourth single from Hotspot (which wasn't identified in the interview). I've therefore promoted that song from my list of unreleased PSB tracks to its own new page (which of course is rather preliminary in nature at this point).

I've also taken Andrew's advice that I add "Monkey Business"—certain of its lines in particular—to my list of PSB songs with titles and/or lyrics that may be sly innuendos. Thanks again, Andrew!

In at least one recent interview, Neil and Chris leave open the possibility of continuing to work with producer Stuart Price despite having completed their oft-discussed "trilogy" of albums with him. (Chris specifically referred to expanding it to a "quadrilogy," to which Neil quickly offered the alternative "quartet." For my own part, I prefer the more common term "tetralogy.") I noted this a couple days ago, but didn't say anything about it here until Bill Bahlman gave me a nudge about it today. So I've updated what I say about this on my introductory page for Hotspot. Thanks, Bill!

I've just learned of a Billboard chart of which I wasn't previously aware—and this past week the Pet Shop Boys appeared on it for the very first time! It's the Top 100 Artists Chart, which ranks artists according to their total performance (all songs, all albums, all formats, at least in the U.S.) for the week in question. Billboard started it in July 2014, yet (remarkably) the Boys have only now appeared on it for the first time, debuting at #49! (I guess this means that all the other times since 2014 that they might have had sufficient total chart performance to appear there, such as in 2016 when Super and its singles were "active" on the U.S. charts, at least one hundred other artists were doing even better.) I'm not going to do anything else with this data at this time, such as note it elsewhere on this website, but I'll have to keep an eye out for their future appearances in this new (at least to me) ranking.

February 5, 2020

Thanks to Niall McIlroy for informing me that there's no Northern Ireland Rugby Union team, so I've eliminated a reference to it in the pertinent annotation to my commentary on "Happy People." Niall also gave me a nudge about a second likely innuendo in "Will-o-the-wisp," which I've now cited in the entry for that song in my list of innuendos in the titles and lyrics of Pet Shop Boys songs. And Niall offered one other intriguing bit of information that, for the time being, I'm holding off on pending my learning more about it.

Thanks as well to Rob Bingham for suggesting that "Hoping for a Miracle" may bear some influence of the 1937 Gerswhin standard "A Foggy Day (in London Town)." I agree that, while it's by no means a certainty, it's an interesting enough possibility for me to note it in a new annotation.

And thanks to Heinzi from Berlin (whom I've added to my Thank You page) for alerting me to a misspelling of Winterfeldtplatz, now corrected, on my pages devoted to "A Wedding in Berlin" and the aforementioned "Happy People." He also informed me that Neil and Chris recently discussed Schlager music in a German interview, how they like it, and how it had been often recorded at Hansa Studios, where most of Hotspot was also recorded. He noted that, from his perspective, "Only the Dark" sounds much like Schlager music. I must confess, however, that I'm so totally ignorant of and unfamiliar with Schlager music that I'm in no position to assess his observation about that particular PSB song. Perhaps my other German site visitors can join in on this. What do you think? Does "Only the Dark" sound like Schlager music to you, too? And do any other Hotspot tracks seem to bear the pronounced influence of Schlager music?

February 4, 2020

Hotspot has debuted (and likely to have peaked) on the U.S. Billboard album chart at #100—the lowest top showing for a Pet Shop Boys studio album since Fundamental peaked at #150 in 2006. I've accordingly updated my record of their U.S. pop album chart performance. However, it's very much worth noting that Hotspot debuts at a high #7 on the Billboard "Top Current Albums" chart. As I understand it, the "Top Current Albums" reflects physical sales of "non-catalog" albums. ("Catalog" albums are those that were released more than a year-and-a-half ago and have at some point fallen below #100 on the main album chart.) In other words, it would appear that comparatively low figures in terms of digital sales and streaming account for the low #100 position of Hotspot on the main chart, despite its being the seventh-best-selling new/recent album in the States last week in terms of physical copies. Remarkable.

The Pet Shop Boys have just added the U.K. city of Hull to their Dreamworld Tour, with a June 24 concert scheduled for the Hull Bonus Arena. I've thus updated my PSB tours page.

Some months ago I declared a moratorium on adding any further items to my list of homages to the iconic cover of the Pet Shop Boys' album Actually. But I also left myself the option to make occasional exceptions when I find a new one sufficiently engaging to do so. Thanks to Andrew Shaw for bringing one such new example to my attention: the first 30 seconds of the music video for "Toast 2 Us" by Tuxedo. I've added it to the list, and I invite you to watch the video for yourself on YouTube.

"At Rock Bottom," the b-side of the soon to be physically released single "Monkey Business," has surfaced online, such as on Vimeo. I've therefore posted my initial analysis of the song.

February 3, 2020

Three different site visitors have written to me over the past few days about what they firmly believe are "incorrect" lyrics on the Pet Shop Boys' official website for the Hotspot song "You Are the One." What they're hearing is something that I also heard the first few times I listened to the song, before I read the official lyrics. Those "alternate lyrics" would cast an entirely different light on the song and its meaning. But I believe the official lyrics are absolutely correct, and what we're hearing is something akin to an "audio mirage" caused by the way Neil sings combined with the album's somewhat "murky" production. I discuss this in a new bullet-point annotation to my commentary on the song.

January 31, 2020

After topping the U.K. midweek album chart, Hotspot unfortunately fell to #3 for the week's final album chart, although it was #1 in physical sales. Interestingly, this #3 peak matches the showing of its two Stuart Price-produced predecessors, Electric and Super. I've updated the album section of my U.K./U.S. pop charts performance page accordingly. Now it remains to be seen how Hotspot performs on the U.S. Billboard album chart. Will it improve upon the #58 peak of Super? We won't know for several days; the next chart won't appear until Tuesday.

Thanks to Daniel B. for sharing several observations related to Hotspot. Among other things, he noted that Hallesches Tor, mentioned in a U-Bahn announcement sample in "Will-o-the-wisp," ties in with the "gay" aspects of that song, which I've mentioned in an expansion on a pre-existing annotation. He also alerted me to the fact that Waterloo Bridge provides something of a connection between "Hoping for a Miracle" and the early Pet Shop Boys track "I Made My Excuses and Left." This, too, I've used to expand upon one of my annoations for the newer song.

Thanks as well to Martijn for catching several outdated references and errors arising from cutting-and-pasting on pages for various Hotspot songs. Those are now fixed!

Yesterday my home page's "Flag Counter" routine detected my first-ever site visitor from the Atlantic island nation of Cabo Verde (Cape Verde), off the northwestern coast of Africa. So I've updated my "A World of Pet Shop Boys Fans" page accordingly. And I extend a hearty welcome to my first Cabo Verdean visitor!

January 30, 2020

Thanks so much to Martyn Dunn for alerting me of an online posting by the Pet Shop Boys that reveals the true source of the dissonant sounds heard at the end of "Happy People" and both the beginning and end of "Wedding in Berlin," which I've previously discussed. I've now modified what I had previously written to take advantage of this additional information.

It has been suggested that I might, if possible, post the results of my aborted last survey as they stood before it was corrupted. So I've done this, though with the caveat that it's only an approximation of how those figures stood at some point shortly before that corruption took place. Take it with the proverbial grain of salt, albeit a perhaps indicative grain of salt.

January 29, 2020

Three different regular site visitors have asked whether the end of my PSB surveys mean that there will be no more Rating Project polls, and therefore the songs of the "Hotspot era" won't be included. Let me assure you that I do plan on running a Rating Project poll for Hotspot and its associated songs once we can be fairly confident that nearly everyone has had a chance to hear them and has "digested" them sufficiently to compare them with other Pet Shop Boys songs. I figure that will be at least one month from now, and probably no more than two. So stay tuned! And thank you for your interest! I truly appreciate it!

January 28, 2020

The message on my home page that has replaced the poll pretty much sums it up.

January 27, 2020

Whenever the Pet Shop Boys release a new album, I can count on receiving in the days that follow an unusually large number of emails from my site visitors as they make observations, share insights, and point out facts, theories, and ideas that had escaped me. And that's precisely what's going on right now in the wake of Hotspot. I'm getting bombarded with such emails. I don't mind, but I do beg your indulgence as I plow through them. Some of your input I will "set aside" as things either that I don't think "fit in" with what I cover here or that, to be honest, I disagree with. But many other items I do hope to address here; it's just that it will take time for me to get around to it all. This is especially true as I must also work around other demands on my time that have nothing to do with PSB and this website. (Strangely, I seem even busier in retirement than I was before I retired!)

Here's what I've been able to get to so far today:

I regret to say that something very, very suspicious has happened with my current poll. Four or five hours ago, when I had last checked the current results, I observed that there were only a few "I hate it!" responses—so few that it was near the bottom of the standings. Yet now, as I type this, I find that "I hate it!" has suddenly jumped, in the course of those four or five hours, all the way up to second place. Now, I've been running these PSB polls for almost 20 years, and I can tell you that that sort of sudden leap in the standings by one particular option is extremely anomalous, not to mention highly suspicious. It's a matter of statistical behavior, strongly suggesting that someone has found a way to circumvent the restriction on voting more than once. (I know it can be done; one simply has to have both the technical know-how and the perverse desire to do it.) I recently had to eliminate the "Comments" feature because of abuse by a very small number of participants, perhaps as few as just one or two. And now it seems likely that someone is abusing the voting function itself, thereby completely invalidating the entire activity. It's making me consider scraping the whole idea of running polls like this.

Please don't think I'm saying this only because I may disagree with the "I hate it!" response. I frankly don't care what ends up at the top of this or any other survey that I run. You may find that hard to believe, but I really don't. I have a very objective attitude toward that sort of thing, and I have no personal stake in the final outcome. But what I do have a personal stake in is my time and effort, and I'm not going to waste my time creating, running, and reporting on polls if they're going to be misused in this way. So, in short, if I soon scrap this poll and announce that I won't be running any more of them, don't be too surprised.

January 26, 2020

I've posted the final results of my poll of the past two weeks, in which I asked my site visitors their opinion of the Boys' upcoming Dreamworld Tour being designated a "greatest hits" tour. Although it may seem a bit premature, my new survey for the next two weeks asks your early impression of the Pet Shop Boys' just-released album Hotspot. If you haven't heard it yet, you may want to hold off on voting until you have!

I've been quietly adding some of the new Hotspot songs to various of my lists. No need to delineate each here. But, for instance, the latest is the addition of a line from "Will-o-the-wisp" to my list of PSB titles and lyrics that are (or may be) sly innuendos. Check it out at #20! (And I'd bet that most of you had noticed it already!)

Thanks to Martyn Dunn for writing to suggest that the "oddly dissonant" sound I described at the beginning and end of "Wedding in Berlin" might be the distorted sound of wedding bells. Actually, that thought had occurred to me, too, so I've now noted this in my commentary on the song. I plan to conduct some "experiments" later on when I have more time (probably tomorrow; today is going to be a very, very busy day for me for personal reasons unrelated to PSB) to see if I can determine this one way or the other.