For a certain cohort among our readership, the next sentence will undoubtedly cause a collective sigh, groan, gasp, wince… what have you: It was thirty years ago this month that the Pet Shop Boys single “West End Girls” became #1 on the UK music charts and soon thereafter in America too.
That information came to me via the Pet Shop Boys’ Twitter feed this morning and boy did it make me feel old. For whatever dumb reason, I can actually recall exactly where I was when I first heard the tune myself.
And then I realized that this “certain cohort” (i.e. people my age) are dwarfed in size, by quite a hefty margin, of our “millennial” readers who would most likely know the song, first and foremost, by its inclusion on the Grand Theft Auto V soundtrack in 2013. It’s all relative how we got here, but most people can probably agree that it’s a great song, no matter the decade.
I was fortunate enough to see the Pet Shop Boys, in their prime, on their world tour of 1991 during a two-night, sold-out stand at Radio City Music Hall. It was an amazing spectacle, very much along the lines of an extremely elaborate Broadway musical, an all-singing, all-dancing over-the-top extravaganza that saw Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe traipsing through their greatest hits in a tightly choreographed two-hour set with an intermission. Practically every other song was a production number with a different scenario, setting and costumes. (“It’s a Sin,” for instance had horny boarding school boys reading porn mags with flashlights under the bedsheets after the headmaster turns the lights out, before the female dancers enter. In another number Neil Tennant was dressed as Elvis as a bunch of pigs pranced around him.)
The vocals, by Neil Tennant and others, were live, but the music was more or less canned, with an offstage guitarist and keyboardist. Chris Lowe mostly looked dour and said about as much as Harpo Marx, but this is what the fans wanted, of course. I’m sure there might have been a few women there, but my memory of it is that there were very, very few ladies in attendance. (Unlike, I might add, when I saw Maxwell at Radio City a few years later and was probably the only guy in the entire audience.)