Pet Shop Boys are an English electronic pop duo, formed in London in 1981 and consisting of Neil Tennant (main vocals, keyboards, occasional guitar) and Chris Lowe (keyboards, occasional vocals).
Pet Shop Boys have sold more than 50 million records worldwide, and are listed as the most successful duo in UK music history by The Guinness Book of Records. Three-time Brit Award winners and six-time Grammy nominees, since 1985 they have achieved forty-two Top 30 singles and 22 Top 10 hits in the UK Singles Chart, including four UK number ones: “West End Girls” (also number one on the US Billboard Hot 100), “It’s a Sin”, an acclaimed cover of “Always on My Mind” and “Heart”. Other hit songs include a remake of “Go West”, “Opportunities (Let’s Make Lots of Money)” (satire of Thatcherism) and “What Have I Done to Deserve This?” in a duet with Dusty Springfield. At the 2009 Brit Awards, Pet Shop Boys received an award for Outstanding Contribution to Music.
Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe met in an electronics shop on Kings Road in Chelsea, London in August 1981. Recognising a mutual interest in dance music, they began to work on material together, first in Tennant’s flat in Chelsea and from 1982, in a small studio in Camden Town. It was during those early years that several future hit songs were created, including “It’s a Sin”, “West End Girls”, “Rent” and “Jealousy”.
Initially Tennant and Lowe performed as West End because of their love of London’s West End, but later they came up with the name Pet Shop Boys, derived from friends of theirs who worked in a pet shop in Ealing. Their big break came in August 1983, when Tennant was assigned by Smash Hits to interview The Police in New York. The duo were obsessed with a stream of Hi-NRG records made by New York producer Bobby Orlando, simply known as Bobby O. According to Tennant: “I thought: well, if I’ve got to go and see The Police play, then I’m also going to have lunch with Bobby O.” They shared a cheeseburger and carrot cake, at a restaurant called the Apple Jack, on 19 August (two years to the day since Tennant and Lowe had met) and, after hearing a demo tape that Tennant had brought along with him, Orlando suggested making a record with the Pet Shop Boys.
From 1983-84, Orlando recorded eleven tracks with Tennant and Lowe including; “West End Girls”, “Opportunities (Let’s Make Lots of Money”), “It’s A Sin”, “I Want A Lover”, “I Get Excited”, “Two Divided By Zero”, “Rent”, “Later Tonite”, “Pet Shop Boys”, “A Man Could Get Arrested” and “One More Chance”. In April 1984, the Orlando-produced “West End Girls” was released, becoming a club hit in Los Angeles and San Francisco. On 2 November, it was voted “Screamer of the Week” by listeners of Long Island, New York radio station WLIR. It was a minor dance hit in Belgium and France, but was only available in the United Kingdom as a 12″ import.
Pet Shop Boys performed “West End Girls” in the closing ceremony of the 2012 Olympic Games on 12 August 2012.
The second single released from Elysium was “Leaving”, on 15 October. The album’s third single, “Memory of the Future” was released in December 2012 including the b-side “Listening” which Pet Shop Boys wrote for Morten Harket from a-ha, and a mixed version of the song (with backing vocals from Tennant) appeared on his solo album “Out of my hands” in April 2012.
In December 2012, Pet Shop Boys played a free concert in the recently opened MediaCityUK BBC facilities accompanied by the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra and the Manchester Chamber Choir. They played mostly songs that hadn’t been performed before including ‘Miracles’ and ‘The Survivors’. A piece entitled ‘He Dreamed of Machines’—taken from the band’s project associated with Alan Turing—was also performed for the first time.
On 14 March 2013, the duo officially left Parlophone after 28 years and entered into a new arrangement with Kobalt Label Services for their 12th studio album that will be the band’s first release on their own music label ‘x2’ (pronounced “times two”). Tennant stated at the time of the announcement:
We’d like to thank everyone we’ve worked with at Parlophone over the last 28 years both in the UK and abroad. When we signed to the label in 1985 we had no idea how long and successful a relationship we were embarking on. However it is also exciting now to commence a new phase working with a new team in a new business structure and we look forward to a creative and equally fulfilling relationship with Kobalt.
The twelfth album, entitled Electric, was released on 12 July 2013. The album was the biggest-selling record among the UK’s independent record shops during the week of its release, and went straight to the number 1 position on the Official Record Store Chart. The album was produced by Stuart Price and the release coincides with the ‘Electric World Tour’ that will include Chile, Argentina, Paraguay, Brazil, Colombia, Asia (the duo will perform in the Philippines, Indonesia, China and Thailand for the first time), Lebanon, Israel, Turkey, Europe and North America.
On 23 July 2014, the Pet Shop Boys new work A Man from the Future received its world premiere at the 2014 BBC Proms. Performed by the BBC Singers, BBC Concert Orchestra and the Pet Shop Boys, the work was inspired by the life of WW2 code breaker Alan Turing and was orchestrated by Sven Helbig. The concert also included Overture to Performance, an orchestral arrangement of Pet Shop Boys songs used to open their 1991 Performance tour, and four Pet Shop Boys songs arranged by Angelo Badalamenti and sung by Chrissie Hynde – “Vocal”, “Love is a Catastrophe”, “Later Tonight” and “Rent”.
On 6 September 2014, it was announced on the duo’s website that they plan to begin work on their thirteenth studio album in November.