On the 14th August 1987, the ITV network across the UK broadcast Love Me Tender: A Tribute to the Music of Elvis Presley. It’s a two-hour show to mark the 10th anniverary of Elvis’s death and it consists of singers and bands from all eras and all genres offering their take on some of the songs he was best known for.
The British Film Institute website provides an exhaustive list of those who were involved in some shape or form. Pet Shop Boys stand out as just about being the only non-guitar or traditional rock based act taking part.
Such was the reaction to their appearance that the duo decided to do a proper recording and release it as a stand-alone single.
The single certainly divided opinion. Elvis Presley, while not the first to record it, had been the first to have a hit with it in 1973. A decade later, Wille Nelson enjoyed success with the song. Both versions were derivative in that they were along the lines of what you’d expect a break-up song to sound like. Pet Shop boys, however, went all HI-NRG and dancey on us. The sort of sound that appealed to those who hadn’t carried any torch for Rent. It was all over the radio stations after its release on 30th November 1987. Just over three weeks later, and it was a most unlikely Christmas #1.
mp3: Pet Shop Boys – Always On My Mind
mp3: Pet Shop Boys – Do I Have To?
The b-side is a ballad. It sounded quite different to most previous PSB tracks, but, as now can be seen with many of the b-sides, it was a sort of trial run for the sort of sound they would introduce on albums many years down the line. It’s rather gorgeous, albeit I didn’t fully appreciate it until those later albums got me more familiar with this side of PSB.
Heart was released on 21st March 1988. It’s a bit of a strange one in that the duo went back to the well of Actually to lift a fourth single from it, a full six months after the album had been released. To be fair, it wasn’t a straight lift as a new mix that was, in places, noticeably different from the album version.
mp3: Pet Shop Boys – Heart
mp3: Pet Shop Boys – I Get Excited (You Get Excited Too)
The normal course of events for a fourth single to be taken from an album is to slide in around the #20 mark and then quickly disappear from you. Not in this instance as Heart spent three weeks at the top of the chart.
The duo, despite continuing to air the song in the live settings in acknowledgement of its success, have both said it feels a bit lightweight and straightforward compared to many earlier and indeed later singles. It’s also the case that the b-side, while being enjoyable enough, didn’t really bring anything new to the table, being another HI-NRG dance number.
The fact that Heart proven to be their final #1 single probably adds to their feeling of annoyance and a view that chart positions aren’t everything. It was also the case, although we didn’t know it at the time, that Neil and Chris were in early 1988 working on material that was radically different to what they were most associated with. But that’s for next week.
Worth mentioning at this juncture that, despite yielding two #1 singles and two other top ten hits, as well as a non-album single also being a #1 hit, Actually never got any higher than #2 in the album charts, all of which led some snobbish critics to dismiss them as lightweight and inconsequential. How wrong could they be???
11 thoughts on “PET SHOP BOY SINGLES (Part Four)”
Thank you for this PSB retrospective. Been a fan since the very beginning and good to read someone else’s perspective on their output. Probably have most of their work except for perhaps some of the “remix” albums on vinyl , CD or download and look forward to more from you. They were never very big down under in Oz so getting info about any forthcoming releases can be a bit of a hit and miss. Cheers
My enduring memory of Always On My Mind was how fast I could stomp from here to there when it blasted from my Walkman. A couple of years later it even made the stomp to my 9pm start job seem exciting – sometimes excitement did occur.
I’m really enjoying this series, JC, and the move to cover a few singles per post is a smart (& pragmatic) move. PSB we’re always there for me but I didn’t really buy their singles or their albums at the time, only appreciating their music many years later. The little snippets of info are fascinating: I have absolutely no recollection of the ITV Elvis tribute but I’m firmly in the camp of loving PSB’s take on Always On My Mind.
*were not we’re!
They had such a run of brilliant singles, and I loved their take on the Elvis!!
Big PSB fan here and I’m enjoying the retrospective and commentary. IIRC PSB said that “Heart” was originally written for Madonna, but she turned it down. While Actually did seem to be lodged perennially at No. 2, I don’t remember it being considered a sign that the group were “lightweight” at all. If anything, the chart longevity established them as one of the UK’s biggest acts at the time.
Loved the Elvis cover, superb piece of music. Always thought Heart was a bit lightweight but its grown on me over the years. Good pair of B-sides too. Their songwriting and production at the time were first rate.
This is timely since I’ve been recently playing the PSB 12” singles I have bought in the 80s/90s for the first time. I immediately bought “Always On My Mind” on CD-5 from a mail order dealer and it was the single of the year for me. Turning a country weeper into a storming dance track? What’s not to love? And that B-side…gorgeous! further proof that PSB wear in a class all of their own. The first PSB “Annually” book revealed that the song was inspired by Chris Lowe’s attempts at shirking promotional duties that were less than appealing to him. Their ballads usually had dance oriented B-sides, and vice versa; giving real value for money. I often thought any other band would have used at least a third or more of their B-sides as A-sides! They seemed to be giving the store away!
“Heart” was the next CD-5 I bought. While I liked the A-side enough [it did emit whiffs of its Madonna-centric origins] it was the hi-NRG B-side that was the prize for my ears. Hi-NRG can be kitschy garbage, but when it’s made with talent such as Pet Shop Boys possess, it can gain transcendence.
In the early 90s I finally bought UK 12” single of “Heart” to get the remixes which were not on the CD-5 singles. And my wife took the honors on picking up the “Always On My Mind” US 12” in her estate sale travels in the late 90s. That “Heart [remix]” was some crazy mix! One of those “everything but the kitchen sink” mixes that peaked around this time period right before House music taking over in the UK. The Phil Harding remix of “Always On My Mind” was a far darker club event, with less of the kitsch flourishes that were so endearing in the 12”/7” mixes. The Harding mix was the basis for the version on “Introspective” which showed the PSB chasing the House Music dragon, though they did it better than most, with only The Blow Monkeys besting them [ and all others] on that front.
In a crossover with your high cost of vinyl series…. I just stumbled on a copy of Heart in the bargain bin for $2. Our overlords over at Discogs still tell me I over paid by the measure of 40c. But I just thought it was nice to be able to get a solid 12″ for a decent price 😀
I have to show some love for I Get Excited (You Get Exited Too), pretty much the last of the Bobby Orlando/NYC era tracks, it still shows a glimpse into their maturing as songwriters. It would get the kitchen sink treatment with Stephen Lipson at the helm of what was supposed to be released as the Sarm West Mix along with a special remix edition of Heart, but I thing the powers that be felt they had flogged the dead horse enough at some point. It would turn up on Introspective Further Listening in 2001.