Comic Relief is a British charity that aims to raise money and awareness for good causes all around the world. In support of the charity, a Red Nose Day event is held every two years. This involves a live television broadcast featuring a host of comedians and celebrities. Since 1986, the event has also been supported by the release of a charity single, often with a comedy element included.
In May 1994, the Pet Shop Boys accepted the approach to get involved.
The song was called Absolutely Fabulous, and it was released under the artist name of Absolutely Fabulous, based on a sitcom which starred Jennifer Saunders and Joanna Lumley. It is set to a tune written by PSB and features snippets of dialogue taken from the show as well as some additional lines recorded in the studio. Neil and Chris were huge fans of the sitcom and were delighted to be involved, and in response to some criticism which was thrown their way, Neil said:-
“I know some people are horrified that we did a charity record, but it just seemed a way of dealing with it. It made it simple, because we did the record for fun, not as a major artistic statement”.
mp3: Absolutely Fabulous – Absolutely Fabulous
mp3: Absolutely Fabulous – Dull Soulless Dance Remix
It reached #6 in the singles chart. The b-side extends to eight minutes in length…..
On 29 August 1994, a fifth and final single was taken from Very, eleven months after the album had been released.
As with ‘I Wouldn’t Normally…..’, the version issued as a 45 was a substantially different mix from that found on the album, with production input from Julian Mendelsohn who had previously worked with PSB as far back as 1987, and Jam & Spoon, a German electronic duo who were enjoying chart success as musicians and on the production side of things.
This is one of the singles that I can take or leave. It comes across as PSB by numbers, but I suppose it sounded great in a club setting.
mp3 : Pet Shop Boys – Yesterday, When I Was Mad
It was the first PSB single not to be released on 7″vinyl, albeit a 12″ version was made available alongside 2 x CD singles and a cassette single, across which three new songs could be found alongside various remixes of ‘Yesterday…..’and a swing version of Can You Forgive Her.
mp3: Pet Shop Boys – If Love Were All
In which Neil and Chris go all west end theatre on us. It’s a cover of a song written by Noel Coward in 1929, first appearing in the operetta Bitter Sweet. It’s rather a lovely song about loneliness, but it had to be said that Neil’s vocal limitations don’t do him any favours. You’ll find better cover versions out there…..
mp3: Pet Shop Boys – Some Speculation
I’m not sure if this was a song held over from the Very sessions or had been worked up in the intervening period. It’s a long song, some six-and-a-half minutes long, and the folk assisting with the production and engineering side of things had not been involved with the album, which makes me lean towards it being a more recent work. It’s a more than decent b-side, albeit without any of the catchiness and hooks that make it an essential PSB song, but a worthy reward for fans happy to spend money on yet another single, the sixth all told in a 12-month period.
Also made available as a track on the European version of the CD single
One on which both Neil and Chris’s vocals can be heard, with the latter using a vocoder. It’s a track that, if Neil’s vocal hadn’t been so recognisable, could have been attributed to any number of club acts who were enjoying chart success in the mid 90s (none of whom I can name off the top of my head!!)
Yesterday, When I Was Mad got to #13 in the UK singles charts, but maybe the best indication of where the PSB sounds had been increasingly heading was that it reached #4 in the Billboard Chart for US Club and Dance.
1994 ended with PSB undertaking a six-week ‘Discovery’ tour in which they played shows in Singapore, Australia, Puerto Rico, Mexico, Columbia, Chile, Argentina and Brazil.
1995 proved to be very quiet with just the one single released, on 31 July, and even then, it wasn’t new material.
Paninaro ’95 was, a new version of the song they had first recorded in 1986, and was based upon the new arrangement Chris performed on the ‘Discovery’ tour, along with his new updated lyrics.
mp3: Pet Shop Boys – Paninaro ’95
It was also part of the promotion for a new compilation album, Alternative, a 2xCD set featuring 30 b-sides
Paninaro ’95 was issued on 2 x CDs, the first of which had five different mixes of the single, while CD2 had one new track:-
mp3: Pet Shop Boys – Girls and Boys (live in Rio)
PSB had previously produced a remix of Girls and Boys for Blur, and so enjoyed the process that they played a cover version during the Discovery tour that had been undertaken in late 1994.
The single, despite being such an old tune, reached #15 in the UK singles charts, and was another to peak at #4 in the Billboard Chart for US Club and Dance.
PSB proved to be much more active and more prominent in 1996.
7 thoughts on “PET SHOP BOYS SINGLES (Part Twelve)”
Cripes! I feel as though I need a sit down after that… hold on, I am sitting down. That was a lot of info. Thanks, JC.
This series proves I know little about the Pet Shop Boys. I haven’t heard of any of these – including the charity single.
I did know about the Blur remix. Is anyone handing out a Scant Knowledge About A Remix prize!
Well, there you go – that short time when PSB had had a VERY big hit album and nowhere to go. So the Ab Fab single (which should have been the theme song from then on) and a new version of an old song, and more LP tracks than you can shake a stick at.
I think next week we may come to my favourite B Side……
I’ve never owned or listened to the Alternative compilation so it’s a real treat hearing most of these B-sides for the first time. Great post, JC, thank you.
Says something that the little trifle they tossed off for Red Nose Day is such a banger. It’s a if hit in our house for sure!
As for the rest, this whole series is opening me up to so much PSB material I missed at the time! I’m now on the lookout for 12″ singles and whenever I see one in the shops (for a reasonable price) it goes in the bag no questions asked!
“Alternative” could be my favorite PSB “album!”
It’s sad coming to part 12 of this series, because with the exception of “Absolutely Fabulous,” which I only bought around 2001 This was the point where of got off of the PSB bus. It was ironically their delving into “dull soulless daaaaaance music” that did my fandom/and collecting in at the time. But I have subsequently bought two of the albums post-“Very” that I had not heard back in the day. I quite enjoyed “Fundamental” but found “Release” somewhat problematic.