THE JOY OF (a mixed) SEX (duet) : Couple #9

Dusty Springfield is one of those singers I really should know more about. Her records, however, were not among those in the collections of any members of my extended family and the only songs I got to know, as I grew up, were those that were staples of the Golden Hour segments or request shows – I Only Want To Be With You, I Just Don’t Know What To Do With Myself, and You Don’t Have To Say You Love Me being the ones that come to memory.

The problem, however, is that two of those are ballads and the teenage me didn’t have any time for such slush. Dusty Springfield, in my mind, was just another 60s singer of as much relevance in the post-punk world as Cilla Black, Sandie Shaw and Petula Clark, all of whom had been just as ever-present on those radio shows.

It was astounding, therefore, to read that the Pet Shop Boys were huge fans as indeed were a number of other bands who were emerging in the 80s (Sandie Shaw had, of course, already been championed and had her career revived by The Smiths). It was only then that I came to realise there was much more to Dusty Springfield than well-known ballads and that she had, in fact been something of a pioneer in bringing soul and Motown to the wider attentions of UK audiences. It therefore made perfect sense for the pioneers of modern era electronic dance music to suggest a hook up, which they did to great effect in 1987:-

mp3 : Pet Shop Boys (featuring Dusty Springfield) – What Have I Done To Deserve This?

It’s one of those rare PSB numbers in which Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe called on some outside help with its writing. The co-credit sits with Ailee Willis, someone who, through a friend of a friend, had been commissioned to do some artwork of the band. As they posed and chatted with the painter, they were delighted and astonished to learn that Ailee Willis was the same ‘A.Willis’ who had helped write some of the Earth Wind & Fire songs, not least the majestic Boogie Wonderland and the poptastic September. The minute the painting commission was complete, the boys asked her to work with them and the result was the song they would later present to Dusty Springfield as a suggested collaboration.



It was Heart which made the rundown of my 45 45s at 45 but I reckon now that of all the Pet Shop Boys singles, my favourite is  Left To My Own Devices. My first exposure to this particular track was the LP version at just over 8 minutes:-

mp3 : Pet Shop Boys – Left To My Own Devices (album version)

It would become the second 45 to be lifted from the LP Introspective which itself was an unusual album for the fact that it was far removed from the normal process for pop/dance acts to release as singles with it being made up of lengthy songs and the versions issued singles had to be heavily edited for radio play.

I was quite bemused when I read it was going to be issued as a single given it was such a strange and almost surreal lyric. OK, the word love was contained within the chorus but it wasn’t quite boy meets girl or boy meets boy or girl meets girl material what with it also wittering on about Che Guevara drinking tea and setting the sounds of classical composer Claude Debussy to a disco beat. But somehow the madcap approach worked as it reached #4 in the UK singles chart when it was released in November 1988 and climbed all the way to #4 in the UK singles chart.

mp3 : Pet Shop Boys – Left To My Own Devices (single edit)

But it turns out that the album version wasn’t the one that they had also thrown in the kitchen sink. Nope, for that you had to get the 12″ version which extended out to an incredible eleven and a half minutes, beginning with an unlikely drumroll before incorporating house, disco, brass, strings, operatic backing vocals and a more deliberate spoken rap from Neil. What’s not to love?

mp3 : Pet Shop Boys – Left To My Own Devices (disco mix)

The b-side is a bonkers sounding bit of music, the sort of thing that seems to accompany a character in a film having a drugs-induced breakdown or panic attack. And in the typically perverse way the boys were behaving at the time, the short version was put on the CD and 12″ releases with the full version only on the flip side of the 7″:-

mp3 : Pet Shop Boys – The Sound Of The Atom Splitting (extended version)





I’m only going to say a few short words today.

This rundown would have had no credibility whatsoever if the Pet Shop Boys didn’t make an appearance.

No other band or act has made so many top-class singles during my 45 years on the planet as Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe. I think (at 2015)  it is approaching 60, including four #1s, and a further thirty-eight that made the Top 30. You can’t argue with the facts…..this is a very special pop group.

And this damn near perfect pop song was one of those that reached #1, back in 1988.

mp3 : Pet Shop Boys – Heart

Here’s yer b-side

mp3 : Pet Shop Boys – I Get Excited (You Get Excited Too)

Oh and you know how I’m also always going on about great live acts – well, their show at the SECC in Glasgow back in 1991 was one of the best I’ve ever seen.


Those who are quick to dismiss Pet Shop Boys have got it all wrong. I reckon they’re about as great a singles act as has ever been, and not just in my lifetime, and they have confounded just about everyone with the truly groundbreaking and breathtaking live tours over the years.

And let’s not forget that some of the lyrics penned by Neil Tennant are as poetical and beautiful as anything that the great singer/songwriters armed with an acoustic guitar have ever produced.

mp3 : Pet Shop Boys – Rent

One of my favourite singles of theirs dates from 1993.  It was their 13th Top Ten hit in the UK and took the storyline of a man refusing to accept his gay tendencies and thus finding himself trapped inside a loveless, useless and cruel relationship where he is continually being mocked by his wife or girlfriend….a plot that has been used every now and again by soap operas the world over.

mp3 : Pet Shop Boy – Can You Forgive Her?

It also has a very lovely b-side….with a lyric Morrissey himself might have penned, or at the very least inspired:-

Hey, headmaster, what’s the matter with you?
Why you always so serious? Why so blue?
All the kids in the school have seen you
being patient with the boys who fool you
when you used to hit them with your ruler
so independent too

Hey, headmaster, what’s the matter with you?

There’s a crisis rumoured in the school
The boys have cut their hair short to look cool
Examination time is drawing near
Disintegration of the football team
No one seems to want to play for real
in classroom, club or pool

Hey, headmaster, what you gonna do?

There’s an invitation in the post
to a reading party on the coast
Pack your bags up, you old bibliophile
Get together with your friends
who will give you time to think and time to kill
with independent hosts

Hey, headmaster, aren’t you gonna go?
Hey, headmaster, aren’t you gonna go?

mp3 : Pet Shop Boys – Hey, Headmaster