1970 - 1971
Neil plays in a group in Newcastle called Dust: Their most popular song is a preposterous affair he has written called "Can you hear the dawn break?". They are heavily influenced by The Incredible String Band. "We were convinced we would become terribly famous. It was a very kind of stoned seventies but we used to think it was absolutely brilliant at the time".
1975 - July
After completing a degree in history at the Polytechnic of North London, Neil took a job at Marvel Comics, anglicizing spellings and indicating where over-risque woman needed to be redrawn decently. While there he interviewed comic fan Marc Bolan, who politely pointed out that his tape recorder wasn't working. In 1977 he worked at Macdonald Educational Publishing, later moving to ITV Books. In June 1982, he joined Smash Hits.
1976 - 1978
Chris played trombone in a seven piece dance band wittily named One Under The Eight, who played old-time popular favourites like "Hello Dolly", "La Bamba", and "Moon River".
Chris went to Liverpool University to study architecture. During 1981 -1982 he spent a year gaining practical experience in a London architectural practice, designing a staircase in an industrial development in Milton Keynes. "It's not a remarkable staircase", he commented when he visited it in 1988, "It's just a functional staircase".
1981 - August
On August 19th, Neil and Chris met by chance in an electronics shop on the Kings Road. Realizing they had a common interest in dance music, they began to write together. To begin with they called themselves West End; later they came up with the name Pet Shop Boys, a name derived from some friends who worked in a pet shop in Ealing. "We thought it sounded like an English rap group".
1983 - August
Neil is sent to New York by Smash Hits to interview The Police. By this time the Pet Shop Boys were obsessed by a stream of hi energy records made by New York producer Bobby Orlando, known as Bobby O'. "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 August 19th (two years to the day since Neil and Chris had met) and Bobby O', flattered by Neil's compliments, suggests making a record with the Pet Shop Boys.
1984 - April
The first version of 'West End Girls' is released. It is a club hit in Los Angeles and San Francisco and a small hit in France and Belgium.
1984 - October
They made their first ever stage appearance at the Fridge Nightclub in Brixton, singing and playing over tapes.
1985 - March
They signed to Parlophone Records after long negotiations with Bobby O', who relinquished his contractual rights over them in return for a substantial royalty on future record sales.
1985 - April
On April 5th, Neil leaves Smash hits. In the next issue an 'obituary' is written, bidding him a sad adieu and predicting that in a matter of weeks Neil's pop duo, the Pet Shop Boys will be down the dumper and he'll come crawling back on bended knees, ha ha ha. "I spoke to my mum on the telephone and said how we'd signed with EMI and she said "But you're not going to give up your job, are you?" and I said actually I did last week".
1985 - July
On July 1st, the first version of 'Opportunities' is released. It reached #116 in the UK.
1985 - August
They play a short set as part of the ICA Rock Week in London, Chris showing off his skills on the trombone. Neil and Chris are interviewed on stage by Max Headroom. They re-recorded 'West End Girls' with producer Stephen Hague the same month.
1985 - October
'West End Girls' is released on October 28th and goes to #1 in the UK in January. It was subsequently #1 in USA, Canada, Finland, Hong Kong, Ireland, Israel, New Zealand and Norway, selling 1.5 million copies. "People endlessly ask us what it's like having a #1" said Neil at the time. "But what it feels like is vaguely nothing. It feels like having a cup of tea".
1986 - February
On February 24th, 'Love Comes Quickly', still one of their favourite songs, was released, reaching a disappointing #19 in the UK.
1986 - March
On March 24th, their first LP 'Please' is released. "It's so people can go into the record shop and say can I have the Pet Shop Boys album, please?".
1986 - April
'West End Girls' reaches #1 in USA.
1986 - May
On May 19th a new version of 'Opportunities' is released. "The point of that song is that the humour is black, it's like a joke. The impression is that the people in it are not going to make any money".
1986 - June
The Pet Shop Boys announce, then cancel, a tour of Europe and America; the cost of using a theatre designe and playing fairly small venues proves prohibitive.
1986 - September
On September 22nd, a re-recorded version of 'Suburbia', a song inspired by the Penelope Spheeris film of the same name about a group of disenchanted rebellious youths in suburban Los Angeles, is released. "It's about a riot happening in some decaying suburb. It's just the description of the riot happening and then the aftermath". On the B-side was the first version of 'Paninaro', named after an Italian youth cult and featuring a quote they both liked that Chris had said on a TV show: "I don't like country and western, I don't like rock music, I don't like rockabilly... I don't like much really, do I? But what I do like, I love passionately".
1986 - November
On November 17th 'Disco', an LP of disco remixes, is released.
1987 - February
The Pet Shop Boys receive the Best Single award for 'West End Girls' at the BPI Awards. "It's a bit like the school prize giving day, isn't it?", muttered Neil who turned up to receive the award from Boy George. Chris stayed at home and watched it on TV. Meanwhile, they had been working on the next LP and considering, once more, whether to tour. "I can't see the point really", said Neil at the time. "I quite like the idea of being on the coach, having the meal beforehand, the party in the room afterwards, going in the swimming pool, signing the autographs in the lobby, and wrecking the mini-bar. The only thing I don't like the idea of is being on the stage and having to sing for rather a long time". He now dismisses this comment as flippant; it had been inspired by his happy memories of going on tour with Depeche Mode for Smash Hits in Autumn of 1984.
1987 - May
The Pet Shop Boys receive the Best International Hit award for 'West End Girls' at the Ivor Novello Awards. Vera Lynn performed at the lunch.
1987 - June
On June 15th, 'It's a Sin', a song that originally appeared on the demo Neil had in his pocket when he took Bobby O' out to lunch, was released. "It's about being brought up as a Catholic. When I went to school you were taught that everything was a sin". It reached #1 and caused several notable rumpuses. Jonathan King accused them of plagiarism (he later apologized and paid damages to a charity at their request). A teacher at Neil's old school, St. Cuthbert's Grammar School, Newcastle, got very steamed up about the picture Neil painted of his education and castigated Neil in the press. The Salvation Army magazine, War Cry, put the Pet Shop Boys on the front page and noted, approvingly, "It's interesting that someone's raised the concept of sin in our modern life again". Neil was also asked to appear with Cardinal Hume in a press advert for CAFOD; he politely declined the offer, explaining that he wasn't a practising Catholic. The song's video, a sombre tale of guilt and punishment featuring the seven deadly sins, was the first time the Pet Shop Boys worked with Derek Jarman.
1987 - August
On August 10th, 'What Have I Done To Deserve This?', a duet with Dusty Springfield, is released. They had actually wanted to record the song with Dusty - Neil's favourite female singer - for 'Please' but had not been able to arrange it in time. "She sounds right because her voice has got that world-weary quality". On August 16th, the Pet Shop Boys appeared on a Granada TV special, Love Me Tender, commemorating the tenth anniversary of Elvis Presley's death. They were asked to perform an old song he had made famous so they sifted through some Elvis cassettes and decided to do both a house version of 'Baby Let's Play House' and 'Always On My Mind'. In the end, they only did the latter. At the time they had no plans whatsoever to release it.
1987 - September
On September 7th, the 'Actually' LP is released. The title was simply a word they say an awful lot. "We were thinking of calling it Jollysight, actually", said Chris at the time "which was the name of a hotel we saw in Italy - so that, when people asked why, we could say because it's a jolly sight better than the last one..."
1987 - October
On October 12th, 'Rent', a mercenary love song, is released.
1987 - November
The Pet Shop Boys spend three weeks in Clacton and South London shooting 'It Couldn't Happen Here'. What had originally been conceived as an hour-long video based around the 'Actually' LP, turned into a full-scale feature film to be released cinematically, directed by Jack Bond and co-starring Barbra Windsor, Joss Ackland and Gareth Hunt. "We just do what we normally do in videos", explained Chris, "walk around, me a few paces behind Neil...". On November 30th, 'Always On My Mind' is released as a single; it becomes the Christmas #1.
1988 - January
'I'm Not Scared', a song the Pet Shop Boys have written and produced for Patsy Kensit, is released as a single by her group Eighth Wonder, and is their first hit.
1988 - February
At the BPI Awards, the Pet Shop Boys win the Best Group award. They also mime to 'What Have I Done To Deserve This?' on stage with Dusty Springfield. Afterwards Neil comments, "It's kind of macho nowadays to prove you can cut it live, I quite like proving that we can't cut it live. We're a pop group, not a rock 'n' roll group".
1988 - March
A different mix of 'Heart' is released as a single on March 21st and reaches #1 in the UK. "It's a real disco song - the idea of 'heartbeat' the beat of the record and the beat of your heart. It's actually pretty corny, to be honest, but I think the words are quite sweet and sincere". The video, shot in Yugoslavia, was a resetting of the Dracula story with Ian McKellen in the title role.
1988 - May
For the second year running, the Pet Shop Boys win the Best International Hit award at the Ivor Novello Awards, this time for 'It's a Sin'.
1988 - June
Ian McKellen persuades the Pet Shop Boys to play live at an anti-Clause 28 benefit, Before The Act, at London's Piccadilly Theatre, performing 'It's a Sin' and 'One More Chance'. "A brilliant event", they said afterwards.
1988 - July
'It Couldn't Happen Here' is released on July 8th to mixed reviews: it wins an award at the Houston film festival.
1988 - August
The Pet Shop Boys win the Berolina award in Germany for 'Group of the Year'. The award is presented to them by Miss Venezuela.
1988 - September
On September 12th, 'Domino Dancing' is released, a song they recorded that February in Miami with Expose producer, Lewis Martinee. They shot a video in Puerto Rico and appeared with a full Latin band on Wogan and Top Of The Pops.
1988 - October
On October 10th, their new album 'Introspective' is released. So called because "all the songs, although it's a dance album, are introspective". The title was chosen after considering and dismissing 'f', 'Dogmatic', 'Bounce' and 'Hello'. They reckon 'Introspective' sounds serious, like an art exhibition: "Nick Rhodes", said Chris at the time, "will be so jealous".
1988 - November
On November 14th, 'Left To My Own Devices' is released, "an exaggerated autobiography". The second verse refers to a time when Neil's mother would worry about him because he'd wait in a corner of the back garden pretending to be a Roundhead soldier.
1989 - February
On February 13th, 'Nothing Has Been Proved' is released as a single for Dusty Springfield, written by the Pet Shop Boys, produced by them and Julian Mendelsohn and taken from the film Scandal. They actually wrote two songs for Dusty for the film - the other which the film-makers passed on because they thought it sounded too contemporary, was 'In Private'. Meanwhile, they are busy producing - with Julian Mendelsohn - an album for Liza Minnelli.
1989 - June
On June 26th, 'It's Alright' is released. They originally heard this song - by Chicago House artist Sterling Void - when one of them popped out during the recording of 'I Get Excited' (The B-side of 'Heart') and bought 'Acid Tracks: The House Sound Of Chicago Vol. 3' on CD and were both immediately impressed by this song. For a single they re-recorded it in a more poppy style and Neil added a verse about the threat facing the world environment. "It's about the power of music. It's a bit cosmic really - it's saying that if people still make music then there's always going to be a good side to what people do so mankind is never going to be totally destructive. It's very sincere and there's something about the song that makes perfect sense. It has this beautiful line: 'I can hear it on a timeless wavelength, never dissipating and giving us strength'. I think that's true. Music is an inspiration to people and always has been an inspiration to people. Music represents the good side of mankind; music tends to be a good force rather than a bad force".
1989 - June
On June 29th, the Pet Shop Boys begin their first tour, visiting Hong Kong, Japan and Britain, playing 14 dates in all. The tour, a lavish theatrical spectacle is directed by film-maker Derek Jarman. He has specially shot several films to be back-projected, there are extravagant costumes and the cast includes six dancers (Casper, Cooley, Hugo Huizar, Tracey Langran, Jill Robertson and Robia LaMorte), four singers (Mike Henry, Jay Henry, Carroll Thompson and Juliet Roberts), an extra keyboard player (Dominic Clarke) and a percussionist (Danny Cummings). "They asked for a theatrical concert and that's what we're doing", said Derek Jarman. "I suppose some people think pop music and theatre shouldn't mix but I think pop music is theatre and I don't see why it shouldn't be so. To my mind, there's two ways of doing it - you either just sit there and sing on a stool and do it the simple way or you go for it".
1989 - August
The first single from the Pet Shop Boys' collaboration with Liza Minnelli, a hi-energy version of Stephen Sondheim's 'Losing My Mind', is released. It is her first hit single. The collaboration was the idea of an executive in the American branch of Epic Records. Together they recorded an entire LP 'Results' (released in October). "I just put it completely in their hands, the ultimate trust", said Liza. "It's weird, because I've been working for 30 years and to find somebody who you like enough and trust enough and respect enough to say forget it, I'll do whatever you want is quite amazing".
1989 - November
The Dusty Springfield single 'In Private' is released on November 20th. Written and co-produced by the Pet Shop Boys, it was originally also intended for the film Scandal but was adjudged it to sound too contemporary. "It's about someone having an affair with a politician and being found out", Neil explained, "the politician is saying different things in public and in private".
1989 - December
'Getting Away With It', the first single by Electronic, the group formed by New Order's Bernard Sumner and The Smith's guitarist Johnny Marr, is released on December 4th. The words are co-written by Neil who also sings on the record and appears in the video. The collaboration had come about after Neil had sent a message through a mutual friend earlier in the year saying that he'd like to be involved. Both Neil and Chris also travel to Manchester to collaborate on another song called 'Patience Of A Saint'.
1990 - April
The Pet Shop boys begin recording their new LP in Munich with producer Harold Faltermeyer.
1990 - July
Dusty Springfield's first LP since the Pet Shop Boys recorded 'What Have I Done To Deserve This?' with her is released. It is called 'Reputation' and one half of the LP is a collaboration with the Pet Shop Boys. "She's very much a pop singer", said Neil, "and her voice instinctively goes very well with our music". He explained they also admired her melodramatic determination, "She looks at making records as like climbing a mountain, you have to grind yourself up, it's going to be quite a long journey".
1990 - August
On August 4th, the Pet Shop Boys make their first public live appearance in America, guesting on two songs with Electronic at the Los Angeles Dodgers Stadium. Electronic have been invited to play by the headline act Depeche Mode. They repeat the same performance the following night.
1990 - September
On September 24th 'So Hard' is released. It is about "two people living together; they are totally unfaithful to each other but they both pretend they are faithful and then catch each other out". The black and white video is shot in Newcastle and co-stars Paul Gascoigne's sister, Anna. A second twelve-inch mix is released featuring a virtual re-recording of both 'So Hard and the B-side 'It Must Be Obvious' by the KLF.
1990 - October
'Behaviour', the Pet Shop Boys fifth LP, is released on October 22nd. It is recorded in Munich and co-produced by Harold Faltermeyer who they originally chose because they were interested in using old analog synthesizers. On two songs, 'This Must Be The Place I Waited Years To Leave' and 'My October Symphony', Johnny Marr plays guitar. Though at the time of release they didn't consider it to reflect a substantial shift in mood, later they conceded it had been. "It was more reflective and more musical-sounding, and also it probably didn't have irritatingly crass ideas in it, like our songs often do".
1990 - November
In Los Angeles, at the Mayan Theatre on the night of November 6th, the Pet Shop Boys play their first American concert using a collection of performers (Casper and Hugo Huizar dancing, Dominic Clarke playing keyboards and operating the computer equipment, and two backing singers) with whom they had appeared the previous day on the Arsenio Hall Show.
1990 - November
The second single taken off 'Behaviour' is 'Being Boring' released on November 12th. The song is inspired by a party invitation from Neil's Newcastle days which quoted Zelda Fitzgerald's line "She was never bored, mainly because she was never boring". Its video was the first to be made by photographer and film-maker Bruce Weber, "I loved the lyrics", he explained "and really felt it was something I wanted to be part of... in it there's the feeling that times are different today, and the feeling of abandoness we can't have today because of the way the world is". It was shot in one day at a house in Long Island, near New york, with a cast that included a selection of Weber's beautiful friends, a horse and a chimpanzee on roller-skates. Though MTV in America, and several British TV shows refused to show it because of the nudity included, it won Music Week's Best Video Of The Year Award. On the same day, a book about the Pet Shop Boys, 'Pet Shop Boys Literally', written with their consent and based around their 1989 concerts is published. At a London bookshop on November 23rd they sign over 800 copies before the police had to break up the waiting crowd.
1990 - December
'Highlights', a video of eight songs from the 1991 tour, is finally released. An earlier plan to release footage of the entire show had to be cancelled because Neil and Chris thought the footage disappointing.
1991 - March
The plan is to release 'How Can You Expect To Be Taken Seriously?', a sharp dig at "the aspirations and pomposities of pop stars" as the first Pet Shop Boys single of 1991. They drastically remix it in conjunction with British dance duo Brothers In Rhythm and film a video in which they parody a number of stars. Meanwhile they have recorded another track, initially to release much later in the year: a hi-energy version of U2's 'Where The Streets Have No Name' segued with the Frankie Valli standard 'Can't Take My Eyes Off You'. Eventually they resolve to release both songs as a double A-side on March 11th, and make a complementary video for 'Where The Streets Have No Name (I Can't Take My Eyes Off You)'. "It worked as a concept: one song is about rock stars so to have a U2 song with it serves as a further comment". (Pressed for comment on this new cover version, U2 issued the wry statement "What have we done to deserve this?"). The Pet Shop Boys second tour, 'Performance', also begins on March 11th in Tokyo. After Japan it visits the USA, Canada, France, Belgium, Germany, Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Czechoslovakia, Austria, Hungary, Yugoslavia, Switzerland, Italy, Spain, Holland and the United Kingdom and Eire. It is put together in conjunction with director David Alden and designer David Fielding, best known for their avant garde opera productions. "It's going to be more theatrical than the last tour", Neil announced. "We felt that with the last tour there were still elements of a rock concert that we'd like to get rid of". There are no musicians on stage, (though two, guitarists J.J. Belle and keyboard player Scott Davidson, do skulk in the wings), just three singers (Pamela Sheyne, Derek Green and Sylvia Mason-James) and ten dancers (Petee Aloysius, Trevor Henry, Craig Maguire, Catherine Malone, Mark Martin, leon Maurice Jones, Suki Miles, Katie Puckrick, Sarah Toner and Noal Wallace) choreographed by Jacob Marley.
1991 - May
The first album by Electronic, 'Electronic' including the collaboration with Neil and Chris, 'The Patience Of A Saint', is finally released on May 27th.
1991 - May
'Jealousy', remodelled to include a real orchestra, is released on May 28th. It is a song that they had actually written nine years ago, in the spring of 1982, and is, quite simply about jealousy. "There's some good lines in there", observes Chris, "like 'you didn't phone when you said you would'. You know when you stay in and they say they're going to phone at eight o'clock and they don't all night and you go absolutely bonkers?" The twelve inch version contains a quote from Shakespeare's tragic study of jealousy, Othello. In the video, shot in a west London car showroom, the Pet Shop Boys stand by as a roomful of dining villains move from jealousy to violence.
1991 - June
The third collection of Pet Shop Boys promotional videos, aptly titled 'Promotion', is released on June 3rd and includes videos for all their singles from 'Left To My Own Devices' to 'Jealousy'.
1991 - June
In Dublin on June 17th the Pet Shop Boys play the final date of their tour.
1991 - August
Neil and Chris are invited to take over Simon Bates' mid-morning show on Radio One, Britain's national pop radio station, for a week. They choose all the records, principally dance music. Chris only swears on air once, and they are invited back to fill the same role in July 1992.
1991 - September
The Pet Shop Boys launch their own record label Spaghetti with a single 'Heaven Must Have Sent You Back To Me', by a 21 year old Scottish singer, synthesizer player and songwriter called Cicero. They first met him when he came backstage at the Pet Shop Boys' Glasgow concert in 1989.
1991 - October
A single, 'DJ Culture', co-produced by British dance music duo Brothers In Rhythm, is released on October 14th. "It is about how facile and pretentious modern life is", Neil explains, "just as in DJ records everything is sampled to sound authentic, so in a lot of aspects of modern life - for instance in politics - it is almost as though attitudes are sampled. People pretend to sound concerned; everyone pretends that the Gulf War was a real war, and that President Bush or John Major are successful war leaders. In fact they sample the past - the Second World War, or a war movie - and the public also samples their response from wars in the past. The whole thing is sort of fake". In the video Neil and Chris appear in appropriate costumes: as soldiers and doctors; as a referee and a soccer player; as Oscar Wilde and his trial Judge.
1991 - October
The Pet Shop Boys play a one off concert at the London Nightclub, Heaven, at a party after the Premiere of Derek Jarman's latest film, 'Edward II' on October 15th. It is a deliberately untheatrical, straight-forward concert, for which they are backed by the three singers from this year's tour, J.J. Belle on guitar and Lawrence Cedar on keyboards. They are introduced by Derek Jarman, and supported by Cicero.
1991 - November
'Discography', a collection of the Pet Shop Boys' hit singles from 'West End Girls' to the forthcoming 'Was It Worth It?', is released on November 4th. Only six of the eighteen songs have previously appeared on an album in their single versions. At the same time a video compilation, 'Videography', is also released.
1991 - December
'Was It Worth It?' is released as a single on December 8th. "It's a reaffirmation of the worth of love" remarks Neil, "an 'I am what I am' sort of song". The video mixes footage from the heaven concert with the Pet Shop Boys amongst a clubland crowd mostly recruited from the London event Kinky Gerlinky.
1992 - February
On February 16th an hour-long film about the Pet Shop Boys is broadcast by the TV arts programme The South Bank Show.
1992 - May
The Pet Shop Boys play a concert at the Hacienda Nightclub in Manchester on May 13th to coincide with an exhibition of Derek Jarman's paintings at Manchester City Art Gallery and with the Hacienda's tenth anniversary. They perform with J.J. Belle and Sylvia Mason-James. In rehearsals they decide they want to play a suitable cover version and - after tinkering with, then discarding The Beatles' 'Fool On The Hill' - choose the Village People's 1979 hit 'Go West'. The following month, on June 8th, the Pet Shop Boys performed with the same line-up at Roseland in New York, a benefit for Lifebeat, an organization for people in the music business with AIDS.
1992 - June
Neil co-writes and sings on a new Electronic single 'Disappointed'. The title came to him when Johnny Marr and Bernard Sumner's backing track reminded him of 'Disenchantee', a song liked by French singer Mylene Farmer. "'Disappointed' is", he says, "sort of a love song, about not being disappointed".
1992 - September
Eric Watson's film of the 1991 Performance tour - also titled 'Performance' - is released on video on September 28th. It has been delayed after a copyright wrangle with one of the owners of 'I Can't Take My Eyes Off You', and all traces of that song have been ruthlessly excised.
1992 - October
On October 26th, the soundtrack to the Neil Jordan film 'The Crying Game' is released on Spaghetti Records. Earlier in 1992 the Pet Shop Boys had been asked whether they would be interested in helping with songs for the film, at that time titled 'The Soldier's Wife'. After seeing, and loving, a rough edit, they agreed to release the soundtrack on their Spaghetti label, and to contribute songs produced by them and performed by Cicero and Carroll Thompson. At the last moment, it was suggested that they also produce a new version of Dave Berry's 1964 single, 'The Crying Game', with Boy George singing. They had lunch with him, and a week later it was recorded. 'The Crying Game' subsequently became the film's theme tune. It is a British hit single in September 1992 and then, in the Spring of 1993, it became an American hit in the wake of the film's immense American success. "I'm as happy as a sandboy", Boy George will comment, and plans will be hatched for he and the Pet Shop Boys to work together again on his next LP.
2002 - May
2006 – August
2009 - November
Yes, Pandemonium Tour, Ultimate and Ballet Pet Shop Boys completed their newest album in late 2008. Recorded with Xenomania and released in UK on 23 March 2009, Yes was a critical success and hit No. 4 in the UK, their highest album chart position in more than a decade. Pet Shop Boys also appeared on Girls Aloud's new album Out of Control, collaborating on the Top-10 track "The Loving Kind", released on 12 January 2009 as a single
2011 - September
2012 - September
In January 2012, Pet Shop Boys announced on their official website that they had started recording their new album in Los Angeles with producer Andrew Dawson. On 9 June 2012, a film by renowned Los Angeles artist/film-maker Brian Bress for the album track "Invisible" began to be circulated on the web and was posted to the official site and the band's YouTube page on 11 June, at which time Elysium was revealed to be name of the new album.
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