||In the early part of 2012 the Pet
Shop Boys were approached to see ifthey would perlorm at
the Olympic Closing Ceremony in London. The event was
being put togetherby Kim Gavin with Es Devlin - they
previously worked together on the Take That tour,
Progress, on which the Pet Shop Boys appeared, and Es
Devlin has, ofcourse,collaborated with the Pet Shop Boys
We went to a meeting inApril," says Neil.
"We went along to east London," says Chris.
"They had a huge model ofthe stadium and they had these
little models of me and Neil on the back of chariots, one
each, with pointy hats on, being surrounded by loads of
people on bicycles with orange pointy heknets. Exactly how
it was. And they asked if we'd be interested in performing
a minute or so of 'West End girls'. So we said yes, we'd
do that, no problem. We thought it would be a laugh,
whizzing around the stadium. They told us the whole
running order and it just seemed rather exciting. We were
rather thrilled that One Direction
were right behind
"We said, 'oh, you want pointy hats?' and Es
said, 'You've got to get Gareth Pugh to do the costumes,"'
says Neil. "So we phoned up Gareth and had a meeting with
him. The costumes we wore already existed they're from his
They weren't made forus because his factory
was damaged in the earthquake in Italy last year. But they
were perfect. And he made the pointy hats for us." By the
time Neil and Chris put on those hats, it was far from the
frst time "West End girls" had been heard at the Olympics.
First it was played during the athlete's parade in the
opening ceremony on JuJy 27 . Neil and Chris hadn't been
officially told about this beforehand but by chance word
had reached them.
"My brother Philip had a friend
from Newcastle who was a volunteer in the opening scene,"
says Neil, "and he texted Philip to say that 'West End
girls'was in the athlete's parade. And obviously the
rehearsal went quicker than the real thing because he said
it was during a different countr5r, but on the night we
got China which is pretty good going." "We watched it in a
hotel in Wimbledon," says
"I thought the
whole ceremony was good," says
Neil and Chris
were in a Wimbledon hotel because they had also been
separately asked to take part in another Olympic event the
next moming, performing at the opening of the Olympic
tennis event at Wimbledon. (They went down the night efore
and stayed in a hotel because terrible traffic was
expected.) "We were asked to do three songs," says
Neil, "and they made videos for us rather good
'Always on my mind'was drag queens or something like that,
'Winner'was people winning and I can't remember what we
had for 'What have I done to deserve this?'. It was fun.
It was the first day of the Olympics." "Pleasant change
from the string quartet n the jazzbatd;)" texted the
mother of the eventual gold medal wirmer, Andy Murray,
after hearing their rehearsal. For the closing ceremony,
on August 12, they went to one rehearsal in Dagenham. "It
was all we needed really," says Neil.
"It all went
according to plan," says Chris. "It was a bit
nerve-wracking on the chariots because
we were wearing
these pointy hats and it was quite bumpy and we were
worried that the hats would fall offon live television.
And I didn't know what plan B was because I didn't then
want to go round
without a hat on.
put a liule band in the inside so they wouldn't fall off,"
says Neil. On the day of the Ceremony, they were driven to
the stadium down the special Olympic traffic lanes- "The
green room was quite amazilrg-all these Spice Girls, One
Direction, Annie Lennox,
Tinie Tempah, Madness," says
Neil. "We talked to George Michael, and Madness. Saw Mark
Got ow photograph taken with One Direction.
Talked to Kate Moss and Naomi Campbell." "I said to
Kate 'what are you doing at this?"' says Chris. "She said
"It was an exciting atmosphere backstage,"
says Neil. "And just before we went on it seemed like it
was running slightly late. The idea that it was going live
on television around the world... I think one could say it
was unique, knowing that you were going to be seen
everywhere in the world.
We were only on for two
minutes but it was a good two minutes. It was a great
feeling standing there - we had little backrests so we
could lean back and so we didn't fall off. They were going
quite fast. We were being cycled and we had the cycling
They were asked to mime, so in the days
before Neil had gone to to Pete Gleadall's studio. "I sang
West End girls' once and we didn't correct it or anything
so it was live, only it had been recorded. Because
otherwise... I mean, I think George
live... " "But Neil, he wasn't on the back of a chariot,"
Chris points out.
"He wasn't on the back of a
chariot - exactly," says Neil. "With a pointy hat on,"
Chris adds. "The opening ceremony had three weeks in the
stadium on site," says Neil,'\rhereas the closing ceremony
loaded in at 11 .30 the night before with something like
"Was it?" says Chris skeptically. "Is that
too many trucks?" wonders Neil. "You might want to check
that," Chris suggests.
"That sounds a lot of trucks. I
don't think there're that many trucks in the country." (So
that Literally readers are not left wondering
worrying about this statistic, Neil texts Es Devlin who
immediately replies. There were actually 72. "So I was
wildly exaggerating," says Neil. Though a 72-truck event
is still quite something to put together in a few hours.)
Neil and Chris didn't stay until the end, though they did
watch a 1itt1e more of what happened. "Actually we were in
a really good bit and we'd been there for quite a while,"
says Chris, "and then someone came along and said, 'You
can't stand there."'
Then they headed home.
got the train," says Chris. "Public hansport was amazing
during the Olympics. And all the volunteers and the police
and the army were so helpful. Everywhere around London
there were people saying, 'Do you need any help?'and
everyone had an iPad and said, 'Where do you want to go?'I
think we should have kept the volunteers. I think we
should have that all the time. It was a really friendly
afrnosphere." And that, they expected, was the end oftheir
satislling Olyrnpic adventure. They had also been asked to
perform "Winner" during the flnal
athletes through London that was scheduled to take place
much later, after the
Paral1nnpics, but they had tumed
down the offer.
"They wanted us to perform it on a bus
or walking through London singing it," says Neil, "and we
just thought it sounded too weird and we'd already had our
Olympics moment - we thought it was a bit overdoing it."
Then, on the moming of September 8, a
managerAngela Becker called them in Germany where they
were promoting Elysium. She had just received a surprising
phone call from the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson. (It
may have been a somewhat surprising call for him too
because it was initially answered by Angela's
four-year-old daughter who refused to hand over the
phone.) The Mayor was making a final pitch:
want to request that the Pet Shop Boys reconsider
performing at this parade on Monday. It's been discussed
in the cabinet and we really want the Pet Shop Boys to
perform at this."
"SoAngela phoned us up,"
remembers Neil. "I said, 'It can't be the cabinet... It
must be the mayor's cabinet."'Anyuray, the Pet Shop Boys
were committed to appear on German breakfast TV between
7.30am and 9.15am on Monday moming and their appearance
had been promoted all the previous week. It seemed
impossible. Unbowed, the parade organisers offered to send
plane to get Neil and Chris back to London in
time. So they agreed to do it.
Later that day, as
Neil and Chris walked round the Berlin shops, Neil
received a text on his phone saying that the Prime
Minister would like to call him to thank them for changing
their plans. "So at seven o'clock that evening the phone
rang and this voice said, 'This is 10 Downing Street, I
have the Prime Minister for you, there may be a slight
delay,' and then this voice said, 'Hello, Neil, oh, hello,
yes, this is David Cameron.. . ' and he thanked us. He did
all the talking, actually. And I said, 'Thank you, that's
very courteous ofyou."' And on Monday they headed back one
more time into the world of the Olympics. "We went
straight ftom breakfast TV to the airport," says Neil,
"and flew to some RAF landing strip and then we were
driven straight to the Ma1l. We did a rehearsal and then
had to wait around for a while - I was a bit nervous
actually and then suddenly the parade starts to come up
The Mall and we had to stand behind the Victoria Monument,
all the athletes got offtheir buses. I took a
picture of Tom Daley famous British diver for foreign
readers. K T Tunstall sang. We'd got Pete Gleadall to edit
a version of 'Winner'with a long intro, and as we
sang'Winner'all of the British athletics tearn came and
stood around us." "AndAndy Crookston, our tour manager,"
"A Zelig-llke appearance," says
Neil, "because he'd come to take the keyboard away. It was
live on BBC 1, Channel 4 and Sky News, and it was the day
the album came ou! so it was quite good promotion, to look
at it fiom that point of view. We did three songs
'Winner', 'West End girls' and 'Go West'- and we had a
fourth song planned, 'Always on my mind'but in my
headphones this woman said 'Pet Shop Boys! We do not need
the fourth song! Repeat!'And I thought, 'Well, I can see
that because they've all been there since halfway through
*Winner".' I felt a bit sorry that the athletes had to
stand there and no one had talked them through what they
were meant to be expressing. And you could see out ofthe
comer of your eye David Cameron, Princess Anne, Boris
Johnson etc. watching from a stand not that far away.
Aryrvay. the whole thing was quite exciting." "It was
actually thrilling to see these British Olyrnpic athletes
at such close proximiry" says
Chris, "because you'd
been watching them on the television so you felt like you
knew them." "They were asking to take pictures before we
went on," says Neil. "It was a very friendly atmosphere."
Afterwards, Boris Johnson sent them a very nice card, and
NeiI texted the assistant at l0 Downing Street who had
originally made contact on behalf of this Prime Minister.
This was Neil's message: "Thanks for asking us - actually
it was really worth doing. Sorry to bug you but could you
pass on to the Prime Minister that in Alan Turing's
centenary year it would be an amazing inspirational thing
to do to pardon him." "And the assistant texted back,"
Neil recounts, "and said: 'I totally agree with you and I
will pass it on to the Prime Minister."' "And that was the
last we heard of it," says