This Must Be The Piece I Waited Years To Read: a collection of Neil and Chris not Being Boring

Neil Tennant has given a great interview to the BBC’s Ian Youngs where he discusses the Top 40 domination of Ed Sheeran (he doesn’t mind but isn’t a fan), the philosopher Walter Benjamin (he hasn’t read him, but nicked a song title One-Way Street from a book in his studio which he offered to Bananarama who turned it down) and freshly released remastered albums (“Stick to the old ones, that’s my advice.”) His record company must be thrilled.


It’s consistently amusing and amazing, as most Tennant interviews are. No surprise, though. The Shoppies give the media copy as witty, waspish and wonderful as their records. How couldn’t they when one was the former deputy editor of Smash Hits and the other once said “I don’t like Country & Western/ I don’t like rock music/ I don’t like, I don’t like Rockabilly/ Rock’n’roll in particular/ I don’t like much, really, do I?/ But what I do like, I love passionately.” And this was on an actual record (Paninaro). Neil Tennant’s last interview with The Quietus features a praise to the last Zayn Malik single. Who gets to rave about Zayn to The Quietus?

Here are a very random collection of funny things they’ve said but for the real gold, go to the Chris Heath books, Literally and Pet Shop Boys vs America.Apparently, he’s written two others but they’re too rude about pop stars so Neil Tennant won’t let them go out until after they’ve popped their blogs. Pray that doesn’t happen but also that if it does (God forbid), the publishers and Chris Heath aren’t squeamish about being opportunistic.



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Neil Tennant to Attitude’s David Spedding: “There’s that ludicrous thing with Hear’say where people say ‘well, they can sing, you know.’ Well, so what? Lots of people can flaming sing. What are they about?”

Chris Lowe to Andrew Harrison for The Quietus: “We had a video director once who said I stood still very well. It’s not easy, you know. A lot of people can’t do it. It’s an art form.”

Popjustice’s Peter Robinson points out to Neil that having gold discs in the toilet is a humblebrag because it’s the one room of the house everyone will visit. “Now you see, you’re looking at that as someone with no gold discs. (Guffaws) And let’s focus on which toilet they’re in. Mine are in the toilet of the studio – only used by me, Chris and Pete Gleadall. If you want a humblebrag – we worked with Blue Weaver in 1985 – he did the song ‘I Want A Lover’ on our first album – and in his toilet was a multi-platinum disc for ‘Staying Alive’. Now, I was impressed by that, humblebrag or no humblebrag. One way to handle hold discs, which don’t really work as art, but I’ve seen this in other rock stars’ houses, is just to have a corridor RAMMED with them. Now that looks great, and it does, almost, turn into art.”


Chris Lowe to The Quietus again “Actually where we are rarely affects what we write except when we were in South America and we heard a lot of reggaeton. We’re the opposite of Damon Albarn and – what’s it called? – world music. We don’t go to Africa and come back with lots of African vibes. Wherever we go it always ends up 80s electro.”

Neil Tennant to The Guardian’s Alexis Petridis “We had a manager in America who used to manage a lot of big rock bands and he said, ‘You are without a doubt the most rock’n’roll people I’ve ever managed.’ We were the most decadent. We had make-up artists, dancers, wardrobe, the guys who just do the wigs, so there was this huge, mad entourage, which gives it this kind of party ambience. It’s a bit of a circus. Oh, you’d be really surprised. Heavy metal bands are always in bed by 11 o’ clock.”

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Chris to THE FACE’s Sylvia Patterson: Eminem’s film is coming out this year. Excited about that?

“In which he plays…himself? Not really. He should do more cross-dressing. I think that’s his forte: Eminem as Britney in the The Britney Spears Story, that’d be great. Britney doesn’t do it for me I’m afraid. She doesn’t seem terribly good looking. And her voice! Unbelieveable.

“The only thing I truly loved last year was the video for ‘Crying At The Discoteque’, by Alcazar. It was very discoey and trashy. They’re wearing sequinned hot-pants with these mad people dressed as chickens and this brilliant roller skating dance, just hilarious and uplifting. Whenever I’m getting ready to go out, I put that record on.”

Neil to The Observer’s Miranda Sawyer: “The contemporary idea of brand didn’t really exist when we started, the idea of a group where the name and the songs were more important than the individuals has always existed. The Bee Gees were like that, and Abba. We’re a brand now, so fans always have advice for us. Actually, it’s exactly how I am about David Bowie. I met him backstage, and, being a fan type, I said, ‘Why haven’t you released ‘Hello Spaceboy’ as a single? It’s the only single on the album.’ Which is exactly what people do to us. They get annoyed, because these two stupid old gits – us – are ruining the Pet Shop Boys project.”


Chris to The Word’s Andrew Harrison: “Is anyone allowed to say that they don’t like Fairtytale of New York. Cos I don’t.”

Neil: “I don’t either. I feel a bit aggrieved when they play it on the radio and they go ‘Well, it’s amazing this great record was kept off Number One by the Pet Shop Boys.’ As if we are the villains of the piece.”

Chris: That’s not why I don’t like it. I just don’t like it. Is it meant to be jolly? I find it depressing.

Neil: “It’s two drunks shouting at one another.”


Neil Tennant to SPIN’s Kenny Herzog: Speaking of growing pains, have you met any of the babies from ’89’s “It’s Alright” video?

“Oh, I’m always meeting them. In the last 18 months, I think three of the babies have come up to me. One was on the street. I think one was in an airport, maybe even on the same flight. And another one was in a club or something. Actually, one of the mothers of the babies came up to me and said, “My baby was in your video.” It was a really enjoyable video. It was in Notting Hill somewhere, and we got there, and all the babies were asleep — all the 50 babies. And then one of them cried [and] they all woke up. It was Chris’ idea, that video. I still think it’s a very original idea, and it terms of the style, it was meant to be a tribute to Robert Mapplethorpe, the way it was lit in black-and-white.”

So all the babies seem to be well-adjusted?
“Oh yeah, they seem to be thriving. We should get them all together for a party. We could have a joint 30th birthday party for them.”


Darling, You Were Wonderful, You Really Were Very Good








IMG_3089_2Pet Shop Boys at The Royal Opera House. (Only Covent Garden’s venue requires the definite article).
To call it a triumph would be to suggest that the people who make motorcycles and bras could compete.
What’s puzzling is that a group with that many hits remains undervalued by so many. Not musicians, not critics, but they don’t feature on the 6Music playlist the way New Order or Depeche Mode do. They don’t headline the main stages at festivals. And although their sales in the UK dwarf what they are across the Atlantic, if Madonna, N.W.A. and Green Day can make the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, it’s probably about time Pet Shop Boys did.
Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe have sold more than 50 million records, are the most successful duo in UK music history (in your face, Dollar) and most music critics worth their stripe likes them as do W. Axl Rose, Sir Elton John, Madonna, Dame Barbara Windsor, Nicolas Winding Refn and countless others.
The Covent Garden residence paid back the love in nuggets of pop gold. Regular collaborators like designer Es Devlin and engineer Pete Gleadall who made their Pandemonium tour such a joy are back with new friends like the extraordinary drummer Afrika Green and Musical Director Stuart “Jaques Lu Cont” Price, producer of Kylie, Madonna and the last two PSBs album. Price once told Spin magazine “To this day, I’ve never figured out if I want to be Neil or Chris.”
Both, surely. The answer to the question ‘Who’s the cool one in Pet Shop Boys?’ can only be “he is”.
Chris, the enigma clad in sportswear from Blackpool who wrote and produced a record for Arsenal striker Ian Wright because he was a die-hard Gooner.
The man who once gave an interview to Entertainment tonight saying:-

“I don’t like Country & Western.
I don’t like rock music.
Erm…I don’t like, I don’t like Rockabilly.
– Rock’n’roll in particular –
I don’t like much, really, do I?
But what I do like, I love passionately”

These words were then sampled and turned into one of their ‘80s B-sides, Paninaro. (Sadly not played on the same stage where Sutherland, Domingo and Callas belted it out).

Neil, who thanked “front of house staff” (which other pop singers know what front of house staff are, or what they do???), informed us that the venue used to be a dance hall in the Second World War (as it was this week). He quotes Noel Coward, Stephen Sondheim & David Bowie as influences and says things in interviews like “especially these days, I don’t think crying is necessarily a sign of sincerity.” He is also cool. In the way that Dennis Hopper and vodka-tonic with ice are both cool in different ways, so are Neil and Chris.

The concert was a joyous experience displaying the breadth of the latter back catalogue with Inner Sanctum, Love Is a Bourgeois Construct, Inside a Dream alongside West End Girls, It’s a Sin and a fair smattering of ‘00s Shoppies like Love Etc, Home And Dry and New York City Boy. The joyous encores Always On My Mind, where Tennant and Lowe were joined by Es Devlin’s inflatable creations who looked like the Michelin Men by way of New Order’s True Faith tyre-men on a diet of jelly babies.
The show was part car-park rave, part-Blake’s Seven, part operatic set of stories with costume changes and a rotating cast list. And lasers.
What was striking is with 32 years or recorded material was what was missing. Absent: Heart, Rent, Suburbia, What Have I Done to Deserve This, Can You Forgive Her and most egregious of all, Being Boring. In fact, nothing from their masterpiece Behaviour. They didn’t do We All Feel Better In The Dark either, but that would have been asking a lot.
Very few acts deserve to be classified as adjectives. Above all, this was a thoroughly Pet Shop Boys evening.