The 10 greatest Pet Shop Boys songs, ranked

27 September 2019, 15:52

Pet Shop Boys
Pet Shop Boys. Picture: Getty

By Tom Eames

Pet Shop Boys are one of the greatest duos of all time, thanks to their brand of catchy and moody electronic anthems.

Sure, Chris Lowe prefers to hide at the back while Neil Tennant stands out front and centre, but you couldn't have one without the other.

To celebrate their comeback in 2019 (not that they ever went away), we've picked our 10 favourite tracks ever for the perfect PSB setlist:

  1. Domino Dancing

    The lead single from their 1988 album Introspective, this song was influenced by Latin pop and also by the song 'Elle est comme les étoiles' by Desireless.

    After three number one singles, this song performed poorly in comparison at the time, with Neil Tennant later saying: "It entered the charts at number nine and I thought, 'that's that, then - it's all over'. I knew then that our imperial phase of number one hits was over."

  2. Home and Dry

    Taken from their 2002 album Release, this song gave the duo another top 20 hit, despite its bizarre music video.

    Directed by Wolfgang Tillmans, the video sees mice running across tracks and eating discarded food at Tottenham Court Road Underground station, with only minimal shots of the duo. You can never accuse them of being boring.

    Which reminds us...

  3. Being Boring

    This song relates to the concept of growing up and how people's perceptions and values change as they grow older.

    The title is said to have come about after someone in Japan accused the duo of being boring. The title also comes from a Zelda Fitzgerald quotation: "she refused to be bored chiefly because she wasn't boring".

    Speaking in 1993, Neil Tennant described it as "one of the best songs that we've written", and that "For me it is a personal song because it's about a friend of mine who died of AIDS, and so it's about our lives when we were teenagers and how we moved to London, and I suppose me becoming successful and him becoming ill."

  4. Rent

    The lyrics for this song sound as if they deal with a financially one-sided relationship.

    However, Neil Tennant explained in the Actually: Further Listening liner notes: "I've always imagined it's about a kept woman, and I always imagined it set in America.

    "I vaguely thought of one of the Kennedys, for some reason, and imagined that this politician keeps this woman in a smart flat in Manhattan, and he's still got this family, and the two of them have some [sort] of relationship and they do love each other but it's all kind of secret."

  5. Opportunities (Let's Make Lots of Money)

    This song was written during the duo's early years, with Tennant later saying that the concept came while in a recording studio in Camden Town, when Chris Lowe asked him to make up a line based around the quote "Let's make lots of money".

    Tennant said it is about "two losers", and is written from the perspective of a man who describes himself as being intellectual and educated.

  6. Go West

    Originally a disco hit for the Village People, in 1992 the Pet Shop Boys were asked by Derek Jarman to perform at an AIDS charity event at The Haçienda nightclub in Manchester.

    Chris Lowe selected 'Go West' as the song they would perform on the night. While Tennant was unable to remember the lyrics during the show, the two decided to record it as a single, and it was a huge hit.

  7. What Have I Done to Deserve This? (with Dusty Springfield)

    For their Actually album, the duo teamed up with '60s soul legend Dusty Springfield for this track.

    It helped revive Springfield's career, and led to a resurgence of interest in her music, giving her the biggest US hit ever.

    It was a number two hit in both the UK and US, being kept off the top spot by Rick Astley's 'Never Gonna Give You Up' and George Michael's 'Father Figure', respectively.

  8. Always on My Mind

    The Story of... 'Always on My Mind'

    The synthpop duo covered this classic Elvis ballad for 1987 TV special marking 10 years since the King passed away.

    It was received so well, that they released it as a single and it became that year's Christmas number one. It was so popular that it beat The Pogues' 'Fairytale of New York' to the top!

  9. It's a Sin

    This gave the Boys their second UK number one hit, and describes Tennant's impressions from his time at the Catholic St Cuthbert's High School in Newcastle.

    Tennant said that he wrote the lyrics to reduce his frustrations and anger: "People took it really seriously; the song was written in about 15 minutes, and was intended as a camp joke and it wasn’t something I consciously took very seriously.

    "Sometimes I wonder if there was more to it then I thought at the time. But the local parish priest in Newcastle delivered a sermon on it, and reflected on how the Church changed from the promise of a ghastly hell to the message of love."

  10. West End Girls

    QUIZ: How well do you know the lyrics to 'West End Girls'?

    The group's debut single is also their very best, and is a pioneering piece of synthpop.

    The Pet Shop Boys burst onto the scene in 1984 with this dark track, which was influenced by hip hop music and a TS Elliot poem. The song was written about class and the pressures of inner-city life.

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