12 Things You Didn’t Know About The Pet Shop Boys

The electro pop duo exposed

Despite their lifetime Brit Award, numerous number ones and Top 40 hits, it’s sometimes easy to forget how big the Pet Shop Boys actually are. They’ve sold over a hundred million records. A hundred million! And they’ve collaborated with some of the best artists of the last twenty years.

And why do we like them? Because the Pet Shop Boys are a constant revolving door. Each album pushes into a new direction, from ‘West End Girls’ to ‘Boys And Girls’ each innocent tone of Neil Tennant’s voice brings back a new wave of disco.

Having stretched into every corner of music, film and stage PSB have had so many hidden and secret projects that they’ve influenced more musicians today than anyone on the musical landscape. And they’re still top of their game.


Before forming the Pet Shop Boys, Neil Tennant worked as a journalist and writer at several publications. He initially worked at Marvell Comics before moving up to become the deputy editor of Smash Hits! In his time at the magazine Tennant interviewed Depeche Mode, Kajagoogoo, Madness and Yazoo, before he left to become a full time Pet Shop Boy. During his time at Smash Hits! Tennant also went to New York to interview The Police, pushing a demo tape on producer Bobby Orlando, who then went on to produce the band’s first album.


The Pet Shop Boys have always named their albums with one word, i.e. ‘Yes’, ‘Disco’, etc. Many people think this is down to some elaborate reason but in fact Neil Tennant just wanted a running theme throughout the duo.


The band were asked to change their name to Rescue Shelter Boys in 2009 by animal rights group PETA to raise awareness of cruelty to animals in pet shops. While the band said it “raises an issue worth thinking about” they refused to change their name.


While PSB take their stage shows clearly from theatre productions, the group actually had a rocky career with the stage and screen. In 2001 the pair created the West End show Closer To Heaven. However it only ran for five months before the run was cut short. It was never spoken of again. The group previously made It Couldn’t Happen Here- a film starring the band and Barbara Windsor. It received mixed reviews.


The rarest Pet Shop Boy release is ‘Compiled’. The five-track CD was given away to twenty competition winners as part of Radio One’s Pet Shop Boys day in 1993. It was signed by Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe and is now worth £1,000 if in mint condition.


The band have collaborated with more than twenty artists over their career including Robbie Williams, David Bowie and Elton John. The band’s main collaboration was for an album of Noel Coward cover versions organised by Neil Tennant. The album included Damon Albarn, The Divine Comedy, Marianne Faithfull, Bryan Ferry and Sting. It also included a PSB version of ‘Sail Away’. However, Kylie Minogue turned the duo down in 1994 by rejecting a song called ‘Falling’ the group had written for her first album. Minogue finally released ‘In Denial’ with the band in 1999.


Former England footballer Paul Gascoigne’s sister Anna-Marie starred in the band’s ‘So Hard’ video.


In the ’70s Chris played in a seven-piece band called One Under The Eight. He played the trombone in the group, which performed everything from ‘Hello Dolly’ to ‘Moon River’.


Chris appeared in Australian TV soap Neighbours in 1995. In the episode he drove up to the street and asked where the local recording studio was before driving on. The episode was filmed as part of the Australian leg of their Discovery tour.


Chris worked with former football player Ian Wright for track ‘Do The Right Thing’. It was released as a single in 1994.


The band’s release of Elvis Presley’s ‘Always On My Mind’ actually started after an off-chance performance on a tribute show. The pair sang the track on ITV’s Love Me Tender in 1987, which was the tenth anniversary of the king’s death. The song then went on to be that year’s Christmas Number One.


Doctor Who actor David Tennant, real name David McDonald, chose his stage name based on Neil Tennant. He had to change his name to enter acting union Equity. The fact was uncovered in an edition of Smash Hits.

Words by Ruth Offord

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