Vinyl Moments – Pet Shop Boys – 1985-1988

As you’ll remember, the previous vinyl moment saw me thinking about taking a trip back to 1985, to listen to Pet Shop Boys not too long after the start of their careers.

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Inevitably, West End girls has to come first, but as you know I only listened to Please a couple of days ago, so I decided to go for the b-side, A man could get arrested. On Alternative, it’s a dark and atmospheric piece, but the single version, produced by Steven Spiro is a slightly vacuous pop version which makes me wish I’d started with Side A after all.

Fortunately, I also own the 12″ version, giving me the opportunity to hear one of my favourite versions of West End girls, the Dance Mix. Some of the extra bits detract a little from the atmosphere, but the longer form suits the song too, and the extra verses are a joy to hear.

The second single I own is Love comes quickly, a German version, where someone with no graphic design skills and frankly limited English has added the words “Original-Version” to the cover in a font that looks like the 1980s equivalent of Comic Sans. Again, having heard the a-side recently, I opted for Side B, That’s my impression.

This is exactly what I was looking for – dark and gloomy, and rather glorious too. There’s something about this period in Pet Shop Boys‘ history – they were definitely making pop music, but they weren’t afraid to put their own stamp on it either.

I wasn’t sure what to listen to from the Opportunities single, which must be, incidentally, one of the low points of Pet Shop Boys‘ typically wonderful design history, with a silver sleeve and not a whole lot else to say for itself. I’m sure that was the idea, but it’s not one I’d have gone for. In the end, I chose Side B again, Was That what it was?

Again, it’s deep and dark, and I always find myself wondering why on earth they hid things as good as this away on the back of their singles, but it’s definitely a nice present for the people who buy your records.

I should probably track down the double 7″ version of Suburbia one of these days, but for now the next single I own is the 12″ of Always on My Mind, and although I haven’t heard this recently I opted for the b-side, Do I have to? as it’s a great song (as you might be realising, Alternative is, perhaps improbably, one of my favourite albums).

This is a particularly crackly vinyl – definitely the worst of this bunch. I always take care to clean everything before listening again, but the vast majority of my vinyl was bought second hand, largely from obscure bargain bins in record fairs, so they have often been well loved long before I got my hands on them.

Do I have to? though, is definitive Pet Shop Boys – it almost explains some of Chris Lowe‘s photo poses, but it’s also an exceptionally beautiful piece of music. Always on My Mind is great too, but one for another time, I think. Although it’s worth a mention for the wonderful design on this single, particularly the sly joke at the bottom: “Not from the album, Actually.”

This particular journey has to end with Heart, and since I don’t know Shep Pettibone‘s Dance Mix on Side B too well (it never made it onto any of the later reissues), I decided to go with this version. As with a lot of Pettibone’s remixes, it’s just a little bit cheesy in places, but it is fun too, and it brings out some different elements in the song.

This isn’t the last we’ll hear from Pet Shop Boys in the Vinyl Moments series, but this has been a fun little journey for now. Where next? Well, from Heart we’ll move on to a group who just a few years earlier wanted to Open Your Heart – The Human League.

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