How is it, you might be wondering, that Pet Shop Boys managed not to record a John Peel session until seventeen years into their chart career? The answer, perhaps unsurprisingly, is that Peel wasn’t particularly keen on their music – he did add commentary to a Glastonbury session, but apart from that the only time they were played was their one and only session.
Whatever the reason, it wasn’t until 2002 that they finally turned up to record four tracks, firstly the then-current German-only single London, which appears in cut-down form with a lot of acoustic piano and guitar, plus some slightly overwrought sound effects. In the end, they opted not to release this as a single in the UK, but it charted anyway.
The other tracks are a total delight – a selection of old unreleased gems and a cover version, they heralded Pet Shop Boys‘ exceptional forthcoming remix album Disco 3 in fine form. If Looks Could Kill would appear on there a few months later, in a slightly more heavily produced version.
A Powerful Friend didn’t appear anywhere commercially until a Record Store Day 7″ many years later, but is a great track nonetheless, with an enormous and entirely unapologetic 1980s sound.
There was definitely an element of reappraisal of history going on during this period, with a cover of early collaborator Bobby O‘s Try It (I’m in Love with a Married Man), which sounds entirely fantastic. The version subsequently released on Disco 3 is pretty much identical.
Some artists used their Peel Session appearances just to record different versions of their music – what’s impressive with the Pet Shop Boys session is that they delved deeply into their own history and unearthed something rather unexpected.
You can learn more about Pet Shop Boys‘ relationship with John Peel here.