Pet Shop Boys – Disco

Six little tick sounds, and Disco begins with what has, for many, become the definitive version of In the night, Arthur Baker‘s extended version. It takes about a minute before the vocal turns up – just long enough to fit in the entirety of The Clothes Show TV theme.

In the night is something of an oddity. The first Pet Shop Boys b-side, it was built around the chord sequence of the a-side, the original release of Opportunities, and is a melancholic piece about a Parisian youth group from a couple of decades earlier.

Disco, which first appeared in the shops thirty years ago this week, is a bit of an oddity in this respect – the concept in general wasn’t so unusual for its age, but it does seem strange now. For much of its time, this was a budget release, and although it didn’t peak quite as high, it flirted with the lower reaches of the charts for nearly as long as its parent album. For some people, then, their first taster for much of Pet Shop Boys‘ early work would have been these six extended and alternative takes.

The Full Horror version of Suburbia comes next, an extended version of Julian Mendelsohn‘s single mix. Hidden in here is a take on the song which is vastly better than the one that appeared a few months earlier on debut album Please, but the additional dog samples at either end, and the spoken word introduction have always seemed a little over the top to me. But this is definitely epic, in every sense of the word, and it’s a solid version.

This collection represents all four of Pet Shop Boys‘ singles to date, backed up with two of the b-sides, and representing second single Opportunities (Let’s make lots of money) is a remix by The Latin Rascals, who never really saw a lot of fame elsewhere. There aren’t any remix names on the album, but this turns out to be the Versión Latina which was hidden away on the limited edition 12″ of the original release. It’s an odd choice of version, but it’s actually pretty good – particularly the section in the middle where they have broken everything down and it’s not clear what’s going to happen next. The extra beats are a bit over the top, but they’re welcome too.

Both sides of Disco open with b-sides, and Side B brings us the glorious nine minute version of Paninaro, originally released a month or so earlier as a b-side to Suburbia. It’s huge – atmospheric, dark, and quite exceptional too. Until a decade or so later, this would have been the only version of the song that many people would have known, and the shorter version (strangely lacking Versace from the lyrics) would pale into insignificance compared to its big brother.

The darkness continues with the Dance Mix of Love comes quickly. It’s difficult to imagine anyone actually dancing to this – it’s dark, atmospheric, and very beautiful, but not exactly lively. But that’s just another way that this album surprises – all the tracks are of a particular age, one of enormous snares, long before kick drum intros and outros, but apart from that, this is actually a very varied collection.

It closes with a unique nine minute version of West End girls, cobbled together from several of the different versions on the single, mostly by the legendary Shep Pettibone. The screamy shouted title almost certainly isn’t necessary, but the extra verse and some of the additional counter-melody arrangements are welcome inclusions. It closes the album in fine form.

Eight years later, Pet Shop Boys would finally return to the remix album concept with the much disliked Disco 2, and then a third and fourth volume would follow even later, each in a completely different form. Now, thirty years on, it would be easy to forget about the release that started the series, but it’s an exceptional little album.

You can still find the original release of Disco at all major retailers.