Single Stories: Pet Shop Boys, “West End Girls”
34 years ago today, Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe – known collectively as Pet Shop Boys – released the single that would completely fail to put them on the map in any significant way. (Fortunately, it did a heck of a lot better when they re-released it a bit later.)
If you aren’t a diehard Pet Shop Boys fan, then you may not even realize that Tennant and Lowe didn’t score instant success with “West End Girls,” but they most certainly did not. The duo originally recorded the song in New York City with producer Bobby Orlando. It was one of several tracks they laid down with Orlando between 1983 and 1984, with future hits “Opportunities (Let’s Make Lots of Money),” “Rent,” and “It’s a Sin” among the others tackled during those sessions. Orlando played the majority of the instruments on “West End Girls,” but lest he go unrecognized for his contributions, Lowe played one chord and the bassline…and he did them both damned well!
Unfortunately, when “West End Girls” was released on Bobcat Records on April 9, 1984, it was a hit in L.A. and San Francisco dance clubs and proved to be a minor dance hit in Belgium and France, but it was only available as a 12” import in the UK, so any chance of its success in the Boys’ native land was stymied.
But here’s the happy ending: Tennant and Lowe re-recorded “West End Girls” with Stephen Hague, and when they released it on October 28, 1985, not only was it a smash hit (as is only appropriate, given that Tennant was actually a writer for the magazine Smash Hits when he met Orlando), but it was a chart-topper in both the UK and the US.
Stephen Thomas Erlewine wrote on AllMusic.com that the song is “not only a classic dance single, it’s a classic pop single.” Frankly, we couldn’t agree more.
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