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Two rather fabulous interviews with the Pet Shop Boys.

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Apr. 4th, 2006 | 07:32 am

The Pet Shop Boys will shortly be returning with a new album. While the new material has not come this way yet, two separate interviews have and they are vintage PSB nonsense and pretension. They appear in the current issues of Q and The Word magazines. If the new album is half as good as these interviews, we will be in for a treat.

Here are some choice excerpts. From The Word:

Some time in the late 1980s Chris remembers driving along Lea Bridge Road in Hackney late at night and seeing a lad at the side of the road with a sign that said ‘This Way’. It took him some weeks to twig that this was the Rave Scene happening before his very eyes. Visits to club nights like Spectrum ensued, and one occasion the Pet Shop Boys took Liza Minnelli to an acid house night at the gay club Heaven. It was called Land of Oz. “We did it because of the name, really” says Chris. “We brought Matt Goss too. He was on his mobile phone all night, which was quite a thing then. Liza was kind of interested in acid house but none of the 16-year-old ravers had a clue who she was.” (Neil: : It wasn’t a gay night, otherwise all hell would have broken loose. She didn’t dance and she was N.A. at the time, so no… you know, Chris and I are very naïve about that sort of thing.’)


[Neil Tennant when asked what’s his favourite bit of celebrity mixing and matching he has done] “Introducing Michael Stipe to Rick Astley, who was dressed as an astronaut at the time. It was Elton John’s 50th, when it was fancy dress and Michael Stipe wasn’t in fancy dress. I told him off for that actually. I couldn’t understand what this astronaut was saying to me and finally he said, “Neil, it’s Rick Astley”. Oh Rick, do you know Michael Stipe? Stipe was bewildered and I had to say “Michael, Rick has has had two number ones in America”. He just goes [weedily] “oh, I don’t follow chart music…” Disgraceful, the towering figure of Rick Astley not recognised by Michael Stipe.

From Q:

Neil did you have a tough upbringing in Newcastle?
Neil Tennant: When I was 11 I went to St. Cuthbert’s Grammar School, Newcastle, where Sting went as well of course. I used to hate St. Cuthbert’s. One day a teacher took me into his office and said “You’re soft, Tennant, aren’t you?” By which I took it to mean, “You’re gay.” I thought that’s a funny thing to say to a 16-year-old boy.” Sting told me he was beaten about 40 times by one of the teachers. No one laid a finger on me.
Chris Lowe: That’s because you were soft.
NT: [Laughing indulgently] Because I was soft , yes. I developed a survival persona at school. It gave me my snooty thing, which I still have today. I had to walk through the school with my nose in the air because people thought I was a poof, or something like that, and you can get a surprising amount of abuse. My way of dealing with it was to think, “I am going to be famous and you’re all going to have crap jobs in Newcastle and I am going to be rich and live in London or New York and be like David Bowie.” And, in the end, I did.


You received a World Arts Award from Mikhail Gorbachev in 2003. What’s he like?
CL: He was the only reason we accepted the award. I still don’t know what the World Arts Award is about.
NT: What was funny were the speeches about all our humanitarian work.
CL: News to us.
NT: But what was exciting was Gorbachev. It’s not often you meet a world historical figure. He was very genial. And Lech Walesa was staying in our hotel!
CL: You can see how Bono gets off on meeting world leaders.
NT: Gorbachev was sweet. He couldn’t speak English, but when we were leaving the stage I was about to trip over the monitor and he stopped me with his hand and pointed at the monitor with his eyes, to stop me crashing, which would’ve been typical of me.
CL: Ever the lady. The event was sponsored by Gorbachev Vodka. Yes, really. Gorbachev has his own vodka in Russian nowadays.
NT: And then Gorbachev’s daughter came up and told us that she’d grown up listening to the Pet Shop Boys all the time, and we thought, “Wow, she grew up in the Kremlin!”
CL: They were all singing, “Let’s make lots of money” [the chorus from 1986 hit Opportunities] during perestroika.

Pet Shop Boys' news and tour dates are available from www.petshopboys.co.uk

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Comments {2}

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from: taunwe
date: Apr. 4th, 2006 12:57 pm (UTC)

Thanks for posting this Peter! I've always liked the Pet Shop Boys and haven't seen them live before ... have you?

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from: peter_crispin
date: Apr. 7th, 2006 08:09 pm (UTC)

I have seen the Pet Shop Boys about five times in concert and I once ended up in a London nightclub with them, but that’s another story…

Live and in the flesh, the Pet Shop Boys are very much a mixed bag. They are very reliant on their props, costumes and settings when performing and if you happen to come across them in one of their more stripped down moods you’ll be disappointed.

They excel at the grand theatrical gesture even though as performers themselves they are not exactly high wattage in the personality stakes. I think the favourite time I saw them live was when the performed their new soundtrack to Battleship Potemkin in Trafalgar Square in 2004. The setting and the atmosphere was brilliant, although is some senses they were not the dominant presence due to the film being screened in synch (although you could see them moodily illuminated with the orchestra at the base of Nelson’s column).

In terms of a show in their own right, I saw them play Wembley Arena as part of their Nightlife tour. Spectacular and grandiose, with a venue packed to the rafter with fans, it was wonderful night only let down by one or two duff choices in the set list and some annoying arrangements (the world was not looking for an acoustic version of Was It Worth It?).

I saw them also play the Savoy Theatre as part of their Somewhere shows, which was quirkily staged as almost a video installation with Brit artist Sam Taylor-Wood. The setting was fun, but being seated in a theatre somewhat limited the options of getting up to dance. Being seated for hi-NRG disco hits is a little pointless.

The scars have still to heal from when I saw them play Bristol University during their indie/ guitar phase. Personal Jesus it weren’t, and if the world was not demanding an acoustic version of Was It Worth It?, it certainly was in deep denial about the need for a stripped down Go West! Even though a Bob Dylan cover of Macho Macho Man would greatly add to the happiness of this planet…

Have you ever seen any recording of them live? Their videos and DVDs of their concerts are invariably superbly edited and mixed. It is worth hunting down the short video highlights collection of their 1989 tour which was directed by Derek Jarman, which is aptly called Highlights. Also recently made available on DVD is a recording of their wonderfully mad 1991 Performance tour, which was staged by the English National Opera complete with a different set for each song and a troupe of ballet dancers!

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