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West End Girls
Pet Shop Boys
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For a band renowned for their knowing grasp of the raised eyebrow, West End Girls is remarkably irony free. A knowing exploration of the dark underbelly of London life, its marriage of shining synthesiser pop and lyrical intelligence separated them from many of their more superficial eighties contemporaries.
Pet Shop Boys
Song facts
Composer Neil Tennant/
Chris Lowe
Genre Pop
Album Please
Year of Release 1985
 
Formed by ex-Smash Hits hack Neil Tennant and keyboardist Chris Lowe, the Pet Shop Boys initially recorded a version of West End Girls with producer Bobby ‘O’ Orlando, who Tennant had recently interviewed.

This version was released in America, becoming a minor underground dance hit, but was only available in the UK as a 12 inch import. Signing to EMI, they re-recorded it with producer Stephen Hague, who added a shimmering major label gloss to their previously sparse beats and minimalist keyboard lines. 

Lowe’s music came first, with Tennant adding his lyrics later. Unusually for a white pop act at the time, Tennant raps the verses, making a virtue of the limitations of his thin voice. The lyrics were inspired by TS Elliot’s The Waste Land, particularly in the use of different narrative voices and arcane references. Their socially conscious streak also derives from Grand Master Flash's protest rap classic The Message, which also boasts a similarly propulsive bass line.

The song gave the Boys their first number one, helped by a video in which Tenant and Lowe mooned around looking moody, further enhancing their detached personas. The NME reckoned it sounded like 'Marc Almond overdosing on mean streets and clublands.' We’ll let you decide whether this is a good or bad thing.


Interview with Chris Lowe, Apr 2000
Chris Lowe
Chris Lowe explains why late-night gangster films were the inspiration for the story of West End Girls.

Listen Listen to Chris Lowe

Other versions
East 17
Listen The boys from the 'stow couldn't resist going Up West. But can they cut it there?

The Pet Shop Boys were like nothing else at the time. They never smiled. Ever.


Julia S

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