Neil Explains to us how they Actually meet and became the Pet Shop Boys,
The following extracts are taken from an article called “The Pet Shop Boys Story” published in Smash Hits magazine in 1989 It was
August 19th, 1981, when the fateful “electrical shop meeting took place.”
Chris remembers that he thought Neil was brainy “because he had glasses on which is the mark of a brainy person
.” Neil remembers Chris was a bit mad “because he laughed a lot.
They got chatting about music and found they had almost nothing in common at all. Neil liked serious, slightly wordy “rock music” by people like David Bowie and Elvis Costello. Chris, quite simply, liked disco. “I remember he liked ‘Body Talk’ by Imagination,” recalls Neil, “which I thought was dreadful.” For some reason, from this unpromising beginning, within days they had formed a group.
Pretty quickly they decided what they wanted to sound like. Chris was a massive fan of a New York disco producer called Bobby O who made simple disco records under a variety of names – pretty soon Neil was just as big a fan. They wrote lots of songs, recorded lots of “demos” and wondered whether they might ever get famous (thinking, so they claim, not on your nelly).
By now Chris had gone back to Liverpool to study, commuting to rehearsals and writing sessions. Neil meanwhile had found a new job. A while back he’d put together a book about the pop group Madness – he’d then been asked to edit the 1983 edition of this very book, The Smash Hits Yearbook.
In 1983 Smash Hits asked Neil to go to New York to interview Sting. He wasn’t mightily keen on Sting, but he had an idea. He tracked down Bobby O’s phone number and rung him, explaining he was a big fan and asking if he could take Mr O out to lunch. Bobby O who, truth to tell, wasn’t really that famous,
was quite flattered and only too pleased. So it was that on August 19th, 1983 – as fate would have it two years to the day from that fateful “electrical shop meeting” – that they sat down in a New York restaurant called Apple Jack for a cheeseburger and some carrot cake. Near the end of the meal Neil finally plucked up the courage and mentioned he was in a group. To his surprise instead of saying “how very interesting, could you pass me the relish?” Bobby O simply declared that this news was “fabulous” and that they should make a record together pronto.
They went straight back to Bobby O’s offices to listen to a tape that Neil “happened” (hem hem) to have with him, featuring three of their songs, “Opportunities”, “It’s A Sin”, and the never released “It’s Not a Crime”.
Bobby O was convinced. He said, “I could do this!” Neil remembers. “And I thought, well, you should be able to, because it’s completely ripped off from you.”
A few weeks later they recorded “West End Girls” then later, lots of songs including “One More Chance”. Those two were released but to no great success. “West End Girls” became a radio and club hit on the west coast of America, they were popular in a small way in Europe and that was more or less it.
Unperturbed they started looking for another record contract and carried on writing songs – by the beginning of 1985 they’d written most of the songs that would turn up on their first LP but “It’s A Sin”, “Rent”, “I Get Excited” and “What Have I Do to Deserve This?” (Based on some words Neil wrote on the bus home after a day’s work at Smash Hits).
After some palaver, and after agreeing to pay Bobby O a fortune, they got a record contract and prepared to release their next single, “Opportunities”. Neil decided it was only sensible to give up his job and concentrate on the pop caper full time. His mum was less than convinced.
Fairly quickly they became known for being a little down to earth about most things. When Chris was asked on Italian TV why they’d written “West End Girls” his enthusiastic answer was “I don’t know, really”. When they were asked what it was like being at number one – which they frequently were – they answered quite plainly that “What it feels like is vaguely nothing. It’s like having a cup of tea”. As the follow-up, “Love Comes Quickly”, was prepared for release, Neil simply said, “if the new single isn’t a hit, I wouldn’t slash my wrists. I’d just think, it’s not a hit, oh dear. We’re down the dumper, I knew we would be.”
But of course, it was a hit, followed by their first LP “Please” a latest version of “Opportunities”, a latest version of “Suburbia” and a remix LP called “Disco” (oddly enough the original title of “Please” had been “This Is Disco”.) It was all going swimmingly.