“We’ve got no future
We’ve got no past”
Taken from the album Please
UK #1, US #1, AUS #5
Never has a sense of impending doom been so radio-friendly. Riding on a slightly sinister synth line and an endlessly catchy chorus melody, Neil Tennant raps his way through nightmarish visions while staying completely calm, the cool observer rather than the protagonist. This would be the beginning of his wise man persona, and this would be the start of the Pet Shop Boys as we know them today.
‘West End Girls’ is arguably the most famous Pet Shop Boys song, it was after all a bit transatlantic number one hit, but why did it capture the imagination of so many? They’ve certainly made catchier songs over the years, more uplifting, more radio-friendly hits. Could it be because it was the first exposure to the wonderfully individual voice of Neil Tennant, right in the middle of the rise of rap music? Could it be because Pet Shop Boys (of all bands) were among the first white musicians to embrace rap and let it influence synth-pop?
It is of course all these reasons and more, the most important reason being that ‘West End Girls’ is an incredible pop song, written so well and produced with such a clear vision. It would set the tone for the Please album, which would include a sort-of sister song in ‘Suburbia’, and turned that album into a classic. ‘West End Girls’ was the beginning of a massive legacy, but even if they’d become one-hit wonders, we’d still be talking about the Pet Shop Boys today because of this song.