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Pet Shop Boys


Pet Shop Boys

1954 - July Neil Francis Tennant was born on July 10th in North Shields, Northumberland. 1959 - October Christopher Sean Lowe was born on October 4th in Blackpool, Lancashire.

1970 - 1971 Neil plays in a group in Newcastle called Dust: Their most popular song is a preposterous affair he has written called "Can you hear the dawn break?". They are heavily influenced by The Incredible String Band. "We were convinced we would become terribly famous. It was a very kind of stoned seventies but we used to think it was absolutely brilliant at the time".

1975 - July After completing a degree in history at the Polytechnic of North London, Neil took a job at Marvel Comics, anglicizing spellings and indicating where over-risque woman needed to be redrawn decently. While there he interviewed comic fan Marc Bolan, who politely pointed out that his tape recorder wasn't working. In 1977 he worked at Macdonald Educational Publishing, later moving to ITV Books. In June 1982, he joined Smash Hits.


- 1978 Chris played trombone in a seven piece dance band wittily named One Under The Eight, who played old-time popular favourites like "Hello Dolly", "La Bamba", and "Moon River".

1978 Chris went to Liverpool University to study architecture. During 1981 -1982 he spent a year gaining practical experience in a London architectural practice, designing a staircase in an industrial development in Milton Keynes. "It's not a remarkable staircase", he commented when he visited it in 1988, "It's just a functional staircase".

1981 - August On August 19th, Neil and Chris met by chance in an electronics shop on the Kings Road. Realizing they had a common interest in dance music, they began to write together. To begin with they called themselves West End; later they came up with the name Pet Shop Boys, a name derived from some friends who worked in a pet shop in Ealing. "We thought it sounded like an English rap group".

1983 - August Neil is sent to New York by Smash Hits to interview The Police. By this time the Pet Shop Boys were obsessed by a stream of hi energy records made by New York producer Bobby Orlando, known as Bobby O'. "I thought well, if I've got to go and see The Police play then I'm also going to have lunch with Bobby O'". They shared a cheeseburger and carrot cake at a restaurant called The Apple Jack on August 19th (two years to the day since Neil and Chris had met) and Bobby O', flattered by Neil's compliments, suggests making a record with the Pet Shop Boys.

1984 - April The first version of 'West End Girls' is released. It is a club hit in Los Angeles and San Francisco and a small hit in France and Belgium.

1984 - October They made their first ever stage appearance at the Fridge Nightclub in Brixton, singing and playing over tapes.

1985 - March They signed to Parlophone Records after long negotiations with Bobby O', who relinquished his contractual rights over them in return for a substantial royalty on future record sales.

1985 - April On April 5th, Neil leaves Smash hits. In the next issue an 'obituary' is written, bidding him a sad adieu and predicting that in a matter of weeks Neil's pop duo, the Pet Shop Boys will be down the dumper and he'll come crawling back on bended knees, ha ha ha. "I spoke to my mum on the telephone and said how we'd signed with EMI and she said "But you're not going to give up your job, are you?" and I said actually I did last week".

1985 - July On July 1st, the first version of 'Opportunities' is released. It reached #116 in the UK.

1985 - August They play a short set as part of the ICA Rock Week in London, Chris showing off his skills on the trombone. Neil and Chris are interviewed on stage by Max Headroom. They re-recorded 'West End Girls' with producer Stephen Hague the same month.

1985 - October 'West End Girls' is released on October 28th and goes to #1 in the UK in January. It was subsequently #1 in USA, Canada, Finland, Hong Kong, Ireland, Israel, New Zealand and Norway, selling 1.5 million copies. "People endlessly ask us what it's like having a #1" said Neil at the time. "But what it feels like is vaguely nothing. It feels like having a cup of tea".

1986 - February On February 24th, 'Love Comes Quickly', still one of their favourite songs, was released, reaching a disappointing #19 in the UK.

1986 - March On March 24th, their first LP 'Please' is released. "It's so people can go into the record shop and say can I have the Pet Shop Boys album, please?".

1986 - April 'West End Girls' reaches #1 in USA.

1986 - May On May 19th a new version of 'Opportunities' is released. "The point of that song is that the humour is black, it's like a joke. The impression is that the people in it are not going to make any money".

1986 - June The Pet Shop Boys announce, then cancel, a tour of Europe and America; the cost of using a theatre designe and playing fairly small venues proves prohibitive.

1986 - September On September 22nd, a re-recorded version of 'Suburbia', a song inspired by the Penelope Spheeris film of the same name about a group of disenchanted rebellious youths in suburban Los Angeles, is released. "It's about a riot happening in some decaying suburb. It's just the description of the riot happening and then the aftermath". On the B-side was the first version of 'Paninaro', named after an Italian youth cult and featuring a quote they both liked that Chris had said on a TV show: "I don't like country and western, I don't like rock music, I don't like rockabilly... I don't like much really, do I? But what I do like, I love passionately".

1986 - November On November 17th 'Disco', an LP of disco remixes, is released.

1987 - February The Pet Shop Boys receive the Best Single award for 'West End Girls' at the BPI Awards. "It's a bit like the school prize giving day, isn't it?", muttered Neil who turned up to receive the award from Boy George. Chris stayed at home and watched it on TV. Meanwhile, they had been working on the next LP and considering, once more, whether to tour. "I can't see the point really", said Neil at the time. "I quite like the idea of being on the coach, having the meal beforehand, the party in the room afterwards, going in the swimming pool, signing the autographs in the lobby, and wrecking the mini-bar. The only thing I don't like the idea of is being on the stage and having to sing for rather a long time". He now dismisses this comment as flippant; it had been inspired by his happy memories of going on tour with Depeche Mode for Smash Hits in Autumn of 1984.

1987 - May The Pet Shop Boys receive the Best International Hit award for 'West End Girls' at the Ivor Novello Awards. Vera Lynn performed at the lunch.

1987 - June On June 15th, 'It's a Sin', a song that originally appeared on the demo Neil had in his pocket when he took Bobby O' out to lunch, was released. "It's about being brought up as a Catholic. When I went to school you were taught that everything was a sin". It reached #1 and caused several notable rumpuses. Jonathan King accused them of plagiarism (he later apologized and paid damages to a charity at their request). A teacher at Neil's old school, St. Cuthbert's Grammar School, Newcastle, got very steamed up about the picture Neil painted of his education and castigated Neil in the press. The Salvation Army magazine, War Cry, put the Pet Shop Boys on the front page and noted, approvingly, "It's interesting that someone's raised the concept of sin in our modern life again". Neil was also asked to appear with Cardinal Hume in a press advert for CAFOD; he politely declined the offer, explaining that he wasn't a practising Catholic. The song's video, a sombre tale of guilt and punishment featuring the seven deadly sins, was the first time the Pet Shop Boys worked with Derek Jarman.

1987 - August On August 10th, 'What Have I Done To Deserve This?', a duet with Dusty Springfield, is released. They had actually wanted to record the song with Dusty - Neil's favourite female singer - for 'Please' but had not been able to arrange it in time. "She sounds right because her voice has got that world-weary quality". On August 16th, the Pet Shop Boys appeared on a Granada TV special, Love Me Tender, commemorating the tenth anniversary of Elvis Presley's death. They were asked to perform an old song he had made famous so they sifted through some Elvis cassettes and decided to do both a house version of 'Baby Let's Play House' and 'Always On My Mind'. In the end, they only did the latter. At the time they had no plans whatsoever to release it.

1987 - September On September 7th, the 'Actually' LP is released. The title was simply a word they say an awful lot. "We were thinking of calling it Jollysight, actually", said Chris at the time "which was the name of a hotel we saw in Italy - so that, when people asked why, we could say because it's a jolly sight better than the last one..."

1987 - October On October 12th, 'Rent', a mercenary love song, is released.

1987 - November The Pet Shop Boys spend three weeks in Clacton and South London shooting 'It Couldn't Happen Here'. What had originally been conceived as an hour-long video based around the 'Actually' LP, turned into a full-scale feature film to be released cinematically, directed by Jack Bond and co-starring Barbra Windsor, Joss Ackland and Gareth Hunt. "We just do what we normally do in videos", explained Chris, "walk around, me a few paces behind Neil...". On November 30th, 'Always On My Mind' is released as a single; it becomes the Christmas #1.

1988 - January 'I'm Not Scared', a song the Pet Shop Boys have written and produced for Patsy Kensit, is released as a single by her group Eighth Wonder, and is their first hit.

1988 - February At the BPI Awards, the Pet Shop Boys win the Best Group award. They also mime to 'What Have I Done To Deserve This?' on stage with Dusty Springfield. Afterwards Neil comments, "It's kind of macho nowadays to prove you can cut it live, I quite like proving that we can't cut it live. We're a pop group, not a rock 'n' roll group".

1988 - March A different mix of 'Heart' is released as a single on March 21st and reaches #1 in the UK. "It's a real disco song - the idea of 'heartbeat' the beat of the record and the beat of your heart. It's actually pretty corny, to be honest, but I think the words are quite sweet and sincere". The video, shot in Yugoslavia, was a resetting of the Dracula story with Ian McKellen in the title role.

1988 - May For the second year running, the Pet Shop Boys win the Best International Hit award at the Ivor Novello Awards, this time for 'It's a Sin'.

1988 - June Ian McKellen persuades the Pet Shop Boys to play live at an anti-Clause 28 benefit, Before The Act, at London's Piccadilly Theatre, performing 'It's a Sin' and 'One More Chance'. "A brilliant event", they said afterwards.

1988 - July 'It Couldn't Happen Here' is released on July 8th to mixed reviews: it wins an award at the Houston film festival.

1988 - August The Pet Shop Boys win the Berolina award in Germany for 'Group of the Year'. The award is presented to them by Miss Venezuela.

1988 - September On September 12th, 'Domino Dancing' is released, a song they recorded that February in Miami with Expose producer, Lewis Martinee. They shot a video in Puerto Rico and appeared with a full Latin band on Wogan and Top Of The Pops.

1988 - October On October 10th, their new album 'Introspective' is released. So called because "all the songs, although it's a dance album, are introspective". The title was chosen after considering and dismissing 'f', 'Dogmatic', 'Bounce' and 'Hello'. They reckon 'Introspective' sounds serious, like an art exhibition: "Nick Rhodes", said Chris at the time, "will be so jealous".

1988 - November On November 14th, 'Left To My Own Devices' is released, "an exaggerated autobiography". The second verse refers to a time when Neil's mother would worry about him because he'd wait in a corner of the back garden pretending to be a Roundhead soldier.

1989 - February On February 13th, 'Nothing Has Been Proved' is released as a single for Dusty Springfield, written by the Pet Shop Boys, produced by them and Julian Mendelsohn and taken from the film Scandal. They actually wrote two songs for Dusty for the film - the other which the film-makers passed on because they thought it sounded too contemporary, was 'In Private'. Meanwhile, they are busy producing - with Julian Mendelsohn - an album for Liza Minnelli.

1989 - June On June 26th, 'It's Alright' is released. They originally heard this song - by Chicago House artist Sterling Void - when one of them popped out during the recording of 'I Get Excited' (The B-side of 'Heart') and bought 'Acid Tracks: The House Sound Of Chicago Vol. 3' on CD and were both immediately impressed by this song. For a single they re-recorded it in a more poppy style and Neil added a verse about the threat facing the world environment. "It's about the power of music. It's a bit cosmic really - it's saying that if people still make music then there's always going to be a good side to what people do so mankind is never going to be totally destructive. It's very sincere and there's something about the song that makes perfect sense. It has this beautiful line: 'I can hear it on a timeless wavelength, never dissipating and giving us strength'. I think that's true. Music is an inspiration to people and always has been an inspiration to people. Music represents the good side of mankind; music tends to be a good force rather than a bad force".

1989 - June On June 29th, the Pet Shop Boys begin their first tour, visiting Hong Kong, Japan and Britain, playing 14 dates in all. The tour, a lavish theatrical spectacle is directed by film-maker Derek Jarman. He has specially shot several films to be back-projected, there are extravagant costumes and the cast includes six dancers (Casper, Cooley, Hugo Huizar, Tracey Langran, Jill Robertson and Robia LaMorte), four singers (Mike Henry, Jay Henry, Carroll Thompson and Juliet Roberts), an extra keyboard player (Dominic Clarke) and a percussionist (Danny Cummings). "They asked for a theatrical concert and that's what we're doing", said Derek Jarman. "I suppose some people think pop music and theatre shouldn't mix but I think pop music is theatre and I don't see why it shouldn't be so. To my mind, there's two ways of doing it - you either just sit there and sing on a stool and do it the simple way or you go for it".

1989 - August The first single from the Pet Shop Boys' collaboration with Liza Minnelli, a hi-energy version of Stephen Sondheim's 'Losing My Mind', is released. It is her first hit single. The collaboration was the idea of an executive in the American branch of Epic Records. Together they recorded an entire LP 'Results' (released in October). "I just put it completely in their hands, the ultimate trust", said Liza. "It's weird, because I've been working for 30 years and to find somebody who you like enough and trust enough and respect enough to say forget it, I'll do whatever you want is quite amazing".

1989 - November The Dusty Springfield single 'In Private' is released on November 20th. Written and co-produced by the Pet Shop Boys, it was originally also intended for the film Scandal but was adjudged it to sound too contemporary. "It's about someone having an affair with a politician and being found out", Neil explained, "the politician is saying different things in public and in private".

1989 - December 'Getting Away With It', the first single by Electronic, the group formed by New Order's Bernard Sumner and The Smith's guitarist Johnny Marr, is released on December 4th. The words are co-written by Neil who also sings on the record and appears in the video. The collaboration had come about after Neil had sent a message through a mutual friend earlier in the year saying that he'd like to be involved. Both Neil and Chris also travel to Manchester to collaborate on another song called 'Patience Of A Saint'.

1990 - April The Pet Shop boys begin recording their new LP in Munich with producer Harold Faltermeyer.

1990 - July Dusty Springfield's first LP since the Pet Shop Boys recorded 'What Have I Done To Deserve This?' with her is released. It is called 'Reputation' and one half of the LP is a collaboration with the Pet Shop Boys. "She's very much a pop singer", said Neil, "and her voice instinctively goes very well with our music". He explained they also admired her melodramatic determination, "She looks at making records as like climbing a mountain, you have to grind yourself up, it's going to be quite a long journey".

1990 - August On August 4th, the Pet Shop Boys make their first public live appearance in America, guesting on two songs with Electronic at the Los Angeles Dodgers Stadium. Electronic have been invited to play by the headline act Depeche Mode. They repeat the same performance the following night.

1990 - September On September 24th 'So Hard' is released. It is about "two people living together; they are totally unfaithful to each other but they both pretend they are faithful and then catch each other out". The black and white video is shot in Newcastle and co-stars Paul Gascoigne's sister, Anna. A second twelve-inch mix is released featuring a virtual re-recording of both 'So Hard and the B-side 'It Must Be Obvious' by the KLF.

1990 - October 'Behaviour', the Pet Shop Boys fifth LP, is released on October 22nd. It is recorded in Munich and co-produced by Harold Faltermeyer who they originally chose because they were interested in using old analog synthesizers. On two songs, 'This Must Be The Place I Waited Years To Leave' and 'My October Symphony', Johnny Marr plays guitar. Though at the time of release they didn't consider it to reflect a substantial shift in mood, later they conceded it had been. "It was more reflective and more musical-sounding, and also it probably didn't have irritatingly crass ideas in it, like our songs often do".

1990 - November In Los Angeles, at the Mayan Theatre on the night of November 6th, the Pet Shop Boys play their first American concert using a collection of performers (Casper and Hugo Huizar dancing, Dominic Clarke playing keyboards and operating the computer equipment, and two backing singers) with whom they had appeared the previous day on the Arsenio Hall Show.

1990 - November The second single taken off 'Behaviour' is 'Being Boring' released on November 12th. The song is inspired by a party invitation from Neil's Newcastle days which quoted Zelda Fitzgerald's line "She was never bored, mainly because she was never boring". Its video was the first to be made by photographer and film-maker Bruce Weber, "I loved the lyrics", he explained "and really felt it was something I wanted to be part of... in it there's the feeling that times are different today, and the feeling of abandoness we can't have today because of the way the world is". It was shot in one day at a house in Long Island, near New york, with a cast that included a selection of Weber's beautiful friends, a horse and a chimpanzee on roller-skates. Though MTV in America, and several British TV shows refused to show it because of the nudity included, it won Music Week's Best Video Of The Year Award. On the same day, a book about the Pet Shop Boys, 'Pet Shop Boys Literally', written with their consent and based around their 1989 concerts is published. At a London bookshop on November 23rd they sign over 800 copies before the police had to break up the waiting crowd.

1990 - December 'Highlights', a video of eight songs from the 1991 tour, is finally released. An earlier plan to release footage of the entire show had to be cancelled because Neil and Chris thought the footage disappointing.

1991 - March The plan is to release 'How Can You Expect To Be Taken Seriously?', a sharp dig at "the aspirations and pomposities of pop stars" as the first Pet Shop Boys single of 1991. They drastically remix it in conjunction with British dance duo Brothers In Rhythm and film a video in which they parody a number of stars. Meanwhile they have recorded another track, initially to release much later in the year: a hi-energy version of U2's 'Where The Streets Have No Name' segued with the Frankie Valli standard 'Can't Take My Eyes Off You'. Eventually they resolve to release both songs as a double A-side on March 11th, and make a complementary video for 'Where The Streets Have No Name (I Can't Take My Eyes Off You)'. "It worked as a concept: one song is about rock stars so to have a U2 song with it serves as a further comment". (Pressed for comment on this new cover version, U2 issued the wry statement "What have we done to deserve this?"). The Pet Shop Boys second tour, 'Performance', also begins on March 11th in Tokyo. After Japan it visits the USA, Canada, France, Belgium, Germany, Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Czechoslovakia, Austria, Hungary, Yugoslavia, Switzerland, Italy, Spain, Holland and the United Kingdom and Eire. It is put together in conjunction with director David Alden and designer David Fielding, best known for their avant garde opera productions. "It's going to be more theatrical than the last tour", Neil announced. "We felt that with the last tour there were still elements of a rock concert that we'd like to get rid of". There are no musicians on stage, (though two, guitarists J.J. Belle and keyboard player Scott Davidson, do skulk in the wings), just three singers (Pamela Sheyne, Derek Green and Sylvia Mason-James) and ten dancers (Petee Aloysius, Trevor Henry, Craig Maguire, Catherine Malone, Mark Martin, leon Maurice Jones, Suki Miles, Katie Puckrick, Sarah Toner and Noal Wallace) choreographed by Jacob Marley.

1991 - May The first album by Electronic, 'Electronic' including the collaboration with Neil and Chris, 'The Patience Of A Saint', is finally released on May 27th.

1991 - May 'Jealousy', remodelled to include a real orchestra, is released on May 28th. It is a song that they had actually written nine years ago, in the spring of 1982, and is, quite simply about jealousy. "There's some good lines in there", observes Chris, "like 'you didn't phone when you said you would'. You know when you stay in and they say they're going to phone at eight o'clock and they don't all night and you go absolutely bonkers?" The twelve inch version contains a quote from Shakespeare's tragic study of jealousy, Othello. In the video, shot in a west London car showroom, the Pet Shop Boys stand by as a roomful of dining villains move from jealousy to violence.

1991 - June The third collection of Pet Shop Boys promotional videos, aptly titled 'Promotion', is released on June 3rd and includes videos for all their singles from 'Left To My Own Devices' to 'Jealousy'.

1991 - June In Dublin on June 17th the Pet Shop Boys play the final date of their tour.

1991 - August Neil and Chris are invited to take over Simon Bates' mid-morning show on Radio One, Britain's national pop radio station, for a week. They choose all the records, principally dance music. Chris only swears on air once, and they are invited back to fill the same role in July 1992.

1991 - September The Pet Shop Boys launch their own record label Spaghetti with a single 'Heaven Must Have Sent You Back To Me', by a 21 year old Scottish singer, synthesizer player and songwriter called Cicero. They first met him when he came backstage at the Pet Shop Boys' Glasgow concert in 1989.

1991 - October A single, 'DJ Culture', co-produced by British dance music duo Brothers In Rhythm, is released on October 14th. "It is about how facile and pretentious modern life is", Neil explains, "just as in DJ records everything is sampled to sound authentic, so in a lot of aspects of modern life - for instance in politics - it is almost as though attitudes are sampled. People pretend to sound concerned; everyone pretends that the Gulf War was a real war, and that President Bush or John Major are successful war leaders. In fact they sample the past - the Second World War, or a war movie - and the public also samples their response from wars in the past. The whole thing is sort of fake". In the video Neil and Chris appear in appropriate costumes: as soldiers and doctors; as a referee and a soccer player; as Oscar Wilde and his trial Judge.

1991 - October The Pet Shop Boys play a one off concert at the London Nightclub, Heaven, at a party after the Premiere of Derek Jarman's latest film, 'Edward II' on October 15th. It is a deliberately untheatrical, straight-forward concert, for which they are backed by the three singers from this year's tour, J.J. Belle on guitar and Lawrence Cedar on keyboards. They are introduced by Derek Jarman, and supported by Cicero.

1991 - November 'Discography', a collection of the Pet Shop Boys' hit singles from 'West End Girls' to the forthcoming 'Was It Worth It?', is released on November 4th. Only six of the eighteen songs have previously appeared on an album in their single versions. At the same time a video compilation, 'Videography', is also released.

1991 - December 'Was It Worth It?' is released as a single on December 8th. "It's a reaffirmation of the worth of love" remarks Neil, "an 'I am what I am' sort of song". The video mixes footage from the heaven concert with the Pet Shop Boys amongst a clubland crowd mostly recruited from the London event Kinky Gerlinky.

1992 - February On February 16th an hour-long film about the Pet Shop Boys is broadcast by the TV arts programme The South Bank Show.

1992 - May The Pet Shop Boys play a concert at the Hacienda Nightclub in Manchester on May 13th to coincide with an exhibition of Derek Jarman's paintings at Manchester City Art Gallery and with the Hacienda's tenth anniversary. They perform with J.J. Belle and Sylvia Mason-James. In rehearsals they decide they want to play a suitable cover version and - after tinkering with, then discarding The Beatles' 'Fool On The Hill' - choose the Village People's 1979 hit 'Go West'. The following month, on June 8th, the Pet Shop Boys performed with the same line-up at Roseland in New York, a benefit for Lifebeat, an organization for people in the music business with AIDS.

1992 - June Neil co-writes and sings on a new Electronic single 'Disappointed'. The title came to him when Johnny Marr and Bernard Sumner's backing track reminded him of 'Disenchantee', a song liked by French singer Mylene Farmer. "'Disappointed' is", he says, "sort of a love song, about not being disappointed".

1992 - September Eric Watson's film of the 1991 Performance tour - also titled 'Performance' - is released on video on September 28th. It has been delayed after a copyright wrangle with one of the owners of 'I Can't Take My Eyes Off You', and all traces of that song have been ruthlessly excised.

1992 - October On October 26th, the soundtrack to the Neil Jordan film 'The Crying Game' is released on Spaghetti Records. Earlier in 1992 the Pet Shop Boys had been asked whether they would be interested in helping with songs for the film, at that time titled 'The Soldier's Wife'. After seeing, and loving, a rough edit, they agreed to release the soundtrack on their Spaghetti label, and to contribute songs produced by them and performed by Cicero and Carroll Thompson. At the last moment, it was suggested that they also produce a new version of Dave Berry's 1964 single, 'The Crying Game', with Boy George singing. They had lunch with him, and a week later it was recorded. 'The Crying Game' subsequently became the film's theme tune. It is a British hit single in September 1992 and then, in the Spring of 1993, it became an American hit in the wake of the film's immense American success. "I'm as happy as a sandboy", Boy George will comment, and plans will be hatched for he and the Pet Shop Boys to work together again on his next LP. 1993 - June A single, 'Can You Forgive Her?', is released on June 1st. The song, which takes its title from a novel by Anthony Trollope, "is a sort of a short story. It starts with a man being awake in the night, and he can't get to sleep because he's been made a fool of by his girlfriend, who thinks he's not masculine enough. In the first verse he's embarrassed and annoyed at his girlfriend. In the second one he reveals that the girlfriend thinks he's a complete wimp, even in bed. Then in the third verse he goes back in time to his first sexual experience at school, and you realize that he's gay but can't face up to the fact". For the accompanying photographs and video, the Pet Shop Boys appear in orange body suits and dunces caps designed by David Fielding, who designed the 1991 Performance Tour. "We wanted to do something that is the opposite of what everyone else is doing", Neil explains, "Everyone else is being real", so we're being artificial".

1993 - July The Pet Shop Boys travel to Moscow for the opening of MTV Russia, "We had to cut a log in half", explains Neil, "live on Russian television to officially open it".

1993 - September 'Go West' is released as a single on September 6th. It is the song they originally chose to cover at their Hacienda concert the previous year. "I was at home in my flat", recalls Chris, "playing, as I often do, The Village People's Greatest Hits album and I though 'Go West' would be a good song to play at a Derek Jarman event, a song about an idealistic, gay utopia. And I knew that the way Neil would sing it would make it sound hopeless; you've got these inspiring lyrics but it sounds like it's never going to be achieved". The video, which combines footage filmed in Moscow's Red Square with an oblique tribute to A Matter of Life And Death, finds them in a new set of costumes: Neil in blue, Chris in yellow, and both of them wearing blue-and-yellow domes on their heads.

1993 - September A new Pet Shop Boys album, 'Very', is released on September 27th. It is produced by the Pet Shop Boys, with additional production by Stephen Hague, and is mixed by Stephen Hague and Mike 'Spike' Drake. "It is called Very", says Neil, "because it is Very Pet Shop Boys: It's very up, it's very hi-energy, it's very romantic, it's very sad, it's very pop, it's very danceable, and some of it is very funny...". At the same time as they recorded 'Very', the Pet Shop Boys also recorded six further songs which they describe as "non structured" and which appear as a limited edition accompanying 'Very'. This second album is titled 'Relentless', "because", Neil explains, "it is".

1993 - October On October 24th the Pet Shop Boys appear at the London Palladium as part of The Equality Show, a benefit as part of Stonewall's campaign to equalize the age of consent for gay and heterosexual people in Britain. They are introduced on stage by Boy George and Janet Street-Porter, and perform four songs: 'Can You Forgive Her?', 'To Speak Is A Sin', 'One In A Million' (incorporating Culture Beat's 'Mr. Vain') and 'Go West'. For the final song they are joined by the London Gay Men's Choir.

1993 - November On November 4th, 'Pet Shop Boys versus America', a book detailing their 1991 tour, written by Chris Heath with photographs by Pennie Smith, is published.

1993 - November 'I Wouldn't Normally Do This Kind Of Thing' is released as a single on November 15th. The single version, remixed by the Beatmasters, is radically different to the album version: longer, more epic and more upbeat. In the accompanying videos they wear new costumes (pink and white for Chris, pink and black for Neil) and sixties wigs, and they do things they wouldn't normally do. "The song itself", says Neil, "is about a reserved Englishman falling in love and going bonkers. He decides he couldn't care less anymore, and throws caution to the wind. It's a funny song, but it's sincere. I'm so bored with people seeing us as ironic that I'm quite keen on being sincere at the moment".

1993 - December A video is released of all the films Derek Jarman has made as backdrops to live Pet Shop Boys performances, both for their 1989 tour and their 1993 Hacienda performance. It is called 'Projections'.

1994 - February On February 14th the Pet Shop Boys appear at the Brit Awards, performing 'Go West' dressed as miners, backed by a Welsh choir, an idea which they had originally conceived for the 1992 Royal Variety Show as a protest against a wave of coal pit closures.

1994 - April On April 4th 'Liberation' is released as a single. "The song", says Neil, "is trying to reconcile the idea in a relationship that you are liberated, because you feel fabulous because of the love, with the idea that you also feel constricted and obligated. It's one of my 'live for today' songs". In the video, the fourth of their computer enhanced collaborations with director Howard Greenhaugh, the Pet Shop Boys appear almost entirely as computer generated entities. During April a virtual reality ride based around the video tours Britain's major cities.

1994 - May On May 31st, a single 'Absolutely Fabulous' (the artist's name, too, is nominally Absolutely Fabulous) is released. It features snippets of dialogue spoken by Jennifer Saunders and Joanna Lumley, from the TV series Absolutely Fabulous, set to a Pet Shop Boys euro-disco backing track (Jennifer Saunders also went into the studio to add some further irreverent chatter, such as "techno, techno bloody techno" and "it's the bloody Pet Shop Boys sweetie"). "We had the idea because we liked the programme so much", says Neil. "We thought it would make a funny record, and we quite fancied meeting them". The record's profits are donated to the British Charity Comic Relief. "I know some people are horrified that we did a charity record", says Neil, "but it just seemed a way of dealing with it. It made it simple, because we did the record for fun, not as a major artistic statement".

1994 - June The first ever mix the Pet Shop Boys have done of another artist's record - Blur's 'Girls and Boys' - is released. (In Britain it appears on Blur's 'To The End' single; in some other countries it is released in it's own right). They did it because they thought it would be fun. "And", says Chris, "we thought it could be more of a dance track".

1994 - August 'Yesterday When I Was Mad' is released as a single on August 29th, in a new version remixed by the Pet Shop Boys and Julian Mendelsohn. "I started the words on the last tour", remembers Neil, "on the tour bus when I was in a bad mood, and it was just about the kind of things people say to you after the show. On tour it's very difficult to believe in anyone's sincerity. You get quite a lot of damning with faint praise, and it struck me it would be quite a funny idea for a song just to have lots of bitchy remarks which drive you mad. I don't think anyone's actually ever said to us 'you've made such a little go a very long way', but we do tend to get patronizing reviews. As for the competition winners, hotel rooms and arguing about dinner, see 'Pet Shop Boys versus America'.

1994 - September On September 12th, the Pet Shop Boys released 'Disco 2', a mid-priced sequel to their 1986 dance album 'Disco'. Edited together by London DJ Danny Rampling, it is a continuous mix of dance versions of their six most recent singles (including 'Absolutely Fabulous') and also incorporates 'So Hard' and the celebrated B-side of 'Being Boring', 'We All Feel Better In The Dark'. "It's really good for driving to, and getting ready to go out to", says Chris.

1994 - October On October 26th the Pet Shop Boys begin their 1994 tour, 'Discovery', in Singapore. Over the next six weeks they play concerts in Australia, Puerto Rico, Mexico, Columbia, Chile, Argentina and Brazil. The tour is inspired by a trip Chris made to Brazil in the summer, and by a July visit the Pet Shop Boys made to the Sound Factory in New York where they saw go-go dancers cavorting to the music, covered only by flimsy American flags, whilst live percussionists played along to the records. The performers include four dancers (Flavio Cecchetto, Mirelle Diax, Paulo Henrique and Nicole Nisiotis), two percussionists (Liliana Chachian and Oli Saville), an additional singer (Katie Kissoon) and their regular in-studio programmer, Pete Gleadall, who also plays guitar on 'Suburbia'. As well as a selection of Pet Shop Boys songs from throughout their career, they play Blur's 'Girls and Boys'. By the end of the tour there are four medleys: as well as 'Where The Streets Have No Name (I Can't Take My Eyes Off You)', 'One In A Million' incorporates 'Mr. Vain', 'It's a Sin' merges with Gloria Gaynor's 'I Will Survive' and 'Left To My Own Devices' contains an extract of the song which becomes the tour's unofficial theme: Corona's 'The Rhythm Of The Night'. "We're much more free spirited on this tour", Chris announces beforehand. "We do what we want. We party on down. It's not a totally choreographed, staged and rehearsed show. I suppose it is more rock 'n' roll in its attitude. You get to express yourself. And take your clothes off". The final date is in Sao Paulo, Brazil, on December 12th.

1995 - March On March 6th, 'Various', a collection of the Pet Shop Boys' most recent videos, is released.

1995 - July On July 31st, the Pet Shop Boys release 'Paninaro '95', a new version of the song they first recorded in 1986. It is based upon the new arrangement Chris performed on the 'Discovery' tour, and Chris' new, updated lyrics.

1995 - August On August 7th an album of Pet Shop Boys B-sides is released. It is called 'Alternative' (a last minute change from the title which had always been saved for this record: 'Besides'). It contains thirty songs in chronological order from 'In The Night' to 'Some Speculation', and the first copies of the CD and album have a hologram on the cover which shifts between two photographs, one of Neil, one of Chris, both in fencing masks. "They're some of our favourite songs", Neil explains, "and it just seemed like a nice idea to have them in one place". On the same day, 'Discovery', a video of the Pet Shop Boys performing live in Rio de Janeiro, is released.

1995 - December On December 19th the Pet Shop Boys record a two hour radio programme, Merry Pet Shop Boys, for Radio One to broadcast on Christmas Eve. They play their favourite records from the previous year, beginning with Livin' Joy's 'Dreamer' and ending with the Sleaze Sisters with Vicki's 'Let's Whip It Up', and including songs by Edwyn Collins, Grace, The Original, The Passengers, Dubstar, Gusto, Billie Ray Martin, and two by Oasis. During the recording they drink champagne, and eat twiglets and crisps. Neil leaves the band once, and Chris explains to a Radio One producer why he likes the records that he likes: "It's like art. You like it because you like it. You don't know why. I I like any song with the word 'love' in it. I like any record with love in it because, as far as I'm concerned, right, love's the only thing that matters".

1996 - February 'Hallo Spaceboy', a David Bowie song produced by the Pet Shop Boys, is released on February 19th. The previous November Neil saw David Bowie perform at Wembley Arena and, backstage, met him for the first time: "He was very friendly, and we were talking about his album 'Outside' and I said that the track I liked best was 'Hallo Spaceboy'. I asked him why it hadn't been released as a single and he said - jokingly I thought - "oh, you guys should remix it for a single". And then a week later he phoned me at home". The Pet Shop Boys effectively re-recorded the song, slowing it down, restructuring it to create a chorus, and using only a Brian Eno synthesizer line and some of David Bowie's vocals. There weren't enough words for a second verse so Neil made one up by cutting up the lyrics to David Bowie's 'Space Oddity'. "Then we phoned him up and told him we'd done that", Neil recalls, "and I think he thought it was a bit cheeky, but then he came into the studio and he really liked it. When he hears the song he seems to smile. What I liked about it is that it restates his major themes of a) space and b) sexual confusion. They seem somehow appropriate again". On the day the single is released the Pet Shop Boys perform the song with David Bowie at the Brit Awards.

1996 - April Tina Turner's new album, 'Wildest Dreams' - released on April 2nd - contains a song, 'Confidential', written and co-produced by the Pet Shop Boys. On April 22nd 'Before' is released as a single. "It's a love song", says Neil. "It's about someone I know. It's a song of encouragement".

1996 - August 'Se a Vida É (That's The Way Life Is)' is released as a single on August 12th. On December 12th, 1994, during the 'Discovery' tour, Neil bought some Brazilian CD's at a record shop in Sao Paulo. Playing one of them - 'Filhos Do Sol' by Olodum - back in London, he was struck by the part of the song 'Estrada Da Paixao' which went 'Se a Vida É...' That became the basis of a new Pet Shop Boys song. "Having mistranslated the phrase as 'that's the way life is' it means something like 'if life is' in Brazilian Portuguese dialect - I was thinking what the lyric was going to be about", says Neil, "and a friend of mine at the time of writing this was very depressed about various things in his life, sitting around being miserable about the fact that his life is taking the wrong direction, and the lyric was trying to cheer him up. And it did, in fact. I thought about the line 'life is much more simple when you're young', a lot. Chris, of course maintains that life is more complicated when you're young, and I sort of agreed with him for a while and I thought of changing it, but what I meant is that you see life as either black or white, you don't see the shading so much, so things appear totally depressing or totally wonderful". A video for the song was filmed much earlier in the year; a wet, sensual romp shot at Wet 'n' Wild theme park in Orlando, Florida, on January 21st. It is directed by Bruce Weber, only the second pop video he has ever made. 1996 - September On September 2nd, the Pet Shop Boys release their new album, 'Bilingual'. Written and recorded over the previous two years, it was initially planned as some kind of Latin record. Although there are many Latin moments on the finished album (rhythmically, linguistically and emotionally), as time passed this idea provided more an attitude and an orientation than a strict musical blueprint. "Another reason for doing the album like this", says Neil, "was as a reaction against Britpop. We like being part of Europe; we are a very international group and we like that fact". 1996 - November On November 11th, 'Single-Bilingual' is released as a single. (It has a different title to the album version because Everything But The Girl have just released a single called 'Single'). "The narrator is a very glib Euro businessman, a glib Eurocrat who flies business class and likes all his privileges", says Neil. "He tries to pick up chicks at meet 'n' greets. Bet he's not really communicating, and he knows it. In actual fact he's a hopeless wreck. That's why it ends with a reprise of 'Discoteca'. He could be literally going to a club, but it's also saying he's a lost and frightened person". These themes are played out in superficially comic video filmed at Stansted airport. "That is", comments Chris, "what Neil is really like. It brings out Neil's true humour. He's not acting. Behind that sombre facade, that's what's there. Personality." To promote the single, the Pet Shop Boys make a rare semi-live TV appearance, performing two songs and being interviewed by Chris Evans on TFI Friday. During the interview Chris is given a straw donkey.

1996 - December A two-part radio documentary, About The Pet Shop Boys, is broadcast on BBC Radio One on December 8th & 15th. Made with their co-operation, it features them at home, in the recording studio, watching TV, eating meals, discussing business and so on. It also includes interviews with many of their collaborators over the years, and snatches of music from their first demos to new, unreleased songs. "I was having dinner round my brother's house when that was on", says Chris, "and I slid off the chair and ended up listening to it under the table in Michael Jackson fashion, I was so embarrassed by it". Neil also appeared onstage with Suede at the Roundhouse on December 15th. He sang 'Saturday Night' as a duet with Brett Anderson, and then sang 'Rent' alone backed by the rest of Suede. Chris was in the audience. The tracks would later be released on the CD2 of Suede's 'Filmstar' single in July of '97.

1997 - March On March 17th, 'A Red Letter Day' is released as a single. It was a song which began when the Pet Shop Boys were experimenting with taking the chord changes from famous pieces of classical music (in this case Beethoven's Song Of Joy) and putting them to a 4/4 beat, and it features the choir of the Choral Academy of Moscow. "It's about waiting for someone to tell you they love you", says Neil. The seven-inch version is a new mix, using elements from a Motiv 8 remix of the song, and the Pet Shop Boys are also particularly taken with the hypnotic 'Trouser Enthusiasts Autoerotic Decapitation mix'.

1997 - June On June 4th, the Pet Shop Boys begin a residency, 'Somewhere', at London's Savoy Theatre, staged in collaboration with the artist Sam Taylor-Wood. On June 23rd they release a new single, a version of 'Somewhere' from West Side Story. "Because we like it", Neil explains. It reached #9 in the UK charts.

1997 - June On June 27 the Pet Shop Boys play their first ever festival show, headlining the Roskilde festival in Denmark. "We're playing fifteen hit singles and one obscure song." Neil tells the press beforehand. "We're not taking any chances," Chris explains. After a fairly triumphant reception, Chris says, "We didn't look too keen, did we? It's easy to get carried away at moments like that and do things you regret later." Two days later they play at another festival in Turku, Finland. During "Go West" a preposterously large ship comes up the river, alongside the stage, as though choreographed.

1997 - June On June 23 the Pet Shop Boys release a new single, a version of "Somewhere" from West Side Story. "Because we like it," Neil explains.

1997 - July The Pet Shop Boys agree to headline Gay Pride, an all-day celebration on Clapham Common in London on July 5th. They perform 'Somewhere', 'It's A Sin', and 'Go West' to a sea of people, as far as you can see, their arms in the air.

1997 - July A new version of 'Bilingual' is released on July 7th titled 'Bilingual Special Edition'. It features a bonus CD containing 7 remixed tracks, including the extended version of 'Somewhere' and a previously unavailable mix of 'The Boy Who Couldn't Keep His Clothes On'.

1997 - August On August 16 the Pet Shop Boys headline the final night of the Stockholm Water Festival in Sweden. The stage is on a man-made island floating on water, which sways noticeable as they perform.

1997 - September On September 14 the Pet Shop Boys appear on the TV programme 'An Audience With Elton John' performing with Elton John an arrangement of theirs which melds together two of his songs, "Believe" and "Song For Guy".

1997 - October On October 26 the Pet Shop Boys headline Stonewall's Equality Show at London's Royal Albert Hall, having agreed to do so at the last minute. Before finishing with a hastily arranged version of Tom Jones' "It's Not Unusual", they played a medly which included "Sixteen Gon On Seventeen" (from The Sound Of Music), "Being Boring", "Climb Every Mountain" (also from The Sound Of Music) and "Go West", "It was our greatest moment," Chris declares. "Our finest hour."

1997 - November On November 24 a longform video, Somewhere: Pet Shop Boys in Concert, is released. Directed by Annie Griffin, it comprises of a half-hour documentary about the staging of the Somewhere show followed by a film of most of the show itself.

1997 - December For their Fan Club, the Pet Shop Boys record a Christmas song, "It doesn't often snow at Christmas" and send it in silver bubble-wrap casing as their Christmas card. "Originally I was trying to do this pretentious Christmas-y music thing," Neil says, "but then I said, 'maybe we should do something really corny…" Though not released it is played several times on Radio One before Christmas.

1998 - February On February 28 the Pet Shop Boys begin a short, four-concert Russian tour, visiting Moscow and St. Petersburg, inspired by their visit to St. Petersburg to see Brian Eno the previous summer. In Moscow they perform twice in one night, once in a large arena then later in the middle of an over-crowded nightclub. The local media ask them whether they speak Russian, "We're very good at saying 'nyet'," they explain.

1998 - March On March 31st, EMI Records in the USA releases a compilation of early Pet Shop Boys songs, 'The Essential Pet Shop Boys', in a limited edition run of only 6 months. Very few initial promo copies of the CD are titled 'Early', making it a highly collectable item.

1998 - April On April 13, Twentieth Century Blues: The Songs of Noel Coward is released. It is an album of Noel Coward songs covered by contemporary musicians, co-compiled by Neil, who has been working on it for the past eighteen months. He has loved Noel Coward's music since he first heard it in about 1970. "I think as a songwriter he's slightly underrated," Neil says, "simply because his plays are so famous, and people forget." The Pet Shop Boys do a version of "Sail Away", and amongst the other interpreters are Elton John, Paul McCartney, Suede, Robbie Williams and the Divine Comedy. "We tried to choose artists," Neil explains, "who somehow seem to be in the Noel Coward tradition of wit, theatrically and style." To promote the album, Neil appeared along on TFI Friday where he sang along with a busker playing Pet Shop Boys songs on an acoustic guitar.

1998 - June At the request of their former American record company, the Pet Shop Boys agreed to the release of 'Essential Pet Shop Boys', a compilation of early Pet Shop Boys songs recorded between 1985 - 1990, including a number of rare remixes. It is only available in America.

1998 - November At the behest of director Gus Van Sant, the Pet Shop Boys wrote a new song, with Tom Stephan, at extremely short notice for the soundtrack of Van Sant's remake of 'Psycho'. It is called "Screaming". "It's about an obsessive fan, written from the obsessive fan's point of view," Neil says. "Or actually just by someone obsessed with someone who doesn't love them."

1999 - June In June, the Pet Shop Boys announce the initial stages of their world tour in eight years. After a one-off show headlining the dance festival Creamfields on August 28, the tour will begin in America in the second half of October and will visit the US, Germany, the Czech Republic, Britain and Eire before Christmas. The set and show will be designed by the celebrated architect Zaha Hadid, who they have asked to design a show with modular structure which could fit in venues of different sizes. "She came up with the idea of having a structure that actually changes during the course of the show itself, and the backing singers we have actually are involved in making the set changes.

1999 - July On July 19, the Pet Shop Boys release a new single, "I don't know what you want but I can't give it anymore", recorded in New York that March and co-produced by David Morales. "It's about the end of a relationship between two people," says Neil, "Where they are no longer communicating. They don't understand each other." Chris offers his own, perhaps not entirely accurate, interpretation. "It's about someone being a bit demanding," he suggests. "Not doing the washing up and stuff." In its video they are seen being transformed into their new look, developed with the theatre designer Ian McNeil, whose work they have admired on productions of An Inspector Calls and Machinale. They have decided that as the songs on their new album were less personal - "the lyrics are not necessarily reflections of me, Neil Tennant," Neil says - they will now appear less naturalistic. This new appearance is partly inspired by a picture they saw in a magazine of Japanese men wearing samurai trousers. "We didn't want the look to be just fashion, we wanted something that had an element of ritual in it," they explain. "We just talked through ideas and we came up with a slightly samurai based look. I like the way it has a slightly ceremonial look about it. It makes you feel very different when you're wearing it, and sometimes when you're performing its good to feel bigger, or different, then yourself. And, also, it makes people look at you."

1999 - October On October 11, the Pet Shop Boys release their new album, Nightlife, which includes twelve new songs. The songs are variously produced by Craig Armstrong, Rollo, David Morales and the Pet Shop Boys themselves. On one song, "In denial", Neil duets with Kylie Minogue. "In terms of its theme, the album reminds me in some ways of one of those Frank Sinatra albums from the Fifties like In The Wee Small Hours Of The Morning." Neil says. "It's sort of modern pop-dance version of one of those, really, where a lot of the songs are about relationships, or waiting for your lover to come and see you, or wondering why something went wrong and a lot of it seems to happen at night, when people's perceptions of life are different. In the middle of the night things seem more exaggerated - something bad seems worse, something good seems better. The album begins with 'For your own good', and in that song, it's not really Neil Tennant singing it but a woman whose lover is out getting wrecked every night. She's at home, waiting for her loved one to come and see her. On the final song, 'Footsteps', the lover hasn't returned. He obviously did go clubbing. Again. The woman is at home, waiting, and the guy is in the club. And the record is on both sides. It understands both points of view."

1999 - October On October 20 the Nightlife tour, during which the Pet Shop Boys will visit America, Canada, Germany, the Czech Republic, the United Kingdom, Spain, Switzerland, Austria, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Belgium and France, opens in Miami at the Jackie Gleason Theater of the Performing Arts. The remarkable and innovative stage set and design is by the architect Zaha Hadid, who they have asked to design a show with modular structure that could fit in venues of different sizes; the costumes are by Ian MacNeil; the lighting design is by Marc Brickman. Onstage they have four male backing singers and Sylvia Mason-James, and on “What have I done to deserve this?” Neil is joined by the disembodied voice of Dusty Springfield whose image is projected onto the back of the stage. For the first half of the show they wear their longer wigs; for the second half, short ones.

2000 – January On January 4 the Pet Shop Boys release a new single, “You only tell me you love me when you’re drunk”. “I think it’s a sentiment a lot of people can relate to,” says Neil. “It’s not necessarily a bad thing. I think sometimes it only occurs to some people to say that when their guard is down, when they’re drunk. It was inspired by something in my life years ago. Parts of my brain are normally looking for song ideas at any given time and will pluck things out of an emotional turmoil and sort them away, and this is an example of that. In the song, the person singing is wondering whether the other person is really in love with them. In the song, as in life, the answer is left hanging.” One of the CD bonus tracks, “Lies”, features a rare Chris Lowe vocal.

2000 – February On February 12 the Nightlife tour ends in Mannheim, Germany.

2000 – February At the request of their Japanese record company, the Pet Shop Boys release Mini Pet Shop Boys, an eight track CD which included “Closer to Heaven”, a remix of “New York City boy” and six songs released elsewhere as bonus tracks on CD singles.

2000 – April On April 29 the Pet Shop Boys appear at an anti-hate crimes benefit concert called Equality Rocks in Washington DC, USA, on a bill including George Michael, Garth Brooks, k d lang, Chaka Khan, Ellen Degeneres and Melissa Etheridge. Melissa Etheridge joined the Pet Shop Boys onstage to sing the Dusty Springfield part in “What have I done to deserve this?” and the Pet Shop Boys also played a cover of an old disco tune by Modern Rocketry called “Homosexuality”.

2000 – May On May 25, at the Ivor Novello awards in London, the Pet Shop Boys receive the award for Outstanding Contribution to British Music. Elton John presents the award. “Neil and Chris’s songs I think are incredibly underrated,” he says. “The ability to write great personal lyrics with great melodies is a very hard task.”

2000 – May The Pet Shop Boys’ first musical, Closer to Heaven, a collaboration with playwright Jonathan Harvey, is privately workshopped for three weeks in London. The results are encouraging but over the next few months the musical’s plot and structure is radically reworked; Neil and Chris write a number of new songs.

2000 – June On June 1, in Jerusalem, Israel, the Pet Shop Boys summer tour begins. It will take them through parts of the former Soviet Union (Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia and the Ukraine), to Japan, and back to Europe where they are due to play at various summer festivals. They have kept some elements from the Nightlife tour, but have a new set more suitable to festival appearances, with a giant screen behind them which shows a mixture of newly-commissioned and old footage. Onstage, Neil dances for the first time. “Though nobody seems to have noticed,” he says.

2000 – June On June 24 the Pet Shop Boys perform for the first time at the Glastonbury festival in England. The sun sets while they are onstage, and Catatonia’s Cerys Matthews takes the part of Dusty Springfield in “What have I done to deserve this?”.

2000 – July On July 21 the Pet Shop Boys tour finishes at the Dr Music festival near Oviedo in North-West Spain where they follow Beck onstage. Earlier that month they have refused to perform at the Roskilde festival, despite pressure to do so, after nine people in the audience die the night before during Pearl Jam’s set.

2001 – May On May 31 the Pet Shop Boys’ first musical, Closer to Heaven, opens at the Arts Theatre in London. (Preview performances have been running since May 15.) They had first mentioned their ambition to write stage musicals in a Smash Hits interview in 1986, and had been considering it seriously for the past decade. “We wanted to write something that wasn’t Les Mis or Rent,” says Chris. “A play about contemporary life with contemporary music that was not long and boring.” In 1996 they had started writing what became Closer to Heaven with Jonathan Harvey, learning as they went. “The closer we got to finishing,” says Chris, “the more we realised how important it is that there are no extraneous, meaningless bits. Even though it’s a song, the lyrics are also dialogue.” Closer to Heaven is set in a nightclub – “we know about nightclubs,” says Neil - and revolves around the stories of a young Irishman, Straight Dave, apparently cocky but struggling with his sexuality and his dreams of being a pop star, and of a nightclub hostess Billie Trix whose years of great beauty and success have long passed. “We haven't set out to do a big West End musical,” says Neil. “It's an attempt to do something new.” There is some early validation from Elton John who, after the opening night, tells the Evening Standard that “the comfortable world of the West End musical has been blown apart.”

2001 – June On June 6 the Pet Shop Boys release deluxe new versions of their first six albums: Please, Actually, Introspective, Behaviour, Very and Bilingual. All the music on them has been remastered (a fairly long process in itself, overseen largely by Neil) and each is reissued with an extra Further Listening CD of all the relevant other music recorded by the Pet Shop Boys in the same period, including a number of previously-unreleased recordings. Each now comes in a cardboard slipcase with a new 36 page booklet in which the Pet Shop Boys discuss in detail every single song.

2001 – October On October 6, the Closer to Heaven cast album is released, containing fifteen songs written by the Pet Shop Boys and, aside from two instrumentals, sung by the original Closer to Heaven cast. (Only three of the songs have previously been recorded by the Pet Shop Boys, all in very different versions.) The album is produced by Stephen Hague and the Pet Shop Boys. It does not include, however, the rarest of all Pet Shop Boys and Closer to Heaven-associated releases, a CD single only available in the theatre foyer by the character Billie Trix (played by Frances Barber), combining her original 1971 hit “Run Girl Run” with her 1981 re-recording of the same song.

2001 – October On October 13, after playing for nearly five months to considerable acclaim, the curtain closes for the last time on Closer to Heaven’s London run.

2001 – November On November 12 Montage, a DVD based around the Nightlife tour, is released. Instead of a straightforward document of the tour, the DVD intertwines and interweaves footage shot in Dortmund, New York and Atlanta and web cast footage with background footage from both the Nightlife and summer 2000 tours.

2001 – December During some recording with New York dance music producer Peter Rauhofer in May 2000, he persuaded Neil, who was initially reluctant, to record a vocal over a new version of Raze’s house anthem “Break 4 Love”. “One of your best vocal performances for a long time,” comments Chris. In December 2001 the result is released in America under the name: Peter Rauhofer + Pet Shop Boys = The Collaboration.

2002 – February On February 6 the Pet Shop Boys begin a brief tour of English colleges. “We’d never done it before so I thought it would be a laugh,” says Chris. “The original idea was based on Paul McCartney and Wings just upping off and playing universities during the lunch break and stuff. It just seemed like a nice way to play lots of songs off the new album. And also to get a band together.” Neil plays guitar, Chris plays keyboards are there are two other guitarists and a percussionist onstage. “It was really good having a band – noisy,” says Chris. “It was quite interesting because the Pet Shop Boys have never presented themselves as being musicians before on stage, with the exception of when we played at the ICA in 1984,” says Neil. “We’ve always presented ourselves within a visual context on stage, which has been what we’ve become well-known for, and all of a sudden we thought it would be quite interesting to present ourselves as musicians.” At one concert, in Middlesborough, they encore with a version of Eddie and the Hot Rods’ “Do Anything You Wanna Do”. The tour is completed by a one-off date in Cologne, Germany, on February 16.

2002 – March On March 16 the Pet Shop Boys record a live concert for BBC Radio 2 at the BBC Radio Theatre in London, with their live band, playing a shortened version of their college tour set.

2002 - March On March 18 a new Pet Shop Boys single, “Home and dry”, is released. “I liked the fact that it was a massive departure from anything we’d done before,” says Chris. The song, says Neil, is “about someone missing their lover who’s away. It’s also about fear of flying. About knowing that someone’s flying across the Atlantic at night. I always think it’s a very lonely place to be: flying across the Atlantic at night.” The song is accompanied by a somewhat unusual and controversial video made by the photographer and Turner Prize-winning artists Wolfgang Tillmans in which a little footage of the Pet Shop Boys performing the song is combined with shots of mice running around beneath the rails at Tottenham Court Road tube station in London.

2002 – April On April 1 a new Pet Shop Boys album, Release, is released. When they had began working on the album back in 2000, the Pet Shop Boys’ vague plan was to make a hip hop-influenced album, and to this end they even met with one of Dr Dre’s collaborators, but as they wrote songs over the following year they realised it was becoming something very different: a record full of emotional songs, with more guitars and fewer dance influences then ever before. “It was very liberating,” says Chris. “It gave us a lot more freedom to experiment.” They decided to produce the record themselves (with the exception of “London” which, perversely, was recorded in Berlin with German producer Chris Zippel) in their studio in the North-East of England, which had its own influence on the record. “Up there, we didn’t really feel like we were in