First, what’s missing. I’m not including Hallo Spaceboy or She’s Madonna in this list as they were other people featuring the Pet Shop Boys. I’m not including Integral or London because although they charted in the (VERY lower reaches of) UK singles charts I don’t consider that they were ever meant to be “official” singles (at least in the UK). Similarly I’m not including Absolutely Fabulous because it’s never on any “hits” compilations and wasn’t released under their own name anyway! (The named artists were “Absolutely Fabulous”). For reference I’m also only counting one version of Opportunities!
I have included How Can You Expect To Be Taken Seriously as that was a double-A side with Where The Streets… so the fact that it was left off Discography and/or Pop Art doesn’t matter to me. As the Christmas EP was released as a single and charted as such I’ve taken All Over The World as the “single” because it was the one song on that they shot a video for, and the song was given to radio stations as the one to play (although It Doesn’t Often Snow at Christmas was also delivered for air play around the Christmas period I don’t count that and it’s my list so it’s my rules!).
So what we have here are the 44 (or, if you prefer 42 plus one double-A side) singles that the Pet Shop Boys have had in the UK, that I count as proper singles, ranked in reverse order of my preference. I know, as I’ve said above that there are arguments for including other songs but it’s my list . (I did think about adding all those mentioned above and finding something to make it into a top 50, but I didn’t). I’m also sure a few of you with any knowledge of Pet Shop Boys might well disagree with my listings, but that’s half the fun isn’t it?
44) Was It Worth It (UK Singles Chart Peak – 24)
I’ve just never really liked this song as much as I think I should like a Pet Shop Boys single. In a way it bridges the gap between the really rather serious and thoughtful Behaviour era and the out-and-out Pop of Very but doesn’t really capture me in either way. As with every song on this list I would listen to it , but I rarely fire it up on my MP3 player and it NEVER makes it onto any PSB related CD I burn.
43) I Get Along (UK Singles Chart Peak – 18)
Release is probably my least favourite PSB album/era. I Get Along is one of the better songs on Release so it’s position here at number 43 in my singles list tells it’s own story. The thinly-veiled New Labour fuelled lyrics are interesting initially but lose their sparkle over time. Given it’s “political” nature this would probably have fitted better as a b-side. (Though really, other than the leading single from the album – which we’ll get to later – I can’t see what else could have made a better single from the album, other than perhaps “Here”).
42) Numb (UK Singles Chart Peak – 25)
I didn’t think that the Boys doing a Diane Warren (numerous tear-jerking ballads on her résumé) number would work when I first heard about it and I don’t think it does in the execution either. Another one that I think works fine as an album track (or would be a fine b-side) but that doesn’t really pack the requisite punch as a single.
41) Somewhere (UK Singles Chart Peak – 9)
The lowest ranked Top 10 single in my list, this just seemed wrong on many different levels. I can see the “point” of doing it (coming as it did when PSB were doing a limited West End run of concerts) and as a nod and a wink to the surroundings during the live show it would have been fine. But let’s face it, it’s camp nonsense that brings nothing new to the song.
40) A Red Letter Day (UK Singles Chart Peak – 9)
It’s not an offensive song by any means I just think it’s rather “bland” by the terms of reference of this list and it has one of the worst music video’s in the PSB canon. It hasn’t aged well at all either; it’s definitely a child of the mid 1990s.
39) It’s Alright (UK Singles Chart Peak – 5)
Probably the most “famous” of the Pet Shop Boys singles that I “don’t like” all that much, It’s Alright is just one of those songs that I never find myself choosing to listen to when I’m in one of my (frequent) listen to PSB modes. I know it’s a cover version but lyrically it just doesn’t work for me and it’s always struck me as slightly incongruous that Neil and Chris rail against the likes of Sting telling us what to do with the environment and stuff and then release this song about forests dying and all that.
38) New York City Boy (UK Singles Chart Peak – 14)
Apparently the BBC wouldn’t let them perform this track on the National Lottery show as it was “too gay”. It’s certainly up there on the “camp” scale of things. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing (see Go West), by any means, but I’ve never really been in love with this song at all. It’s insanely popular at live shows I’ve been to though, so what do I know?
37) DJ Culture (UK Singles Chart Peak – 13)
Ah the perils of writing “hits” that can be tagged onto Greatest Hits compilations. They didn’t crack that particular conundrum with the Discography extra tracks as far as I’m concerned. This is another one of those that I never really listen to by “choice” (only happening upon it from time to time thanks to the wonders of “shuffle” on the MP3 player).
36) Together (UK Singles Chart Peak – 58)
See DJ Culture above! I’m not surprised this failed to even reach the top 40. If, as the Boys say, there was no pressure on them from the record label to add a new song to the Ultimate release but that they were so excited by this that they wanted to release it I’m not entirely sure what they were talking about. I do like it, but as a single in 2011 it was always doomed to fail.
35) Yesterday When I Was Mad (UK Singles Chart Peak – 13)
I actually prefer the album version of this (from Very) and I think the single remix loses a bit of oomph in comparison. It’s delightfully funny though in either incarnation (especially if you’ve read their two “on tour” diaries, Literally and Pet Shop Boys Versus America).
34) You Only Tell Me You Love Me When You’re Drunk (UK Singles Chart Peak – 8)
A surprising top 10 hit the time (although it largely got there due to the tactic of releasing it in the quiet January weeks of the new year if I remember correctly), there’s an rather uplifting simplicity to this and although it could be seen as a lament against an inadequate lover I actually think of it as more of a sweet rebuke against someone. I certainly imagine that the person singing it is in love with this person. It’s kind of like a sitcom romance where the warring couple spend each episode arguing with each other but they’re still there next week, together.
33) Single Bilingual (UK Singles Chart Peak – 14)
One of the funniest music video’s the Boys have done accompanies this thumping track. I absolutely love the She-Boom drumming on this and although it’s lyrical themes (European Businessman) have dated and lost a bit of relevance in some ways I still enjoy this track.
32) Home & Dry (UK Singles Chart Peak – 14)
As said previously, the Release era would have to go down as my least favourite PSB time, but this is still a very strong track. It’s a simple lyric of waiting to welcome home a travelling partner and is probably one of the most straightforward “sweet” lyrics in their collection.
31) Miracles (UK Singles Chart Peak – 10)
Ok so it is, despite what they might insist, pretty much Madonna’s “Frozen” musically but I do like it.