Pet Shop Boys’ 12 Greatest Collaborations, From Dusty And Liza To Madonna And Lady Gaga
Despite their trademark deadpan demeanor and often sardonic song titles (“Love Is A Bourgeois Construct,” anyone?), the Pet Shop Boys have always been about caring and sharing. After all, some of their biggest hits have been in collaboration with other acts (Dusty Springfield, Liza Minnelli) and they’ve never shied away from giving some of their best work to other people. Madonna, Lady Gaga, Tina Turner, Girls Aloud, Robbie Williams and Shirley Bassey are just a few of the icons who’ve had the pleasure and success of working alongside the PSBs, and now we can add UK singer/rapper Example to that list. His guest appearance on Electric, the pair’s 12th album (out today), is already being hailed as a highlight of the Stuart Price-produced set, and a contender for a future single.
So as we sink our teeth into another disco opus from England’s most prolific duo, let’s have a look back at the best-of-the-best of their musical pairings, team-ups and remixes. They really have worked with everyone — so many that we left out big names like Elton John and Yoko Ono (and even Alcazar) and still ended up with a dozen definitive titles. Check them out, then let us know which Pet Shop Boys collaborations you think should be on this list.
Dusty Springfield, “What Have I Done To Deserve This?” & Reputation
There’s no better way to kick off this list than with the Pet Shop Boys’ biggest hit collaborator, ’60s soulstress Dusty Springfield, with whom they netted the worldwide late-’80s hit “What Have I Done to Deserve This?” This success inspired further collaboration on Dusty’s 1990 album, Reputation, which spawned additional hit singles “In Private” and “Nothing Has Been Proved” for the diva. The set also features some great “lost” moments from Neil and Chris, including the trancey “Occupy Your Mind.” From Dusty in Memphis to Dusty at the rave…
Liza Minnelli, Results
What more can be said about the Pet Shop Boys’ work with the legendary Liza with a Z? The quirky combo scored a Top 10 UK hit with a cover of Stephen Sondheim’s Follies showstopper “Losing My Mind,” quickly followed by a 1989 album as epic and satisfying as anything the Boys have ever produced. For our money, the hidden gem is “Don’t Drop Bombs” and its loony, MGM-on-a-budget video.
Eighth Wonder, “I’m Not Scared”
Before she was married to such rockers as Oasis‘ Liam Gallagher and Simple Minds‘ Jim Kerr, British actress Patsy Kensit fronted the pop act Eighth Wonder. Their sole UK Top 10 hit, 1988’s “I’m Not Scared,” was written and produced by Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe of Pet Shop Boys. Saucy Patsy even does a talking ad-lib bit in the middle where she speaks in French…the minx!
Pet Shop Boys later recorded their own version of “I’m Not Scared” for their album Introspective.
Electronic, “Getting Away With It” & “Disappointed”
For a moment in pop history, Electronic was the most exciting pop-dance collective to come out of England. The musical side project was mainly fronted by New Order‘s Bernard Sumner and The Smiths‘ Johnny Marr, though Neil Tennant contributed vocals to the act’s debut single, 1989’s “Getting Away With It.” Neil later took lead vocal duty on 1991 album track “The Patience Of A Saint,” plus what is arguably the best Electronic recording, 1992 one-off single “Disappointed.”
Brad Pitt aficionados may recall “Disappointed” from its inclusion the soundtrack to box office dud Cool World.
Cicero, “Live For Today”
“Live For Today,” much like Scotsman (by way of Long Island) David Cicero, might be all but forgotten in the grand scheme of all things pop, but that’s what we’re here for — to keep the children educated! For a few minutes in the early’-90s, Cicero was signed to the Pet Shop Boys’ label, Spaghetti Records. He had minor UK hits with songs like “Love Is Everywhere” and “That Loving Feeling,” but we always preferred “Live For Today,” his gorgeous, dreamy PSB-produced contribution to the award winning film The Crying Game.
Blur, “Girls & Boys” remix
This bouncy single from the epitome of ’90s Brit-pop groups was quite a surprise to its fan base. Neil and Chris strip away most semblances of “rock” (a few searing guitar lines are kept to stunning effect), making this ode to blossoming hormones something of an Ibiza disco classic. The PSBs were so fond of the song they took to covering it themselves on their 1994 Discovery Tour.
The combination of the Pet Shop Boys and Absolutely Fabulous was a no-brainer, really, as Neil and Chris have a lot in common with the show’s main characters, Patsy & Edina: two fashion-obsessed divas enamored of pop culture, gossip and Vodka — and always in search of a dancefloor. Jennifer Saunders and Joanna Lumley were more than game for this 1994 charity-inspired swipe at “dull soulless dance music.”
Boy George, “The Crying Game”
We of course can’t mention The Crying Game without including the haunting Pet Shop Boys-produced theme song on this list, as recorded by pop icon Boy George. The song was originally a British hit in the 1960s for Dave Berry. Curiously, as The Crying Game began to rack up multiple award show nominations in 1993, Boy’s cover version became a bigger hit stateside than it did in his home country. Consider that one of several big surprises revolving around the movie.
Girls Aloud, “The Loving Kind”
In 2008, while Neil and Chris were recording their 10th studio album Yes at the headquarters of British production team Xenomania, they occasionally found themselves in close quarters with Girls Aloud. The pair contributed to the writing of GA’s “The Loving Kind” (you don’t honestly believe anyone from Xenomania would pop “disinclined” into a lyric, do you?), a single that preceded the Boys’ own “Love etc.” in early 2009.
Robbie Williams, “She’s Madonna”
There’s no bigger PSB stan than rakish crooner and former Take That heartthrob Robbie Williams. His 2006 LP Rudebox featured two collaborations with the Pet Shop Boys, one a cover of My Robot Friend’s “We’re The Pet Shop Boys” and the other a sassy space-ballad written from the point of view of ex-Mr. Madonna, Guy Ritchie. Scandal.
Lady Gaga & Brandon Flowers, Pet Shop Boys’ 2009 BRITs Medley
No one was more surprised that the Pet Shop Boys were the recipients of the Outstanding Contribution To Music BRIT Award in 2009 than Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe. Actually, that’s not true — awards or no, we’ve always known that the duo was outstanding. And so did then-up-and-coming pop starlet Lady Gaga and Killers frontman Brandon Flowers, both of whom guested with the Boys during their 10-minute hits medley performance at the BRITs.
Meanwhile, Gaga took on Dusty’s vocals during “What Have I Done To Deserve This”…while dressed as an English teapot!
Madonna, “Sorry (Pet Shop Boys Maxi Mix)”
The Pettos have always had a complicated relationship with Ms. Ciccone: their hit “Heart” was originally written with her in mind, yet they held it back out of fear she’d reject it. Despite their admiration for La M, she wasn’t spared a gentle mocking in their “DJ Culture” video, nor being made the subject of their semi-satirical Robbie Williams single. Apparently all of that was forgiven by the time they added their signature sheen to this discotastic Confessions On A Dancefloor single.
— ADDITIONAL PETHEADING BY ROBBIE DAW