Pet Shop Boys are the UK’s most successful pop duo with 12 Top Ten studio albums and 40 Top 20 singles, including four number one records.
Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe first met in 1981 and began writing songs together. Their first single “West End girls” was released in 1984 as a one-off single but the following year they signed to Parlophone/EMI Records and a new version of “West End girls” climbed to the top of the charts. The single went on to reach number one in nine countries, including the USA. Their success continued with the release of further UK number one hits, “It’s a sin”, “Always on my mind” and “Heart”. They won Brit awards for Best Single in 1987 and Best Group in 1988. Other awards have followed, including Ivor Novello awards for songwriting in 1987 and 1988 and, in 2000, a third Ivor for Outstanding Contribution to British Music. In 2009 they were presented with the Brit Award for Outstanding Contribution to Music.
Their musical collaborations have included duets, productions or remixes for Dusty Springfield, Liza Minnelli, David Bowie, Elton John, Blur, Yoko Ono, Electronic, Rammstein, Madonna, Lady Gaga and The Killers. They have written or co-written songs for, amongst others, Shirley Bassey and Girls Aloud.
Pet Shop Boys’ visual presentation has always been strikingly original. Their record sleeves, mostly created in collaboration with designer Mark Farrow, would, in their early and influential use of white space, lead to a re-evaluation of the art of record and CD design. This keen visual sense informs everything presented under the group’s name, from books to tour merchandise to newspaper adverts. Video directors have included Eric Watson, Derek Jarman, Howard Greenhalgh and Bruce Weber.
Pet Shop Boys have long had a dedicated interest in combining music with theatre and film. Their first tour in 1989 was conceived with artist/director Derek Jarman, and on subsequent tour productions their collaborators included David Alden and David Fielding from the ENO, architect Zaha Hadid, theatre designers Ian MacNeil and Es Devlin and artist/director Sam Taylor-Wood. In 2001 their musical, Closer to Heaven, written with playwright Jonathan Harvey, was produced in the West End by The Really Useful Group. In 2004 they wrote a soundtrack to the classic silent film, Battleship Potemkin, which was first performed with the Dresdner Sinfoniker orchestra in a free concert in Trafalgar Square, presented by the Mayor of London and the ICA. This spectacular event has subsequently been repeated at various outdoor settings in Germany, Spain and again in the UK at the Swan Hunter shipyard on Tyneside.
In 2009 Pet Shop Boys’ tenth studio album, “Yes”, entered the UK charts at number four. It was followed by their 18-month Pandemonium tour of the UK, Europe and the Americas, including a headlining Saturday night slot at the Glastonbury Festival, and garnered some of the best reviews of their career with The Times calling it “the ravishing pop spectacle of the year”.
In March 2011 Tennant and Lowe’ ballet,The Most Incredible Thing, choregraphed by Javier De Frutos was premiered in a 10-night season at Sadler’s Wells in London.
Pet Shop Boys recorded ‘Elysium’ in early 2012 in Los Angeles, the first time they have recorded an album in America. They co-produced the record with US producer Andrew Dawson, who has won three Grammys for his work on Kanye West’s albums.
‘Elysium’ features twelve new songs which display a warm, deep electronic sound, and includes orchestral arrangements by Joachim Horsley, Andrew Dawson and Ben Leathers. Backing vocals are provided on many of the tracks by veteran singers Oren, Maxine and Julie Waters (whose long career spans sessions with The Jackson Five to Adele), and singer/songwriter James Fauntleroy.
Pet Shop Boys said: “It was inspiring to make an album in Los Angeles, and to work with a producer from a different musical genre, who has brought a new dimension to our music”.