Actually was the second studio album released by the band, and is widely regarded as one of their best offerings. It has been praised as one of the most memorable albums of the 80's.
Production and Recording Edit
The title of the album was meant to be, typically, another witticism by the band. According to Neil,
It was so English and kind of arch and it was kind of a joke and it was something we said a lot," says Neil. Also, it could be said as a sentence - "Pet Shop Boys, actually" - which echoed the conversational concept from the previous album.
A tour following Please was intended but never occurred, allowing the band to spend more time and energy on production for Actually (they also did not tour for this album's release either, but instead produced their own feature film, entitled It Couldn't Happen Here as an alternative to a tour). As a result, the songs on this album sound more full and mature. "The idea," says Neil, "was to make it more musically ambitious. Bigger-sounding. The arrangements slightly more adventurous."
They retained Stephen Hague once again for production duties on some of the tracks, but also worked with Julian Mendelsohn, Shep Pettibone and Andy Richards as well as producing themselves. J. J. Jeczalic also appeared to operate the Fairlight for a track.
Most notable was the appearance of Dusty Springfield singing duet on What Have I Done To Deserve This?. Having been absent from the music business for a time, Dusty's work on this track, released as a single in its own right, helped spark a resurgence of interest in her earlier work, and also led to her further collaboration with the band on her 1990 album of new material, called Reputation, for which the band racked up four writing credits.
Releases and Versions Edit
Actually was preceded by two singles, 'It's A Sin' and 'What Have I Done To Deserve This?' with Dusty Springfield. 'Rent' followed the album's release. After that, the single release of 'Always On My Mind' was issued, although the track never appeared on this album. The US fan base was upset by this, and so special editions of the album were released with a bonus single for Always On My Mind included. The final single from the album was 'Heart'.
|5.28||One More Chance|
|4.17||What Have I Done To Deserve This? single release|
|5.09||Rent single release|
|5.17||It Couldn't Happen Here|
|4.59||It's A Sin single release|
|5.09||I Want To Wake Up|
|3.58||Heart single release|
Design and Packaging Edit
The original concept for the cover was a painting of the two of them commissioned to Allison Watt, a Scottish artist. However when it was completed, they decided it didn't have the right feel.
The final cover concept, which features Neil yawning (taken by Cindy Palmano during the filming of 'What Have I Done To Deserve This?') has come to be known as 'the defining image of the Pet Shop Boys,' according to Neil. "It was one of those things that maybe people wonder whether we were serious or not. In fact that album itself is pretty serious. Even the jokes are serious jokes." Chris, typically, hates the photo. "I can't stand the way I look in it. I hate wearing a bloody dickie-bow, I hate wearing a white shirt and I hate the way my hair is."
The cover has been frequently parodied by other bands, journalists and fans alike.
Chart Positions Edit
The album was kept off the number spot in the UK by Michael Jackson's Bad.
Actually received triple-Platinum status in the UK. In Canada, Finland, Germany, Hong Kong and Switzerland it achieved Platinum status and got Gold status in Austria, Sweden and the USA.
Other Recognition Edit
In 2006, Q magazine placed the album at No. 22 in its list of "40 Best Albums of the '80s".
In 2012, Slant Magazine listed the album at No. 88 on its list of "Best Albums of the 1980s".
Actually is featured in the book 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die.