This was the first Pet Shop Boys song released on a label, and is arguably the song most commonly associated with the band.
Production and RecordingEdit
Produced by famed Hi-NRG mogul Bobby Orlando, the single was released on his Bobcat Records label in 1984. It was not a huge hit in the Boys' home country, but it did fairly well in the States and in Italy. Under the Bobby O umbrella, 'West End Girls' was remixed and repackaged several times, saturating the world's record stores with multiple formats of this single, the follow up single "One More Chance", and several instrumental b-sides including 'Pet Shop Boys', "To The Pet Shop Boys" and "Theme For The Pet Shop Boys" (essentially the same track). It was even mega-mixed with all of the above tracks together with a version of Corey Hart's "Sunglasses At Night", that was covered by a German singer not otherwise involved with the band.
Bobby O and his various affiliates continued to issue repackaged and remixed versions of these original masters until roughly the mid-nineties.
After a legal battle with Orlando, the band ended up signing with Parlophone Records in the UK, and 'West End Girls' became their lead-off single to their first album, Please. It was rerecorded and produced by Stephen Hague and was a more polished and full sounding cut, doing much better on the charts than the first incarnation. The singles featured remixes by Shep Pettibone. The b-side, previously recorded (but not released) with Bobby O was "A Man Could Get Arrested".
According to Neil, the song was inspired initially by Grandmaster Flash's famous track "The Message". He says he woke up in the morning with one of the couplets in his head: "Sometimes you're better off dead / There's a gun in your hand and it's pointing at your head..." and the rest came shortly thereafter.
Many people believed that the song was about prostitution, but they say that it's really about "class, about rough boys getting a bit of posh...", the difference between lower and upper classes and the way they tended to co-mingle with one another.
The line "From Lake Geneva to the Finland Station" refers to the journey that Lenin made in a sealed train.
The "Dive Bar" mentioned in the lyrics is actually the name of a nightclub in London the Boys often patronized.
The Bobby O Version of the song also features a verse that is not heard in any of the band's subsequent versions. One of the couplets in the verse reads, "All your stopping, stalling and starting / Who do you think you are, Joe Stalin?" Additionally, the 1992 'Montreal' mixes introduce additional lyrics not heard before, such as "If we don't find the right solution / will there be a revolution" which appear between the last line of the verses and the first line of the refrain.
Sometimes you're better off dead There's a gun in your hand and it's pointing at your head You think you're mad, too unstable kicking in chairs and knocking down tables in a restaurant in a West End town Call the police! There's a madman around Running down underground to a dive bar in a West End town In a West End town, a dead end world the East End boys and West End girls In a West End town, a dead end world the East End boys and West End girls West End girls Too many shadows, whispering voices faces on posters, too many choices If? When? Why? What? How much have you got? Have you got it? Do you get it? If so, how often? Which do you choose a hard or soft option? (How much do you need?) In a West End town, a dead end world the East End boys and West End girls In a West End town, a dead end world the East End boys and West End girls West End girls West End girls (How much do you need?) In a West End town, a dead end world the East End boys and West End girls A West End town, a dead end world East End boys, West End girls West End girls You got a heart of glass or a heart of stone? Just you wait 'til I get you home We've got no future, we've got no past Here today, built to last In every city, in every nation from Lake Geneva to the Finland station (How far have you been?) And a West End town, a dead end world the East End boys and West End girls A West End town, a dead end world East End Boys, West End girls West End girls ----- written by Tennant/Lowe
Releases and Versions Edit
Awards and RecognitionEdit
In 1987, the song won Best Single at the Brit Awards, and Best International Hit at the Ivor Novello Awards.
In 2005, 20 years after its release, the song was awarded Song of The Decade between the years 1985 and 1994 by the British Academy of Composers and Songwriters. The song was performed by Pet Shop Boys at the 2012 Summer Olympics closing ceremony and was included as part of the soundtrack of the 2013 game Grand Theft Auto V on the Non-Stop-Pop radio station.