Song: “West End Girls” by Pet Shop Boys
Reached #1: May 10, 1986 (their first, 1 week)
Pet Shop Boys vocalist/lyricist Neil Tennant wants you to know that “West End Girls” is not a coded song about rough gay sex. This is surprising to me, because I never realized anybody thought it was…
I mean, it’s fairly obvious this is about working-class guys chasing upper-class girls they have no chance of catching, right? Or was I too naïve 25 years ago?
The version we know isn’t the version that the Boys originally produced – in 1984, “West End Girls” was a more traditional pop song with full studio instrumentation. It was a minor dance hit, but really hadn’t gone anywhere. When the Boys cut ties with their original producer, the new management let them rework the song with synthesizers and a bit more of an edge… and this version hit the UK charts late in 1985 before crossing the ocean.
The Boys are one of the rare ‘80s acts that have never broken up – since they met in 1981, they’ve worked together continuously, producing 10 albums and touring regularly. While Tennant has come out, they take great pains to make it clear that Tennant and Chris Lowe are not a couple. Lowe, to his credit (I think), simply doesn’t talk about his off-stage love life.
They’re still very visible on the UK and German pop charts, while they haven’t charted in the USA since 1991, where “West End Girls” is their only #1 hit.
Tomorrow, another ‘80s pop duo, from an area slightly east of the UK.
Other songs that reached #1 on May 10:
2003 – “Get Busy” by Sean Paul (his first, 3 weeks)