Since they got together in 1981, Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe, better known as the Pet Shop Boys, sold more than 50 million albums. Although they predominantly write their own songs, they often do cover versions. Many of these put their own unique heavily electronic dance style to tunes classic and little-known. Here are the best Pet Shop Boys’ covers of other artists’ songs.
# 10 – We Are the Pet Shop Boys
In 2002, Howard Ringberg, performing as My Robot Friend put out a fan-boy song in honor of the Pet Shop Boys with Miguel Gutierrez going the lead vocals. The song was done in the style of early Pet Shop Boys songs, looking back on lost love. It also weaves titles of early Pet Shop Boys hits into the lyrics, and has a bit of “What Have I Done to Deserve This”, too. When the real Pet Shop Boys heard it, they just had to do their own version because, as Neil Tennant explained in a press release, “It sums us up.” In a nod to My Robot Friend, part of the song is sung with vocals distorted to make it sound like it was being sung by a robot.
# 9 – Go West
In retrospect, it’s surprising that the Pet Shop Boys haven’t done a whole album of Village People songs, since their music has many similarities. Neil Tennant, in an interview, stated he wanted to cover this song since 1979. So far, the Pet Shop Boys just have done this one Village People song, which celebrates – well, going West, to San Francisco, although their video made it going anywhere West of the Berlin Wall. This is a wistful version with not only the heavily synth-dance, but also add a woman’s wonderful vocals and background vocals from an all-man Broadway chorus, sounding like the Village people on steroids. There are some new lyrics added by Neil Tennant and new music written by Chris Lowe. This version came out in 1993’s Very. It was mostly ignores in America, but became such a huge hit in the UK that the Pet Shop Boys’ now call this their “albatross.”
# 8 – Glad All Over
“Glad All Over” was one of the biggest hits for The Beatles imitators, the Dave Clark Five, back in 1964. It’s about time someone updated it. The Pet Shop Boys shows just how strange the song really is, with verses and a chorus that sound like they’re from two separate songs. Their version starts out wistfully and explodes in a happy kaleidoscope of techno for the chorus. This was originally released as the B-side to the 2010 single, “Together.” It was remastered in 2018 and put up on the Pet Shop Boys’ official YouTube channel.
# 7 – Alone Again, Naturally
Not many songs symbolized 1970s’ pop music than this Gilbert O’Sullivan hit from 1972. Very bleak lyrics about someone considering suicide set to a bouncy three-minute tune. This time around, the Pet Shop Boys collaborated with Elton John. With such sad lyrics, it would be tempting for any artist to go over the top, but they manage to deliver the song without hysterics or camp, although there are strings and a thunderstorm sound-effect. This originally appeared in a 2005 promo by the BMG label called Gilbert O’Sullivan. It was made more readily accessible in the 2017 reissue of the Pet Shop Boys Release.
# 6 – Je T’Aime…Moi Non Plus
This Pet Shop Boys’ cover gets on the list just because of how strange it is. It also takes great departures from the original soft-porn banned hit from 1969. It’s in English, for one thing. It also has a woman singing in ecstasy but also has male vocals, of sorts. The male vocals are robotic, suggesting that she’s making love to a robot. (My Robot Friend, perhaps?) This originally appeared on a 1999 collaborative CD called We Love You but then appeared on the Pet Shop Boys’ CD 1999 single, “I Don’t Know What You Want But I Can’t Give It Anymore.”
# 5 – My Girl
In May of 2008, the Pet Shop Boys’ performed this song at a benefit concert with two members of Madness. The concert was to benefit the family of dead friend of both bands, Dainton Connell. Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe recorded a demo for the Madness members. They also posted the demo on their website for fans’ reactions. They were positive, so Pet Shop Boys’ did a more polished version and several different versions since, including the 2018 remaster below.
# 4 – Always on My Mind
Back in 1987, the Pet Shop Boys were asked to perform an Elvis Presley cover for a TV show commemorating the tenth anniversary of Elvis Presley’s death. They chose this song, even though they were not Elvis Presley fans. Their version is eerie and sad and highly danceable. It was totally in keeping with the Pet Shop Boys’ style in looking back on lost love. The Pet Shop Boys slightly changed the lyrics. It’s come out in many different remixes since it’s 1987 appearance.
# 3 – Viva La Vida / Domino Dancing
Some songs just seem tailor-made for the Pet Shop Boys to cover. This Coldplay hit from 2008 perfectly fit Neil Tennant’s regretful and thoughtful voice. As expected, this is even more heavily electronic than the original. The Pet Shop Boys’ first cover appeared on the 2009 live album Pandemonium. A different version with a mash-up of “Domino Dancing” was released for the Pet Shop Boys’ Christmas EP in 2009. The producer of the cover version, Stuart Price, was also the producer for Coldplay’s original version.
# 2 – The Last to Die
When you hear this 2007 Bruce Springsteen anti-war song, your first thought is probably not, “I bet the Pet Shop Boys can do an awesome cover of this.” And yet, somehow, that’s exactly what happened. Because what is more worth dancing about than the prospect of peace? The lyrics and tune have not been changed, just arranged differently and sung in an eerie faraway fashion. Some background “la la”s are brought to the foreground. This cover version appears on the 2013 album Electric.
#1 -Where the Streets Have No Name (I Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You)
Why do one cover song when you can do two? Here the Pet Shop Boys blends part of the 1967 hit song for Frankie Valli with a techo-dance-under-a-disco-ball version of U2’s heartfelt anthem, “Where the Streets Have No Name.” When Bono heard that the Pet Shop Boys was doing a cover version of his hit, he is reported to have quipped, “What have I, what have I, what have I done to deserve this?” However, a great song can be shone through different prisms and still come out as a great song. It’s a daring and fun take on a U2 song that embodied the 1980s.
Pet Shop Boys’ Best Covers of Other Artists’ Songs article published on Classic RockHistory.com© 2021
Classicrockhistory.com claims ownership of all its original content and Intellectual property under United States Copyright laws and those of all other foreign countries. No one person, business or any organizations is allowed to republish any of our original content anywhere on the web or in print without our permission.