My last post compared authors to pop musicians. This time I’m just writing about pop music — specifically, a particular pop duo. A duo that formed in the early 1980s, continued their popularity into the 1990s and progressed into the 21st Century, where they are quite happily creating more music. They are a pop duo whose music has gone beyond standard pop, with films, a stage musical and now a ballet. They are, in my humble opinion, the greatest pop musicians ever to walk the face of this earth. They are … (drum roll) …
Pet Shop Boys are the perfect example of how important image is to selling pop music. Right from the release of their first single, West End Girls, they have cultivated an aloof, detached and slightly offbeat image — an image that complements their music, usually performed with unemotional vocals, despite the often emotional lyrics. And even though they have gone through visual metamorphoses, that detachment has remained.
Pet Shop Boys are Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe. Despite being a pop duo, they have never allowed the industry to dictate what they have done creatively… even if it meant losing money. From theatrical concerts to involvement with music outside the pop industry, they have never failed to surprise. In 1987 they starred in a feature film, It Couldn’t Happen Here, based on their album, Actually. In 2001 their stage musical Closer To Heaven, co-written with Jonathan Harvey, had a six-month run in London. They have also written music for theatre and film soundtracks. Most recently they composed the soundtrack for The Most Incredible Thing, a ballet based on a Hans Christian Andersen story
Pet Shop Boys are also known for the distinctive style of their album and single covers — often minimalist, sometimes downright bizarre, but always eye-catching.
In addition to listening to their music, I enjoy reading about Pet Shop Boys. There have been a number of books written about the various aspects of their career, but there is one in particular I’d like to mention — Pet Shop Boys Catalogue by Philip Hoare and Chris Health. This book traces the development of their visual style and design, with lots of photos and all their album and single designs. Even if you’re not interested in their music, this book is a fascinating look into the world of pop music image.
Published in 2006, it doesn’t cover their most recent stuff. But after reading this book, you can see how their latest album and singles continue their established image, while giving them quite a distinctive look. Tennant and Lowe are now in their 50s. It will be very interesting to see how they continue to deal with the image of Pet Shop Boys as the two of them move into their 60s.
So, who’s your favourite pop musician? Are there any good books about them? Leave a comment and share.
Catch ya later, George
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