Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe, collectively known as new wave electro-pop duo Pet Shop Boys, had been generating interest in the club scene for several years before their breakout single “West End Girls” catapulted them to international fame. In fact, the version of the song most of us have heard wasn’t the first time it was released as a single.
Tennant and Lowe had previously met noted electro-music producer Bobby O, and recorded a number of tracks with him during 1983-1984. The original version of “West End Girls” was released April 9, 1984, and although it never charted (nor was it even available for sale in the U.S.), it became a hit in major dance clubs throughout Europe and the U.S., garnering the boys a lot of attention. When they eventually signed to EMI, the song was re-recorded and re-released in October 1985 (29 years ago this month). By the time it appeared on the duo’s debut album Please, the song had already shot to Number 1 on mainstream charts around the world.
Pet Shop Boys went on to have several other charting hits, and while most Americans associate them with 80s new wave, they continue to chart regularly in the U.K. and on the U.S. dance charts, with plans for a thirteenth studio album now in the works. However, their first hit continues to be their most memorable; “West End Girls” remains the duo’s best known and best-selling single to date.
Just for fun, I’ve shared both the original and charting versions of the song below. You’ll notice the arrangements are quite different between the two. In fact, if you know your 80s pop, you might hear something strangely familiar in the 1984 version—something lifted from another worldwide hit. Can you guess what it is?
(I’ve put the answer below the videos.) Enjoy!
WHAT IS FAMILIAR IN THE 1984 VERSION? Do you recognize the drumbeat? Yep: it’s the drum pattern from Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean.” They lifted it and recorded the original version of “West End Girls” over the top of it.