You can seldom be sure where the inspiration for a song title comes from but it could just be that the origins of the Pet Shop Boys/Dusty Springfield collaboration What Have I Done To Deserve This? had its roots in the night PSB Chris Lowe was knocked back from the leading “fun bar” in his home town of Blackpool for being “inappropriately dressed.”
It mattered little that he was high in the charts at the time with his performing partner Neil Tennant. He’d clearly not read the dress code – “no track suit bottoms, no baseball caps, no trainers, no outfits made out of bin liners.” OK, maybe that last bit of advice wasn’t actually written down but having been brought up in the resort he should surely have remembered the rules of Blackpool clubbing – ie don’t try and look different, don’t say “this wouldn’t happen in London” and don’t tell the door staff you are quite famous (and by the way, that’s one of your tunes the dj is playing!).
“A Pet Shop Boy? Yeah right and I’m one of The Nolans.”
GUINNESS BOOK OF RECORDS
Anyway it pretty much sums up how Chris (particularly) and Neil (not quite as much) have managed to remain out of the spotlight and headlights of a career which has, so far, spanned 38 years and seen sales of 100 million records worldwide.
The George and George of pop are the most successful duo in UK music history (it’s in The Guinness Book of Records so it must be true), three-time Brit Award winners and six-time Grammy nominees. Since 1985 they have achieved 42 Top 30 singles, 22 of them Top 10 hits in the UK Singles Chart, including four UK number ones: West End Girls” (also number one on the US Billboard Hot 100), It’s a Sin, an acclaimed cover of Always On My Mind, and Heart.
Other hit songs include a cover of the Village People’s classic Go West, Opportunities (Let’s Make Lots of Money) and the barrier breaking What Have I Done To Deserve This? duet with Dusty Springfield.
Released in late 1987, it peaked at number two in the UK and also at number two on the Billboard Hot 100, becoming the fourth top ten hit for Pet Shop Boys as well as the biggest hit of Springfield’s career in the US.
It was kept from the top by Seasons Change by Exposé and Father Figure by George Michael in the US, while in the UK it was stopped by Rick Astley with his debut single, Never Gonna Give You Up. The single made it to number one on the Irish singles chart, where it was their second chart topper in the space of just six weeks.
Its success helped revive Springfield’s career and led to a resurgence of interest in her music. Together they performed the song for the 1988 BRIT Awards. Following the duet, the Pet Shop Boys wrote and produced the singles Nothing Has Been Proved and In Private for Springfield, both included on her 1990 album Reputation.
The video for it was filmed in a music hall, featuring a female chorus line and male members of the pit orchestra. It made significant use of the theatre drapes and stage curtains for dramatic effect.
Although the duo had wanted to release the song – co-written by AlleeWillis – on their debut album, they had been unable to track down Springfield and were reluctant to record it with any other female singer.
Springfield’s manager finally contacted them in 1986 and towards the end of that year, she travelled to London to record What Have I Done to Deserve This? with them.
It was eventually the first track to be recorded for the duo’s second album. They’d been warned that Springfield was difficult to work with and even that she could no longer sing; however, her performance on the track put any concerns to rest and they began a collaboration with her which lasted until the end of the decade. The duet was also the start of a series of collaborations with high-profile musicians, going on throughout the band’s career.
At the 2009 Brit Awards in London, they received an award for Outstanding Contribution to Music. In 2016, Billboard magazine named them the number one dance duo/group over the 40 years since the chart’s inception in 1976. In 2017 the duo received NME’s Godlike Genius Award.
Not bad for a couple who met in 1981 when Neil Tennant was 27 and Chris Lowe just 22 in a London hi-fi (remember what that was?) shop.
Tennant, then an assistant editor at Smash Hits (remember that?), had bought a synthesizer (remember them?) which sparked a conversation with Lowe, who was working in the shop. With a mutual interest in dance and electronic music, they began to work together on material.
They claim the name was taken from friends who worked in an Ealing pet shop and were known as the “pet shop boys”.
In August 1983, Tennant went to New York to interview Sting. While there he arranged to meet Hi-NRG producer Bobby Orlando and gave him a demo tape containing It’s a Sin and Opportunities (Let’s Make Lots of Money).. From 1983–84, Orlando recorded 11 tracks with Tennant and Lowe and in April 1984, the Orlando-produced West End Girls was released, becoming a club hit in Los Angeles and San Francisco. On 2 November, it was voted Screamer of the Week by listeners of Long Island, New York, radio station WLIR. It was a minor dance hit in Belgium and France, but missed out in the UK
It was only after eventually cutting their ties with Bobby O (giving him significant royalties for future sales), hiring manager Tom Watkins and signing with the Parlophone label that they packed up their day jobs and saw things begin to take off. But although the bin bag days are now long gone it could still be Chris Lowe stood behind you in the supermarket queue and you wouldn’t know.
|Neil Tennant, Chris Lowe, Allee Willis
|Pet Shop Boys with Dusty Springfield
|10 August 1987