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Neil Tennant singing in a Pet Shop Boys concert in Boston, 2006
|Birth name||Neil Francis Tennant|
10 July 1954 |
North Shields, Tyneside,
|Genres||Synthpop, dance, electropop, electronica, alternative dance|
|Instruments||Vocals, keyboards, synthesiser, guitar|
|Labels||EMI, Parlophone, Spaghetti|
|Associated acts||Pet Shop Boys, Electronic|
|Website||Official Pet Shop Boys website|
Neil Francis Tennant (born 10 July 1954) is an English musician, singer and songwriter, who, with band mate Chris Lowe, makes up the electronic pop duo Pet Shop Boys. He worked for the magazine Smash Hits before joining Pet Shop Boys.
Tennant was born in North Shields, a fishing port near Newcastle upon Tyne to William W. Tennant (1923–2009), a sales representative, and Sheila M. (Watson) Tennant (1923–2008). He has an elder sister, Susan, and two younger brothers, Simon and Philip. The family moved to a semi-detached house in Greenfield Road (opposite the corner of South Bend), Brunton Park, a relatively affluent suburb in Newcastle, shortly after Neil was born.
As a child, Tennant attended St. Cuthbert's Grammar School, an all-boys' Catholic school in Newcastle-Upon-Tyne. Tennant's songs "This Must Be the Place I Waited Years to Leave" and "It's a Sin" refer to his early life in Catholic school and the strict upbringing there.
While at school, Tennant played guitar and cello. At age sixteen, he played in a folk music group called Dust, whose most popular song was called "Can You Hear the Dawn Break?". They were heavily influenced by The Incredible String Band. During his teenage years, he was a member of the youth theatre at the People's Theatre, Newcastle upon Tyne.
In 1975, having completed a degree in history at North London Polytechnic (now London Metropolitan University), Tennant worked for two years as London editor for Marvel UK, the UK branch of Marvel Comics. He was responsible for anglicising the dialogue of Marvel's catalogue to suit British readers, and for indicating where women needed to be redrawn more decently for the British editions. He also wrote occasional features for the comics, including interviews with pop stars Marc Bolan and Alex Harvey. In 1977, he moved to Macdonald Educational Publishing where he edited The Dairy Book Of Home Management and various illustrated books about cookery, playing the guitar and other home interests. Then he moved to ITV Books where he edited TV tie-in books. After having commissioned Steve Bush, then the designer of Smash Hits and The Face, to design a book about the group Madness, he was offered a job at Smash Hits as news editor of the British teen pop magazine in 1982. The following year he became Assistant Editor. He also edited the 1982, 1983 and 1984 editions of The Smash Hits Yearbook.
At Smash Hits, an opportunity arose for him to go to New York to interview The Police. While there, Tennant arranged to meet Bobby Orlando, a producer whom both he and Lowe admired. Tennant mentioned that he was writing songs in his spare time and Orlando agreed to record some tracks with him and Lowe at a later date. Orlando subsequently produced the Pet Shop Boys' first single, "West End Girls".
Pet Shop Boys
Current career and future
Tennant and Lowe are still going strong as Pet Shop Boys. Tennant has a recording studio in his home in County Durham and many songs from 2002's Release album were recorded there. Pet Shop Boys' soundtrack for the silent film, The Battleship Potemkin, was also written and partly recorded there.
Tennant is also known for his support of modern art, and was a judge for the 1998 Turner Prize as a representative of the Patrons of New Art.
Tennant was the executive producer for the Rufus Wainwright album Release the Stars, released in May 2007. Wainwright made a special appearance performing the track "Casanova In Hell" at a live Pet Shop Boys show at the Mermaid Theatre, London on 8 May 2006. The concert was subsequently broadcast on BBC Radio 2 and released on CD with the title Concrete, 13 November 2006.
In February 2009, Tennant appeared with Chris Lowe to receive the BRIT Award for Outstanding Contribution to British Music, and did a medley of their songs with Brandon Flowers from The Killers and Lady Gaga.
In August 1991, Tennant and Lowe were invited to take over Simon Bates' then mid-morning show on BBC Radio 1 for a week. They chose all the records, which were principally dance tracks. Chris swore on-air once, but they were invited back to fill the same role in July 1992, when they played the seminal Watch Out For Stella remix of "The Age of Love" every morning.
In March 2009, Tennant and Lowe had two radio appearances. On 15 March, they presented a radio cover show at Absolute Radio, while DJ Geoff Lloyd was on holiday. On 16 March, Tennant and Lowe appeared on Rob Da Bank and Friends showcasing their 'A to Z of music'.[clarification needed]
- In 2014, following a last minute rescheduling, Tennant and Lowe agreed take the star billing as the Pet Shop Boys at "Loxfest" in Borsetshire on 25 August. Tennant also provided vocal on "Were You There" by Diamond Version.
- In 2012, Tennant appeared in the London 2012 Olympics closing ceremony (with bandmate Chris Lowe) singing West End Girls.
- In 2008, Tennant's vocals featured in The Killers' Christmas song "Joseph, Better You Than Me" alongside Brandon Flowers and Elton John.
- In 2007, Tennant co-produced Rufus Wainwright's album Release the Stars.
- In June 2006, Tennant provided backing vocals on "Throw" by DJ Fresh.
- In 2005, Tennant provided lyrics and sang on the track "Tranquilizer" by DJ Tom Stephan (a.k.a. Superchumbo). Under numerous guises and aliases, Stephan had previously remixed Pet Shop Boys tracks such as "Paninaro '95", "Minimal", "New York City boy" and "Sexy Northerner".
- In 1998, along with Neil Hannon of The Divine Comedy, Tennant sang backing vocals on the Robbie Williams' single "No Regrets".
- In April 1996, Tennant's vocals were featured on two live recordings by the British group Suede that were released as b-sides to their single "Filmstar". One track was a cover of the Pet Shop Boys track "Rent", while the second was a duet with Suede singer Brett Anderson on the Suede song "Saturday Night".
- He worked with Electronic. Tennant sang backing vocals on their first single "Getting Away With It" in 1989, while taking lead vocals on the 1992 single "Disappointed". Along with Lowe, he wrote and appeared on the Electronic album track "Patience of a Saint", on which he shared lead vocals with Bernard Sumner.
In 1998, Tennant was named in a list of the biggest private financial donors to the Labour Party. He has since switched allegiance to the Liberal Democrats, citing disillusionment with Labour's ID card scheme.
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- Desert Island Discs, BBC Radio 4, Kirsty Young.
- Pet Shop Boys official website
- Neil Tennant discography at Discogs
- Neil Tennant at the Internet Movie Database