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West End Girls

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"West End Girls [1984 version]"
WestEndGirls.jpg
12-inch single cover
Single by Pet Shop Boys
from the album Please
B-side"Pet Shop Boys"
Released9 April 1984
Recorded1984[1]
StudioUnique Recording, New York City
GenreSynth-pop
Length4:45
LabelBobcat
Songwriter(s)
Producer(s)Bobby Orlando
Pet Shop Boys singles chronology
"West End Girls [1984 version]"
(1984)
"One More Chance"
(1984)
"West End Girls"
WestEndGirls-PSB21985.jpg
7-inch single cover
Single by Pet Shop Boys
from the album Please
B-side"A Man Could Get Arrested"
Released28 October 1985
RecordedAugust 1985[1]
GenreSynth-pop
Length
  • 4:41 (album version)
  • 3:59 (7-inch version)
LabelParlophone
Songwriter(s)
Producer(s)Stephen Hague
Pet Shop Boys singles chronology
"Opportunities (Let's Make Lots of Money) (first release)"
(1985)
"West End Girls"
(1985)
"Love Comes Quickly"
(1986)

"West End Girls" is a song by the English synth-pop duo Pet Shop Boys. Written by Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe, the song was released twice as a single. The song's lyrics are concerned with class and the pressures of inner-city life which were inspired partly by T. S. Eliot's poem The Waste Land. It was generally well received by contemporary music critics and has been frequently cited as a highlight in the duo's career.

The first version of the song was produced by Bobby Orlando and was released on Columbia Records' Bobcat Records imprint in April 1984, becoming a club hit in the United States and some European countries. After the duo signed with EMI, the song was re-recorded with producer Stephen Hague for their first studio album, Please. In October 1985, the new version was released, reaching number one in the United Kingdom and the United States in 1986.

In 1987, the song won Best Single at the Brit Awards, and Best International Hit at the Ivor Novello Awards. In 2005, 20 years after its release, the song was awarded Song of The Decade between the years 1985 and 1994 by the British Academy of Composers and Songwriters. A critic's poll by The Guardian selected "West End Girls" as number one of the 100 greatest UK number one singles in 2020.[2]

The song was performed by Pet Shop Boys at the 2012 Summer Olympics closing ceremony.[3]

Background[edit]

Recording and production[edit]

In 1983, Neil Tennant met producer Bobby Orlando, while on an assignment in New York interviewing Sting for Smash Hits. After listening to some demos, Orlando offered to produce for the duo.[4]

In 1983–84, the duo recorded twelve songs with Orlando, at Unique Studios in New York, "West End Girls", "Opportunities (Let's Make Lots of Money)", "One More Chance", "I Want a Lover", "Thats My Impression", "A Man Could Get Arrested", "I Get Excited", "Two Divided by Zero", "Rent", "It's A Sin", "Pet Shop Boys", and "Later Tonight". Orlando played most of the instruments on "West End Girls", including the jazz riff at the end. Lowe played one chord and the bassline.[5] It included a drum part lifted from Michael Jackson's "Billie Jean", and an arrangement involving what Tennant called "Barry White chords".[6] Orlando was thrilled by the song's production; his idea was to make a rap record in a British accent.[7]

In April 1984, "West End Girls" was released, becoming a club hit in Los Angeles and San Francisco, and a minor dance hit in Belgium, and France,[8] but was only available in the United Kingdom as a 12" import.[9] In March 1985, after long negotiations, Pet Shop Boys cut their contractual ties with Orlando, and hired manager Tom Watkins, who signed them with EMI.[10] They re-recorded "West End Girls" with producer Stephen Hague, with backing vocals by Helena Springs, and re-released the song in late 1985, topping the charts in both the UK and the US.[11]

Music and lyrics[edit]

"West End Girls" is a synthpop song[12] influenced by hip hop music.[11] The song's socially conscious streak, as well as the propulsive bass line, derives from Grandmaster Flash's protest rap song "The Message".[9] Lowe and Hague created a "snaky, obsessive rhythm punch" for the music,[11] replacing the song's previously sparse beats and minimal keyboard lines.[9]

Tennant started to write the song when he was staying at his cousin's house in Nottingham while watching a gangster film. Just when he was going to sleep he came up with the lines: "Sometimes you're better off dead, there's a gun in your hand and it's pointing at your head".[13] The lyrics were inspired by T.S. Eliot's poem The Waste Land, particularly in the use of different narrative voices and arcane references.[9] The song's lyrics are largely concerned with class, inner-city pressure.[6][11] Tennant later said that some listeners had assumed the song referred to prostitutes, but was actually, "about rough boys getting a bit of posh."[14]

The lyric "From Lake Geneva to the Finland Station" refers to the train route taken by Vladimir Lenin when he was smuggled by the Germans to Russia during World War I, a pivotal event in the Russian Revolution. Indeed, it is highly likely the lyric was inspired by the book To the Finland Station by Edmund Wilson, a famous work on the history of revolutionary thought and Socialism that Tennant would have at least heard of, if not read, as a student. The Bobby Orlando-produced version of the single included another line, "All your stopping, stalling and starting/Who do you think you are, Joe Stalin?"[15] which was removed for the 1985 version.

Critical reception[edit]

"West End Girls" has been generally well received by music critics. Stephen Thomas Erlewine from Allmusic in a review of the album Please called the song "hypnotic", adding that "it's not only a classic dance single, it's a classic pop single".[16] In a review for the group's second studio album Actually, Rob Hoerburger from Rolling Stone magazine commented that "West End Girls" was "as catchy as anything on the radio in 1986", praising "its enticing bass line and foreboding synth riffs", but felt that it was almost "nullified by peevish spoken asides and the cryptic posturing of the duo's lyrics".[17] In a review of the live album Concrete, Michael Hubbard from musicOMH said that "West End Girls" was one of the songs that "round out a collection that never feels too long or superfluous", adding that it "goes some way to installing Tennant and Lowe as national treasures".[18]

Nitsuh Abebe from Pitchfork Media, in a review of their compilation album PopArt: Pet Shop Boys - The Hits commented that in the song "we meet Tennant not as a singer, but as a speaker", adding that "he mumbles the verses to us not like a star, but like a stranger in a raincoat, slinking alongside you and pointing out the sights".[19]

In 1987, "West End Girls" won for Best Single at The BRIT Awards,[20] and for Best International Hit at the Ivor Novello Awards.[21] In 2005, the British Academy of Composers and Songwriters gave to West End Girls the Ivor Novello Award for Song of The Decade between the years 1985 and 1994.[22][23]

In 2015 the song was voted by the British public as the nation's 12th favourite 1980s number one in a poll for ITV.[24] In 2020 The Guardian selected "West End Girls" as number one in a critics' poll of the 100 greatest UK number one singles.[25]

Music video[edit]

The video was directed by Andy Morahan and Eric Watson,[26][27] and consists of shots of the duo around London. At the beginning of the video, noises from the city can be heard, a camera passes Lowe on the street, and focuses on two vintage dolls in a shop window. Then appears a sequence of quick cuts with shots of the city's different sub-cultures; the video freezes and cuts to Tennant and Lowe, who walk through an empty Wentworth Street in Petticoat Lane Market. They stand in front of a red garage door; Tennant is in front dressed with a long coat, white shirt and dark necktie, directly addressing the camera, with Lowe standing behind him with a blank expression. Lowe is filmed in double-exposure and appears almost ghostlike. In other shots, Tennant power-walks imperiously while Lowe casually follows behind. While Tennant delivers the lyrics and chorus directly at the viewer, Lowe appears at times disinterested in the proceedings or preoccupied with other goings-on around them.

Then the video shows various shots at Waterloo Station, as the chorus starts. In slow motion, the camera pans across the WHSmith shop on the station concourse as the duo walk past. It cuts to a brief shot of a No. 42 red double-decker bus, showing the destination as Aldgate, also advertising the stage-show Evita, then black and white shots of the Tower Bridge, Westminster and the Westminster Palace Clock Tower from the sky. The duo poses on the South Bank of the River Thames in a pastiche of a postcard image, with the Houses of Parliament as a background.[28]

The camera shows shots of young women, and passes through arcades and cinemas in Leicester Square. The camera now passes South Africa House showing protestors in the Non-Stop Picket, an anti-apartheid vigil.[29] The video cuts to a closeup of Tennant singing the chorus, with a purple neon sign eerily passing across his face. At the end the camera passes again through Leicester Square, where people queue to see Fletch and Desperately Seeking Susan.[29] The video was nominated for Best New Artist in a Video at the 1986 MTV Video Music Awards, but lost to A-ha's "Take On Me".[30]

The video was published on YouTube on 22 April 2009; as of 25 January 2020, it had been viewed almost 79 million times,[31] making it the band's most-viewed YouTube video.

Chart performance[edit]

"West End Girls" was first released in April 1984 through writer and producer Bobby Orlando's label. The song was a club hit in the United States,[32] and in some European countries, such as Belgium, where it debuted at number 24 on the VRT Top 30 chart on 28 July 1984,[33] peaking at 17 four weeks later.[34] In Canada, "West End Girls" first entered the RPM singles chart in April 1985, reaching a peak position of 81 in June 1985.[35]

Having signed with EMI, the group released their first major label single "Opportunities (Let's Make Lots of Money)" in mid-1985, but it failed to attract attention.[32] The Pet Shop Boys then decided to re-record "West End Girls", and issue this new version as a single. Producer Stephen Hague helmed the new, re-recorded version of "West End Girls".[11]

The re-recorded version of "West End Girls" was released in the United Kingdom in October 1985, debuting on the UK Singles Chart at number 80, and within eight weeks of its release it had reached the top of the chart.[36] It maintained the number one position for two weeks[36] and received a gold certification by the British Phonographic Industry (BPI) in January 1986.[37] Across Europe, "West End Girls" also topped the singles chart in Norway,[38] as well as peaking in the top three in Belgium, Germany, Ireland, the Netherlands, Sweden, and Switzerland.[39][40][41][42][43]

In Canada, where the original recording of "West End Girls" had already been a minor hit in 1985, the re-recorded version was issued as a single in early 1986. The re-recorded song entered the chart in March 1986, peaking at number one for one week on 17 May 1986.[44] In the United States, West End Girls debuted on the Billboard Hot 100 at number 71,[45] reaching the number one position on 10 May 1986, and remained on the chart for 20 weeks.[46] The song also peaked at number one on Billboard's Hot Dance Music/Club Play chart for two weeks.[47]

Formats and track listings[edit]

Credits and personnel[edit]

Charts[edit]

Certifications[edit]

Region Certification Certified units/sales
Canada (Music Canada)[80] Gold 50,000^
United Kingdom (BPI)[81] Gold 500,000^

^shipments figures based on certification alone

East 17 version[edit]

"West End Girls"
East 17-West End Girls.jpg
Single by East 17
from the album Walthamstow
Released14 June 1993
Recorded1992
Genre
Length3:59
LabelLondon
Songwriter(s)
  • Neil Tennant
  • Chris Lowe
Producer(s)
  • Mykaell S. Riley
  • The Groove Corporation
East 17 singles chronology
"Slow It Down"
(1993)
"West End Girls"
(1993)
"It's Alright"
(1993)

In 1993, English boy band East 17 covered "West End Girls" for their album Walthamstow.

Track listings[edit]

  • 7-inch single
A. "West End Girls" (Faces on Posters Mix)
B. "West End Girls" (Kicking in Chairs)

Charts[edit]

Weekly charts[edit]

Chart (1993) Peak
position
Australia (ARIA)[82] 4
Europe (European Hot 100 Singles)[83] 31
Finland (Suomen virallinen lista)[84] 10
France (SNEP)[85] 48
Germany (Official German Charts)[86] 40
Ireland (IRMA)[41] 14
Netherlands (Single Top 100)[87] 48
Portugal (AFP)[88] 7
UK Singles (OCC)[89] 11

Year-end charts[edit]

Chart (1993) Position
Australia (ARIA)[90] 56

Certifications[edit]

Region Certification Certified units/sales
Australia (ARIA)[90] Gold 35,000^

^shipments figures based on certification alone

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b "Absolutely Pet Shop Boys Unofficial web site – Profile On boys". Petshopboys.net. 27 May 1991. Retrieved 1 October 2011.
  2. ^ Snapes, Laura (5 June 2020). "The 100 greatest UK No 1s: No 1, Pet Shop Boys – West End Girls". The Guardian.
  3. ^ Alexis Petridis (12 August 2012). "Olympics closing ceremony music: big acts, big hits, but no big gasps". The Guardian. Retrieved 30 March 2014.
  4. ^ Barrow; Newby, 1994. p. 67.
  5. ^ Cowton, 1991. p. 11.
  6. ^ a b "The 500 Greatest Songs Since You Were Born: 51–100". Blender. Alpha Media Group. October 2005. Archived from the original on 5 March 2010. Retrieved 19 February 2009.
  7. ^ Cowton, 1991. p. 14.
  8. ^ Cowton, 1991. p. 15.
  9. ^ a b c d "West End Girls – Pet Shop Boys". BBC Radio 2. BBC. Retrieved 19 February 2009.
  10. ^ Cowton, 1991. p. 22.
  11. ^ a b c d e Raggett, Ned. "West End Girls > Song Review". AllMusic. Macrovision Corporation. Retrieved 19 February 2009.
  12. ^ Brown, Jake (2012). Behind the Boards: The Making of Rock 'n' Roll's Greatest Records Revealed. Hal Leonard Corporation. p. 152. ISBN 978-1-4803-2976-8. the Pet Shop Boys' debut LP would break the band, and arguably the burgeoning synth-pop genre itself, in both Europe and the United States via radio smashes like "West End Girls" and "Opportunities (Let's Make Lots of Money)"
  13. ^ "West End Nottingham". BBC. December 2003. Retrieved 19 February 2009.
  14. ^ Please (reissue) (Inset). Neil Tennant. 2001.CS1 maint: others (link)
  15. ^ West End girls - original lyrics
  16. ^ Erlewine, Stephen Thomas. "Album Review > Please". AllMusic. Macrovision Corporation. Retrieved 20 February 2009.
  17. ^ Hoerburger, Rob (3 December 1987). "Pet Shop Boys: Actually: Music Reviews". Rolling Stone. RealNetworks, Inc. Retrieved 20 February 2009.
  18. ^ Hubbard, Michael (22 October 2006). "Pet Shop Boys – Concrete (Parlophone)". musicOMH. Retrieved 20 February 2009.
  19. ^ Abebe, Nitsuh (6 October 2006). "Pet Shop Boys: Pop Art: The Hits". Pitchfork Media. Pitchfork Media, Inc. Retrieved 20 February 2009.
  20. ^ "Brit Awards 1987". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 22 February 2009.
  21. ^ "Pet Shop Boys: Summary". Tv.com. Retrieved 22 February 2009.
  22. ^ "The Songs of the Decades". BBC Radio 2. BBC. Retrieved 20 February 2009.
  23. ^ "Beatles fail to get in best song list". The Daily Telegraph. UK: Telegraph Media Group Limited. 25 May 2004. Retrieved 20 February 2009.
  24. ^ Westbrook, Caroline (25 July 2015). "The Nation's Favourite 80s Number One: 12 more classic 80s chart-toppers which didn't make the cut". Metro. Retrieved 27 July 2015.
  25. ^ Snapes, Laura (5 June 2020). "The 100 greatest UK No 1s: No 1, Pet Shop Boys – West End Girls". The Guardian.
  26. ^ "Pet Shop Boys – West End Girls". Mvdbase.com. Retrieved 17 February 2009.
  27. ^ Zuberi, 1994. p. 88.
  28. ^ Zuberi, 1994. p. 89.
  29. ^ a b Zuberi, 1994. p. 90.
  30. ^ "1986 MTV Video Music Awards". 5 September 1986. Retrieved 17 February 2009.
  31. ^ PetShopBoys Parlophone (22 April 2009), Pet Shop Boys - West End Girls, retrieved 1 September 2018
  32. ^ a b Ankeny, Jason. "Pet Shop Boys > Biography". AllMusic. Macrovision Corporation. Retrieved 19 February 2009.
  33. ^ "Radio 2 – Top 30 van zaterdag 28 juli 1984" (in Dutch). VRT Top 30. 28 July 1984. Archived from the original on 9 April 2012. Retrieved 20 February 2009.
  34. ^ "Radio 2 – Top 30 van zaterdag 25 augustus 1984" (in Dutch). VRT Top 30. 25 August 1984. Archived from the original on 9 April 2012. Retrieved 20 February 2009.
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  44. ^ a b "Top RPM Singles: Issue 0673." RPM. Library and Archives Canada. Retrieved 28 April 2020.
  45. ^ "Hot 100: Week of March 01, 1986 – West End Girls". Billboard. 1 March 1986. Retrieved 20 February 2009.
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  47. ^ "Please > Charts and Awards > Billboard Singles". AllMusic. Macrovision Corporation. Retrieved 20 February 2009.
  48. ^ "Emulator II at vintagesynth.com"
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  50. ^ Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. ISBN 1-904994-10-5.
  51. ^ Kent, David (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970–1992 (illustrated ed.). St Ives, NSW: Australian Chart Book. p. 232. ISBN 0-646-11917-6.
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  53. ^ "European Hot 100 Singles" (PDF). Eurotipsheet. Vol. 3 no. 5. 8 February 1986. OCLC 29800226 – via World Radio History.
  54. ^ Pennanen, Timo (2006). Sisältää hitin – levyt ja esittäjät Suomen musiikkilistoilla vuodesta 1972 (in Finnish) (1st ed.). Helsinki: Kustannusosakeyhtiö Otava. p. 233. ISBN 978-951-1-21053-5.
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  57. ^ "Charts.nz – Pet Shop Boys – West End Girls". Top 40 Singles. Retrieved 30 August 2019.
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  59. ^ Currin, Brian. "SA Charts 1965–1989 (As presented on Springbok Radio/Radio Orion) – Acts P". The South African Rock Encyclopedia. Retrieved 30 March 2014.
  60. ^ Salaverrie, Fernando (September 2005). Sólo éxitos: año a año, 1959–2002 (in Spanish) (1st ed.). Madrid: Fundación Autor/SGAE. ISBN 84-8048-639-2.
  61. ^ "Swisscharts.com – Pet Shop Boys – West End Girls". Swiss Singles Chart. Retrieved 28 April 2020.
  62. ^ "Pet Shop Boys Chart History (Adult Contemporary)". Billboard. Retrieved 13 May 2018.
  63. ^ "Pet Shop Boys Chart History (Dance Club Songs)". Billboard. Retrieved 13 May 2018.
  64. ^ "Pet Shop Boys Chart History (Dance Singles Sales)". Billboard. Retrieved 30 April 2020.
  65. ^ "Pet Shop Boys Chart History (Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs)". Billboard. Retrieved 13 May 2018.
  66. ^ "Pet Shop Boys Chart History (Mainstream Rock)". Billboard. Retrieved 13 May 2018.
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  71. ^ "European Hot 100 Singles – Hot 100 of the Year 1986" (PDF). Music & Media. Vol. 3 no. 51/52. 27 December 1986. p. 28. OCLC 29800226 – via World Radio History.
  72. ^ "Top 100-Jaaroverzicht van 1986" (in Dutch). Dutch Top 40. Retrieved 28 April 2020.
  73. ^ "Jaaroverzichten – Single 1986" (in Dutch). Dutch Charts. Retrieved 28 April 2020.
  74. ^ "Top Selling Singles of 1986". Recorded Music NZ. Retrieved 17 November 2017.
  75. ^ "Top 20 Hit Singles of 1986". The South African Rock Encyclopedia. Retrieved 28 April 2020.
  76. ^ "Hot 100 Songs – Year-End 1986". Billboard. Retrieved 28 April 2020.
  77. ^ "Dance Club Songs – Year-End 1986". Billboard. Retrieved 28 April 2020.
  78. ^ "The Cash Box Year-End Charts: 1986 – Top 100 Pop Singles". Cash Box. 27 December 1986. Retrieved 28 April 2020.
  79. ^ "Top 100 Single-Jahrescharts – 1986" (in German). Offizielle Deutsche Charts. Retrieved 28 April 2020.
  80. ^ "Canadian single certifications – Pet Shop Boys – West End Girls". Music Canada. 22 January 1986.
  81. ^ "British single certifications – Pet Shop Boys – West End Girls". British Phonographic Industry. Select singles in the Format field. Select Gold in the Certification field. Type West End Girls in the "Search BPI Awards" field and then press Enter.
  82. ^ "Australian-charts.com – East 17 – West End Girls". ARIA Top 50 Singles.
  83. ^ "Eurochart Hot 100 Singles" (PDF). Music & Media. Vol. 10 no. 28. 10 July 1993. p. 19. OCLC 29800226. Retrieved 28 April 2020 – via American Radio History.
  84. ^ Pennanen, Timo (2006). Sisältää hitin – levyt ja esittäjät Suomen musiikkilistoilla vuodesta 1972 (in Finnish) (1st ed.). Helsinki: Kustannusosakeyhtiö Otava. p. 263. ISBN 978-951-1-21053-5.
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  87. ^ "Dutchcharts.nl – East 17 – West End Girls" (in Dutch). Single Top 100.
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  90. ^ a b Ryan, Gavin (2011). Australia's Music Charts 1988–2010 (PDF ed.). Mt. Martha, VIC, Australia: Moonlight Publishing. p. 90.

References[edit]

External links[edit]