What's In a Name? (Pet Shop Boys Appreciation Week)

Pet Shop Boys Appreciation Week - Milwaukee Edition - continues today with a look at the band's album and song titles of the last 25 years. This is by no means an exhaustive guide; it is not even a catalogue of my favorite PSB songs. Rather, it is a look at what I believe to be some of the cleverest titles in pop, compliments of Pet Shop Boys Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe.

We start with their first album, Please, released in 1986 (and the subject of the traumatic 11th birthday gift debacle). The band famously remarked that they chose that title "so people can go into the record shop and say 'Can I have the Pet Shop Boys album, Please?'."

I love the politeness built into that title. It was the first in a series of album titles that I imagine to be a conversation between patron and shop clerk, or between fans, or amongst critics.

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In 1987 came Actually, which was apparently a word Neil and Chris were using a lot at the time. Again, we have a polite exchange between record store clerk and customer:

Clerk: "Is there anything in particular can I help you find?"

Customer: "The new Pet Shop Boys album, Actually."

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In 1993, Pet Shop Boys released Very, which not only has the greatest CD case design ever sold (opaque orange plastic with raised lettering and dots), but could inspire conversations like this between fans:

Fan #1: "What do you think of the new album?"

Fan #2: "It's very Pet Shop Boys."

* * *

In 1997, they released a fantastic cover of Somewhere from West Side Story. The conversation would go like this:

Customer: "Do you have any new singles this week?"

Clerk: "I think we have one more copy of Pet Shop Boys Somewhere..."

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In 2002 came Release, which again recalls the record store dialogue of their first two albums:

Customer: "I'm looking for the new Pet Shop Boys, Release."

Clerk: "Right this way..."

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In 2006 they released an album named Fundamental, which in my imagination yields the following conversational exchange between two critics:

Critic #1: "What are you reviewing this week?"

Critic #2: "The Pet Shop Boys Fundamental album."

Critic #1: "Oh? Which one?"

* * *

This year, Pet Shop Boys released Yes, an album produced by Euro pop darlings Xenomania. It's a fantastic album that must lead to some "Who's on first?"-type conversations in music stores.

Customer: "Do you have that new Pet Shop Boys album?"

Clerk: "Yes."

Customer: "What's it called? I forget the title."

Clerk: "Yes."

Customer: "So, will you tell me the name?"

Clerk: "Yes."

* * *

And now for some of my favorite PSB song titles, in no particular order. I love the balance of the one-word album titles against the often extremely long song titles...
  • This Used To Be the Future (featuring guest vocals from Phil Oakey from Human League!)
  • The Sodom & Gomorrah Show ("for your complete entertainment, and instruction")
  • I'm With Stupid (looks especially good on a t-shirt with an arrow pointing upwards)
  • Sexy Northerner (also looks great on a t-shirt worn by a Wisconsinite)
  • A Man Could Get Arrested
  • Bet She's Not Your Girlfriend
  • What Have I Done To Deserve This?
  • I Want a Dog ("when I get back to my small flat I want to hear somebody bark")
  • Always On My Mind / Always In My House
  • This Must Be the Place I Waited Years To Leave
  • How Can You Expect To Be Taken Seriously?
  • Yesterday, When I Was Mad
  • You Only Tell Me You Love Me When You're Drunk
  • The Truck-Driver and His Mate
  •  How I Learned to Hate Rock 'n' Roll
  • The Boy Who Couldn't Keep His Clothes On
  • It's Just My Little Tribute To Caligula, Darling
  • For Your Own Good (Call Me Tonight)
  • We All Feel Better in the Dark
  • Discoteca (Trouser Enthusiasts Adventure Beyond The Stellar Empire mix)
  • I Wouldn't Normally Do This Kind of Thing
What are some of the most clever, long, or otherwise interesting song titles you've heard? Share your favorites in the comments.

* * *

Just two more days until Pet Shop Boys play the Pabst Theater in Milwaukee. The show starts at 8PM on Tuesday, September 15. Tickets are still available, as of this writing. As someone fortunate enough to have seen Pet Shop Boys in concert a few times already, I can say with confidence they put on a great show. Reviews of their 2009 fall tour have been excellent. I hope to see you at the Pabst!

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