Culture Wikia

"West End Girls [1984 version]"
12" single cover
Song by Pet Shop Boys
B-side"Pet Shop Boys"
Released9 April 1984
RecordedUnique Studios, New York 1984[1]
  • Synthpop
LabelBobcat Records
  • Neil Tennant
  • Chris Lowe
Producer(s)Bobby Orlando
"West End Girls [1985 version]"
7" single cover
Song by Pet Shop Boys
from the album Please
B-side"A Man Could Get Arrested"
Released28 October 1985
RecordedAugust 1985[1]
GenreSynthpop, hip hop, new wave
Length3:59 (7" version)
4:41 (album version)
  • EMI Music
  • Parlophone
  • Neil Tennant
  • Chris Lowe
Producer(s)Stephen Hague

"West End Girls" is a song by the British pop duo Pet Shop Boys. Written by Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe, the song was released twice as a single. The song is influenced by hip hop music, with lyrics 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. In 2015 the song was voted by the British public as the nation's 12th favourite 1980s number one in a poll for ITV.[2]

The song was performed by Pet Shop Boys at the 2012 Summer Olympics closing ceremony[3] and was included as part of the soundtrack of the 2013 video game Grand Theft Auto V on the Non-Stop-Pop radio station.[4]


Recording and production

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.[5]

In 1983–84, the duo recorded eleven 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", "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.[6] It included a drum part lifted from Michael Jackson's "Billie Jean", and an arrangement involving what Tennant called "Barry White chords".[7] Orlando was thrilled by the song's production; his idea was to make a rap record in a British accent.[8]

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,[9] but was only available in the United Kingdom as a 12" import.[10] 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.[11] They re-recorded "West End Girls" with producer Stephen Hague, and re-released the song in late 1985, topping the charts in both the UK and the US.[12]

In an interview on BBC4's Synth Britannia programme (Template:YouTube at 1h 21m 19s), Neil Tennant explains the role of the then new sampling technology on the track and how every single sound came from the newly introduced E-mu Emulator keyboard.

Music and lyrics

Template:Listen "West End Girls" is a synthpop song[13] influenced by hip hop music.[12] The song's socially conscious streak, as well as the propulsive bass line, derives from Grandmaster Flash's protest rap song "The Message".[10] Lowe and Hague created a "snaky, obsessive rhythm punch" for the music,[12] replacing the song's previously sparse beats and minimal keyboard lines.[10]

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".[14] The lyrics were inspired by T.S. Eliot's poem The Waste Land, particularly in the use of different narrative voices and arcane references.[10] The song's lyrics are largely concerned with class, inner-city pressure.[7][12] Tennant later said that some listeners had assumed the song referred to prostitutes, but was actually, "about rough boys getting a bit of posh."[15]

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 very 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?"[16] which was removed for the 1985 version.

Critical reception

"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".[17] 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".[18] 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".[19]

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".[20]

In 1987, "West End Girls" won for Best Single at The BRIT Awards,[21] and for Best International Hit at the Ivor Novello Awards.[22] 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.[23][24]

Music video

The video was directed by Andy Morahan and Eric Watson,[25][26] 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 walks imperiously while Lowe follows behind.

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.[27]

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.[28] 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.[28] 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.[29]

Chart performance

"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,[30] and in some European countries, such as Belgium, where it debuted at number 24 on the VRT Top 30 chart on 28 July 1984,[31] peaking at 17 four weeks later.[32] In Canada, "West End Girls" first entered the RPM singles chart in April 1985, reaching a peak position of 81 in June 1985.[33]

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.[30] 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".[12]

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, becoming the first hip hop song to top the UK charts and the first British hip hop song to top a national chart.[34] It maintained the number one position for two weeks[34] and received a gold certification by the British Phonographic Industry (BPI) in January 1986.[35] Across Europe, "West End Girls" also topped the singles chart in Norway,[36] as well as peaking in the top three in Belgium, Germany, Ireland, the Netherlands, Sweden, and Switzerland.[37][38][39][40][41]

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.[42] In the United States, West End Girls debuted on the Billboard Hot 100 at number 71,[43] reaching the number one position on 10 May 1986, and remained on the chart for 20 weeks.[44] The song also peaked at number one on Billboard's Hot Dance Music/Club Play chart for two weeks.[45]

Formats and track listings

Credits and personnel

  • Neil Tennant – vocals, lyrics
  • Chris Lowe – keyboards, artwork design
  • Helena Springs – additional vocals
  • Bobby Orlando – producer, (1984 release)
  • Stephen Hague – producer (1985 release)
  • Steve Jerome – engineer – 1984 release
  • David Jacob – engineer
  • Frank Roszak – remixing
  • Eric Watson – photography

Charts and certifications

Weekly charts

Year-end charts

Chart (1986) Peak
US Billboard Hot 100 15
Australia (Kent Music Report)[54] 26


Country Provider Certification Sales/shipments
Canada CRIA Gold[55] 50,000+
United Kingdom BPI Gold[35] 500,000+
Preceded by
Merry Christmas Everyone by Shakin' Stevens
UK Singles Chart number-one single
11 January 1986 – 18 January 1986
Succeeded by
The Sun Always Shines on TV by a-ha
Preceded by
I'm Your Man by Wham!
New Zealand RIANZ Singles Chart number-one single
21 February 1986 – 14 March 1986
Succeeded by
Rock Me Amadeus by Falco
Preceded by
Whenever You Need Somebody by O'Chi Brown
Billboard Hot Dance Club Play number-one single
3 May 1986 – 10 May 1986
Succeeded by
Say It, Say It by E.G. Daily
Preceded by
Addicted to Love by Robert Palmer
Billboard Hot 100 number-one single
10 May 1986
Succeeded by
The Greatest Love of All by Whitney Houston
Preceded by
Let's Go All the Way by Sly Fox
Canadian RPM number-one single
17 May 1986
Succeeded by
Live to Tell by Madonna

East 17 version

"West End Girls"
Song by East 17
from the album Walthamstow
Released21 June 1993
LabelLondon Records
  • Neil Tennant
  • Chris Lowe
  • Mykaell S. Riley
  • The Groove Corporation

In 1993 East 17 covered "West End Girls" for their album Walthamstow, with limited chart success.

Track listings


  1. . West End Girls (Faces on Posters Mix)
  2. . West End Girls (Kicking in Chairs)


Chart (1993)[56] Peak
Australian Singles Chart 4
Dutch Singles Chart 48
Finnish Singles Chart[57] 10
French Singles Chart 48
German Singles Chart 40
Irish Singles Chart 14
Israel Singles Chart[58] 2
Japanese Singles Chart[59] 7
Latvian Singles Chart[60] 14
UK Singles Chart 11


  1. 1.0 1.1 "Absolutely Pet Shop Boys Unofficial web site – Profile On boys". 27 May 1991. Retrieved 1 October 2011.
  2. 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.
  3. Alexis Petridis. "Olympics closing ceremony music: big acts, big hits, but no big gasps". The Guardian. Retrieved 30 March 2014.
  4. "'GTA 5' soundtrack released - listen - Music News". Digital Spy. 17 September 2013. Retrieved 30 March 2014.
  5. Barrow; Newby, 1994. p. 67.
  6. Cowton, 1991. p. 11.
  7. 7.0 7.1 "The 500 Greatest Songs Since You Were Born: 51–100". Blender. Alpha Media Group. October 2005. Retrieved 19 February 2009.
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  11. Cowton, 1991. p. 22.
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  13. 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)”
  14. "West End Nottingham". BBC. December 2003. Retrieved 19 February 2009.
  15. Please (reissue) (Inset). Neil Tennant. 2001.CS1 maint: others in cite AV media (notes) (link)
  16. West End girls - original lyrics
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  19. Hubbard, Michael. "Pet Shop Boys – Concrete (Parlophone)". musicOMH. Retrieved 20 February 2009.
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  56. Steffen Hung. "East 17 - West End Girls". Retrieved 30 March 2014.
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  58. "East 17".
  59. Oricon Singles Chart Oricon Singles Chart (Retrieved 2 November 2012)
  60. M-1 TOP 40


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  • Barrow, Tony; Newby, Julian (1994). Inside the Music Business. Routledge. ISBN 0-415-13660-1.
  • Cowton, Michael (1991). Pet Shop Boys: Introspective. Sidgwick & Jackson. ISBN 0-283-99825-3.
  • Zuberi, Nabeel (2001). Sounds English: Transnational Popular Music. University of Illinois Press. ISBN 0-252-02620-9.

External links

  • Template:MetroLyrics song

Template:Pet Shop Boys Template:East 17