Flashback Video: 'West End Girls' by Pet Shop Boys
Ever since the dawn of MTV and Friday Night Videos, the music video has significantly impacted musical tastes and pop culture. It might not be as extreme as when the Buggles declared that "Video Killed the Radio Star", but there is no arguing that the music video certainly could make or break a song's popularity. So this regular Flashback Video feature will serve to remember some of the music videos from the great '80s decade that made an impact on me in one way or another.
This issue we will cover "West End Girls" by Pet Shop Boys. "West End Girls" was their second single from the Pet Shop Boys' first studio album, Please, released in October of 1985. It had originally been released in early 1984 on Columbia Records and became a club hit, but the version most people know was re-recorded and released through EMI in October 1985. The group released their first major label single "Opportunities (Let's Make Lots of Money)" in mid-1985, but it failed to attract attention, so they decided to re-record "West End Girls" and release this new version as a single. This worked brilliantly. "West End Girls" was released in the UK in October 1985 and within eight weeks it had reached the top of the UK chart. In the U.S., the song climbed the charts in Spring of 1986 reaching #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 as well as the Billboard Hot Dance charts in May.
Some of the success, especially in the U.S., was due to the song's music video and heavy rotation on MTV. The video was directed by Andy Morahan and Eric Watson. Morahan had previously worked with O.M.D. and worked with Watson on the Pet Shop Boys original video for "Opportunities (Let's Make Lots of Money)". He would later go on to direct other '80s music videos including Wham's "I'm Your Man" and "The Edge of Heaven", Ozzy Osbourne's "Shot in the Dark" and "Ultimate Sin", Luther Vandross' "Give Me the Reason" and "Stop to Love" and The Human League's "Human" among many others. He then did the video for the Aretha Franklin & George Michael duet "I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me)" and also many of George Michael's other early solo videos including "I Want Your Sex", "Faith", "Father Figure" and "Monkey".
The video for "West End Girls" features shots of the duo (Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe) in several London locations including Petticoat Lane Market, Waterloo Station, a red double-decker bus, the Tower Bridge, Westminster and the Westminster Palace Clock Tower, the South Bank of the River Thames with the Houses of Parliament as a background, Leicester Square, and the South Africa House showing protestors in an anti-apartheid vigil among others. I always remember the part when they are standing in front of a red door and Tennant is singing directly into the camera with a straight face while Lowe is behind him in almost a faded ghost-like way (achieved by filming Lowe in double exposure). Tennant regularly sings the song directly to the camera while Lowe is usually (intentionally) focused elsewhere. "West End Girls" is a pretty awesome song to begin with, but the video and something about their constant sourpuss faces always seemed to capture my attention as well. Enjoy the music video for “West End Girls” by Pet Shop Boys…
Being from the U.S., I really had no idea what West End Girls were back then, but I was intrigued and knew I wanted to meet them. The video earned Pet Shop Boys a MTV Video Music Award nomination in 1986 for Best New Artist (but lost to a-ha's "Take On Me"). After the popularity of "West End Girls", they re-released "Opportunities (Let's Make Lots of Money)" as a single in 1986 with much greater success. After the second release, the single reached #11 on the UK Singles Chart and #10 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 while driving their debut album to Platinum status in both countries as well.
Hope you enjoyed another trip back to the '80s thanks to Flashback Video!