Unity: Pet Shop Boys / New Order synergies

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Dog
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Unity: Pet Shop Boys / New Order synergies

#1 Post by Dog »

For my own entertainment, and ahead of their joint Unity tour this autumn, I’ve put together a Spotify playlist of all New Order and Pet Shop Boys’ singles, combined in chronological order.

Running their singles together in this way highlighted to me a few interesting career synergies which I thought I’d share.

Blue Monday and New York

Neil has cited how, pre-fame, in 1983, Blue Monday “depressingly” pre-empted the innovatively derivative “umba-umba” rhythm he and Chris were still working to perfect. Their soundalike track I’m keeping my fingers crossed was subsequently shelved and remains sadly unfinished and unheard.

Neil was still working for Smash Hits at the time Blue Monday came out. Although a fan, he awarded New Order’s subsequent second album, Power, Corruption And Lies, a luke-warm 6.5 out of 10 review (“…they’ve made a brace of brilliant singles and surprisingly dull LPs… I’m still looking forward to their Greatest Hits…”). Despite being temporarily railroaded, it was only 13 months later that Pet Shop Boys were out of the blocks themselves with their Bobby Orlando produced version of West End girls. The two bands were clearly sharing similar transatlantic influences; New Order had only recently made their own journey to New York to record Confusion with hip-hop producer Arthur Baker, as documented in the track’s video which showcased the city’s vibrant early eighties nightlife. Baker would go on to remix both In the night and Suburbia for Pet Shop Boys, as well as further remixes for both New Order and Joy Division, including 1963, Touched By The Hand Of God, Jetstream, Be A Rebel and the 1995 reissue of Love Will Tear Us Apart.

True Faith and It’s a sin

In 1986, New Order are on record as “blasting out” Pet Shop Boys’ debut Please while recording their own fourth album Brotherhood, no doubt admiring Stephen Hague’s sleek production work, as by the following year they were using him for their own PSB-aping True Faith and its equally epic b-side 1963. The tables had turned and New Order were now arguably the ones following Neil and Chris’s lead.

Two of the bands’ most iconic hits, True Faith and It’s a sin, were actually released only a month apart, with It's a sin (which also featured a Hague credit, for additional production) appearing first in June 1987. The track went on to reach the UK number one spot, while True Faith - issued in support of Substance 1987, that singles collection Neil had been holding out for - managed number four. 35 years later and it is strange to think that these two pivotal songs would have been heard on the radio at the same time that summer. As well as adopting Stephen Hague, New Order were now also making good use of PSB favourite Shep Pettibone, who remixed both True Faith and their prior single Bizarre Love Triangle, again blurring the lines between the two groups, particularly for the mistaken few that thought Shep was a PSB alter-ego, rather than their most used remixer for their 80s’ output.

Introspective and Technique

While both 1986 and 1987 saw the two bands’ singles chronologies intertwine, it is particularly interesting to note how the singles from Introspective (1988) and Technique (1989) also satisfyingly merge when sequenced in order. These seminal albums, released only three months apart, saw each band embrace the dance floor to a greater and more consistent extent than either had done to date. Technique reached number one while Introspective stalled just short at number two. Together they helped both shape and capture an exciting and culturally significant period for dance music as it continued its ascent to the mainstream.

Electronic and the Hacienda

While neither part of the Pet Shop Boys nor the New Order canons, the addition of Electronic’s Getting Away With It to this timeline ended the eighties in stellar fashion, and the story of Bernard and Johnny taking Neil and Chris clubbing to the Hacienda, itself co-owned by New Order, remains a part of synth-pop folklore.

The early 90s saw more Electronic action, with Neil and Chris stepping out onto the live stage with Bernard and Johnny on four occasions: twice in Los Angeles as guests of Depeche Mode, once at Manchester’s Cities In The Park festival (is this the only time Neil has worn shorts onstage?), and once at London’s Wembley Hall; as things stand, Electronic’s last ever gig. Patience Of A Saint, the only Electronic track to officially feature both Pet Shop Boys, graced their 1991 album - a debut which rivalled the quality of anything produced by any of its component players - and 1992’s awesome Disappointed single followed, with its superlative Tennant lyrics and lead vocal. The month prior to its release Neil and Chris returned to Manchester’s Hacienda to perform as part of its 10th anniversary celebrations, where they famously debuted their cover of Go West.

Republic and Very

Come 1993 and the substantial campaigns for the albums Republic and Very overlapped significantly. Stephen Hague was re-employed by both bands - in full producer mode for Republic, their first album for London Records following the collapse of Factory, where he had his work cut out as New Order relationships faltered, and as additional producer and mixer for Very, with Neil and Chris now confident enough in their vision and abilities to undertake the core production work themselves. While Pet Shop Boys were producing their own album for the first time, New Order, who had previously self-produced their albums to impressive ends, now needed a third party to mediate and knit together their separate contributions.

Both albums reached number one and, entirely coincidentally, both also featured different compositions entitled Young offender. The nine hit singles released across both albums stretched well into 1994: a bumper time for fans of both bands as well as a shared commercial peak. Both campaigns also showcased some of their most striking design work to date. For Republic, Peter Saville eschewed New Order’s usual minimal aesthetic to embrace the colour and language of commercial advertising. For Very, Pet Shop Boys also chose to step aside from reality, building an equally colourful and surreal hyper-pop world with the help of David Fielding’s fantastical costumes, Howard Greenhalgh’s computer-generated videos and Daniel Well’s tactile orange CD case.

By 1995 New Order were on unofficial hiatus, so London were in remix and reissue mode for a run of singles to accompany their (Best Of) and (Rest Of) compilation releases. Pet Shop Boys joined the revisionism with their 95 retake of b-side and fan favourite Paninaro, released as a single on the same day New Order plundered Blue Monday for a third time, this time remixed by German electronic duo Hardfloor.

The Price of love

A decade later, and in 2005 New Order were the first of the two to use producer Stuart Price, on their single Jetstream. PSB would of course go on to have a long and fruitful multi-album relationship with him, but at this point it was to be over seven years until he got to flex his muscles on one of their singles; Memory of the future.

Pet Shop Boys and New Order singles campaigns didn’t overlap significantly again until 2016, with Mute debut Music Complete and the mid-trilogy Super; PSB’s second for their own X2 label. By this point neither act were troubling the singles charts but both were now working regularly with Stuart Price - including an abandoned Sumner solo album, musical direction for three Pet Shop Boys tours and live arrangements for both bands - and both were still putting out work to rival the quality of that of their commercial peaks.

40 years in 100 songs

I am sure other fans of both bands will be able to spot or recall further examples of cross-pollination, or embellish or correct what I have written above. Listening through their singles together, in order, today makes for a compelling journey through 40 years of exemplary pop music, undoubtedly mined from the same rich seams, fuelled by a shared and belligerent commitment to driving forward rather than looking back, and underpinned by a recognition of the importance of aesthetics, and of pop music itself.

Whether this autumn’s co-headline tour is an exciting retread of both bands’ most recent greatest hits sets, or something more bespoke or collaborative, it neatly caps four decades of symbiotic influence, artistic respect and productive friendship.

If, like me, you like (Fac) numbers as much as words and music, you might enjoy the fact that my playlist containing all New Order’s singles plus all Pet Shop Boys’ singles is exactly 100 tracks long, and lasts exactly seven hours. Unity indeed.

https://open.spotify.com/playlist/2VlMN ... gvzJRyrGeg
Last edited by Dog on Fri 29 Jul 2022, 7:02 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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leesmapman
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Re: Unity: Pet Shop Boys / New Order synergies

#2 Post by leesmapman »

Neil gave Movement an 8 out of 10 in 1981.

Nice read by the way. I love the overlap in both bands. I always try to explain this to a colleague who is a big New Order fan and thinks nothing of Pet Shop Boys.

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ype
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Re: Unity: Pet Shop Boys / New Order synergies

#3 Post by ype »

Fantastic read and great playlist! Thanks a lot!

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Re: Unity: Pet Shop Boys / New Order synergies

#4 Post by Dog »

leesmapman wrote:Neil gave Movement an 8 out of 10 in 1981.

Nice read by the way. I love the overlap in both bands. I always try to explain this to a colleague who is a big New Order fan and thinks nothing of Pet Shop Boys.
Thanks for that. However much I like Movement I’m not sure it’s better than Power, Corruption And Lies.

At UK concerts NO audiences always seem quite different to PSB audiences. At NO there is always that rowdier contingent which PSB don’t seem to attract. I wonder if it is the same in the States. It may make for a strange dynamic.

While I’m a fan of both bands and actually think New Order sound more consistently good live now than they ever have, I do think there’s every chance PSB will sound notably better at the Unity shows. They are coming straight off the back of the Dreamworld shows and are sounding extremely slick. NO haven’t played a show this year and even at their slickest can still be a little rough around the edges. Hopefully they saw the Glastonbury show and have their heads down rehearsing! I’m sure there will be some friendly competition.
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rashomon
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Unity: Pet Shop Boys / New Order synergies

#5 Post by rashomon »

Excellent read Dog and thanks for the effort in putting together the playlist.

As a fan of both bands it warms me to know that these two greats have a mutual respect for each other and share a genuine friendship
you could say conventional ... and I could claim intentional

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Re: Unity: Pet Shop Boys / New Order synergies

#6 Post by lucienchardon »

Great write-up Dog! Really enjoyed that. Pet Shop Boys and New Order are my favorite bands.

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Re: Unity: Pet Shop Boys / New Order synergies

#7 Post by negative_0ne »

excellent job.

i like both bands. although i prefer new order more.

they both have had a long and interesting history,
and seeing the intersections and overlaps is very cool.

later
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Re: Unity: Pet Shop Boys / New Order synergies

#8 Post by TallThinMan »

Great post, Dog. I wonder if the story that each group used to send each other their new record is true? I also wonder if Neil and Chris are on speaking terms with Peter Hook.

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Re: Unity: Pet Shop Boys / New Order synergies

#9 Post by tottenhammattspurs »

I’d love Hooky to turn up on a new Pet Shop Boys song:project.
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Re: Unity: Pet Shop Boys / New Order synergies

#10 Post by ea39 »

https://twitter.com/Johnny_Marr/status/ ... 9434376192

Could it be? (probably not, but you never know...)

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Re: Unity: Pet Shop Boys / New Order synergies

#11 Post by telys »

ea39 wrote: Mon 01 Aug 2022, 11:54 am https://twitter.com/Johnny_Marr/status/ ... 9434376192

Could it be? (probably not, but you never know...)
They're in North America at the same time in september and october. Tried to analyse the tour schedules but they don't seem to be at the same place at the same time although perhaps at the end of september they seem to be in NY state at the same time. Anybody else with a clearer geographical view?
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Re: Unity: Pet Shop Boys / New Order synergies

#12 Post by Dog »

telys wrote:
ea39 wrote: Mon 01 Aug 2022, 11:54 am https://twitter.com/Johnny_Marr/status/ ... 9434376192

Could it be? (probably not, but you never know...)
They're in North America at the same time in september and october. Tried to analyse the tour schedules but they don't seem to be at the same place at the same time although perhaps at the end of september they seem to be in NY state at the same time. Anybody else with a clearer geographical view?
Good spot. Not only is he free on Wednesday 28 September when the Unity tour reaches NY’s Madison Square Gardens, he’s also definitely local, given he’s playing the same venue just two nights later.
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Re: Unity: Pet Shop Boys / New Order synergies

#13 Post by G_Goalden »

I'd say it was more likely that Neil and Bernard (and possibly Chris) would play the encore at The Killers show at MSG.

I just don't see the other members of NO (some of whom are relatively new to the band) indulging the lead singer to perform a couple of hits from his solo project with a couple of his mates from other bands.
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Re: Unity: Pet Shop Boys / New Order synergies

#14 Post by Dog »

G_Goalden wrote:I'd say it was more likely that Neil and Bernard (and possibly Chris) would play the encore at The Killers show at MSG.

I just don't see the other members of NO (some of whom are relatively new to the band) indulging the lead singer to perform a couple of hits from his solo project with a couple of his mates from other bands.
I tend to agree. It would be nice to hear him guest on, say, Being boring though.
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Re: Unity: Pet Shop Boys / New Order synergies

#15 Post by telys »

G_Goalden wrote: Mon 01 Aug 2022, 4:55 pm I'd say it was more likely that Neil and Bernard (and possibly Chris) would play the encore at The Killers show at MSG.

I just don't see the other members of NO (some of whom are relatively new to the band) indulging the lead singer to perform a couple of hits from his solo project with a couple of his mates from other bands.
Ah, come on, that's just nonsense. They're all professional musicians. The best would of course Johnny joining them performing Selfish by The Other Two as a duet between Neil and Gillian.
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