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Perfect 10: Pet Shop Boys deep cuts

A birrova late one for Pride Month on the day after Stonewall Day 2024, I penned this featurette for issue No. 273 of Record Collector magazine, dated May 2002. Ostensibly as a little add-on to close out a six-page Pet Shop Boys interview I’d conducted with Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe at their fave rave of the day, Soho’s Groucho Club, the entry that is worth singling out with an explanation of sorts is the Crimbo cut         .

I asked Neil, slightly impertinently, why the fan club freebie It Doesn’t Often Snow At Christmas was missing from the 2001 2-CD expanded edition of Ver Boys’ Bilingual album, as there was certainly space at the end of the second disc, Further Listening 1995–1997. His suitably candid response was that “we keep thinking about releasing it as a single. Maybe we’ll release it one Christmas. (I like it more than Chris does.)”

Armed with that info, and knowing how Lowe is indeed the great less-is-more quality control purveyor of the PSB catalogue, I decided I would raise the subject when I was treated to a suitably champagne-fuelled photo op with the duo after their Release show at the Cirque Royal in Brussels on 26 June 2002, which just happened to my birthday, so ignore the erroneous date on this moodily shot half-show from Madrid.

Other than Neil asking my opinion of David Bowie’s new album Heathen, and my chum Lance attempting to submit a video treatment for their next single London in somewhat unorthodox fashion (there was indeed a promotional film for the third 45 from the indie-lite Release but they didn’t go with his vision), the main thing I remember discussing with them was that elusive exclusive IDOSAC.

By this time my festive aspirations for the slightly cloying In Denial (see entry No. 9 below) had receded, mercifully, some might say, and in its place, I was more enamoured with one of the more moodily atmospheric cuts from Release. Which is why posited a fourth single idea for that album to Chris Lowe which half came true:

“Chris, I’ve got an idea for releasing It Doesn’t Often Snow At Christmas as a single — you could make it a double A-side with Birthday Boy and release it in December.”

“Oh, like a conceptual kind of thing? That’s not a bad idea. But that Christmas song is a few years old now. We could maybe remix it.” 

Were they listening to me?

Indeed they were. Happily, the Christmas message was not long ago lost after all, though it took Team PSB seven years to get around to it when a slightly OTT orchestral rejig by Marius de Vries was twinned as a double A-side with All Over The World. Or, if you prefer, tracks one and three from the Christmas EP. Take it away Titch.

So, in the end, It Doesn’t Often Snow At Christmas did have disco potential and was effectively issued as a fourth 45 from a Pet Shop Boys album in December — December 2009, when the LP it was helping to promote was 2009’s Yes.

Funny how potent cheap ideas are.


Ten lesser-known PSB gems you really should own 

A Man Could Get Arrested

A cautionary tale about dangerous liaisons in London’s notorious Russell Square, which made a perfect flipside to West End Girls in 1985, though an earlier Bobby O-produced mix has the edge. 

It Couldn’t Happen Here

Co-written with legendary composer Ennio Morricone and arranged by Angelo ‘Twin Peaks’ Badalamenti, it’s no surprise this mournful masterpiece from 1987 became the title track of the Boys’ surreal film excursion the following year. Taken from the album, Actually. 

I Get Excited (You Get Excited Too)

Neil quotes Oscar Wilde over Chris’s hummable house track, bolstered by a rip-roaring guitar solo they originally offered to Eric Elapton. The flipside to their last UK No. 1 to date, 1988‘s Heart. 

Your Funny Uncle 

Tucked away on the 1989 It’s Alright single, this handsome weepie told the true story of a friend’s funeral, and was beautifully performed as an encore on the second PSB tour with the duo dressed as angels. 

We All Feel Better In The Dark

B-side to Being Boring in 1990 and a rare vocal by Lowe, who wants the world to know that “I’m feeling really horny”. So lustful, in fact, that he performed it live in his undies. The sexiest Pet Shop Boys record ever made. 

The Theatre

The classiest moment on 1993’s Very, the epic grandeur of an Anne Dudley-conducted orchestral score provides a suitably splendid contrast with the subject matter of the homeless camped out on London’s Strand. It’s also the only song with the word ‘bums’ in it. Probably.


Written for the Steven Berkoff film of the same name, Decadence is a sumptuous ballad that eventually appeared with Liberation in 1994, though it easily out-shines the A-side. “A classic Pet Shop Boys B-side: Johnny Marr, a string arrangement, several mixes, and it cost a fortune,” Chris remembers. 

The Calm Before The Storm

A Tennant solo track, and 1996 Single B-side, this pastoral paragon describes a Sunday afternoon waiting for the Bilingual album’s chart position. As you do. 

It Doesn’t Often Snow At Christmas

A 1997 fan club freebie which now fetches up to £200, the Boys have thought about giving it a full release ever since. 

Had it been a double A-side with In Denial, a glorious duet with Kylie and full choir (from 1999’s Nightlife), the festive No. 1 could have been theirs and Kylie’s career would nave been jump-started a year earlier. 

Friendly Fire

Issued on a free Daily Telegraph PSB 2001 sampler and included on the US 2-CD edition of Release, the song was performed as an autobiographical piano ballad by the vampish character of Billie Trix in Closer To Heaven, though Neil confesses, “the words are really written about David Bowie: ‘I who studied make-up, mime and Buddha’. I mean, hello everyone, it’s David Bowie.” 

Steve Pafford

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