606. ‘Heart’, by Pet Shop Boys

Neil and Chris are back again. And when acts score #1s in such quick succession – it’s been barely three months since ‘Always on My Mind’ – you know they’re at the peak of their fame.

Heart, by Pet Shop Boys (their 4th and final #1)

3 weeks, from 3rd – 24th April 1988

But are they at the peak of their game? Or is this Pet Shop Boys-by-numbers? It’s undeniably them, identifiable after about two point five seconds of the soaring synth intro and the dead-panned Beat…! Heartbeat…! The main riff is a fun one: a vocal riff, a collage of different ‘oh’s and ‘ah’s (one of which is apparently Pavarotti!), and it’s a great hook. Despite their songs rarely featuring guitars, Pet Shop Boys had some great riffs (their previous two #1s, ‘It’s a Sin’ and ‘Always on My Mind’ being two prime examples).

Actually, I just wrote that last paragraph before realising that I was listening to the album version of ‘Heart’. The single remix is slightly less PSB; a little more Euro-disco, and a little more instant. That intro sounds like a cross between Damian’s ‘The Time Warp’ and Kelly Marie’s early-eighties banger ‘Feels Like I’m in Love’, with the heartbeat pew-pew effects. It was the 4th single from the ‘Actually’ album, and they clearly felt they needed to do something different with it.

The Pet Shop Boys themselves are a little down on this record, claiming it inferior to some of their other big hits. And lyrically, yes, it doesn’t have the edge or the wit of ‘West End Girls’, or ‘Rent’. It’s a simple enough love song: I hear your heart beat next to me, I’m in love with you, I mean what I say… Nor is it as well remembered as their other chart-toppers. I wonder how many people at the time thought that this would be the duo’s final UK number one…?

It may not be as well remembered, but I’d argue it deserves to be. It’s incredibly catchy, and danceable, and yet sweet. Not every song has to be clever and caustic. Plus, the Boys kept it and released it themselves, despite writing it with Madonna in mind (they never sent it to her, fearing rejection). So they must have liked it at the time. Plus I’d like to shout out to the brilliantly unexpected false ending, which I’m guessing represents a heart that keeps missing a beat… In the video it matches the moment a vampire, played by none other than Sir Ian McKellen, plunges his teeth into Neil Tennant’s newlywed bride…

I mean, that’s reason enough to love this forgotten mini-classic before you even hear the song. Like I said, this would be Pet Shop Boys’ final #1, though they’d have two further decades of Top 10 hits to come, as well as producing songs for the likes of Madonna (they got in there eventually), Robbie Williams and Girls Aloud. They’re icons, bizarre at times and very British, and with a mystique and a presence that makes them genuine pop legends. We bid them adieu here…

9 thoughts on “606. ‘Heart’, by Pet Shop Boys

  1. You nailed it when you said it may not be well remembered. Despite me having a PSB ‘Hits’ album, I had completely forgotten about this one! Well – actually, I forgot about the TITLE. Soon as I played the song I remembered it … just had no idea that was the song title!
    Yup – love this, as with most of their stuff. Trouble is, they have released so much quality pop music, old farts like me get confused and forgetful. 😀

    • Haha not at all! I’d say that this one definitely gets a bit lost among their bigger hits!

      PS It’s the 5th anniversary of this blog in a few weeks time, and I wanted to ask some of my regular readers/commenters to write guest posts on their favourite #1 singles… Would you be interested??

  2. Total gem. Adore this one and rate it more than the boys do. Often missed out on tour but its so joyous and the video is hilarious, thats what sold it! Its a shame equally great records like Left To My Own Devices didnt get there, or their Dusty and Liza and Bowie and Yoko and Kylie stuff, or the ballet, the musical, the silent movie soundtrack, the ongoing quality albums and singles and tours. Ive seen them in a bar, in the grounds of Tower Of London, Poble Espanyol Barcelona, Royal Opera House, Royal Albert Hall, Hammersmith, Bournemouth International Centre, Wembley Arena and it doesnt matter how extravagant or basic the tour presentation, they are always brilliant.

    • That’s some dedication! The most I’ve seen a band is three times (and I’m not admitting who that is…!) I do wonder why PSBs are so down on this… But then often nobody is more critical of their art than the artist themselves.

      PS It’s the 5th anniversary of this blog in a few weeks time, and I wanted to ask some of my regular readers/commenters to write guest posts on their favourite #1 singles… Would you be interested??

      • True enough and yes happy to help and congrats on 5 years, wow that went fast! Just let me know what you would like and when. 🙂 The main issue would be picking one theres so many!

      • Thanks! That’s great that you’d like to contribute : )

        I’d like to post them during the last week in Jan – starting on the 30th if possible. The format will look much like my usual posts – a pic, and a video embedded at the end. You can send the post to me at stmckay31@gmail.com (and attach any particular pictures you’d want me to use). Also, I’ll link to your blog in the post, if that’s OK?

        Ps the only song that’s been claimed so far is ‘Silence is Golden’.

        Cheers, Stewart

  3. They were different than the average 80s pop band…they were talented. Their songs are usually really strong…never heard this one though.

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