Recorded in one take, "West End Girls" by the Pet Shop Boys originally missed the UK Top 40 in 1984 until re-recorded with producer Stephen Hague. Once slowed down and the story told a little clearer, the single vaulted to #1.
"West End Girls" isn't just another synth-pop song: it's intellectual pop. The song creates a cityscape in your head.
The music was inspired by hip-hop artist Grandmaster Flash's "The Message" while the lyrics inspired by TS Eliot's poem 'The Waste Land'. The lyrics recount the class tensions and inner-city pressure in London, specifically how the boys from the East End of London pine for rich girls from the West End.
The street chatter and car horns intro followed by hypnotic synths before Neil Tennant's dead-pan vocals immediately grab our attention. But it's that unforgettable bass-synth hook and cryptic lyrics that keeps bringing me back to live vicariously in the "dead-end world".
Watching the video as a 17-year-old verified that a much bigger world laid out there waiting to be explored.
When Joelle and I visited London in 2012, I couldn't help but point out the many famous London landmarks shown in the iconic video:
- Waterloo Station
- a No 42 red double-decker bus to Aldgate
- Tower Bridge
- Westminster Palace Clock Tower
- the South Bank
- Leicester Square
Fave lyrics: "Which do you choose. A hard or soft option"
In 1993, New Zealand-based artist Flight of the Conchords paraodied "West End Girls":