Joe Sparrow : I just figured out why I love pop music…

…and it was my cousin Bethan’s fault.

I vividly remember her loaning me three Pet Shop Boys‘ LPs when I was about eight or nine, and telling me how good the band were. She was right.

The LPs were Please, Introspective and Actually. My dad copied them to cassettes, and they became my first albums. I played them incessantly, on a cheap tape player that I also used to load games onto my ZX Spectrum.

At that age I didn’t even know what being gay was, let alone that Neil Tennant was gay. All the same, I never admitted to my friends that I was a Pet Shop Boys fan, because I knew that they were a bit effete, and I sensed that the playgrounds of Stoke On Trent was not a place to align yourself with softness.

In private though, I played the albums non-stop partly because they were mine (that feeling of belonging is essential to being in love with a band), but also because these three LPs are full of practically perfect pop songs.

I was reminded of this over the weekend, when Gem played the Pet Shop Boys’ Discography LP, which collates their singles from 1986-1990. The first 13 tracks are honestly, hand-on-heart, I-mean-this-no-really, the most perfect pop album I can imagine ever being made.

It became a running joke between friends on Twitter – which is the best Pet Shop Boys song from this period? It’s A Sin? Heart? Rent? Domino Dancing? Suburbia? Oh, wait – what about West End Girls? and so on.

As an experiment, I may make playlists out of the first 13 singles from the first four years of, say, The Beatles or The Smiths or Erasure’s career, and see if the standard is so ludicrously high.

NB: I just found this collection of early Pet Shop Boys demos produced by Hi-NRG hero Bobby O, and they’re amazing. I Get Excited sounds like Nelly Furtardo’s Maneater – or rather, vice-versa. The version of Two Divided By Zero here is better than the “real” one.