It’s a statistic almost guaranteed to fool contestants in a pop quiz: how many No.1 albums has Britain’s most successful musical duo enjoyed? The surprising answer is: just one. Despite scoring four No.1 singles in the 80s, Pet Shop Boys have made it to the peak of the British album charts only once, with Very.
Listen to ‘Very’ here.
The smartest strategic move
Twelve songs made up Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe’s triumphant fifth studio album, which, for the first time in their history, followed a reasonably indulgent hiatus (notwithstanding the pair’s first hits collection and a handful of singles). By 1993, the music scene was dominated by bland dance conglomerates, grunge and a fresh generation of boy bands such as Boyz II Men, East 17 and Take That. Pet Shop Boys’ previous album, Behaviour, had been received by some as being too downbeat, and, if the musical landscape looked a little unforgiving, a retreat towards the grand dance-pop of before appeared to be the smartest strategic move.
Another first: Pet Shop Boys would steer much of Very’s production themselves, though Stephen Hague’s safe hands are all over the final cut. The album also marked the moment when the band would take their visuals to a whole new level, with a series of grand stylistic themes accompanying Very’s singles – each one outdoing the last – and even influencing the packaging of the music in its physical formats (at that time dominated by the CD and the cassette). “Our idea was to get to the point where we didn’t have to be in the videos,” admits Neil.