The British synth-poppers keep disco alive in the time of AIDS

By EW Staff
Updated October 08, 1993 at 04:00 AM EDT

Nearly a decade after the British synth-poppers stormed the charts with ”West End Girls,” Pet Shop Boy Neil Tennant is still defending his beloved disco music to the philistines. ”People used to despise disco as something fey and artificial and metronomic,” he says. ”So we used to call ourselves a disco group to try and change the connotation from a dirty word into something contemporary and innovative.”

But that’s not the only reason singer-songwriter Tennant, 39, and keyboardist Chris Lowe, 35, cover the Village People’s ”Go West” on their sixth album, Very. The song is a perfect vehicle for what Tennant calls the Boys’ ”uneasy hybrid”: exhilarating, tastes-great-less-filling dance tunes injected with substantive lyrics. Thus, with orchestral flourishes and some lyrical additions by Tennant, the Village People’s paean to a gay Utopia becomes almost plaintive. ”The song is about the gay ideal of the late ’70s,” Tennant explains, ”the idea of moving to San Francisco for a life in the sun, where you could be free, be yourself, do what you liked. And, of course, AIDS ! was about to change that ideal completely. So now the song has an elegiac kind of quality as well.”

You’ll find the Boys’ signature irony and ecstasy elsewhere on Very. In ”Dreaming of the Queen,” Her Highness and Lady Di come to a tea, hosted by a naked Tennant. The scenario was inspired by a British book, Dreams About the Queen. ”The most popular anxiety dream commoners have,” says Tennant, ”is of the Queen coming to tea and there isn’t any, or the dog pees on the carpet. I combined it with that anxiety dream of finding yourself walking around with no clothes on.” Apprised of the recent book I Dream of Madonna, Tennant salivates: ”I can’t wait. The ‘Dreaming of Madonna’ remix.”