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Jun 10

PET SHOP BOYS – “Heart”

Popular89 comments • 4,824 views

#606, 9th April 1988, video

The Pet Shop Boys’ last and most unexpected Number One is also their most stripped-down, in texture and mood – “Heart” is a synthpop love song of uncomplicated devotion. They wrote it for Madonna, apparently, but never offered it to her. Understandably, you might think – there’s not very much to play with here, little of the edge or contradiction Madonna laces her material with. But it might easily have worked for one of italo disco’s sweetly blank divas, or one of the colder modern students of pop, a Sally Shapiro or an Annie maybe.

I think ‘affectless’ would suit “Heart” better than ‘sincere’ – it would get the singing out of the music’s way, and the music on “Heart” is enormously enjoyable, syndrums and all. While “It’s A Sin” and “Always On My Mind” took the full-on approach, “Heart” only hints at the epic, dropping string snatches, guitar strums and chopped vocal samples in and out discreetly over its metronome disco. It’s a preview in clockwork miniature of the more expansive long-form approach the group would take on the superb Introspective, not a drum machine or keyboard out of place.

But as a song? “Heart”‘s problem is that it is a simple record – attractively so – but its delivery misleads you away from that. When PSB are in overload or sentimental mode Neil Tennant’s vocals are an anchor: here though he walks you through the song drily, spelling everything out. He sounds clever, which makes you think the song must be clever too: that there has to be some hidden side or twist to “Heart”. And of course there isn’t, which makes its simplicity feel – unfairly – like a cheat or a letdown, and makes “Heart” seem slighter than it might have been.

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Comments

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  1. 76
    punctum on 4 Jun 2010 #

    Technology tends to fill long-suppressed desires. I daresay kids in the fifties would have killed to have a machine where you could listen to Elvis and watch him at the same time whenever you wanted.

  2. 77
    thefatgit on 4 Jun 2010 #

    #74 Absolutely, a personal event. And I take your point that for somebody somewhere, anything will take on event status. Like childbirth and marriage and death, events that are commonplace can be extraordinary. It’s a matter of perspective.

  3. 78
    Steve Mannion on 4 Jun 2010 #

    How many of you ever made up music videos in your head for songs you loved which didn’t have them? I still do this.

  4. 79
    rosie on 4 Jun 2010 #

    #76 – I think kids in 1957 were thrilled to bits to have a machine that made Presley sing to order along with their cheeseburger and coke float. Even if they couldn’t see him.

    #78 I can’t remember there ever being a song I wanted to put a video to, although I can think of many instrumental pieces I have done exactly that with. I certainly constructed a complete animation in my head to Frank Zappa’s Peaches en Regalia and have often wished I’d had an opportunity to realise it.

  5. 80
    flahr on 4 Jun 2010 #

    @70: you’re right, of course, and that was a disingenuous way of summing up the discussion. What I meant was listening to something as an album vs listening to it as single tracks (though that is different from the issue of skipping tracks or not), and that’s manifestly not what I said.

  6. 81
    lonepilgrim on 4 Jun 2010 #

    re78 stirs up horrible memories of DLTs new vids for old songs programme

  7. 82
    Tom on 5 Jun 2010 #

    THE GOLDEN OLDIE PICTURE SHOW. This had more influence (mostly very BAD influence) on my impression of old music than anything else ever. I think I mentioned it in an old Popular entry (Mungo Jerry?). Now of course I’d love to see an edition – maybe Youtube will provide…

  8. 83
    Mutley on 10 Jun 2010 #

    #76 “Technology tends to fill long-suppressed desires. I daresay kids in the fifties would have killed to have a machine where you could listen to Elvis and watch him at the same time whenever you wanted”

    Kids in the late 50s and early 60s did have such a machine, called the Scopitone – a type of jukebox featuring a 16 mm film component. There is a Wikipedia page on it which states that it came originally from France featuring amonst others the perpetual Johnny Hallyday singing “Noir c’est noir” (i.e. a cover of Los Bravos “Black is Black”). The only thing I can recall seeing on such a machine was Screaming Lord Sutch (“Jack the Ripper”), although according to Wikipedia, there was also Telstar, Neil Sedaka (“Calendar Girl”)and Nancy Sinatra (“These Boots are made for Walking”) among others. These video jukeboxes were not very common and were ultimately unsuccessful. After all, who wants to watch videos in coffee bars or pubs (and you had to pay), even with today’s high technology?

    #73. The related issue of whether “Heartbreak Hotel” would have had such an impact if Elvis had resembled Arthur Lucan. It could be said that rock’n’roll, and therefore most subsequent chart music, was kick-started by the Arthur Lucan of pop – i.e. Bill Haley of “Rock around the Clock” fame, who like Arthur’s alter ego, Old Mother Riley, was an older person, not at all good-looking or sexy, but very popular and appearing in cheap but successful films. Actually, the first time I heard “Rock around the Clock” (and therefore any rock’n’roll whatsoever) was on Hancock’s Half Hour in November 1955, when they did a spoof of the film “Blackboard Jungle” featuring “Rock around the Clock” in the background. As an innocent 12 year old I had never heard of Blackboard Jungle, Bill Haley, rock’n’roll, rhythm and blues, let alone Elvis. I was convinced that the song was produced by the Hancock team and was sung by Bill Kerr, Hancock’s gormless sidekick, who had a voice somewhat similar to Bill Haley’s. I was bowled over by the music, which instantly replaced “Robin Hood” (riding through the glen) and “The Ballad of Davy Crockett” (king of the wild frontier) as my music of choice.

  9. 84
    Tom on 10 Jun 2010 #

    Spotting a bonkers video out of the corner of yr eye on a pub TV = one of life’s fine minor pleasures.

    Paying money to put a video on in a pub = madness.

  10. 85
    Matthew H on 28 Jul 2010 #

    When Actually came out, I remember PSBs doing a track-by-track – probably in Smash Hits, possibly Record Mirror; I was still umming and ahhing between the two – and Neil Tennant coming out with one of my favourite lines when talking about Heart. I say favourite, but I can’t remember exactly – something like, “Heart has, as musicologists say, a great middle bit…” I like to latch “as musicologists say” onto every hopeless statement I make. Anyway, when I finally heard the song for myself, I thought the “middle bit” was weak. So there you go.

  11. 86
    Billy Smart on 28 Dec 2010 #

    MMWatch: Jonh Wilde, March 26 1988;

    “As a man who has just this minute given up believing that all good things turn wretched, I am thunderstruck. The gap between my lips is wide. After their lugubrious reading of ‘Always On My Mind’, things diminish further with this sour self-parody. Destitute of all light. What happened to the friskiness? This abject surrender, I trust, is temporary. Or there will be trouble at t’mill. You’ve had it too easy my friends. What happened to my admiration? It lies so limp. If Pet Shop Boys are statring to slide, if they continue to frazzle, God help us all. This is lazy thinking. It must stop. Think of irony. Sleep in a hat. Something. wasn’t it Picasso who used to wander off in the middle of sexual intercourse to count his money? Now that’s what we need.”

    Wilde awarded single of the week to 10,000 Maniacs’ ‘What’s The Matter Here?’. Also reviewed that week;

    The Darling Buds – Shame On You
    Cher – We All Sleep Alone
    Danny Wilson – Mary’s Prayer
    T’Pau – Sex Talk (Live)
    The Lover Sleeps – No More ‘I Love You’s

  12. 87
    Martin F. on 10 Jan 2011 #

    Oh, thank god for #10. This song is ruined by the Pigeon Street-esque “coo” sounds. Well, not ruined, but you feel like Long-Distance Clara would approve, and that’s not what the charts are there for.

  13. 88
    wichita lineman on 10 Jan 2011 #

    Pigeon Street-ness means I prefer the album version, which is coo-free.

  14. 89
    hectorthebat on 18 Feb 2015 #

    Critic watch:

    1,001 Songs You Must Hear Before You Die, and 10,001 You Must Download (2010) 1002
    Panorama (Norway) – The 30 Best Singles of the Year 1970-98 (1999) 24
    New Musical Express (UK) – Singles of the Year 36

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