Sunday, July 07, 2013


Musical Quickie 2: Culture Beat Vs Pet Shop Boys

Was the Pet Shop Boys’ single Absolutely Fabulous spoofing Culture Beat’s Mr Vain (or ‘homaging’, or outright nicking)? I doubt I’ve given a thought to the massive Eurodance hit – Europe’s biggest-seller of 1993, Wikipedia tells me – for twenty years, but suddenly hearing it again the other day I thought, ‘Isn’t that the Pet Shop Boys?’ But no: Mr Vain was released in April 1993 and PSB’s Comic Relief single a year later, with a slightly sharper but essentially identical synth riff. Surely a ‘Mrs Vain’ comment on Eddy and Patsy along with all Jennifer Saunders’ spoken pop references and Ab Fab samples on the track. And here I was thinking “Techno, techno, bloody techno, darling!” was the limit of their cheeky borrowings, but no no, no no no no, no no no no, no no, it turns out that in fact there’s no limit. I’d forgotten her singing the actual tune to Ride On Time in the middle of it, too, though they can hardly complain about sampling.

The Pet Shops Boys performed Mr Vain live on their Discovery Tour later that year – mixed into a different one of their songs – which does rather suggest they’d heard of it (or had reached a royalties settlement). And, like the same year’s Girls & Boys by Blur (a song I remember much better), once the Pet Shop Boys did it it sounds like it was a PSB song all along. Of the three versions, I still like the Ab Fab one the best.

So it seems to me the case is proved, but listen to Mr Vain and Absolutely Fabulous and decide for yourself.

This quickie has been brought to you by the Society For Getting Jokes Twenty Years Late.

PS(B): This post was supposed to include an Electric plug, but I forgot. Now I’m not sure where to put it in [enough puns – Ed. Never enough puns! – Alex]. The Pet Shop Boys’ new album is out in a week’s time, and I love their latest single, Axis: not just for its unrepentantly retro synthesisers but for a video that looks like a pure 1980 mash-up of Doctor Who and 2000AD, with dancing Nimon and Torquemada in a time tunnel / Terror Tube. Absolutely fabulous.

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