Mar 052024
pet shop boys all the young dudes

Erudite, enigmatic and quintessentially English, The Pet Shop Boys have been at the centre of Britain’s cultural life for over 40 years. Two boys from the North of England, who met in the South, they speak to the widest audience in their home country, with a worldwide appeal. With that experience and cachet, they can choose how they exercise their influence. If they wish to do a residency at the Royal Opera House, to perform to an audience less familiar with electronic music, they can. If the BBC Concert Orchestra offers a collaboration, and opportunity to plug a new album, they can take up the offer. For a recent slot in the Radio 2 Piano Room, available here, they added a cover of “All The Young Dudes” to revised versions of their songs, along with a chat to fellow Northerner Vernon Kay.

David Bowie’s gift to Mott the Hoople was mildly transgressive in its day. The original lyrics were changed in both the UK and US, for different reasons. In the UK, they fell foul of the BBC’s rules on advertising; in the US, because the store that they were advertising (“Marks & Sparks”) was unknown. Allusions to the gay lifestyle in the early ’70s were couched and veiled. Written as a celebration of the joys of youth, gay and straight, it has spoken to many over the years. The range of artists who have covered the song, in recordings and live performances, is unusually wide. There are heavy-metal dudes, indie dudes, female dudes and, of course, Thin White Duke dudes.

Unsurprisingly The Pet Shop Boys re-anglicise the lyrics, and the concert orchestra provides a lush tone, meshing well with Lowe’s electronica. No longer young dudes themselves, of course, they nevertheless look upon that time fondly. Neil Tennant uses his full vocal range to evoke the follies and joys of youth. As we noted recently, the Pet Shop Boys are acutely aware that the generation of dudes from the ’70s and ’80s was often taken before its time. Thus there is an elegiac tone, amongst all the joys of youth. A beautiful tribute to those we have known and loved.

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