Pet Shop Boys’ “West End Girls” Lyrics Meaning
Pet Shop Boys’ “West End Girls” is a song that was heavily inspired by “The Message” by Grandmaster Flash. Anyone familiar with that classic track would recognize it as one of the first raps which read like a social commentary. And that is fundamentally the same goal the Pet Shop Boys had in mind with “West End Girls”. Or looked at from a different perspective, in reality this track doesn’t read like a song about “girls” at all. Rather the titular “West End girls” and “the East End boys” referenced later in the track allude to the two contrasting economic realities of the Pet Shop Boys’ hometown of London, England. More specifically, the West End was the well-to-do section of the city, while the East End was the exact opposite.
Multiple Interpretations of “West End Girls”
But even based on that understanding of the premise of the song, there continues to be varying interpretations. This is due to the fact that even for an early-era rap, its lyrics are painfully symbolic, indeed even poetic. But what it all seems to point to is the artists highlighting the social disparity in their hometown. This is based on the aforementioned income gap present there. And it ultimately leads to a feeling of hopelessness in “a dead end world”, which would logically be a reference to being a resident of the East End. Moreover the entire scenario is meant to symbolize the inner-city in general, which may be why in the third verse the Boys give a shoutout to “every city” and “every nation”.
So in summation, a popular dance song, which many people have logically concluded is centered on romance, is actually a social commentary!
Release Date of “West End Girls”
Pet Shop Boys actually released this classic twice. The first time was in April of 1984 by Columbia Records. Shortly thereafter the duo signed with EMI, under whom “West End Girls” was re-released on 28 October 1985.
The latter version went on to achieve numerous accolades, especially in the Pet Shop Boys’ home country of the United Kingdom. For instance, in 1987 it managed to win both a Brit Award for Best Single and an Ivor Novello Award for Best International Hit.
FYI: This classic came out as the first single from the duo’s 1986 album Please. Please was the first album the Pet Shop Boys released.
Indeed this classic scored a number 1 on record charts in several places, including Canada, Finland, New Zealand and Norway. And more importantly, it flew to number 1 in Britain and America’s prestigious Billboard Hot 100.
Notable Live Performance of “West End Girls”
The Pet Shop Boys had the honor of performing the song during the closing ceremony of London 2012 (the 2012 Summer Olympics).
Story behind “West End Girls”
In terms of lyrical composition, “West End Girls” was inspired by Grandmaster Flash and Furious Five’s classic 1982 track “The Message”. “The Message” is widely regarded as one of the first rap hits ever.
In addition to that, singer Neil Tennant stated that the opening lines basically came to him during a dream.
Another source of inspiration he cited is a popular 1922 poem by T. S. Eliot entitled “The Waste Land”.
“West End Girls” is a Rap Song!
This song is considered a rap song by some. Owing to this, it is said to be the first rap to ever to occupy the first position on the Billboard Hot 100. That said, it must be stated that that particular notion is debatable and does not seem to be accepted by the music industry itself.
The lyrics of this song make a subtle reference to early 20th century Soviet leader Vladimir Lenin (1870-1924). This reference appears in the line: “from Lake Geneva to Finland station“. It’s worth mentioning that Lenin himself traveled from Switzerland to Russia in 1917.
The original version of this classic track also had a line in which another Soviet ruler, Joseph Stalin (1878-1953), was mentioned. But it was removed from the 1985 version. It’s not precisely clear the reason why it was removed.
Who wrote “West End Girls”?
Neil Tennant composed this great classic along with his music partner Chris Lowe. Both Tennant and Lowe are Pet Shop Boys. And the more-popular 1985 version of the song was produced by Stephen Hague.