This 1987 collaboration between pop’s sweetest cynics and a ‘60s legend gets Pop Gem status.
Our weekly hunt for Pop Gems – those pearls of pop perfection that used to be big news but are now lost in the mists of time – took us to the top this week. Well almost. While the Official Singles Chart is all about getting to Number 1, for lots of amazing tunes it can be only a dream, never a reality. And some of those tracks get tantalisingly near, but Number 2 is as good as it gets. In silver position on the podium, a ‘well done for trying’ rosette and then home without ever tasting that ultimate high. Awww.
We had lots of great suggestions for this week's Pop Gem, ranging from most of Kylie’s near-misses to classics from Girls Aloud, Steps and that famous time Spice Girls broke their run of Number 1s with Stop. But you get to hear those tracks on the radio pretty often anyway. What about a song that was a massive smash but doesn’t get much of an airing these days? We had to go for a collaboration that was so starry, nobody could quite believe it was happening, especially those actually singing it!
In 1987, Pet Shop Boys were relative newcomers to the Official Singles Chart, but had enjoyed great success. Coming off the back of their second Number 1 It’s A Sin, the Pets – Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe – were set to launch their second album (or 'sophomore album', if saying that is your kind of thing).
All eyes were on Actually to live up to the arch, razor-sharp pop of the Boys’ debut album Please. Neil and Chris had long admired beehived ’60 songstress Dusty Springfield, who shunned the limelight and hadn’t had a Top 40 hit since 1970’s How Can I Be Sure peaked at Number 36, and wanted to work with her on a song that would introduce her to a new generation.
Could the dance duo coax the legend – famed for classic tracks like Son Of A Preacher Man and I Just Don’t Know What To Do With Myself – out of her far-too-early retirement to sing with them? Only if the tune was right, it seemed – and thank goodness it was.
What Have I Done To Deserve This? was really three songs in one. Neil and Dusty start off gloomily recounting a lost love affair, before Neil raps about all the things he shelled out for when they were together (flowers, drinks, lots of talking – which is actually free, but you get the general idea) before the song knocks your socks off with a bouncy yet melancholic ‘60s-style refrain from Dusty lamenting her loneliness.
Although Pet Shop Boys’ previous single had been a Number 1, this would be the first for Dusty in over 30 years. She had hit the top spot only once before, in 1966, with You Don’t Have To Say You Love Me.
Sadly, they were kept at bay from the summit by a surprise hit. Young Rick Astley, a former tea boy at PWL, leapt ahead of them with his debut single Never Gonna Give You Up. He stayed there for five weeks in total, keeping Pet Shop Boys and Dusty as his disappointed next-door neighbours for two weeks.
What Have I Done To Deserve This? may well have deserved the top spot in fans' eyes, but it was Rick who goes down in the record books. While the song wasn't a Number 1, it relaunched Dusty Springfield’s career and also gave Pet Shop Boys the idea of teaming up with another legendary diva. Liza Minnelli’s phone was about to ring…
Watch the super-glitzy What Have I Done To Deserve This? video
Got a Pop Gem?
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