The Pet Shop Boys were my favourite band for about five minutes when I was twelve or thirteen years old. My memory is vague as to what year it was exactly and whether it was the Grammys or the MTV Video Music awards that I was watching them perform “West end girls” at on TV. Nonetheless, I certainly remember thinking that Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe were so cool. Of course at that age, it was quickly on to the next thing and I probably didn’t even notice when they released this cover of “Always on my mind” a couple of years later.
The song was written by Johnny Christopher, Mark James, and Wayne Carson and originally recorded by both Brenda Lee and Gwen McCrae (see below) in 1972. The feel of these two versions is very similarly heartbreaking but the vocal styles markedly different, each blazing a path and fixing a mold for numerous future cover versions. It has been successful as both pop and country songs and in some cases, somewhere in between. Arguably, the two most iconic version of the song were recorded by Willie Nelson and Elvis Presley. And it was this last that actually led to the Pet Shop Boys doing the song as well. The story goes that they performed a synthed up cover of “Always on my mind “ on a television special commemorating the 10th anniversary of the king’s death and it was so well received, they recorded and released it as a single.
Perhaps it was so successful because it was so different from all the slight variations of the song that had come before. Instead of handkerchief soaking grief, regret, and longing, theirs is more celebratory, happy that we had the time together, rather than not at all. It’s bells, whistles, synths, and lasers, like a rave, almost before raves were a thing.
“Maybe I didn’t treat you
Quite as good as I should have
Maybe I didn’t love you
Quite as often as I could have
Little things I should have said and done
I just never took the time”
Dancing a party over the relationship’s ending is not what was likely envisioned when those words were written but man, do they work. Happy Friday all!
For the rest of the 100 best covers list, click here.