The Pet Shop Boys have played a number of original demo tapes on a new BBC documentary including hit track West End Girls – 40 years after its original release.

The British pop duo, comprising Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe, launched their career with the re-recorded version of West End Girls in 1985 which became the first of four number ones, and also topped the Billboard charts.

The BBC documentary Imagine… Pet Shop Boys: Then And Now, which will air this spring, previews an upcoming album produced by Arctic Monkeys and Blur producer James Ford as well as exploring their evolution over four decades.

Pet Shop Boys
Pet Shop Boys Dreamworld tour, Helsinki (BBC Studios/Louise Lockwood)

In the film, Tennant recalls travelling to New York while he was working as a journalist at Smash Hits and using the opportunity to have a meeting with US music producer Bobby Orlando.

He plays the demo track he played in the meeting in 1983 which led to their collaboration in August of that year.

“We’d come to make a Bobby O high energy record and we suddenly made this moody rap record,” Tennant said of the original West End Girls track, which was released in April 1984.

“It’s a minor hit in France (at) number 27 and then Epic Records decide not to sign a second single by us – so in fact it’s over.”

In the film, Tennant says the Pet Shop Boys got a new manager who encouraged record label Parlophone to sign them and their first single, Opportunities (Let’s Make Lots Of Money), was a “total flop”.

“We get to number 121… things are looking shaky, very shaky… so we remake West End Girls and it sounds great,” he said.

Following the success of the West End Girls remake, the Pet Shop Boys have had 44 UK Top 40 tracks and a string of hits including It’s A Sin, Always On My Mind, and Heart – which all reached number one in the UK, according to the Official Charts Company.

In the film, the pair play a selection of their earliest demo tapes of songs for the first time on TV, including Bubadubadubadum, Jealousy and Oh Dear.

After playing Bubadubadubadum, Tennant said it “sounds a bit like Depeche Mode, the words are hopeless I think”, while Lowe was shocked that “even then you were doing harmonies” which he thought came in the 1990s.

Tennant said “at the time it felt like we’d written a proper song” after playing Jealousy, before he added: “I always thought it should be in French”.

Pet Shop Boys
Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe from the Pet Shop Boys during rehearsals for Dreamworld Tour (BBC Studios)

The pair later released Jealousy in 1991 when it reached number 12 in the UK charts.

The Pet Shop Boys have won several Brit awards, including for best single for West End Girls in 1987, as well as outstanding contribution to British music at the Ivor Novello Awards in 2000.

For the first time, the pair have allowed backstage access on their greatest hits tour Dreamworld, filming rehearsals in London and backstage in Helsinki.

Contributors to the film include musicians Brandon Flowers, Jake Shears, Marc Almond and Olly Alexander, who said his upcoming Eurovision entry was inspired by music of the 1980s, including the Pet Shop Boys.