Once Upon a Time in the Top Spot: Pet Shop Boys, “Always on My Mind”
30 years ago today, Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe – known collectively as the Pet Shop Boys – sat atop the UK Singles chart with their cover of a 1972 song which had already found success via versions by Elvis Presley and Willie Nelson.
Written by Wayne Carson, Johnny Christopher, and Mark James, “Always On My Mind” was – to hear Carson tell it – whipped up at his kitchen table in about 10 minutes and then finished in the studio about a year later with the assistance of Christopher and James. Elvis recorded his version of the song in the wake of his separation from his wife, Priscilla, so you can imagine that the track really hit him right in the feels. (That’s what the kids say these days, right?) But it paid off handsomely for him both on the charts and in terms of his career: in 2013, it was voted the #1 song of his entire career. Just under a decade later, Willie Nelson took it to #1 on the Billboard Country Singles chart and even scored a top-5 hit on Billboard Hot 100.
It was, however, Elvis’s version that was responsible for the Pet Shop Boys recording the song in the first place: they performed their take on the track as their contribution to Love Me Tender, a UK TV special tied to the commemoration of the 10th anniversary of Elvis’s death. It went down like a house on fire – well, their performance did, at least (we can’t speak to the ratings of the special) – and led to the duo formally recording the cover and releasing it as a single. The end result: a much-vaunted Christmas #1 in the UK.
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