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Opportunities (Let's Make Lots of Money)

"Opportunities (Let's Make Lots of Money)" is a song by UK synthpop duo Pet Shop Boys, released as a single in 1985 and then in 1986, gaining greater popularity in both the UK and U.S. with its second release.

Written as a satire of Thatcherism and its embodiment in conspicuous consumption and yuppies in the United Kingdom during the 1980s, the song's indirect attack on its subject matter has come to exemplify the Pet Shop Boys as ironists in their songwriting.

Overview

History

The song was written during the Pet Shop Boys' formative years, in 1983. According to Neil Tennant, the main lyrical concept came while in a recording studio in Camden Town when Chris Lowe asked him to make up a lyric based around the line "Let's make lots of money". Tennant has said that he was somewhat inspired by the relationship between the characters of Dustin Hoffman and Jon Voight in the 1969 film Midnight Cowboy.

The first version of the song, recorded with the duo's first producer, Bobby Orlando, was not released; upon signing with record label Parlophone, they re-recorded the song with J. J. Jeczalik (of Art of Noise) and Nicholas Froome.

The original single release charted lowly at number 116 in the UK, to be exceedingly outdone by the number one spectacle of the second release of "West End Girls" in multiple countries. With producer Stephen Hague still on board from that release, a new single version and a version for the duo's debut album, Please, were mixed. The second release of "Opportunities", following the album's release, resulted in better chart performance. It is currently the only single from the band to chart higher in the US than the UK, becoming the duo's second Top 10 single in the US, peaking at #10, and just missing out (#11) in the UK. In Australia, the first version was the one to chart (although outside the Top 40).

Please also included a brief, cacophonic track entitled "Opportunities (Reprise)", which was the original middle section to the song proper before it was edited out.

Lyrics

The lyrics depict, in Tennant's words, "two losers". The song is written from the perspective of a man who describes himself as being intellectual and educated. The lyrics are addressed towards another character, identified as having "looks" and "brawn", and who is invited to join the song's protagonist in a scheme to "make lots of money".

Tennant has made it clear, however, that the schemes are doomed to failure. The protagonist's claimed accreditations, a PhD in mathematics from the Sorbonne and knowledge of computer programming, are conceited fabrications. The punchline of the "joke" of the song, he says, is that "the people in it are not going to make any money". The band have attributed the cynicism of the song, in part, to the punk rock attitudes of the period.

The meaning of the lyrics is taken at face value by some listeners, and this subsequent interpretation of the song as a materialistic anthem receives mixed reactions. The satirical interpretation, on the other hand, has cemented the Pet Shop Boys' reputation as ironists to many, to the chagrin of the band as the result is often their more sincere songs being ignored.

A notable change between the original and re-recorded versions of "Opportunities" is the omission of the spoken outro "All the love that we had / And the love that we hide / Who will bury us / When we die?" According to Tennant, the lyrics were removed from the second version of the song as the duo feared the passage would be construed as "too pretentious". The first two lines of the outro, however, are sung within the lyrics of "Why Don't We Live Together?" from the Please album. The original single version of "Opportunities" was unavailable on compact disc until the U.S.-only Essentials compilation album in 1998.

Release

12-inch remixes for the 1985 release were produced by Ron Dean Miller of Nuance, while those for the 1986 release were produced by noted 1980s producer Shep Pettibone. Some of Miller's overdubs went on to be incorporated into the 1986 single version.

The B-side of the 1985 release, "In the Night", is about the subculture known as the Zazous that appeared in France during the German occupation of France in World War II; concerned with fashion and music, and allied with neither the Nazis and Vichy France nor the French Resistance, they were distrusted by both sides. Tennant, having read about the movement in a book by David Pryce-Jones, asks, in the song, the question of whether this apathy essentially amounted to collaborationism.

An instrumental version of "In the Night" became the opening theme music of the BBC fashion program The Clothes Show when it first aired in 1986. This continued for a decade until 1995 saw a fully instrumental re-recording of the song, "In the Night '95", for the purpose of replacing the old theme.

Track listing

7" (UK) (1985 release) (Parlophone R6097)

A. "Opportunities (Let's Make Lots of Money)" (3:45)
B. "In the Night" (4:50)

12" #1 (UK) (1985 release) (Parlophone 12R6097)

A. "Opportunities (Let's Make Lots of Money)" (Dance Mix) (6:44)
B. "In the Night" (4:50)

12" #2 (UK) (1985 release) (Parlophone 12RX6097)

A. "Opportunities (Let's Make Lots of Money)" (Version Latina) (5:29)
B1. "Opportunities (Dub for Money) (4:54)
B2. "Opportunities (Reprise) (4:27)

7" (UK) (1986 release) (Parlophone R6129)

A. "Opportunities (Let's Make Lots of Money)" (3:36)
B. "Was That What It Was?" (5:18)

12" (UK) (1986 release) Parlophone (12R6129)

A1. "Opportunities (Let's Make Lots of Money)" (Shep Pettibone Mastermix) (7:18)
A2. "Opportunities" (Reprise) (4:27)
B1. "Opportunities" (Original Dance Mix) (6:45)
B2. "Was That What It Was?" (5:18)

Chart performance

Chart (1985 release) Peak
position
UK 116
Australia 63

Chart (1986 release) Peak
position
UK 11
US Billboard Hot 100 10
Germany 25

Music videos

First version

The music video for the first single release was directed by soon-to-be perennial Pet Shop Boys photographer Eric Watson and 1980s staple music video director Andy Morahan. It depicts Lowe in an underground parking garage; a Cadillac pulls up to him and stops, whereupon Tennant materializes in front of it, dressed in a hat, glasses, and a suit by British fashion designer Stephen Linard, and standing inside a rectangular hole in the ground while singing the song. The video ends with Tennant disintegrating into dust and the car driving away.

Watson was partly inspired by the images of preachers in Wise Blood, the film adaptation of the Flannery O'Connor novel of the same title, in designing Tennant's appearance.

Second version

For the re-release, the prestigious Polish director Zbigniew Rybczyński was recruited. In the video, Tennant is again dressed in a suit and hat, while Lowe wears the hard hat, jeans, soiled shirt, and work gloves of a construction worker, depicting the two roles spoken of in the lyrics. The camera pans over a background of city skylines and clouds rendered in neon lines as Tennant and Lowe appear duplicated repeatedly, passing to each other symbols of the different statuses they represent — including a top hat, a trophy, a brick, and a sledgehammer.

In culture

"Opportunities" is the opening theme to the WB Television Network reality show Beauty and the Geek, which first aired in 2005; the show literally pairs up people with "brains" (intellectual men) alongside those with "looks" (attractive women) in a competition to "make lots of money".

The song was also used in commercials for ABC's 2004 short-lived reality series The Benefactor, which was cancelled before completing its six-episode run. Contestants competed for a chance to win US$1 million from entrepreneur and Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban.

On the Simpsons episode "Husbands and Knives", after Marge starts a women's fitness club (a parody of Curves) a snippet of the song is used.

On the "Psych" episode "Black and Tan: A Crime of Fashion", while Shawn, Gus, and other models walk through an alley way in a slow motion model walk.

Notes and references

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