“Domino Dancing” is a song by English synth-pop duo Pet Shop Boys, released as the lead single from their 3rd studio album, Introspective (1988). It reached #7 on the UK Singles Chart and topped the charts in Finland, Poland and Spain.
Written by Chris Lowe and Neil Tennant, it is infused with Latin pop. The influence came primarily from a trip to St. Lucia, in the Caribbean. “In the evening there was nothing to do except play dominoes; this friend of ours always used to beat us, and he used to do this celebratory dance.”, hence the inspiration for “Domino Dancing“, although the song was more about a love relationship going bad because of jealousy. The video shows two young men (local boys David Boira and Adalberto Martinez Mojica) who are fighting over a beautiful woman (aspiring actress and model Donna Bottman) in the island of Puerto Rico. However, the men are the sole sexual object in this video, rather than the woman – which was unheard of at the time. As of late July 2020, the video has 56.3 million views and almost a quarter of a million likes.
The song was produced by Lewis A. Martinée, the Miami-based producer behind 1980s freestyle groups such as Exposé. “Domino Dancing” was recorded at Martinée’s studio in Miami, resulting in a considerably large number of studio musicians for a Pet Shop Boys song being featured on it.
The duo had achieved 3 #1s in 1987 and 1988, and “Domino Dancing” was expected to continue this success. However, the public reception to the duo’s new Latin sound proved disappointing. Tennant remembers: “…it entered the charts at #9 and I thought, ‘that’s that, then – it’s all over’. I knew then that our imperial phase of #1 hits was over.”
The single missed the top 10 on the Billboard Hot 100, peaking at #18, and was the duo’s 6th and, to date, last top-20 entry in the US. (In fact, they have not made the top 60 since “Domino Dancing”.) The song did reach #5 on the Billboard Hot Dance Club Play chart, where the duo have seen more consistent success.
Nevertheless, in the year of release, 1988, “Domino Dancing” achieved #36 in Australia, #19 in Austria, #6 in Belgium, #17 in Canada, and #2 on the Dance/Urban chart; #2 in Denmark, #1 in Finland, #40 in France, #4 in Ireland, 5 in Italy, #7 and #9 on 2 charts in the Netherlands, #9 in New Zealand, #5 in Norway, #1 in both Poland and Spain; #6 in Sweden, #5 in Switzerland, #7 in the UK, and #18, #22, #5 and #20 on various charts in the US.
The music video for “Domino Dancing” was directed by Eric Watson and was his 6th of 11 collaborations with the band. The storyline is about a love triangle between 2 handsome young men who are fighting over a beautiful woman. Rolling Stone magazine calls the video “probably the most homoerotic pop video ever made”, citing the slow-motion shots of the handsome boys wrestling on the beach, despite the heterosexual story on the surface.
The video was taped in about 4 days in the old colonial district of San Juan, Puerto Rico, in 1988. One of the locations that was featured in the music video is the Santa María Magdalena de Pazzis Cemetery.
All the lead actors were Puerto Rican; the two boys were David Boira and Adalberto Martinez Mojica and the girl was Donna Bottman, who was an aspiring actress and model. All of them were cast by the Pet Shop Boys.
In the video, Chris Lowe and Neil Tennant appear as Themselves.