I’ve stolen these words from Richard Buskin, penned in December 2010 as his intro to an on-line piece, primarily about the production techniques engaged on the song, for the website Sound on Sound.

Protests against Catholicism have taken many forms, Martin Luther nailing his objections to the cathedral door, but the Pet Shop Boys chose to make theirs in disco…

It was the mid‑’80s, synth pop was at its height, and in the process of creating a song with Chris Lowe that would subsequently mesh orchestral stabs, layers of keyboards, tons of echo, and assorted samples of Latin masses into one of the genre’s most overblown, theatrically dramatic, disco‑oriented masterpieces, Neil Tennant vented against the conflict between guilt and desire engendered by his Catholic upbringing.

“At school they taught me how to be,” he wrote poetically of his education at St Cuthbert’s High School in Newcastle upon Tyne, “So pure in thought and word and deed, They didn’t quite succeed. For everything I long to do, No matter when or where or who, Has one thing in common, too. It’s a, it’s a, it’s a, it’s a sin…”

Featuring a characteristically thin, coolly dispassionate Tennant lead vocal set against the backdrop of Lowe’s splashy melodic mélange, ‘It’s A Sin’ was the second Pet Shop Boys chart‑topper in the UK and the best‑selling European single of 1987, hitting number one in more than half a dozen countries and also making the top 10 in the United States.

It also happens to be the song that got me thinking Pet Shop Boys might just be a cut above your run-of-the-mill synth duo, of which there were many in that decade. There are days when I think it’s their finest ever moment, but there are days when I want to bestow that honour on Heart. And then again, I hear Rent and think that might be the one…..and then I play Being Boring followed by Left To My Own Devices and I realise that I’ll never make my mind up.

No matter what, I don’t think it can be argued by anyone that It’s A Sin is not an absolute classic, deserving to be brought to you at 320 kpbs this Monday Thursday Morning, direct from the album Actually:-

mp3: Pet Shop Boys – It’s A Sin

And while I have the album on the turntable, this makes sense:-

mp3: Pet Shop Boys – Rent

And while that’s spinning around, I’ll go and dig out this slightly crackly 7″ as the mix is different, and better, than the album version:-

mp3: Pet Shop Boys – Heart



  1. Well worth the wait… and a serendipitous move, neatly following on from the inclusion of Being Boring in yesterday’s post. Strangely, I liked listening to PSB on the radio and their TV appearances were always good value, but I wasn’t particularly moved to buy their singles and albums . Picking up the PopArtMix compilation and the first Disco album around the same time highlighted what an idiot I’d been and I’ve been back tracking digitally since. No argument from me about It’s A Sin’s “absolute classic” status… or the others, for that matter. Happy Thursday!

  2. I own little by The Pet Shop Boys yet I like what I own. I think it fair to say some songs have an epic quality to them – particularly some 80s songs – It’s a Sin is, I think, one of those. I’ve always found West End Girls to be timeless.

    I think my niggle was that I found the band members (based on media reporting) to be a tad pompous, smug and unrelatable, darling.

    Given the knee-deep industry-fodder shite that clogged the charts – recently illustrated by JC –
    I’m now more thankful for bands like The Pet Shop Boys – 80s and 90s. They may have been somewhat pretentious but were never boring.

  3. For making disposable pop music, PSB has made an impressive number of tracks that still sound fresh and are still enjoyable, potentially that makes them eligible as classics. It’s A Sin is not one of my absolute favourites by them, Rent deffo is, as Heart and two of the tracks mentioned the other day – both Being Boring and even more so Was It Worth It? are high on my PSB list.

  4. My eldest son (22) frequently bemoans the subject matter of today’s pop music and has on occasion said that he envies the fact that I grew up in a time “when people had hits with songs that meant stuff”. PSB are a prime example – as were many others in the 80s – and are an act that unites those chez TGG. Indeed Mrs TGG & I are supposed to be heading to a rearranged date to see them in 2021.

    I do point out that there are contemporary tunes “about stuff” – they may just not be as commercially successful as my son would like. Me – I’m past caring what’s commercially successful.

  5. I always felt that “It’s A Sin” was the great Ultravox song that wasn’t! By the time this tune came out, Ultravox were a completely spent force, but PSB were only getting started. But as great as they were, they were a pop act who only occasionally dipped into rock. The opposite of Ultravox.

  6. If you had to put one PSB track on the top of the mountain, it probably is It’s A Sin. If for no other reason than the Sturm und Drang that it conjures, or the strengths of conviction in the lyrics of a Pop song.
    But you’re right JC, I can’t pick my favorite PSB song. The Completest in me will tell you it would be A Man Could Get Arrested, the b-side of West End Girls, with it’s in your face latin disco dance floor bravado. The Pop Purist will tell you it’s King’s Cross, with its English horn and dreamy, plaintive keyboards. But then there’s still West End Girls, Being Boring, Young Offender, New York City Boy, Did You See Me Coming, Vocal and The Pop Kids…I’m going to stop and just listen to all of them now…

  7. I was very late to the PSB party too, put off by an NME cover where they announced they were “The Smiths you can dance to”, which stupid, young me took great offence to at the time. It wasn’t until I picked up their Greatest Hits CD in Fopp several years later that I truly acknowledged just what I’d been missing out on. And then being at there utterly flawless headline set on The Other Stage at 2010 Glastonbury – complete with a virtual appearance from Dusty Springfield – sealed the deal: PSB are proper pop royalty and no mistake. Pick of the bunch for me will always be Left To My Own Devices, which is just brilliant stuff on so many levels that I have to go and listen to it again. Now.

  8. I have been enjoying the pet shop boys for quite a few decades now.
    They’ve dropped off quite a bit from the 80’s style though, and still
    have some originality left in them.

    It’s a sin was a great song for them, and i enjoyed all the remixes,
    especially the US exclusive ones, that i ended up on cassette maxisingle
    first, and later on vinyl.

    Then had to get the UK 1 and 2 limited edition releases. Very high energy,
    and an iconic song to me. I didn’t care for the album much, but besides
    please and very, (and the remixed introspective) most were just passable,
    and not really that innovative or memorable.

    They still tour, and once in awhile they dig out the oldies to play.


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