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