And now we reach the first imperious phase of the Pet Shop Boys between June and October 1987. Three singles were lifted from their second album Actually, itself released in September 1987.

One of the singles went to #1, while the others reached #2 and #8.  Oh, and while they were at it, they attracted the attention of a brand-new audience for one of the greatest female singers to ever have emerged from the UK, but whose chart hits had long dried up. 

As it turned out, a fourth single would be released from Actually, but that tale is more suited to next week’s instalment.


It’s A Sin was released on 15th June 1987

From the PSB website:-

It’s A Sin, a song that originally appeared on the demo Neil had in his pocket when he took Bobby O’ out to lunch, was released. “It’s about being brought up as a Catholic. When I went to school you were taught that everything was a sin”.

It reached #1 and caused several notable rumpuses. Jonathan King accused them of plagiarism (he later apologized and paid damages to a charity at their request). A teacher at Neil’s old school, St. Cuthbert’s Grammar School, Newcastle, got very steamed up about the picture Neil painted of his education and castigated Neil in the press.

The Salvation Army magazine, War Cry, put the Pet Shop Boys on the front page and noted, approvingly, “It’s interesting that someone’s raised the concept of sin in our modern life again”. Neil was also asked to appear with Cardinal Hume in a press advert for CAFOD; he politely declined the offer, explaining that he wasn’t a practising Catholic.

The song’s video, a sombre tale of guilt and punishment featuring the seven deadly sins, was the first time the Pet Shop Boys worked with Derek Jarman.

It entered the charts at #5 and then went to #1 where it spent three weeks.  It was also #1 in Austria, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Ireland, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland.


mp3: Pet Shop Boys – It’s A Sin
mp3: Pet Shop Boys – You Know Where You Went Wrong

A really long track for a b-side, coming in at not far short of six minutes.  It’s a hypnotically, catchy number with a touch of Latino to the tune.  It was an early indication of the road that the duo would travel on their next again album. It’s long been a favourite of mine.


What Have I Done To Deserve This was released on 10th August 1987. It was a duet with Dusty Springfield, a much loved and appreciated UK singer but whose last hit single had been back in 1970. PSB had the song ready in time for the release of their debut album some eighteen months earlier, but an initial approach to Dusty’s management hadn’t worked out.  The success of West End Girls changed everything, and the singer flew from her California home to London to record her vocal.  It reached #2 and brought her to a new audience. In 1990, her new album Reputation went Top 20, giving her solo success again after two decades.


mp3: Pet Shop Boys with Dusty Springfield – What Have I Done To Deserve This
mp3: Pet Shop Boys – A New Life

For once, the b-side was a tad anti-climatic, but then again, this release was all about the majesty of the a-side, a song that one critic, writing retrospectively in 2017 said it was “possibly the greatest pop song in history”.


Rent was released on 12th August 1987. It was the third single to be lifted from the album Please, and perhaps this affected the sales of the 45 as it ‘only’ made #8.  It was, however, a slightly different mix from the album version and the 7″ version was some 90 seconds shorter.


mp3: Pet Shop Boys – Rent
mp3: Pet Shop Boys – I Want A Dog

Back in 1987, Rent was really under-appreciated.  There was a sense that PSB were at their best with the bombastic, dancey type numbers, certainly when it comes to 45s.  A mid-tempo, bittersweet love song about a one-sided relationship caused a bit of head-scratching.  There was also a reluctance among some daytime radio DJs and producers to feature a song which was seemingly about male prostitutes  – as it turned out, in one of the few instances where Neil Tennant chose to give an explanation to a song; he (many years later) said he had always regarded it as being about a kept woman in America, possibly the secret lover of a high profile politician.

The b-side is another excellent piece of mid-tempo music. The song would become better known a while later when an Italian-style disco beat was added to it for inclusion on the 1988 album Introspective.



8 thoughts on “PET SHOP BOY SINGLES (Part Three)

  1. Great series. I should add, if you liked the Pet Shop Boys and Dusty Springfield, ‘Occupy your mind’ which is PSB produced and instrumentation by the PSBs on Reputation is just ace – definitely a more club type track than the sucessful single. Check it out on Spotify.

  2. It’s A Sin is among the most impressive singles of the 80s for me. Disco/Pop meets Cinematic/Classical motifs is just genius. Add the drama of the world seen through the eyes of a guilt ridden church school boy and you have magic.

    Rent is just stunning. PSB are at their best when they focus on the not so obvious for the themes of subjects of their songs. Neil’s admission that he always thought of rent being about a kept woman in the US, makes its inclusion as a cover on the alib they produced for Liza Minnelli a few years later that much easier to understand.

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