It's a Sin

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"It's a Sin"
It's a sin.jpg
Single by Pet Shop Boys
from the album Actually
B-side"You Know Where You Went Wrong"
Released15 June 1987
Format7", 12", cassette, CD
LabelParlophone Records / EMI Records - R 6158
Songwriter(s)Neil Tennant, Chris Lowe
Producer(s)Julian Mendelsohn, Stephen Hague
Pet Shop Boys singles chronology
"It's a Sin"
"What Have I Done to Deserve This?"
Audio sample
"It's a Sin"

"It's a Sin" is a song recorded by English synthpop duo the Pet Shop Boys which reached number one on the UK Singles Chart for three weeks in 1987, and was their third top ten in the US when it reached number nine on the Billboard Hot 100.

Background and writing[edit]

Written by Chris Lowe and Neil Tennant, "It's a Sin" was the lead single from the duo's second studio album, Actually. Released in June 1987, it became the duo's second UK number one single. It was also a massive hit across Europe, supposedly the best-selling European single of 1987. In the United States it reached number nine on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, becoming the duo's third Top 10 hit there. A demo of the track was first cut in 1984 with Bobby O, and the song's form in the demo remained intact to the final version, although the released production is far more dramatic.

In this song, Tennant describes some impressions he got from his time at the Catholic St Cuthbert's High School in Newcastle upon Tyne. «At school they taught me how to be / So pure in thought and word and deed / They didn't quite succeed», the lyrics say. He ended up feeling that everything he had done or was going to do was a sin. Tennant has said that he wrote the lyrics purging his emotions in a moment of frustration and anger, but it wasn't something serious:

People took it really seriously; the song was written in about 15 minutes, and was intended as a camp joke and it wasn’t something I consciously took very seriously. Sometimes I wonder if there was more to it then I thought at the time. But the local parish priest in Newcastle delivered a sermon on it, and reflected on how the Church changed from the promise of a ghastly hell to the message of love.[1]

In the coda, we can hear Tennant reciting a part of the Confiteor in Latin, which translated into English is "I confess to almighty God, and to you, my brothers, that I have sinned exceedingly in thought, word, act and omission, through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault".

There are sounds recorded at locations such as Westminster Cathedral. The video clip uses religious images throughout to reinforce the feel of the song.

The dramatic, overblown production style of the song, loaded with synthesizers, orchestra hits and bookended by a non sequitur sample of a NASA countdown, has come to exemplify the most theatrical extremes of the Pet Shop Boys' musical style.[2] It remains a concert staple, being one of only two songs (alongside "West End Girls") that has been played during every Pet Shop Boys tour.[3]


At the time of the single's release, British DJ Jonathan King accused the Pet Shop Boys of plagiarising the melody for "It's a Sin" from Cat Stevens' 1971 hit "Wild World". He made the claims in The Sun newspaper, for which he wrote a regular column during the 1980s. King went so far as to release his own cover version of "Wild World" as a single, using a similar musical arrangement to "It's a Sin", in an effort to demonstrate his claims. This single flopped, while the Pet Shop Boys sued King, eventually winning out-of-court damages, which they donated to charity.[4]

Track listing[edit]

7": Parlophone / R 6158 (UK)

  1. "It's a Sin" – 4:59
  2. "You Know Where You Went Wrong" – 5:51

12": Parlophone / 12R 6158 (UK)

  1. "It's a Sin" (Disco Mix) – 7:39
  2. "You Know Where You Went Wrong" – 5:51
  3. "It's a Sin" (7" version) – 4:59

CD: Parlophone / CDR 6158 (UK)

  1. "It's a Sin" (7" version) – 4:59
  2. "You Know Where You Went Wrong" – 5:51
  3. "It's a Sin" (Disco Mix) – 7:39

12": Parlophone / 12RX 6158 (UK)

  1. "It's a Sin" (Remix) (Ian Levine) – 8:15
  2. "You Know Where You Went Wrong" (Rough Mix) – 6:38

12": EMI-Manhattan / V-19256 (US)

  1. "It's a Sin" (Phil Harding Latin Vocal Mix) – 9:14
  2. "It's a Sin" (Phil Harding Latin Dub Mix) – 4:20
  3. "It's a Sin" (Remix) – 8:15
  4. "It's a Sin" (Disco Mix) – 7:39
  5. "You Know Where You Went Wrong" – 5:51

Other recordings[edit]

In 2004, the band participated in Passport Back to the Bars, a series of benefit concerts to raise funds for Shelter and War Child, set in the various Barfly venues.[5] Their show at the Camden Town Barfly (17 March 2004) was noted as their first-ever without backing musicians;[6] it included a new arrangement of "It's a Sin", which would later be recorded in the studio.

Music video[edit]

Directed by Derek Jarman, the "It's a Sin" video marked the experimental director's first of several collaborations with the band. It extended the lyrical themes of the song by showing Tennant under arrest by an inquisition with Lowe as his jailer and Ron Moody in the role of his judge, interspersed with brief clips of personifications of the seven deadly sins.

Charts and sales[edit]


  1. ^ Sullivan, Andrew (2009). "For Hard-Core Petheads: The Tennant Interview In Full". The Daily Dish. Retrieved 22 September 2019.
  2. ^ Raggett, Ned. "It's a Sin". Allmusic. Retrieved 10 September 2006.
  3. ^ Studer, Wayne. "Songs That the Pet Shop Boys Have Performed "Live"". Pet Shop Boys Commentary. Retrieved 30 May 2015.
  4. ^ Janet Street-Porter (3 April 2005). "Editor-At-Large: He lured boys. He's a bully. Now he bleats". The Independent. London. Retrieved 8 March 2009.
  5. ^ Youngs, Ian (27 February 2004). "Charity gig tickets fetch £1,375". BBC News. Retrieved 28 October 2006.
  6. ^ "The new single 'Flamboyant' out on 29 March". The Guardian. 17 March 2004. Archived from the original on 27 September 2007. Retrieved 28 October 2006.
  7. ^ Kent, David (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970–1992. St Ives, N.S.W.: Australian Chart Book. ISBN 0-646-11917-6.
  8. ^ a b c d "It's a Sin", in various singles charts (Retrieved 10 April 2008)
  9. ^
  10. ^ Pennanen, Timo (2006). Sisältää hitin - levyt ja esittäjät Suomen musiikkilistoilla vuodesta 1972 (in Finnish) (1st ed.). Helsinki: Tammi. ISBN 978-951-1-21053-5.
  11. ^ German Singles Chart Archived 8 January 2009 at the Wayback Machine (Retrieved 10 April 2008)
  12. ^ Irish Single Chart Archived 12 October 2011 at WebCite (Retrieved 10 April 2008)
  13. ^
  14. ^ Italian Single Chart Hit parade Italia (Retrieved 31 May 2008)
  15. ^ " - PET SHOP BOYS - IT'S A SIN (SONG)". Retrieved 1 July 2016.
  16. ^ Polish Singles Chart LP3 (Retrieved 14 March 2015)
  17. ^ "SA Charts 1965–March 1989". Retrieved 5 September 2018.
  18. ^ Salaverri, Fernando (September 2005). Sólo éxitos: año a año, 1959–2002 (1st ed.). Spain: Fundación Autor-SGAE. ISBN 84-8048-639-2.
  19. ^ UK Singles Chart Official Charts Company (Retrieved 10 April 2008)
  20. ^ a b Billboard (Retrieved 12 August 2008)
  21. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 6 October 2014. Retrieved 30 January 2017.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  22. ^ 1987 Austrian Singles Chart (Retrieved 1 August 2008)
  23. ^
  24. ^ "Single top 100 over 1987" (pdf) (in Dutch). Top40. Retrieved 21 September 2010.
  25. ^ 1987 Polish Singles Chart (Retrieved 14 March 2015)
  26. ^ "SA Charts 1965–March 1989". Retrieved 1 September 2018.
  27. ^ 1987 Swedish Singles Chart Archived 10 January 2014 at the Wayback Machine (Retrieved 1 August 2008)
  28. ^ "Gallup Year End Charts 1987: Singles". Record Mirror. London, England: Spotlight Publications. 23 January 1988. p. 36.
  29. ^ Whitburn, Joel (1999). Pop Annual. Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin: Record Research Inc. ISBN 0-89820-142-X.
  30. ^ Austrian certifications Archived 1 July 2013 at the Wayback Machine (Retrieved 12 August 2008)
  31. ^ Finnish certifications (Retrieved 21 September 2010)
  32. ^ "Solo Exitos 1959–2002 Ano A Ano: Certificados 1979–1990". Solo Exitos 1959–2002 Ano A Ano.
  33. ^ Swedish certifications Archived 21 May 2012 at the Wayback Machine (Retrieved 11 September 2008)
  34. ^ UK certifications Archived 24 September 2009 at the Wayback Machine (Retrieved 12 August 2008)


  • Heath, Chris (2001). "It's a Sin". In Actually / Further Listening 1987-1988 [CD liner notes]. London: Pet Shop Boys Partnership.
  • Longmire, Ernie and Steffen Gärtner (1989–2006). "Pet Shop Boys: It's a Sin" (TXT). Gardner's Pet Shop Boys Discography. Gardner Publishing Ltd. Retrieved 10 September 2006.

External links[edit]