Neha Patil (Editor)

It's a Sin

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Released  15 June 1987
Recorded  1987
Length  4:59
Format  7", 12", cassette, CD
Genre  Synthpop
B-side  "You Know Where You Went Wrong"

"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

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.

The song is a description of Tennant's Catholic upbringing and education at St Cuthbert's High School in Newcastle upon Tyne, implying that everything that is perceived to be pleasurable in life is regarded as sinful. The song uses extensive samples from Latin masses (specifically, Tennant reciting a part of the Confiteor, and other sounds recorded at locations such as Westminster Cathedral) and religious imagery throughout to reinforce the feel of the song. Tennant has said that he wrote the lyrics in 15 minutes, purging his emotions in a moment of frustration and anger.

The Latin passage near the end translates as, "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".

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. To date, 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.


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.

Track listing

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" Remix (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

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. Their show at the Camden Town Barfly (17 March 2004) was noted as their first-ever without backing musicians; it included a new arrangement of "It's a Sin", which would later be recorded in the studio.

Music video

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.


It's a Sin Wikipedia