It's a Sin
"It's a Sin" is a song recorded by Pet Shop Boys
Pet Shop Boys
Pet Shop Boys are an English electronic dance music duo, consisting of Neil Tennant, who provides main vocals, keyboards and occasional guitar, and Chris Lowe on keyboards....

 which reached number one on the UK Singles Chart
UK Singles Chart
The UK Singles Chart is compiled by The Official Charts Company on behalf of the British record-industry. The full chart contains the top selling 200 singles in the United Kingdom based upon combined record sales and download numbers, though some media outlets only list the Top 40 or the Top 75 ...

 for three weeks in 1987.

Background and writing

Written by Chris Lowe
Chris Lowe
Chris Lowe is an English musician, who, with colleague Neil Tennant, makes up the pop duo Pet Shop Boys.-Childhood:...

 and Neil Tennant
Neil Tennant
Neil Francis Tennant is an English musician, singer and songwriter, who, with bandmate Chris Lowe, makes up the successful electronic dance music duo Pet Shop Boys.-Childhood:...

, "It's a Sin" was the lead single from the duo's second "proper" album, Actually
Actually (album)
In 2006, Q magazine placed the album at #22 in its list of "40 Best Albums of the '80s".-Track listing:# "One More Chance"  – 5:30...

. Released in June 1987, it became the duo's second UK number one single
Single (music)
In music, a single or record single is a type of release, typically a recording of fewer tracks than an LP or a CD. This can be released for sale to the public in a variety of different formats. In most cases, the single is a song that is released separately from an album, but it can still appear...

. It was also a massive hit across Europe, supposedly the best-selling European single of 1987. In the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 it reached number nine on the Billboard Hot 100
Billboard Hot 100
The Billboard Hot 100 is the United States music industry standard singles popularity chart issued weekly by Billboard magazine. Chart rankings are based on radio play and sales; the tracking-week for sales begins on Monday and ends on Sunday, while the radio play tracking-week runs from Wednesday...

 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
The word catholic comes from the Greek phrase , meaning "on the whole," "according to the whole" or "in general", and is a combination of the Greek words meaning "about" and meaning "whole"...

 upbringing and education at St Cuthbert's High School
High school
High school is a term used in parts of the English speaking world to describe institutions which provide all or part of secondary education. The term is often incorporated into the name of such institutions....

 in Newcastle upon Tyne
Newcastle upon Tyne
Newcastle upon Tyne is a city and metropolitan borough of Tyne and Wear, in North East England. Historically a part of Northumberland, it is situated on the north bank of the River Tyne...

. The song uses extensive samples from Latin masses
Mass (liturgy)
"Mass" is one of the names by which the sacrament of the Eucharist is called in the Roman Catholic Church: others are "Eucharist", the "Lord's Supper", the "Breaking of Bread", the "Eucharistic assembly ", the "memorial of the Lord's Passion and Resurrection", the "Holy Sacrifice", the "Holy and...

 (specifically, Tennant reciting a part of the Confiteor
The Confiteor is one of the prayers that can be said during the Penitential Rite at the beginning of Mass of the Roman Rite in the Catholic Church. It is also said in the Lutheran Church at the beginning of their Divine Service...

, and other sounds recorded at locations such as Westminster Cathedral
Westminster Cathedral
Westminster Cathedral in London is the mother church of the Catholic community in England and Wales and the Metropolitan Church and Cathedral of the Archbishop of Westminster...

) 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 song has been compared to fellow 1980's new wave
New Wave music
New Wave is a subgenre of :rock music that emerged in the mid to late 1970s alongside punk rock. The term at first generally was synonymous with punk rock before being considered a genre in its own right that incorporated aspects of electronic and experimental music, mod subculture, disco and 1960s...

 band Tears for Fears
Tears for Fears
Tears for Fears are an English new wave band formed in the early 1980s by Roland Orzabal and Curt Smith.Founded after the dissolution of their first band, the mod-influenced Graduate, they were initially associated with the New Wave synthesiser bands of the early 1980s but later branched out into...

' Mad World
Mad World
"Mad World" is a song by the British band Tears for Fears. Written by Roland Orzabal and sung by bassist Curt Smith, it was the band's third single release and first chart hit, reaching #3 on the UK Singles Chart in November 1982. Both "Mad World" and its B-side, "Ideas As Opiates", would turn up...

 for its themes of transgression and social rejection
Social rejection
Social rejection occurs when an individual is deliberately excluded from a social relationship or social interaction. The topic includes both interpersonal rejection and romantic rejection. A person can be rejected on an individual basis or by an entire group of people...


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 synthesizer
A synthesizer is an electronic instrument capable of producing sounds by generating electrical signals of different frequencies. These electrical signals are played through a loudspeaker or set of headphones...

s, orchestra hit
Orchestra hit
An orchestra hit, also known as an orchestral hit, orchestra stab, or orchestral stab, is a sound created through the layering of the sounds of a number of different orchestral instruments playing a single staccato note or chord. The orchestra hit sound was propagated by the use of early samplers,...

s and bookended by a non sequitur sample of a NASA
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration is the agency of the United States government that is responsible for the nation's civilian space program and for aeronautics and aerospace research...

A countdown is a sequence of counting backward to indicate the seconds, days, or other time units remaining before an event occurs or a deadline expires. Typical events for which a countdown is used include the launch of a rocket or spacecraft, the detonation of a bomb, the start of a race, and the...

, 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
West End Girls
"West End Girls" is a song by British pop duo Pet Shop Boys. Written by Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe, the song was released twice as a single. It is a synthpop song, influenced by hip hop music. The lyrics focus on class, and inner-city pressure, and were inspired by T.S. Eliot's poem The Waste Land...

") that has been played during every Pet Shop Boys tour.


At the time of the single's release, British DJ
Disc jockey
A disc jockey, also known as DJ, is a person who selects and plays recorded music for an audience. Originally, "disc" referred to phonograph records, not the later Compact Discs. Today, the term includes all forms of music playback, no matter the medium.There are several types of disc jockeys...

 Jonathan King
Jonathan King
Jonathan King is an English singer, songwriter, impresario and record producer. He is also the author of three novels, Bible Two and The Booker Prize Winner , and Beware the Monkey Man , and an autobiography, 65 My Life So Far .King first came to prominence as an...

 accused Pet Shop Boys of plagiarising
Plagiarism is defined in dictionaries as the "wrongful appropriation," "close imitation," or "purloining and publication" of another author's "language, thoughts, ideas, or expressions," and the representation of them as one's own original work, but the notion remains problematic with nebulous...

 the melody for "It's a Sin" from Cat Stevens
Cat Stevens
Yusuf Islam , commonly known by his former stage name Cat Stevens, is an English singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, educator, philanthropist, and prominent convert to Islam....

' 1971 hit, "Wild World
Wild World
"Wild World" is a song written and recorded by English singer-songwriter Cat Stevens. It first appeared on his fourth album, Tea for the Tillerman, recorded and released in 1970 and, continuing the change in Stevens' sound, after leaving Deram Records and signing with Island Records...

". He made the claims in The Sun
The Sun (newspaper)
The Sun is a daily national tabloid newspaper published in the United Kingdom and owned by News Corporation. Sister editions are published in Glasgow and Dublin...

newspaper, for which he wrote a regular column during the 1980s. King also released 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 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 concert
Benefit concert
A benefit concert or charity concert is a concert, show or gala featuring musicians, comedians, or other performers that is held for a charitable purpose, often directed at a specific and immediate humanitarian crisis. Such events raise both funds and public awareness to address the cause at...

s to raise funds for Shelter
Shelter (charity)
Shelter is a registered charity in England and Scotland that campaigns to end homelessness and bad housing. It gives advice, information and advocacy to people in need, and tackles the root causes of bad housing by lobbying government and local authorities for new laws and policies to improve the...

 and War Child
War Child (charity)
War Child is a non-governmental organisation founded in the UK 1993, which focuses on providing assistance to children in areas of conflict and post-conflict. They use their film and entertainment background to raise money for aid agencies operating in former Yugoslavia...

, set in the various Barfly
Barfly (club)
Barfly is a chain of live music venues nightclubs in the UK operating as part of the MAMA Group. It has venues in Brighton, London & York. They regularly feature live music. Their club nights tend to feature rock, alternative and independent music...

 venues. Their show at the Camden Town
Camden Town
-Economy:In recent years, entertainment-related businesses and a Holiday Inn have moved into the area. A number of retail and food chain outlets have replaced independent shops driven out by high rents and redevelopment. Restaurants have thrived, with the variety of culinary traditions found in...

 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, performed on Parkinson
Parkinson (TV series)
Parkinson is a British television talk show that was presented by Sir Michael Parkinson. It was first shown on the BBC from 1971 to 2004, and on ITV from 2004 to 2007.-Background:...

, and finally released on the 2006 compilation Popjustice: 100% Solid Pop Music.

Music video

Directed by Derek Jarman
Derek Jarman
Michael Derek Elworthy Jarman was an English film director, stage designer, diarist, artist, gardener and author.-Life:...

, 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
The Inquisition, Inquisitio Haereticae Pravitatis , was the "fight against heretics" by several institutions within the justice-system of the Roman Catholic Church. It started in the 12th century, with the introduction of torture in the persecution of heresy...

 with Lowe as his jailer and Ron Moody
Ron Moody
Ron Moody is an English actor.- Personal life :Moody was born in Tottenham, North London, England, the son of Kate and Bernard Moodnick, a studio executive. His father was of Russian Jewish descent and his mother was a Lithuanian Jew. He is a cousin of director Laurence Moody and actress Clare...

 in the role of his judge, interspersed with brief clips of personifications of the seven deadly sins
Seven deadly sins
The 7 Deadly Sins, also known as the Capital Vices or Cardinal Sins, is a classification of objectionable vices that have been used since early Christian times to educate and instruct followers concerning fallen humanity's tendency to sin...

 (inclduing a cameo appearance by actress Geena Davis
Geena Davis
Virginia Elizabeth "Geena" Davis is an American actress, film producer, writer, former fashion model, and a women's Olympics archery team semi-finalist...

 as Pride
Pride is an inwardly directed emotion that carries two common meanings. With a negative connotation, pride refers to an inflated sense of one's personal status or accomplishments, often used synonymously with hubris...


Cover versions

  • Cantopop
    Cantopop is a colloquialism for "Cantonese popular music". It is sometimes referred to as HK-pop, short for "Hong Kong popular music". It is categorized as a subgenre of Chinese popular music within C-pop...

     singer Danny Chan
    Danny Chan
    Danny Chan Bak-keung was a 1980s cantopop singer, composer and actor in Hong Kong with origins in Taishan, Guangdong. Chan was of the first generation of pop idols in Hong Kong. He was already an electronic organ player, a songwriter, an actor and a promising singer at the beginning of his career...

     made a cover version in 1987.
  • In 1989, Mexican pop singer, Lucero made a cover with a different Spanish version, for the album Cuéntame
    Cuéntame is the sixth album from Mexican pop music singer and actress Lucerito. It was released on 1989. Most of the songs of this album were part of the soundtrack from the motion picture Deliciosa Sinvergüenza; it also includes a cover of The Pet Shop Boys' It's a Sin for the song Hojas Secas...

    , with the name of Hojas Secas, produced by José Ramón Flores.
  • In 1997, Corporal Punishment covered the song.
  • The German power metal
    Power metal
    Power metal is a style of heavy metal combining characteristics of traditional metal with speed metal, often within symphonic context. The term refers to two different but related styles: the first pioneered and largely practiced in North America with a harder sound similar to speed metal, and a...

     band Gamma Ray
    Gamma Ray (band)
    Gamma Ray is a power metal band from Hamburg, northern Germany, founded and fronted by Kai Hansen after his departure from the German power metal Helloween. Hansen is the current lead vocalist, guitarist as well as the chief songwriter of Gamma Ray. The band is known as one of the most prominent...

     covered the song on their 1999 album Powerplant.
  • The Italian death metal
    Death metal
    Death metal is an extreme subgenre of heavy metal. It typically employs heavily distorted guitars, tremolo picking, deep growling vocals, blast beat drumming, minor keys or atonality, and complex song structures with multiple tempo changes....

     band Graveworm
    Graveworm is a symphonic black metal band from Bruneck, Italy with strong influences from gothic metal .-History:...

     included their cover of the song as a bonus track on the Japanese version of their Engraved in Black
    Engraved in Black
    Engraved in Black is the fourth studio album by the symphonic black metal band Graveworm, released in 2003 through Nuclear Blast. This is the first Graveworm album to feature guitarist Eric Righi, who also played bass on this recording.-Track listing:...

    album in 2003 and To/Die/For
    To/Die/For is a gothic metal band from the town of Kouvola in southeast of Finland, assembled in 1993 as a hard rock band under the name Mary-Ann. In 1999, they decided to change their musical style to gothic metal, changing their band name as well...

     did the same with their All Eternity
    All Eternity
    All Eternity is the first studio album by Finnish Gothic Rock/Metal band To/Die/For.-Track listing:-References:* bands by letter - T - To/Die/For - All Eternity...

    album in 2000.
  • The Irish indie rock band JJ72
    JJ72 were an alternative rock band from Dublin, Ireland. After forming in 1996, they signed to Lakota Records in 1999, releasing two hit albums before splitting in 2006.-Formation & early years:...

     recorded a cover of the song as the B-Side to their single "Algeria
    Algeria , officially the People's Democratic Republic of Algeria , also formally referred to as the Democratic and Popular Republic of Algeria, is a country in the Maghreb region of Northwest Africa with Algiers as its capital.In terms of land area, it is the largest country in Africa and the Arab...

    " in 2001
  • The German synthpop band X-Perience
    X-Perience is a eurodance band from Berlin, Germany. Their music style varies between synthpop, trance and ethnopop. The band members are Manja Wagner , Matthias Uhle and Alexander Kaiser . Singer Claudia Uhle, Matthias' sister, left the band in 2007 and was replaced by Manja.-History:X-Perience...

     released a cover of It's A Sin as promotional single in 2003 with remixes by Groove Coverage
    Groove Coverage
    Groove Coverage is a German Euro-dance band. The Groove Coverage project consists of Axel Konrad, DJ Novus, Melanie Munch, better known as Mell , and Verena Rehm . The band has had hits around the world, especially in Germany, and have had radio play in North America, notably with the song, "Poison"...

     and Angel_One. It reached the Top10 of the German DJ Playlist.
  • It has subsequently been recorded by Paul Anka
    Paul Anka
    Paul Albert Anka, is a Canadian singer, songwriter, and actor.Anka first became famous as a teen idol in the late 1950s and 1960s with hit songs like "Diana'", "Lonely Boy", and "Put Your Head on My Shoulder"...

     on the 2005 covers album Rock Swings
    Rock Swings
    Rock Swings is an album by Paul Anka. Recorded in November 2004 and released on May 31, 2005 in Canada and June 7, 2005 in the United States, it contains swing jazz covers of popular rock and pop songs from the 1980s and 1990s....

    and The Crüxshadows
    The Crüxshadows
    The Crüxshadows is an Dark Electro group from Florida. Their sound is made up of a combination of male vocals, electric violin, guitar, and synth...

    . Paul Anka gave the song a downtempo swing jazz
    Swing (genre)
    Swing music, also known as swing jazz or simply swing, is a form of jazz music that developed in the early 1930s and became a distinctive style by 1935 in the United States...

     treatment, and also changed some lyrics: the lines "At school they taught me how to be / so pure in thought and word and deed" were modified to "My father taught me how to be..." instead, thus changing the context of the later line "Father forgive me...", which would otherwise refer to a Roman Catholic priest
    A priest is a person authorized to perform the sacred rites of a religion, especially as a mediatory agent between humans and deities. They also have the authority or power to administer religious rites; in particular, rites of sacrifice to, and propitiation of, a deity or deities...

    . In addition, the repeated intonements of "It's a sin" in the chorus are drawn out further, with variations such as "What a sin" and "Such a sin" added.
  • The Italian futurepop band XP8
    XP8 is an Italian electronic group. The band started in 2001 as a trio, composed of Marco Visconti, Marko Resurreccion, and singer Paul Toohill....

     recorded a trance-infused version of the song for the compilation Always On Our Minds: A Tribute To Pet Shop Boys, released in 2006 by the American label Synthphony Records.
  • The American electronic rock band Sensuous Enemy covered this song on their 2008 release Fragments.
  • At the 2009 BRIT Awards
    2009 BRIT Awards
    The 2009 BRIT Awards ceremony took place on Wednesday 18 February 2009. It was the 29th edition of the British Phonographic Industry's annual pop music awards. The awards ceremony was held at Earls Court Exhibition Centre in London, and was broadcast live on ITV1 on 18 February at 8pm...

    , Brandon Flowers
    Brandon Flowers
    Brandon Richard Flowers is an American musician, best known as the frontman of the Las Vegas-based rock band The Killers. He has also released a solo album titled Flamingo.-Early life:...

     (lead singer of The Killers) entered to this song and dueted with Neil Tennant
    Neil Tennant
    Neil Francis Tennant is an English musician, singer and songwriter, who, with bandmate Chris Lowe, makes up the successful electronic dance music duo Pet Shop Boys.-Childhood:...

     the first chorus
  • Finnish band The Rasmus
    The Rasmus
    The Rasmus are a Finnish rock band that formed in 1995 in Helsinki while the band members were still in upper comprehensive school. The original band members were Lauri Ylönen , Eero Heinonen , Pauli Rantasalmi and Janne Heiskanen...

    performed the song in several live performances.

Peak positions

Chart (1987) Peak
Australian ARIA Singles Chart 10
Austrian Singles Chart 1
French SNEP Singles Chart 12
German Singles Chart 1
Irish Singles Chart 1
Italian Singles Chart 3
Norwegian Singles Chart 1
Swedish Singles Chart 1
Swiss Singles Chart 1
UK Singles Chart 1
U.S. Billboard Hot 100 9
U.S. Billboard Hot Dance Club Play 3

End of year charts

End of year chart (1987) Position
Austrian Singles Chart 4
Dutch Top 40 39
Swiss Singles Chart 5


Country Certification Date Sales certified
Austria Gold September 21, 1990 15,000
Finland 6,311
Sweden Platinum November 10, 1987 20,000
UK Silver December 1, 1987 200,000
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