Released today in 1987: It’s A Sin

Parlophone R6158

Parlophone R6158

“We always had this idea that when we did the video for it I was going to be burned at the stake and Chris was going to be the man who lights the pyre, like some Inquisition thing,” Neil Tennant said, speaking to Smash Hits (1-14 July 1987) on the set of the video for Pet Shop BoysIt’s A Sin. “I just like the idea of it. It’s not the sort of thing that happens in videos. It would be quite nice, we would use a rubber effigy of me for the last scene where I was stuck on the pyre and there would be blood pouring out of it. But of course it wouldn’t have got on ‘Saturday Superstore’.”

Elements of this original idea did remain in the final storyboard for the promotional clip that was eventually filmed, with Chris Lowe playing a morose jailer to Tennant’s accused sinner. It was directed by Derek Jarman in his first collaboration with Pet Shop Boys. Jarman had been active in the film industry, with varying degrees of success, for over fifteen years before coming to wider public attention in 1986 with his film ‘Caravaggio’, a project he had long wanted to get off the ground. When it finally went into production it was with the backing of Channel 4 and the British Film Institute, which helped raise its and Jarman’s profile in the media. Despite the films merits, Jarman was frustrated by the formality of 35mm film production and his next work, ‘The Last Of England’, saw him return to the use of Super-8, a medium he used throughout his career. He was director for Pet Shop Boys’ tour ‘MCMLXXXIX’ (which ran from 29 June to 21 July 1989), a suitably theatrical production that made use of pre-filmed projections as backdrops to the live performances, which Jarman described as “the best Super-8 imagery I’ve ever done.” The Wembley Arena date of the tour was filmed but Tennant and Lowe were disappointed with the results, so only allowed certain portions of the film to be released on video cassette. Both Highlights (select live footage) and Projections (the Super-8 films) were issued on VHS prior to Jarman’s death in 1994.

Pet Shop Boys were now able to command big names to appear in front of the camera also. The role of Chief Executioner in It’s A Sin was filled by actor Ron Moody (Oscar-nominated for his performance as Fagin in ‘Oliver!’; he died last week) and very imposing he looked too. Also depicted in the video were the Seven Deadly Sins themselves. Anger, characterized as a muscular, aggressive boxer, was lit in red and played by a leather-jacketed Hector Chronos, a director’s assistant on Jarman’s ‘The Last of England’. “I didn’t realize anger was a Deadly Sin,” Neil said. “It means that Chris will end up in hell, haha.” Avarice, who provocatively poked out a gold coin where his tongue should have been, was played by British artist Duggie Fields. He studied architecture briefly before attending the Chelsea School of Art; by the mid-70s he was producing work later described as ‘post-modern’. He has described his bold, colourful images as ‘maximalist’. Envy was portrayed by fashion designer and former Blitz Kid Stephen Linard who had worked with the like of Boy George, The Fun Boy Three and Spandau Ballet. The black coat that Tennant wears in the video for Pet Shop Boys’ West End Girls was a Linard: “Eric Watson, a friend of mine who does most of our photography, had one first; I loved it and got one, the last one they had. It’s made of black linen, so it creases all the time. I liked it because it was very, very severe, and I wanted to look a bit like a preacher from the Wild West. It’s what people associated us with in the beginning.” Gluttony was brought to life by Naomi Gryn, now a writer and filmmaker, largely of documentaries. She was originally brought in for It’s A Sin as the casting director for the video. “Gluttony’s the best one anyway, because she’s got this costume made of fruit and she eats her costume with all this juice dripping down her face,” said Tennant. Lust (Tennant: “Everyone’s favourite”) was played by actress Amanda Metro who appears to have only one other credit, in the soap opera ‘The Bill’. Well, every British actor active in the 80s was in ‘The Bill’. Pride came courtesy of model Paola Pieroni. Sloth was Christopher Hughes, a cinematographer active in the film industry for some thirty years now. He worked on a number of Jarman’s projects in the 1980s, from short pop promos for bands like The Smiths, to feature films.

NEW SINGLES on sale from Jun. 15
1984
The MIGHTY WAH! (Pete Wylie) Come Back (Beggars Banquet BEG111)
1987
David BOWIE Time Will Crawl (EMI America EA237)
PET SHOP BOYS It’s A Sin (Parlophone R6158)

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