PSB songs that contain biblical allusions

I can attest from the many emails I've received since I first started this website that Pet Shop Boys fans are often surprised—and occasionally dismayed—by the number of biblical allusions in their music. But considering Neil's solid Catholic upbringing, including his having attended a Catholic school, it's hardly to be unexpected. To be honest, I'm surprised there aren't more of them.

Please note, however, that mere references to God, religion, heaven, hell, the devil, angels, Christmas, and the like aren't sufficient for a song to be considered containing a "biblical allusion" for the purposes of this list. There has to be a little more to it than that.

1. Birthday Boy

The central premise of the song relies upon Jesus's assertion, "Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me" (Matthew 25:40). Jesus himself is, at least metaphorically, the "birthday boy" of the song, which is set at Christmastime.

2. The Clock 10/11/12

The first part ("10") of this segment from the Boys' ballet The Most Incredible Thing includes an appearance by Moses, followed by a somewhat abbreviated recitation of the Ten Commandments in reverse order, all stemming directly from the biblical book of Exodus and subsequently repeated in Deuteronomy. (And if you're wondering about "The Clock 1/2/3," please see the end of this list.)

3. Gin and Jag

The narrator's line about there being "a lot of room at the inn tonight" sounds like an inverted takeoff on the biblical "no room at the inn," which led to Joseph and Mary taking overnight shelter in the stable in which Jesus was born (as related in Chapter 2 of the Gospel of Luke). The implication could be that, if the night in which there was no room at the inn was the holiest of nights, then this night in which there's a lot of room is anything but holy.

4. A Man from the Future

The final "title movement" of A Man from the Future concludes with a paraphrase from the Bible, specifically the Apostle Paul's Second Letter to the Corinthians, 3:6. In the King James Version it reads "…for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life." (The word "letter" in this case refers to the law, as in "the letter of the law," and in some translations it is indeed rendered as "the law.") In "A Man from the Future" this is slightly modified to "The law killed, and the spirit gave life."

5. More Than a Dream

Neil has referred to the line "Though the mountains may divide, we can reach the sea" as "biblical." I haven't been able to locate any "we can reach the sea" reference in the Bible, but the book of Isaiah (54:10) does contain the words "For the mountains may depart…" (King James Version), which is rendered in some more modern translations as "For the mountains may divide…."

6. "Our Daily Bread"

This piece from Battleship Potemkin very obviously quotes from The Lord's Prayer, which appears in the Bible in two places in somewhat different forms: Matthew 6:9–6:13 (the longer and more familiar of the two) and Luke 11:2–11:4.

7. A Red Letter Day

The line "What on earth does it profit a man?" is clearly derived from the words of Jesus as recorded in the Gospel of Matthew (16:26): "What does it profit a man if he should gain the whole world and lose his own soul?"

8. Searching for the Face of Jesus

The immediate reference is to Frank O. Adams's 1972 book about the Shroud of Turin, A Scientific Search for the Face of Jesus, which Elvis Presley was reading when he died. But, naturally, its roots can be found in the biblical story of Jesus of Nazareth as told in the four Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John).

9. The Sodom and Gomorrah Show

Sodom and Gomorrah were the biblical "cities of the plain" that were destroyed by God for their wickedness, as described in Genesis 19:1-29. Tthe song isn't "about" Sodom and Gomorrah, but the reference is absolutely vital to its understanding.

10. Viva la Vida

Of course, Neil and Chris didn't write this song, which was composed by the members of Coldplay. But that doesn't stop it from boasting biblical allusions aplenty. The references to St. Peter (one of Jesus's disciples) and Calvary (the place where Jesus was crucified) are obvious. Only slightly more obscure are allusions to pillars of salt (the fate of Lot's wife), castles standing on sand (one of Jesus's parables), and having one's head on a silver plate (the death of John the Baptist). The lyric is both vague enough and rich enough to invite further—though far less certain—citations as well.

11. Your Funny Uncle

The lines near the end that begin "To wipe away the tears" and end "These former things have passed away" are directly adapted from the Bible—Revelation 21:4 to be precise: "And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away" (King James Version). Neil had read those very words at the real-life funeral service that inspired this song.

And, finally, I offer a few more "questionable" inclusions—

12. It's a Sin

I'm frankly reluctant to include this song in the list at all since it doesn't contain so much biblical allusions as religious and ecclesiastical ones. And, yes, there is a difference. But since those religious and ecclesiastical references ultimately stem from the Bible, I'll concede the point—especially considering that if I don't include it, I'll surely have to deal with repeat assertions that I've "forgotten" to include it. Incidentally, the words in Latin that Neil recites at the end (translated "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") come from one of the prayers that may be recited during the Roman Catholic mass, but not from the Bible itself.

13. The Clock 1/2/3

Being devoid of lyrics, this instrumental piece from The Most Incredible Thing earns its inclusion only from what's happening onstage during performances of the ballet: it depicts various aspects of the biblical creation story (including Adam and Eve), as told in the book of Genesis. But if you didn't have that to go on, it would be nearly impossible to realize there's anything "biblical" about it.

14. Joseph, Better You Than Me

It's not really a "PSB track" since only Neil, without Chris, was involved in this 2008 holiday-season collaboration with The Killers and Elton John. But there's no mistaking its biblical allusions. The Joseph of the title is Jesus's earthly father, stepping (albeit somewhat circuitously) from the pages of the Gospels. The narrator of the song compares himself to the carpenter of Nazareth, wondering whether his own faith in God could endure the sort of challenges that Joseph faced.