Monday, 1 September 2014

My Top Ten Suburban Songs

Let's all move out to the suburbs!

This week's special mention goes to Suburban Kids With Biblical Names.

10. Manfred Mann - Semi-Detached Suburban Mr. James

When Paul Jones left Manfred Mann, Mike d'Abo jumped in to replace him. This was the first single he wrote / sang for the group... the title was originally "...Mr. Jones" until the Manfreds realised that might be seen as a dig at their previous lead man.

Listening to this again for the first time in years, it occurs to me that Damon Albarn might have had it on in the Blur tour bus while he was writing The Great Escape.

9. The Arcade Fire - The Suburbs

I'll admit it, I never really clicked with The Arcade Fire. I feel they're a band I should spend more time with... but there are so many other shiny things out there that keep stealing my attention. Still, I like this one. I think it's about growing up and watching the world fall apart around you. Which we all know too well these days...
So can you understand
Why I want a daughter while I'm still young?
I wanna hold her hand
And show her some beauty
Before this damage is done
8. The Kinks - Shangri-La

Ray Davies quietly mocks his hero Arthur, a man who's worked his way up from the back-to-back with an outside privy to all the mod cons of the suburbs where life is perfect.... isn't it?
And all the houses in the street have got a name
'Cos all the houses in the street they look the same
Same chimney pots, same little cars, same window panes
The neighbors call to tell you things that you should know
They say their lines, they drink their tea, and then they go
They tell your business in another Shangri-la
The gas bills and the water rates, and payments on the car
Too scared to think about how insecure you are
Life ain't so happy in your little Shangri-la
7. Billy Joel - The Great Suburban Showdown

A song about going home to visit your parents when you've left home as a young adult... and being rather judgmental about how their life hasn't changed at all. With added backyard barbecue.
I've been gone for a while, made some changes in my style
And they say you can't go home anymore
Well the streets all look the same, and I'll have to play the game
We'll all sit around in the kitchen chairs
With the TV on with the neighbors there
6. Pulp - Styloroc (Nites of Suburbia)

Jarvis stumbles across a strange and exotic form of life in the suburbs that he's never encountered before... and soon he becomes one of them.
We drank strange brown liquids, 
And our stomachs swelled up like balloons. 
A thousand fake orgasms every night 
behind thick draylon curtains.
They go on and on and on and on. Oh! 

We sank back into long PVC sofas. 
Outside dogs roamed the streets and the roof-tops, plus it would rain. 
But now we've grown so fat we can no longer pass through the door. 
Stay we must, sprouting black hair beneath bry-nylon underwear.
5. The Monkees - Pleasant Valley Sunday

It's hard to believe it now, but the Monkees were a boyband. They were Take That, the Backstreet Boys, *NSYNC and One Direction before any of those kids were even a twinkle in their daddy's winkle. I don't know, maybe in about thirty years there'll be a middle-aged music blogger writing a Top Ten that sneaks one of their classic hits in amongst the Pulps, Arcade Fires and Half Men Half Biscuits.  

Anyway, Pleasant Valley Sunday hardly needs any further introduction. Classic Goffin & King song that will never grow old.

4. The Members - The Sound Of The Suburbs

Pleasant Valley Sunday reinvented for the punk generation by Nicky Tesco and the lads. Glorious stuff.
Youth Club group used to want to be free
Now they want Anarchy
They play too fast, they play out of tune
Practice in the singer's bedroom
Drum's quite good, the bass is too loud
And I… can't hear the words
3. Pet Shop Boys - Suburbia

There's a creepiness to the early Pet Shop Boys records the band were never able to recapture once Neil revealed his true colours as a disco Noel Coward. This feels like a distant cousin to Ghost Town by The Specials... the suburbs gone bad.
I only wanted something else to do but hang around
2.Half Man Half Biscuit - For What Is Chatteris...

Most Half Man Half Biscuit records are about the little frustrations of (sub)urban living (or occasionally, getting lost in the countryside), but this is my absolute favourite. Plus, it's a sweet little love song to boot. Every line's a gem!
Car crime’s low, the gun crime’s lower
The town hall band CD, it’s a grower
You never hear of folk getting knocked on the bonce
Although there was a drive-by shouting once
1. Ben Folds - Rockin' the Suburbs

Ben Folds' storming anthem to middle class angst and first world problems is also a tongue-in-cheek wink at the overwrought suburban seriousness of bands like Korn and Limp Bizkit (and their fans).
Y'all don't know what it's like
Being male, middle-class and white
Y'all don't know what it's like
Being male, middle-class and white
Y'all don't know what it's like
Being male, middle class and white
It gets me real pissed off, it makes me wanna say.............................................
Just like Jon Bon Jovi did
I'm rockin' the suburbs
Except that he was talented
I'm rockin' the suburbs
I take the cheques and face the facts
That some producer with computers fixes all my shitty tracks
These days...
This debut solo single (after jettisoning the Five) proved a huge hit for Ben. Unfortunately, the album was released on the 11th of September 2001... it did OK despite that.

And if that's not enough to get Ben a well-deserved Number One this week... a few years later he recorded an entirely different version of the song for the soundtrack to the DreamWorks animated movie Over The Hedge... WITH WILLIAM FRICKIN' SHATNER GUEST STARRING AS AN ANGRY NEIGHBOUR. What else do you want? Blood?

I have quite a few suburban songs left over in the garage... did I forget your favourite?


  1. Am I really going to be the first to suggest Buddha of Suburbia by David Bowie? I know it's far from his best work, but still...

    1. It was in consideration, but as you say... not his best work.

  2. XTC - "Respectable Street" and Killing Joke "Chop-Chop" for the lyrics "Ten square miles so synchronized I could have cried..."

    1. For a second there, I thought you were going to suggest Mel & Kim...

  3. I love the Monkees - often the cd of choice in my car.

    I can't think surburbia without associating it to the 'The Good Life' nothing like a like bit of Felicity Kendal - nudge nudge wink wink - so have Tony Bennett - The Good Life (not a flower of badly drawn bird in sight though)

    (youtube safari from Tony Bennett lead me to Frank's That's Life - classic - I love how you send me off on these safaris!)

    Anyhoo- could we squeeze Madness - Our House in? After all, it is in the middle of our street!!

    1. Most of the time, I'd rather listen to the Monkees than the Beatles.

      That's Life would have been good for last week's Top Ten.

      Madness? That's madness.

  4. Who would have thought so much good music from suburbia...


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...