Friday, July 23, 2010

"Suburbia" by Pet Shop Boys


From their 1986 album, "Please". This is a song I could relate to while living in a suburb not without its rough edges,including pit bulls going about, the odd car-bomb going off in the middle of the night, people who drove cars too fast in school zones, and a general bit of increaed surliness and defensivness in people.

Californian sububria--the place of escape and peace in the 60's and 70's--became for many like me a place to be weary of staying in.

Of course, there were always good people and humor here and there, and there stil are, but it seemed at my particular patch of "the good life" like a good time to get out of metropolitan California. This song brings it back, even with the more docile English suburbs represented as well here.

From wikipedia:
"The song's primary inspiration is the 1984 Penelope Spheeris film Suburbia, and its depiction of violence and squalor in the suburbs of Los Angeles; in addition, the tension of the Brixton riots of 1981 and of 1985 hanging in recent memory led Neil Tennant of the duo to thinking about the boredom of suburbia and the underlying tension among disaffected youth that sparked off the riots at the least provocation.

"The various versions of the song are punctuated by sounds of suburban violence: rioting noises and smashing glass, as well as snarling dogs on the re-recorded single version (extended even further on the music video), which were derived from scenes in Suburbia."


  1. I know what you mean Doug. Over here we call those Pitbulls, weapon dogs. I must say I'm not keen when they are let off the lead, especially when I'm out with my dog.

    I'm not sure when this song was made, but put the guys in hoodies and it could be 2010.

    Catchy tune, thank you.

  2. Although I'm a dog lover through and through I am not not found of pitbulls. If they got off a lead or under s fence they can be quite dangerous in my experience. A couple metropolitan areas over here have banned them outright.

    This album came out in 1986. Glad you liked this trac.

  3. I have never heard this song before Doug, thanks for posting it. I thought the transatlanticism of the video was very strange though, the Californian areas looked rather more edgy than the bay windows of semi-detached English suburbia during the period of Thatcherism One. There are a lot more scary places than that I think, where pittbulls or even staffies are seen as an extension of their owners own psychopathic terror....but it was a nice tune to have a riot to anyway I think.

    I suppose many of us city dwellers fled to the hills around that time, a by-product of either Reaganomics or Thatcherism (depending which side of the Atlantic we were on) and the full blossoming of the me first and gimme,gimme culture of solipsistic consumerism that characterised that sorry era and which continues to bedevil us today.

  4. Definately more edgy, AA. The US scenes here are a good deal edgier looking than my old neighborhood on the far outskirts of the San Francisco metro area. It seemed to me one strong indicator of crime in America (or at least working class, lwer middle class frustration) seems to be the proliferation in some neighborhoods of these dogs--often trained as potential surrogate weapons.

    One fellow I remember well let his big pit bull dog--Thor-- run loose. When a neighbor of mine complained, Thor's owner parked his car so it blocked part of my friends driveway. When said riend went to his front door to complain about this --unarmed and simply asking him to move his car--- the neighbor went into house and got a rifle and waved it at him! Luckily the police were summoned by a sensible neighbor.

    Just an anecdote perhaps, one of many others I won't bother to list, but a representitive one I'd say. (The 80's were also about the time that weapons
    started turning up in more high school lockers in ordinary places, brought to the school by teenagers looking to settle a grudge.) Just a decade earlier--when I was a teen--this would have been unthinkable outside the toughest urban schools in the nation.
    But these dogs and guns I think are more of a symptom. The real threat is alienation and paranoia as you allude. I believe the high number of gun crimes in America is caused by this psychological separation Americans have between themselves and "others"---individualism sometimes going over board and asserting itself with fear in ways that have nothing to do with home self-defense or anything like that.

    'Gimmie gimmie gimmie', yes that's for sure. Yes, the 80's in America were a pivot many pundits of above -average vision have commented upon--this was the time when Americans in general became less of a working and producing culture and more of a consumer and show-off materialistic culture.
    It was the rise of junk bond dealers on Wall Street and unjust union-bashing on Main Street.
    No wonder our business leaders measured their success not in stable company earnings but in increasing their year-end bonuses and "golden parachutes" and generally caring less and less about the people and the product they over saw. Such is perhaps the most negative legacy of the Reagan Era--profits and conspicuous consumption run amok in a second coming of the old post-Civil War reign of the Robber Barons.

    But its a fun song. A bit rowdy and devil may care.

    I'm not sure what a "staffie" is by the way.

  5. Sorry....Staffordshire Bull Terrier....they are popular in the West Midlands in particular, although not as formidably ferocious as pitbulls, they symbolise working class machismo to some extent especially in the Black Country I think.

  6. Ah, that makes sense, AA.

    A "staffie" as in: "Sorry to call you this early in the morn', good neighbor, but your staffie has my son-in-law treed in my front yard again."

    I am releived you were not referring to a rise in violence amongst Briitsh clerical workers.

  7. I'm afraid there is plenty of that too Doug :-(

  8. Makes you wonder why he didn't just go and get Thor and save the cost of the bullets (and of course feeding the dog) although I realise that none were fired on that occasion Doug, thank heavens.

    Under these circumstances it really pays to be a Pagan, you can say things like "Oh Thor, son of Odin...what a great name for a Pitbull, I bet he knows when a cat is being an illusion of the Midgard Serpent and when its just a quick snack, would you care for a tankard of mead by the way... while we discuss parking problems in the neighbiourhood?"

    This might work in the bay window semidetached suburbia in the video, I'm not sure about a paranoid speed freak armed to the teeth with WMD....but still worth a try I think :-)

  9. You can se why they're called The Pet Shop Boys.....we haven't stopped discussing breeds of dog since the film ended, very clever product placement if you ask me?

  10. LOL! It does seem redundant to have to scour your closet for the "old shooting iron" (i.e., rifle) when your dog can prove rednecks can park where they damn well please!

    Quite so, AA. The whole name-your-dog-a-god-and-let-him-loose-on-the-neighbors reminds me of a satirical detective novel I read sometime later--Douglas Adams' "The Long, Dark Teatime of the Soul". Odin, you see, is about in 1990's Britain, a prize patient in a private hospital in the Cotswolds and poor son Thor, as the story begins, is trying to catch a flight to Oslo via Heathrow Airport (travelling as a mortal, but not aware he needs a passport and a ticket.) . Suddenly the terminal is blown sky high by the god of thunder, but no one is hurt. Meanwhile, red-hatted holistic private detective Dirk Gently tries to figure out why his music executive client had his head severed and left spinning on a record turnstile and why a giant eagle keeps swooping down on him at taxi stands. It all makes as much sense as why my neighbor nearly got shot by this real-life loonie.

    Indeed I think the literate-pagan approach might well quell any neighborhood tiffs in an English suburb, provided they have good local schools with humanities departments. As most low-rent American gun owners and pit bull enthusiasts get their Norse mythology from comic books, it might be more problematic here.

  11. You're right, AA, an insidious bit of psychlogical suggestion I failed to appreciate. I suspect the Westminster Kennel Club was in league with EMI on this one!