Flashback Friday – Where The Suburbs Met Utopia

Let’s continue with the Pet Shop Boys single-history. Today we visit Suburbia.

Suburbia was released as the fourth single from debut album Please in 1986. For the single release, the song was remixed by Julian Mendelssohn and became the band’s second UK Top-10-hit.

The song was inspired mostly by 1984 movie Suburbia – directed by Penelope Spheeris – which themed the violence in the suburbs of Los Angeles. Also the riots in Brixton, UK, from 1981 and 1985 inspired the Boys to write a song about the boredom, violence and tension in the suburbs that were omnipresent during these times. “Soft-pop songs with hard lyrics” is what they always wanted to do, and they got pretty close to that than with Suburbia.

In many versions of the song, you can hear sounds of suburban violence, such as shattering glass, car crashes or rioting noises. The barking dog sounds on the remixed single were taken directly from Spheeris‘ movie, and have even been extended for the music-video, while on the album version of Suburbia, such effects were rather scarce.

For the music video, the boys once again brought in Eric Watson; it featured footage from Tennant and Lowe in a Los Angeles suburb where they were attending that year’s MTV Music Awards.

B-sides to Suburbia were Jack The Lad and the fantastic Paninaro, which happens to be one of my favourite PSB songs. The Italian Mix of Paninaro which was later released as a maxi-single on its own is one of the best remixes of the boys’ works. Suburbia itself was remixed by Arthur Baker later, and a Part II of the song appeared on a 7″ vinyl double pack, too, but it was only a cut-down version of the Full Horror Mix.

Some trivia:

– the bassline of the song is based on Madonna‘s song Into The Groove; Chris Lowe stated that it’s virtually the same
– the main musical theme of the song is heavily influenced by jazz-pop track Feels So Good, originally released in 1977 by Chuck Mangione

Here are two remixes of Suburbia, the Part II bit and an instrumental version which they used as a backing for their live-shows. And you also get Jack The Lad and that excellent Italian Mix of Paninaro. And of course the video!

Pet Shop Boys – Suburbia (The Full Horror)
Pet Shop Boys – Suburbia (Arthur Baker Club Vocal Mix)
Pet Shop Boys – Suburbia, Part II
Pet Shop Boys – Suburbia (Backing Video Instrumental)
Pet Shop Boys – Jack The Lad
Pet Shop Boys – Paninaro (Italian Mix)

It’s A Sin will be next… stay tuned!


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