Johnny Come Home

Album: Fine Young Cannibals (1985)
Charted: 8 76
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Songfacts®:

  • "Johnny Come Home" was the Fine Young Cannibals' first single from their debut album. The song follows the story of a runaway who learns the harsh reality of a life on the streets. The title refers to his parents' desperate plea for him to come home and was likely inspired by the 1975 TV documentary about London runaways, Johnny Go Home: The Murder of Billy Two-Tone.
  • British author Jake Arnott used this title for his 2006 novel about about the Glam-Rock period in early '70s London.
  • This song was featured in the thrillers Someone to Watch Over Me (1987) and The Handmaid's Tale (1990).
  • FYC made their television debut performing this song on The Tube, an influential UK music series that introduced an array of future hitmakers, in 1984. It was an important move for the group, who had previously been turned down by nearly every major record label. Shortly after their appearance on the program, they were offered a deal with London Records.
  • Roland Gift revealed the song's original premise in a Q&A with The Rebel Magazine in 2011: "'Johnny' started off about being black in a white man's world, but it evolved into something more inclusive and better."

Comments: 1

  • AnonymousThe song is a retort to Bronski Beat's hit the previous year, "Small Town Boy" - hence the similarity of the tune in their choruses, except "Johnny Comes Home" sounds more sinister.

    Bronski Beat's song (and especially the video) reinforced the myth of London as a welcoming gay paradise, when in reality it was cold, seedy and home to predators like Dennis Nielson who murdered at least a dozen homeless gays for his own gratification - one of whom was a cousin of one of the band's members - and had been arrested only the previous year.

    It wasn't the only song to offer a retort to Bronski Beat - The Men They Couldn't Hang also released a song called "Johnny Come Home", but the lyrics were far more blunt and dealt with the fate of the runaway, rather than the impact on those he's left behind: the subject of the song being lured to a predator's house with the promise of a bed for the night, where he is murdered and dissected, similar to Nielson's crimes.
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