The Sound Of The Suburbs

Album: At the Chelsea Nightclub (1979)
Charted: 12
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Songfacts®:

  • Formed in the English suburban town of Camberley in 1977, The Members were a punk rock band who spiced their songs with elements of pop and reggae. This witty description of the endless normality of life in British suburbia was their biggest hit.
  • Singer Nicky Tesco and guitarist JC Carroll wrote "The Sound Of The Suburbs" after they decided the band needed an anthem. Tesco told The Guardian the song "encapsulates that moment when you're still too young to get in pubs and stuck in suburbia. It was the soundtrack of our youth."
  • Seeking excitement, JC Carroll had moved up to London from Camberley, initially working for Queen's bankers, Coutts, before punk rock took over. Nicky Tesco drafted him into The Members and he became the band's chief songwriter, penning some of the verses, the chorus and the middle eight of "The Sound Of The Suburbs" in his Kilburn bedsit. "I was speaking about my life: alienation, desperation," Carroll told Uncut magazine. "A window had opened where you could do that."
  • Crucially, this was a song that defined how punk rock's big bang resonated in the suburbs, and in England's fashionable and cosmopolitan capital. "It was easy being a punk in London," Carroll argued, "being a rebel out in the sticks took real guts. The message was, you don't have to be trendy. You don't have to be in London to be a punk; you can be punk in the middle of nowhere."
  • During one verse, Tesco sings of a suburban youth club band.

    Youth Club group used to want to be free
    Now they want Anarchy


    The teenagers originally wanted to be like early 1970s blues-rock band Free until they heard "Anarchy in the U.K." and embraced punk.
  • Drummer Adrian Lillywhite's brother, Steve, was a young producer, and "The Sound Of The Suburbs" was one his first productions. He went on to have a hugely successful career in the music industry, working with the likes of U2, Peter Gabriel and Talking Heads.
  • Carroll told The Guardian Steve Lillywhite had the band doing handclaps, which he'd also done on "Do Anything You Wanna Do" by Eddie and the Hot Rods. "Then he took his tape recorder down to Staines railway station," the guitarist said, "and recorded the British Rail announcer calling out the towns we came from 'Camberley, Bagshot, Lightwater... This is Staines.'"
  • The Members debuted the song when they supported the Vibrators at the Marquee in London on August 13, 1978.
  • The Members had only two other minor hits. "Offshore Banking Business," the follow-up to "The Sound Of the Suburbs, peaked at #31 in the UK. "Radio" reached #51 in Australia three years later. The band broke up in 1983 when Tesco left after the last tour of the US. They reformed in 2007.

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