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Thursday, 21 January 2016

Let The Day Begin...Let The Day Start!: Day 21 - The Sound of the Suburbs

I'm not totally sure but I would hazard a guess that bands don't get taught what it takes to have a hit record, if they did there would be loads of Singles that would have hit the big time but for one reason or another they seemed to fall short.

In a couple of days time it will be the 37th anniversary of the release of
The Members' 'The Sound of the Suburbs' which turned out to be their biggest hit reaching #12 on the UK Singles chart. They even got on Top of the Pops (which to some was an anathema but to others the sign that things could be going well for them).

For many who maybe heard it on the radio or who saw it on Top of the Pops they might easily have imagined that this brand new band The Members were pretty lucky getting a hit with their first single. But actually it wasn't their debut single at all, that first single was released in May 1978 and was quite unknown to the majority of people. Oh, and they were not really a "new band", as by time 'The Sound of the Suburbs' was released the band had already been together for more than two years (having formed in 1976).

The original line up of the band did not include any of the band who would eventually appear on their debut single in 1978 for Stiff apart from Lead Vocalist Nicky Tesco. These members, Chris Payne (Bass and Vocals), Adrian Lilywhite (Drums), JC Carroll (Guitar and Vocals), and Nigel Bennett (Guitar and Vocals) would be added and the full line up established after the band managed to get a song on a Compilation put out by Beggars Banquet called 'Streets' in 1977. The Members track was called 'Fear on the Streets' (it's track 2 on the above link).

Crafting their sound at various venues around London they got a deal with Stiff Records (I'm assuming it was a one off deal as the label on it says '1 OFF', will have to ask JC that) and that resulted in the Larry Wallis produced Tesco and Carroll's 'Solitary Confinement' backed by Chris Payne's 'Rat Up A Drain Pipe'.

The band were championed by John Peel, got a feature in one of the music papers and continually sought to up the ante through their live performances. They came to the attention of Virgin Records and were signed. The debut album, 'At the Chelsea Nightclub' was recorded between December 1978 and January 1979 with their major label Debut single arriving in stores on 23rd January.

Actually on the day of release of the single their first session for John Peel was broadcast. It featured four songs: Love In A Lift, Phone-In Show, At the Chelsea Nightclub and The Sound of the Suburbs. It had been recorded 6 days earlier (17th Jan) at the BBC Maida Vale Studio.

There's no great formula for a hit single but from the opening line of The Sound of the Suburbs you are hooked:

The Sound of the Suburbs
Same old boring Sunday morning
Old man's out washing the car
Mum's in the kitchen cooking Sunday dinner
Her best meal, moaning while it lasts
Johnny's upstairs in his bedroom sitting in the dark
Annoying the neighbours with his punk rock electric guitar

This is the sound
This is the sound of the suburbs
This is the sound of the suburbs

Every lousy Monday morning
Heathrow jets go crashing over our home
Ten o'clock Broadmoor siren
Driving me mad, won't leave me alone
The woman next door just sits and stares outside
She hasn't come out once ever since her husband died


Youth Club group used to want to be free
Now they want Anarchy
They play too fast, they play out of tune
Practise in the singer's bedroom
Drum's quite good, the bass is too loud
And I… can't hear the words


Saturday morning family shoppers
Crowding out the centre of town
Young blokes sitting on the benches
Shouting at the young girls walking around
Johnny stands there at his window looking at the night
I said, "Hey, what you listening to? There's nothing there"
That's right!

This is the sound of the suburbs
This is the sound of the suburbs

This is the sound. (x 8)

This is the sound of the suburbs. (x 4)

In its essence it's just a song about what goes on in your house, on your street, in your community, there's nothing that requires you to think too much, just open your eyes and observe and listen to what's going on around you.

When it was released it came out in Limited Edition Clear Vinyl (see picture below) and I can remember bunking off school with some friends and going to our local record shop (where I ended up spending a lot of time that particular year!) to make sure that we got this version. I can remember that Andy Ross (who actually knew Adrian the drummer) kept on playing it for us, A-Side and B-Side (what was with that instrumental by the way? - another question to ask JC at some point) until we were convinced to buy it (we would have bought it regardless of how many times he played it though!).

Thirty Seven years on from its release and the song has appeared on stacks of Compilation albums and is one of the those songs I consider a bit of a landmark in my life because I can recall a lot of the stuff we were going through quite vividly, and remember my old friends (one of whom I recently had a chat with on facebook for the first time in 35 years!).

For The Members this year sees three of the line-up that featured on The Sound of the Suburbs single, JC Carroll, Nigel Bennett and Chris Payne release a brand new album at the end of the month called One Law.* They are still playing live, aided by Nick Cash on Drums, and as this is the 40th Year of The Members they would like it to be known that they are still Annoying the neighbours with their punk rock electric guitars!

*Keep an eye out for more posts about The Members in the next few weeks.

A-Side: The Sound of the Suburbs
B-Side: Handling the Big Jets
Virgin Records
Produced by Steve Lilywhite
UK Chart #12
Released 23rd January 1979

Let The Day Begin...Let The Day Start!
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