William Burroughs: Some people like neat suburbs. I always am attracted to the rundown and the old and the offbeat.
Quentin Crisp: In an expanding universe, time is on the side of the outcast. Those who once inhabited the suburbs of human contempt find that without changing their address they eventually live in the metropolis.
Siouxsie Sioux: The suburbs inspired intense hatred. I think the lure of London was always there. I remember my sister taking me to Biba on Kensington High Street; I bought a coat and used to gravitate towards going there on my own later. But the suburbs were also a yardstick for measuring how much we didn’t fit in…I would definitely say that our early material, for at least the first two albums, was suburbia – where I grew up, and the circumstances.
It was an interesting kind of boredom. The days seemed to stretch out in an attempt to touch forever. One evening the local 7-11 was held up at gunpoint – the robbers were “from London”. Another time, some cows escaped from a nearby field and roamed the estate haphazardly mowing the suburban lawns. I lived in Kings Worthy for nine years and these are the two events outside of my own adventures that I can remember. It wasn’t so much that nothing happened there, more that what did happen never seemed newsworthy (it wasn’t until a long time after I left that Britain’s Biggest Love-Rat was revealed to be living there by The Sun “newspaper”- who knew?). If you were sensitive, intelligent, creative, fashionable, stylish or any combination of those things chances were you weren’t going to fit in very well. And you were probably either too young or had too little money to get out. So you worked hard at something that would buy you a one-way ticket to London.
During the Seventies and Eighties, there must have been tens of thousands of people joining this exodus from suburbs all over the country. Every one of them Hell-bent on recreating the city in their image – desperate to realise their fantasy of what an ideal London should be. And the city took them in.
In 2014, Chislehurst, where Siouxsie Sioux grew up is no longer a suburb, but has been absorbed into Greater London. And it’s widely acknowledged by the media that London has become more suburban in character. I think all us escapees brought the contagion with us – you can’t create the flipside of suburbia without carrying the values of suburbia inside you and one day they are going to want to get out.
The Tinderbox is the seventh track on the Cocteau Twins’ second album, Head Over Heels (1983). You can listen to it here. The whole album is ethereal and beautiful with just the right touch of bright steel to lift it from being an easy listen. Tinderbox (1986) is also an album by Siouxsie and the Banshees. You can watch them performing Land’s End on the Old Grey Whistle Test here.
Our relations with cities are like our relations with people. We love them, hate them, or are indifferent toward them. On our first day in a city that is new to us, we go looking for the city. We go down this street, around that corner. We are aware of the faces of passers-by. But the city eludes us, and we become uncertain whether we are looking for a city, or for a person.
(Extract from Some Cities (1996) by Victor Burgin)