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Gidget Goes To Hell: The Suburban Lawns

“I have excellent news for the world. There’s no such thing as New Wave. It does not exist. It’s a figment of lame kinds of imagination. There was never any such thing as New Wave. It was the polite thing to say when you were trying to explain you were not into the boring old rock ‘n roll but you didn’t dare to say punk because you were afraid to get kicked out of the party and they wouldn’t give you coke any more. There’s New Music, there’s New Underground Sound, there’s Noise, there’s Punk, there’s Power Pop, there’s Ska, there’s Rockabilly, but New Wave doesn’t mean shit.”

Claude Bessey AKA Kickboy Face, from the film The Decline of Western Civilization

As much as I applaud Claude’s punk rock attitude and all I’ve always found his attitude towards ‘new wave’ somewhat perplexing. Why claim one musical genre as imaginary and then hold up a bunch of equally imaginary names as some how more legitimate? When was the last time you used “New Underground Sound” in an Ebay search? Does new wave exist? Maybe yes maybe no. Who cares? Not me. I have better things to do then sit around and define musical genres and besides Claude’s band Catholic Discipline kind of totally sucked.

A band that didn’t suck and that might also be defined as ‘new wave’ were the Suburban Lawns. They were from Long Beach California and they mixed art-damaged punk with a healthy dose of surrealism and humour. The Suburban Lawns combined fast tempos and jerky rhythms with singer Su Tissue’s part monotone part Yoko Ono gargling Fanta vocals.

They self released a single called Gidget Goes To Hell which was an underground hit and received repeated play on local station KROQ and their video was aired on Saturday Night Live. A follow up Janitor did equally well and included the classic chorus “I’m a janitor/Oh my genitals/I’m a janitor/Oh my genitals.” The song was inspired by a real life conversation between Su and a friend of the band who was a janitor. When asked by Su what he did for a living he said “I’m a janitor” but she misheard and thought he said “Oh My Genitals”. A work of genius to be sure and it got them a record contract with I.R.S who released their self titled full length and an ep called Baby before the band broke up in the early 80’s.

Su has been defined as a female Ian Curtis, which is partly accurate in the sense that she had an almost eerily intense presence. A highly memorable YouTube clip of the band appearing on New Wave Theatre showed Su dressed like an extreme Bible belt conservative woman but with a Manson girl driving to Sharon Tate’s house prolonged stare.

After the band broke up Su recorded a solo album of piano and voice works called Salon de Musique. She also played the part of Peggy Dillman in the film Something Wild. It is thought she suffered from a breakdown in the mid to late 80’s and little has been heard from her since.

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