James Griffin/The Agents
Suburbs Of The Heart


These never-previously-heard–in-public first recordings by James Griffin and his band, the Agents is the eleventh release from James's archive of lost (and now found) songs.



This ground breaking, 1980 New Wave/spoken word/independent vinyl record was the debut single for the Agents in. Until now it has never been reissued and has only been available in its original forms - as a limited edition 7” or as part of the Agents 1983 12 inch EP, No Adjustment To The Face, so it’s with great pleasure that we can at last make the song available in this re-mastered, digital edition.

And the planets do seem to be lining up just a little bit for this long awaited release. Just the other day we received this clipping, out of the blue, in the mail: a coincidental, unsolicited, unexpected, and very kind contemporary review of Suburbs Of The Heart from the June 2018 edition of the Bellingen based, BELLBOTTOM Arts & Culture Guide:


“A Wonderful piece of Australian art, released in 1980. Nowadays, it sounds like bands and artists go to a lot of trouble to be lo-fi and minimal. This is the real deal. The recording itself is very gorgeous in its imperfection whilst retaining serious integrity. Dry but steady back beat, twangy, restrained guitar is held together by bass, almost in the background. Some extra keyboards build it up with the lyrics sweetly and intensely. Some great lines in it too, many. My favourite: ”Where re-runs follow re-runs”, which reinforces the bleakness. Genius!” Pete Bufo, Bellbottom Arts & Culture Guide, June 2018


  • James Griffin, vocals
  • Kydric Shaw, lead guitar
  • Lindy Allen, bass
  • Robin Walsh, drums
  • Special guest, Rick Turk, synthesizer & organ

Recorded by Ian Davies at Studio 221, Sydney, 1980
Produced by Ian Davies, Kydric Shaw & James Griffin
Cover design, Cheryl Shaw

“One thing that strikes me about Suburbs Of The Heart now is how it must have been one of the first songs to get radio airplay with the word, ‘fuck’ in it – mainly only on Double J/Triple J, in Sydney, bless their hearts, but a milestone, none-the-less: in verse five, as part of the colloquial phrase, ‘no-one gives a flying fuck….’. San Francisco punk band, the Dead Kennedys released their song, Too Drunk To Fuck, to much controversy, about a month after we recorded Suburbs Of The Heart, so there was clearly something in the air then, about putting that word on vinyl.

“I wrote the song a few months after we’d changed the name of the band from James Griffin & The Limousines to The Agents. Kydric Shaw and I were trying for a new sound and this was the first ‘new sound’ thing I came up with.

“I don’t know where….in me, or in the world….the phrase, ‘Suburbs Of The Heart’ came from. Of course, the heart is often used as a metaphor for the centre or the core: of life, love, ourselves, places, moments, events, etc.; and at that time I was thinking a lot about life on the margins, the periphery, the edges of the mainstream. I coined the phrase - invoked it out of nowhere really - in the midst of those imaginings, along with the opening four lines, during one of my eternal quests for lines and titles to make songs around. I’ve always liked to sometimes incorporate spoken lyrics into song writing and performance – and ‘talking’ over music was always the best road for this song. Here’s the first verse:

Falling out of aircraft
On compulsory swimming pools
Geometric shopping centres
Mums and dads and schools
This is where it happens
There is no second start
Existence from a distance
In the suburbs of the heart

“I vividly remember writing the rest of the lyrics over several nights while staying up past dawn, with the TV on, at 126 Hereford Street, Glebe. Twenty-four hour TV was just starting up in Australia and the commercial networks were beginning to experiment with showing old movies all night….which was great for those of us living that upside down life. So there I was playing the chords over and over on the guitar and dreaming as many ideas/images/lines as possible to create an emotional landscape around the phrase, ‘suburbs of the heart’ - by locating what TS Eliot and other imagist poets described as ‘objective correlatives’ in an imagined, quasi urban/suburban, setting - while random, ancient, celluloid, black and white Hollywood dreams played out in the back ground.

The position/theory behind the ‘objective correlative’ idea is that, in poetry, prose fiction and drama, emotions are best expressed by describing external ‘facts’: objects, events, vignettes, scenes, chains of events, that evoke an emotion, rather than by having characters/narrators simply say what they think/feel. I’ve always liked that approach and have tried to apply it in many songs. In Suburbs Of The Heart the narrator never expresses an ‘opinion’, never describes how they ‘feel’, and all observations and images are presented as ‘facts’. But when I perform the piece live it does seem to stop people and hold them. Which emotions does it trigger? Well, you’d have to ask those people.

The chord progression came out of nowhere too…took about half an hour to make it solid, and I still like it a lot: the way it builds in intensity to end each verse and circles back on itself to start the next stanza. The chords, if anyone is wondering, are Em/C/Em/C/Em/F/C/G. It’s the Em to F change that really kicks it along, plus the run up to the major at the end. The song continues:

Where re-runs follow re-runs
And relations reappear
Crawling from the wreckage
Of a thousand package tours
And dogs bite and neighbours fight
And rumours stop and start
And nature strips are poisoned
In the suburbs of the heart

Where supermarket complexes
Make interesting friends
And weddings follow funerals
Follow long weekends
And Taxis cruise the avenues
And parties never start
And private fears are souvenired
In the suburbs of the heart

Where the check out girls check you out
And leave you in the dark
In the backseat at the drive-in
Where the P-plate drivers park
Reconstructing love affairs
You wonder, ‘is this Art?’
Pornographic postcards
From the suburbs of the heart

Where no one is making money
Well at least no one I’ve met
I used to think it funny
When I was drinking to forget
And no one gives a flying fuck
What time the feature starts
In one-armed-bandit boulevards
In the suburbs of the heart

And heroes never fail you
Where heroes don’t exist
And days go by like husbands
With an absent minded kiss
And the hostess with the mostest
Who is too polite to fart
Kills the conversation
In the suburbs of the heart

And the phantom FJ Holdens
Cruise the freeway and the dance
Elvis Presley monuments
To a rock & roll romance
And no one plays the juke-box
And records never chart
And the last twin-carbied Falcon
Drives away from the suburbs of the heart

Cradled in the loving grace
Of every known appliance
Permanent amnesia
Is a form of self-reliance
We wait for things to happen
Relations fall apart
Existence from a distance
In the suburbs of the heart

Suburbs Of The Heart is available from James's Store.

All tracks available digitally from Apple Music, Spotify, iTunes, Google Play, Amazon, Deezer, Pandora, YouTube Music, Tidal, Groove Music (Microsoft) from Sept 1st 2017.