Item Details

Perth, unreal city: Perth in the song lyrics of artists from elsewhere

Issue: Vol 17 No. 2 (2016)

Journal: Perfect Beat

Subject Areas: Popular Music

DOI: 10.1558/prbt.v17i2.30581


There are a surprising number of songs that reference Perth, Western Australia, written by artists who do not live there and who might have visited, usually on tour, or have never been there at all.  In this article I examine the reasons for this, suggesting that Perth is a city that has become very mythic.  This mythic investment is a consequence of Perth being in the west of Australia—California has some of the same mythic qualities in the United States—being (almost) on the coast, and on the coast of the ocean not a sea, and being constructed as isolated.  This article examines the impact of these mythic tropes through a reading of various song lyrics where Perth is either in the title or in the lyrics, or both.  These include songs by Gordon Lightfoot, Beirut, Bon Iver and Pavement among others.     

Author: Jon Stratton

View Original Web Page

References :

American Studies at the University of Virginia. 2009. ‘A Brief History of the European Myth of the Garden’. (accessed November 11, 2016).

Barton, Laura. 2011. ‘Bon Iver: “I’m Really Confused Right Now”’. The Guardian, June 10. (accessed November 11, 2016).

Baruch College. 2014. ‘Culture: New York City (NYC Songs)—A Select List of Popular Songs with a NYC theme in the Lyrics’. (accessed November 14, 2016).

Bhabha, Homi. 1994. The Location of Culture. London and New York: Routledge.

Brunner, José. 2000. ‘Freud and the Rule of Law: From Totem and Taboo to Psychoanalytic Jurisprudence’. In The Analytic Freud: Philosophy and Psychoanalysis, ed. Michael Levine, 277–93. London: Routledge.

Carter, Paul. 2009. ‘Care at a Distance: Affiliations to Country in a Global Context’. In Landscapes and Learning: Place Studies for a Global World, ed. Margaret Somerville, Keith Power and Phoenix de Carteret, 21–33. Rotterdam: Sense Publishers.

Clément, Catherine. 1994. Syncope: The Philosophy of Rapture, trans. Sally O’Driscoll and Deirdre M. Mahoney. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

Currin, Grayson. 2011. ‘Bon Iver’. Pitchfork, June 13. (accessed November 11, 2016).

Dekel, Jon. 2015. ‘Beyond Black Morrissey. The Dears Hark Back to Warm and Sunny Days’. National Post, October 1. (accessed November 14, 2016).

Everhart, John. 2015. ‘Beirut – Zach Condon on “No No No” Devotion and Doubt’. Under the Radar, October 29. (accessed November 11, 2016).

Freud, Sigmund. 1990. Art and Literature: The Pelican Freud Library, Volume 14, ed. Angela Richards and James Strachey. New York: Penguin Books.

—2006. The Penguin Freud Reader, ed. Adam Phillips. London: Penguin Classics.

Gitner, Jess. 2011. ‘Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon Talks about His Band’s New Album’. NPR, June 22. (accessed November 11, 2016).

Grosz, Elizabeth. 1989. Sexual Subversions. Sydney: Allen & Unwin.

Hayes, Bernie [no date]. ‘Footage: South Perth—Bernie Hayes’. (accessed November 14, 2016).

Hyatt, Millay. 2006. ‘No-where and Now-here: Utopia and Politics from Hegel to Deleuze’. PhD dissertation, University of Southern California.

Jackson, Rosemary. 1981. Fantasy: The Literature of Subversion. London and New York: Methuen.

Lindner, Rolf. 2006. ‘The Cultural Texture of the City’. In The ESF-LiU Conference—Cities and Media: Cultural Perspectives on Urban Identities in a Mediatized World, ed Johan Fornäs, 53–58. Linköping: Linköping University Electronic Press. (accessed November 11, 2016).

Marchant James, Ruth. 2007. ‘Settlement of the Swan: The Birth of Perth’. Australian Heritage Magazine, Autumn edition, 30–38. (accessed November 11, 2016).

Marsh, Walter. 2015. ‘Beirut Return with New LP Inspired by Australian Hospitalisation’. Previously available at (no longer accessible).

Neate, Wilson. 2006. ‘The Days of The Triffids: A Retrospective with Graham Lee and Rob McComb’. Perfect Sound Forever. (accessed November 14, 2016).

NPR. 2015. ‘“I was that kid”: Beirut’s Zach Condon on Self-Discovery’. NPR, September 11. (accessed November 11, 2016).

Richardson, Mark. 2011. ‘Bon Iver: Bon Iver, Bon Iver’. Pitchfork, June 20. (accessed November 11, 2016).

Roman, Luke, and Monica Roman. 2010. Encyclopedia of Greek and Roman Mythology. New York: Facts on File, Inc.

Stirling, James. 2014 [1827]. ‘Narrative of Operations’. In Official Papers Relating to the Settlement at Swan River, West Australia. December 1826–January 1830, ed. Frederick Watson. A Project Gutenberg of Australia e-book,

Stratton, Jon, and Adam Trainer. Forthcoming. ‘Singing about the City: The Lyrical Construction of Perth’. In This Is My City: Popular Music in Australasian Cities, ed. Shelley Brunt and Geoff Stahl. London: Routledge.

Time Out. 2015. ‘The 100 Best London Songs’. Time Out, February 18. (accessed November 14, 2016).

Trainer, A. [no date]. ‘Beat Music for the Modern City: Perth Popular Music in the 1960s’. Unpublished manuscript.

van den Broek, Roelof. 1972. The Myth of the Phoenix: According to Classical and Early Christian Traditions. Leiden: E.J. Brill.

van Duzer, Chet. 2012. ‘Hic Sunt Dracones: The Geography and Cartography of Monsters’. In The Ashgate Research Companion to Monsters and the Monstrous, ed. Asa Simon Mittman and Peter Dendle, 387–435. Abingdon: Routledge.

Warner, Andrea. 2011. ‘Justin Vernon Talks New Bon Iver Album and its Heath Ledger Connection’. Exclaim, June 15. (accessed November 11, 2016).

Whish-Wilson, David. 2013. Perth. Sydney: NewSouth Books.

Wikipedia. 2016. ‘Lake Wobegon’., (accessed November 14, 2016).