Perth, unreal city

Perth in the song lyrics of artists from elsewhere


  • Jon Stratton Independent Scholar



lyrics, Pavement, Bon Iver, Beirut


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 Biography

Jon Stratton, Independent Scholar

Jon Stratton is an independent scholar and retired Professor of Cultural Studies. Most recently, Jon has published When Music Migrates: Crossing British and European Racial Faultlines 1945–2010 (Ashgate, 2014); and Jon Stratton and Nabeel Zuberi, eds, Black Popular Music in Britain since 1945 (Ashgate, 2014).


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How to Cite

Stratton, J. (2017). Perth, unreal city: Perth in the song lyrics of artists from elsewhere. Perfect Beat, 17(2), 144–163.