"Institutionalized" is a song by American crossover thrash band Suicidal Tendencies. It was released in 1983 as the only single from their debut album, Suicidal Tendencies. "Institutionalized" is one of the band's most popular songs and has remained a live staple since it was first played in 1982. The song was re-recorded on the band's 1993 album Still Cyco After All These Years; this version was nominated for the Grammy for Best Metal Performance in 1994, but lost to Ozzy Osbourne's live version of "I Don't Want to Change the World".
The original version of the song was featured on the long-out of print compilation album F.N.G., while the Still Cyco After All These Years version appears on Prime Cuts and Playlist: The Very Best of Suicidal Tendencies, which was not endorsed by the band. The song was also included in the 12-inch EP Institutionalised, which was released exclusively in the UK in 1988 after Suicidal Tendencies had risen in popularity.
Song structureThe music was written by Louiche Mayorga when he was in Suicidal Tendencies and lyrics by Mike Muir. The music video follows what is presumably a teenage Muir through a series of social conflicts with friends and, more significantly, parents. The protagonist's friends notice his behavior and suggest talking about it, only for him to refuse any help. This then continues with his parents, who are convinced that he is on drugs and needs help with his mental health. In this verse, his mother famously refuses to give him a Pepsi. Once again, this results in retaliation and denial from the protagonist, who suggests that everyone else needs help with their mental health. The lyrics in the verses are not sung, but spoken in a run-on sentence style. They are complemented by the lead guitar, subdued at the start of the verses, but becoming more frantic and powerful with the protagonist's confrontations and emotional outbursts.
ReceptionAlthough "Institutionalized" was never a hit in the charts, the song received regular airplay on the Los Angeles radio station KROQ, when DJ Rodney Bingenheimer added it to their playlist, and it was ranked #23 on the radio station's "Top 106.7 Songs of 1983" countdown list. "Institutionalized" was also the first hardcore punk song to receive significant airplay on MTV and is considered to be one of the songs that defines both genres. Along with "Subliminal", "I Saw Your Mommy" and "I Shot the Devil", "Institutionalized" is one of the most played songs from Suicidal Tendencies, and has frequently been performed at the band's concerts since its live debut in 1982.
Music videoThe original video for "Institutionalized" was premiered on MTV in 1984. Slayer's Tom Araya appears in the video, along with actors Jack Nance and Mary Woronov. The video follows Muir as he walks through the streets and skate parks of his hometown while never breaking eye contact with the camera. It features his "mom" and "dad" building Muir a homemade padded room from which he escapes with the help of his friends. Muir is later seen on stage, until the end of the video when he returns home. Although Rocky George did not play on the album version of "Institutionalized", he can be seen in on stage in the video performing the song with Suicidal Tendencies.
A video was also made for the Still Cyco After All These Years version. (with Woronov reprising her role) In the video, Muir's parents are locked up and try to escape. The scientist who attempted to lobotomize Muir in the video for "Trip at the Brain" appears in the video as well.
Usage and coversA cover of the song is included in the music video game Guitar Hero II for PlayStation 2 and Xbox 360. The rerecorded version of the song from Still Cyco After All These Years was also featured in the game Mat Hoffman's Pro BMX 2 (2002). It was also popularly covered by the band Senses Fail, and this version can be heard in skateboarding video game Tony Hawk's American Wasteland (where one notable difference is that "Buddy" replaces "Mike" on the lyrics). Thrash metal band Evildead covered the main riff on their first release, the track was entitled "S.T. Riff".
The song appears in the films Iron Man, Repo Man, The Brady Bunch Movie, and also on television. In an episode from the second season of Miami Vice, the band appeared as themselves, playing it in a bar scene. The video for the song was also favorably featured in an episode of Beavis and Butt-head
A 2012 tribute album to the Repo Man soundtrack, A Tribute to Repo Man by American Laundromat Records, featured a cover of the song by Amanda Palmer and the Grand Theft Orchestra.
"Institutionalized" is referenced in the Sage Francis song "Slow Down Gandhi" in the line "It's death penalty vs. suicidal tendencies / All I wanted was a fucking Pepsi / Institution / Making you think you're crazy is a billion dollar industry." Part of the song "My Chemical Imbalance" by punk rock band Guttermouth parodies this song. Australian band Cloud Control use the line "I'm not crazy/You're the one that's crazy" in their song "Moonrabbit" from their album Dream Cave. Limp Bizkit and Cypress Hill have both made references to the "All I wanted was a Pepsi, just one Pepsi" line.
A version of this song also appeared on Kiki and Herb's 2004 CD Kiki and Herb Will Die for You: Live at Carnegie Hall along with some of the character's fictional backstory on a track called "Institutionalized".
The Portland Cello Project and guitarist/vocalist Alan Sparhawk (from Minnesota bands Low and Retribution Gospel Choir) performed a version of the song in May 2012 for The A.V. Club A.V. Undercover series.
The Radioactive Chicken Heads recorded a novelty cover of the song for their 2000 album Keep On Cluckin, featuring high-pitched vocals mirroring Alvin and the Chipmunks. According to lead singer Carrot Topp, the choice to record the cover as such stemmed from his disappointment with the song selection on the 1980 Chipmunks album Chipmunk Punk. The cover was later re-released on their 2009 rarities album Poultry Uprising.
Body Count covered the song on their 2014 album Manslaughter as "Institutionalized 2014", with different lyrics in the verses to reflect current social issues.
Andy Merrill has covered the song in the character of Brak from the animated television show Space Ghost Coast To Coast for a Dr. Demento compilation of punk covers.