When I think about Originality (cf. ILE), I often think about things that combine existing cultural features in ways that no-one had thought of - and succeed in pulling off some kind of unlikely synthesis. The Smiths seem to me a major case of this:
a) folk-pop jangly guitar tradition
b) Northern English camp tradition
= major incident in pop history.
The thing that is hard to understand is why or how those two things (Roger McGuinn and Alan Bennett, so to speak) came together. Just by sheer chance and contingency? What strange alchemy was going on? How much of the improbable synthesis was carefully planned? etc.
― the pinefox, Monday, 24 September 2001 00:00 (11 years ago) Permalink
The duality you point out is an apt one, but I'd even add a few
things to that. First is the fact that while Marr is overshadowed by
Moz as the source of oddity, it's worth noting that Marr was pretty
interesting as well. He tends to get defined as some sort of
godfather of indie jangle, but listening back through those records,
you realize how all-over-the-place he tended to be, from those funky
little instrumentals he'd play live (funky in the sense that,
say, "Rubber Ring" is funky) to the occasional rockabilly turn
("Vicar in a Tutu") -- leave alone the wide swath of pop/rock he cut
And then you pair that with Morrissey, whose inclinations were even
more unusual and in a completely different fashion. This is what
fascinates me about Morrissey -- the fact that he seems to be
essentially a social deviant, the sort of person who would be sitting
creepily in a flophouse or hanging around libraries scaring people
had he not been given a near-magical opportunity to be odd for a
living. The fact that his pre-Smiths life was allegedly so creepily
sheltered explains quite a bit -- the camp mentioned above seems a
direct result of the only two musical influences he claims from his
youth, those being (a) sixties British pop of the Lulu / Twinkle /
Sandy Shaw variety, and (b) glam, e.g. his New York Dolls obsession.
(That background also explains his least appealing traits: (a) his
gynophobia, common to pretty much all sheltered, awkward, creepy
boys, and (b) his homoerotic attraction to hypermasculinity in the
form of hooliganism. This all makes so much sense if we believe the
stereotypical accounts of his youth that have him basically sitting
home reading Wilde and being terribly, debilitatingly awkward and
sickly and etc.)
Add to that the funkiness of Andy Rourke and the perpetually shuffly
drumming of Mike Joyce. It's hard to tell, though, how much of this
was Marr's doing, as both of those traits seem to be intended to work
with his funky/shuffly guitar leanings.
But maybe someone who is older than me and was living in the U.K. in
the early 80s can offer a better take on exactly how odd they sounded
at the time. Surely "Hand in Glove" was a big surprise when it first
hit the radio?
― Nitsuh, Monday, 24 September 2001 00:00 (11 years ago) Permalink
― Billy Dods, Monday, 24 September 2001 00:00 (11 years ago) Permalink
― Dr. C, Monday, 24 September 2001 00:00 (11 years ago) Permalink
― Arthur, Monday, 24 September 2001 00:00 (11 years ago) Permalink
Dr C: great answer - but Why, Dr C? Why?
Billy Dods: I have never ever heard rockist *except* as an insult.
(Funnily enough, I think I first encountered the word in Reynolds,
re. Marr, Sept 1989.)
NItsuh - thanks for the answers. Weirdness: yes. Humour: of course -
it's not a hint or a subtext, it's a big aspect of the schtick. I
agree with you, of course, re. Marr's diversity - this was one of the
reasons he stands out so much; he seems to have *seen further* than
most musicians - and also, had the technical capacity to put what he
had in his head onto vinyl. But the jangle (Byrds, if you like) think
is still central - was still the default setting - so I think it
remains central to my (bemused) question.
I like your details on Morrissey's identity too - BUT are you sure
about the 'gynophobia' thing? (I take it this means something like
misogyny - is that right?) I mean, he was also interested in feminist
texts, as far as I can remember. A conflicted character in this
As for "having a car with *'only'* a tape deck"... jeez. That's what
I call living in the World's Only Remaining Superpower.
― mark s, Monday, 24 September 2001 00:00 (11 years ago) Permalink
― Tim, Monday, 24 September 2001 00:00 (11 years ago) Permalink
― Andrew L, Monday, 24 September 2001 00:00 (11 years ago) Permalink
― Jack Redelfs, Monday, 24 September 2001 00:00 (11 years ago) Permalink
On a related note there was an obscure Liverpool independent band
Industry would released a fine single about Morrisse, What I
The band would steer even closer to the mainstream with their next
single, a 7" of "What I Wouldn’t Give" b/w "Bound By Silence" (1985),
taken from their forthcoming album. A fantastic single, it became an
immediate collector’s item because of the cover that was adorned with
Morrissey’s photograph, illustrating a lyric in the song: "That’s my
Smiths tapes you never wanted to hear, throw them away, Morrissey in
the bin?, if it would bring you back again."
I am not to sure of the precise meaning of this track, maybe
celebrating the individuality of Morrissey - but this is one of the
finest atmospheric pop tracks i have ever heard. In way it reminds me
of Shriekback on this big hush or faded flowers - intricate softly
spoken higly atmospheric haunting music.
Pink Industry was a brilliant electronic-industrial-atmospheric
act out of Liverpool. Fronted by the charismatic Jayne Casey, they
put out three albums and a brace of singles between 1982 and 1985,
with a few compilations following in their wake. Jayne had previously
fronted two acts–seminal Liverpool punk band Big in Japan, and art-
house throwaway act Pink Military
The strangeness of The Smiths in away was put into context on this
single, how many artists have songs directly sung about them by other
artists in a deeply passionate sense - after a relatively short
period of time. This single came out in 1985 and got played a few
times on John Peel and RTE Dave Fanning shows back in the summer of
Apparently Jayne Casey knew Morrissey
the only pink industry i know of were from liverpool, england.
the only mention i ever heard of them was in the smiths book _the
complete story_ by mick middles. described as "wild and
intelligently wacky", led by jayne casey, "fashion queen, mother
superior, and friend of morrissey".
― DJ Martian, Monday, 24 September 2001 00:00 (11 years ago) Permalink
― dave q, Tuesday, 25 September 2001 00:00 (11 years ago) Permalink
(Also having heard his 'stand-up' you have to assume he was jealous
of Morrissey for being funny sometimes)
― Tom, Tuesday, 25 September 2001 00:00 (11 years ago) Permalink
Morrissey was a HYOOGE feminist of the Brownmiller/Dworkin school,
which is very attractive to 16-year-old fag hags in training ('Mom, I'm
okay downtown because the gay guys in the record store keep an eye on
me.' 'Whaaaaaaaat?!?'). Linder Sterling/Mulvey from Ludus was his best
punk friend (she also designed Magazine and Buzzcocks sleeves) and the
person who inspired Cemetry Gates. Mark S is right - she did wear the
meat dress at a gig and was part of a coterie of tough feministas inc.
the Naylor sisters and Cath Carroll. She does these weird sub-Richard
Hamilton collages for art - Nick Momus and I went to see these a few
years back 'cos his friend Andrew Renton was showing them in his
gallery (now defunct). We were both a bit disappointed, Nick more 'cos
Howard Devoto failed to turn up. Linder is now partnered up with the
novelist/pop critic Michael Bracewell (who I like very much). YEARS ago
when I was in Manchester visiting friends we walked into the big posh
Waterstone's and she was managing it, so jaw/floor moment for me!
Jayne Casey last I heard was the director of the Bluecoat Centre in
Liverpool - she's artworld big there.
Although I *hated* Johnny Marr for the latter half of 1987 he (and the
Bunnymen) were *so good* at gutar it turned my head from the dark synth
stuff I liked before I discovered the Smiths. It wasn't until I
actually visited England and met the beermonster casual element of
their later fan base that I managed to calm down about love for said
group (and it did annoy me that Morrissey, who supported socialist
causes, would wind up shafting the rhythm section). When I moved here I
quickly met all kinds of music industry people who had been friends
with him at one stage or another, but there were surprisingly few
'stories' if you know what I mean.
As to the skins and cholo boys Morrissey seems to be obsessed with now,
it's definitely a case of Fancying What Is Most Terrifying/Physically
Threatening to self.
― suzy, Tuesday, 25 September 2001 00:00 (11 years ago) Permalink
― DG, Tuesday, 25 September 2001 00:00 (11 years ago) Permalink
Can someone explain all this stuff to me about Morrissey in the
present. I know very little about him or the Smiths but I always hear
about some vague racial thing but never get a clear cut idea about
what people are talking about.
― hans, Tuesday, 25 September 2001 00:00 (11 years ago) Permalink
Morrissey has always had a fetish for tough boys because they are so
different from him. Also, fear stimulates the adrenals in the same way
as arousal, so perhaps he's mixed up the thought of getting his arse
kicked with the thought of getting his arse...well, you know. This
became a lot more pronounced after he left the Smiths. I've never
believed he has a problem with racial issues, just that in certain
areas a guy like him who is literate but not terribly disciplined or
qualified in his education might try to comment on certain Matters Of
The Day and cause misunderstanding. A lot of his writing is about
Difference, but when it's not about being a little bit strange/outcast/
queer I think it's clumsy.
Fetishising tough boys as the Other is a BIG part of the aesthetic of
gay men who grew up in the 70s and 80s; if you look carefully at the
personnel of fashion shoots etc. in Brit magazines you'll soon see that
most of the skinhead/hooligan shoots are put there by gay guys of un
certain age. In America, the peachfuzz mullet pickup boy serves the
same function to designers like Jeremy Scott and writers like Dennis
Morrissey now lives in Silverlake in LA, big home of fanciable cholo
boys. Most of the gay guys I know who've lived there think they're cute
because of the unattainable aspect. Note to LA cholo boys with a
sensitive side: if you fancy a sugar daddy, you'd have thousands to
On to The Smiths. I'd say the single biggest 'miracle' about the
Smiths is that somehow Johnny Marr firstly 'clicked' with an oddball
like Morrissey, and secondly, that he was able to find a way to
accomodate and harness Moz's eccentricities within a viable working
band. This is based on evidence from Johnny Rogan's book (Morrissey
and Marr : The Severed Alliance) and a few conversations with
Smiths/Morrissey insiders. Marr's genius as a guitarist and arranger
is evident, but I think it's even more incredible that he managed to
work with Morrissey for 5 prolific years before the inevitable
Part of this is in the basic practicalities of song-writing. By all
accounts Morrissey's words would often appear in different places in
the arrangement to where Marr had expected (verses became middle 8's,
or Moz would sing across a transition...etc). This may account for
the way that many Smiths songs don't have a normal structure or
easily identifiable chorus, especially the earlier material. This
lack of concern for (or lack of knowledge of..) conventional forms
(on the part of Morrissey) helped a great deal to set them apart from
the rest. It probably loosened-up Marr from some of the more trad.
influences which he might have been tempted to copy.
So, I'd say that in terms of FORM, little was planned, at least
Of course we wouldn't be bothering to think/write about this if it
were not for the startling subject matter and language of Morrissey's
lyrics. In some ways it's quite amazing how you can make such an
impact by speaking so directly. Then again think how contemporaries
like Ian McCullough were still largely using rock-trad language
inherited from The Doors, Lou Reed etc.
Possibly Morrissey's most staggering achievement is to draw on so
many largely untapped sources of language to weave togther his words.
Camp humour, pathos, Northern dourness, everyday sayings ("The devil
will make work for idle hands to do"), heroic superiority (" We may
be hidden by rags, but we've something they'll never have"). Sure,
you can find examples of each of these around the place before the
Smiths, but no-one had ever integrated them into a coherent WORLD
Someone asked what initial impact the Smiths had. I remember
listening to a 7-inch of "Hand in Glove" when it was released and
liking, but not loving it, immediately. I remember spending a lot of
time with it trying to figure out exactly WHAT was so different about
it, as did a lot of my friends. It definately made an impression, but
didn't knock us flat. I guess it was just a tantalising glimpse of
Morrissey's world. I saw them live at the Lyceum with Howard Devoto
(3rd London show?) and it was clear that something big was coming,
even though the set still relied too heavily on B-grade stuff like
Miserable Lie and Hand That Rocks The Cradle. When "This Charming
Man" was released my friends and I hated it! Friend NG's
comment "They've turned into The Farmer's Boys" summed up our initial
response to the chirpy hi-life guitar, the jaunty swing of the beat,
and the camp lyrics. I still think of this comment every time I hear
TCM. I'm not sure whether the album came next, or the "What
Difference Does It Make" single, but from that point you couldn't
I can't dispute that The Smiths were, as Pinefox puts it, a major
incident in pop history. Somehow, I rarely play them these days, and
I struggle to enjoy them as much as I once did - I get the impression
that history has not been totally kind. I'll dig out a couple of
albums tonight and try to make sense of these thoughts.
― Dr. C, Tuesday, 25 September 2001 00:00 (11 years ago) Permalink
This wasn't the first time that the music papers branded Moz a
racist. During The Smiths heyday, NME soul boy Paolo Hewitt (
IIRC) claimed that the song 'Panic' was racist, because the line
"burn down the disco, hang the blessed DJ" was implicitly an
attack on black musical forms like disco and funk, and talk of
hanging recalled the language of the lynch mob. Moz also
famously said that "All reggae is vile".
More generally, Moz has always lamented the death of England -
or his vision of England, shaped by kitchen sink dramas, camp
comedies, mods and rockers violence, images of rundown
seaside towns etc. An England corrupted by outside influences,
chiefly American consumer culture (ironic considering that Moz
now lives in the USA). In this way, Moz can be seen as part of an
English socialist tradition that streches back at least to Orwell -
the working classes have been seduced by the empty, gaudy
trash of an imported culture that has cut them off from their
'authentic' roots and 'heritage'. Yet at the same time, Morrissey
worshipped The New York Dolls...
Basically, the contradictions are endless... 'For what it's worth', I
don't think Morrissey is or was a racist, but his obsession w/ the
nature of Englishness, his indifference to dance music, and his
previously mentioned homoerotic fascination/loathing for the
bully bad boy, did drag him into some pretty murky waters. But
Ironically, at the height of Moz's flirting with fascism period, he
was booed off-stage by racist skinhead Madness fans who
hated seeing their beloved Union Jack soiled by Moz's poovery...
― Andrew L, Tuesday, 25 September 2001 00:00 (11 years ago) Permalink
I always had the idea that Britain in the 50s and 60s had this nice
can-do attitude when all the trad class distinctions were starting to
erode (well, if you were a clever working-class angry young man). If
you got involved in the music biz in the 80s you'd have been seriously
disabused of the notion that Britain was on its way to better, more
― Sean, Tuesday, 25 September 2001 00:00 (11 years ago) Permalink
It disappears by the next record, though ...
― Nitsuh, Tuesday, 25 September 2001 00:00 (11 years ago) Permalink
1. I like the qualified points that Nitsuh and Suzy have just made -
that sounds about right to me.
2. Like I said, this is not meant to be a thread re. the Smiths =
grate or rubbish - so with respect and all that, I don't see Jack
R's, or Dave Q's comments, as very relevant really. (There's a C/D
3. I like Cockfarmer's post. Also DG is on the money here.
4. Martian: yes, I saw the programme - which has never been very
highly rated - years ago. You seem to be saying that I don't have a
clue about the BASICS about the Smiths. What I'm trying to say,
rather, is that once you have all those basics, it's still hard to
make it all add up.
5. Suzy is right re. otherness, boot boys, etc - in detail.
6. Dr C: fantastic post: I agree with almost everything you say
(until towards the end), and I (think I) know what you mean about
initial reactions and the way you go back to them later (ie: still
thinking about 'TCM' in terms of initial rejection). (Maybe initial
reactions have something going for them.) I totally agree with you
re. Marr holding things together (ie, how did he cope? etc), and the
('accidental'?) oddity of the structures (*this* is the kind of thing
that no-one ever seems to get to discussing, for one reason or
another - though it's BASIC to what the band had to offer).
― the pinefox, Tuesday, 25 September 2001 00:00 (11 years ago) Permalink
I don't really have anything else to say, except that I'm
playing "The Headmaster Ritual" at the moment and it still sounds
pretty special to me, though obviously intensely related to a social
set-up now long vanished.
God, "Panic" sounds stranger with every year that passes: I don't
know whether the Pinefox will agree with me, but I find it their
strangest, weirdest, most pathological single, their most passionate
yet their most doomed. But I don't think it would have sounded like
that in 1986: it's just that the more Britain changes year by year,
the more cosmopolitan and hedonistic it becomes, the more it seems
like an anthem raging hopelessly against the tide. Time has
made "Panic" sound vainglorious: the question is - from someone far
too young to understand these things 15 years ago - did it *always*
seem like that?
― Robin Carmody, Tuesday, 25 September 2001 00:00 (11 years ago) Permalink
― mark s, Tuesday, 25 September 2001 00:00 (11 years ago) Permalink
A few years later, of course, the clubs were in thrall to dance music
which did say something to people about their lives.
― Billy Dods, Tuesday, 25 September 2001 00:00 (11 years ago) Permalink
"Hang the DJ" referring to Smashie and Nicey gang - yes, absolutely,
but that doesn't detract from the essential nostalgia of "Panic" as a
song: a call to arms, absolutely, but also a rather pathetic, blunted
one, the children's choir sounding like a vainglorious echo of post-
war formality, and I can't help but hear a desperate fear for the
future behind the line "Could life ever be sane again?". The strange
thing is, though, I think the song is *brilliant*, but what it is
based on (broadly, to my ears, desire for a unified working class not
indulging in hedonism and love for American pop culture) could never
be recaptured, and that is where the brilliance comes from: the
desperation to achieve something that could never actually happen,
never more perfectly expressed in pop. It isn't that nobody would
write about provincial towns now but that provincial towns *just
aren't like that anymore*: even compared to 15 years ago, they are as
given over to hedonism as anywhere else and totally unresponsive to
any remaining echoes of puritan socialism (or puritanism or socialism
in any form, really). This is, I think, why Morrissey lives in LA:
he would rather not live in Britain than in a Britain unrecognisable
from his idea of Britain.
Essential ambivalence is what I love best about the Morrissey of that
time, and his worst moments ever have been his most obvious: I
personally think of "A Rush And A Push And The Land Is Ours"
(specifically "It has been before / So it shall be again") as
referring to the Wilson government / social democratic leadership
compared to the Thatcher era, but I can quite see why certain people
after the Union Jack / "NF Disco" episode interpreted the song to
mean something rather less positive (I don't think that
interpretation is *right*, of course ... the ambivalents of pop have
to be prepared for occasional stupid misinterpretations: it goes with
>>> mid-80s Smiths fandom as I see it was the *last breath of
In large part, yes, this is right. Maybe the M thing about 'illness'
(hearing aids etc) stuck out, though? Also re. gender - cos M
was 'sexually ambiguous' - and Hoggart's book doesn't have much place
for that. (This is the puritan vs bohemian split in M, if you like.)
>>> I don't know whether the Pinefox will agree with me, but I find
it their strangest, weirdest, most pathological single, their most
passionate yet their most doomed.
Yes - kind of. But like you, I don't think that detracts from its
enjoyable fascination. A strange thing, rarely mentioned, is that
it's VERY SHORT!
>>> A few years later, of course, the clubs were in thrall to dance
music which did say something to people about their lives.
Well - different perspectives here, surely. From the POV of dance
fans (or whatever) in 1986, dance music presumably *did* say what
they needed; just like (I imagine) it does for dance fans now. It
doesn't for me, of course - but you knew that.
Dods: I like the points re. rockism (personally I *love* guitar
solos, of course).
>>> The echo of the provincial towns sounds rather quaint now, I
can't imagine anyone else singing the praise of Carlisle when you've
got the delights of London or NYC to write about.
Well. Just you wait. One day.
>>> It isn't that nobody would write about provincial towns now but
that provincial towns *just aren't like that anymore*: even compared
to 15 years ago, they are as given over to hedonism as anywhere else
and totally unresponsive to any remaining echoes of puritan socialism
Hold on - there seems to be an assumption developing re. M's attitude
to provincial towns (which as said in past I find fascinating - the
towns, I mean, not the attitude). I don't see it that way. I think he
is just *listing* for PANORAMIC EFFECT: it's ALL ENGLAND APOCALYPSE.
>>> The other thing is the provincial towns Morrissey loves may have
existed at some point, but they had already disappeared, or were
disappearing, by the time Panic was written.
But those towns are still there! Yes, they've changed - but for the
better *as well as* the worse, I'd guess (like most things:
dialectics as usual).
Back to 'strangeness': this is still the key thing for me. Robin C
pinpoints an aspect of it re. the children's choir - an element of
sinister otherworldliness, or whatever. Plus, the comic (and retro)
eccentricity of Marr's *music* (cf Nitsuh earlier) as well as the
unseemly violence of the lyric (M as embarrassing ranting party
guest - back to Nitsuh earlier, again)...
It would be interesting to know if 'Panic' could ever have gone
another way - if there were more elaborate lyrical drafts that
spelled things out more fully (a la 'Queen Is Dead'). But I'm
clutching at gladioli, I know (I know, I know...).
Billy: the other Mancunian axis that comes to mind as more
representative of genuine latter-day (i.e. post-Thatcher, or rather
*irrevocably-changed-by-Thatcher*) Northern working-classness is the
Roses / Mondays (the Mondays especially) wing which was in the
ascendancy as Morrissey's solo career declined (held back, as I saw
it, by long gap between first two proper solo albums causing loss of
momentum: instructive that none of his four 1991 singles, from the
Our Frank era, made even the Top 20 whereas the first four solo
singles all went Top 10). For some reason (and I was actually
thinking about this before I knew this thread existed!), I
associate "Madchester Rave On" outselling "Ouija Board Ouija Board"
five to one in Manchester HMV with the fall of Communism and the
emergence of MTV Europe: not only concurrent, but a similar,
definitive (or so it seemed) victory of hedonism over any remaining
hints of, perhaps foolhardy, ideological conviction.
Provincial towns already changing rapidly by 1986 - well, exactly,
kind of strengthens my argument that the central theme of "Panic" is
nostalgia and longing. This is, also, its central fascination.
Pinefox: shortness of "Panic" something that occured to me earlier.
I personally relate it to the classicism / nostalgia of the song:
write a song that evokes provincial towns as they perhaps were around
1963 and make it the length of pop songs of the time (during the
British New Wave cycle of films from 1958-63, it wasn't unknown for
songs of less than two minutes in length to make Number One: Adam
Faith's "What Do You Want?" springs to mind).
The towns are still there, of course, and what is fascinating is just
how much they have changed, as anyone who makes a habit of visiting
places that feature in old films, TV series, photographs etc. will
know. One of the great fascinations of modern Britain is comparing
the general informality and hedonism of these places *now* (main
exception that comes to mind: Winchester, especially in winter) with
images of how they once were. Peter Hitchens was, perhaps for the
only time in his life, spot on when he said that traditions can be
destroyed just as effectively when you leave the buildings there but
chip away at the ideas and feelings that gave them meaning, as when
you tear down the buildings themselves. This is the key to how
Manchester - and, I suppose, provincial Britain generally - has
evolved in contradiction to and refusal of Morrissey's vision of it.
Strangeness: exactly. Listening to "A Rush And A Push ..."
and "Death of a Disco Dancer", what comes out is how great they are
*as sound*. I'd previously concentrated on Morrissey's words, but
what stands out now is how great a *band* they were. For the first
time, "Disco Dancer" sounds to me quite as apocalyptic as the title
track of "The Queen Is Dead", an epic melodic grind for long after
Moz himself is unheard.
There is much more within this thread, I think.
― Ned Raggett, Tuesday, 25 September 2001 00:00 (11 years ago) Permalink
(Suzy and Nellie are sitting in the hall in front of their opened
lockers which are littered with artfully arranged pin-ups from British
and Japanese music mags. They are clearly deep in conversation)
PASSING METALHEAD BOY does a double-take when he sees locker gallery
full of Men Wearing Makeup. PMB: "What is that faggot shit?"
SUZY and NELLIE exchange glances. Each girl removes an empty shopping
bag from their locker. NELLIE: "'scuse me?"
PMB: "I asked you what that faggot shit was."
NELLIE (offers bag to PMB): "Here, take this."
SUZY (offers second bag to PMB): "Here, take this."
PMB now has TWO BAGS. PMB is puzzled.
SUZY: "Now. Put both bags over your head, DUDE. Keep America beautiful,
...see, they didn't stand a chance so no real hassle. Mallrat girls who
had 'hair' comments were encouraged to look five years into the future,
where if they had not managed to reproduce with a football player, they
might actually HAVE the haircut I was sporting that day. In the same
future I would of course be having my hair cut where I would never have
to look at their bad style ever ever again. Besides, there weren't
enough of US to form an actual Breakfast Club-type subcult so we were
very confusing for THEM.
― suzy, Wednesday, 26 September 2001 00:00 (11 years ago) Permalink
Not sure I agree. Sitting out Madchester was probably a wise move,
but the single biggest cause of the decline HAS to be the fact that
Kill Uncle was so spectacularly awful. Virtually EVERYTHING which was
good about the Smiths had gone by now. (By the way, except for the
singles, I really don't like Viva Hate either).
Somehow that knife-edge balance between camp, misery, humour,
nostalgia and arrogance, which he kept throughout the Smiths career
is out of whack much of the time. Too much or too little of any of
these carefully-juggled elements resulted in nonsense like King Leer,
Bengali in Platforms, Little Man What Now, Late Night Maudlin
Street,Alsatian Cousin etc. Maybe the lay-off before Kill Uncle gave
him too much time to think about how and what, rather than doing what
came naturally in The Smiths. Working with hacks like Street, Langer
and Nevin couldn't have helped much either.
Arthur makes a good point about a possible precendent in Orange
Juice, and for the Postcard singles, it makes good sense. Simply
Thrilled Honey and Blue Boy in particular have that odd structure and
slightly distanced feel which marked out Hand In Glove. I sense that
Collins was a much less complex character than Morrissey, and
consequently less interesting. The post-Postcard era showed that he
had nothing much to say.
― Dr. C, Wednesday, 26 September 2001 00:00 (11 years ago) Permalink
I agree, pf. It's funny - I was thinking of posting a thread about Panic a while
ago and thought better of it. What I was going to ask was 'what does this song
MEAN?' Or more specifically, what do the chorus and verses have to do with
one another? But then I decided it would make me look stupid. Of course I
understand the connection, but it struck me as a perfect example of
Morrissey's (Smiths era) approach to songwriting- so many self-contained
lines/notebook fragments/twisted aphorisms that somehow end up
constituting a lyric. If someone asked me what situation Morrissey was
describing, or point he was making in a lot of Smiths songs I'd have no
straightforward answer. He changed style a bit on Meat is Murder ('The
Headmaster Ritual' is perhaps his best sustained direct, transparent song) but
he never really lost his predilection (knack?) for opaque, ambiguous, cut and
paste lyrics (torrents of words falling over themselves) until a little
way into his solo career.
A thing that rarely gets mentioned: Mick Middles' book (yes, I know it's
terrible) insists that when Morrissey & Marr started out, their plan was to
become a songwriting team, not a band. Does anyone know if that's true?
― Nick, Wednesday, 26 September 2001 00:00 (11 years ago) Permalink
That begs the question what was different about the Smiths. I would
tend to argue that, musically, they were *less* strange than early
Orange Juice: a fuller sound, less angular and difficult, less
scratchy. Which is to say, I suppose, that they were more palatable
to a pop/rock mainstream. I recall very well hearing "What Difference
Does It Make" and "Heaven Knows I'm Miserable Now" on Radio 1 on the
bus to school. I can't imagine any of those first few OJ singles
making it onto the breakfast show.
There's also clearly a big chunk of J. Rotten in the Morrissey
persona: that ill, contrary outsider bit, handing down his crushing
barbs with total disdain. I suppose you could argue that, musically,
the Smiths were the first band in a musical generation to consider
themselves nothing to do with punk (and punk as just a detail of
history). They made themselves palatable to punk-obsessed likes of me
by the Rotten-ness of SPM. Just a thought.
― Tim, Wednesday, 26 September 2001 00:00 (11 years ago) Permalink
― mark s, Wednesday, 26 September 2001 00:00 (11 years ago) Permalink
C'mon he's Rocky from Boon
― OutdoorFish, Tuesday, 19 March 2013 01:18 (2 months ago) Permalink
has morrissey ever talked about the singers who influenced him? i can't think of a single male vocalist who really sounds much like him.
― (The Other) J.D. (J.D.), Tuesday, 19 March 2013 01:29 (2 months ago) Permalink
I always used to think there are male vocalists and there is Morrissey
― OutdoorFish, Tuesday, 19 March 2013 01:36 (2 months ago) Permalink
I get proto-Morrissey vibes from Billy Fury:
― Heyman (crüt), Tuesday, 19 March 2013 01:41 (2 months ago) Permalink
Yeah he loves Billy Fury
― OutdoorFish, Tuesday, 19 March 2013 01:44 (2 months ago) Permalink
starting in on Fletcher's "There is a Light That Never Goes Out"
― four Marxes plus four Obamas plus four Bin Ladens (Shakey Mo Collier), Monday, 1 April 2013 17:37 (2 months ago) Permalink
I see Morrissey is due to appear on a documentary about cups of tea, interviewed by Victoria Wood.
― djh, Sunday, 7 April 2013 18:07 (2 months ago) Permalink
from a great post by dr. c 12 years ago:
By all accounts Morrissey's words would often appear in different places in the arrangement to where Marr had expected (verses became middle 8's, or Moz would sing across a transition...etc). This may account for the way that many Smiths songs don't have a normal structure or easily identifiable chorus, especially the earlier material. This lack of concern for (or lack of knowledge of..) conventional forms (on the part of Morrissey) helped a great deal to set them apart from the rest.
if i'm not mistaken this is very similar to how things worked, and/or didn't work, between michael stipe and peter buck.
― fact checking cuz, Sunday, 7 April 2013 19:43 (2 months ago) Permalink
That'd explain how "Call me when you try to wake her up" fits into 4 beats..
― Mark G, Tuesday, 9 April 2013 09:38 (2 months ago) Permalink
I must confess I was disappointed by his Thatcher quote. He must have spent half a life time preparing for that moment and it just wasn't as powerful as it needed to be.
― djh, Tuesday, 9 April 2013 20:46 (2 months ago) Permalink
The widely reported quote was apparently cobbled together by the press from a recent interview. Here is his actual statement (djh's point still stands):
The difficulty with giving a comment on Margaret Thatcher's death to the British tabloids is that, no matter how calmly and measuredly you speak, the comment must be reported as an "outburst" or an "explosive attack" if your view is not pro-establishment. If you reference "the Malvinas", it will be switched to "the Falklands", and your "Thatcher" will be softened to a "Maggie." This is generally how things are structured in a non-democratic society. Thatcher's name must be protected not because of all the wrong that she had done, but because the people around her allowed her to do it, and therefore any criticism of Thatcher throws a dangerously absurd light on the entire machinery of British politics. Thatcher was not a strong or formidable leader. She simply did not give a shit about people, and this coarseness has been neatly transformed into bravery by the British press who are attempting to re-write history in order to protect patriotism. As a result, any opposing view is stifled or ridiculed, whereas we must all endure the obligatory praise for Thatcher from David Cameron without any suggestion from the BBC that his praise just might be an outburst of pro-Thatcher extremism from someone whose praise might possibly protect his own current interests. The fact that Thatcher ignited the British public into street-riots, violent demonstrations and a social disorder previously unseen in British history is completely ignored by David Cameron in 2013. In truth, of course, no British politician has ever been more despised by the British people than Margaret Thatcher. Thatcher's funeral on Wednesday will be heavily policed for fear that the British tax-payer will want to finally express their view of Thatcher. They are certain to be tear-gassed out of sight by the police.
United Kingdom? Syria? China? What's the difference?
Morrissey9 April 2013
― Eyeball Kicks, Tuesday, 9 April 2013 22:22 (2 months ago) Permalink
the new smiths book is fantastic, loving it so far
― ums (upper mississippi sh@kedown), Tuesday, 9 April 2013 22:26 (2 months ago) Permalink
funny how the original 'outraged' interview quote is more OTM and less insane than his sober, considered quote!
― (The Other) J.D. (J.D.), Tuesday, 9 April 2013 22:28 (2 months ago) Permalink
tho tbh even most of that quote isn't really wrong, except for 'unseen in british history' and 'syria, china.'
― (The Other) J.D. (J.D.), Tuesday, 9 April 2013 22:29 (2 months ago) Permalink
yeah I'm digging it, it has made me notice all sorts of details in the songs that I had previously glossed over or never bothered to dissect (ie, anything referencing Manchester geography lol)
― four Marxes plus four Obamas plus four Bin Ladens (Shakey Mo Collier), Tuesday, 9 April 2013 22:37 (2 months ago) Permalink
You guys are talking about A Light That Never Goes Out right? What about the book called Songs That Saved Your Life?
― What About The Half That's Never Been POLLed (James Redd and the Blecchs), Tuesday, 9 April 2013 22:53 (2 months ago) Permalink
yes, the former. I dunno that latter.
― four Marxes plus four Obamas plus four Bin Ladens (Shakey Mo Collier), Tuesday, 9 April 2013 22:57 (2 months ago) Permalink
Still gotta read my copy of that guy's All Hopped Up And Ready To Go.
― What About The Half That's Never Been POLLed (James Redd and the Blecchs), Tuesday, 9 April 2013 22:59 (2 months ago) Permalink
yeah light that never goes out!
so many cool details in the early days, johnny marr liked tom petty and rory gallagher! the smiths 4th gig was opening for richard hell & the voidoids!
― ums (upper mississippi sh@kedown), Tuesday, 9 April 2013 23:10 (2 months ago) Permalink
first gig was the same night as a WS Burroughs reading at the Hacienda etc
― four Marxes plus four Obamas plus four Bin Ladens (Shakey Mo Collier), Tuesday, 9 April 2013 23:12 (2 months ago) Permalink
songs that saved your life is the one that's modeled on ian macdonald's beatles book, right? would love to read something like that about the smiths.
― (The Other) J.D. (J.D.), Tuesday, 9 April 2013 23:21 (2 months ago) Permalink
OK, guess I gotta start reading before you guys post any more spoilers.
― What About The Half That's Never Been POLLed (James Redd and the Blecchs), Wednesday, 10 April 2013 00:28 (2 months ago) Permalink
tho tbh even most of that quote isn't really wrong, except for 'unseen in british history' and 'syria, china.'― (The Other) J.D. (J.D.), Tuesday, 9 April 2013 22:29 (Yesterday) Bookmark Flag Post Permalink
― (The Other) J.D. (J.D.), Tuesday, 9 April 2013 22:29 (Yesterday) Bookmark Flag Post Permalink
Thatcher's name must be protected not because of all the wrong that she had done, but because the people around her allowed her to do it, and therefore any criticism of Thatcher throws a dangerously absurd light on the entire machinery of British politics.
is very otm indeed. And, of course, will remain unremarked upon. (in favour of the syria/etc quote, and somthing added on about animal welfare or some such)
― Mark G, Wednesday, 10 April 2013 09:33 (2 months ago) Permalink
complete 1985 Madrid show taped for spanish TV
― ums (upper mississippi sh@kedown), Friday, 12 April 2013 14:58 (2 months ago) Permalink
rockpalast show in germany, a bit more low end on the sound here vox a little low but not bad
― ums (upper mississippi sh@kedown), Friday, 12 April 2013 15:04 (2 months ago) Permalink
Morrissey's Wolverhampton 88 show has leaked in glorious soundboard quality. Check it out on Morrissey-Solo.
― brotherlovesdub, Friday, 12 April 2013 16:50 (2 months ago) Permalink
thanks for the heads up re the 88 gig; very interesting recording! band sound way tighter than i'd have thought for their first gig. well ONLY gig i suppose with that line up.
― piscesx, Saturday, 13 April 2013 04:12 (2 months ago) Permalink
http://thoughtcatalog.com/2013/why-i-still-hate-the-smiths-and-myself/ This is one of the worst pieces of music writing I have come across.
― "bath salts" should have been my username (Pat Finn), Saturday, 13 April 2013 05:44 (2 months ago) Permalink
got the light that never goes out book at the library -- really a great rock bio so far. i'm not even a smiths die-hard (i think they're awesome, don't get me wrong), but it's just packed with good stuff.
― tylerw, Wednesday, 24 April 2013 15:36 (1 month ago) Permalink
kind of astonishing how fast everything went for them once marr and morrissey partnered up.
― tylerw, Wednesday, 24 April 2013 15:37 (1 month ago) Permalink
yeah the speed of it is crazy
also realizing that the legendary "manchester scene" was soooo small really
― ums (upper mississippi sh@kedown), Wednesday, 24 April 2013 15:51 (1 month ago) Permalink
The writer comes across as a misogynist cretin.
― The last of the famous international Greyjoys (Nicole), Wednesday, 24 April 2013 16:01 (1 month ago) Permalink
Anyway, like any good adolescent boy, I wanted in her skinny jeans so damn bad.
― (The Other) J.D. (J.D.), Wednesday, 24 April 2013 21:44 (1 month ago) Permalink
pretty much every sentence of that article is horribly worded, it reads like a fake piece by that onion guy.
― (The Other) J.D. (J.D.), Wednesday, 24 April 2013 21:48 (1 month ago) Permalink
i have read much worse reviews, the guy dos not follow the cult of the smiths and tries to explain why. his arguments are not very convincing but still.
― it's the distortion, stupid! (alex in mainhattan), Wednesday, 24 April 2013 21:50 (1 month ago) Permalink
How the Guardian covered the Smiths in the early 80s
With a terrible review (in both senses) from Mary Harron and an interview that misspells Morrissey's name …
― Alba, Friday, 17 May 2013 13:40 (1 month ago) Permalink
The interview is terrific. Morrisey a prick in a good way. I tried to read it imagining I had never heard The Smiths. What would the music this man makes be like? Something like Savages.
― Eyeball Kicks, Friday, 17 May 2013 14:24 (1 month ago) Permalink
Just realised that the Mary Harron who wrote the "nurd" review is the director of American Psycho (and ex-girlfriend of Tony Blair)
― Alba, Saturday, 18 May 2013 10:56 (1 month ago) Permalink
and ex-girlfriend of Tony Blair
― Bees Against Racism (Tom D.), Saturday, 18 May 2013 10:58 (1 month ago) Permalink
― Alba, Saturday, 18 May 2013 11:01 (1 month ago) Permalink
wow, small world.
― Josh in Chicago, Saturday, 18 May 2013 12:17 (1 month ago) Permalink
she also went out with Chris Huhne, an Oxford contemporary of Blair, who last week was tipped in the polls as the most likely contender to take over from Charles Kennedy as Liberal Democrat leader.
― Bees Against Racism (Tom D.), Saturday, 18 May 2013 12:24 (1 month ago) Permalink
just plowed through the fletcher bio in a couple of days - a really great read as stated above by others. i'm a little surprised at absolutely no mention of the byrds among marr's influences/interests.
― sleepingsignal, Wednesday, 29 May 2013 07:00 (2 weeks ago) Permalink
I read the book last week and it has quite re-invigorated my love for the music, and watching YouTube videos of their early gigs at the Hacienda really helps underscore the notion that they seemed to emerge fully formed. Lyrically and musically, some of their earliest songs are still amongst their strongest and most affecting, imo. But reading of how they pretty much hit the ground running made me wonder if they don't dispel Malcolm Gladwell's 10,000-hour rule (ie the amount of time required practicing something before you can master it). I mean, yeah, Marr played in other bands before the Smiths, and there's Morrissey's fevered letter-writing activities, but it doesn't seem to be the equivalent of, say, the Beatles slog through the Hamburg and Cavern years. I dunno.
― hewing to the status quo with great zealotry (DavidM), Wednesday, 29 May 2013 15:43 (2 weeks ago) Permalink
If I've read The Severed Alliance, should I pick up this Fletcher Bio?
― brotherlovesdub, Wednesday, 29 May 2013 15:50 (2 weeks ago) Permalink
xp yeah The Smiths are the all time great example of where the Outliers theory doesn't work. Marr says they never even rehearsed.
― piscesx, Wednesday, 29 May 2013 16:14 (2 weeks ago) Permalink
according to the book they rehearsed plenty. also they specifically played small out-of-the-spotlight venues to hone the songs.
― sleepingsignal, Wednesday, 29 May 2013 17:02 (2 weeks ago) Permalink
yeah, and there's that tape of them rehearsing! http://www.slicingupeyeballs.com/2013/03/19/smiths-rehearsal-tape-may-1983/[maybe he meant they didn't rehearse much]
― tylerw, Wednesday, 29 May 2013 18:03 (2 weeks ago) Permalink
they rehearsed mostly daily early on, and did so to get better between their first appearance and subsequent gigs.
― sleepingsignal, Wednesday, 29 May 2013 18:51 (2 weeks ago) Permalink
Also Gladwell's theory is bullshit.
― everything, Wednesday, 29 May 2013 19:18 (2 weeks ago) Permalink