― Ned Raggett, Tuesday, 25 September 2001 00:00 (14 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 (14 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 (14 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 (14 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 (14 years ago) Permalink
― mark s, Wednesday, 26 September 2001 00:00 (14 years ago) Permalink
btw, I saw the Smiths on their first US tour in NY... which one of
you geeks is jealous? :)
― Sean, Wednesday, 26 September 2001 00:00 (14 years ago) Permalink
If not, no need for jealousy here.
― Ned Raggett, Wednesday, 26 September 2001 00:00 (14 years ago) Permalink
― Billy Dods, Wednesday, 26 September 2001 00:00 (14 years ago) Permalink
>>> 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
Put that way, it sounds odd - but I think your overall generational
point is valid.
>>> shortness of "Panic" / classicism [60s]
This is a fine point, which goes for other Smiths records too, of
>>> 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
Hm... but was he 'wrong' at the same time as being 'right'? I hope so.
>>> but the single biggest cause of the decline HAS to be the fact
that Kill Uncle was so spectacularly awful.
I agree - but Stevie T will tell you, I think, that it was 'Ouija
Board' which summarized decline !
>>> (By the way, except for the singles, I really don't like Viva
I do. I agree that a balance has been lost, but that record is close
enough to the Smiths - close enough to the flow - to retain much of
what what M had then, I think. (I still think it the best solo
>>> Working with hacks like Street, Langer and Nevin couldn't have
helped much either.
This is true. Actually there is a whole separate discussion to be had
re. the influence of Langer & Winstanley on the records of Morrissey,
Costello and... Lloyd Cole!!
D Nick: you are very, very on the money - loads of money!
>>> 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
This was what preoccupied me after I'd left the thread yesterday. And
I realized that I had let myself forget my original sense of the
song. What happens in the song - let D Nick take up the point again -
>>> 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... 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.
This is terrific stuff - so basic, yet so little recognized (it often
seems). Anyway: Panic seems to me to be a *yoking of 2 ideas*:
1. REVOLUTION IN THATCHER'S BRITAIN - it's happening all over, kids!
The miners' strike may have failed, but look at this fantasy!
Violence is the only answer to our rulers!...
2. WE DON'T LIKE DISCOS / DANCE MUSIC - extended to 'burn down' idea,
this seems like the same idea as #1. But really it's a much narrower
In yoking the two he left the impression that the whole song was
really about #2 (which emerges halfway through); whereas really I
feel that #1 (very 80s, very Red Wedge pushed to extreme, in a way)
is the key, and drags #2 in its wake.
Corroboration of a sort: Steven Wells made Panic his 45 of the week
(July 86) cos it was Politickal, like. (Nothing to do with anti-disco
sentiment, which would have repulsed him.) Think about it (as
annoying people say).
>>> 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?
No... I don't even recall seeing it. Anyone else?
>>> I think PF's urge to put the strangeness down to such a simple
synthesis is perhaps an oversimplification.
Fine. You're probably right. I was only being 'heuristic', or
something. There is still a point there. I am not convinced, I think,
that OJ were into that *particular* synthesis.
In return, I think your post is perhaps tainted with (by?) your
perpetual post-1983 antipathy to the Smiths. To me, OJ sound (yes)
original and different in the way you say - but also less fun than
the Smiths (perhaps cos so original and different).
Dods mentions Bowie - I wonder whether my whole fixation
on 'strangeness' misses out the idea that Bowie had done all
strangenesses before? But no, I think, not quite. (Strange Pop Bowie
= other thread.)
― the pinefox, Wednesday, 26 September 2001 00:00 (14 years ago) Permalink
― Nitsuh, Wednesday, 26 September 2001 00:00 (14 years ago) Permalink
What does it mean to live vicariously through the Smiths? That you
fantasize about being a miserable closeted neurotic?
― sundar subramanian, Wednesday, 26 September 2001 00:00 (14 years ago) Permalink
When he made the comments I quoted, Hitchens was to me "wrong"
because, on the whole, I don't think the traditions he cherishes were
worth preserving, but also "right" because I thought he put his
argument over very well *even though I disagreed with it*.
Certainly, on a personal level, Hitchens is more interesting to me
than any other journalist of the right, and there are some
fundamental truths he has grasped about the anti-traditionalism
(despite appearances) of Thatcherite policies, but I wonder how much
of his interest to me is down to the endless amateur sociology *and*
amateur psychology you can get out of the contrast between him and
Dr C: that's sort of what I meant to say about Kill Uncle, but it got
lost along the way. It wasn't just the delay: all the singles off
that album were just SO WEAK: you could not imagine any of them going
Top 10 for one moment. I would concur utterly with what others have
said about Morrissey losing his essential ambiguity at that time, and
his lyrics becoming so much more boring and uninspiring (of thoughts,
of possible meanings, of anything, really).
― Robin Carmody, Wednesday, 26 September 2001 00:00 (14 years ago) Permalink
>>> Maybe if the song *had* been longer and more fully-explained,
the "REVOLUTION" element might have been given the chance, so to
speak, to sound more prominent?
Yes, precisely. Also the disco stuff has been easier for people
(journos, whoever) to seize on over the year - where the revolution
doesn't really go anywhere. (Is this right?)
Always seemed significant to me that the 45 was released just after
Queen is Dead LP: and - more so - that live, they would follow that
title track with 'Panic', without a moment's break (cf Rank LP):
ie. 'Panic' was an extension of the political analysis of the earlier
song. OK, only a pop lyric / tune; not a terribly sophisticated
analysis, and tending more to 'adolescent' espousals of rebellion vs
the royals / hatred of the Tories than anything properly worked
through. But still - not quite the same as the 'racism / anti-disco /
reactionary' thing that has been insisted on again and again.
>>> I wonder how much of his interest to me is down to the endless
amateur sociology *and* amateur psychology you can get out of the
contrast between him and his brother.
Sad situation. But CH is also odd and perverse: currently writing
articles for Guardian attacking 'liberal twits' who question war / US
foreign policy. He's bright and everything, but I think he slightly
abuses his position by going for perversity and irritation of
readership too much.
>>> It wasn't just the delay: all the singles off that album were
just SO WEAK
'Our Frank' - yes. 'Sing Your Life'? Probably. But funnily enough
(Nitsuh may back me up here), two non-45s are arguably the most
compelling things here: 'Driving Your Girlfriend Home', and 'Mute
Witness'. (Thanks to Stevie T for making party tape in June 1997
which brought latter track to my stunned attention in the middle of
Covent Garden. Never since abandoned belief that track is grate,
though I'm not entirely sure I've even *heard* it since.)
― Tom, Thursday, 27 September 2001 00:00 (14 years ago) Permalink
― stevo, Thursday, 27 September 2001 00:00 (14 years ago) Permalink
― gareth, Thursday, 27 September 2001 00:00 (14 years ago) Permalink
Also what was The Smith's legacy? Twee-core? C-86? (I think mainly
not), Jarvis Cocker/Pulp?
― Dr. C, Thursday, 27 September 2001 00:00 (14 years ago) Permalink
Legacy? The Smiths were immensely popular amongst the people who
would become the twee end of indie, and were a central inspiration
for a generation of sensitive kids to form bands and write sensitive
songs. You could argue whether that meant twee-core was the legacy of
the Smiths either way. I think it's *a* legacy of the Smiths. Pulp
another, without question I think.
I did love the Smiths very dearly once upon a time, but I balk at
talk of them being a miracle. I can't remember thinking "that sounds
like nothing I've ever heard" (except perhaps on first hearing "How
Soon Is Now"). I can remember thinking that some of their records
were unbearably exciting. (If this comment bears the 'taint' of my
not being a raving Smiths enthusiast, PF, please feel free to ignore
― Tim, Thursday, 27 September 2001 00:00 (14 years ago) Permalink
>>> I do think the band's relationship with / musical break from punk
OK - I'll buy it, though I'm not sure I get it yet.
>>> and the reading of "Panic" which various people seem to be
reaching for above can be thought of as a punk story too: in the
lyric you see a wave of unspecified panic crystallise into a musical
battle, the fear and confusion of the initial verses collapses into
the safety / sterility of a polemic reaching no further than the DJ
This is a fine argument.
Weird complicating Pulp fact = Pulp started before Smiths? - or sth
absurd like that?
>>> I did love the Smiths very dearly once upon a time, but I balk at
talk of them being a miracle.
I meant 'miracle' in a non-evaluative sense - which I know sounds
oxymoronic. I'm sure you think that my attempt to be non-evaluative
is 'tainted' by evaluation. Probably it is, and possibly you think
that's OK (possibly inevitable) anyway. I don't mind balking at (talk
of) miracles, but in pop terms I can't think of that many things that
deserve the term better than this lot (but possibly nothing does),
whether in evaluative or non-evaluative terms (assuming that either
>>> (If this comment bears the 'taint' of my not being a raving
Smiths enthusiast, PF, please feel free to ignore it).
Oh, I did.
― the pinefox, Thursday, 27 September 2001 00:00 (14 years ago) Permalink
Also compare Devoto's famous "I am angry, I am ill, and I'm as ugly
as sin" line from Magazine's "Song From Under the Floorboards" with
Morrissey's later preoccupations with illness and ugliness.
I go for 'a major incident in pop history' to describe the imapct of
The Smiths rather than any definition of 'miracle'. Yet, I'm still
struggling to understand what of consequence, if anything, they left
behind. Here's my best shot at asking the question - "What did the
advent of Morrissey allow artists to now do (which no-one did
before)?" 'Scuse the bad grammar.
― Dr. C, Friday, 28 September 2001 00:00 (14 years ago) Permalink
― Tim, Friday, 28 September 2001 00:00 (14 years ago) Permalink
― Damian, Friday, 28 September 2001 00:00 (14 years ago) Permalink
Doc C says, what did M leave behind? - etc. It's a very good
question - BUT, can't a band / artist / whatever (in any medium)
be 'great' and still NOT have a great influence? (cf, as always,
Eliot's review of Ulysses, on this point.)
My feeling is that he made possible a more conversational style - he
opened the door to new kinds of verbal awkwardness. But that is not
meant to imply that there was no conversation or awkwardness pre-M.
Damian - I agree re. the chronology, but not re. musicianship. Marr
was very much a 'musician' - not just a three-chord hack. There is
always a sense, I think, of him 'doing what's right for the record'.
You may have a point re. lyric-determines-length-of-track - but then,
what about all those records where that doesn't apply? = That Joke /
HSIN? / Queen Is Dead etc. I don't know - your argument is good, but
I think Marr *could* easily have gone on and played fabulous 5-minute
outros - *and I wish he had...*
― the pinefox, Saturday, 29 September 2001 00:00 (14 years ago) Permalink
― Damian, Sunday, 30 September 2001 00:00 (14 years ago) Permalink
― alberto piccinini, Wednesday, 3 October 2001 00:00 (14 years ago) Permalink
Is that YOU over there in the gloom, Pinefox?
― Dr. C, Wednesday, 3 October 2001 00:00 (14 years ago) Permalink
― the pinefox, Thursday, 4 October 2001 00:00 (14 years ago) Permalink
it's presumably a glancing sideways allusion to William Wordsworth, and it says a lot about the culture Morrissey came from: romantic fantasies of pre-industrial Britain, while superficially appealing, ultimately unsettle him as much as the erosion of the Industrial Revolution legacy and its replacement by rootless consumerism, because both present a vision of a parallel universe in which the culture he came from would never have existed (Manchester is often cited as "the first industrial city" and it was certainly an irrelevant backwater before the flight from the land enabled it to rapidly become an economic powerhouse). visions of the pre-industrial world erode and threaten Morrissey's urban-socialist-collectivist past, and the creation of a deunionised Manchester where Janet Jackson is a more important cultural figure than J.B. Priestley (the mortal fear which drives the main narrative to "Panic") presents the clear message of NO FUTURE. it's as if, amid bleak premonitions of his future, he's dismissing a possible solace because of the threat it poses to his pride in his past.
why don't people focus on that line in particular? it's pretty much the epitome of a deeply conservative Old Labour mindset, as though he sort of wants to find solace in an unchanging, utopian, monocultural vision of the countryside as a place to escape his hated deindustrialisation and decollectivisation and consumerisation and all-pervasive cultural hybridisation in the erstwhile socialist heartlands from whence he came, but that very Old Labour tribalism stops him (all the neo-ruralists in the last 35 years of pop culture came from pretty middle-class backgrounds AFAIK, and I find it very hard to imagine Fairport Convention coming even from the more salubrious parts of Greater Manchester, the equivalent suburbs to the Wimbledons and Muswell Hills from whence they actually came. as for such a band coming from Sheffield or Newcastle? utterly unthinkable, certainly in that generation, before the Industrial Revolution legacy crumbled and the new pick-and-mix rootlessness set in.)
― robin carmody (robin carmody), Wednesday, 11 December 2002 21:11 (13 years ago) Permalink
a few contenders:
Wham!, "Bad Boys"
Bros, "When Will I Be Famous"
Happy Mondays, "Step On" (also Mancunian of course so probably the most obvious)
The Brotherhood, "Punk Funk"
Clipse, "Grindin'" (Westwood: "CHEETHAM HILL MASSIVE!!!")
― robin carmody (robin carmody), Wednesday, 11 December 2002 21:34 (13 years ago) Permalink
― Dr. C (Dr. C), Thursday, 12 December 2002 11:10 (13 years ago) Permalink
― alex in mainhattan (alex63), Thursday, 12 December 2002 12:00 (13 years ago) Permalink
― Dr. C (Dr. C), Thursday, 12 December 2002 13:11 (13 years ago) Permalink
― the pinefox, Thursday, 12 December 2002 14:40 (13 years ago) Permalink
"Panic" is a *weird* record, isn't it? Bloody weird, to be honest. Bizarrely, its emotional extremity and call-to-arms reminds me now of Eminem's "Lose Yourself", but ***from the opposite starting point***. It's almost an anti-pop pop record, in that it's an explicit refusal of the cultural exchanges that were already, by 1986, forming 90% of the Top 40. In fact, it's probably the best possible candidate for Tom's "Berlin WHAT?" thread, not in terms of actual reference points per se, just the ethos that formed it.
I recently said (not on here IIRC) that Wham!'s "I'm Your Man" was to Thatcherism what something like Elgar's "Dream of Gerontius" was to romantic Toryism: the epitome of the ethos expressed in music. If pure Thatcherism said "fuck you, High Tories *and* puritan socialists" ... well, it was revulsion at hearing "I'm Your Man" in a thoroughly inappropriate context which inspired "Panic" in the first place, so I always imagine Prince Charles hearing Diana playing it and getting TOTALLY PISSED OFF (remember his expression when she dragged him along to see Michael Jackson at Wembley in 1988? something like that).
I'm waffling, aren't I? But "I'm Your Man" and "Panic" = the Thatcher and Scargill of pop, surely, the radical of the right and the desperate nostalgic dreamer of the left.
― robin carmody (robin carmody), Thursday, 12 December 2002 15:47 (13 years ago) Permalink
Hey Pine! Are you going to the ILX Christmas thing?
― Dr. C (Dr. C), Thursday, 12 December 2002 16:04 (13 years ago) Permalink
God ... I loved that period of ILM, even if it went over certain heads :).
oh, and Gareth to thread!
― robin carmody (robin carmody), Thursday, 12 December 2002 16:07 (13 years ago) Permalink
Robin C: can't seem to remember what heads you mean - not that I expect you to mention them by name.
― the pinefox, Thursday, 12 December 2002 16:54 (13 years ago) Permalink
― robin carmody (robin carmody), Thursday, 12 December 2002 18:02 (13 years ago) Permalink
― N. (nickdastoor), Tuesday, 12 August 2003 20:10 (12 years ago) Permalink
― nnnh oh oh nnnh nnnh oh (James Blount), Tuesday, 12 August 2003 20:15 (12 years ago) Permalink
― Dan Perry (Dan Perry), Tuesday, 12 August 2003 20:16 (12 years ago) Permalink
― Mary (Mary), Tuesday, 12 August 2003 23:47 (12 years ago) Permalink
― Don A Henley And Get Over It (C. Grisso/McCain), Saturday, 14 February 2015 02:41 (1 year ago) Permalink
did we ever have a poll about the best thread on ilm? this is it, i'd say.
― it's the distortion, stupid! (alex in mainhattan), Monday, 16 February 2015 19:16 (1 year ago) Permalink
this has just been repeated:
"Bob Harris telling the story of the live session recordings The Smiths made for the BBC."
features morrissey in the radio 1 studio talking to kid jenson during a playback of that early session they did.
― koogs, Wednesday, 8 April 2015 11:35 (1 year ago) Permalink
more reunion rumours..
― piscesx, Tuesday, 5 April 2016 20:34 (2 months ago) Permalink
I honestly hope the Smiths never reform. There would be so much hype, such high expectations, an insane rush for tickets and massive resale markups... it stresses me out to think about it.
― JRN, Tuesday, 5 April 2016 21:17 (2 months ago) Permalink
Is there anything more to the rumours than Warners starting an official Smiths twitter account?
― Eyeball Kicks, Tuesday, 5 April 2016 22:04 (2 months ago) Permalink