Posts Tagged Morrissey
The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.
Here’s an excerpt:
600 people reached the top of Mt. Everest in 2012. This blog got about 12,000 views in 2012. If every person who reached the top of Mt. Everest viewed this blog, it would have taken 20 years to get that many views.
I have a bit of history with The Last Of The International Playboys, more so than with any other Morrissey song.
I received Now That’s What I Call Music 14 for my 10th birthday (a quick note for non-UK readers, the ‘Now…’ series were compilations of popular songs in the charts, and started off as (I believe) annual issues, becoming more frequent over time. I’m writing in the past tense although I believe they still come out semi-regularly, but I’ve paid little or no attention to them for many, many years, because they say nothing to me about my life (as someone once sang)).
I had to check to be sure, and it must have been my 10th birthday as the compilation went on sale about a fortnight before the big day (double figures and everything).
Oddly, I can vividly remember listening and re-listening and re-re-listening to the first tape time after time, and almost all those songs stick with me today, but remember pretty much nothing about tape two. I also remember the cover art, and how it came in one of those two-tape boxes which had a hinge in the middle, opening up like some kind of cheap, communist-era eastern European aeroplane toy… Ah, nostalgia…
But worry not about my limited memory of the complete opus, for tape one contained, yes, The Last Of The International Playboys by Morrissey.
The 10-year-old me picked up on two of Mozzer’s cultural references in particular. I didn’t really get what a ‘playboy’ was (international or domestic), but my mate Darren who lived over the road had bedcovers emblazoned with the Playboy logo and name (what the hell were his parents thinking?), not that I had the slightest inkling who Hugh Hefner was, nor how the bunny logo was reflected back in real life. Of course, I did know what ‘famous’ meant, and seem to remember cobbling together an assumption that a ‘playboy’ must be a man who had a good time of things.
But what really stood out for me were the following passages:
“Reggie Kray, do you know my name?
Oh, don’t say you don’t
Please say you do…
Ronnie Kray, do you know my face?
Oh, don’t say you don’t
Please say you do“
Even at that tender age I had somewhere picked up the awareness that the Kray twins were Very Bad Men. I even remember being aware of the ‘but they looked after their old mum’ line that often seemed to suffix tales about them (and I might be imagining this, but I’m pretty sure I already saw this line as being idiotic in the extreme).
So who was this Morrissey bloke, and why did he seem to want recognition from a couple of nasty men, while at the same time boasting about being the last swinger in town? Also, why had he ended up in prison?
“In our lifetime those who kill
The news world hands them stardom
And these are the ways
On which I was raised…
I never wanted to kill
I am not naturally evil
Such things I do
Just to make myself more attractive to you
Have I failed?“
Ah. That’s why.
I didn’t fully appreciate the attempts at social commentary and derision of the media, and the homosexual undertones passed me by, but the desperate, blame-ducking self-justification seemed to strike a chord. As did the bold, strident guitars and drums, and squiggly keyboards.
I can’t say I loved it, but it certainly intrigued the hell out of me for as long as I listened to Now…14 tape 1 on near-permanent loop.
About 10 years later I had plunged head-long into the complete oeuvre of The Smiths and Morrissey and re-discovered this song. It all came back to me, and, by now much better acquainted with Moz’s worldview, I loved it (I even managed to find the tape at the bottom of my old wardrobe in my Mum and Dad’s house). It’s still one of my all-time favourites of Morrissey’s, and I can now recognise it as the pop-tastic, playful, cheeky, slightly edgy record it was all along.
I watched a lot of ‘Wide Awake Club’ as a lad (back in the days of just three, then, glory be, four channels), but never saw ‘Data Run’, its predecessor in the Saturday morning kids’ TV slot. As such, I saw plenty of Mallet’s Mallet, but not this little gem.
The children of 1984 meet The Smiths – or ‘Paul’ Morrissey (his own fault for gadding about by surname only) and Johnny Marr at least. Mike Joyce and Andy Rourke are reduced to being off-handedly referred to by Marr, appropriately enough given the legal structure of the band which saw Joyce and Rourke reduced to, in effect, session players. Towards the end of the clip, in a weird coincidence, images of two puppets fighting intertwine with shots of Mike Joyce drumming (and grinning inanely), as if foretelling the end of the Smiths and subsequent legal battles.
We see lots of coquettish pointing between Moz and Marr, some half-arsed answers to the kids’ questions (despite it being clear they were never in the same place at the same time), a muddy rehearsal of ‘Hand In Glove’, and a curiously awkward acoustic version of ‘This Charming Man’. Morrissey describes how many of his songs were inspired by “horrible teachers who made life miserable for me” and warns how current pupils may one day sign up to record companies and “get their revolting revenge”. Not too much later, Moz would hammer this point home with The Headmaster Ritual (later, as I’ve already wittered on about, painting a more modern view of the classroom).
The presenter tells us to “watch out for the puppets”, although to be honest I’d rather just ignore them because, taken out of context, they’re a little too sinister for comfort. I suspect they were equally sinister in context to be honest. Why things are kicked off with a shot of Sinister Puppet #1 raising and lowering a newspaper from his face I really don’t know. And this over background audio of ‘Reel Around The Fountain’ which attracted (fairly laughable) tabloid accusations of paedophilia at the time (“It’s time the tale were told / Of how you took a child and made him old”).
If I ever get into TV, that’s how I intend to introduce every item from a primary school.
Every now and then I indulge myself with a trip back into the music of the mid-1990s. Revealingly, I rarely listen to the stuff I listened to contemporaneously. Gene are one such example: heralded as The New Smiths they never really cut the mustard. At the time I was aware of Olympian and Fighting Fit (this video is a treat for that niche market of fans of both Gene and Star Trek), but have since fallen in love with their first single, For The Dead.
Frankly, they needn’t have made another song after this, they squeezed it all into this one – a healthy dose of misanthropy, Mozzerian growls in the chorus, allusions to suicide shot through with a lack of conviction disguised as gallows humour (“give me a rope, I’ll take it gladly / find me a tree and make it snappy”), and a wonderful sense of kitchen sink melodrama (“goodbye ma! It’s my time to go”).
In homage to perhaps my true calling in life, that of being a French civil servant (working for a majority French-state-owned company, as I do, doesn’t count. Not if you work for said majority French state-owned company in Nottinghamshire), I’m taking August off.
I need to recover from the Tour de France for a start: 1 hour highlights every night for three weeks, with only two rest days thrown in? Forget about it…
Who knows, I might return invigorated, upbeat, and a real go-getter. Chances are it’ll be more of the same old jaded, cynical tat, but for your sake I’m hoping not. See you on 1st September.
And so from the acclaimed ‘best’ Morrissey album to perhaps his most widely disliked album. Southpaw Grammar (meaning “the school of hard knocks” says Moz, rather neatly combining his interest in education and boxing) sticks out like a sore thumb from Morrissey’s oeuvre in so many ways – the lack of the man himself on the cover (we have a (sadly muddy) photo of boxer Kenny Lane instead); only eight tracks, two of which are over 10 minutes long; a track with a two-minute drum solo intro; production to further accentuate the already heavy weight of the music…
Amid all this singularity, a coherence emerges as the album is symmetrically bookended by its two longest songs, the resolute adherence to ‘heavy’ instrumentation makes it feel joined-up musically (and seems to suit the musicians themselves), and Morrissey has a solid platform for songs which are almost exclusively about dysfunctional individuals and relationships.
So we see a series of caricatures: strings darken the tone for a harassed, threatened teacher in The Teachers Are Afraid Of The Pupils (which itself represents a nice reversal of the premise of The Headmaster Ritual); a pair of Jack-the-lads with, first, the Boy Racer who, brilliantly, “thinks he’s got the whole world in his hands / stood at the urinal” and then the often-lamented (unfairly) Dagenham Dave; a tiresome acquaintance (The Operation, featuring that drum solo intro).
Affairs closer to home are considered in probably the album’s most auto-biographical song, Best Friend On The Payroll, in which a close friend gets a little too comfortable chez Morrissey, rumoured to be based on Moz’s long-time confidant, chauffeur, and former boxer (hmmm…), Jake, and Do Your Best And Don’t Worry.
Particular standout tracks include strings returning to lighten the mood in the marvellous Reader Meet Author (allegedly based on a meeting with Julie Burchill, but I suspect there’s more of Morrissey in it than anyone else), and the closing track, Southpaw: a rangey, vaguely discordant, jarring, but rousing finale, in which Morrissey teases and torments “a sick boy” with the revelation that the girl of their dreams is “here all alone” (presumably alone with Morrissey that is, but quite what outcome he’s suggesting is left up to the listener to decide).
Defy convention, and make this, arguably his most ‘raw’ piece of work, the first Morrissey album you listen to. Personally, it’s my favourite of his albums, and recommendations don’t come much higher than that.