On… Morrissey’s et cetera

“Earlier in the chapter, a distinction was made between ‘unmarked’ and ‘marked’ interruption – that is, between utterances which are simply abandoned and etceterising gestures which describe this abandonment. Such etceterising gestures are common in Morrissey’s work: ‘I could say more / but you get the general idea’; ‘And there is no point saying this again’; ‘from difficult child / to spectral hand / to Claude Brasseur/ blah, blah, blah, blah’.

Usually, as in the foregoing examples, they play a fairly minor part in the song, ironising the song’s subject, the singer’s own practice, or the conventions of the medium. In ‘Dagenham Dave’, for example, the obviousness – which is emphasised by the singer’s litotes – belongs to the subject of the song (Dave), whose unreflective predictability is communicated by the interruption of his description. (Commentators on the song tend to criticise it for its lightness or vacuity – having first of all assumed that lightness is a fault. Rogan, for instance, characterises it as ‘tired’ and ‘insubstantial’. However, it seems to me, firstly, that the song’s foregrounded vacuity – witness the degeneration of its outro-chorus into a playground chant of Dave’s name – effectively and amusingly conveys the character of its subject; and, secondly, that this is quite an achievement. It is hard to write about things that lack depth; yet they also have their place in the world. And it is to Morrissey’s credit – and a sign of the breadth of his sympathy – that he wishes with affectionate irony to document their existence too.)

In ‘At Last I Am Born’, on the other hand, the singer’s etceterisation – ‘ blah, blah, blah, blah’ – seems to be at his own expense and a yawn at the familiarity of his own story. But, as in ‘You Have Killed Me’, it also appears to involve a metafictional dimension as well; that is to say, its yawn is partly directed towards the act of narration as such (in ‘You Have Killed Me’, this is more obvious, and ironic rather than weary, in that during the final chorus – conventionally a space of repetition – Morrissey sings (and indeed repeats) ‘there is no point saying this again’).”


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  1. #1 by Mick Rocket on April 16, 2011 - 8:16 am

    I bet that’s exactly what Morrissey was thinking when he wrote those lyrics.

  2. #2 by between channels on April 18, 2011 - 3:25 am

    “He’d like to touch but he thinks that he might self-combust. I could say more … but I think you get the general idea.”

  3. #3 by The Assommoir on April 18, 2011 - 7:46 pm

    As Mr Hopps suggests, Dagenham Dave really is an under-rated song – “a single which did incredibly badly in the charts, which was a great surprise of course… to nobody” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V0IDfjnGp3s&feature=fvst

  1. I sense something more « The Assommoir

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