Friday, May 22, 2009

Happy Birthday, Morrissey

His music may be past its prime, but I won't forget what this cantakerous old genius always meant to me.

And so, believe it or not, today Morrissey turns 50. I was too young to discover The Smiths while they were around, so when someone passed me a tape of Strangeways Here We Come the band had already split. But as soon as the first notes of A Rush And A Push And The Land Is Ours kicked in I knew I had fallen in love. It was around 1991 and Morrissey was to remain a regular feature of my life and my favourite singer for at least fifteen years.

Before I knew it I started a quest to get hold of every single Smiths or Morrissey release that my pocket money would allow. As I flicked through their sleeves I was fascinated by the perpetual theme of 50s and early 60s imagery that each them evoked. I loved the fact that Morrissey seemed to make a stand about a lot of things. Meat Is Murder, The Queen Is Dead, Panic, November Spawned A Monster, Margaret On The Guillotine. I couldn't think of any other artist exploring such a wide variety of social themes and with such a generous dose of irony, wit and black humour. Try and disagree that 'Charles don't you ever crave to appear in the front of the Daily Mail dressed in your mother's bridal veil' is one of the best lines in British pop ever.

But social observations aside, Morrissey became who he is because of his unique capacity to articulate feelings - most of his fans would tell you that his lyrics are almost like a mirror to their most intimate thoughts. The way I saw it was that Morrissey was the potential best friend of anyone unable to fit in with the crowd.

Late Night Maudlin Street from Viva Hate is the one that holds a special place for me. A song about the emotional turmoil of moving from the house you grew up in, "it's as if he boiled down all the bruises and the fucked up dreams you've let go and tipped the essence down into a pretty scent-jar and sealed it off. And when he starts to sing he takes the seal out and you can smell it. You're pinned into your seat as if it's a wall of noise but it's not, it's subdued and quiet, and you can't breathe in case you frighten it away". And that's a quote from Nick Hornby's A Long Way Down I just nicked, because I don't think there's a better way to define it.

A special mention should also go to the wonderful Vauxhall and I that gently ferried me through my A-Levels or the underrated Southpaw Grammar and Maladjusted - back from the wilderness years when the country had dumbly turned in awe of Oasis and being a Morrissey fan was almost considered the equivalent of being a freak.

When Morrissey made his grand comeback in 2004 I couldn't believe the long overdue attention he was finally getting. For the first time ever though, his new album didn't quite cut it for me and nor did Ringleader of the Tormentors in 2006.

And yet for all his u-turns, tantrums and moments he pissed his fans off, his impressive body of work over two decades has made the history books and is here to stay. For whenever I think of what it's going to be like in a few decades' time when I'm old, I guess I'll look back at the best years of my life and Morrissey and The Smiths will be, without a doubt, amongst my most special memories.

Happy 50th birthday, Morrissey.


Kill Uncle Jane said...

And lest we forget, the man turned thousands of fans into vegetarians. For that alone he should be firmly congratulated. Happy b/day Moz!!! xxxx

Fran Arnheim said...

What do u mean, past his prime and all that crap. Morrissey is THE ARTIST. I'll be saying happy birthday 2him til he turns 100!

Planet Me said...

about a third of what he does now is any good - then again, Viva Hate, Bona Drag, and Kill Uncle all contain enormous amounts of dull sludge (especially if you include the b-sides)

Patrick Gray said...

Saw Morrissey live at the Wolverhampton Civic in 1988. Memorable day, though it was such a short gig!

I disagree with Planet Me. Viva Hate and Bona Drag were ace.