The Last of the Famous International Playboys

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There was that time a few (a few) years ago when I was all amped up because Morrissey was coming to town! Woo! Well, turns out he didn’t. Then he had all these health problems, and I thought “surely he will never come back.” And I began to come to terms that the time I saw him in Chicago in 2011 would be the only time I’d ever see him.

You know, I was content with that, too. That Chicago show was insane, surreal, and 100% burned into my memory forever. The Moz fans in Chicago are like rabid dogs. They are fanatical and SUPER SERIOUS. You never would’ve seen them holding up their phone for 30 long seconds to record a video they’d never watch again. They wouldn’t be tweeting “Morrissey is singing a song right now.” And they wouldn’t be talking to each other during the show, thus disturbing others around them. I was in that crowd, and we all waited together for 7-8 long hours in December in the Midwest. We were aching, tired, and what we wanted more than anything was to see Morrissey in the flesh, to possibly have an opportunity to touch his precious skin, like so many have nearly killed themselves to attempt in the past. He is the Messiah. Come to heal us and deliver his prophecy. And he rewarded us with fan favorites, deeper cuts and candid sincerity in the way that only Morrissey can. And when he left the stage at the end of the night, I was pinned to the front barrier, having just come within inches of touching his hand, and I was overwhelmed, bereft. What I needed to do just then was to sit in a dark room and listen to my headphones.

Last night’s show was a bit of a different experience. I had secured very good seats, but months ago. I easily walked up to the front, with two beers (and would grab another one during the show, no need to fight through a crowd of thousands), sat in my seat comfortably and waited. But it all felt a little different, and I couldn’t figure it out. I think what I discovered is that here in Minnesota, there is a passive obsession for Morrissey (there’s actually a passiveness in most music crowds in Minnesota). And this isn’t true for all fans. I know plenty who are fanatical – like those countless concert goers in Chicago – but they seemed few. It felt like people were there more to be at a Morrissey show, and less to stand in awe of the man himself.

Or maybe I’m wrong about all of it. I do have a difficult time getting into a concert if there are distractions around me. I’m trying to remember this show though, and bits and pieces are coming to me, but not in the same vivid way as my first experience. Morrissey sounded wonderful, though his stage banter was nil, and, perhaps I’m going crazy, but his set seemed abrupt. It ended quietly, with one encore song (What She Said), and exactly zero stage rushes from the crowd. How disappointing! I had such a terrific place in the audience, I told myself all night “When the time comes, I am getting on that stage, or I will die trying.” And I just couldn’t. The venue was small and awkward. My friends who had front row seats had their view sort of impeded by giant speakers taking up 1/3 of the tiny stage.

There’s no way for me to write this without sounding totally ungrateful and like I hated it. I didn’t hate it. I can just barely remember it. Afterwards I kept asking my friends “What song did he close with??” I remember more acutely being absolutely devastated when the lights came up and I was looking around, feeling lost and bereft again like that time in Chicago, but this time it was indignation. GODDAMMIT. I JUST WANTED TO TOUCH HIM.

I am the most grateful that I have that special memory of that first time I saw him. What a perfect way to experience Morrissey for the first time. When there was someone trying to muscle their way up, the true loyal fans pushed him back and said “YOU DON’T LOVE MORRISSEY AS MUCH AS US.” And that gives me a real pride. I mean, it’s childish, of course, but that’s the kind of devotion Morrissey stirs in people. The willingness to get tackled to the ground, and wait for years, after countless cancellations. My god. We will follow him wherever he goes, no matter how badly he treats us, or however short his show is, or how pricey the ticket. He gets it exactly right in All You Need is Me:

You don’t like me
But you love me
Either way you’re wrong
You’re gonna miss me when I’m gone.
You’re gonna miss me when I’m gone. 

Scratch my name on your arm with a fountain pen

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Today is the 30th anniversary of the release of probably the Best Smiths Album. Most people will say it’s The Queen is Dead (which will celebrate 30 years in 2016) but I don’t think it is, despite all the pressure to love that one best.

My first Smiths “album” was actually Singles. So, not an album. A compilation. Still, it was a good introduction for someone like me, who responds to pop sounds first and deep, meaningful lyrics much much later. I found The Queen is Dead on cassette many months later and my summer of 2009 had its perfect soundtrack (I would go on to own a ton of cassettes, many of which made for great memories). I first listened to Meat is Murder, though, later that fall. I remember getting chills when the title track wound around and Morrissey crooned about how eating meat is the same as literally killing animals. I was moved, and a little shocked. It was not a popular slogan in the 80s (in fact, it still turns plenty of people off now). A different Smiths “album” became my autumn soundtrack though, which was Louder Than Bombs (which is a fantastic compilation btw). It wasn’t until Winter 2010 that Meat is Murder cemented its place as GOAT (greatest of all time). See, I was in love with a boy (duh)  who loved The Smiths (BONUS). Every Tuesday I would go donate plasma to get $20, so I could go to The Triple Rock for 2-4-1’s with my crush. As I was donating, I’d listen to this album. In the daytime, on my way to class, I’d listen to it. The second track, “Rusholme Ruffians” is so filled with glee and nostalgia, it reminds me of that time when life was simple, and care-free. When I’d sell plasma for 20 measly bucks and that was good enough and I was happy.

The thing about MIM is that it’s *all* great. QID is *mostly* great. “Frankly Mr. Shankly” and “Vicar in a Tutu” may be good, preposterous songs, but does the former work leading into one of the great Smiths ballads, “I Know it’s Over”? And similarly, does the latter really work as a lead out, especially after the GOAT Smiths song “There is a Light that Never Goes Out”? I wanna go with “no.”

MIM seems to speak to a more reckless, youthful sadness. It’s music for misfits and outcasts, and people with problems that are true life.
There’s a club if you’d like to go
You could meet somebody who really loves you
So you go and you stand on your own
And you leave on your own
And you go home and you cry
And you want to die

Yes. It’s not “You dumped me and broke my heart.” It’s “I’m so lonely and so awkward I want to kill myself.” That is a truer feeling than being broken-hearted, though there is plenty of that:

Gasping but somehow still alive

This is the fierce last stand of all I am
Gasping, dying but somehow still alive
This is the final stand of all I am

Please keep me in mind.

The crowning achievement of this album might be “How Soon is Now,” a sprawling, atmospheric, lush anthem of isolation. I was never sold on this song until I heard Johnny Marr play it in 2013 and sound was covering my whole body and all the air around me was close and hot. It’s such a different experience from anything else on MIM, and the craftsmanship was totally singular and unique:

“The vibrato sound is fucking incredible, and it took a long time. I put down the rhythm track on an Epiphone Casino through a Fender Twin Reverb without vibrato. Then we played the track back through four old Twins, one on each side. We had to keep all the amps vibrating in time to the track and each other, so we had to keep stopping and starting the track, recording it in 10-second bursts … I wish I could remember exactly how we did the slide part – not writing it down is one of the banes of my life! We did it in three passes through a harmoniser, set to some weird interval, like a sixth. There was a different harmonisation for each pass. For the line in harmonics, I retuned the guitar so that I could play it all at the 12th fret with natural harmonics. It’s doubled several times.”
  — Johnny Marr (Source)

There’s very few full albums that feel autobiographical for me. MIM is very much a memory of a time and place I was really, physically in. I feel it more lucidly than many other times in my life.  Happy B-day Meat is Murder.

(obviously, it didn’t work out with that guy)

Johnny Marr

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HEY, it’s Johnny Marr’s birthday! Still a young man at 51, still totally rockin’.
Johnny Marr is my guitar hero and a total musical genius. It seems that some people are under the misapprehension that The Smiths could’ve done fine without him. That it was all Morrissey.  If someone ever says that to you, please slap or stab them.

A couple years ago I would’ve said he needs more recognition but he’s gotten that in spades lately.

Johnny Marr also shares a birthday with my sister Emily. Alan’s sister shares a birthday with Morrissey. Isn’t that WACKY? I think it’s wacky. Anybody else? No? Ok.

That’s How People Grow Up

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As I wrote yesterday’s long post about Morrissey, I also somewhat prepared for the eventuality that he might postpone. And he did. This is now the 4th time it’s happened to me. What did I say, right? Rite of passage. It happens to everyone. Not only was the show called off, but the after party as well, which I was SO-SO-SO-SO looking forward. High on happiness from seeing Morrissey and then hanging out with all my friends and drinking while listening to a ton of great music. Sigh. Well. He wouldn’t be Morrissey if he wasn’t constantly disappointing us. Much as it bums me out, I still have to laugh about it. At least I’m not alone.

Too bad I love him so. Ugh.

In other news, I finished my 10 day stint of Boot Camp. And I feel FAN-FREAKING-TASTIC for accomplishing this major feat. The day before I started, I was nervous and excited. My first day, I was miserable and broken. Now? I’m empowered and strong. I can do push-ups now (well sort of. I can only do it on my knees. Baby steps). I hope to stick with some sort of routine at home until I can afford to go back regularly.

And finally, I have a freelance gig starting Monday, which I can’t wait for. I’ll still be blogging on the reg though. So keep coming back!

If only Morrissey hadn’t postponed, this would’ve been one of the best weeks ever.

Stay tuned for Friday Links.

Tomorrow, will it really come?

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I know exactly the first Smiths song I heard. It was “How Soon is Now,” and It’s a shame that it was by way of “The Wedding Singer.” I kind of liked it in the movie, because when I was a kid, that was a great movie. [Now, every time I hear it, it still stirs up some negative connotations (oh MAN this song was in an ADAM SANDLER movie!). ]

It wasn’t until I was 19 that I actually were aware of The Smiths. There was a discussion at my work about seriously depressing music. They didn’t sound super appealing so, I didn’t bother, but it was a year later when I bought my first Smiths CD. Then I was excited. I knew this was a band I should like. All the “cool kids” I knew liked them, so if I did too, I’d be cool like them.

Many who describe losing their Smiths virginity as awe-inspiring transcendence, but it didn’t click right away. I thought they were good, but not, like, life-changing. Over time, they grew on me and the next Spring I turned 21 and started going to Transmission, where The Smiths are heavily played on  a regular basis. Eventually I collected all their albums and finally started getting into Morrissey’s solo work, which is highly listenable and addictive music, but nowhere the depth, the timelessness, the genius of The Smiths.

Morrissey is the mouthpiece for entire generations– young 20-somethings who know the meaning of isolation and humiliation. They can’t go out for fear of rejection. Morrissey’s character is subversive to the modern pop star and more shy and confused about his sexuality than many of his listeners are. He’s the Oscar Wilde of 20th century anguish. But he’s also droll and clever and his words and biting and witty. His whole manner and charisma are unparalleled and unprecedented in the music world. The last enigma in pop.

There’s a hysteria and fanaticism surrounding him. The tradition started when he was with The Smiths. Fans would rush the stage just to touch him. As if he were The Messiah and that they could be cured. I admit that I have been put under that spell too.

I finally got to see him in December 2011. I’d waited all day in freezing Chicago, and ended up dead center, 15 feet away from him the whole time. At the end, the crowd stormed the stage, and I was pinned up against the barrier, grasping desperately at the air, hoping to just touch any part of him. He reached and I reached but…

After he left, I felt unfulfilled; emotionally and physically taxed to my very end. He looked and sounded gorgeous, and I was within spitting distance of him, but I didn’t get to touch him. Not to mention, this show came after a previous postponement which the news initially made me heartsick and devastated. Finally seeing him was numbing and elating at the same time.

He was due to come to Minneapolis after 3 years away this last October, and then to Iowa the day after. This whole group of us (some of my best and brightest friends) were planning to go.

And it was rescheduled 3 days before. Morrissey is actually well-known for canceling shows. Sometimes he never reschedules them. This is a rite of passage every Morrissey fan has to go through. It’s now happened to me 3 times. So, Tomorrow. Yes. It will happen [NOPE. HE POSTPONED AGAIN!]. Will I enter into the ranks of the coveted stage-jumpers? Stupid and reckless as they are, they have something that’s the envy of every lonely soul on the planet.

Don’t let me down, Morrissey. You beautiful bastard.

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