Wednesday, 16 July 2014

My Top Ten Songs About Morrissey

Before we get onto the main subject of this week's Top Ten, a small addendum to my last two posts. After revealing My Top Ten Songs About American Writers and My Top Ten Songs About British / Irish Writers, my Aussie Top-Tenning equivalent, Deano, has responded to my challenge and unveiled his own Top Ten Songs About (or with a tenuous link to!) Australian Literature. Excellent work, Deano - if any other international readers want to respond in kind, do let me know. I'm still thinking about compiling a Top Ten Songs About European Writers or a Top Ten Songs About Russian Writers, but I'm also thinking about flying to the moon on a clothes line prop, so don't hold your breath.

This week's post is a much delayed companion piece to My Top Ten Songs About Bruce Springsteen written back in February '13... and My Top Ten Songs About Elvis, written the previous October. Johnny Cash will get his, one day...

So there's a new Morrissey album out and the reviewers all seem to like it. A sparsity of pennies means I don't own a copy yet, but I've read countless articles saying it's his best in 20 years... largely in magazines that gave favourable reviews to his last few records, but oh, how soon they forget. That kind of thing all plays into the Moz-stique though, the idea that the whole world's against him... which couldn't be further from the truth when you start to investigate songs that have referenced the great Steven Patrick of Hulme in one way or another.

In the process of researching this post (see, they're not all just thrown together), I came across dozens of Odes To Moz... many of them loud and screechy... quite a few of them not all that complimentary... and most of them bloody awful. Here are some of the more "interesting" ones that missed out on this list...

Pony Death Ride - I Think My Boyfriend's Gay For Morrissey

O Pioneers!!! - My Life as a Morrissey Song

Mika (sadly not the Grace Kelly dude) - Now I Know How Morrissey Felt

Pink Industry - What I Wouldn't Give

30 Foot Tall - Feel Like Morrissey

Dreaming In Oceans - Hell Knows I'm Miserable Now

The Ergs! - Introducing Morrissey

See Colin Slash - You Make Me Feel Like Morrissey

A Wilhelm Scream - Me Vs. Morrissey in the Pretentious Contest

From First To Last - Populace In Two

Help, She Can't Swim - What Would Morrissey Say?

And finally (look away now if you're easily offended):

Anal Cunt - Johnny Violent getting his ass kicked by Morrissey

(Poor old AC-without the-DC, they're still striving to make the Radio 2 playlist - heaven knows why they won't let them on.)

From my own record collection, however, there were three notable omissions. I thought I'd give them a mention anyway.

The Organ - Steven Smith

Art Brut - Bang Bang, Rock 'n' Roll (which did very well in My Top Ten Bang Songs a few weeks ago)

Ryan Adams - (Argument with David Rawlings Concerning Morrissey) (the opening track of Ryan's terrific debut album which misses out because a) it's not a song, just two blokes talking... b) its not much of an argument either... and c) Ryan's terrible attempt at a Dick Van Dyke English accent towards the end)

OK, enough of the pre-amble. I've written more in the introduction than I do in most posts! Let's get onto the meat and potatoes of this list... or potatoes and potatoes, considering our opening offering:

10. Sandie Shaw - Steven (You Don't Eat Meat)

As mentioned above, while there are many songs about Morrissey that didn't make this list because they're not very good, the b-side to Sandie Shaw's 1986 cover of Lloyd Cole's Are You Ready To Be Heartbroken? does bear a place... even though it's pretty bloody awful.

A shoeless legend in the 60s, Shaw's career was revived in the 80s largely down to her association with The Smiths. She recorded a number of Morrissey/Marr compositions, including a version of Hand In Glove in which she took Mozzer's place fronting the rest of The Smiths on Top of the Pops. Steven (You Don't Eat Meat) was a weeeeeeird tribute song written by Shaw and record producer Clive Langer...
Oh Steven
You dressed me in my glad rags
You in your gladioli
Just like those other lifetimes
At least that's what you told me
The taste of reality was
Such a hard, bitter-sweet pill
You took to your bed again
Oh, are you still ill?
Are you still ill?
You don't eat meat
But you eat your heart out, Steven
Better still, Sandie's follow-up single featured a b-side tribute to Johnny Marr, Go Johnny Go, which chides him for not taking her calls. Despite (or perhaps because of) lyrics like these...
If I was a Stratocaster, shiny and new
You’d pick me up, you’d put the call through
You’d talk to me madly, like a man obsessed
Dripping wet on the carpet, wearing only your vest
...and these...
You’re always engaged, or you’re not taking calls
Or you’re stuck in the bathtub

Or you're doing your smalls
...and these...
They say you’re washing your hair, or you’re taking a shower
You’ve gone down to Woolies, be back in an hour's a much better song than 'Steven...'.

9. Jamie Cullum - Mixtape

So, from the ridiculous to... Jamie Cullum.

Yes, I said Jamie Cullum.

The shortarse jazz-pop, Sophie Dahl-marrying, would-be-Buble wunderkind wrote a song on his 2009 album The Pursuit in which he boasts about the size of his record collection. A homage to eclectic mixtapes (and from the onetime writer of a blog about mixtapes... much respect, Jamie), it asks...
Do you even have a tape machine?
To facilitate my plastic dreams?
All the things that I have seen, from
Morrissey to John Coltrane, Ah!
Cinematic Orchestra, De La Soul, the Shangri-La's
An adolescent love letter,
A sparkling jewel of manual labour...
Coincidentally, the American alt-rock band Brand New also have a song called Mixtape which takes shots at an ex-girlfriend thus...
I've got a twenty dollar bill
That says no one's ever seen you
Without makeup
You're always made up
And I'm sick of your tattoos
And the way you always criticize
The Smiths
And Morrissey
And I know that you're a sucker
For anything acoustic
But when I say let's keep in touch
I really mean I wish that you'd grow up
8. The Associates - Stephen, You're Really Something

Many believe the Smiths songs William, It Was Really Nothing was written about Morrissey's old pal, Billy MacKenzie, lead singer of the Associates. This was Billy's response... misspelling Morrissey's name was probably the final straw in their friendship.

7. Frank Turner - Sunshine State

Frank gets dumped and his lady heads for California... so this is all he has left.
You left me to these small skies, and to rain-soaked concrete,
To Morrissey and Robert Smith and complicated streets I know,
On which you lost your patience and your way,
The way you always did on steel grey rainy days.
6. The Courteeners - What Took You So Long? 

I really liked the early Courteeners records, although, having seen them live, I can confirm that their lead singer would give Liam Gallagher a run for his money in the arrogant a-hole stakes. That attitude might well be confirmed by the lyric you can hear here...
Do you know who I am?
I'm like a Morrissey with some strings
Still, there's nothing wrong with aiming high, and there's something satisfyingly Moz-ish about the chorus of this, possibly The Courteeners' best song...
What took you so long?
Was there a queue at the post office?
What took you so long?
Was there a dirty, double-decker Stagecoach
You just happened to miss?
5. Electronic - Getting Away With It

Following the break-up of the Smiths, Johnny Marr had mixed feelings about his ex-sparring partner. Enter Neil Tennant of the Pet Shop Boys who co-wrote this track with Marr to exorcise some of those demons. It's a great pop song, though the sentiment's a little confusing. The verses (written by Tennant) parody Morrissey's image as a miserable old git...
I've been walking in the rain just to get wet on purpose
I've been forcing myself not to forget just to feel worse
(Ironically, the verse is sung by Bernard Sumner of New Order / Joy Division... pot, kettle, anyone?)

The chorus, however, (written by Marr) reveals the following...
However I look it's clear to see
That I love you more than you love me
Given that the song's written in the first person - from Morrissey's perspective - this might lead to all kinds of questions about why Marr really left the band. I've read my fair share of books that deal with the break-up of the Smiths, but I guess the only two people who'll ever know the truth are the Manc M&M.

See also Miserablism by the Pet Shop Boys, wherein Tennant takes further issues with Morrissey's carefully curated public persona...
Just for the sake of it, make sure you're always frowning
It shows the world that you've got substance and depth
4. Lloyd Cole - Seen The Future

I've seen Lloyd Cole perform live even more than I have Morrissey (but then, Lloyd does tour more often). He often tells amusing stories about various meetings with Moz over the years. Here, he ponders the future of rock 'n' roll... which is, famously, what Jon Landau called Springsteen back in the early 70s... while paraphrasing David Bowie on T-Rex (via Mott The Hoople). All that in one song - result!
Man, I need TV...
For when I got my Morrissey!
3. Manic Street Preachers - 1985

In 1985, Nicky Wire turned 16... lost his innocence, and found his voice. With a little help from his friends...
In 1985, my words they came alive,
Friends were made for life,
Morrissey and Marr gave me choice.
In 1985, in 1985.
2. Sparks - Lighten Up, Morrissey 

Russell Mael complains that his girlfriend won't give him the time of day because he's nowhere near as smart or witty as the man himself.
I got comparisons coming out my ears
And she never can hit the pause
If only Morrissey weren't so Morrisseyesque
She might overlook all my flaws
I'm sure this song made Morrissey chuckle (yes, it does happen) and extremely proud. He's a huge fan of Sparks - his first appearance in the NME was a letter praising Sparks written to the mag when he was 15.

1. Morrissey & The Smiths - Pretty Much Their Entire Recorded Output

Perhaps this is a bit of a cheat for Number One... but really, nobody writes more (or better) songs about Morrissey than the man himself. And honestly, how can any of us possibly know how he feels?
They said they respect me, which means their judgment is crazy.
I've had my face dragged in fifteen miles of shit,
And I do not, and I do not, and I do not like it.
So how can anybody say they know how I feel,
When they are they, and only I am I?

"I know you all secretly hate me so I won't bother asking for your comments - they mean so very, very little to me, anyway."


  1. As I was reading this, all the way through I was thinking "everything by the Smiths and Morrisey" !! So I'm really happy that it's number one and to be frank I don't care that he is miserable and self-serving, to me he will always be amazing.

  2. It's rare that my Killing Joke back catalogue lets me down but... utter fail this time.


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