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Morrissey at 50 – our romantic hero

May 22nd, 2009

Dr Petra

As you know I am not supposed to comment on celebrities, but please indulge and forgive me for praising a celebrity just this once.

One of my heroes, Morrissey, has just turned 50, and an academic study of his work by Gavin Hopps who has compared Morrissey’s lyrics to the work of Samuel Beckett and other writers – Wilde, Larkin and Betjeman.

For one who usually demands evidence for everything I’d have been content without this research. Not because it isn’t interesting (I’m sure it is and I’d love to read it), but because it was always so obvious the waspish, engaging, moving and darkly humorous observations within Morrissey’s lyrics were more than just words to a song.

As a teenager The Smiths, and latterly Morrissey’s solo career, spoke to me of longing, loneliness, desire. While many of my peers (and occasionally my exasperated parents) complained of the dreary lyrics, I found in them someone who seemed to know all about the awkwardness of a teenager who wanted to be somewhere different but wasn’t sure how to get there.

As I’ve built a career around studying sex and relationships I often find lyrics from Smiths/Morrissey songs capture aspects of love, hope, frustration and regret. I would credit Morrissey with crafting two of the finest love songs ever written. Both of which capture the feeling of wanting someone who perhaps doesn’t want you as much as you would like.

The first, Well I Wonder (from the album Meat is Murder, 1985) gives more than a nod to Elizabeth Smart’s By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept, and speaks of being in love with someone who either hasn’t noticed you, doesn’t care for you, or doesn’t share your feelings.

Oh I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve played this track during my teenage (and later) years ;-)

(Listen to the end as the guitar accompaniment is beautiful)

The second song is perhaps better known. Morrissey’s solo track from 1994 – The More You Ignore Me The Closer I Get. This also returns to the theme of unrequited love. In a more assertive (or should that be sinister) way than the previous track. Here’s a clip (with a slightly different lyric than usual) from an appearance on Top of the Pops.

Your homework for the week is to check out the Smiths (with credit to Johnny Marr, Mike Joyce and Andy Rourke) and Morrissey’s solo work.

Meanwhile I’ll try not to cringe at the memory that I did once send Morrissey a birthday card with a picture of a kitten on it and containing a very pretentious poem (I was fifteen, it was a long time ago). And I’ll enjoy some bittersweet memories of sitting in my bedroom, not doing my homework, and listening to tapes of The Smiths over and over again.

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