There is a Light That Occasionally Goes Out

My wife and I went to a movie this last weekend. Since that event has about the same frequency of a total lunar eclipse, you can understand why I was very excited about it. I announced it to my friends and co-workers with the same cavalier enthusiasm as if I had plans to summit Lhotse. The movie was (500) Days of Summer starring the kid from 3rd Rock from the Sun and the chick from Elf. I know their names, but you probably don’t.

It was a really good movie. I mean really good. My reason for going to see it though was only slightly based on the good reviews it had received. I read something a few issues back in my Entertainment Weekly: Bathroom Edition about how the group She & Him (composed of M. Ward and the sister of that chick from Bones) did a cover of a Smiths song for the soundtrack. This was enough to get me into a crowded theater on a Saturday night and squeal like a schoolgirl when the cover of Louder than Bombs was shown in the background in an opening scene.

I am a Smiths fan of the unhealthy variety. I freely admit that, which would be the first step in a recovery program if I wanted to be recovered from this affliction. The name of this very blog bears reference to a Morrissey song. I am fully aware that most of my readers will have a minimal understanding of who The Smiths are and I hope that through this link-laden article, you might gain an appreciation for the band that is undoubtedly the best to have ever existed in the history of man. I promise not to over-exaggerate anything.

First of all, let me give you a short musical history lesson. The Smiths were made up of the singularly named Morrissey on vocals and Johnny Marr on guitar and a few other blond-headed dudes. They broke onto the British pop music scene back when pop was indie, but before indie was alternative - unlike today where alternative is pop. If you think you have never heard a Smiths song, you have probably heard "How Soon is Now" from a few various soundtracks or VH1 specials. The Smiths broke up due to a fight between Morrissey and Marr over a cheese sandwich and Morrissey soon set out on a solo venture. He is still performing to this day and at the beginning of this year, released his most recent album, featuring the single "Something is Squeezing My Skull". For those of you who doubt his genius, I defy you to make legend out of the song titles "Girlfriend in a Coma", "Some Girls are Bigger than Others", "Hairdresser on Fire", or "Shoplifters of the World Unite".

My oldest sister had always been a trusted connoisseur of music, as evidenced by the Echo and the Bunnymen shirts she wore to school and the posters of Robert Smith in her room. When I entered junior high school, she could see my obvious need for her musical influences as I still listened to Disney Radio and the “oldies” station my father frequented. She made me a mixtape filled with a sampling of British melancholy and, for my birthday, purchased me a copy of the first album I would ever own, a cassette of The Smiths’ Hatful of Hollow. I listened to the tape so much that it became warped at one point near the end of one side and, by turn (thanks to the magic of audio tape) the beginning of the next. It set me on the musical pathway that in many ways would define who I am today.

Morrissey, the daisy-toting singer/songwriter, must have known the heart of a 12-year-old boy because his lyrics spoke directly to mine. I listened to one record after another of his group along with his solo performances. In my mind, I transformed from the nerdy kid who ate his sandwiches by the dumpster to the über-cool kid with his finger on the pulse of the college music scene. I was so über-cool in fact that no one else knew who the hell The Smiths were. I strutted through the hallways of school with my t-shirts featuring the cover of Strangeways, Here We Come or Beethoven Was Deaf and further incited the hatred of the school bullies against me.

"Is that a family reunion shirt?" Yeah, shut up.

However, even after a few stomach punches and mocking laughs from popular girls, I found refuge in the music I listened to when I came home. “So true, most people do keep their brains between their legs.” “Love is just a miserable lie.” “Yes, I also wear black on the outside because black is how I feel on the inside!” I wrote songs and had every intention to run on stage during one of his performances and hand deliver what was to be his next single. I found myself frantically hitting redial to attempt contact with the local radio stations and put in my request for a Smiths or Morrissey song. Of course, the requests were always ignored. At one point, I felt like hijacking a radio station and forcing them to only play songs from The Smiths, but someone had actually already done that. After listening to the album Meat is Murder, I had a brief stint with vegetarianism, until I realized my love of animal flesh was slightly stronger than that of Morrissey.

I went to a few Morrissey concerts, events that I speak of with reverence as if I had met the Pope. I once came accessorized along with the rest of the crowd who donned one of several Morrissey-championed paraphernalia: a fist full of gladiola, a mock hearing-aid, fake scars, a mesh shirt with band-aids placed over the nipples. I won’t tell you which one I wore, but I will say that after losing the courage to dive past security to hand deliver my self-penned ballad to Moz himself, I found it as I had to remove something from a very sensitive part of my body.

I am still a fan, will forever be a fan, of Morrissey and The Smiths. They have taught me that listening to music can be a highly emotional experience, even if that emotion happens to be depression. I love that, on the rare occasion that I meet a Smiths fan, or pay to see a movie with a reference to them, my faith in humanity is restored. Now-a-days, the kids have other outlets to go to for their emotional music, outlets which tend to involve gobs of eye makeup or bleeding skull masks. Morrissey just turned 50 and I will soon turn 29. We are old, and it may nearly be time to hang up our mesh shirts and straw hats and make way for other music groups with punctuation marks in their band names. However, for my part, I have just composed a lullaby iTunes playlist for my children of songs from The Smiths and Morrissey. I feel it is my duty as a fan to pass on the music that once made me feel awkwardly unaccepted and compose dark poetry in the solitary corners of my room. But for now, I am perfectly content to slip into my now grossly undersized Kill Uncle t-shirt and sing along with "Vicar in a Tutu" as my child slowly falls asleep, with visions of Morrissey dancing in his head.

Stuck on band-aids


Nathan said...

Morrissey or The Smiths? If you had to choose just one. I always liked the solo stuff (Morrissey). I thought of a song the other day as I laid in the sun bathing.
Good stuff. We got a lot in common C-Man, we should be friends. Oh wait we are. Love ya.

melissa said...

There's a lovely scene in "Who Put The M in Manchester" where a super sweet fan explains that Morrissey helped him to grow up. I got choked up a little bit because I felt the same way -- and I see that you do too. So, does the world end in the daytime?

Cameron said...

Nathan, I would say it is kind of a wash. Morrissey definitely has a larger catalog to choose from. The Smiths, however, have that classic feel. And we should be friends, not just when I need you to take a picture of me with a a musical idol of mine.

Melissa, is there any point ever having children? I really don't know. We should be friends too.