My Life with Morrissey
Was there really a time before the Smiths existed? I know there was, but I can't remember the first time I heard them, can't remember precisely when I first acquired one of their albums (although I do remember what it was: a pirated version of Hatful of Hollow I picked up in Taiwan sometime around 1985). It's like they've always been there, like I've loved Morrissey since before the foundations of the earth, and will love him after even Hoover Dam (supposedly one of the structures that should long outlast us) has crumbled to mere rubble. When I think about Morrissey, I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that there is a light that will never go out.
I recently had the privilege of playing someone his first Smiths' song. This was not the same as when I played my twelve-year-old brother his first David Bowie song in 1984. This was a guy in his 40s, who said to me, "There are some big gaps in my musical knowledge. For instance, I know about the Smiths, but I've never heard them...."
I started to panic. He couldn't even finish his sentence before I was out of my seat and feeding cds into my stereo.
Of course I looked at him as if he were a vicar in a tutu or a hairdresser on fire. I had to know how such an oversight had happened. So he explained: from 1978 to 1982, as a college student, he had managed a college radio station, and had been noted for his eclectic taste in music. This was back before "college radio" or "alternative" existed as a category of music, and in order to find "alternative" music to play on a "college radio" station, he had to track down obscure bands and make friends with people running independent labels, and ask. Then he finished his BA, and was poor, and no longer had a whole radio station's library at his disposal, and refused to listen to mainstream radio and didn't always have good alternative radio stations available, and then he started graduate school to study how barbarism begins at home, and then he went to Chile a time or two, and there just were a lot of things he never heard. OK, it's unfortunate, but is it really so strange?
Those of you Mozheads out there, think about this: I pushed the play button, then stood back and watched someone's face as he heard "How Soon is Now?" for the first time! The same goes with "Girlfriend in a Coma" and "Frankly Mr. Shankly" and "There Is a Light That Never Goes Out" (and if a ten ton truck crashes into us, to die by your side, well, the pleasure, the privilege, is mine!) Not once did I have to say, "Stop me if you think you've heard this one before." It made me want to oscillate wildly and reel around the fountain!
I suppose I should just burn him a cd or two, but my cd burner has gone screwy and besides, it's more fun to play the songs, stretch out and wait, and see someone react to the brilliance of Johnny Marr's guitar and the humor and pathos of Morrissey's lyrics--these things take time, but they're worth it.
Shoplifters of the World, Unite and Take Over!