“I would rather eat my own testicles than re-form The Smiths, and that’s saying something for a vegetarian,” Morrissey declared in 2006.
Johnny Marr, co-writer and founder of the band, had made a flippant suggestion that he would reunite the band if the current U.K. government stepped down, but when reports of it actually happening surfaced on the internet he issued an official statement branding it as untrue and that he’s “got things to do.” Safe to say, it’s unlikely it will ever happen.
But Morrissey continues to perform to this day and is actually coming to Manila to play a one-night only concert. And he does sing Smiths songs. He’s said that just because his former band doesn’t exist it doesn’t mean that the emotions that went into making those songs have disappeared as well. In the same interview with Paul Morley quoted above, he says, “I do sing the songs, and I will sing the songs. They stand the test of time.”
For those of you lucky enough to have a ticket on May 13, this Sunday, here are five possible and probable selections from the Smiths oeuvre that “this charming man” might agree to charm us with.
1. I Know It's Over
Jeff Buckley covered this song, and it’s not hard to hear why. Apart from the all-too-real anguish of the song’s opening and closing lines, there’s also a plea for sympathy and empathy, with Morrissey singing that, “it takes strength to be gentle and kind.” It is song of desperation that manages to preach tenderness even as it slips under.
2. Last Night I Dreamt That Somebody Loved Me
The Smiths’ last single was a fitting finale to the band’s career. A big, dark melodramatic ballad that, according to Marr himself, had “drama, poetry and an almost gothic intensity” and goes “beyond four people playing rock and roll…almost operatic.” Think Elvis Presley’s “Heartbreak Hotel” burning down in Wagnerian flames.
3. Meat is Murder
A call-to-arms by pop’s fiercest vegan, it wasn’t Morrissey not only being very direct that caused outrage but the fact that he actually tried to make us empathize with the animals being slaughtered. “This beautiful creature must die,” he sang along to Marr’s sinister waltz of a tune and a Greek chorus made up of the crying of cattle.
4. How Soon is Now
Seymour Stein famously described this anthem as ‘the Stairway to Heaven of the 80’s.’ If he meant to imply that it was epic, then he was right. Journalist and Smiths expert Simon Goddard has traced the source of the song’s opening lines to a line from George Eliot’s novel Middlemarch and the song’s sonic textures to several influences including Bo Diddley, Can and, more obscurely, rap pioneer Lovebug Starski. No wonder it’s proven popular in clubs despite the lyrics describing the frustration of actually going out.
5. There is a Light That Never Goes Out
Bassist Andy Rourke has described the song as “the indie ‘Candle in the Wind’”. (“Bring me the head of Elton John,” Morrissey once quipped.) Although one can appreciate what he means (allowing a certain bit of flippancy in the remark) it doesn’t encapsulate the majesty of the song, considered by many in their audience to be their most poignant musical statement. After all, how many love songs, before or since, seek their ultimate conclusion colliding with a ten-ton truck? When the lighters come out for this one, the ones holding it don’t mind being burned.
Morrissey live in Manila is brought to you by Little Asia Productions. For tickets you can contact 0917.8334223