Due to the particulars of my own musical education, the year, the age, and my own geographical location, I definitely put the cart before the horse when it comes to Morrissey and The Smiths. I became familiar and fell in love with Morrissey’s solo material long before I did so with The Smiths. My very first exposure to the Moz was his song “Interesting drug”, thanks to a mixed tape given to me by a friend, and it wasn’t long after that I began searching out his other solo material. As for The Smiths, I heard them throughout my university years but with the exception of a few tracks, I did my best to avoid listening to them on purpose, after having them foisted upon me by one of my roommates.
The former frontman of the band released his solo debut, “Viva hate”, mere months after the dissolution of The Smiths. He had planned to title his sophomore album “Bona drag” but ended up using the title for his first compilation album, which became a necessity in 1990 after he had spent the two previous years dropping single after successful single.
“November spawned a monster” was the last of these singles to be released before making its appearance on “Bona drag” and though not his highest charting, it is one of Morrissey’s personal favourites. Yes, it’s a pretty great track but in my own opinion, quite spooky and not a little a bit freaky. In amongst the jangly guitars, there’s something sinister and ominous happening, nothing quite so obvious as a malevolent harpsichord but it’s there nonetheless. Then, right in the middle of all this, up pops these bone-chilling backing vocals, sounding too much like either someone in agony or a violent voodoo invocation.
And if that all weren’t enough, we’ve got something a bit off-putting about his lyrics, like when he seemingly clucks his tongue at us about the “poor twisted child, so ugly, so ugly”, or those damning words that gave the song its title: “November spawned a monster in the shape of this child”. Like many of his songs, its meaning is up to interpretation, but to me, this one is all about society’s treatment of the physically challenged, through no fault of their own. But unlike some of his other works, Morrissey gives us hope at the end of this one:
“Oh one fine day
LET IT BE SOON
she won’t be rich or beautiful
but she’ll be walking your streets
in the clothes that she went out
and chose for herself”
Yep, this is the glory of Morrissey at the height of his powers. Enjoy.
For the rest of the Best tunes of 1990 list, click here.