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Best tunes of 1991: #23 Morrissey “Sing your life”

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Pretty much whenever I hear Morrissey, I can’t help but think of my old friend John, whom I grew up alongside. I vaguely remember when his family moved into the neighbourhood, a handful of houses around the corner. We were both very young. We were in Boy Scouts together and though we went to different elementary schools and high schools, we hung out quite a bit after school and on weekends. Much later, when I was in university, he moved to Toronto too. We were housemates for a couple of years but grew apart after we all gave up the apartment and went in our separate directions. I haven’t spoken to him in a long time but will always remember that he introduced me to Morrissey. And looking back, it is obvious now that he emulated the Moz in many ways, was definitely as theatrical and put upon the image of tortured soul.

It was the “Kill uncle” CD that John first lent me, Morrissey’s second solo album. And though “Mute witness” was the first song on it that caught my ear, the song I would rewind over and over again on my cassette recorded copy of the album, “Sing your life” would grow on me to become my favourite on the album. It would also become my wife, Victoria’s gateway to Morrissey when I put it on one of the many mixed tapes I made for her in our early years together. And well, what a great tune it is, albeit slightly unrepresentative of Morrissey’s other work, given its upbeat nature. He appears to be instructing us on how to write songs, hinting that it isn’t all that hard.

“Any fool can think of words that rhyme. Many others do. Why don’t you?”

The funny thing is that I don’t think he ever used this template for his own songwriting. He definitely doesn’t just list the things he loves and loathes. Indeed, “Sing your life” might very well be his most straightforward written song, as if he was attempting a light pop song. But even here, he’s a little jaded.

“And make no mistake, my friend. Your pointless life will end.”

And oh yes, before I go, I’d be remiss and Andrew Rodriguez would have my head if I didn’t mention the rockabilly version Morrissey recorded after the fact with a different set of musicians than appeared on the album. Both are great in my opinion. Cheers.

For the rest of the Best tunes of 1991 list, click here.

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Best tunes of 1990: #18 Morrissey “November spawned a monster”

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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.