Every year The Lance produces an Arts Issue. My contribution for the 2006 edition was a ridiculous homage to an 80s Britpop artist, written by my alter ego. I was later told by my editor this piece inspired a student to volunteer at the paper, and had it hanging in her bedroom.
It was an unexpected surprise to find your new CD in the latest pile of review copies to arrive at the office. I quietly purloined it and slunk back to my desk, where I could enjoy it in private, free from mockery. I examined the cover. You, in your tuxedo, framed in shadow, delicately bowing a violin. Engaging in its insanity, I thought. But it was the inlay photograph that struck me.
Seated on a powder blue Vespa scooter in your finely cut Italian clothes, toying with an antique camera. I stared at that photo for I don’t know how long, until I whispered a terrible confession, a truth about myself, at my desk.
“I want to be Morrissey.”
A startling conclusion, yet utterly sensible. Everyone I know wants to be Morrissey.
We’ve certainly had a tumultuous relationship, Steven. You came to represent everything I despised in people I knew in high school. I was a tempestuous little bastard myself, to be certain, but damn it all my pain and confusion were real. You, with your flower tossing and Wilde-worshiip, it all seemed so postured, an opinion strengthened by the miserable young women I encountered in class with MEAT IS MURDER scrawled on their Trapper Keepers.
When Nirvana broke, gathering me up and carrying me to noise rock heaven, The Smiths became a two-word punchline for melodramatic artificiality.
My perception of you didn’t improve after you went solo. If anything, it seemed like you got worse, as though being free of Johnny’s influence uncorked you fully. Next thing I knew, you were posing shirtless on the cover of “Your Arsenal”.
Sophie used to try to sway us back in the undergrad days when we all used to commute together. Never had much luck, though. The faintest hint of your nasally vibrato and Jeff and I would launch into homoerotic parodies of “The More You Ignore Me, The Closer I Get.” We found it great fun, especially when Sophie pulled the car over and threatened to eject us.
But age changes a man, as you know.
When you went into exile, lost in America without a record deal, I would think of you occasionally, if only to wonder what a man like you could possibly do without a stage to cry on.
One night, slaving away on midnights, I heard Jeff Buckley’s live version of “I Know It’s Over” inserted into “Hallelujah,” an apparent afterthought that pushed the original song to places I didn’t know it could travel. That single performance motivated me to re-examine The Smiths, and while a lot of the material still bristled on my ears, there were numerous moments of genuine beauty, and truth. Cups of the Keatsian stuff.
A short time later, Spin magazine, in a lengthy article, documented the baffling phenomenon of your large and passionate Latin fanbase. Photos of pompadoured Mexican kids from Los Angeles, enthralled with the musings of a celibate fop from Manchester. Fascinating.
Rumours of your return began to surface soon after, followed by the release of “You Are the Quarry,” which saw you back on the radio in regular rotation, for a couple of months at least. But it wasn’t until I snuck away with that copy of “Ringleader of the Tormenters,” that I really had the opportunity to spend some quality time with you and reach my startling conclusion.
Everyone I know wants to be Morrissey.
You see, before writers were writers, writers were sissy boys. And as sissy boys become writers, they wear vintage t-shirts, chucks and ripped jeans.
But as they continue with it, and the loneliness of the profession starts to weigh on them a little more, writers wish they could prance around Rome in a well-cut suit drinking too much wine, looking fabulous and being depressed, even though they know they have nothing to be depressed about. And that’s what we see in you, new millennium Fat-Elvis Morrissey.
You’re still the same melodramatic, warbling fool. “Life is A Pigsty”? Come on now, Mozzer, they’ll make you repeat first-year creative writing for that. And yet all the things I despised in you, I now adore.
Because for me, Morrissey the man no longer exists. All I care about is the Moz, the Pope of Mope Il Mozzalini. The world doesn’t need the man, the world needs a symbol. I may outgrow you, but somewhere in Moncton there’s a kid reading “The Picture of Dorian Gray” who will see your healthy pointed jaw and hear your woeful crooning for the first time and decide that there is nothing he would like better than to get hit by a double-decker bus with you. Not everyone gets blown away by “Back in Black” when they’re 13. Some people need “The Queen is Dead” or “Louder Than Bombs.”
And that is why I love you, Morrissey. For your renewed creative output, making you as regular as the tides, and ensuring that every new crop of miserable teenagers can be comforted by your melancholy, if baffled by your vanity. As long as there are depressed adolescents, you will always have an audience.
As for me, I give the album a C+. Your apparent optimism is a welcome change of pace, but the melodies could be stronger and the lyrics a little less clumsy. But God bless you for being you, you magnificent bastard.
There is a better world. There is a better world.
There must be.
With love, your friend,
Image (c) Sanctuary/Attack Records