Thursday, May 22, 2003


I was first introduced to the Smiths by Yosef Lewis. I didn't like them at first. No, dislike is too subtle a word. Yosef, or just "Lewis" as we called him, loved the Smiths. And according to Lewis, their guitarist, Johnny Marr, was an acoustic alchemist; he turned chords to gold.
I, on the other hand, thought Morrissey was too dramatic, he was the vocal equivalent of daytime drama. General Hospital in a song. And as a college kid, I shunned drama--that was for adults with jobs, relationships, concerns and checking accounts. Not for me, the self-proclaimed king of afternoon naps.
I also felt somewhat uncomfortable about the band's sexual ambiguity. It was unnecessarily cliffhanger-ish, almost like a marketing tool. Are they or aren't they...? Was that lyric referencing a guy or a girl? Is the song, "Ask," about experimenting with homosexuality?
And on a side note, is the song title, "How Soon Is Now" a rhetorical question or does he really want to know that now is, well, pretty soon?

Recently, I have been turning to my sounds of nostalgia. I have uploaded vintage Rush and Elton John onto my iPod. I popped Van Halen's "5150" into my car tape deck and screamed along--not sang, screamed--to "Dreams." But my mornings have been primarily devoted to the Smiths. I like waking up to the bounce of "hang the DJ/hang the DJ/haaaang the DJ." And despite the morbidness of their lyrics get ("And if a double decker bus crashes into us/to die by your side...") the tunes themselves are motivating. It reminds me when I was younger and my parents would trick me into getting excited about bedtime by enthusiastically declaring "YAY! IT'S BEDTIME! YIPEEE!" And the truth is, I fell for it. Even back then, I gravitated to delivery, not content.
[Side note: Last night, while I was hanging out with my dear friend, Jenny, we listened to the Smiths and had a pretty meaningful conversation while Morrissey crooned in the background.]

Though I am a great appreciator of music, I've always wondered what makes certain bands cult-like? What does a band have to do to achieve mythical status besides have their lead singer committ suicide? How does a band garner enough respect to warrant a convention in an actual hotel with actual die-hard fans with actual no lives? Bands like Kiss and the Beatles have conventions because they have earned it by changing the face of music (Kiss; quite literally). But what is most interesting is that the Smiths have one. Well, specifically, Morrissey, but there is a convention of people sporting his trademark pompadour. There, the androgynous masses wander about looking for rare Smiths 7" or for the answer to the Morrissey/Sexuality question. To which we will probably never find the answer because Morrissey probably has a reason for keeping us guessing. Maybe he hasn't figured it out himself.

What is it about the Smiths that brings people to the point of obsessiveness? What is it that makes women, men and the ones we're not sure about, weak at their knees?
Is it the aforementioned mopiness? Or was it the tryst that Lewis is certain Morrissey and Marr kept secret while in the band, creating a chemistry that most bands pine for?
interestingly enough, from a prolific stand point, the Smiths only released four albums of original material. They released a great deal of compilations, a live album, some greatest hits packages but when you whittle it all down, there are just four albums. And granted, THE QUEEN IS DEAD is probably one of the most important British albums of all time, if not the blueprint for Britpop. And moreover, maybe their four albums are stronger than the music most labels put out in their entire existence but still, why the Smiths?

You know what, I'm really not sure yet. I'm going to have to think about it. But wait a sec - what made you think I was going to give you the answer? After all, didn't I tell you that I'm the delivery-not-the-content guy.


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