Morrissey

TrackAlbum / Single
Everyday Is Like SundayViva Hate
Driving Your Girlfriend HomeKill Uncle
I've Changed My Plea To GuiltyMy Love Life B-side
Glamorous GlueYour Arsenal
SpeedwayVauxhall And I
Alma MattersMaladjusted
The Never-Played SymphoniesIrish Blood, English Heart B-side
GanglordThe Youngest Was
The Most Loved
B-side
Something Is Squeezing My SkullYears Of Refusal
MountjoyWorld Peace Is None Of Your Business

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Contributor: Keith Shackleton

I mean, really, the very idea of a Morrissey top ten song list. Morrissey devotees will have their own firmly fixed notions. Those for whom the very thought of Morrissey music is a matter of supreme indifference won’t care. Rabid Morrissey haters will vent their spleen at whatever I might choose.

But here are my favourite ten Morrissey songs, with a little context. I put all negative and contradictory thoughts to the back of my mind and, unusually, they stayed there. I shut out the voices I could hear; the voices whispered in my ear by a great grey familiar perched on my shoulder, a gaunt winged creature digging its claws in at every opportunity, thrashing me with a scourge made from wiry, desiccated gladioli. “Why not this song? Why not that one? You must have THAT one. You MUST.” I didn’t listen. It was easy.

Everyday Is Like Sunday – music: Street, producer: Street

Sure, Suedehead was a significant moment: a mere five months on from the release of The Smiths’ final and arguably best album, Strangeways, Here We Come. We could listen, relieved, and stride forward Marr-less with Morrissey, hand in hand, comforted by each other. And then Viva Hate, opening with the disturbing, yet thrilling, squall of Alsatian Cousin. What is this? Is this where we’re going? Good lord.

But Everyday Is Like Sunday was the first one that really hit the target; the 12″ version with its three excellent supporting songs was the first truly essential Moz artifact. The fallout from a major disruption slowly spreads, and the future is uncertain. In the song, too.

 

Driving Your Girlfriend Home and I’ve Changed My Plea To Guilty – Nevin, Langer/Winstanley

Morrissey admitted much of what he recorded in the early solo years was “borne out of desperation”, whilst searching for that gang mentality that helped drive The Smiths, sifting through a supporting cast of players to find the right ones to slip in. The swerve away from a full length album with Bona Drag, and the transitional Kill Uncle … these older songs are not always the most loved. But two gems shine out like beacons to me: Driving Your Girlfriend Home, the not-so-secret heart of Kill Uncle, and the extraordinary I’ve Changed My Plea To Guilty, amazingly consigned to a B-side.

 

Glamorous Glue – Whyte, Ronson

Up popped the rockabilly rebels, Alain Whyte and Boz Boorer – collaborators who brought vitality to Morrissey and propelled him through his first consistently great album, Your Arsenal, and beyond. From it, I couldn’t miss out on this tremendous glam slam, ably helmed by an ailing Mick Ronson, who would sadly pass away within a few weeks of the album’s release. A Ronson-produced near miss from the list is Jack The Ripper, on the flip of Certain People I Know, but most effectively delivered live on Beethoven Was Deaf.

Speedway – Boorer, Lillywhite

Who knows how Vauxhall And I would have sounded in Ronson’s hands? But Steve Lillywhite’s experience and nous guided our hero in completing the remarkable Moz solo album by which others are judged, closed out by the savagely brooding Speedway, one of Morrissey’s finest tracks. Maybe THE finest?

 

Alma Matters – Whyte, Lillywhite

Morrissey admits that his third record with Lillywhite, Maladjusted, was one too many. Artist and producer were both going through their own tribulations at the time, so it’s hardly surprising it’s not one of Morrissey’s more coherent and well-organised releases. But whilst the lows are pretty low, the supremely confident Alma Matters, alongside one or two others from the record, certainly hits the heights. I hum it a lot. I bet he sings it in the shower.

And then came the hiatus, and the LA sojourn. He didn’t have a deal. He was looking for a deal. But he couldn’t really find one. In at least one respect though, the break from recording did him good. Whatever your thoughts on the merits of each of his last four albums, one thing above all stands out. The richness in his voice, and the control, that comes with … experience? A more confident outlook on life? Whatever the reason, my god, the old boy is in great vocal form these days.

The Never-Played Symphonies – Whyte, Finn

A beautiful song that missed the cut for You Are The Quarry, and I’d swap one or two of that album’s tunes to have this included. Which ones? It’d be churlish to say. But let’s not quibble. Quarry was a big hit, the late Jerry Finn made it sound really good, Morrissey was back in business, and stadiums the world over now echo to the sound of the crowd, belting out “Where HEC-tor WAS THE …”. Find The Never-Played Symphonies on Swords, along with …

 

Ganglord – Whyte, Visconti

An absolute stormer. Tony Visconti is on record as saying listing the tracks for Ringleader Of The Tormentors was one of the hardest decisions he’d ever had to make. A double CD would have definitely been a stretch and Morrissey omitted this gem: maybe the theme didn’t quite fit his Roman ‘love’ album. A menacing live favourite.

Something Is Squeezing My Skull – Whyte, Finn

OK, this is maybe where I go a little off-piste. I have to include the hysterical opener to Years Of Refusal because I played it a dozen times in a row when I first heard it and it is completely.. bonkers. Hear Morrissey’s rising inflection on skuuuuullll and his ranting, breathless, syllable-squeezing outro – don’gimmyanymore, don’gimmyanymore – ridiculous. Fantastic.

Mountjoy – Boorer, Chicarelli

Pretty much any time Morrissey pops out an album or tours these days, thoughts turn to the future. Quit rumours abound. The post-hiatus discs are all terrific sounding records I’m always happy to hear on the radio, but the thought nags: have we had the very best of Morrissey, and how long can he go on? Does he have the stamina and the will and the good health to climb the mountain and plant his tattered Union Jack on it one more time?

Which makes an achievement like this, the brilliant penultimate track on World Peace, all the more amazing. Long may he continue to confound, surprise and delight.

I’m off outside for some sun and air now. Have I been true to you? Let me know.

 

Morrissey – solo: unofficial news site & fan forum

True To You – A Morrissey zine

Passions Just Like Mine – Morrissey/Smiths information archive

Morrissey quotes

The Smiths site

The Smiths toppermost #354

Johnny Marr toppermost #420

Morrissey biography (iTunes)

Read more of Keith Shackleton’s musings on music at his website, The Riverboat Captain.

TopperPost #430

5 Comments

  1. Bark pamphlet
    Apr 3, 2015

    Strong choices, Shackleton. Always loved the fact that some of the best stuff, the very best stuff, is tucked away on b-sides. Nothing is handed to you on a plate. Seek and ye shall find. A little mystery in a world where everything is instantly old-hat.
    The performance of ‘I’ve changed my plea…’ on the Jonathan Ross show is Moz at his finest. The quiff is taller than the man and the voice suggests three lungs. And they still ask when The Smiths will reform.
    @barkpamphlet

  2. Lazer Guided Melody
    Apr 3, 2015

    Be still my beating heart… Selecting a mere ten Morrissey items is a rum sport, such is the breadth and swagger amidst the back catalogue. I’d argue there’s certain tracks missing from this list… but then again, I’d argue there’s stuff missing from my own lucky dip of Moz faves (which changes on a daily basis). But the Riverboat Captain has done us proud here. Not only a great read, but ‘Ganglord’? ‘The Never-Played Symphonies’? And best of all, ‘Speedway’? Swoon.
    @lazerguidedblog

  3. Neil Waite
    Apr 3, 2015

    Yep. The Riverboat Captain does it again. A brilliant set of songs and a very enjoyable read. I was late getting into Morrissey. After The Smiths I had a keener interest in Johnny Marr. This was because I always believed he was a larger half of the partnership. Although Marr still remains a greater influence on me I can now see that was I wrong on that count. ‘Vauxhall and I’ sounded more like the Smiths than anything he had done up to that point and this was when I started to take notice. I’ve spent some time thinking about my ‘what no’s?’ and it’s proved an impossible task. I really wouldn’t know what to replace. But I will mention ‘Spring-Heeled Jim’ which is my favourite. So I would ask the boss for permission for a top 11 to enable this great track to appear. But I’m not going to tamper with anything else. If it aint broke…. Thanks for another great post Keith.

  4. Andrew Shields
    Apr 3, 2015

    Keith, thanks for this great list, but I would have to have ‘Late Night, Maudlin Street’ for the magnificent vocal performance and ‘Now My Heart is Full’ and ‘The More You Ignore Me’ for lines like ‘Your father cracks a joke and in the usual way empties the room’ and ‘Beware I hold more grudges than lonely high court judges’… What I would leave out, though, is the question..

  5. Keith Shackleton
    Apr 4, 2015

    Thanks all for your kind comments.
    @Bark – ah, those killer B’s.. Will Never Marry is up there (indeed Sister I’m A Poet and Disappointed also from the Everyday 12″ are too) and The Edges Are No Longer Parallel is certainly a better bet than at least a couple of songs on the original Maladjusted.
    @LGM – I was surprised I settled on these ten fairly quickly.. Skull was the one I thought about for the longest time, but it is just so absurd, it won out. Your list is most excellent.
    @Neil – Vauxhall is full of contenders. Early on Merric asked if I’d need more than ten songs!
    @Andrew – Great songs and LN,MS hung around in the selection for a good long while.

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