Apropos to a Previous Post

An ur-text of certain musical genre which shall remain nameless:

Morrissey. What an amusingly miserable bastard.

Incidentally, I hated hated hated this song when it came out. Now I think it’s probably one of the ten essential tracks of the 80s. Go figure.

63 thoughts on “Apropos to a Previous Post

  1. I love almost all the versions of this song, although have still not come to terms with it’s use as the Charmed theme tune. My fave Morrisey stuff is all on the Smiths, The Queen is Dead album though.

  2. As a friend of mine said as we were driving past some teens a few years ago, in reference to a “Smiths” sticker on their car: “Please. I was depressed on vinyl.”

  3. an amusingly miserable bastard

    Ha. People often say Morrissey and Leonard Cohen are depressing writers of songs to slit your wrists to, but I usually protest that in fact they are kind of witty. I should have just conflated the two extremes… a dream topping, and a floor cleaner.

  4. I’d never seen the video before, but now that I see it, it figures that Kara Thrace would be a fan of the Smiths.

  5. Yeah, whoever programs Sirus Channel 22 (“1st Wave”)
    has a real jones for The Smiths & Morrissey.

    A somewhat annoying jones, imo.

  6. The thing I realized about songs like these is that they are indeed depressing, but the depressingness *has nothing to do with the words of the songs*. The music itself is toggling the “depression” switch in my brain. A monkey hitting the “magic chords” over and over would give a very similar effect.

    I hate that.[1] It feels like a cheap emotional-manipulation trick, that is devoid of subtlety or talent. Kind of like wiring the seats in a theater to provide electrical shocks.

    Which is why I don’t listen to this sort of music if I can help it [2]

    [1] I hate it when Spielberg pulls the cheap emotional-manipulation schtick in his movies, too, even though he usually is trying to slam the switch to the “feel-good” side (or, sometimes, slam it back and forth quickly from “depression” to “elation”). It’s not so much the emotions he is trying to elicit, it’s the fact that he is transparently using standard ploys inserted gratuitously in the movie without regard to the actual plot to get them.

    [2] Of course, I was the kid who liked listening to orchestral pieces over whatever was “popular” at the time, so I can’t say my musical tastes were ever very well aligned with my contemporaries. Like this song, for example: I never actually heard this particular song before today.

  7. Morrissey: one of the great Sad Bastards.

    Waits, Cohen, Morrissey… for when you just want to weep into your cheap red box wine, vainly seeking comfort from the enveloping dorm-room beanbag chair that’s just not like a real hug.

    What? No one else did that in college? Oh. Never mind.

  8. Oddly, I heard the Tatu version first, and I like it better – it’s faster and a bit more angry/passionate than depressive.

  9. When depressed in the late 80s, I would listen to Louder Than Bombs twice a day, while smoking two packs of Newports. Now, I listen to the Smiths with a greater sense of irony and I still enjoy listening to them immensely. I have always hated Morrissey without Marr, though.

    Look at the lyrics to Rubber Ring. It’s like I never noticed the song or paid attention to it until I’d grown up and gotten stable and happy. It was written to the future versions of the kids who bought the album back then.

    http://www.lyricsfreak.com/s/smiths/rubber+ring_20126786.html

    Youtube video with great analysis: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9temOGBi_sU

    Bloody brilliant.

  10. tceisele:

    Yeah, the music itself is sad. Isn’t that the point, though, of art? To convey emotions and concepts? Music that doesn’t have some kind of emotional vibe to it is soulless, plastic pap. And personally, I feel that music is far more adept at expressing moods than words are, even in the greatest poetry.

    Perhaps you just find the emotional tone of the music too obvious, not rich enough to be worthy of the emotions? That’s a different thing entirely, and it basically means that this isn’t your sort of music, bud.

  11. I hated it too — I had to — it was being played on the crappy POP stations instead of just my beloved “Rock of the 80s” station.

    I learned to like it later when I grew to love “ask me” and “girlfriend in a coma” and other classics.

  12. Mr Scalzi, with these musical treats you are spoiling us.

    Mid 80’s England was a grim and unpromising place for a lot of people, it’s no wonder the Smiths found a huge following.
    Smiths songs that I triple-hate are ‘Girlfriend in a Coma’ and ‘Shoplifters of the World’.
    Thanks to the marvels of technology I’ve dissappeared them from my collection.

  13. Well, I for one am cheered by this blast from the past. All of the lyrics from The Smiths are SO ironic, I can’t agree that they are depressed or depressing at all. How can you not laugh at “If a double decker bus, kills the both of us, to die by your side, the pleasure, the privilege is miiyiiine.”

    Morissey is also the centerpiece of my favorite definition of Generation X: you are younger than Morissey and older than MacCauley Culkin. Perfect, right down to the fact that most people outside of this range would say “who?”

    Now I need to go dig up some Violent Femmes, or Sinead O’Connor, Emo Queen! Hey, she is so emo that I saw her in concert once back in the 80’s, and she stomped off the stage in a snit 3/4 of the way through her set because she didn’t feel respected enough or something.

  14. I’ve had Echo & the Bunnymen’s “Bring On the Dancing Horses” stuck in my head all morning. Now THIS one’s in there, too. It’s a horrific battle. Thanks. Thanks a lot.

  15. FWIW, I saw Morrissey in concert at a small theater in Waukegan last fall. His stage presence…yes, his songs can be depressing, but he’s a cheerful depressive, if that makes sense.

    And he did sing “How Soon Is Now?”

  16. I’m ashamed to admit that I first heard this song, in much compressed form of course, as the titles music for Charmed, which I watched despite the fact that everything about it was bad. I loved the song then, and I like this version (the original) much, much more.

    I don’t find it depressing at all, but then I’ve been on antidepressants since 2000.

  17. Morrissey. Was turned onto The Smiths and him about 4 years ago. Where the hell was I when they were happening? One more thing to correct when the Time Machine is available.

  18. I didn’t know who did this track. Things you learn. I hated it then but I must say now, it’s not a bad track. Catchy riff.

  19. I always liked the music but thought the lyrics were dumb. Everytime I hear the whiney lyrics I think, “He got beat up a lot, didn’t he?”

  20. Maybe this belongs in the thread about songs one likes that not many others do, but I like Soho’s “Hippie Chick” just as much as “How Soon Is Now.”

  21. Like you, John, I positively loathed this song when it first came out.

    Unlike you, I still do.

    If this ends up being an earworm situation, there will be retribution. Just a heads-up.

  22. One of my favorite tracks ever. Strangely enough, I never really found the Smiths depressing. The vibe I got was more of “Damn, life under Thatcher SUCKS.”

    (But that’s because my view of English music in the 80’s was all about either hating Thatcher or wanting to forget how Thatcher screwed everyone but the upper classes over.)

    Now Joy Division, they were depressing.

  23. What I love about “How Soon is Now” is the bit near the end where Johnny Marr whistles jauntily. That’s such a great contrast to Morrissey’s morosity.

    It’s also the song that teaches us that Morrissey is human and he needs to yodel.

    But I believe it was Robert Smith who said, “I eat meat because Morrissey doesn’t want me to.”

  24. I always liked this song, although I think Sheila Take a Bow may be my favorite Smiths song. What can I say, I first heard the vinyl album at a friend’s house junior year of high school, mid 1980s. I was the right age for it.

  25. Here’s my favorite Morrissey.

    I’ve always found that type of music to be so exaggeratedly depressing that when I’m depressed, it makes me realize I’m being overly mopey and should snap out of it. (yes I know you don’t “snap out of” clinical depression, that’s not what I mean.)

  26. Don’t emo kids STILL listen to The Smiths? I started high school in ’96 and the emo kids I knew listened to The Smiths and Bauhaus and Depeche Mode and whatever the hell they could find. I mean, emo kids not listening to The Smiths would be like classical music students not listening to Mozart: it just doesn’t make sense.

  27. My favorite Morrissey song is “Tomorrow.”

    Funny you should post this, I just recently bought a best of the smiths album and some morrissey songs recently.. prompted by a comment in the comments section of one of your posts. lol.

  28. Whenever I am feeling down, the question I ask myself is “Am I sadder than Morrissey?”. If the answer is “yes” (it usually isn’t), I know it is time to seek professional help. Thank you Morrissey for being my Sadness Barometer!

  29. Iain@6: I’m a huge fan of First Wave on Sirius XM – listen to it on our DirecTV all the time when there’s no shows on.

    Yes, they do have a Morrisey/Smiths fixation that borders on the pathological, but they also play plenty of Bauhaus, Joy Division, Cure and the like alongside. It’s easily my favorite music station ever. I’m constantly grabbing the laptop to download something that they’ve reminded me of from my youth.

    I like this song, though the wife has the Charmed version on her iPod, I’m pretty sure. My favorite is the archetypal Smiths song “Every Day is Like Sunday” – man, you don’t get any more Morrisey than that…

  30. Joe @35:

    The kids have no respect nowadays. I graduated HS about that time, and have just gone back to school for a bachelor’s. That means I’m in class with people born in 1987 +/- a year. They don’t know jack shit about music. I blame the hypersegmentation of radio stations, MTV becoming a shill for the Top 40, and iPods (which means they didn’t have to listen to their older siblings/parents music).

    [Do I need to add "get off my lawn"?]

  31. But did anyone else go through the trouble of commemorating the day that they were 20 years, 7 months, and 27 days old?

  32. I can’t really stand Morrisey. Whinging git. In fact I find it very hard to write a sentence that has his name in it without including at least one expletive.

    I’ve always wanted to see Him get into a boxing ring with Henry Rollins.

  33. “amusingly miserable bastard” Heh. “one of the ten essential tracks of the 80s” Really? That’s pretty high praise. I liked it then and I still like it but it wouldn’t make my top ten. Man, the more I think about it the harder it gets to pick just ten songs. I think I would start with Oingo Boingo Ain’t This The Life and Dead Kennedys California Uber Alles. Oh and XTC Dear God.

  34. Rembrant:

    I wouldn’t say it’s one of my personal 10 essential tracks of the 80s; I think it’s so in a general sense (it can be used as representation for a whole chunk of music).

  35. heh, I first heard this song on a 12″ lp that a friend borrowed me. I listened to it over and over for a few days before I figured out I was playing it at the wrong speed. It was playing too slow and was really dark and depressing, but actually sounded like a real song. After I listened to it at the correct speed, all of his stuff seemed kinda cheerful to me. I think it really messed with my perspective of him.

    My favorite is this one;

    or

    or

  36. When I was in high school, I knew a girl who was a psycho Smiths fan. I couldn’t let myself like them until I got to college.

  37. I tried playing this for Resident Teen. It didn’t work.

    So I brought out The Cure.

    I think she is calling Child Protective Services.

  38. I don’t find him that depressing, or The Cure, which are the other “stay home and cut yourself” band of my youth. Many things, including some times very funny, but not particularly depressing, but then I have limited knowledge of his post Smiths existance.

  39. Wow,Kristen,you saw Morrisey at the Genesee?I remember that place as a movie house,and seeing Star wars there at age 7.The best response ever to Morrisey is still the MST3000 skit where they have the “Pop star freshness container” and have Mike play him,singing”I cried.And then I died.And then I cried again.Did I mention that I cried?” As a college radio dj during the late 80’s,It was a law to play the Smiths.I still find it funny his current largest fan demographic is young,straight Hispanic men.

    Trevor,who thinks as far as MST3000 goes, Joel was Dave,and Mike was not evne Sammy Hagar,but Gary Cherone.

  40. Gonna go out on the dork limb and admit that this is actually one of my favorite songs ever– not so much because of M. but because of the *sound* of it.

  41. One good result of this is that Resident Teen now gets the “Bill Nye the Science Guy” segment on physics featuring “Momentissey”.

  42. This is one of those mis-heard lyrics. I always thought “the son and the heir” was ‘the sun and the earth’.

  43. The lyrics may certainly be overblown 80s miserabilist but…

    Just listen to that guitar! It lives, breathes and lends magnificent identity to the song. I think that riff is probably the best thing Johnny Marr ever did, I don’t think he has done anything since which even comes near.

    I still remember the Melody Maker review of that song: “The string’s muted strains conjure wistful signs that bridge the schism between crass sentimentality and callous detachment.” (Of course, in these wikilies days, remembering such beautiful phrasing is rendered worthless.)

  44. Right. Time to clean house around here.

    All you anti-The Smiths and anti-Morrissey people: OUT!

    Oh wait.

    I’m not in *my* blog.

    Damn.

  45. Re: #8
    No Morrissey-listening depressive is drinking wine from a box. I cannot wrap my brain around this.

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