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 Comments 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. hiddenfalcon – I'm a mom who wants to be authentic and present for her kids. I'm a concerned citizen who wants to create peace within her internal and external worlds. I'm a friend who wants to create intentional connection. I'm one voice in a sea of other voices, murmuring quiet songs to myself and to anyone else who would like to listen.
    Christi

    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. 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.”

  19. 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.

  20. 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.

  21. Jim Graves – Privacy lawyer and data security nerd. I’m interested in the ways that technology affects privacy and civil liberties. I’m also a bit of a language nerd.
    jtgraves

    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.”

  22. 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.

  23. 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.

  24. 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.

  25. 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!

  26. 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…

  27. 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”?]

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

  29. 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.

  30. changterhune – Before you hear lies from Chang Terhune himself, we thought we’d tell you the truth: without us, his old action figures, he’d be nowhere. He loved science fiction from way back and began reading it at an early age, but it was through us that he acted it all out. That’s what led to the writing. He watched a lot of science fiction shows like Star Trek, U.F.O, and movies, too. But we were always there to do his bidding. And it’s like they say: you always forget about the little people on your way up. Oh, the 70’s and early 80’s with him were good times! He’d use these blocks and make all the crazy buildings for us to be in his stories. I gotta say the kid’s imagination was pretty damn fertile. Oh, he had friends, but they just weren’t into it like him. He was like the Lance Armstrong of action figures. And of science fiction. At first, when he began writing in the eighth grade, we didn’t mind. He still made time for us. And we knew that when he was holding us in his sweaty little hands and he got that far off look in his eye, he’d come back to burying us in the back yard or - god forbid! – blowing us up with firecrackers. But it was worth it for a part in one of those stories. We loved him for it. He kept us around even when we were minus a leg or two - or even a head. In that mind of his, he found a use for all of us. Then he discovered girls. October, 1986. It was like the end of the world. One day we’re standing in the middle of this building block creation he’d pretended was some marble city on a planet near Alpha Centauri and the next we were stuck in a box in the closet. Not even a “See ya later!” Nope, it was into the closet, then we heard some high-pitched girly-giggles then silence. We didn’t see him for years. We got word about him once in a while. Heard he took up writing, but it was crap like “The Breakfast Club” only with better music. We couldn’t believe it. Not Charlie. What happened to those aliens with heads he’d sculpted out of wax? Spaceships? Those complex plots? All gone. For what? You guessed it: Girls. Emotions. “Serious fiction.” I tell you, it was like hearing Elvis had left the building. During our two decade exile in the closet, we heard other things about him. He went to college. He wrote a lot, but not much he really liked. We knew it even then. It was like he didn’t dare write science fiction. Some of us had lost hope and just lay there. Others kept vigil, hoping for a day we didn’t dare speak about. Then we heard he’d stopped writing in 1996. Did he come to reclaim us? No. He took up music for ten years or so. He took up yoga. Once in a while, he’d visit us in the closet. But it was half-hearted. His mind was elsewhere. Then one day, he really did come back for us. One second we’re in the dark and the next thing we know we’re in a car headed for Massachusetts. Suddenly we got a whole shelf to ourselves out in broad daylight! Then he bought a bunch of others form some planet called Ebay. He’d just sit and stare at us with that old look. But why were we suddenly back in the picture? He had a wife now, who didn’t mind that he played with us. So what had happened? Turns out he’d never forgotten about those stories. He’d been thinking about all of us and the stories he’d made up and then remembered he’d been a writer once. From the shelf we could see him typing away. Before long he’s got a whole novel together! Then he’s working on another one. Word is there are two more in the planning stages! Some short stories, too! It’s good to see him using his imagination again. Its good to know he never abandoned us. He returned to his true love of science fiction. We hear the stories are pretty good. Someday we’ll get one of the cats to score us a copy of the manuscript. Man, it’s good to be out of the damn closet! --- I'm smarter than you I'm harder than you I'm better than you I'm just raw I'm hotter than you More popular than you More clever than you And goshdarn it, people like me I'm smarter than you I'm harder than you I'm better than you I'm just raw I'm hotter than you More popular than you More clever than you And goshdarn it, people like me
    Chang

    This song rules. I go back and forth about Mo’ but this song, Johnny Marr’s guitar playing, rules.

  31. changterhune – Before you hear lies from Chang Terhune himself, we thought we’d tell you the truth: without us, his old action figures, he’d be nowhere. He loved science fiction from way back and began reading it at an early age, but it was through us that he acted it all out. That’s what led to the writing. He watched a lot of science fiction shows like Star Trek, U.F.O, and movies, too. But we were always there to do his bidding. And it’s like they say: you always forget about the little people on your way up. Oh, the 70’s and early 80’s with him were good times! He’d use these blocks and make all the crazy buildings for us to be in his stories. I gotta say the kid’s imagination was pretty damn fertile. Oh, he had friends, but they just weren’t into it like him. He was like the Lance Armstrong of action figures. And of science fiction. At first, when he began writing in the eighth grade, we didn’t mind. He still made time for us. And we knew that when he was holding us in his sweaty little hands and he got that far off look in his eye, he’d come back to burying us in the back yard or - god forbid! – blowing us up with firecrackers. But it was worth it for a part in one of those stories. We loved him for it. He kept us around even when we were minus a leg or two - or even a head. In that mind of his, he found a use for all of us. Then he discovered girls. October, 1986. It was like the end of the world. One day we’re standing in the middle of this building block creation he’d pretended was some marble city on a planet near Alpha Centauri and the next we were stuck in a box in the closet. Not even a “See ya later!” Nope, it was into the closet, then we heard some high-pitched girly-giggles then silence. We didn’t see him for years. We got word about him once in a while. Heard he took up writing, but it was crap like “The Breakfast Club” only with better music. We couldn’t believe it. Not Charlie. What happened to those aliens with heads he’d sculpted out of wax? Spaceships? Those complex plots? All gone. For what? You guessed it: Girls. Emotions. “Serious fiction.” I tell you, it was like hearing Elvis had left the building. During our two decade exile in the closet, we heard other things about him. He went to college. He wrote a lot, but not much he really liked. We knew it even then. It was like he didn’t dare write science fiction. Some of us had lost hope and just lay there. Others kept vigil, hoping for a day we didn’t dare speak about. Then we heard he’d stopped writing in 1996. Did he come to reclaim us? No. He took up music for ten years or so. He took up yoga. Once in a while, he’d visit us in the closet. But it was half-hearted. His mind was elsewhere. Then one day, he really did come back for us. One second we’re in the dark and the next thing we know we’re in a car headed for Massachusetts. Suddenly we got a whole shelf to ourselves out in broad daylight! Then he bought a bunch of others form some planet called Ebay. He’d just sit and stare at us with that old look. But why were we suddenly back in the picture? He had a wife now, who didn’t mind that he played with us. So what had happened? Turns out he’d never forgotten about those stories. He’d been thinking about all of us and the stories he’d made up and then remembered he’d been a writer once. From the shelf we could see him typing away. Before long he’s got a whole novel together! Then he’s working on another one. Word is there are two more in the planning stages! Some short stories, too! It’s good to see him using his imagination again. Its good to know he never abandoned us. He returned to his true love of science fiction. We hear the stories are pretty good. Someday we’ll get one of the cats to score us a copy of the manuscript. Man, it’s good to be out of the damn closet! --- I'm smarter than you I'm harder than you I'm better than you I'm just raw I'm hotter than you More popular than you More clever than you And goshdarn it, people like me I'm smarter than you I'm harder than you I'm better than you I'm just raw I'm hotter than you More popular than you More clever than you And goshdarn it, people like me
    Chang

    It was Emo for us back in the day.

  32. “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.

  33. 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).

  34. 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;

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2tdF6ziim7E
    or
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BVfU-UsVOh0
    or

  35. Ah… I love this song. Adore it even. I can listen to Johnny Marr’s guitar over and over.

    Which is why I never particularly liked Morrisey’s solo stuff.

  36. 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.

  37. 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.

  38. 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.

  39. 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.

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

  41. 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.)

  42. Brett L @ 40

    Is it wrong that, even though I agreed with you, I pictured you shaking your walker while you said that?

  43. 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.

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