It’s not that long ago that Morrissey was regarded by quite a few rock critics as yesterday’s man. None of the four singles released in 1991 had sold well, while even the most loyal of fans (outwith the hardcore who argue that he’s never ever recorded a duff song) were beginning to have some doubts after the release of the very patchy LP Kill Uncle.
However, the LP he released in 1992, Your Arsenal, is the one that many rock critics now say is his strongest ever collection of songs, so you’d imagine that his procession through that particular calendar year was triumphal.
Well, you can think again.
The first two singles taken from Your Arsenal hit the shops before the album was released. In the pre-internet days, it was much more difficult to pick up any tracks before the vinyl or CD was available for purchase. And the critics had a bit of field day with both singles. For instance, Andrew Collins of the NME, a man who I have long regarded as having better taste than most, said this:-
“This is by far and away the ex-Smith’s worst single – it’s the sound of five men bashing around in the darkness in search of a tune. Moz is history, and we’d all do well to learn it.”
Words that were penned this in April 1992 when reviewing this:-
mp3 : Morrissey – We Hate It When Our Friends Become Successful
As it happens, I disagree somewhat with Mr Collins this time, for Morrissey had released a few singles in the previous four years which were considerably worse than this (and indeed, he would record some more stinkers in the following years). But I wont argue against his description of it being the sound of five men bashing around in search of a tune…..
Thankfully, We Hate It…. was in fact one of the weaker songs on Your Arsenal which finally came out some 3 months later at the end of July 1992. It remains a strange choice for a lead-single, and I’m guessing that the main reason it was selected ahead of more obvious candidates is down to its title.
Is Morrissey singing about his relationship with the music press, or is it in fact his attack on Madchester, and in particular his view that his one-time beloved James had, to many, sold out and gone stadium rock? Either way, it doesn’t disguise that this was something that had a better title than tune….
The other thing that I remember being concerned about was the fact that the single didn’t have any new stuff to offer on the b-sides of the CD and 12″ single, instead giving us just some tracks recorded live in London in October 1991. Now I know that’s a trick pulled by just about every recording artist who has ever signed a contract, but at the time, it made me fear that 1992 Morrissey was going to be a huge disappointment.
mp3 : Morrissey – Suedehead (live)
mp3 : Morrissey – I’ve Changed My Plea To Guilty (live)
mp3 : Morrissey – Alsatian Cousin (live)
mp3 : Morrissey – Pregnant For The Last Time (live)
The rather limp guitar playing on Suedehead makes you realise just how great a job Vini Reilly had done on the original…..but the single did reach #17 in the UK charts, and was his first single in five releases to reach the Top 20.
Oh and of all the covers ever used on Morrissey singles and albums, this is probably my favourite cos it’s a dead ringer for my mate Rod…..
It was taken backstage by Linder Sterling just before a gig in Santa Monica, California on the Kill Uncle tour.
Oh and it’s worth mentioning that around the same time, Moz pulled out of a headline slot at Glastonbury and was replaced by none other than James who, totally toungue-in-cheek, opened the show with a plodding number:-
mp3 : James – We Hate It When Our Friends Become Successful (live)