AN IMAGINARY COMPILATION ALBUM : #96 : MORRISSEY

Little bit of a spurt on the ICAs as Badger has sent in one with a request that it be #100 in the series.  Given how much he and his sidekick have contributed to this place over the years then I feel to not concur with his request would be very rude – but with no others in the pipeline it has meant me having to get my finger out.

I thought by now someone out there would have had a go at pulling together an ICA by our favourite miserablist and least favourite political commentator. I’ve thought about a few times but shied away from the challenge involved.  But it’s time to man up.

Now please remember, these aren’t what I consider to be the best 10 Morrissey songs.  It’s simply a go at creating what I think would make a fabulous and consistent LP.

And while I’m here, I’d like to dedicate this post to Robert, Hugh, Carlo and everyone else who has made  Strangeways one of the best and friendliest club nights going and proving how much fun can be had from dancing the hours away to Moz and The Smiths in the basement of a very good bar in Glasgow.  This coming Friday marks the end of six years of the night in its current format and I want to wish all concerned the very best.

Side One

Now My Heart Is Full from Vauxhall and I (1994)

Nowadays, I get angry and embarrassed by much of what Morrissey says in public, particular when he muses on what he believes has gone wrong with society in the UK and that certain right-wing ideas seem to be the best fix, and in all honesty it is becoming increasingly difficult to enjoy the music in the way I used to. And then I play this. And just about everything is forgiven.

Glamorous Glue from Your Arsenal (1992)

The most perfect tribute, musically, to the era when Bowie, Bolan and The Sweet dominated the UK singles charts in the early-mid 70s. No surprise given that Mick Ronson was on production duties.

The Last Of The International Playboys single (1989)

Just about the nearest thing we ever got to a Smiths single post break-up with Andy Rourke, Mike Joyce and Craig Gannon all playing on this wonderful ode celebrating an 80s Billy Liar.

Ganglord b-side to The Youngest Was The Most Loved single (2006)

As with just about all other artistes whose career spans such an extended period, there will be exceptional songs which, for some inexplicable reason, were thrown away as b-sides. This one was even more bizarre in that it wasn’t the b-side to the 7″ vinyl nor was it on the more promoted CD1 of the second single lifted from Ringleaders of The Tormentors but was only on CD2 where it was accompanied by a more than passable cover of A Song From Under The Floorboards.

Worth mentioning in passing that co-writer Alan Whyte, who achieved more than 80 writing credits with Morrissey between 1992-2008, has enjoyed continued success at the pop-end of the market with hits for Madonna, Black Eyed Peas, Cheryl Cole and Chris Brown among others.

Late Night, Maudlin Street from Viva Hate (1988)

With its tale of adolescent humorous self-pity this is something of a precursor for the autobiography that would hit the shelves in 2013.  It is interesting to listen to how much Moz’s voice has changed over the years  – it’s gotten deeper and the range of his youth is no longer here – and there’s no doubt in my mind that he’d ever be capable delivering a vocal this fragile and haunting nowadays. One of the few songs from the solo canon that would not have been out-of-place on any record by his former band.

Side Two

Irish Blood, English Heart from You Are The Quarry (2004)

Seven years absence from the recording studio was always going to make the eventual comeback LP seem very special.  Much of You Are The Quarry hasn’t dated too well and its initial fawning reception is evidence that many fans, myself included, failed to cast a proper critical look at things.  Having said that, the comeback single remains a belter thanks to a hard-hitting tune and ridiculously catchy sing-a-long chorus.

Why Don’t You Find Out For Yourself from Vauxhall and I (1994)

Another, thanks to the tune, that could date from the very beginning of the career when Johnny Marr was riding side-saddle with him.  One of the many highlights from what, I think most fans consider, is the best album of his career.

November Spawned A Monster single (1990)

Few, if any, would have dared to write a lyric which challenged people to think about how they looked, and by that I mean literally look, at people with severe disabilities.  Not only that, but have it set to a disturbingly uneven but somehow catchy tune in the middle of which you invite a guest vocalist to come in and basically make the sounds she imagined would come from the delivery of a difficult and painful birth.

Quite simply, one of the most astonishing records ever made by anyone.

Girl Least Likely To b-side to November Spawned A Monster single (1990)

If the subject matter of the single was too much for you, then, if you had the 12″ vinyl or CD version you could always listen and dance instead to another of the lost gems from the solo career.  There’s some who argue that the lyric is completely autobiographical and has Moz hinting at his hidden sexuality although he himself has said it was written about a particular female friend whose ambition to succeed was insatiable.

Speedway from Vauxhall and I (1994)

It’s a very fine finish to a very fine album.  Just seems appropriate to close this ICA in a similar vein. In my own strange way, I’ll always stay true to you dear readers.

So many songs that I wanted to include have been left off.

Only one thing for it – Volume 2 will be coming your way tomorrow.

Look on the bright side, that’s a day nearer you getting to read Badger’s latest tome.

 

14 thoughts on “AN IMAGINARY COMPILATION ALBUM : #96 : MORRISSEY

  1. Excellent compilation. I’d buy it. But then I’d buy anything with the Mozfather’s name on.

    About 18 months ago, I submitted an ICA for Morrissey, and it’s interesting to compare. Here’s what I wrote back then:

    I thought long and hard about attempting this, not least because there’s a good argument for the perfect Mozzer album being a hybrid of Your Arsenal and Vauxhall and I, ignoring everything else. But anyway, here goes… Choose just ten Morrissey tracks, you say? Ten! As a self-confessed blinkered Moz obsessive, how could I even get close to just ten? Well, like this: by being harsh, by being hyper-critical, by forcing myself to represent his entire solo career rather than just his early burglary years, by ignoring other measures of success like chart placings and popular opinion… Still my shortlist had 20 tracks on, and that’s pretty good actually, seeing as Morrissey has released ten original studio albums since 1988, not to mention countless B-sides of enviable quality. Still, 20 is not ten, is it… so I basically chose half the list and thought of a cheat’s compromise for the rest, more of which later.

    Side 1.
    1. Suedehead

    Has to be track one, side one. Thinking back, it’s hard to imagine how important this song was, proving to the fans, the music press and (possibly) even himself that there could be life for Morrissey after Marr. And as his recent show at the O2 proved, this still shines live. Suedehead narrowly pips Everyday Is Like Sunday for the honour of opening the compilation, which is a shame but there simply isn’t room for both.

    2. Sister, I’m A Poet

    I can address the omission of EDILS by the inclusion of one of its B-sides, possible Morrissey’s finest B-side in fact. Lyrically rich, even by his standards, it sees Steven progress from the cemetry (sic) gates to those of the prison, wondering aloud whether evil is something you are or something you do?

    3. Tomorrow

    Notable for a video in which Steven’s rockabilly band follow him around looking for all the world like they’re gearing up to mug him, Tomorrow is an up-tempo slice of guitar jangle, over which Morrissey’s exhorts you to put your arms around him.

    4. Now My Heart Is Full

    Time to slow things down a bit, with this Brighton-Rock referencing track. Poor old Mozzer – “Tell all of my friends (I don’t have too many)”. This song sounds wonderful, elegiac even, anywhere, as evidenced by the shop assistant playing it in my local Championship football club’s shop on a quiet weekday, and making me stop to listen.

    5. Speedway

    Many fans opt for this when pressed to name their absolute favourite Morrissey solo track, and it’s easy to see why. From the chainsaws on, this track builds and builds into something valedictory – not an excuse but a reason, if you will. All of the rumours keeping him grounded? Wouldn’t you know, it turns out they were completely unfounded.

    Side 2.
    6. Boxers

    Morrissey is famously introspective in his lyrics, but when he looks outwards he writes great stories, as evidenced here. His fascination with boxing is laid over a Smithsonian guitar line, combining to create something very singable. Put it on in the car and turn the volume up, see what I mean. And losing in front of your home crowd? An excellent metaphor.

    7. Irish Blood, English Heart

    The standout track, for me, from the great man’s first comeback, 2004’s You Are The Quarry. A personal lyric and a rocking, stomping tune. I don’t feel Alain Whyte has ever really got the credit he deserves but he retired from the fold soon after this, and I don’t think Moz’s band has ever been quite the same since.

    8. I’m Throwing My Arms Around Paris

    Paris probably wouldn’t be in many people’s Morrissey top tens but this isn’t a chart, it’s a compilation, and it’s important to highlight that Morrissey can be a crooner when he wants. This track ably demonstrates that – singing along makes you want to throw back your head, open your arms and belt this out. Another late-period classic (as long as you can put Harry Hill’s TV Burp version out of your mind).

    9. I’m Not A Man

    The outstanding offering from the ill-fated dalliance with Harvest Records, this is a paean to non-conformity, to not adhering to the macho stereotype, and as such will speak volumes to a good proportion of his fan-base, myself included. Thematically, it’s not a million miles away from Sting’s Englishman In New York (“Takes more than combat gear to make a man”), though Mozzer would undoubtedly shudder at the comparison. Thematically similar, but an order of magnitude superior.

    10. Disappointed

    Once a live staple, how could the compilation not conclude with Morrisey’s ode to failure. This is the last song I will ever sing, croons Morrissey. Hooray! No, I’ve changed my mind again. Ohhh! Good night and thank you, indeed.

    So what of the other tracks? Well, Morrissey may have released ten studio albums, but he’s also been the subject of countless compilations, re-masters, live albums, and so on. So in his own words, I’ll have to subject Steven to a bit of “re-issue, repackage, repackage” – my compilation will also be released (at a cost premium, naturally) as a 2-disc special edition, the second half of which will include the rest of my shortlist, as follows:

    11. The Last Of The Famous International Playboys
    12. Girl Least Likely To
    13. We’ll Let You Know
    14. Jack The Ripper (live)
    15. There’s A Place In Hell For Me And My Friends (original piano version)
    16. The More You Ignore Me The Closer I Get
    17. My Love Life
    18. Hold Onto your Friends
    19. I Know It’s Gonna Happen Someday
    20. Trouble Loves Me

    Ask me again tomorrow and you might get a completely different compilation but for now, that’s it. How did I do?

  2. Hi Martin

    With huge apologies if you sent this over and it wasn’t used – I can only assume that for whatever reason the e-mail went into junk/spam as I don’t recall seeing it. I’ve never turned down any ICA offerings from anyone.

  3. Hey, no problem at all. I guessed either that had happened, or that you were inundated, or that it was too soon after the Smiths ICA. No problem whatsoever. Am glad to have the opportunity to trawl it out from my sent items and post it here!

  4. As I said above….sorry!! Relieved to see that you’re being so understanding. Yours would have been an outstanding contribution.

    An awful lot of what you said 18 months ago has, unsurprisingly, been repeated in my own offerings of today and tomorrow.

  5. A post (and comment from Martin) that epitomises why the ICA series is such a marvellous and infectious feature. My own 10 Mozza tracks would probably overlap only slightly with the titles on offer here, though that doesn’t detract one iota from my enjoyment of the arguments offered and tunes selected. Fantastic stuff JC – and special thanks for introducing me to ‘Ganglord’, a song that had somehow passed me by completely. Looking forward to Volume 2.

  6. Thanks. Great post. My suggestion is to do an ICA Johnny Marr’s solo career. I could watch you guys work all day.

  7. Well said, The Swede. JC served up a Smiths ICA as “the first of what will be a very occasional series in which I take one of my favourite bands or singers and list what I think would make the idea ‘Best of’ album with a few words on why.” This “very occasional” series is zeroing in on 100 entries and is hands down the best feature on any music blog anywhere. Today’s is great, Martin’s is also great, and no doubt the next one will be great as well.

  8. Very kind words Jonny and appreciated.

    There’s some ridiculously good regular features out there – yours and Echorich’s musings on NYC, the WYCRA 200 songs and Drew’s long-running ‘It’s Friday…Let’s Dance’ series among them, and a special mention to The Robster who has done so many great on-going features such as those on Welsh music, Albums to take to the Grave and his current on-going World Tour.

    I am proud of this feature getting close to #100, particularly as it has attracted so many high quality and diverse guest postings.

  9. A Johnny Marr one is a good idea. I’ve probably covered the 10 songs individually over the last few years at my place. And there’s one coming up tomorrow.

  10. JC, you are a brave man and you came through with flying colors! And the same has to be said for Martin. I have been a bit shy about my Morrissey ICA, knowing it will certainly engender a scoff here and a “no way” there…but I’m a big boy, so here is what would be included on my Morrissey ICA

    1.Neal Cassidy Drops Dead
    2.Disappointed
    3.Christian Dior
    4.Satan Rejected My Soul
    5.Alsatian Cousin
    6.Munich Air Disaster 1958
    7.Dagenham Dave
    8.I’m Throwing My Arms Around Paris
    9.If You Don’t Like Me, Don’t Look At Me
    10. Sweetie Pie (Alt. Version)

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