DEAR READERS, CAN YOU HELP ME OUT?

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dilemma : noun
a situation in which a difficult choice has to be made between two or more alternatives, especially ones that are equally undesirable.

As I said yesterday, I got thinking a while back that, once the calendar turned over into 2023, I could have some fun out of creating a new series for the blog, turning the clock back 40 years to look at some of the great music that was released in 1983, perhaps throwing in a few stories/recollections/memories of the era. And judging from the responses to the Wah!/Echo and The Bunnymen offerings, it’s a series that would be popular.

My dilemma is that it feels it would be almost impossible to look at 1983 without considering The Smiths, a band who, other than one instrumental song, haven’t featured on TVV in more than five years.

The reason for all this doesn’t have to be over-analysed today.  I abhor the views that have been increasingly aired by Morrissey, and it goes beyond not posting stuff on the blog as I’ve not played any of his solo records, or those from his former band, for what feels like an eternity.

The thing is, I really miss The Smiths records.  They were a huge part of my life back in 1983 and over the next few years.  It is fair to say that I placed a lot of faith in the band, arguing long and hard into many a small hour about their merits and greatness.  I invested greatly into things (but never to the extent of going vegetarian!), and defended Morrissey to the hilt when many of the controversies emerged, including when some of the solo songs hit raw nerves.

Jez, over at A History of Dubious Taste, penned this, interesting article on Morrissey last October which I read at the time when I was pondering a potential series on 1983.   He posed the question….

“So what to do? Do we deny our experience and love of The Smiths on the basis of what Morrissey patently is, or at best, has become.”

That’s been my position for the past five years.  But I can say, in all honesty, it is making me increasingly miserable now.  Johnny Marr was every bit as important to me when I immersed myself in the band….and to a lesser extent, Andy Rourke and Mike Joyce (and Craig Gannon) also made me very happy thanks to the way they contributed to the songs and the live shows and TV appearances.  It feels increasingly wrong to be cutting them out of the picture on the basis of what one other, admittedly important and high-profile, band member has become.

So, I’m turning to the TVV community for your thoughts, views, opinion and advice. Do I stay on the current path, or do I gently bring The Smiths back in from the cold at an appropriate point in time over the coming months?  It’s not any sort of vote or survey….I’m simply trying to read the room.

Here’s another song from 1983 that has long stayed with me since I first heard it.

mp3: The Special AKA – Racist Friend

As I said, it’s a dilemma.

JC

37 thoughts on “DEAR READERS, CAN YOU HELP ME OUT?

  1. Are you serious? You won’t listen to a song from a band from forty years ago because you have differing opinions from the singer?

  2. Hw about: concentrate on what was expressed in the “songs” at the time. It was a band not just an individual……..People change and not always in a good way!
    There were/are no doubt persons who would not “like” Morrissey for his sexuality let alone other views he may now express.

    (Who voted for Thatcher!!?)

    Cheers
    Stephen

  3. It is difficult. But I support your stance.
    It is slightly different I know but would you listen to the music of Lost Prophets knowing what their singer did or Gary Glitter. My reasons for not listening to them are because I disagree with their opinions and actions. Same goes as it happens for Ryan Adams The Orwells and as I’ve mentioned over at my place today Kanye Wesr.
    It’s disappointing that these rockstars turn out to be dicks. But if you lived next door to Morrissey you’d have nothing to do with him.

  4. If you want to listen to them you should. There’s also the possibility that you won’t be able to enjoy them anymore knowing what you now know about Morrissey. At what point do you stop listening to artists based on how they live their lives? Some of the bands in last year’s (hugely enjoyable) World Cup featured singers/musicians who knowingly slept withunderage girls : are they that different to Glitter? Some of them have history for domestic abuse. The local football team here signed a convicted rapist several years ago; do you make an accommodation or do you walk away with your life that little bit emptier? Will it be that little bit emptier no matter what you do?

  5. If you want to listen to them then maybe you should. It might not be the same. You might be able to enjoy it anymore knowing what you now know about Morrissey. Who do we stop listening to and why? Bands it the recent (hugely enjoyable) World Cup featured singers/musicians who knowingly slept with underage girls – are they so different from Gary Glitter? Others have a history of domestic abuse – is that more acceptable than expressing racist views? We make accommodations in our lives. Should we? Should we walk away to a slightly emptier life? Are we slightly emptier anyway for not walking away?
    I love The Smiths but don’t listen to them anymore. Not because of Morrisey but because it’s (the music) too sad.

  6. While I too abhor the current incarnation of Morrissey, I find it odd that “some monster’s” music gets body swerved by the media completely(Glitter) and others still lauded (Jackson). Featuring M on here only shows you respect his (earlier) work and is not condoning xenophobic or other vile traits. Ultimately, of course, it’s how it sits with you . Personally, I find it hard to listen to the Smiths at all now. So if I had a similar blog would probably not feature them.

  7. This is cancel culture. Disrespect for free speech and opinion. Morrissey hasn’t killed anybody as far as I know.
    What terrible times we are living.

  8. The constant debate if you can distinguish between the artist and the art. It’s difficult, and I admit not always being consistent. So I deleted Kanye from my hard drive, while I still (occasionally) play The Smiths. The latter I justify to myself as they were a band, and the band did not (to my knowledge) express any of the crap Morrissey has later turned to. Then yet again I will never watch a Woody Allen movie again, even if I back in the 80’s thought some of his work was utterly great (in hindsight though you see the pattern quite clearly).
    So, for a series of 1983 I would include The Smiths as they were at the time really important as a band. Not only M as a person, they were important as a band.

  9. morrissey is a prick now, he probably was 40 years ago too. at least with nme/sounds there was a degree of journalistic editorial to control his outbursts…his bilee is no longer reined back.
    my suggestion is Smiths pre 1987 only…. no Morrissey singles

    what hurts musically is the omission of V iva Hate from the above deadline, but Morrissey alone has no place in my life any more

  10. I get your feelings completely – it *is* a dilemma, and I hate what Morrissey is nowadays. However, I think that it can be possible to detach the art from the artist, and The Smiths were a *band* at the end of the day – Marr’s contribution alone was of course massive. I find it hard now to listen to the first album, but there are songs I love and can’t pass over – some of them Marr’s strongest melodies. So if you can detach the music from the person that Morrissey now is then go for it.

  11. I’ve had the same dilemma with Ryan Adams. Haven’t listened or featured him for a number of years but happy to play Whiskeytown.
    Conscious that I have featured others such as James Brown and Van Morrison who some others might not.
    I’m sure we could find faults in most artists and probably ourselves.
    I think it is an individual choice as to where you draw the line
    For what it is worth I wouldn’t feature Morrissey but would have no issue with The Smiths.

  12. The Smiths were a big part of 1983. I think you should consider their inclusion. That would be an accurate account of then – not now.

    Personally, I was done with the singer in 2017 when statements he released on his own platforms left me in no doubt as to his beliefs. Then, the singer, while refuting any claim of racism, claimed victims of sexual abuse knew what they were letting themselves in for. Frying pan. Fire.

    The achievements of The Smiths other band members deserve to be spoken about without the shadow of the singer’s appalling beliefs. I still can’t listen to The Smiths but hope in time that I might be able to. The singer’s songs? No. They won’t be listened to again.

    As I got older I became tired of conversations that echoed “what Morrissey meant to say is…” It felt, at times, like being part of a Trump conspiracy theory cult.

    Like many others I invested a good deal of myself, as a fan, in the singer. I never thought him a nice person – too self-absorbed but his stance on the rights of animals was significant to me in 1983.

    My only regret as a fan is that it took me so long to see him for what he is.

  13. I guess this an issue I’ll have to grapple with on my blog at some point. So far The Smiths / Morrissey haven’t fitted in to the threads that I’m running right now, so it hasn’t been a concern.

    I do still listen to The Smiths, albeit far less frequently than I used to. For me was mainly Johnny Marr’s input that made them appeal rather than whatever Morrissey happened to be warbling about. I’m quite good at shutting my mind to certain things as a coping strategy, and I guess I’ve done similar when listening to The Smiths in more recent times.

    I think their influence on 1983 certainly merits a mention, but perhaps let the readers find the tunes themselves rather than offering a link.

  14. “Morrissey hasn’t kilked anybody..” yeah but his views have. Don’t care what he sung in the past. He’s ruined that.

  15. I can understand your dilemma, Jim. The Smith meant a lot to me 40 years ago and I grew up with them. But now I can’t listen to those songs without thinking wrong road Morrissey went. For me it is possible to listen to their songs from time to time but in no way featurin an artist with this background on my blog.

  16. Well, I thought you were a bit harsh in the first place. As I said back then: are you blaming a whole band, and the views said band tried to express 40 years ago? Or are you blaming a single person, and the views this person has nowadays?

    You see, if tomorrow’s headline read: “TOPPER HEADON: ‘LAST WEEK I PROUDLY JOINED THE NATIONAL FRONT!!’, would that make me stop listening to The Clash? Would I suddenly start disbelieving in the punk ethos Joe Strummer successfully managed to teach me all those years ago? Would Mick Jones no longer be my guitar hero? Would I stop adoring Paul Simonon’s good looks and the way he always had his bass at the height of his knees?

    No. In fact I would just wonder what a ninny Topper turned out to be. End of the story. And probably I would rather listen to the debut album for a few weeks, the one that was recorded when he wasn’t yet on board. A luxury problem, ‘cos this record is good throughout as well, of course!

    Just my two cents….

  17. wow – this comments section has caught fire….
    Going to make a simplistic suggestion and feel free to ignore.
    The Smiths were 4 people of which 2 people largely wrote the songs. J Marr is still a thoroughly good bloke and deserves any royalties coming his way from Smiths songs. Not got any particular issues with the other 2 members of the band either.
    Once Morrissey was a solo performer the rules of engagement change and his views in the press do too.
    So still dip back into the smiths but not Morrissey’s solo stuff..

  18. First things first. What you put on here is entirely up to you, so ignore any nonsense about “cancel culture”.
    I don’t listen to The Smiths much these days because I find the lyrics very much of their time, ie the sort of exaggerated juvenile self-dramatisation that appealed to the 19 year-old me, but now seems a little laughable. The music of course remains powerfully beautiful. That ’84 gig at Coasters was undeniably unforgettable.
    As for Morrissey’s views and political affiliations, they are of course abhorrent to someone like me who embraced early 80s left-liberal orthodoxies and hasn’t found anything better since. That said, I don’t think those views are overt in the work. Even a song like National Front Disco seems more like an empathetic depiction of a marginalised and unhappy lad looking for acceptance in the wrong places rather than a rousing endorsement of the far right.
    Additionally I think we have to find some discrete gap between art and artist. Eliot, cummings and Larkin are great 20th-century poets but also variously racist and anti-Semitic. In popular music, flirting with the imagery, style and violence of the far-right has been popular with artists from Bowie to Joy Division. As far as I know Morrissey has not donned a swastika or sung “too many Jews for my liking” like his old pal Siouxsie.
    I remember the judge in the Smiths court case suggesting Morrissey was not very intelligent. I think that analysis was on the money. He is hardly alone in being seduced by the lies of the far-right. Voting patterns in England and the USA (France, Italy, Spain also) suggest that constituency runs into the many millions. It is obviously depressing that the disease of far-right populism infected one of people who meant so much to our younger selves.

  19. No need to 86 the Smiths. They were a great band. At the beginning, Morrissey did a lot of good for young folks coming to terms with their sexuality and social disenfranchisement. He wouldn’t go on to be a complete dickhead until after the band split. If I’m honest I don’t like either Morrissey’s or Marr’s solo work, so I don’t listen to them anyway. But I’m okay with the Smiths because Morrissey was not only unobjectionable, but was in fact a positive personality during their time. It’s really disappointing that he became such an offensive asshole in later life. That’s a good reason not to pay attention to what he’s doing now, but not one that impacts my impressions of what he was doing 40 years ago.

  20. I was never really that much of a fan of The Smiths – 3 singles bought during a period of intense record buying. As such, I can hear their music without any of the pangs that fans will feel. It also means that I have only known of Morrissey’s recent proclamations through reports.
    As far as your own listening goes, as @winterinmaypark says, try it and find out whether the joy of the memories and music remains regardless of the baggage.
    As for posting on here: I think the overwhelming majority of people are aware that discussing a person and their work does not equate to supporting everything about that person. Hell, My wife and I still regale each other with lines from “Hello, I’m Back Again” when we return from a trip out. Neither of us believes rhe other to be an apologist for paedophilia.
    As @Flimflamfan states, the band were hugely relevant to 1983 and a big part of many people’s lives. To discussthe huge range of music without referencing them would be to do a disservice to the other members of the band and the history of “indie” music.
    Finally, It’s your blog. Do wht feels right. You’ll have the support of most (all?) of us. And those who can’t see beyond the blogger and the artist…

  21. Is it the art or the artist? I have all my singles from my 72 to 75 Inc Glitter but I’ve not felt like putting them on my mix tapes. Yet I would often hear his rock n roll single played in packed stadiums in the USA to people who have no idea of his infamy, just enjoy a great song.

    Of course I have Quatro, Slade, Sweet, TRex and Mud so who needs him.

    Only one Michael Jackson though, and only one Smiths and the music is so great that I can’t help but still love it and still listen.

    The Spector Christmas LP is still great, those artists still deserve a listen forever.

    We can be disgusted by individuals, but the works should be enjoyed based on their own merits.

    If the music is meaningful for you, adds joy, gets you dancing then go gor it.

    I find I do go off those found guilty by Law, those who are judged in the media, I usually still still keep on following if I like their stuff.

  22. Reading the latest post on Plain or Pan, which argues that Meat is Murder is the best Smiths album really put me in the mood to hear the competition again and maybe blogging myself on the band.

    Personally I certainly have featured more objectionable acts than Morrissey in the past and will likely do so in the future.

  23. I’m writing my comment before reading the remainder of this thread:

    Morrissey has been persona non grata in my life for a long while now.A man that I adored and admired, let me down in the most terrible ways possible.

    I will not play (and will never again play) any of his solo music. I have drawn a line under his solo musical existence.

    However, The Smiths featured the work of three other wonderful musicians (four including Craig Gannon) and I do not feel that it is right to deny the existence of their very fine work.

    I loved The Smiths and saw them play live several times. Why should I deny myself the glorious Mike Joyce drum intro to Sheila Take A Bow (live) or the mesmeric guitar work of Johnny Marr on How Soon Is Now? Or indeed the superb bass playing of Andy Rourke on Barbarism Begins At Home (particularly the version played live on The Tube.)

    Let your conscience be free when playing The Smiths but do not ever give credence to the solo work of SP Morrissey.

  24. I don’t really have anything new to add to the mostly excellent comments above. The Smiths were of their time, naturally, and M spoke to me and millions of disaffected, isolated, awkward others about what was important, to us, back then. I still listen to, and enjoy, their collective music when I’m feeling in a nostalgic mood. Whether he had his vile views back then and just suppressed them, or only came to them recently, I don’t think is really relevant. Personally I have to separate the art & the artist, and in the 80s The Smiths were huge in my world, and remain prominent in my 80s-themed playlists. Like others I can’t specifically listen to M any more (although his first couple of Smiths-lite solo releases had some good tunes on them).
    We’ve all been burnt too many times by artists we put on a pedestal, who turn out to be all too human with their own flaws, some of which end up being inexcusable. Does that mean we can’t enjoy their prior art any more? I think we can.

  25. If I may, I would suggest a listen here;

    It sums it up well. I think we reduce ourselves if we allow the evil a person has done to overshadow the good.

    If you’ve ever gone to a class reunion, there are two primary experiences you have on meeting an old classmate…that they haven’t changed at all, or that they’ve changed a lot. I tend to see Morrissey as the latter. As the Simpson’s episode from a year or so back that parodied Morrissey seemed to be saying…you can still love the person from the past, even if you hate the person of the present, because they are not the same person. 40 years of experiences has changed them, it isn’t productive to hate the 20 year old them that hasn’t done those bad things, yet. I mean, if you had a time machine, would you go back and kill baby Hitler? It’s a baby, there’s really not justification for hating it for something it hasn’t yet done.

    I suppose, if it seems pertinent and you want to hold feet to a fire, if a particular song is showing hints of what was to come, you could point that out to further excoriate Morrissey for what a shite he turned into.

  26. It’s like a bad break up. We might still want to fuck the person we were with but not person they became

    It’s hard. I hear myself singing smiths tunes all the time and when that happens I listen to Kirsty or Samdi’s cover versions. It seems less wrong.

    Once an artist crosses a certain line there’s no going back for me. It doesn’t matter if its a foot across or a mile at speed.

    For example – absurdly no one is saying ‘let’s all take a moment to remember Screwdriver’s first album before they became a white supremacist fuck nuggets

  27. I mean really, I dunno. I agree and disagree with much of what’s above. I agree Johnny’s music deserves to be heard and the man is very much still to be admired today. I agree Morrissey’s outsider status and lyrics helped a lot of people in the 80s come to terms with themselves and where they fitted. I agree he’s become an abomination in terms of his political beliefs- support for Britain First isn’t just like coming out as a Tory, they are/ were far right fascist bellends. I agree that we have to separate art and artist. I agree that Glitter and Jackson get treated differently and I don’t know why some people give Jackson a free pass. I agree that Morrissey solo songs seems to be past the point of no return. I disagree that not featuring Morrissey is ‘cancel culture’ . I think cancel culture is largely a right wing notion used to stoke culture wars. So, in the end, I dunno.

    I think you can’t do 1983 without The Smiths.

  28. Morrissey has said he no longer listens to The Smiths. This could be an argument for featuring them.

    I still like their music. And “Chinatown” is still one of my favourite movies. I wish I could see into the future.

  29. The Smiths soundtracked a generation so of course you should listen, I don’t really listen to “celebrity” opinions, they don’t live in our world and have no clue about it.

    If it’s political opinions we’re talking about then just listen to the Smiths lyrics describing a country we all felt ashamed of. The Morrissey of 2023 is irrelevant I feel.

  30. Try it and see.
    If you can just hear the music, then go with it.
    If (as I suspect) you can’t hear it without cringing, then don’t.

  31. Late to the game here, but for whatever it may be worth—
    We all, at times, wrestle with demons. Sometimes the demons win. But sometimes we vanquish them, even if it’s only for the moment, or for the amount of time it takes to create a beautiful work of art. This is how I look at it: amazing songs, beautiful paintings, hilarious stand-up acts, emotionally moving films—these represent the creators at their best, when they surmounted the evil we all face daily, and which sadly they may eventually embrace and succumb to afterward. A song doesn’t stop being great because the writer or the singer later loses sight of what’s good and true.

  32. It’s been fascinating to read your post and the comments that it inspired. The only things that I can add that haven’t been said above are that, whilst I will have – and will – feature The Smiths on my blog, it will be generally be in the context of a mixtape or a similar ’80s-themed post and not specifically about the band themselves. When they are featured, there will be minimal if any reference to the front person and certainly not in glowing or rose-tinted terms.

    Relatively little of Mozza’s solo work will feature for the simple reason that I thought most of it was pretty sub-standard from the off. Suedehead or the remix by Sparks, maybe the duet with Siouxsie, might get a look in sometime. Same terms as above.

    Lastly, I bought all of The Smiths music that I needed at the time and I won’t be buying any reissues, remasters or regurgitated solo material, so SPM or whichever label chooses to release music he has been involved in past or present, will not profit from my music purchases.

  33. I’m a bit like you. I do still dip in and out of The Smiths but only for short bursts – What Difference Does It Make remains unequivocal genius – but tbh when I attempt an extended listen I find myself getting turned off by certain lyrical lines, or just the relentless self absorption. You should be free to do as you please though, and I’ll certainly be with you.

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