1984:

November-December

Photo of Morrissey by Russell Young. Reproduced without permission.


ALBUM REVIEWS

HATFUL OF HOLLOW - released November 1984

Saucerful of Secret Sweeties

"Would you like to marry me? When Morrissey pops the (metaphorical) question, what can you actually say to the Thin Boy? Pour scorn on his bewitching lines and scoff in the face of his musical eloquence? Or submit and offer to buy the ring?

Before scrawling an answer in black ink across a bared chest, it might pay to heed a tidily-packaged and attractively-priced (16 tracks for £3.99) assortment of singles, B-sides and Radio One sessions. Similar in style to Elvis Costello's vital 'Ten Bloody Marys' compilation, 'Hatful Of Hollow' is a golden hour of The Smiths, spasmodically spanning a period of 18 months from their early John Peel and David Jensen broadcasts up to their most recent single 'William, It Was Really Nothing'.

It is a patchy, erratic affair and often all the better for that. A song like the maudlin epic 'Reel Around the Fountain' that was later fleshed out and cushioned by the softer production on the debut album is included here in raw, less 'pleasant' form; 'Accept Yourself' and 'These Things Take Time' from the Jensen session are thrillingly abrasive; 'Still Ill' and 'Girl Afraid' remind one of a dull, prosaic competence which marked the band's musicianship in their early days; the wistful 'Please Please Please Let Me Get What I Want' and the dense, relatively complex 'How Soon Is Now' illustrate the new heights to which they have recently aspired.

But what difference does it make? The most staggering changes are not in Morrissey's beguiling, ambivalent obsessions, which have remained similar throughout, but in the flowering of Johnny 'Guitar' Marr, that chiming man, into one of the era's truly great instrumentalists. Compare the monosyllabic flatness of his early picking with the cascading mandolins that close 'Please Please Please' and it will be clear just how much he has come on. His role in the band is now worthy of at least equal billing with Morrissey's, a fact acknowledged on the awesome 'How Soon', a track previously only available on the 'William' 12": with the voice buried deep in a clammy, claustrophobic mix, Marr - adriotly supported by the two unsung grafter Smiths - unleashes a barrage of multi-tracked psychedelic rockabilly, his Duane Eddy twang destroyed in an eerie quagmire of quivering guitar noise. Magnificent!

And so to the calculated mystique of Morrissey: the man-child has mastered the knack of giving away absolutely nothing while appearing to be the most frank, disarming, and explicit wordsmith currently working in pop. But, for all their sexual ambivalence and lyrical unorthodoxy, his songs are universal in the vulnerabilities and desires they seek to express. And it is that, as much as Marr's unfettered brilliance, that has given this group the unmistakeable stamp of greatness.

Pride of place here should perhaps go to the track never before available on vinyl, the Peel session version of 'This Night Has Opened My Eyes', a sordid but plaintive tale of a young mother getting rid of an unwanted baby in which Morrissey's vivid observation of the woman's conflicting emotions does nothing to detract from the impact of the gruesome tragedy.

Seeking splendour in simplicity and bringing magnificence out of misery, these charming Smiths are vivid and in their prime."

Adrian Thrills
New Musical Express, November 17, 1984

Reprinted WITHOUT PERMISSION for non-profit use only.

See the original review here


Empty Promises

"The eminently quotable Morrissey said it himself. On the subject of Lloyd Cole, he told Ian Pye: 'Lloyd is a tremendously nice person, much more fascinating than anything he's ever put on vinyl ...'

I've no idea whether Morrissey can be described as 'nice' or not - I'd suspect not - but just switch his name for Lloyd's and you're close to my reaction to The Smiths. In other words, the things which obviously go on in Morrissey's head from dawn til dusk are a damn sight more interesting than Smiths records. I keep waiting for the exception, but so far all I've come up with is "Back to the Old House", an affecting little piece where The Smiths' formulaic modal melodies match neatly with a lyric where, for once, Morrissey isn't trying to be Dorian Gray.

'Old House' makes an appearance on 'Hatful of Hollow' which is something, I suppose. The LP is a collection of Radio 1 sessions The Smiths recorded for John Peel and David Jensen (forgive him, Lord), four sessions in all that, at the last count, have been transmitted 12 times, according to the rather nicely-written biog included here for the benefit of ignorant hacks. In addition, you get 'Heaven Knows I'm Miserable Now' and 'William, It Was Really Nothing' plus B-sides excluding 'Suffer Little Children'. That's caused quite enough fuss already.

For £3.99, it's a generously-filled package, always assuming, of course, you want more Smiths in the first place. I can't for the life of me see why anybody would want to own a copy of 'William, It Was Really Nothing' under any circumstances, especially if they already had a copy of the almost identical 'What Difference Does It Make?' 'Handsome Devil' is another job around the same chord sequence only a little quicker, while 'Hand In Glove' (produced by the band themselves) appears to have a few possibilities which remain stubbornly unexplored.

Perhaps I haven't been quite fair. 'How Soon Is Now' features an ominous mechanical throb which gives The Smiths a sinister quality somewhat removed from their usual Edwardian drawing-room whisper, while 'Reel Around The Fountain' really deserves better than the dull grey mix it receives here. Both it and 'Heaven Knows' recall uncannily the fumbling guitars and fractured melodic musing of the lamented Bronte sisters, another band too clever for their own good.

Perhaps Morrissey should be read and not heard. Time he did the singles again, come to think of it".

Adam Sweeting
Melody Maker, November 17, 1984

Reprinted WITHOUT PERMISSION for non-profit use only.

See the original review here

SEE ALSO: Morrissey, The Journalist


"The Smiths get so much negative criticism - a ridiculous amount, considering that a) they're completely harmless and b) some of their songs really are brilliant. I used to live in the same house as someone who only owned one record - a Smiths single - and that person would play it religiously (and loud!) every morning. Four months later and I'm beginning to understand why. Hatful Of Hollow is a collection of 'different versions' and singles - a kind of 'best of'. In that sense it's probably the best place for any interested people to start exploring the wonderful and frightening world of Morrissey. The secret is don't take it too seriously." (8 out of 10)

Unknown reviewer
Smash Hits

Reprinted WITHOUT PERMISSION for non-profit use only.


"These charming men, while busily recording their Meat Is Murder album, have offered us A Hatful Of Hollow (sic), a collection of singles, B-sides, remixes and Peel sessions. This Hatful is not shallow and by no means is it hollow; rather a worthwhile stopgap, if one is to slight such an effort with so easy a label.

Morrissey cares. Morrissey can't sing. Who cares? Morrissey's voice is unique, clean and appealing. Refreshing lyrics full of wonder, accurate reflections that require the listener to contemplate in order to enjoy the complete meaning. In this situation their statements seem vague, they appear to not be a political band.

Comparisons with the Church are obvious. Johnny Marr's influences ensure this; his guitar should bring respectability back to the instrument after the recent wave of disguised hippy rockers that have abused it terribly. The Edge should take tips - restraint and appropriateness.

Many tracks are nothing short of brilliant. The obvious singles plus 'Still Ill', 'These Things Take Time', 'You've Got Everything Now', to mention not enough. 'Back to the Old House' is a change of scenery, an interesting acoustic piece with just Morrissey and Marr working without their partners in pain and passion. Pleasure with no domes attached. 'How Soon Is Now' - not before time but a backtrack through sound. Here they reach heights and succeed by their sheer simplicity alone, where others - Simple Minds spring to mind - have not, because the Smiths do not distance themselves from their audience.

An aural kaleidoscope is created; Marr's guitar a zig-zag wandering anywhere, but only where he wants it. Andy Rourke is a bass guitarist with warmth. His contribution smooths out the music, will appear just a tad too comfortable but will then add (a touch of) musical spice. And at least Mike Joyce, the drums, knows where he is. Derivative but original; a paradox - the Smiths Are.

The Smiths have distinct quality. From humour to the beautiful in mere lines. "We cannot cling to those old dreams anymore.""

Unknown reviewer
Rip It Up

Reprinted WITHOUT PERMISSION for non-profit use only.


It's a Fair Cap!

"Some would find it difficult to work up much enthusiasm for what is by any other name a ragbag of Radio One session-recorded tracks topped and tailed with their most recent singles, but as the lone voice of dissention amongst Smiths followers at the time of the release of their self-titled album, I couldn't account for the demise of their brittle beauty - captured on those Peel and Jensen patronised recordings - and the rise of a no less rigorous but sadly less vigorous Smiths.

I found it merely churlish that they should leave the sublime 'This Charming Man' off the album and shocking that they should let producer John Porter remix their volcanic debut, 'Hand In Glove', for inclusion.

Instead, I stuck to my tape of the sessions, including the fiendishly good 'Back to the Old House' (since a featured B-side) and 'Accept Yourself' - and marvelled at the cutting clarity of these 'garage' productions that nevertheless allowed the magnificent 'Reel Around the Fountain' to haunt and hurt in a way the 'official' version missed by a mile.

Which is - surprise, surprise - where 'Hatful Of Hollow' comes in. At last gathered together on vinyl where they truly belonged are these very same songs plus the last two singles and B-sides, and it's the perfect stop gap/document depending on your predilection for the Smiths.

Of course, we've learnt to laugh at the more salacious aspects of Morrissey's self-pity and theatrical torture - and become blase in the presence of Marr's lithe melodies - but then who can retain the shock of the new? Suffice to say, few have matched the economy and excitement of the Smiths' patented dynamics.

And I find the liner photo particularly fetching for that very reason: it brings to the fore the maligned but magnificent rhythm section of Joyce and Rourke. Stodgy some say, but revealed in the frills-free (basic?) productions, those drums and bass just keep turning; prodding and pricking the gossamer sheen of Marr's guitar and the lacey skin of Morrissey's vocal.

Thoughtfully priced and luxuriously packaged, 'Hatful Of Hollow' should find a place beside 'The Smiths' in every collection - and then we want to hear those early Troy Tate-produced sessions and any stray collaborations with Sandie Shaw, right?" ****

Bill Black
Sounds, November 17, 1984

Reprinted WITHOUT PERMISSION for non-profit use only.

See the original review here


ARTICLE

This article was originally published in the December 1984 issue of Jamming!

Then, he was just an insecure Mancunian Celibate. Now, his every move thrills thousands

STARRING THE SMITHS DIRECTED BY JONH WILDE SCREENPLAY BY RUSSELL YOUNG

My second date with Morrissey this year. And what a year. In January, there I was, carried away, The Smiths were worth the fuss. I had this dream... The Smiths are not far from life, not just concerned with singing about beauty, sorrow and love but ultimately intent on capturing the first nervous bursts of them all in every three minutes.
Our second date, wondering just where we are. Within the opulent walls of Liverpool's Adelphi Hotel, Morrissey and I munch cucumber sandwiches, sip tea and sigh softly. One year of The Smiths - what a serious world.
Our second date spent looking back - Morrissey eyeing me somewhat suspiciously, debating whether I've come to bury the ghost of The Smiths - in twelve months which has seen them tread the tightrope separating nervous bursts from burlesque.

1984 watched The Smiths edge dramatically away from that pure pop aestheticism (see "This Charming Man") and nearer to a damaging self-parody. If anything, Morrissey was the living proof that intelligence does not breath easily in the pop whirlpool. Even excluding the unqualified embarrassment of the Sandie Shaw saga, The Smiths failed to burst. Their debut LP offered little of the glorious, shimmering brilliance of their previous singles (too self-conscious and clean-cut for its own good). Furthermore, their subsequent releases tottered along a little uncertainly.

Most importantly, Morrissey (now a household pop name) seemed bored with being Morrissey - the effete, ascetic aesthetic, the little charmer, life's burdens resting squarely upon his lonely shoulders. All his obsessions seemed exhausted, all his lifelong misery carefully chronicled. He sat next to Alvin Stardust on Pop Quiz and wriggled uncomfortably, wondering quite what he was doing there. Maybe Morrissey was beginning to long for his solitary room again...

Time for the next cucumber sandwich, time for the first word.

Maybe you've overexposed yourself this year?
All the interviews were becoming completely predictable, because everybody was asking me the same questions. When it appeared in print, it seemed as though I was very boring and that I could only talk about a limited number of things. That wasn't true; it was just that I was answering the same questions. I needed to step back, so I've only done one in the last four months, which for me shows great restraint.
Was it the probing, personal nature of the interview that unsettled you?
Well, I initially gave the impression that I would answer questions on any given subject, regardless of how personal they might be. So, people began to probe into the depths of the old soul, as a matter of complete course. Having to go through it several times a day... it's like staring at your own reflection in the mirror for twenty-four hours in a day - it's quite daunting. It was like constantly being on the psychiatrists couch, people coming in asking, "Well, how ill are you today, how miserable are you now," like I was making a miraculous recovery from some great illness.
Has all that introspective probing given you a better understanding of yourself, in a vague and general sense?
In a very vague and general sense... it's difficult to say. The other night, I went out for the first time in ages and somebody came up to me and said, "Do that funny dance that you do!" I felt completely repellent - as if I was some character off a situation comedy; some stand-up comic with a wooley hat and a tickling-stick. It seems, at times like that, as though everything has got completely out of hand. Certainly, in interviews, nobody asks me about music - only as the spokesman for a generation, which is quite appealing, but quite strangulating also. I'm absolutely responsible, I wouldn't deny that. I admit that it has become difficult to confront these overbearing issues twenty-four hours a day. Obviously, though, I'd never go back.
Last time we met, we were talking of the perfection of "This Charming Man". How do you see The Smiths since then?
I see it in terms of incredible change. We've done a lot of work this year and achieved a great deal, much more than we've been given credit for. It's been a most thrilling year and as four individuals, we are closer than ever. Although everything written in the press has been strong, it has become quite difficult to live with. I've been quite aware for a few months that many journalists were trying to prise Johnny and I apart in some way. We've weathered that and we've weathered the most difficult backlash, which occurred in the beginning of the summer. I feel we're quite impenetrable. For me, almost all the records have been absolutely perfect, but I can't deny that there are some that haven't aged so gracefully - "What Difference Does It Make?" ... I regret the production on that now. But that's the only regret, although I might seem like the kind of person that has many regrets.

I wonder to myself whether, for Morrissey, the pop dream is sweeter than its taste. Besides finding himself horrified at the realities of pop stardom, he's also had to deal with the very personal blows of his two heroes (Terence Stamp and Albert Finney) objecting to being Smiths' cover stars. Besides, the Sandie Shaw collaboration provided enough upsets of its own - the lady finding little good to say about it all. As I suggest this to him, his brow crumples up:
"It depends how heavily you want to probe into things. On the face of it, the Sandie project was a tremendous success. I felt, at that time, that what we were doing was the absolute envy of the entire industry. It was The Smiths, these relative newcomers, and Sandie Shaw at the other extreme. Just the way we came together, the combination was almost perfect; it had virtually never been done before in the history of music. I know that, if it had failed, the failure of the idea would have been given massive publicity, but it didn't fail. For that reason, I'm pleased. I just thought that the press treated it all like some Punch and Judy curious double-act. Everything, but the record, is immaterial, because you have to live with the record forever, it will always be there. The whole Terence Stamp-Albert Finney attitude was so petty, even though I really like these people..."
Is that the danger in treating 'heroes' as something more than human?
I don't really believe that - I can't believe that even personal insult can corrode that adoration. I love those people, regardless of what they say, regardless of how disinterested they can get. I'll try to understand it and I'll still love them. It is quite tragic really.
Have you realised that there's a limit to how far you can push the public face of Morrissey?
[smiles] There are no limits and I intend to make full use of that fact. Lots of detractors have suggested that The Smiths have become too 'industry', too poppy. It always seems that, once you are accepted in artistic terms, then your records have no value. That's utter bosh to me. I know journalists who, one year ago, were madly dedicated - now, they make the most absurd, sweeping criticisms.
When you get close to this industry, you see how it is orchestrated by utter apes. When you're a member of the audience, sitting in the stalls, the whole idea of making records is inexhaustibly wonderful. When you get into the thick of it, you realise that the whole thing is swamped by oafs.
You told me, last time, that you never wanted The Smiths to milk a formula dry. Weren't "Heaven" and "William" just ridiculously familiar?
I don't think the format of the songs became too familiar. Thankfully, The Smiths became familiar through success, but I don't agree that we were exhausting any set formula. Even if we wanted to be that way, I don't think we could, because that's the type of people we are. This goes for every single member of the group, we are not pop stars and we're not in any traditional mould. I find it impossible to be flattered by pop success but I don't know why. Maybe, I just have very high standards and I don't think we've even begun to reach them, so it doesn't mean a thing to me when people come up and shout, "Phenomenal! Number 43!!!". It doesn't mean anything, although it is important to me that we've reached this scale of success. I'd think it was a waste of time if we were still in the position around the time of "Hand In Glove". Then again, for the type of group that we are, I don't believe that our popularity reflects how big we are as a group.

He enters into this lengthy moan about the misinterpretations of the press, worrying about the public face of Morrissey - frowning on how it has all become so familiar, blaming his own brutally honest self-suggestive manner.
"I thought I couldn't be anything but completely honest. When we began, I thought there was a need to find somebody who was honest to a fault. Nobody had been like that before, because all the popular figures had become like early-70's rock stars. There was nobody out there putting their heart on the line. There was no-one singing as though they would die if they didn't. I had to be boringly personal. I'm beyond embarrassment now. When your 'private' life is magnified in such a way, you know that nothing will happen to make you shirk and shrink. It's a massive trap, because I announced that I was celibate... so now, journalists telephone me day after day, to see if anything has changed. I can laugh about it now, but the laughter probably conceals a mass delirium. It's strange because eighteen months ago, nobody on the planet heard that I was alive. Now, to have your cuff-links the subject of massive national concern is quite curious."
So, do you long for that solitary room again - alone with your James Dean poster and your Albert Finney videos?
Never... only when I'm in the supermarket, buying socks, and suddenly, there's a photographer behind you with a lens zooming in on your acrylics. Otherwise, no, who wants to be anonymous for Heaven's sake? I didn't do anything from that time in my life, so how could I miss it? There are times when I'm walking along and I'm stopped by some hairy oaf who wants to sit down and tell me the story of his life... that's quite difficult. In the most neurotic sense, you're in this position where you are Morrissey twenty-four hours a day, listening to your records, reading your interviews, doing interviews. It's like constantly probing your own mind. The schedule makes it impossible to run off into the sea to paddle about, or drown, or whatever. Or to romp off and play football.
Could you answer a question about anything? Would you draw the line at anything totally personal?
No, there isn't. What saddens me is that, regardless of what you say, people come to the wrong conclusions anyway. Certainly on the subject of [lowers voice, realising an audience of two old ladies nearby] sex, virtually all the American coverage we've had has been totally erroneous.

Morrissey's sexuality has always been a favourite matter of public debate (eg. this issue's Bronski Beat Feature). Declaring himself celibate and genderless, nobody has really believed him. (C'mon, he can't really have gone without for seven years etc.) At the moment when he voiced his disinterest, suddenly everyone wanted to know what he really thought/did.
I don't think people believe you, Morrissey, I really don't.
I think the mission of most journalists is to expose me, because they have this notion that I'm totally fake - as though I'm secretly some mad sex monster. People are ready, in wait, for the cloak to drop and to see me photographed in the Playboy Club. They're trying to unravel me.
Have you ever resorted to lying to make something more interesting?
I believe in that idea but I've never found it necessary. But I'll certainly consider it for the future [laughs]! I think of myself and marvel at the fact that there is someone in popular music who is not mute. I read other people's interviews and I'm fast asleep before I reach the end of the first paragraph - people making records are so dramatically dull; the people who are considered to be the heart of the music industry and the final saviours of pop are so remarkably dim. I feel it is quite irregular and virtually immoral for someone in my place to be able to get from one sentence to another, regardless of what I'm talking about. Recently, I've been out to see groups - considered to be the pulse of modern popular music - and I've come away laughing hysterically. I feel sad that so many bland creatures could be the centre of such intellectual probing.
I'm surprised that all the wave of 'The Smiths can only do good' acclaim from press and audience alike hasn't affected you. Surely though, you must get put in situations now... and this is getting back to the sexual question... er... certain situations must arise... I mean you must get a few propositions these days...
Not many! The shock of the whole thing to me is that not many situations do arise. I thought literally queues upon queues would form, but it's not the case. After the end of a sizzling performance, where people are simply eating each other to get close to the stage, I find myself back at the hotel with Scrabble and an orange. It's quite interesting. It's all very curious.
Isn't it tempting, though, to throw yourself into that whole world of wine, women and song?
It never is. I wonder why. It's not tempting to break my own rules. Once you do that, it's very easy to lose sight of the reasons why you started in the first place. You can slip into the industry so easily. I could turn into an absolute social gadfly tomorrow and be seen everywhere with everybody. I could possibly handle it, but that wouldn't give me enough time to concentrate on the realities of writing. It's easy to get further and further away from the council-estate and you can forget how you felt for twenty-four years before it all happened. You can get quite bedazzled by the lights. Well, we never intend to do that.
What's been your favourite moment this year?
There's been so many colourful moments and so many disastrous ones - so many nightmares. I'm pushed to tears very often, usually by our own performances. On the last few dates that we did, the crowd were singing so loud, louder than myself, I was drowned out to the extent that there was no point in me singing at all. I was physically moved to tears because of that. When people feel such tremendous, overblown emotion that they want to shout the words, hurl their bodies forward and leap on the stage - to me, that is the height of human emotion.
Have you ever thought about The Smiths and thought, "Oh God, we're turning into a normal pop band"?
Only once, and that was coming off the set of Pop Quiz, because that was so depressing. It's easy to say that now, but as I sat in that chair next to Alvin Stardust, I thought, "My God! I've really lost control". Before the cameras rolled, Alvin Stardust told the audience a joke which was incredibly depressing and everybody laughed. I just thought, "Oh no! I shouldn't be here". I had nothing else to do, that's the only reason I did it.
Do you think The Smiths, as a band, push themselves to the limit?
Totally. I see them as very extreme and in very positive ways. We never listen to everyone else. I think the only thing to do with advice is to ignore it because people will never understand the real you. They're never there when your group begins - they're never in your room when you're writing lyrics. So, I don't presume that they're going to understand my music and they don't. When people say erroneous things that are positive, I don't mind. When they say erroneous things that are negative, I feel very strong about it.
"There was all that fuss about 'Suffer Little Children' in the newspapers, all these comments and opinions from people who knew nothing about the group and nothing about music. I felt very sad and angry about that, so much just being headlines. Nobody had approached me and there were long, inflated comments, "Morrissey says this..." and "Morrissey wrote it for this reason...". All of it was totally untrue and I couldn't understand why nobody had asked me. At one point, someone from The Daily Mail rang up, giving me the chance to give my side of the story. Of course, they weren't interested that I got on famously with the parents of the victims. So, they wouldn't print the story. Well, that really upset me.
"We've never deliberately set out to court controversy but I think it is quite natural that we always will. The lyrics are intellectual and that's too rare in modern music. You can't write anything serious. When I wrote an ineffectual line such as "I was looking for a job/And then I found a job/And Heaven knows I'm miserable now", that outraged people (which pleased me). All the daily tabloids treat me as a dangerous figure and that pleases me. At least it means that I'm a strong person and I'm not Andrew Ridgely."

As Morrissey talks, you can't help thinking that he plays a cunning game as pop's public face; you can't help wondering what's left of the real Steven Morrissey - introverted, solitary Manchester boy. He aims at being just the tiniest bit improbable, his talk littered with maxims and ironic wit. If Morrissey is his mask, it's a most fascinating pretence. Meanwhile, I'm left wondering what remains of Steven Morrissey.
"It was really easy to lose my past, because I was so determined. I wanted to move on and forget. To an extent, I'm the same person, though I do tire of being Morrissey from time to time. Joining The Smiths was like a purging for me - it's been like a life-raft. Otherwise, nobody would have cared what I said about anything, which is quite sad. It means that, if you're an anonymous person, and you have very strong views, you're considered insane and you're closer to an asylum than a knighthood. But when you cross over and you become quite famous, everything you say is quite interesting to people, then you're never considered insane. If I had stood in the middle of a Manchester housing estate and announced, 'I'm celibate', I probably would have been shot. I find it very difficult to be complacent. When somebody says something nauseating, I'm ready to attack - I'm not incapable of violence and I'm not incapable of being undiplomatic. I'm not a delicate bloom by any means.
"I get angry when The Smiths are talked about in such short-sighted terms, the very fundamental, nonsensical things."
Didn't you bury all that this year - appearing on TOTP with a bush up your backside? Weren't you parodying the image of yourself?
It was the end of a stage for us and, in a way, it was parody. But also, to me, it was high art. Now, you can snigger, but in a hundred years... people laughed at the Pre-Raphaelites, remember that! I did think it was quite artistic. For one thing, it had never been done before and to me, it's quite serious. I mean, people stop me in the street and say, "Where's your bush?". Which is an embarrassing question at any time of the day. I mean, what do you say to people? "I've left it behind on the mantlepiece". I don't even mind if people remember me for my bush or my hearing aid - as long as it's for artistic reasons. It was all done to bring some life into TOTP and other programmes. I don't do anything just to surprise people. I'm not thinking, "Now, what will fox them next?". It's not a circus and I'm not some trapeze artist. I think The Smiths are an irregular group, regardless of what we do.

'Hatful Of Hollow' seems like the perfect way to map the fluctuations of The Smiths so far, contrasting the sweeping grace of the early sessions with the later recorded works. Did Morrissey intend it as some retrospective summing up of The Smiths so far?
"There seems to be a few aspects to it," he replies. "We wanted it released on purely selfish terms because we liked all those tracks and those versions. I wanted to present those songs again in the most flattering form. Those sessions almost caught the very heart of what we did - there was something positively messy about them, which was very positive. People are so nervous and desperate when they do those sessions, so it seems to bring the best out of them."
You've talked before though of losing your excitement for life. I mean... you're still very young. [I watch him smile.]
It's like what I mentioned before about things seeming so wonderful from a distance, but when you go to Rome, you're bored and you want to come straight back home to Scunthorpe. It's a bit like that. When you're doing television programmes every day, interviews every day, being whisked up and down the country, you begin to get a headache. You just want to sit at home and do nothing, and you're made to feel that when you lose your zest for these 'glamorous' activities, there's something wrong.
Have you exhausted most of your ambitions this year?
No, because we still want to make lots of records and ultimately, that's the only thing that matters. Other things we can do without, they're not important.
Do you never feel you've given it all away - exhausted all your passions?
I've given up a lot of my obsessions and some of that comes back to age, I regret to say. With almost everyone I've ever met in the music industry, they have music and success, but they also have their private lives - family or whatever. They can switch off, do something that is totally unrelated to music. But I've never done that, for me it's this way all the time, it's just music all the time. Besides that, I never think of my limitations, I just can't consider them because I can't consider failure. I don't see that The Smiths have to change, it's just not necessary. People have got so used to modern artists changing so much that they expect it. To me, that just hints at massive insecurity. I have to say this again - I still feel that The Smiths have hardly begun, we've just scratched the surface. We'll last for a very long time. Because we entered the industry with such a furore, people thought it stank of hype and imagine we were a temporary attraction. I think people are beginning to come to terms with the fact that we will be around for a very long time.
Also, I must say that the material on the second official LP, which we're recording right now, is stronger than ever. We're still using the traditional, fundamental instruments and keeping it very basic. We still get such dramatically passionate feedback from Smiths' devotees and that makes me even more secure about the situation. I can't feel passionate about any one thing, besides The Smiths. It's like my most consistent fantasy throughout life - that we're of some value, feeling that we were here and we did something. Now, I'm pleased to say that I have.

Thanks to Tony Fletcher for allowing this article to continue to appear at this website.


COMMENTARY

The Year of The Smiths

GAY MEN PAVED pop’s way this year. With Boy George’s wardrobe fully open, all the closet cases came spilling forth: [Pete] Burns and The Bronskis, Frankie and NRG. The subtlest victory was Morrissey’s – his the least fairy-tale, the least gaudily exhibitionist. Maybe its because he conjured a ghost from all our pasts: the outsider, the Weird One, the pariah you put at full-back so you didn’t catch his leprosy.

When Morrissey refused to play "festive faggot", he was appealing to something fundamentally more lonely in us. He was making the outsider a star.

I met Morrissey just as ‘This Charming Man’ was peddling up the Top 30. I didn’t warm to him; he seemed too bright to be a pop star. I see now that music had freed him from himself; that the unhappy invert who’d hidden away in a monastic Mancunian garret had found a complement in the music of Johnny Marr which was not simply stylistic but even, perhaps, spiritual.

Marr’s music is Morrissey’s fumigation. (It must have been awfully stuffy in Whalley Range). What he acts out in their brittle, brilliant vignettes is a sustained drama of self-pity. He indulges narcissism in order to overcome it. The Smiths’ finest songs are a marriage of camp melancholy, petulant distress – and musical grace.

Briefly to retrace: the first I heard of The Smiths was this dingbat character declaiming in ever so sententious tones that ‘Hand In Glove’ should be translated into all languages – that his whole life had been merely a process of crawling towards its three mighty minutes. I was impressed, and the song duly swept into my heart. How to get close to it, other than to say it just seemed so proud, so heroically sad? (Something to do with the matting of bass and guitar, the injunction to "stay on my arm", the way the song hang so absolutely between affirmation and desperation – hasn’t Morrissey himself spoken of those songs that "speak with a biblical force?")

Next, I went to see them play: their first major engagement in the capital. Watching two dozen teenagers thrashing about onstage amidst shredded gladioli, with Morrissey loudhaling 'Accept Yourself', I began to get a clearer picture of the group’s mission. The music sounded like Tim Buckley backed by The Nightingales, but something purely their own pierced through. Maybe they were just a pop group, yet as twits go, the tragic clown with Jimmy Hill’s chin was so confidently out of place.

That night, too, The Smiths played a first take of the ‘Charming Man’, Mozart to ‘Glove’s Beethoven: did anything more sparkling, more kinkily witty ever rise so high through so much sludge? Well, a hit later and an album arrived. People said it was "dour", and two-thirds of it was. On the other hand, ‘Reel Around The Fountain’ was magnificent, and so was ‘You’ve Got Everything Now’. The key to the resigned rebuke of ‘Reel’ is the perverse exactness of its "fifteen minutes with you"; love has become a strange sad ceremony, (Morrissey frequently plays the ornate off against the colloquial – "You can pin and mount me like a butterfly" is only two lines from "two lumps please/you’re the bees' knees" – so that there's always a kind of tension between courtship and contempt).

The marvelous ‘Everything Now’ follows in perfect sequence, pushed forward on one of Andy Rourke’s most sturdily neutral bass lines. A great putdown anthem, it rails elegantly against the "oafish clods" who left Morrissey’s school to become executives while he starved. So often music seems to be Morrissey’s way of dealing with the pedestrian problems of his past, problems he doesn’t try to turn into Greek tragedy but simply observes with humour and pathos.

Aside from these, ‘I Don’t Owe You Anything’ is The Buzzcocks announcing their engagement to Burt Bacharach (to be intoned, cabaret-style, on a high stool). The remixed ‘Glove’ burns a shade less brightly. The hysterical Russ Mael falsetto of ‘Miserable Lie’ is tiresome by a third play. Long acoustic dirges like ‘The Hand That Rocks The Cradle’ and the Moors Murders saga ‘Suffer Little Children’ are meant to be sinister but do actually lull one into deep slumber. Finally, ‘What Difference Does It Make?’ the third single, is an unremarkable bonehead boogie stamp.

A pity, The Smiths, since an album featuring the good songs and ‘Charming Man’ [not included on the original UK vinyl - BB], plus B-sides like ‘Handsome Devil’, ‘Jeane’, ‘These Things Take Time’, the achingly pretty ‘Wonderful Woman' and the as yet unrecorded ‘The Night Has Opened My Eyes’ (sic) would (hypothetically) have been a great record.

Further singles have followed that suggest that Morrissey may have little left to report other than that misery is a state which can be celebrated with both humour and grace. It’s hard to tell how easily he’s slipped into the role of pop’s Great Outsider. What is he if not the perverse creature who leapt out of "that horrible, stupid, sloppy Steven", the Steven Morrissey who was always "entwined" with pop but never part of it, and whose homo-erotic fascination with Angry Young Men led him to mistake Johnny Thunders for James Dean? (When it transpired that he’d written a whole book about The New York Dolls, I found it all but impossible to connect him with the hollowed-out "Coulda Binna Contender" Thunders whose heroin habit I was once obliged to subsidise for a day). What is Morrissey if not the critic become star?

One could say that The Smiths have made pop sound acute again. One could say that Morrissey breaks the codes of the western love song, that he will never inhabit the body of a pop star, that he writes of an England that is ill and dying, an England of iron bridges over rivers of lead that comes gift-wrapped and video-taped from movies by Karel Reisz and Tony Richardson.

I feel he does more than this. He gives pop some point. "The only catharsis," he has said, "is to meet other people and to blend with them." The Smiths do this. If he can transcend his own finely ironic sense of himself as Lost Boy, there’s no telling what further fruits the union of his mind with Marr’s will bear.

Barney Hoskyns
The Virgin Yearbook

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The following item originally appeared in Melody Maker.

SUFFER THE SMITHS

IT'S difficult to think of a group who achieved more in 1984 than The Smiths. Beyond their success in the charts, two LPs and three singles, they helped make guitars seem exciting again, proved that you can make it on an indie, brought Sandie Shaw back from her suburban grave, underlined their prowess as one of the most charismatic live groups ever, and simply refused to make any compromise.

Singer and lyricist Morrissey was elevated to the status normally afforded the Pope, and by his own admission his sex life was just as uneventful as the big P himself.

In conversation he emerged as lively and provocative, wearing the shoes of one of his two heroes, Oscar Wilde; and if he was never quite capable of matching the infamous hedonism of the second, James Dean, he compensated for a lack of wild style through a willingness to be outrageously honest and outspoken.

Shortly after the Brighton bombing he revived his opinion that so shocked America. Faced with such an extremist leader as Thatcher, extremist measures were legitimate, he argued, and consequently assassination could be justified.

The fact that he was probably articulating the views of a sizable section of the community made no difference to the right wing press who eagerly seized on his comments in yet another attempt to blacken The Smiths' name. That Morrissey could risk his own career in such a way spoke volumes for his honesty and integrity.

Fortunately, The Smiths lived to play another day. Meanwhile the most candid man in pop, and perhaps the most romantic too, contemplated a future in politics, safe in the knowledge that he was almost certainly more popular this side of the water than the ageing gun slinger who was back in the saddle again, taking America for another ride.

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This item probably appeared in the New Musical Express 1984 end-of-year special issue.

FRUITCAKE OF THE YEAR:

MORRISSEY

WELL, we knew he was a bit daffy when he first started wandering around on stage with Kew Gardens stuck out of his back pocket and he mislaid a few more screws during an epic year for The Smiths. But they weren't important screws and we've grown to love his eccentricity dearly. In fact, so impressed have we been by his increasingly dizzy rants that we've all followed his example and are devoting the rest of our lives to spreading the word about the joys of celibacy (we hope to convert Steve Norman soon). Our guru, meanwhile, continues to make deliciously loopy records and drift around in a world that the less enlightened might insist be surrounded by little men in clean white coats. Stephen (sic) Morrissey is a gateau among fruit cakes. We love him dearly.

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SEE ALSO: The Feast of St. Stephen


BANDS OF THE YEAR: SMITHS

Voted the Best New Band of 1983 by the readers of the New Musical Express, Manchester's Smiths are the leaders of a return-to-romance trend among British pop groups. Despite the incredible pseudo-intellectual (unless by some incredible happenstance he is an intellectual) nonsense regularly uttered by lead singer Morrissey - who actually said, "I think what the Smiths are is something beyond popular music" - the Smiths have created some truly special pop music, using standard rock'n'roll instrumentation and Morrissey's self-important (but clever) prose. The quartet released two albums in 1984 (the second a compilation of 45s and live radio broadcasts) and provided the world with such sparkling numbers as "What Difference Does It Make" and "This Charming Man". The Smiths aren't timeless or as relevant as some imagine, but they do make exquisite singles.

Rolling Stone Yearbook

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On to 1985

 





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