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& depictions of terrible lives, usually his own.
The songs about his gloom-ridden existence stretch back to “Heaven Knows I‘m Miserable Now‘, although new songs like ‘End OfThe Family Line’ are half-hearted ersatz retreads (he sings End OfThe Line like a tube train announcement). However, from his solo releases it’s the songs that are ostensibly about the miseries ofothers that offer the best explanations of the decline in his relevance and audience. He is on record as saying that he would be quite happy to be remembered for only one song, “November Spawned a Monster‘, a grisly tale about a crippled girl who
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was so ugly that ‘even mad lovers would have to draw the
line.’ On ‘Get Off The Stage” he
implores an ageing rocker to jack it in because ‘every song sounds exactly like the last one and the next one.’ In “The Girl Least Likely To‘, supposedly about a talentless friend, he
admits ‘one more song about the 3
Queen/One more song that sounds all wrong/And all the
news is bad again/See me as I am again.‘ Get the drift. Even when
attempting to sing other people‘s lives. Morrissey is singing his own, and it‘s not pretty listening.
It‘s a neat reversal ofthe glory/glory days ofThe Smiths, when try as he might to pen intimate. cathartic confessions he‘d end up with a timeless life-affirming pop classic
connecting with every bedsit
from Fort William to Folkestone. The nation’s lonely shy and awkward packed the dancehalls and emptied the record racks of ‘This Charming Man‘, ‘Panic’. ‘Ask‘ . . .There’s still enough ofthem to make every single go brieﬂy top 30. and every concert sell out, but there are no new converts being made. The new generation of misfits are ﬂocking to former Morrissey proteges James and
their seductive stadium weepies like ‘Crescendo’ or ‘Sit Down‘ (a
bigger hit by far than the Smiths ever managed). The Mozz’s faithful meanwhile are getting older with their idol. Morrissey’s genius for the telling phrase, his vocal phrasing, and quoteability
remain intact. It‘s his worldview
that has taken his music into a blind alley. It’s an old chestnut to accuse a star of losing touch with his audience, but Morrissey, never the most sociable of blokes anyway, has been massively isolated by success, and burdened by expectations. ‘this acquaintances I had met, surprisingly none was his intellectual equal or shared his emotional depth,‘ says Sandie Shaw. ‘His desire to be special, to be admired. to be brilliant,
was so naked, so touching, so vulnerable.‘
It would be easy to blame Morrissey‘s collaborators for his post-Smiths failings. Stephen Street‘s arrangements were crude, Langer and Winstanley’s production leaden, Mark Nevin’s tunes shallow, but the songs weren’t all there in the first place. There is an attitude that if Johnny Marr were back on the scene, all would be well. Morrissey himself admits that their’s was the perfect partnership, and if Marr were to phone ‘I’d be round there on the 3 next bus’, but it’s a simplistic solution. Morrissey has too many personal ghosts haunting his work, from feelings of inadequacy to an inability to recapture his past and cope with his present status.
If Morrissey’s personal crises were substantially responsible for his past glories, they also look like a serious obstacle to a return to form. A long time ago he said ‘1982 is the year to be handsome, 1983 will be the year to be charming’. On current form 1991 is the year to be confused and ugly. Morrissey is still condemned to sing his life, and hope for things to get better. Sandie Shaw: The World at My Feet is published on 9 May by Harper Collins, price £14. 99