When Morrissey Ruined Bill Cosby’s Tonight Show

When Morrissey Ruined Bill Cosby’s Appearance On the Tonight Show

A great read on many levels, and definitely so if you are a Morrissey fan.  Just reading about Cosby, Johnny Carson, and Ed McMahon bewildered by an audience they weren’t expecting has its own charms.

However, another part of the article deals with Morrissey’s highly successful tour during almost complete neglect by MTV and radio:

Two weeks prior to his scheduled Tonight Show appearance, Morrissey touched down in the United States to embark on the six-week leg of a worldwide tour to promote his third solo release, Kill Uncle, after having just wrapped up a successful 11-show run of Europe. The Kill Uncle Tour kicked off in California, where there were six dates lined up: San Diego, Costa Mesa, Inglewood, Santa Barbara, Berkeley, and Sacramento. The shows sold out fast. The entire tour sold out fast, but the West Coast stretch sold out faster. Much of Morrissey’s popularity in the area could be attributed to heavy rotation from the area’s influential radio station, KROQ, one of the few outlets to lend support. 20,000 tickets to the show at the San Diego Sports Arena went in a flash, gone in less than an hour, faster than any predecessor, including Madonna and Michael Jackson. Tickets for The Forum in Inglewood went even quicker18,000 in just 15 minutes.

Aside from the Tonight Show appearance and KROQ airplay, Morrissey was almost never played on MTV, and not at all during normal hours, and barely played on mainstream radio. (Despite selling out venues faster than the biggest pop stars of the day.)  There may be reasons for this that are specific to Morrissey, but I must wonder about the bigger picture.  (Morrissey is a highly subversive artist that has always threatened many mainstream forces.)  After the 1996 Telecommunications Act corporations, such as Clear Channel at the time, consolidated their control of radio playlists.  One can remember songs such as John Lennon’s Imagine being banned after September 11th on radio stations owned by Clear Channel, now known as iHeartMedia Inc.

So here are the questions:  What large forces shaped musical culture before that act?  How is music of today shaped by forces outside of consumer demand?  One thing that is a no-brainer is that people, unless one is an obsessive seeking things out, can only like what they are exposed to.  Why is it that so many pieces of pop music today sound so similar and are so often completely devoid of any substance or ideas?   Aside from substance and ideas, which have been lacking at other times during popular music, why is pop music that is readily available for the general public delivered by performers lacking strong personalities?

Questions, as always, questions…

There is a Place In Hell For Me and My Friends

I’ve always loved this song.  It came on almost by accident last night, as I searched my iPod without being conscious of what I was doing.  It is on the Morrissey album Kill Uncle.  (This is the definitive version.  While the band version on the remastered Kill Uncle brings out the comic side of the song, it can’t compare to the deeply emotional resonance heard here.)

This is a song that is devastatingly sad, yet extremely witty, with a good dose of humor.  (The best songs, from a writing standpoint, are almost always complex.  Also notice that Morrissey uses a unique meter and rhyme scheme, when there is a rhyme scheme.  Morrissey is also extremely great with song titles.  When you read the title of this song, one almost can’t help but wonder at the lyrics contained.)  That wit and humor is extremely important as the wrong lyrics could make this beautiful melody and arrangement maudlin.  It makes the song subversive and defiant.  It makes the song one for those that are outside the norms of the dominant tradition of society.  If something could break your heart and bring a sly smile to your face at the same time, this is it.

There is a place reserved for me and my friends
And when we go, we all will go
So you see, I’m never alone

Oh, there is a place with a bit more time
And a few more gentler words
And looking back we will forgive (We had no choice, we always did)

All that we hope is when we go
Our skin and our blood and our bones
Don’t get in your way
Making you ill
The way they did when we lived

Oh, there is a place, a place in Hell
Reserved for me and my friends

And if ever I just wanted to cry
Then I will because I can

The Kid’s a Looker

He can’t dance or sing 
He can’t do anything 
But what the hell? 
The kid’s a looker 
Just add cash and stir 
And there you are, 
another nonsense non-star 

There’s no pretense 
This kid is dense 
But what the hell? 
The kid’s a looker 
Just add cash and stir 
And the crass consumers line up 
Shoulder to shoulder 

Sometime 
Through the night 
The kid took his life 
So very sad 
However do not call this number again 
We’re busy molding the face 
Of the kid’s replacement 

I’ve been reading Morrissey’s List of the Lost which has led me diving back into his catalog again.  I’ve been listening to this song, The Kid’s a Looker, a satirical take on the pop star, particularly on the TV variety.  Morrissey was once remarked as saying something about how all of the musical television game shows were training nothing but cruise ship singers.  The version of this song up above was recorded live in the studio.  Due to the fact that it was never released in any official capacity I slightly overlooked it when it came out, but it’s tremendous fun.

A Look at ‘List of the Lost’

List of the Lost

Now, peace is regained as his television flickers from commercial to commercial to commercial to commercial, advertising nothing at all that he would ever want or need, yet reminding him that he is nothing and that he will die in debt, reminding him that whatever insurance he might have could never possibly be enough, reminding him that all medications will kill him mid-laughter, shouting at him as if they were the vigilant society – a blatantly sensational phony inflation with that essential TV ingredient of nightmare and pixy-minded publicity with nothing at all to touch the artistic emotions, yet preying unmercifully on the viewer’s insecurity and lack of ready cash.  Whatever you can do will never be enough.  You are fragile and possibly already dead.

– Morrissey in his novel List of the Lost

No book has been so mauled in the press this year as this one.  I’m not finished with it yet, so I can not write a proper review.  But I cannot fathom the level of hate directed its way.  The book has an almost Victorian sense of language at times.  It is poetic, and is the reverse of Oscar Wilde’s poems in prose.  If you are looking for a page turner in the truest sense, this is not that.  It’s not a beach book.  But so far it is a book filled with truth, with sentences and ideas that you will remember.  The above passage is about as well of a description of late night television as one will see anywhere.  One could criticize the book, as one could all works of art, even great ones.  The dialog is more the work of a writer’s imagination than the way people actually speak in places, but that seems intentional and is not dissimilar to many other works of the pen.  But these things are all debatable.  I have found a great deal of it infused with meaning, generating much contemplation as I read.  Many critics have criticized the sex scenes.  But the sex in the book seems like it was written to be absurd and grotesque, as sex often is at times.  Yes sometimes the book seems more of a story that is being used to communicate the author’s view of the world, but then so many great books are that as well.

I am a huge Morrissey fan.  I might not have bought the book if I wasn’t, if I was only buying something based on reviews.  I was worried that my estimation of it might be clouded by my love of the man’s musical works.  But I can honestly say that I am getting a lot out of this book, that it creates a world that I look forward to going back to, that I am enjoying it.  Even if one were not a fan of his music, I believe there is an intelligence here that is worth investigating.  The book exposes the absurdity of this often horrible modern world.  It doesn’t pull any punches.  Yet there is a beauty in its love of language.  The writing style often seems as if it was from another era, the book itself is set in 1975, but the book is certainly examining not only the now of things, but the human condition as a whole.

A large part of the book so far comments on the decay of the human body as one grows older, the inevitable fate of everyone, and the things that we as creatures do to not deal with these facts head on.  There are many people that mistake Morrissey as being miserable because of the dark themes that he often deals with in his day job, and this book will not change the opinions of those that don’t understand.  But they are missing a laser sharp wit.  Morrissey has talked about how if he was hopeless he wouldn’t say anything at all.  The mere act of expression is often one aiming for a better world.  The critics, as often, seem to know very little of such things.

“Terence, this is stupid stuff”

`Terence, this is stupid stuff:
You eat your victuals fast enough;
There's nothing much amiss, 'tis clear,
To see the rate you drink your beer.
But oh, good Lord, the verse you make,
It gives a chap the belly-ache.
The cow, the old cow, she is dead;
It sleeps well, the horned head:
We poor lads, 'tis our turn now
To hear such tunes as killed the cow.
Pretty friendship 'tis to rhyme
Your friends to death before their time
Moping melancholy mad:
Come, pipe a tune to dance to, lad.'
 
Why, if 'tis dancing you would be,
There's brisker pipes than poetry.
Say, for what were hop-yards meant,
Or why was Burton built on Trent?
Oh many a peer of England brews
Livelier liquor than the Muse,
And malt does more than Milton can
To justify God's ways to man.
Ale, man, ale's the stuff to drink
For fellows whom it hurts to think:
Look into the pewter pot
To see the world as the world's not.
And faith, 'tis pleasant till 'tis past:
The mischief is that 'twill not last.
Oh I have been to Ludlow fair
And left my necktie God knows where,
And carried half way home, or near,
Pints and quarts of Ludlow beer:
Then the world seemed none so bad,
And I myself a sterling lad;
And down in lovely muck I've lain,
Happy till I woke again.
Then I saw the morning sky:
Heigho, the tale was all a lie;
The world, it was the old world yet,
I was I, my things were wet,
And nothing now remained to do
But begin the game anew.
 
  Therefore, since the world has still
Much good, but much less good than ill,
And while the sun and moon endure
Luck's a chance, but trouble's sure,
I'd face it as a wise man would,
And train for ill and not for good.
'Tis true, the stuff I bring for sale
Is not so brisk a brew as ale:
Out of a stem that scored the hand
I wrung it in a weary land.
But take it: if the smack is sour
The better for the embittered hour;
It will do good to heart and head
When your soul is in my soul's stead;
And I will friend you, if I may,
In the dark and cloudy day.
 
  There was a king reigned in the East:
There, when kings will sit to feast,
They get their fill before they think
With poisoned meat and poisoned drink.
He gathered all that sprang to birth
From the many-venomed earth;
First a little, thence to more,
He sampled all her killing store;
And easy, smiling, seasoned sound,
Sate the king when healths went round.
They put arsenic in his meat
And stared aghast to watch him eat;
They poured strychnine in his cup
And shook to see him drink it up:
They shook, they stared as white's their shirt:
Them it was their poison hurt.
-- I tell the tale that I heard told.
Mithridates, he died old.

Last night I was reading poems by A. E. Housman.and thought I’d pass it along. (The link is to a short biography of him.)   The above is the poem from his book A Shropshire Lad.  I found him through, as so many things in life, the world of music.  Morrissey mentioned him in his autobiography.  If try hard enough to open one door, others will open as well.

“Which pushes me to their place in the queue”

“And he spoke with his voice
 As he was talking with his mouth”

Oboe concerto
All the best ones are dead 
And there’s a song I can’t stand 
And it’s stuck in my head

There’s a song I can’t stand 
And it’s stuck in my head

Oboe concerto 
All I do is drink to absent friends 
And there’s a song I can’t stand 
And it’s stuck in my head

There’s a song I can’t stand 
And it’s stuck in my head

The older generation have tried, sighed and died 
Which pushes me to their place queue

Round, rhythm goes round 
Round, round rhythm of life goes round 

– Morrissey

My birthday was today.  Today is also John Lennon’s birthday.  I played a tribute to him this afternoon.  It made me realize that his music is more complicated than it sounds, as I felt like I was playing with mittens on my hands.  Part of it had to do with extreme exhaustion, but there is no doubt that one stroke of his genius is the fact that he could make bizarre and unruly chord progressions sound like perfect pop moments.  Things that are sophisticated became emotionally raw in his hands, all while somehow seeming universal.  He was a rare bird indeed.

I couldn’t help but compare his music to a great deal of the popular music of today’s radio.  Along with reflecting on the passing of time, as one is apt to do on their birthday, I was reminded of the Morrissey lyrics to Oboe Concerto.  But in case anyone thinks I am being maudlin, I think there is a great deal of mischievous fun to be had in the above verses by old Mozzer.  Looking at the inevitable, shrugging, with an ever so slight grin…

Morrissey to Release Novel and Great Books by Musicians

List of the Lost

List of the Lost Press Release

I’m looking forward to reading Morrissey’s first novel.  It comes out September 24th.  The details are above.

I really enjoyed his Autobiography.  Here are five other books by musicians, in no order, that are worth checking out:

  1.  Bob Dylan – Chronicle
  2. Henry Rollins – Get in the Van: On the Road With Black Flag
  3. Larry Kirwan – Green Suede Shoes: An Irish-American Odyseey
  4. John Lydon – Rotten: No Irish, No Blacks, No Dogs
  5. Lou Reed – Between Thought and Expression: Selected Lyrics of Lou Reed

All of the books, except the Lou Reed book, which is a collection of lyrics with commentary by Reed, would qualify as autobiographies.  However, each one of them is better than the standard autobiography or biography.  Dylan’s is written with the kind of wordplay and imagery that one would expect from Dylan.  Rollin’s is as much about self-realization under duress as it is about music, though of course there is a great deal of music commentary included.  It’s jet black and deeply funny.  Kirwan is not only a musician, but also a playwright.  His book is not only expertly written, but features a great deal of really interesting information on the history and culture of Ireland.  And Lydon’s book is not only an unsentimental look at his past, but includes commentary by other people that were around him at that same time.  Even if they flat out contradict him, he seems not to give a fuck.  He is interested in getting to the truth, and the truth depends on one’s perspective.

Neko Case and Morrissey Expand the Form – Reappropriating and Deflating the Word “Man”

I love when songwriters try to expand the form, when they have a knowledge of what came before them and are able to write themselves out of the constrains of typical pop song subjects.  I also love when writers, through wit and intelligence, use language to be playful and subversive.  In both these songs, Man by Neko Case and I’m Not a Man by Morrissey, the word man, and the mainstream connotations of it, are flipped upside down in different ways.  Case is reversing gender roles, claiming the right to use the word for herself, using it to demonstrate her strength.  Meanwhile, Morrissey uses the word, and the meanings that mainstream society associate with it, to call out what is wrong in the modern world.  Case is reappropriate the word, while Morrissey is deflating the strength often associated with it.

 

Morrissey On Larry King

Morrissey larry king

Moments from Morrissey Interview With Larry King

As anyone that comes to this sight with any regularity knows, I am a huge Morrissey fan.  He just did his first U.S. television interview in many years this week on Larry King Now.  Most people that are fans have already probably watched the interview or read the transcript.  For those of you that aren’t quite as enthusiastic, but still interested, Salon does a good job of providing an overview at the link above.

The full interview is here.

Don’t Shut Up, Still Sing

I was just watching several clips of Morrissey on Larry King Now.  I haven’t watched the full program yet.  I will link to it when a link to the whole piece is available.  I was reading some comments somewhere, always a mistake, and someone commented the usual idiotic drivel about, and this could be directed at any number of entertainers, that he should just focus on singing and leave the politics to the “experts”.  But when the “experts” are just as often fuck puppets for corporations spouting buzzword tested groupthink, and not those who have thoughtfully examined a political situation from all angles, is that really what you want?

For entertainers, like all people in all professions, can run the gamut of human intelligence.  Plus someone like Morrissey (or Jackson Browne, Chuck D, Bruce Springsteen, etc.), is extremely well-read, well-traveled, and has spent a great amount of time talking to people of all stripes, often including many of those that actually have some say in our culture.  While many entertainers are grown-children that remain vain mutants, boxed off from reality in a prison of sycophancy, there are often those that are trying to make real sense of this strange world.

It is never who someone is that should make us listen to them.  It is the strength of their argument and the thoughtfulness of their thinking.  Many of us have worked jobs where someone in management or some other position of power hasn’t gotten a clue.  Do you not think that this doesn’t happen sometimes at even higher levels?  Also, the human brain is like a muscle, just because someone has exercised one part of it thoroughly doesn’t mean that the other parts have received the proper conditioning.  A brilliant doctor doesn’t make someone a great thinker when it comes to socio-economic arguments.  Being an entertainer, even if they have traveled and met with people of power, like any other profession, doesn’t make someone smarter, but it doesn’t cancel out what they have to say either.  Meanwhile an entertainer, if they do have a curious mind and a rigorous thought process, very well might have insights that are worth listening to.

But anyone that knows anything knows this.  It is only the daft, those with closed minds, who don’t want their world view inconvenienced, who would say otherwise.  So I say don’t shut up and still sing.

I personally like my entertainment barbed with things like ideas.  Not all of the time, but often, I want my music to be like an intellectual boxing match.  I want to be pushed to the limit and challenged.  And if I get tired of that, and need to turn off the mind for awhile to relax, I can put on some Ted Nugent, and give myself a temporary lobotomy…