Music News

A Somber Birthday: Morrissey, Still Ill at 53

Today is Morrissey's 53rd reel around the fountain of life, and to celebrate the crowned prince of the coif's most recent year of survival, we've decided to take a closer look at some of the man's best tracks. But first, some biographical information to help you better understand the "pope of mope" and his path from English suburban youth to international icon of sad songs and big hair.  

Our mononymous keeper of the croon was born Steven Patrick Morrissey in the musical hotbed that is Manchester, UK. The son of a hospital porter father and a librarian mother, the young Moz's keen interest in female pop singers, the literature of authors like Oscar Wilde, and the angry young men of British "kitchen sink" dramas eventually culminated to form the perfectly flawed pop music antihero. 

Morrissey's obsession with pop stars germinated with his lifelong battle against depression to forge the altogether unique combination of an outgoing frontman's personality with incredibly introspective, dark, and personal lyrics. These were all delivered via the smoothest baritone this side of Elvis' grave. Rising to stardom as the lead singer of what has become one of the most musically important and culturally significant bands of the '80s, the Smiths, Morrissey found the Richards to his Jagger in guitarist Johnny Marr. The combination of Marr's angelic and delicate guitar-playing and Morrissey's golden vocal cords gave birth to an incredibly powerful and unique sound. The Smiths put out only four studio LPs before imploding due to what Morrissey perceived as unfaithfulness by way of Marr's extracurricular musical activities and, conversely, Marr's frustration with Moz's inability to adapt to different musical scenarios. 

The end of the Smiths gave Morrissey the opportunity to branch out on his own, applying his trademark voice and lyrics to a solo career that is still going strong today. While people spend time wringing their hands over the man's sometimes contradictory opinions, outspoken vegetarianism and animal rights work, and androgynous sexual orientation (for the record, Morrissey now claims an asexuality of sorts), the music he has made reigns as our main point of intrigue and still rises above the man's political commentary and other inflammatory traits like a great musical pompadour. Follow us, if you will, on a short jaunt through a few of our favorite tracks featuring Manchester's favored pipes. 

Moz, a Charming Man
Ah -- the beginning. The above number was most likely your introduction to the music of the Smiths, as it was the band's second single released on Rough Trade records and one of its most famous tracks. It features Morrissey's lyrical foray into homosexuality mated with what we humbly consider to be one of the best 12-stringed guitar licks ever written. 

A Glam Ham
From Morrissey's 1992 album, Your Arsenal, we find "Glamorous Glue." This album was produced by late ex-David Bowie sideman Mick Ronson and features a trumped-up, late-'70s glam sound that nods a bit at the Moz's first concert experience, T. Rex in 1972.

Birthday Blues
It's only appropriate that we include our subject's ode to an unhappy birthday for a former lover in this birthday blog. We want to make sure that we extend the unhappy birthday greeting to Morrissey himself, as we feel he'd prefer it that way.

Too Soon?
Also from the band's final release, Strangeways, Here We Come, is the underrated song "Death of a Disco Dancer." While the song is fantastic in its own right, we couldn't help but include it in our list with the recent passing of both Donna Summer and Robin Gibb. This song also features Morrissey's only instrumental performance on a Smith's record.

Still Awesome
Finally, we find the man at work with a live version of the ever-danceable favorite "Still Ill." Never one to keep a commentary private, Moz's band members wear a rather blunt opinion about the newly married royal couple on their shirts as they begin this encore in Santiago, Chile. Armed with his still excellent voice and a British gangster look fit for a Guy Ritchie film, the man still tours heavily, though we aren't holding our breath for a Smiths reunion. This article should suffice for those now turning blue.

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David Von Bader