Morrissey - a song for the gamma male
To the young student, teachers recalling pop stars of the past - stars who were stars long before they were born - doubtless look and sound ridiculous - like some crumpled thing left by the wayside and dimly seen in the distance. But those condescending kids will do the same in their turn a few decades hence, when they begin to poke around the dregs of their youth in an effort to find something that might have had a more lasting meaning.
In the dregs of my own youth I find a snippet of a song - an anthem practically - by Morrissey (then the lead singer of the group The Smiths). Morrissey was a northern boy and I was a northern boy (northern England - Manchester, in partcular). But to be delighted by Morrissey it was not enough to be a northern boy - you also had to feel you were not a northern boy.
What were northern boys? Answer: Fighters. Not fighters in some heroic Shackleton endurance sense of the word. No, they were all nasty little alpha male hooligans obsessed with establishing a nasty little playground hierarchy in which every boy knew exactly where he stood in the chain of hardness.
I didn't see anyone else refusing to play the nasty little game of pushing and being pushed, but given Morrissey's popularity there must have been a fair sprinkling of anti-northern boys across all the playgrounds of Lancashire.
With that in mind, let's have a look at some of the words that spoke right to the heart of the boy from Manchester who chose to do sewing with the girls instead of doing woodworking with the nasty northern boys. Here's a sample from a song called, "How Soon is Now?".
|How Soon is Now|
|This MP3 was found at Dilandau MP3|
I am the son
And the heir
Of a shyness that is criminally vulgar.
I'm the son and heir
Of nothing in particular.
You shut your mouth.
How can you say
I go about things the wrong way?
I am human and I need to be loved
Just like everybody else does.
Just in case the profundity of Morrissey's words escape you let me expand on those lines that ring so true.
A shyness that is criminally vulgar
Although northern boys need to know when they must stand in line and speak only when spoken to, they are not supposed to be shy. Shyness is considered to be a disgustingly weak, feminine trait. Morrissey also says that shyness is "vulgar" - socially unacceptable - but the way he sings that line turns the literal meaning on its head, turning shyness into a privilege.
By the way, who but Morrissey could write and sing a song containing the word "vulgar"? Morrissey had no respect for the unspoken rule that pop songs should be limited to a vocabulary of the 500 simplest words that all 12-year-old kids were familiar with.
You shut your mouth.
Morrissey is right. The world would be a better place if some people (lots actually) just shut up.
How can you say I go about things the wrong way?
The people at the top of the list of those that really ought to shut up are those that criticize me. What offends is not simply the irritating sight of them wagging their silly little fingers. The really offensive thing is the assumption that I should grow up and be a man - get a gum shield and join the rugby team with the real men - learn to stand in line, chin up and shoulders back and get a place on the management training scheme at the local supermarket. That's what really offends.
I am human
Most people say "We are human" but Morrissey knows that as far as I am concerned there isn't really a 'we'. This is my life. This is me thinking, and these are my feelings. I have my feelings and you have your feelings. The sentence, "We feel" is a lie.
Nevertheless, in my solitary emotional world I have to admit that there are some basic human needs that crave satisfaction. I am human, after all.
I need to be loved
If you didn't grow up being pushed around by boys for whom hardness was the only virtue, it is impossible to appreciate how much of an epiphany it was to hear Morrissey turn everything upside down so that it was no longer shameful to make an admission of weakness. But against the hardness of the north Morrissey didn't set a limp, pink softness. No, his was an in-your-face softness that was able to get up on stage and tell those soulless northern boys to shut their tight little mouths.