I sent this to someone earlier today. Back in the last century I had Hulmerist on VHS, which is where I'm familiar with this video from. I haven't watched it for ages. It struck me today what a great video it is. I've never thought that before. I've always thought that Morrissey's videos were fairly poor, which, let's face it, they generally are. This just happens to be very good live footage.
I should be in bed really. I have an early start tomorrow. But I want to give some idea of why I posted this. Not sure if I can, actually.
I think there's something genuinely good about the spectacle of various people invading the stage to embrace their idol in this way. Somewhere I have an audio recording of a famous gig (in L.A.?), I think when Morrissey was still in The Smiths. You can't see what's happening, but you can hear. Morrissey stops singing and is screaming, apparently at a bouncer (this is not word for word), "My God, what are you doing? Leave him alone! Leave him alone!" That kind of thing.
More recently we hear that David Tseng, Morrissey super-fan was ejected from a gig as no longer welcome. I don't really know why, but it seemed it was something to do with his (Morrissey's) not liking the Morrissey-solo site. All a bit depressing really.
I realise that I just can't explain what I was hoping to get at. So I'll go to bed.
I don't know why, but it looks like I cannot get through the afternoon without posting something that links Q Lazzarus and Annette Funicello with Come Back to Camden, so, if that's what it takes before I feel able to go downstairs and prepare my 'lunch' then that is what I must do. Thanks to John for this:
There's also a Bettie Page version:
Thanks to John also for informing me that the best thing ever to appear on YouTube has returned, by which I mean this:
I've tried to download the video clip against the time when once more it disappears, but have not managed it yet. I'll try again, of course, but I'm terribly inept at these things. If someone with more savvy than I could dowload this for me, that would be great. (I wouldn't normally encourage such activity, but until the day Disney bring out a long overdue DVD of this kind of material, what choice do we have?)
I don't know why, but I'm off Stephen Fry at the moment, but anyway, I choose the following clip over the one which just shows the album cover, mainly for the picturesque pond with duckweed towards the end:
Now I shall have my lunch.
PS. Someone very kindly sent me JOANNA NEWSOM's latest album recently. I shall listen to it as I prepare and consume my early afternoon meal.
I sometimes wonder if I'm completely deranged. In fact, it's seldom that I cease to wonder if.
I'm going to speak fairly simply and plainly, just because I'm tired, as usual, and that makes it easier for me.
I was interested to read this article, recently, about the psychologist Dr. Sigman saying that social networking sites are bad for you, because they actually reduce your ability to socialise, and lack of social activity is bad for your health etc. I sent it to a friend in a spirit of "I told you so", not to him in particular, but just to the world in general, and he wrote back saying Dr. Sigman's views were a load of tosh, and that he had no evidence to back them up. Perhaps if Dr. Sigman is specifically targeting social networking sites like Facebook, then he doesn't have much of a case. I'm really actually beginning to think, however, that the Internet has altered the structure of my brain - as some drugs are said to - in an unpleasant manner. I realise that I now find it much harder to concentrate on things than I used to. The Internet is like a new channel in my brain, permanently open, and endlessly distracting. I'm not going to talk at length here, but I do find my relationship with the Internet to be at least partly unhealthy.
I think that one reason people reject such ideas out of hand is that anything new enough, technologically speaking, has now become beyond criticism. Technology is cool, in the same way that Nike trainers once were, or perhaps still are, for all I know. To argue against something that is cool, is simply to make yourself uncool, and therefore you cannot win.
I do not see technology as it now exists as at all benevolent, but closer to the opposite of that. I see it as voracious and domineering. Kurzweil's technological singularity does not excite me as it seems to excite everyone around me. It sickens me with horror that so many should so willingly, droolingly and idiotically scramble to sell their souls, for the sake of being cool, or whatever their generational equivalent is.
I reviewed the new Morrissey album a couple of days back, and I was thinking about the question of whether or not - as some have said - the lyrics are crap. In particular, there are the lyrics from Something Is Squeezing My Skull: "There is no hope in modern life", and "No true friends in modern life". Such lines seem very trite and generalised. And yet, I can't help thinking that, they're just, basically, true. There is no hope in a society that only looks forward to technological singularity. No hope. And no, there are no true friends, only 'friended' Facebook 'friends'.
This was brought home to me (I suppose I mean clarified or something) by a recent Morrissey interview. Morrissey gets so much bad press that even a long-time fan like myself, by mere osmosis, or subliminally or something, begins to take some of it on board. However, every time I see him interviewed (rather than just read it in print), my impression has always been very favourable - the impression of someone thoughtful and frank, not trying to impress. Here's what Morrissey says in the interview, in connection with the song Something Is Squeezing My Skull:
As time speeds up, nothing changes. People become more lonely. And the more they surround themselves by electronic gadgets, they become more isolated and lonely. And I think there'll be a reaction against that.
I hope that there will be a reaction against it. I feel that there must be. I feel that the time is well past at which we must realise that there is more to progress than technology, and that technological progress has actually become malignant, like an ingrowing toenail.
I'm perhaps not the best spokesperson for these kinds of idea, because I tend to express myself negatively rather than positively. Some kind of technology, I think, must continue, but I think it must be a radically different technology than that which currently exists, with a radically different philosophy underpinning it than the current philosophy of Kurzweilian megolamania.
I think that I would like - I have no idea how successful I will be - to devote my creative energy from now on to imagining alternative technologies. I'm not a techy at all, and it's probably too late for me to become one, so I don't think I can help here practically. But I hope that if I can project a different future than that advocated by Raymond 'Cyberman' Kurzweil that it might at least imaginatively open up other possibilities to people.
Technology will not save us. That does not mean we can scrap the idea of technology - though, if we could, that would be fine. Perhaps we just need to save technology from the materialists.
I remember one of the people who was instrumental in getting me into The Smiths (he lent me a tape of the first album), commenting on the cover of Bona Drag, or I seem to remember it. He wrinkled his nose and shook his head. He didn't seem to need words to convey what he meant. It was as if any true Smiths (or Morrissey) fan should know. Morrissey was on the cover of the record. What's more, it was in colour.
Being a Morrissey fan is deeply problematic, and becomes especially so whenever a new album - such as the recent Years of Refusal - is released. It seems as if a great pressure comes to bear upon the fan as he or she first listens to the new release, to decide, once and for all, whether Morrissey has 'lost it' (which, as with so much that pertains to Morrissey, almost sounds like innuendo), or, perhaps more problematically, whether he still has it, and, if so, how. The latest offering is apt to be greeted with pained evaluations like, "The band are on good form, and Morrissey's voice is better than ever. Clearly he is singing with some feeling, and yet..." And yet?
If I remember correctly, the last time a Morrissey album wasn't greeted in a similar manner was 1994's Vauxhall and I, which everyone, including myself, seems to consider the pinnacle of his solo career. Since then there have been five studio albums, including Years of Refusal. That's five albums to which people, with pained expressions, have said "and yet" (although many have been less positive, Southpaw Grammar and Maladjusted in particular being held by some as musical turkeys) while, for the most part, continuing to buy and listen to further releases, and continuing, also, day after day, to say that Morrissey has "really lost it now" on the fansite that he habitually refers to as "So low", and elsewhere. The situation is so pronounced that, on one of his most derided singles, he even lampoons it himself in explicit detail:
You hiss and groan and you constantly moan But you don't ever go away That's because All you need is me
In such an atmosphere, listening to a new Morrissey album, and trying to judge whether he has really lost it now, is never going to be easy - just about anything that Morrissey released would be strange to the ears in one way or another.
I understand why this situation has come about. I recall an interview with Morrissey, in which he said that many considered The Smiths to have represented something, that there had been "a point" to the band. The interviewer asked if there had. Morrissey replied that there had been none at all, but that people seemed to think there had was extraordinary. I wonder if there wasn't something disingenuous about that reply, on that part of someone who gave one Smiths collection the title The World Won't Listen, as if all that the world needed to be saved was to take on board the Morrissey message. One noticeable characteristic of The Smiths was the way that it almost seemed as if each song on its own comprehensively tackled a particular issue in something like a musical mini-manifesto. There are the obivous ones, of course: The Queen is Dead, Meat is Murder and so on, but even lesser known songs seemed to be asking the listener to radically redraw their mental map of the world. I believe it was in a branch of Woolworths on Barnstaple High Street, very early in my exploration of The Smiths, that I closely examined the lyrics sheet of Hatful of Hollow for the first time, and was more impressed than I had ever been at any lyrics I'd read before. Here was someone who could actually write, and who had actual ideas, not just some flakey muso trying to sound cool. The whole design of the record sleeve, too, was interesting. There was something militant and utilitarian about it, in a tasteful kind of way. The band never appeared - I was told and noticed for myself - on the covers of the records (though they did on inner sleeves sometimes). It wasn't about 'the band' and image, it was about... Well, you just had to read the lyrics. For instance, from Handsome Devil:
All the streets are crammed with things Eager to be held I know what hands are for And I'd like to help myself
The bite to these lines was not only sharp, it went deep, and it stayed with me. The selfishness and opportunism of sexuality, as one aspect of the selfishness and opportunism of society generally, was laid bare. It wasn't just that. As well as rejecting the corruption of society in what I couldn't help thinking an admirably militant manner, it was also a confession, a confession at the deepest level to somehow being a party to that deepest shame and corruption. It wasn't about the band being stars, it wasn't about personality. It was about the statements being made. And each album featured as its cover an artfully selected monochrome photograph that conjured up the gritty, sober world of 'kitchen sink'. And yet, we all knew, even then, in what I rather teenishly thought of as the militant attitude, there lay the pull of the attractive personality of Morrissey, the bequiffed, celibate vegetarian with the National Health glasses.
That Morrissey is judged now according to such strict standards is hardly surprising, since they are in large part the standards in which he himself educated the fans. The Smiths would never make promotional videos (except for some made without the bands involvement by Derek Jarman). They eschewed, for the most part, the use of synthesisers. They were not rock'n'roll as usual. Although expertly borrowing many rock'n'roll tropes, guitarist Johnny Marr always managed to make his arrangements sound like a radical reinvention of the guitar, without macho, phallic posturing (no guitar solos). They didn't even do drugs - or at least that was the policy. Bassist Andy Rourke was fired from the band - temporarily - when it came to light that he had a habit. The entire attitude was purist bordering on the Puritan.
And that attitude, that militant 'good taste', seemed to be based largely on a number of ongoing refusals - "Resist or move on", sang Morrissey in Hold on to Your Friends, but we all knew he was more comfortable with the former - that were most strikingly embodied by Morrissey himself. He became pop music's most famous celibate and vegetarian. People spoke of his voice and his lyrics as "asexual".
The Smiths split up, and almost simultaneously, Morrissey's solo career began. Many of the refusals that had seemed to define The Smiths disappeared. It was Morrissey himself who now featured on the covers of almost every new release, and often the photos were not even monochrome. Morrissey also began to do promotional videos, although it has been clear that he has never done so because he wanted to. Morrissey videos tend to be curiously half-hearted. He has said himself that he has no interest in them. Presumably, videos are now simply unavoidable in the music industry. And, with Your Arsenal, Morrissey formed the band that, in a way, has stayed with him ever since (though only guitarist Boz Boorer remains from the Your Arsenal line-up, and thereby embraced a decidedly more orthodox rock'n'roll sound, complete, on occasion, with power chords.
But my first 'Morrissey has lost it' moment came before Your Arsenal (incidentally, one of his most acclaimed albums). It came with the release of the single Ouija Board, Ouija Board back in 1989. I found the lyrics to be lazy ("I still do feel so horribly lonely"), and, what's more, they were not making any specific point. What was the point? That it's okay to use the ouija board? That it's not okay? That Morrissey's dead friend hates him? The 'militant' quality that I had so admired seemed to be gone. Morrissey, in a soundbite, described the single as something like, "My latest attempt to inject some intelligence into pop music", but it seemed to me that he was now content to write a song that was simply entertaining. What's more, it sounded suspiciously synth-heavy in some of its instrumentation.
I've got over that since then. While Ouija Board, Ouija Board is hardly the best song he's ever recorded, I can listen to and enjoy it. However, there have been other 'Morrissey has lost it' moments for me, including the acclaimed Your Arsenal, which I still think has some of his weakest material on it.
The has-Morrissey-lost-it question seems to become more urgent for many with the passing of time. There are many factors here, but what seems to be mainly involved is a kind of vicious circle whereby the more successful Morrissey becomes, the further he seems to be from the authenticity that made him so well-loved in the first place. Morrissey is, we can gather, by most people's standards, now a rich man. He is also, by the standards of teenagers, now 'old' (he will turn 50 this year). If his appeal has been based so much on a sense of refusal, that sense of refusal is now becoming strained, and there is a feeling that something's got to give. This feeling itself is reflected with some self-awareness in Morrissey's oeuvre, for instance, in the song, You Know I Couldn't Last, or, again, in the lyrics of All You Need is Me:
And then you offer your one and only joke And you ask me what will I be When I grow up to be a man Me? Nothing!
Morrissey is loved for being an outsider, and, being loved, ceases to be the outsider, and, being loved, is then hated for betraying his fans by ceasing to be an outsider, and then in either diminishing or increasing returns, is loved for being an outsider again, and then hated for being loved and then loved for being hated.... etc. Fans feel that something has to change because Morrissey can't go on playing the 'refusal' card of the outsider (or perhaps they just want him to get a new band), but at the same time, his appeal has always been that he would never change, that he would refuse right to the end. Criticisms levelled at each album seem to be simultaneously that Morrissey has changed and that he hasn't. Fans have expected him to change and to stay the same. He has changed and he has stayed the same. They are horribly disappointed.
And it is against a background such as this that I am now forced at gunpoint to write a review of the latest album Years of Refusal. I suppose I should start by saying that the CD only arrived yesterday, and I have found myself changing my mind about certain Morrissey songs after a duration of many years, so it's still early days.
My first impression is that the production is fantastically better than the production for the previous album Ringleader of the Tormentors. Classic Morrissey production has a slightly muted sound that turns drums and guitars almost into 'quoted' drums and guitars. Ringleader of the Tormentors, however, seemed to me, too often, merely murky, and bodged. With Years of Refusal someone decided to turn everything up to 11. Accentuate everything, could have been the producer's motto here, and, for the most part, the effect is very gratifying. If, somehow, I were involved in a bizarre accident that erased all memory of who Morrissey is, I think I would listen to this and hear music that is muscularly present in a very pleasing way. I believe the band was recorded live, rather than by laying tracks down one by one, and this could also account for the freshness of the sound. It's not something you can necessarily anticipate if you've heard YouTube versions of some of the songs. Quite simply, for the most part, whatever the individual merits of the songs, this album seems to have caught some very energetic and very strong performances. So struck was I by this, that I was surprised at quite how vitriolic some of the reaction to this album has been. I think where there have been actual criticisms, rather than people simply saying, "It is objectively shit, and if you don't agree with me I'll kill you!", they have been that the album is 'just noise', that it is without nuance, that the lyrics are too simple - that kind of thing. To sum up, the feeling of some is that this is closer than ever to boring, orthodox rock'n'roll, relying simply on gut impact. I feel I might need more time to really answer such a criticism. What I dare say at the moment is that, although this might not be a perfect album, it is definitely good, and certainly doesn't deserve to be slated. Within the maximization of everything, there is, indeed, variation of tone and mood. These, too, seem to benefit from the accentuation.
The album opens with a thunderstorm of a song, Something is Squeezing My Skull. This seems less personally intimate than many Morrissey songs, but offers a punkish panorama of "modern life", in which, we are told, there are "no true friends" and "no hope". The song speeds up to an oi-ish finale, with some fine tongue-rolling from Morrissey. We are still on the ascendent with the second track, Mama Lay Softly on the Riverbed, with its military tattoo drums, it builds with chugging grandeur to a crescendo that is almost cathedral in its Gothic overtones.
So, we're gonna run to you We're gonna come to you We're gonna lie down beside you, Mama
We're gonna be with you We're gonna join you We're gonna lie down beside you, Mama
And we will be safe and sheltered in our graves We'll come before you And we will kiss you By way of one final hug, Mama
By the third track, it looks like we're on a roll. A portentous guitar starts like the rumbling of the black cloud of the title.
The one I love is standing near The one I love is everywhere I can woo you I can amuse you But there is nothing I can do to make you mine Black cloud, black cloud
It's a simple song of the impossibility of romantic fulfilment, but realised consummately and with a great sense of moment.
It's at this point that the single, I'm Throwing My Arms Around Paris comes in and the album becomes, not only more varied, but also a little variable. I don't think the album ever quite returns to the heights reached by the first three songs, though it comes close with the likes of One Day Goodbye Will be Farewell, and there is some solid, interesting material here, including, I now have to admit, All You Need Is Me, which, in the context of the album suddenly sounds like a very good song. When Last I Spoke to Carol is atypical and intriguing, in melody as well as arrangement. I find the lyrics, seemingly about a Platonic friendship of mutual bitterness and its grim end, to work well with the music; it's a kind of Johnny Cash number with a mariachi section. This could be one that takes a while to fully appreciate.
There are no songs here that I find to be just downright bad, though That's How People Grow Up comes close, with its mechanical tick-tocky rhythm.
I'm not going to do a track-by-track review. My impression is of a collection of strong and slightly irregular songs with here and there a weakening idiosyncrasy, and perhaps too little that really stands out. You Were Good in Your Time for instance, is beautifully arranged, played and sung, and flush with ominously building strings, that support the suspense of an understated but sinister lyric about a star becoming a has-been:
An end-of-the-ride sigh your soft smile says: "Please understand, I must surrender." Then you grip with your hand now so small in mine. Are you aware, wherever you are, that you have just died?
But the production here is almost too good, and, as a result, the song is partly spoiled by a sealed, air-tight feeling, which does not allow it to breathe with quite the atmosphere it seems to require.
Similarly, It's Not Your Birthday Anymore has some very odd and intriguing lyrics that suggest an ambiguous rape situtation ("It cannot be given/and so it must be taken"), and the song builds with great energy to an impressive climax in both the performance of the band and Morrissey's vocals, but certain sections - perhaps because I have been too closely educated in Morrissey purism - seem in questionable musical taste, with bland synthesised pulsing evoking a mood of sickly tenderness.
Then there's the question of the lyrics. Perhaps more than any previous album, this one seems to lack lyrics that make a particular "point". The songs are largely divested of specifics. It has very often been specifics that have given Morrissey's lyrics their charm and memorability ("Spending warm summer days indoors/Writing frightening verse/To a buck-toothed girl in Luxembourg"). The most specific the current lyrics seem to get is the roll-call of various medicines and therapies in Something Is Squeezing My Skull:
Diazapam Valium Tarmazpam Lithium HRT ECT How long must I stay on this stuff?
However, contrary to the views of some fans, I think that many of the lyrics on this album still show a great deal of care and precision. Black Cloud is a good example:
The one I love Roosts in the mind, Can snap this spell, Or, increase hell. I can chase you and I can catch you, But there is nothing I can do to make you mine
The point - and the feeling - is conveyed admirably. The precision of the lyrics shows in small details. Who else would have fixed on the word 'roost' here, except Morrissey? Yet, on reflection, no other word would have expressed quite the sense of something ominous and brooding as this. There are virtually no other pop lyricists whose control of expression is this poetic or finely nuanced. Here's another example, from One Day Goodbye Will Be Farewell:
I have been thinking, (What with?) My final brain cell, How time grips you, slyly, in its spell.
"Time grips you slyly in its spell." Now, this is good enough to be, I think, in a dictionary of quotations (and, since Morrissey is a renowned jackdaw of words, it may already be for all I know), but the interesting thing is - and here's a blow against all those who like staccato workshop prose - it is the inclusion of a single adverb that makes it so: "slyly". Without that, the line would be unremarkable. Indeed, just as Lovecraft has certain adjectives that have become Lovecraftian (blasphemous, eldritch, hideous, etc.), so Morrissey has adjectives that are Morrisseyan (sly, awkward, sickening, etc.).
This may be an odd way to wrap up a review of an album, but it's rather an odd album, with, as I have read someone else observe, the songs seemingly arranged in no particular order. I don't think it's a bad album at all - rather the opposite - but for those too much preoccupied with the question of whether or not Morrissey has 'lost it', I'm afraid it might give too much fuel for doubt. However, I wonder why they can't just enjoy it straightforwardly as a simple retro-sixties, middle-aged punk, prog-rock-as-sung-by-the-godfather-of-indie-pop with themes of existential nausea, maternal suicide, sexual self-sufficiency, the eroticisation of inanimate matter and general valediction and death sort of affair.
Now I just have to review that Momus album.
UPDATE. I said it was early days. I've been listening to the album again, and it's really growing on me. It could be Morrissey's best solo album, in my opinion, which is, naturally, better than most other opinions, if not all. I think I brought a lot of the negativity I'd absorbed from the Internet to my first listening. I honestly can't understand why so many people seem to be so negative about this album.
Earlier today, I was going to whimsically post Morrissey's Interesting Drug on my blog and say that that was what my day today would be, except without the drugs (and I don't mean it would be interesting), but I found what I had suspected might be the case, anyway. The official video for the song has no sound on YouTube:
Oh well, it was a silly idea, anyway, I thought to myself, and forgot all about it. I should probably explain a little background here, though. I'd noticed before that the same thing has happened to a great number of the official Morrissey music videos on YouTube recently. I wondered if this had anything to do with the recent leak of Morrissey's new album on the Internet. It occurred to me that Morrissey himself might have got pissed off with people having free access to his creative output. However, I noticed this time that the only videos affected in this way seem to be the Warner Music Group videos, and Morrissey has changed label a number of times since then.
Anyway, I've been meaning to look up some Dorothy Parker poems, and so I took myself along to Poemhunter. I noticed that the homepage of the site lists the "top 500 poets"... of what? It's typical these days to find that people don't define their parameters. It's really quite annoying. Presumably this means the five hundred poets who are most searched for on Poemhunter. And this, presumably, is a selection already narrowed down to include only those poets who have poems reproduced on Poemhunter in the first place. Anyway, this idea intrigued me for some reason. Probably far too trustingly, I took the poets to be arranged in order of Internet popularity. Is Shel Silverstein really the sixth most popular poet on the Internet? If he were that would be fine by me, but... it is a little unexpected. If you click for the full list, however, suddenly he becomes the ninth most popular and I begin to believe that I see the usual Internet unreliability creeping in here. Anyway, I became interested in who would be the very last poets on the list. At 500 we have - who would have thought it? - Abraham Lincoln. After a cursory perusal I pronounce one of the poems not bad, and one fairly poor.
There must be plenty of poets who are not on Poemhunter at all, though, I thought. I put 'Yang Lian', a favourite poet of mine, into the search window, and there were no matches found. Then I thought, I bet Wendy Cope won't have any poems on here, either - she'd object to her poems being reproduced without permission. This search, however, did produce two matches, neither of them actually authored by Wendy Cope. One was called 'Wendy Cope's Bank Statement (in answer to her article in the Gaurdian Weekly)' (I notice someone has transcribed the title incorrectly, with the misspelt "Gaurdian"). I presume, judging by the sentiments expressed in that poem, that the poet, John Thorkild Ellison, will not mind me reproducing it here without permission. So here it is:
Wendy Cope's Bank Statement (in answer to her article in the Gaurdian Weekly)
Wendy Cope You have no hope If you think the Muse will make you rich,
You may get fame And make your name, But the little lady is a bitch!
Whate'er you do When writing verse Won't earn you any money,
The joke's on you And what is worse It isn't very funny.
The first thing that strikes me is the third line. I don't think Wendy Cope has ever said that she expects to become rich by writing poetry. No one expects to become rich by writing poetry. No one. Is it wrong to expect to be able to make a living by it, though? Well, apparently it is. Okay. In that case, is it wrong to want any earnings that might proceed from writing poetry, as a supplement to a struggling writer's income, not to be compromised by people ripping that poetry off? According to the tone of the above poem, yes, apparently that's wrong, too.
Just about everyone I've heard express an opinion on the subject (including a friend of mine who is a poet) seems to think that Wendy Cope is wrong, or misguided, or they are "disappointed" in her tone. I must say, at least judging from the Guardian article, I find what she says eminently reasonable. No one would be "disappointed" in a greengrocer for not wanting to give away all his plums to anyone who felt like taking them. Why are they disappointed with Wendy Cope?
Now, there's nothing wrong with giving plums away, don't get me wrong. However, generosity consists in giving things yourself, not in expecting others to give them. Being humble is not being humble if you expect everyone else - to the point of coerciveness - to be humble. Then it becomes self-righteousness.
Just to make myself slightly clearer - if any content on this blog (for instance) is in breach of copyright laws, and someone wanted me to pay up or take the content down, I would happily accept that ultimatum. I wouldn't just think they were a fascist for wanting me to pay for what I had taken, as so many these days seem to.
I do have mixed feelings about this, because the Internet and the digital age are changing the way that information is treated, and I enjoy free content too. However, I support the idea of creative people trying to make a living from their creativity, and not having the means of making a living snatched from them.
It's still a very grey area for me, as, perhaps, it is for many people. For instance, not long ago I discovered that a story of mine was available to read on the Internet without any permission from me. I was a bit miffed, especially as I was offering that story, with what I thought a reasonable amount of exclusivity, to a book publisher, for a collection. I'm not going to say what the story is. I sighed, but I have taken no action. Perhaps I should. I don't actually know.
A few days ago, Momus wrote an entry in his blog entitled The Death of Magazines, about the way the Internet seems to have hamstrung the circulation of printed periodicals. I left a few half-ranting and possibly half-baked comments there, from the starting point of Morrissey's new album being leaked on the Internet:
I'm actually officially a freelance writer. That's even how the tax office knows me. However, I kind of wonder if there's any future for people whose talent is to create information in some way. The advantage of media such as text and music is that you can record them and distribute copies (you don't need the original). However, with information now so easily copied, leaked and spread, who will go on paying creators to create?
Morrissey's album was recently leaked on the internet. I didn't download it, because I don't do that (released today, so I should hear it soon), but here's a comment from the Morrissey Solo website about the poor chart position of the single:
"too many download it for free I can't say anything really because I downloaded it for free, too. Still, that's the reason it's not a bigger hit. It's too bad cus it's a good song. How's it doing in France? LOL."
It might be hard to feel sorry for a millionaire like Morrissey, but there are still plenty of artists struggling to survive. Will the new generation of free-downloaders simply say "too bad LOL" as they strip our corpses?
It would be FINE if getting things for free applied to everything, but it's only information based work that is affected in this way. If you're a musician you still have to buy food and pay your rent (you can't download these for free).
I wrote to the poet friend I mentioned briefly above in an e-mail that probably said something like, "I hate life and I want to die. The world is ending and there's no future for anyone whose only skill is to create 'information'."
He wrote back reassuring me that though the world may indeed be ending, it is still quite possible to make a living by producing 'information'.
I wrote back:
Ah well, I'm reassured.
I don't care about the end of the world, as long as there's still a future for me as a writer.
Yesterday, after an internal struggle regarding my financial situation, I ordered a CD copy of Morrissey's Years of Refusal from Amazon. I expect it will arrive tomorrow, if the sorting office staff are not too boozed up. I noticed that the CD is to be shipped from Jersey. I heard recently that a tax loophole has meant that many traders are shipping from Jersey in order to undercut the market, and a lot of independent record shops can't compete with this.
In November, I posted Part Two of my American Stoats. The following is Part Three:
American Stoats, Part Three
10th Sept, 2008
I arrived in Austin on the 8th of September. The squeezy accordion tunnel from the aeroplane to the airport building was bakingly hot, the true heat of Texas sandwiched between two areas of heavy air-conditioning.
When we got back to the house, American football was playing on a huge screen, like a small cinema. E--, L--'s brother, said the lighting on the pitch was horrible. I noticed in the trailers for the NFL - presumably National Football League - that some cover version of Everyday is Like Sunday was being used. I had noticed this in Chicago, too. Only the lyric "Every day is like Sunday" was actually sung. Presumably Sunday has some significance to American football, or the broadcasting of American football. The lyric did not continue to "Every day is silent and grey" and certainly not to "Come, come, nuclear bomb". L-- assured me that Morrissey would have been paid for the use of the song. I imagine he could have got more than a slap-up meal with the money.
M--, having attended one or two baseball matches and a 'soccer' match in Chicago, told me that he was surprised at how civilised it all was. The crowd, he said, lacked the passion of the British football crowd. He speculated that the general absence of fans supporting the away team at the American games might have been a deciding factor here. At British football matches, the presence of away-team fans gives the proceedings the feeling of tribal war. Then again, I wondered - and M-- said there might be something in it in a coffee-table book kind of way - perhaps there is some indication here of a general difference between British and American society. On my previous visit to America, I said, I had found the place very clean and orderly and Protestant. Returning home, to Twickenham, and walking between trees in the park along the banks of the Thames, hearing, from a distance, the roaring drunken chants of rugby fans, or perhaps just gangs of lads on a night out, I had felt Britain to be a very pagan country. Football fans even paint their faces with woad as if for battle.
I remembered We'll Let You Know, from Morrissey's Your Arsenal. Even the title of that album is a football reference, seeming to associate football with war and quite possibly with latent homosexuality. Morrissey has often said that We'll Let You Know is the best song he's done. It's interesting that it's a song that seems to tie British identity so closely to football. M-- expressed it as an Anglo-Saxon thing - the value of loyalty. Even if football is now going down the pan and the fans are being ripped off - I don't know the details myself - you can't not support your team, you can't not go to the match. It's like Beowulf, said M--. You are the ringbearer. Once you're in, you're in for life.
You can hear the swelling roar of the football crowd on We'll Let You Know. Only those who are part of that roar could ever understand: "And the songs we sing/They're not supposed to mean a thing". Football is dying; Britain is dying. But we are part of the crowd. We understand that roar. We will be in until the end. "We may seem cold/Or we may even be/The most depressing people you've ever known/At heart, what's left, we sadly know/That we are the last truly British people you will ever know/The last truly British people you will ever... never... wsnt to know."
For some reason, I find this depressing and annoying. Granted, according to the lyrics of America Is Not the World, the day might have come when America has something to say to Morrissey, however, I take issue with some of the judgements here of obsolete lyrics. Well, for instance, this one:
"Gone to the other side with my encyclopedia"
--Tori Amos' 'Cornflake Girl' (1994)
Are encyclopaedias really obsolete now? Do people have that much faith in Wikipedia? Now, I may have got this wrong, but I believe that a normal encyclopaedia is a secondary reference source, whilst Wikipedia is tertiary. Wikipedia entries require citations to back up their supposed facts. An encyclopaedia is the kind of source you'd go to to provide a citation. Ah, no, I think I might have this slightly wrong. An encyclopaedia is generally considered tertiary, too. A Wikipedian discusses this issue briefly here. Anyway, I for one would be far more comfortable treating a bound encyclopaedia as a secondary or tertiary source than Wikipedia, despite the fact that even the former get their facts wrong often enough.
Anyway, I'd like to make my own suggestion for an obsolete lyric. It comes from Walk Like An Egyptian, by The Bangles. Remember that? What was that song about? Anyway, no matter, here is the lyric in question:
All the school kids so sick of books They like the punk and the metal band
Since when did school kids read "books"? How can you be sick of something you've never actually even seen, touched or tasted?
I think that line should be ammended as follows:
All the school kids so sick of computer screens, Twitter, and things of that ilk They like to go home sometimes, turn off their phones, and relax with a mug of cocoa and a volume of Algernon Blackwood
Incidentally, I used to think that their song Going Down to Liverpool was about Ilfracombe. A case of misheard lyrics. I thought it was:
Hey there Where you going with that UB40 in your hand I said, hey there. All through this green and pleasant land
I'm going down to Little Liverpool to do nothing I'm going down to Little Liverpool to do nothing I'm going down to Little Liverpool to do nothing All the days of my life All the days of my life.
Ah, those were the days! I remember them well.
They didn't write that song, did they? I never saw The Bangles signing on in Ilfracombe High Street Job Centre.
Been watching The X-Files recently. Couldn't help remembering this song:
Cerys Matthews looking remarkably like Gillian Anderson:
I've also been looking up the lyrics of the forthcoming Moz album. I like them. Especially these:
I'm OK By Myself
Could this be an arm around my waist? well, surely the hand contains a knife? it's been so all of my life why change now? "it hasn't!" now this might surprise you, but I find I'm OK by myself and I don't need you or your morality to save me no, no, no, no, no Then came an arm around my shoulder well surely the hand holds a revolver? it's been so all of my life why change now? "it hasn't!" now this might disturb you, but I find I'm OK by myself and I don't need you or your benevolence to make sense Noooooooo! Noooooooo! Noooooooo! Noooooooo! After all these years I find I'm OK by myself and I don't need you or your homespun philosophy no, no, no, no This might make you throw up in your bed: I'M OK BY MYSELF! and I don't need you and I never have, I never have Noooooooo! Noooooooo! Noooooooo! Noooooooo!
These and these also read well, and have a nice chill to them. Who knows what the album will be like, though. Already disappointed that it has That's How People Grow Up and All You Need Is Me on it, which seems completely unnecessary. Nice cover, though:
Here are my own recent lyrics. Probably unwise to post them in close succession to lyrics by the Moz, but anyway, for what it's worth:
Not mob-handed – Single-handed, short-handed. Just my hand and me again, I mean.
Romance and wishes? We should be past that crap by now. But somehow it still bothers me Until I feel vicious And swing my feet from the table To the floor. What I need is a short-term solution, Because there are no more long-term solutions And I’m bored.
No girl, no money. Just this casual ennui.
Like a spy without a mission, What I need now is a short-term solution.
Like a mad scientist perfecting reanimation, What I need now is a short-term solution.
Like a banker with a bad debt to pass on, What I need now is a short-term solution.
Like a eunuch with a random hardon, What I need now is a short-term solution.
Like a god without a vision for creation, What I need now is a short-term solution.
In his poem 'Deceptions', from what is generally held to be his first mature collection, The Less Deceived, Larkin writes arrestingly of someone whose "mind lay open like a drawer of knives".
I believe it's fairly well-known that Philip Larkin was sexually attracted to Margaret Thatcher. From his correspondence we have the following:
Your anecdote reminds me of a brief exchange I once had with Mrs. T., who told me she liked my wonderful poem about a girl. My face must have expressed incomprehension. “You know,” she said. “Her mind is full of knives.” I took that as a great compliment – I thought if it weren’t spontaneous she’d have got it right – but I’m a child in these things. I also thought that she might think a mind full of knives rather along her own lines, not that I don’t kiss the ground on which she walks.
But I rather think that her mind - and her drawer, or drawers - full of knives must have been part of the attraction for Larkin.
In his song, You're Gonna Need Someone on Your Side, Morrissey sings similarly arresting lines: "Someone kindly told me that you'd wasted/Eight of nine lives." Famous for his Freudian slip-like live lyric changes, during performances of this song he has been known to change the lyric to the seemingly nonsensical (so we are told): "Someone kindly told me that you collected very sharp bread knives". I remember it from performances I have heard as "very sharp kitchen knives". (I know people who collect very sharp kitchen knives.) (Incidentally, Moz also seems to have changed this lyric along the lines of, "Someone kindly told me that you'd thrown away, every day of your precious teenaged life.")
The website It May All End Tomorrow suggests that such lyric changes by Morrissey are flippant and without particular meaning. I would suggest that, like Freudian slips, they have more meaning than is at first apparent.
To indicate the direction in which I am thinking, imagine the line, "Someone kindly told me that you collected very sharp bread knives", as being sung by Philip Larkin. To Margaret Thatcher.
Which brings us to Mishima Yukio, and we've almost come full circle.