Top Ten Underrated Morrissey Solo Songs
here are some Smiths fans who won’t even touch Morrissey’s solo stuff. Then there are the middle-grounders, those who will only admit to liking Your Arsenal, Vauxhall and I, and some of Viva Hate. Further along on the spectrum you have the younger generation, the teens and twenty-somethings who like Morrissey’s solo stuff just as much or more than his Smiths stuff (the most notorious group in this demographic being southwestern Hispanics). But the largest demographic is those who haven’t heard any of Morrissey’s solo stuff beyond “Everyday Is Like Sunday” and maybe “The More You Ignore Me, The Closer I Get.” So, I understand that a list of the most underrated Morrissey solo songs is scraping the barrel of obscurity. Nevertheless, in honor of His (yes, a capital “H” is in order) first studio album in seven years, I’ve compiled this woefully short (I had to widdle down my original twenty to the ten you find here) list of the Mozzers most underlooked and underrated solo songs. For those who haven’t even heard any of Morrissey’s solo stuff, forget this list and go buy the “November Spawned A Monster” single.
10) “Alsatian Cousin”
One has to remember that this was the first post-Smiths song of Morrissey’s solo career. Some truly menacing guitar work by Vini Reilly perfectly fits with Morrissey’s sneering lyrics of demanded love. Remembering that the last song Morrissey committed to tape before this was the gentle “I Won’t Share You” makes the contrast even more stark. Which may be the reason the song is largely ignored in the Morrissey-solo canon: nobody, most of all Smiths fans, was ready to hear him lustfully snarl “But on the desk is where I want you!"
09) “Satan Rejected My Soul”
Morrissey tackles the theme of his ultimate resting place w/ the wit and style that were missing from his other post-mortality tale, “There’s a Place In Hell for Me and My Friends.” It is an uproarious, catchy piece of music, with a wonderfully hilarious lyric to boot. The Smiths/Morrissey fan site It May All End Tomorrow says it best: “I love these lyrics - Morrissey carting his soul around on a wheelbarrow in a vain attempt to get someone to take it. The ultimate snub - he won't even be given an afterlife.”
08) “I’ve Changed My Plea To Guilty”
Most artists only wish they could write just one lyric like “I’ve changed my plea to guilty / Because freedom is wasted on me / Outside there is a pain / Emotional air raids exhausted my heart / And it's safer to be inside.” One of Morrissey’s best piano ballads, it also contains one of his most melodramatic, theatrical vocal takes.
07) “Seasick, Yet Still Docked”
One of Morrissey’s most introspective songs, it’s underevaluation is most likely due to it being curiously sandwiched between the jocular ‘You’re the One for Me, Fatty” and the gospel-glam of “I Know It’s Gonna Happen Someday.” A simple acoustic melody backs Morrissey’s stark autobiographical lyrics that cover his entire, and lengthy, list of insecurities. If I was asked to point to one song that summed up What Is Morrissey?, I would aim the questioner here.
06) “Let the Right One Slip In”
For those saying Morrissey has gone all punk-pop with You are the Quarry haven’t heard this slab of power-popness. A sly title and concept laden with sexual undertones, the listener isn’t quite sure what this “one” is until the final lines: “Let the right one slip in / And when at last it does / I'd say you were within your rights to bite / The right one and say / "What kept you so long?" The image of Morrissey biting the tongue of a lover he’s waited so long for is so typically brilliant of him.
05) “Sunny” and “Boxers”
Both written in ‘95 during Morrissey’s boxer and fake-cuts-on-his-face phase, both deal with fallen heroes and shattered dreams. The former is a sweet ode to Sonny Liston with less than subtle references to his alleged drug use: “With your jean belt wrapped around your arm / Oh, Sunny my heart goes out to you / And with the needle pressed on to tight skin / Sunny, I cry when I see where it’s taken you.” The song is accompanied by one of Morrissey’s best videos, where a trio of lower-middle class British youth loiter and love in Victoria Park. The latter shares the same theme of a fallen hero, but has a slightly more optimistic tone, with the losing boxer still being loved by his hometown and his nephew “all the same.” Released only as a single, Morrissey soon realized that it deserved more, and thus stuck the song on every compilation of his since.
04) “Late Night, Maudlin Street”
No more proof is needed that Morrissey is the Queen of Bedsit Poetics than this nearly eight minute long tale of nostalgia and continual regret. Eschewing any sort of rhyme scheme or steady melody somewhat ironically makes the song’s epicness bearable. As the song’s title suggests, Morrissey seems to be attempting the obviously impossible task of ridding himself of all his youthful disappointments in one song. The instrumentation is adequately slight and subdued allowing Morrissey’s sorrow penetrate through. The song’s infrequent title dropping may be because the song is too overwhelming for even the most casual fans. I can’t end without mentioned how many quintessentially classic Morrissey lyrics are present in this one song: “Love at first sight / It may sound trite / But it's true, you know”; “Women only like me for my mind...”; “You without clothes / Oh, I could not keep a straight face / Me without clothes? / Well, a nation turns its back and gags.”
03) “I’d Love To”
This song should be on every infatuation mixtape. Morrissey’s careful vocal phrasing makes his lyrics of unadulterated monogamy that much more forceful. The song is just so perfectly understated, so wonderfully airy, and so sweetly candid. When some unlisted female(?) singers wordlessly come in at the end, I’m already mush.
02) “Swallow On My Neck”
Reputably the chorus of “he drew a swallow on my neck and more I will not say...” refers not to an actual bird tattoo (which has Nazi/SS soldier overtones) but, argues many, to a hickey. Most likely written about the onset of a relationship between Morrissey and his former “personal assistant” Jake Walters around ‘94, the song is undoubtedly a love song, and one of Morrissey’s best. Buried as the second B-side on the “Sunny” single, the song was later given another shot on the underrated My Early Burglary Years compilation in ‘98.
01) “Jack the Ripper”
Rightfully called “the all-time greatest hit that Morrissey forgot to record,” “Jack the Ripper” was, in its first incarnation, a slightly instrumentally subdued, morbid love plea from the perspective of the Victorian killer. Reincarnated with guitar-slicing gusto on the import only live album, Beethoven Was Deaf, the live version surprisingly gained considerable coverage on alt. rock radio stations in ‘93. In true Morrissey fashion, the final repeated lines of “Nobody knows me” insists that Morrissey feels some sympathy and possibly a sort of kinship with the murderer. A haunting track, the live version has since appeared on both the “Now My Heart is Full” single and the “My Early Burglary Years.” Possibly in an attempt to further highlight this missed rock of gold, Morrissey extensively played the song on his 2002 tour. Here’s hoping he throws it in on his current tour.
By: Gentry Boeckel
Published on: 2004-04-28