2003 Year End Thoughts
The Smiths Disco
o then, my musical moment of the year? Well… as much as I’d like to choose shouting “You’re a fucking shit DJ” at Edith Bowman in a central London tequila bar, I can’t. What I can choose is possibly the one moment that kinda sums up everything that’s passed through my mind in the 03, and not just on a musical tip either. Late November.
Background it up first: I attend university in a so-called “historical city” (meaning of this: “We’ve not altered this place at all in 50 years, good fucking luck finding a decent CD store/vintage trainer supplier/Amaretto skinny latte”), which means that coming back home from gigs in the next city across, that’s merely 40 minutes away by drive, means waiting around until 2am in whichever club you can find, and then catching a coach that takes 90 minutes to get to its destination, whilst you wake the slumbering passengers up by loudly saying “My god, that DJ was mad gay” So, yeah, post-Half Man Half Biscuit at the Manchester Academy (they finished with a cover of “What Do I Get?”, and Nigel changed some of the lyrics to insult the Halifax adverts and the England rugby team). My gig going partner motions that she has heard of a Smiths Disco in central Manchester, and that we should go. It’s a place where they play six whole solid hours every few months of nothing other than The Smiths, Morrissey solo, and, for some reason, “Film Star” by Suede (no Johnny Marr and the Healers, though, because they actually want some customers). This makes great business sense. It also sounds like heaven with a cherry on top. Whenever I mention this club, or this experience, to one of my non-musically obsessive friends, I always feel compelled to append it with a “Of course, to some people that sounds like hell!!!lol2003”. God, I hate humanity. It really just doesn’t understand. Anyway, this club is upstairs at some “music” pub just past Piccadilly station. As soon as we stumble onto the floor, I’m face to ear with some “Why wasn’t I born 20 years earlier so I could have been a member of Huggy Bear” Riot Irrronist type. Ripped pink party dress, chunky plastic bracelets, Courtney-circa-93 scowl, and a Katie Pucrick fringe. She manages to simultaneously burn me with her cigarette and spill her JD and Coke over me. Obviously, I fall instantly in love with her, and never speak to her at all except to apologise for my hand being in the way. I’m sure Stephen would approve.
But anyway… a Smiths Disco! Can you actually think of a better fucking idea? OK, call me a Luddite or uncool or not being down with all this new fangled NEW IMPROVED POP MUSIC WHICH IS REALLY GREAT NOWADAYS BECAUSE WE SAID IT IS GREAT AND IF YOU QUESTION OUR OPINIONS ON ANY OF THESE SONGS IT IS BECAUSE YOU ARE GAY AND LISTEN TO INDIE AND ARE GAY AND FULL OF AIDS (#11: “Fight Test” Flaming Lips), but I just find the idea of a nightclub where the floor fills up for “November Spawned A Monster” rather than “Crazy In Love” wholly beautiful. Morrissey’s eyes show some emotion every now and then as well (however, Morrissey’s gay and hates blacks, and Beyonce’s black and hates gays… hmmm, there’s a really bad article in their somewhere I’m sure. Taking sides: “Crazy In Love” vs “I Want A Boy For My Birthday”, “Baby Boy” vs “Suffer Little Children”, “03 Bonnie and Clyde” vs “There Is A Light That Never Goes Out”).
Projected onto the back wall is a 20ft high image of England’s second favourite Northern working class wordy fop, Alan Bennett. I could never stand the man or his shitty self-indulgent monologues that they tried to spoon off onto us at A-level English Literature, but at the time, it definitely felt right. I pour a little liquor out for the man.
The age range in the place was 15 to 55. I was heartened by the amount of teenagers in there, teenagers nowadays seem to have no actual clue of what on earth is actually going on. Do you realise that thanks to those kids that clog up town centre every fucking Saturday “grinding” “some” “ollies” “dude”, that Muse spent a whole fucking week at number one in the UK album charts? What’s wrong with the world, momma? And, of course, in 2003 that highly regarded, still influential journal that’s just gone from strength to strength the NME claimed that the reason that Busted are THE BEST THING EVER APART FROM POSSIBLY JET AND YOUR CODENAME IS MILO was that Busted were all about what being a teenager is like in 2003. Hmmm.
When I go back home, back to my home district of Far Cotton… I notice very few people caring about air hostesses and the feasibilities of the geeky kid next door creating a time machine for you. What I do notice are plenty of 15 year olds pushing prams, kids being forced to leave school at 16 because neither they nor their family can afford for them to not start work as soon as possible, kids being stuck in dead end jobs with no future aged just 17, knowing that the best they’re gonna make it in life is shift manager thanks to the shitty hand they’ve been dealt in life, and generally dancing, drinking, and screwing, because there’s nothing else to do. Maybe I missed the bit where the crux of their lives revolves around the tedious antics of a bunch of private school educated failed kids TV hosts that somehow managed to make it as a pop group despite a distinct lack of anything that actually makes a good pop group. But, yeah, what do I know?
So then, so now we have The Smiths as a possible barometer of working class consciousness, 15 years after they split. Lennon only ever briefly touched on that whole “You can check out any time you like, but you may never leave” that goes through the blood and bones of all us non-ABC1S, but you get the feeling Morrissey thought of little else. So everyone in the club danced, and drank, and didn’t screw, because we were all indie kids and weren’t entirely too comfortable with actually talking to members of the opposite sex about anything other than the Powerpuff Girls and Sanrio merchandise.
And then, yet again, that says a lot more than I am. One of the more popular badly formulated theories of contemporary online music criticism (and, fuck me, is that a packed field) is that indie is a genre diametrically opposed to all other musical genres because it values the brain over the body (yeah, I hate it when people do that, let’s just turn everything into one big fucking sports day) and that indie kids are scared of dancing.
Are you fucking kidding me?
You bust out some “Handsome Devil” on the ones and twos, and you’ve got a dancefloor heaving like Gatecrasher, before everyone stopped listening to dance music and actually did something constructive with their time, like overdosing. Of course, it’s not actually a physically exerting kid of dance. It’s that “pretend you have no spine and convulse slowly” style of dancing. Dance like everyone’s watching, kiddo, because they are. Why else do you think we all love Debbie Harry? So the thing goes on until 2am. Upon leaving, I comment to my dancing partner and gig going acquaintance that it’s nice to spend a Friday night in a club with as little aggro as that. Her response? “Yeah, it’s great. The Smiths turn straight guys gay for a good 30 minutes at a time”.
Moz Eye for the Straight Guy? Sounds good enough for me.
Reviewed by: Dom Passantino
Reviewed on: 2003-12-30