The Songs That Saved Your Life

Okay, I know this is a totally wev post for most of the readers who pass this way, but it’s 5:00 in the morning, I’m suffering another bout of insomnia, and so this is the perfect post for me at the moment.

As has been mentioned here before, the name of this blog comes not from the shitty band of the same name, but from a Smiths’ b-side. To say that I am a Smiths/Morrissey fan is to say that there was some vague interest in the Schiavo fiasco. The truth is, my entire life since my early teenage years has been set to a Smiths/Morrissey soundtrack (with occasional interruptions by the likes of Bowie, Suede, Siouxsie, Robert Smith, Pulp, Shudder to Think, Blur, The Flaming Lips, et al). I remember seeing the video for How Soon Is Now on 120 Minutes, and recall the first time I heard Viva Hate in its gorgeous entirety and knew my life would never be the same. I know every lyric, every note, every nuance of Morrissey’s voice and what the differences are between multiple recordings of the same track. I haven’t missed a Morrissey show in Chicago since he went solo, I won tickets to the Chicago release party of Your Arsenal, I attended the video shoot for Glamorous Glue at Kingston Mines, and I’ve stood in line for hours waiting to see him at Tower Records. When asked how I can listen to the same albums over and over and over again without ever remotely tiring of them, I can’t explain. It’s the music, yes, and Morrissey’s breathtakingly beautiful lyrics, yes, and the themes—gender, sexuality, class, politics, history, literature, yes. But it’s more than that, too. These songs are as familiar, as much a part of me, as my own thoughts. I sing Smiths songs in my sleep.

I have a dear friend in London who buys all the British music rags, and cuts out all the articles about the Smiths and Morrissey for me, which periodically arrive in long brown envelopes—my own personal magazine. The other day, he sent me an email that contained a link to the coolest story:
Iconic 1980s indie group The Smiths are to be studied at an academic conference in Manchester, their home town.

The four-piece band, led by famously miserable singer Morrissey, will be analysed by scholars from around the world for two days next week.

The symposium, called Why Pamper Life's Complexities, will aim to assess the band's social, cultural, political and musical impact.

The Smiths are considered one of the most influential bands of the decade.

The academics will reflect on the influence of Morrissey's lyrics on gender and sexuality, race and nationality and the imagination of class.

The band will also be discussed in terms of aesthetics, fan cultures and musical innovation at Manchester Metropolitan University on 8 and 9 April.
What I wouldn’t give to be there!

The funny thing is, my degree is in sociopolitical anthropology, with an emphasis on the marginalization of gender-based political groups, and when I was at university, I was (as I am still) the laziest fucker on the planet. Not intellectually, mind you—I adored going to class and writing papers, but this was in the early 90s, just before the age of finding anything and everything you need on the internet, and the never-ending paper assignments (40 pages on this, 30 pages on that) necessitated scores of research. The university library, however, was a mess, making research tedious, and, more importantly, I had some serious slothfulness with which to contend, so I developed a habit of writing as many papers as possible using resources that could be found on the floor of my dorm room—namely NME, Select, and Rolling Stone. Sometimes, I just couldn’t swing it, but if the topic was gender roles in the workplace, I would write a paper about gender-bending rock stars; if the topic was male applications of feminism, I would write a paper tracing the rise of feminism in male-authored Britpop lyrics. And the great thing was, my professors thought I was a bloody genius. My work was always solid, and I gave them something original and interesting to read, for a change.

I can’t even begin to imagine how many papers I turned in that cited Steven Patrick Morrissey as a source. And now I find out that there’s actually an academic conference being organized to analyze the Smiths. I wasn’t lazy; I was a trailblazer!

Surely I should have been asked to attend. Harrumph!

Andy, Johnny, Mozz, and Mike.

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