Happy Birthday, Old Man.
Today is Morrissey's 50th birthday. I'm not normally in the habit of recognizing celebrity birthdays (with rare exceptions), but, as anyone who's spent more than about three seconds at Shakesville is well aware, I've wiled away more than half my life in ardent awe of Morrissey, a man whose songs I once described, quite sincerely, "as familiar, as much a part of me, as my own thoughts. I sing Smiths songs in my sleep." It was Morrissey whose song (with The Smiths) "Shakespeare's Sister" led me to A Room of One's Own, which would later have a particular relevance in my life—and possibly yours.
My life, since about age 15, has been set to a Smiths/Morrissey soundtrack. I remember seeing the video for "How Soon Is Now" on 120 Minutes, the first glimpse I ever had of my future; I remember hearing Viva Hate in its gorgeous entirety for the first time and knowing my life would never be the same. It was as if someone had pulled aside a wall of ivy to reveal a hidden path meant just for me; it was the first moment I started to feel like the grown-up I would become.
Me with Morrissey as he signs a postcard for me—and I tell him it's a pleasure to meet him, and he responds, quite genuinely and sweetly and looking me dead in the eyes, "The pleasure is mine, my love," from which I have never recovered.
People who visit Shakes Manor, if they have the misfortune of walking through the shitpit that is our garage, are greeted by a framed, autographed poster of Morrissey sitting by the door that leads into the kitchen. Sometimes they ask why it's not hanging up somewhere—and the truth is because it feels a little silly. I treasure it, but I'm not 15 anymore.
Then again, Morrissey was never David Cassidy.
It was not any other pop idol of my youth to whom I turned when nothing else could bring me solace after being raped at 16. No other singer sent me to the library, searching out Virginia Woolf and Oscar Wilde, or to the dictionary, looking up words in the lyrics that were beyond my (generally more than adequate) vocabulary. (He is, after all, reports The Scotsman today the "greatest lyricist in the history of British popular music.") There is no other artist in my collection whose CDs never get dusty, because they contain songs relevant to me at 15 and relevant to me now and every point in-between, songs I need and want to hear often, always.
Frequently, I am affectionately teased by friends about my ardor for Morrissey, about my encyclopedic knowledge of All Things Mozza, about the fact that I can listen to those same damn songs over and over and over, without ever getting tired of them. Sometimes, I'm told I am envied that there exists music that means to much to me.
I remember the day that I bought Vauxhall and I. It was a beautiful day in March, 1994; the sun was shining and the air was crisp—a perfect spring day. My then-boyfriend and I walked to the music store from our college dorm and each bought a copy, then went back to his room to listen to it. (He had the better stereo.) We laid on the floor, with the bright morning light shining in through the windows, and smoked Dunhills and let the new album wash over us. I smiled as I listened to Mozza tell me to hold onto my friends:
Resist or move on; be mad; be rash
Smoke and explode; sell all your clothes
Just bear in mind, there just might come a time
When you need some friends…
It has always seemed like good advice. I hold onto my friends, and I have long held onto the man who sang the words in the very same way I hold onto my friends. Dearly. Tightly. Loyally. With gratitude.
On Mozza's 50th birthday, it seems only right I should thank him for the rare and wonderful gift he has given me—a passion that has sustained and accompanied me throughout the last twenty years of my life. What an opportunity. What a treasure.
And the songs that saved your life
Yes, you're older now
And you're a clever swine
But they were the only ones who ever stood by you
The passing of time leaves empty lives waiting to be filled
I'm here with a cause
I'm holding a torch
In the corner of your room
Can you hear me?
And when you're dancing and laughing and finally living
Hear my voice in your head and think of me kindly...
Happy Birthday, friend. You've meant the world to me and still do.