Where To Start With... Morrissey
Ah, Morrissey. Where to start indeed? From the moment he appeared as frontman for The Smiths on Top of the Pops - sporting a quiff, an NHS hearing aid and brandishing a bunch of gladioli in place of a microphone in protest at being asked to mime - it was obvious that this was a unique artist. A famously dry, often grumpy man and a militant vegetarian, Moz has always polarised opinion but, love him or hate him, there’s no getting away from the fact that he is undoubtedly one of the finest lyricists this country has ever produced.
This week he's back with a brand new album, his eleventh since the demise of his former band The Smiths. Low In High School has been produced by Joe Chiccarelli, a man whose impressive list of production credits includes the likes of U2, Elton John, The White Stripes, Beck and Tori Amos, to name a handful. Recorded partly at La Fabrique studio in France and at Ennio Morricone's Forum studios in Italy, the new album features 12 new songs co-written, variously, with Morrissey's longtime guitarist Martin 'Boz' Boorer, keyboardist Gus Manzur and new bassist Mando Lopez.
The new album was announced in August and includes the singles 'Spent the Day in Bed', 'I Wish You Lonely' and the recently unveiled 'Jacky's Only Happy When She's Up on the Stage'.
You can find the video for the wonderfully languid 'Spent the Day in Bed' below, beneath that we've picked five key tracks from Morrissey's solo career for anyone unfamiliar with his post-Smiths work...
'Every Day Is Like Sunday'
Taken from Viva Hate, his first solo album after The Smiths’ somewhat acrimonious split, Morrissey returns with the kind of anthem that only Morrissey could write. Featuring lyrics that describe the dullness of an unnamed British seaside resort (“This is the coastal town / that they forgot to close down”), it’s one of his most iconic solo tracks and the perfect introduction to his work after The Smiths.
'The Last of the Famous International Playboys'
Although this single never featured on a studio album, it was later included on compilations Bona Drag and, from the days when we had our own label, The HMV/Parlophone Singles 1988-1995. Featuring lyrics about London’s notorious gangsters The Krays, it was a Top 10 hit for Moz in 1989 and the b-side, ‘Lucky Lisp’, also featured ex-Smiths members Andy Rourke and Mike Joyce.
'You're the One for Me, Fatty'
I might be an aquired taste, but anyone who thinks Morrissey doesn’t have a sense of humour clearly hasn’t been paying attention, and ‘You’re The One for Me, Fatty’ actually sounds like a record that Moz had a really good time making. The song was actually written for and about Chas Smash form Madness, whom Moz had recently become friends with – a fact worth writing a song about in itself. Taken from Your Arsenal, this song is great fun and it’s got the kind of jangly guitar sounds that Johnny Marr might have been proud of.
'The More You Ignore Me, The Closer I Get'
Released in February 1994 before its inclusion on the Steve Lillywhite-produced Vauxhall and I, ‘The More You Ignore Me, The Closer I Get’ is, both musically and lyrically, Morrissey 101. It also happens to be his only single to chart in the Billboard Top 100, peaking at 46. Maybe the Americans don’t quite get Morrissey, but that's their loss.
'Irish Blood, English Heart'
The most recent entry on this list, taken from 2004’s You Are The Quarry, this track is as far from Smiths territory as you can imagine Moz getting, but its lyrics are heartfelt rather than sharp and sarcastic, and find Morrissey in contemplative mood, writing about his roots and upbringing. Every now and them, Moz repays his fans’ loyalty with an absolute belter and this, along with ‘First of the Gang to Die’ from the same album, is definitely one of those moments.