Girl Least Likely to (or the Patheticness of Realizing Two or More Important Things about Morrissey at 37)

I’m always very shy when it comes to writing about myself on this blog, but sometimes thoughts stop in my mind and the only way to let them go is to write them down. I’ve been thinking about this for several months and two posts have set off the decision to express my thoughts about it. I’m 37 and I’ve spent most of my life listening to music; I still do because music has the unique power of bringing memories back: as a nostalgic, I firmly believe memories and past experience are the most treasured thing I own. Moreover, I firmly believe that some music and some artists can have a major impact on you if you are a teenager/young adult: Morrissey is certainly among them.

Morrissey relaxing in a bath tub (you know I’m obsessed) on the set of Suedehead music video

I’ve never been a fan of the British songwriter/singer: I listened to some of his songs when I was a teenager (my favourites were Suedehead and Ouija Board, Ouija Board), but he has never had a particular appeal to me. For this reason, isn’t it extremely pathetic when you realize two or more important things about his songs when you are my age? The angst, loneliness, sharp irony and lyricism of his songs sound better when you are 15, but I can assure you they can have a deep effect even if you are older. Of course you feel as if you’ve missed one of the best things in your life, but still.

I’m a bit snobbish when I say that I never listen to contemporary music: I rarely listen to artists I’ve never listened to before, but with Morrissey things have been a little bit different. Last year I had the chance to listen to Viva Hate (his first solo album, released in March 1988 – it was technically a new album to me) and I found out what generations of teenagers had found out before me: songs that seem written for you, lyrics that express how you feel better than anything you could possibly write or say. Morrissey often speaks about himself, but his  incredible songwriting ability turns his experience into a universal tale, ready to take the shape of anybody wants to read his/her own experience or state of mind in it.

After Viva Hate, I listened to Vauxhall and I (which didn’t impress me as much as the first album) and to My Early Burglary Years (released in 1998), which includes my favourite song by Morrissey, Girl Least Likely To. The track, first released in 1989 as the b-side of November Spawned a Monster (12” version), is often considered one of his most underrated songs: even if it contains elements of self-criticism, it speaks about a girl who would like to be recognized for her writing abilities, something that never happens (It’s never in this year) because the bitter truth is that she’s talentless. When I first listened to it, it was as if someone slapped me in the face, telling me that THIS is the truth, no matter what. It shocked me so much that I felt violated, as if someone had stepped into my tub while I was having a bath. But then this unpleasant feeling subsided and was slowly replaced by gratitude: I spent years listening to thousands of songs which I thought spoke to my inner self, and I could have never imagined I would find out my ultimate song in my thirties, when my self is much more complicated than in my teenage years. If I had listened to it years ago, I’m sure it wouldn’t have been so appealing, but now it comes as an act of cosciousness raising.

The bottom line is that I’m the girl least likely to: I’ve always wanted to distinguish myself for my (supposed) writing abilities but I’ve failed. I’m not witty nor ironic (I take myself and the world too seriously), I’m not funny, I’m not even that interesting to attract others’ attention. The fact that I write about “objective” topics (fashion and photography, for example) is not coincidental: I don’t lack a good knowledge of grammar and a minimum of critical sense, and this is enough to write about “objective” topics. Writing something coherent and correct is different from writing something witty or influential: the girl least likely to (me) can only aspire to the first category, even if she dreams about the second one all the time.

If you don’t know the song, here is a live version of the song, taped in Sheffield in 1992. Awww, Morrissey was wearing a lovely lame shirt.

And this is a cover by the Detroit Cobras of Only to Other People, a song whose tune Morrissey clearly used for his own song [1]. Only to Other People was originally released by the Cookies, the historical backing vocalists for Ray Charles. Now, the fact that Morrissey ripped off the music of this song turns me down a bit, but I still think the song is great.

Before closing, here is my personal top ten list of Morrissey’s songs you must listen to before going to bed tonight:

1.  Everyday is Like Sunday (this makes me cry)

2. First of the Gang to Die (anthem)

3. Suedehead (the line “You had to sneak into my room just to read my diary” always gives me the chills)

4. The More You Ignore Me, the Closer I Get (this makes me cry, again)

5. Now My Heart Is Full (anthem)

6. Dial-a-Cliché (my second favourite)

7. The Ordinary Boys (I’m the ordinary girl with “supermarket clothes”)

(Bonus tracks by the Smiths)

8. There Is a Light That Never Goes Out (damn, this is amazing and heart-breaking)

9. Panic (“Hang the dj”: enough said)

10. The Boy with the Thorn in His Side (“Behind the hatred there lies a murderous desire for love” is one of the best lines I’ve ever listened to)

The essence of romantic decadence: Byron, a typewriter, a bath tub and James Dean on the wall (it’s a gif, so click on the image)

[1] Thanks to Antonio, a real Morrissey expert and fan, who told me about the song by the Cookies some months ago.

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10 comments

    1. The First of the Gang to Die is awesome! I like it a lot :)

      Well, you’re 25, so you shouldn’t feel old, at all! When did you start listening to Morrissey?

  1. I really loved this post. I appreciate so much when someone lets himself/herself be “readable” and transparent as you did here, especially when Moz is involved. I agree with you about that line in “The boy with the thorn in is side”. Every time I listen to it if feel blessed for having had the chance to discover it when I was a teenager. At the same time it makes me so sad because I still relate to it after several years.

    1. Thanks. It’s been years since I decided to be honest with myself and to see the truth as it really is, instead of hiding myself behind excuses or else. This is probably the difference between the girl in the song and myself, thank God.

      Oh, I know what you mean. I feel the same when I listen to some songs I used to love when I was a teenager. I realize they still make me feel like I felt when I first listened to them. Is this the power of music or it is us who cannot really change?

  2. That’s what the Moz does to people, indeed. Luckily, even if his lyrics seem to hit the spot in some uncanny way, we’re not song characters but evolving people, and thanks to «consciousness crisis» like these we can try to change.
    I went through that phase during the Smiths era («my» album is The Queen is Dead, it still breaks my heart), then I was put off by the beginnings of M’s solo career – I found it bland – and just stopped listening. I changed my mind only a few years ago, because of Ringleader of the Tormentors, a brilliant album from start to end, and Years of Refusal is not bad either… I might even go back to his old albums, using your playlist as a guide ;o)

    1. “Uncanny”: that’s the perfect adjective to describe my feeling in relation to some of his songs.

      What you say is very interesting and true – we’re not song characters but evolving people – but I know my case is different: “Girl Least Likely to” has served as an eye-opener on something I can’t change, because I guess you can’t try to change the fact that you have no talent for witty/inspiring writing.

      You know: my list only includes songs I know/love, but feel free to suggest others I may have not listened to. I know very few songs by the Smiths, just to say…

  3. Have you given any thought to the opportunity of finding some outlet for Italian writing again? Writing in a foreign language is just not the same, is it (I mean it brings out a different self, regardless of the linguistic propriety you doubtlessly have) and I seem to remember your old blog as less polished and grown-up, sure, but maybe more creative? Just a feeling, mind you…
    Back to the Smiths, my absolute favourite must be Hand in Glove. Such a powerful cry of marginality and vitality at the same time, I get thrills even thinking of it. (Also in the version sung by Sandie Shaw.)

    1. Yes, I thought about that but I feel it’s not my thing anymore. Writing in English or in Italian are two completely different things, but I decided to quit my blog in Italian because writing in my native language was not challenging anymore. In my case, I think it’s a question of approach, not of language. I really admire those who write simple things but in a funny/captivating/interesting way: it’s something that you have inside, not something you can learn to be.

      I’ve never heard of that song. Now I’m curious :)

  4. I’m so late but i must tell you now: read “The wrong boy” by Willy Russell. You’ll love it! This comment might look like an OT, but surely it isn’t…believe me!

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