Tuesday, 12 August 2014

The Smiths

The Smiths songs are the songs that saved my life. Sixteen, clumsy and shy I am riddled with teenage angst, I wallow in an all consuming sense of loneliness and have suffered from bouts of anxiety and depression. (Well it wouldn’t be right to start an article about The Smiths with anything other than a small dose of self pity now, would it?) When everything becomes too much I lie on the floor and listen to ‘I Know It’s Over’, cry to ‘Asleep’ or commit to flailing around my bedroom in a Mozzerian style, trying (yet mostly failing) to hit the falsetto notes in ‘Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now.’ I own 7 CDS, 3 DVDs, 3 magazines, 6 books, 2 fanzines, numerous posters…and a shrine…

The Smiths are something I can write quite freely and endlessly about. However, it is difficult because so much has been written about them. Furthermore, my boundless admiration for them puts on pressure to do the band justice. I am going to write about what The Smiths mean to me and why I love them. Hopefully it will be readable and relatable. 

Let’s go back to where it all began; to my humble entrance into Smithdom. ‘Twas January 2013 and snow was steadily falling to the ground. School had closed early and, as we drove home, I persuaded my mother to let me download ‘The Sound of The Smiths’ from iTunes onto my phone. My official ‘Smiths weekend’, as it later became known in my diary and in my head, had commenced. I summed it up a few days later, saying that “I really don’t know what to do. The Smiths have changed my life. Morrissey’s words are beautiful and everything all goes so well. I’m so obsessed. All I could think about all day at school was listening to The Smiths and I was constantly singing their songs under my breath. I just lay on my bed with all the lights out except my lava lamp and listened to them with my phone turned up as loud as possible and my earphones in.” Then later THE SAME DAY, “It’s me again. Off on another rant about The Smiths.” The pages surrounding such entries were filled with lyrics and illustrations. At the time I was definitely not aware that, a year later, I would still feel the exact same sense of wonderment every time I listened to them. 

However, the story starts before that day. It starts with something that music snob Smiths fans would line me up and shoot me for and ends with a very proud and emotional moment. I made a mix CD for my then best friend for her Christmas present and put the song ‘Asleep’ on it because ‘The Perks of Being a Wallflower’ had become very dear to us both that year. Accompanying the mix CD was a booklet describing why I had put on each song. Feeling how I do now about The Smiths, the description for ‘Asleep’ is so cringey. However, on the day it reduced my friend to tears. Literal real tears. My writing made someone cry!!! 

The next song is the song that Charlie is always talking about in Perks. It’s Asleep by The Smiths and I have never really listened to The Smiths much but know that lots of cool people in movies listen to them and their music is kind of depressing. This song is usually interpreted as a direct reference to suicide but I like to think that "There is another/better world” does not mean that death is the better world but imagination is. This sounds really cringey and when we listen to it on Friday I’m gonna blush so much but I just want this song to make you happy not suicidal so my interpretation is that when you are feeling down, create another world for yourself; whether through reading, writing, doodling, dreaming, whatever. Just create. And I hope it makes you feel infinite like you’re standing at the back of a truck and screaming happily whilst driving going through a tunnel and listening to the perfect song at the perfect moment.

So that is the complete story of my introduction to The Smiths. Their music continues to have a deeply profound effect on me today. There have been long stretches of time where Morrissey has felt like my best and closest friend. The Smiths’ self-titled album is my after school album. ‘Meat Is Murder’ is my morning album. ‘The Queen Is Dead’ is my night time album. ‘Strangeways, Here We Come’ is my travelling album. 

Morrissey’s dreamily imperfect voice soothes many maladies and Johnny’s guitar always lights up the horizon. I have absorbed so much knowledge about The Smiths in the past year. I have cried because I will never see them live and because of the sad situation surrounding their break-up. 

In February last year I went into town one afternoon. I got ‘Morrissey and Marr: The Severed Alliance’ by Johnny Rogan out from the local library. I went to a cafĂ© and got a cup of tea. When I finished the tea I walked round the park in the dark and listened to The Smiths and Morrissey and wrote. The darkness and isolation was simultaneously scary and exhilarating and magical. 

I went on a French exchange in March but I left my iPod charger at home. I ended up paying FORTY EUROS in Paris to buy one because I could not cope without listening to Morrissey’s voice. The struggle was real, I am telling you. 

In the Easter holidays I spent a week in a cottage in Dorset. There were lots of markets there, selling CDs. I returned home with 4 Morrissey CDs. 

Last December I told my guy friend that I wanted to be more than friends and, hearing that he did not, I wrote in my journal, “I feel like listening to ‘I Know It’s Over’ on repeat for 70 years until I die.” Morbid, I know but unrequited love is painful. 

So, that is my experience with The Smiths in a nutshell. Morrissey has introduced me to so many new and wonderful things. I have learnt new words, watched films I wouldn’t have otherwise watched and taken new moral and political stances. I don’t think that the way in which music impacts some lives can ever be overestimated. The Smiths have legitimately saved lives. They performed on Top of the Pops and did television interviews but behind the inevitable showiness there are the people in the dark bedrooms climbing into empty beds with tear stained cheeks, letting Morrissey sing them to sleep once more- the comically morbid, controversially political, intelligently superficial and sometimes hopeful Morrissey. 

The Smiths created a boundlessly beautiful discography that links people together the world over to this day. There is a silent understanding between Smiths fans; one that shall be whispered down through generations. The Smiths are VERY IMPORTANT and remember, when making an important decision; always ask yourself, what would Morrissey’s hair do?

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