Despite his many detractors (himself included), using his razor sharp wit and will Steven Patrick Morrissey has etched his name into the Tree of Life. At this point, I think it’s safe to assume that long after we’re all dead and gone, Morrissey’s name will transcend their current pop culture trappings and he will be seen primarily as a writer/poet, a Thatcher-era Voltaire, MTV’s Oscar Wilde, Vegan Byron, etcetera, etcetera.
Los Angeles loves Morrissey.
And, I get the impression that although it’s a tricky relationship, Morrissey loves LA too. I THANKFULLY had an opportunity to catch him a couple of times a number of years back during his weeklong stint at the Palladium. Those were phenomenal shows, and some of my all time favorites. When he announced a few Fall dates earlier this year…people were all abuzz. And they were even more abuzz when he announced he’d have to postpone them. “Ringleader of the Tormentors“, indeed.
But Moz has since announced rescheduled dates, including an LA date on March 1. His guest will be the one and only Godmother of Punk, Patti Smith (who recently recorded an Apogee’s Berkeley Street session for MBE.)
In memory of the show that didn’t happen — and in honor of the show that is to come — I’ve compiled a handful of some of my favorite Morrissey deep cuts; B-sides and non-singles so good they should’ve been singles.
1. “Ganglord” (B-side to The Youngest Was the Most Loved)
A more recent composition (relatively speaking) the bombastic “Ganglord“ was a “Ringleader of the Tormentors” B-side which (like most Morrissey songs) had a second life and became a “hit” off 2009′s B-Side compilation “Swords,” and has become a live show staple. The arrangement and production, which are less traditional Moz jingle jangle and have more in common with soundtrack music or the noisier strains of early Radiohead, rises to the challenge of Morrissey’s plaintive call to be saved by a ganglord. Epic.
2. “The Loop” (B-Side to Sing Your Life)
Musically, I figure this is just about the best Johnny Cash song Johnny Cash never wrote. A B-side from Moz’s second solo album “Kill Uncle”, “The Loop” huffs and puffs and charges like a runaway train. Moz sounds vigorous and self-assured and the upright bass is the illest of almost any song I can recall. One of my all time favorites, by any artist.
3. “I’d Love To” (B-Side to The More You Ignore Me, The Closer I Get)
Although Morrissey does a fine job hiding Morrissey through either his hopelessly desperate lover schtick or his lacerating wit, every once in awhile you get a more naked version of his sincerely romantic spirit. This “Vauxhall & I” B-side is tender and haunting in it’s simplicity. His voice riding pretty high in the mix almost drowns out the 4AD atmospherics as if to make the point that this is a message to someone in particular. With every listen, you can convince yourself it’s you.
4. “Disappointed” (B-Side to Everyday is Like Sunday)
That combination of sensitivity and sharp wit is the essence of the man and, not one to mince his words, he named his post-Smiths solo debut “Viva Hate.” It’s called that. Forever. The album also give Moz the liberty to do as he damn well pleased so, he wrote a pretty nasty song about how truly disappointed he is in just about everything. And teases the idea of never singing a song again (to great fanfare) and then changing his mind and signing off. It’s spectacularly funny and bitter and uncomfortable. Ricky Gervais might owe his entire career to the last 4 lines of “Disappointed“.
5. “Speedway” (Last track on Vauxhall & I)
As I’m sure for many a Moz fan, “Vauxhall & I” is a near perfect career highlight. It’s the album that just gets it right. It’s everything Morrissey in one virtually flawless album, ending with “Speedway.” Using racing as a metaphor, the track begins with this buzzsaw guitar that’s supposed to approximate an engine, but actually just sounds (and feels) like chainsaw burrowing itself into the center of your forehead.
Lyrically it’s vitriolic and strange and seemingly directed at someone in particular and sung so frankly, the passionate indictment building until the track quite literally peters out like a stalling engine. As a song, as music, it rises above mere songcraft and uses these sounds to drive home the metaphor, like a sonic picture, highlighting not only his words but ideas and the ideas and the extremely talented people he chooses to work with. A phenomenal aural experience.