July 10, 2015
"Why do you come here/when you know it makes things hard for me?"
From the outset of the first song of his recent Detroit concert, Morrissey seemed to evoke a statement about the juxtaposition of his personal and public life. As I stood in the crowd, instantaneously delirious from the appearance of one of my favorite songwriters, I realized those words could describe me, especially the juxtaposition of my personal and public life.
If you don't know Morrissey, he is brilliant, uncompromising, self-effacing, obnoxious, angry, miserable, unforgiving, witty, obtuse, and deeply romantic all at the same time. Inside his head both Shakespearean tragedy and comedy must wage war on each other. The only thing he has ever seemed to know is music and song-writing, from the moment he met Johnny Marr at his door and started The Smiths to this night this week when he played second fiddle to a Rolling Stones' concert down the road at a modern baseball stadium while he played the smallest room at one of Detroit's iconic venues, The Masonic Temple.
These early lines from his first solo single, "Suedehead," have always resonated to me as powerful self-pitying romanticism, high art when it hits home, television sitcom bordering on maudlin when it doesn't. Yet, on this night, I believed he was speaking about his discomfort with appearing before another audience of obsessively adoring fans among dozens of audiences of fans (all musicians have legions of dedicated fans, but there is something frighteningly fixated about his flower-throwing, crowd-surfing, stage-crashing fan base) found during a grueling road trip across a country that he scorns and probably still hopes to conquer. Even without that success, many of us still come there and indubitably make things hard for him, when he probably would rather drink some tea and plan his trip home.
Morrissey songs always spoke to me about shyness and loyalty and despair and self-doubt and love. This week I realized he could now speak to me about the uneasiness of work that is never separated by the drama that is humankind. One doesn't succeed as a Vice-President of Instruction without managing people and their emotions, over and over. As much as I hate to say this, I know this is what I do well. And yet it drains. I wonder if Morrissey feels the same "can I really do this again?" as he sits backstage before every concert in the same way that I wonder, "can I really do this again?" as I prepare to go to work every Monday. There's a reason that one of my favorite Morrissey lines of all time is "I was looking for a job and then I found a job and heaven knows I'm miserable now."
Am I to find comfort in the unrelenting way the older Morrissey has decided to deliver his message these days? Whether it is the horrifying backdrop videos of police brutality ("Gangland") or animal killing ("Meat is Murder"), or the in-your-face lyrics of almost everything off of "World Peace is None of Your Business," his latest CD, Morrissey has clearly taken a "what do I have to lose" mentality. Maybe that's what he was telling me as he neared the end of his final pre-encore song, "Now My Heart is Full":
"I was tired again, I tried again, and now my heart is full."
"Now my heart is full, and I can't explain, so I won't even try to."
* Links to both of these wonderful songs can be found here and here.