Morrissey’s Mystique 

The former Smiths frontman has always been clever enough to know that less is more

By Ed Condran
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 0 | Posted Jan. 9, 2013

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During a recent chat with former Smiths guitarist Johnny Marr, I asked the inevitable reunion question.


“I’ll be more than happy to reunite the Smiths as long as it’s all-instrumental and Morrissey plays the cello,” Marr quipped.

Someone hit the rim shot. During a rare chat with Morrissey at South By Southwest seven years ago, the Moz fielded questions, many of which were about the Smiths. 

Morrissey noted that the Smiths were offered $5 million to appear at Coachella. He turned it down since money wasn’t an issue.

Since Morrissey and Marr don’t blow big sums of cash like Allen Iverson, it’s about more important factors than filthy lucre.

A Smiths reunion is as unlikely as a Beatles reformation sans John Lennon and George Harrison. It just won’t happen, which is why fans must settle for solo tours. Morrissey, who will perform Saturday, Jan. 12, at the House of Blues in Atlantic City, doesn’t go on many jaunts. During a 2012 interview, he claimed he may retire this year. But it’s difficult to put much stock into that considering how many times Cher (and other performers) said she was on her swan song jaunt. Saturday night’s show will be a chance to experience perhaps the most amusing vocalist in rock history.

The Smiths’ and Morrissey’s solo material are filled with considerable wit and dark cynicism. You can always tell a Morrissey song within a few months, just like a Prince tune is instantly identifiable. Morrissey’s fingerprints are all over tunes, which are often twisted, unpredictable and black as the night.

It’s been three years since Morrissey’s last recorded offering, Years of Refusal. But Morrissey doesn’t have to tour behind anything anymore. His cult fan base in America is more fanatical than his United Kingdom followers.

Part of why Morrissey has never faded away is due to his strong solo albums. Many Smiths fans thought that all was lost when Marr left the band in 1987 and Morrissey followed by pursuing a solo career. Who was going to come up with those brilliant guitar lines? Well, Morrissey found a number of sonic partners and has enjoyed a successful solo career, which is over a quarter-century old, which trumps the Smiths seven-year run.

While you're here, check out David Bowie's new song and video by clicking here.

The gorgeous “Everyday Is Like Sunday,” the oft-misunderstood “Suedehead,” the potent “You’re Going To Need Somebody on Your Side,” the relentlessly catchy “National Front Disco,” the hilarious “We Hate It When Our Friends Become Successful” and the poppy “Boy Racer” are just some of Morrissey’s solo tracks that fans cling to like an old blanket.

It’s not just about the Smiths, who are arguably the greatest band of the 1980s, with apologies to Sonic Youth, The Replacements, R.E.M., Metallica and Husker Du.

It’s Morrissey by his lonesome when he plays Atlantic City. But there will be a number of Smith’s tracks. The band can’t be ignored even though that was the case, to an extent, when it existed, at least in America.

I recall experiencing the Smiths during its “Queen Is Dead” tour in 1985 at the Tower Theater and there were plenty of empty seats. Morrissey, performing with a faux hearing aid, was thrilled collecting endless gladiolas. He was a young, brilliant, original frontman.

Unfortunately, most of America didn’t get the Smiths, save those on the West Coast, who adored the band, as well as British peers the Cure and Depeche Mode, who played stadiums in Southern California and theaters in Philadelphia.

Even the American music press didn’t get it. I remember being floored reading then Philadelphia Inquirer music critic Ken Tucker’s review of Strangeways, Here We Come, the final Smiths album, which dropped in 1987.

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