The top ten most underrated Morrissey songs
Some rock, some pop, some are emotion beyond words. Each signify Morrissey at his stunning best. Yet why do the following ten songs barely get a mention by critics and even fans alike? It's been a tough job, but I've spent the last 72 hours playing non-stop Morrissey to scrutinise over a sensational shortlist. This selection of five b-sides, two album tracks and three under-valued singles is my take on the gems that seemed to getaway...
10 Yes I Am Blind
A 1990 B-side to "Ouija Board Ouija Board". Three minutes, 45 seconds of devastating realism from Moz about awkwardness, loss and bad people profiting over the likes of you and I. There's self doubt, apologies, professions of love and a plea for God to come down to earth to sort this mess out. And when you think there's no more emotion left to give, Morrissey hits us with a brutal assessment of the meat industry. Who can't visualise the "little lamb on a hill" joyfully playing with mum but set to become Sunday's roast?
I've not even mentioned the music. Yes I Am Blind is a beautiful piece of work from ex-Smith Andy Rourke. Perfect guitar plucking, a song which ebbs and flows before rising to a crescendo. It's an epic.
Ouija Board was the first Morrissey single to not make the Top Ten (it peaked at 18). Moz has been playing Ouija Board on his recent tour. He's not played Yes I Am Blind in concert for 22 years.
A single released in late December 1995. Made a slightly nervous debut on BBC's Jools Holland show. Awe-struck in our student halls we watched Moz and suited-up group craft this sorrowful gem. What Morrissey achieves in two minutes 42 seconds is what most songwriters take years to accomplish. It's quite a simple tale but it's delivered in a direct and painfully loving way. A life getting lost to drugs. A "needle pressed onto tight skin" as friends try to save the addict they love. Unrequited support, and heartache all round. All we want is to hear is some positive news, or a "thoughtful letter" that never arrives. Music written by the awesome Alain Whyte, fantastic Spencer drumming, supreme backing vocals from Boz Boorer. The accompanying video of West Ham supporting skinheads larking around in a park is magical. One of Morrissey's greatest ever singles and you can hear the love and anguish in his voice. The song offers no hope, there's no happy ending. Sunny's highest chart position 42.
Initially appeared as B-side to Roy's Keen and then on a 1999 six track Japanese import that cost me a small fortune at the time. Co-written with drummer Spencer Cobrin. Oh to be aboard that "jet trails in the sky". Another song which has a supremely up-tempo flow with great strings and beautiful melancholy. I'm met Morrissey fans over the years who refer to this track as their favourite ever Moz song. "So if I see you and I tell you how I've watched you, don't make fun of me later, cos I'm just lost". This track seemed to have a self-fulfilling prophecy in that it was tucked away until finding its rightful place in the reissued Maladjusted a couple of years ago.
7 Interesting Drug
Bad people on the right, lives getting ruined, young married couples in debt. This single was released in 1989 but the lyrics are still as relevant in 2013. At time of release the music media deemed it a miss, with one review stating: "the best thing about this song is the sneeze at the end". This is a great pop single, made mightier by backing vocals from Kirsty McColl. A limited edition 12 inch features an Oscar Wilde motif. For me this song will always be special. It was the first song I ever saw him sing live. The year 1991, the venue Aberdeen Capitol Theatre, the moment priceless. Chart position 9.
6 Reader Meet Author
Album track which takes a swipe at journalists (there's been a few Moz songs on this subject - Journalists Who Lie - being another obvious Moz attack on Fleet Street). Which brings me to my favourite quote Morrissey has ever uttered about Her Majesty's press: "The only contact I ever made with the dead was when I spoke to a journalist from The Sun." Reader Meet Author is a barn-storming tune about how tabloid press have no idea of real lives and the people who they write about. Boz Boorer the co-writer. This is one Boz should be happily proud of. The guitar solo rises and falls to perfection. This song blasts along like an express train and is fab live in concert. At Liverpool Royal Court in 1999 Moz changed the lyric to "have you ever escaped from an Ormskirk life?" I'd met the band a few hours before the gig and given them a copy of the Ormskirk Advertiser...(which is not a tabloid but a weekly paper based in West Lancashire!). I was writing for said title at the time. I never made Fleet Street, the pinnacle of my reporting career - Old Hall Street.
5 The Never Played Symphonies
Another B-side. Up there with There Is A Light That Never Goes Out. It's true, believe me! This song is as good as any Smiths song. Here Moz "reflects from his death bed" on those loved and lost. Any song that rhymes 'riches' with 'ditches' in the second line is going to be a belter. The piano and general rhythm on this is spectacular beauty. This is another golden track co-created with Alain Whyte. I'm not eloquent enough to give this song justice here, so I'll leave it to James Willstrop, Britain's world squash No 1 who eulogised about The Never Played Symphonies in the Daily Telegraph last year: "It is a touching, well judged and eloquent lament, without being morose. It is stirring without being maudlin. It's a song I always feel I could get upset by, if I weren't so inspired. There is no question that when an artist lists such a song as a B-side he knows he is hitting form. The only pity about this is the many people who won't get to hear this snippet of pure genius because of the fact."
4 Friday Mourning
Listen to the Live at Earls Court CD to understand the full magnificence of this song. I can't tell you the number of times I played this when I've ever had a rough time in jobs I've hated. A great song that sticks to fingers up at "bosses who share a point of view... that you are a loser". I remember playing this five minutes before spectacularly handing in my notice at work in 2005. It was a Friday Morning and it was fabulous. This song features some of the greatest ever Moz harmonies. Listen to him yodel at the end. Julie Andrews eat your heart out.
3 Will Never Marry
Another tucked away B-side. This was an extra track on the 12inch, CD and cassingle versions of 1988's Everyday Is Like Sunday. It's a Moz/Street work and is an immense song which was performed extensively during Morrissey's first full solo tour.
Another tale of rejection but this time the author the rejector: "I'm writing this to say, in a gentle way, thank you, but no. I will live my life as I will undoubtedly die, alone."
There are two versions of this song. A shortened 2 minutes 22 is the one most commonly aired. But it's the initial version - a lengthier rendition complete with school-ground cries of "Steven!" and strings that rise and rise that is the absolute real deal.
This song's finest hour however, is actually on a video. The Introducing Morrissey concert film features footage of Moz getting mobbed on stage and a selection of wide-eyed disciples queuing outside his 1995 gig at Aston Villa leisure Centre.
2 My Love Life
One of those wonderful discoveries in the import section of Liverpool's HMV. I nearly fainted as I found the US 12 inch on the shelves, before the UK version had even been released. I sprinted home, needle hit grove, and what a delightfully playful song followed. Another tune about love, loss and wanting the one we can't have. The video is a black and white road trip with Morrissey driving the band around Arizona in a Rolls Royce. Quiffs magnificent, denim everywhere. Moz urges: "I know you love one person but why can't you love two." Just when you think this song can't get any better, up pops Chrissie Hynde to harmonise at its climax. My Love Life is a truly great single. Released in September 1991 it made just 29th position in the UK charts.
1 Nobody Loves Us
In the summer of 1995, a 22-year-old Dickie Felton ran home from Crosby's Quirks Records with our hero's latest single. In my giddy excitement I accidentally played the B-side instead of the A-side Dagenham Dave. And I was hit by such power. The song - Nobody Loves Us.
The lyrics are among his strongest ever from the opening: "nine times fined, never mind, things can only improve. We are just stood here waiting for the next great wound" through to "Dab hands at trouble with four days of stubble". This song has everything from "fluffed brakes" to "stuffing our faces with cakes". It's another song for the absolute outsider delivered with a torrent of voice.
Morrissey barely pauses for breath during this magnificent Alain Whyte crafted song. It's 4mins 49 seconds long but storms by in a fraction of that time. Dreamers, schemers all bog-eyed, cross-eyed, shiftless, jobless but we're all yours.
Morrissey rightfully promoted Nobody Loves Us to the first team as it made the last song on 2009's reissued Southpaw Grammar. In my eyes this song is one of his greatest.