Bigmouth Strikes Again

Morrissey Symposium UL

Last night I returned home from the best part of two days spent at The Songs That Saved Your Life (Again), a symposium for an English singer named Morrissey that took place at the University of Limerick. It was not uninteresting and it got me out of the house for a couple of days. I got to hear some interesting talks about the Mancunian singer, his passionate fans and his songs. I watched a number of documentaries of variable quality and saw a Smiths tribute act of questionable quality. I also met some fans of The Smiths/Morrissey as well as some less fanatical individuals

The weekend began with the European premiere of Passions Just Like Mine by Kerri Koch. This documentary looked at the huge following that Morrissey has amongst the Hispanic community in Los Angeles. It featured interviews with many of these fans and with some of the members of a couple of Hispanic cover bands who play the music of The Smiths and Morrissey. The film was a bit too long and repetitive and some of the interviews suffered from poor sound and lighting. Additionally, a lot of it was unintentionally funny as the interviews gushed about their love of Morrissey and his music. Attempts to uncover the reasons why Morrissey is so popular amongst this community were unsuccessful

The symposium’s second film was shown later that night just before the tribute act took the stage at Dolan’s. The World Won’t Listen featured sixty minutes of Indonesian youths singing karaoke versions of Smiths’ songs. A couple of the versions stood out, but this was way too long, extremely repetitive, and quite pointless. The third and final film of the weekend, Is It Really So Strange? was shown on two small screens at a bar following the final paper on Saturday. It seemed to cover much the same ground as the first film and even featured some of the same interviewees. I tuned out after a while and drifted to the bar and chatted to some of the other less fanatical attendees

The first night closed with a performance by a Smiths covers band called These Charming Men. I must admit that I’m not a big fan of tribute acts unless they are absolutely terrible. These guys were merely adequate. The guitarist was the best of the lot, the rhythm section was poor, and the lead singer reminded me more of Johnny Rotten than Morrissey. Nevertheless, the group got progressively better with each pint I drank and some of their songs were better than others

The highlights of the weekend for me were the various papers that were presented on the second day. Some of the topics covered included representations of the working class in Morrissey’s songs, fanaticism, and the influence of other works in his songs. I particularly enjoyed two of the presentations. Kieran Cashell delivered his paper on the philosophy of suicide in relation to a number of songs by The Smiths and interviews that Morrissey has given in the past. He began by looking at suicide from a philosophical perspective and then showed how these views are present in Morrissey’s interviews and in a number of his songs. He provided an excellent analysis of a Smiths’ b-side entitled Asleep and, due to time constraints, a shorter analysis of their single, Shakespeare’s Sister. It was a well-written paper and it was delivered passionately by its author

The presentation that I enjoyed the most was given by an American who now lives in New York City, although he grew up in Denver, Colorado. In the Haze of a Drunken Hour by Dan Jacobsen focused on a weekly Smiths party that takes place every Sunday at a venue in New York City. Jacobsen’s description of the venue, the people who attend it and the events that occur there every week was wonderful. He described it in great detail with humour and wit and he certainly had the audience’s attention throughout. He spoke about the cynicism of many of the hipsters who attend not from a love of the music, but to take the piss out of the genuine fans who show up each week. Additionally, he traced the roots of one of The Smiths more popular songs, There Is a Light That Never Goes Out, back to an early Marvin Gaye single, Hitchhiker. He revealed that this is part of a larger project that will culminate in a book about the venue and The Smiths

All in all, it was an enjoyable and interesting few days and a nice introduction to Wednesday’s Morrissey gig in Galway. Many of the people who attended were huge Morrissey fans, but I met a good few who were, like me, simply music fans. Here’s a few songs that I wouldn’t mind hearing on Wednesday

Bigmouth Strikes Again – The Smiths

Shakespeare’s Sister – The Smiths

Suedehead – Morrissey

Everyday is Like Sunday – Morrissey

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