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coverpic flag Mare Smythii - Full Moon 120 - 07/11/06

Through the retro-scope
Anniversary Album of the Moonth

The Smiths
The Queen Is Dead

This is a piece in a series of 12 Luna Kafé desserts, presenting a dozen of records celebrating their 40th, 30th, 20th or 10th birthday this year 2006. I've chosen three out of each "class". Classics, milestones, favourites. You name it. Some among the global masses, others maybe in smaller circuits only. Maybe we could group them under the moniker "Pet Records" - to re-name one of the many 40-year-olds of 2006.

July 19th, summer of 1986, I arrived in Manchester after a beer'n'whiskey soaked train trip from London along with a couple of friends. Our goal was: the G-MEX festival at the Greater Manchester Exhibition centre (G-MEX/MICC as their website states today: "From a windmill in 1812 to today's state-of-the-art exhibition and international convention centre in the heart of Manchester, G-Mex/MICC is designed to surpass the needs of the most discerning organiser."), housing a one day festival. The Festival of the 10th Summer - marking ten years since punk broke. In fact, this huge centre had its official opening by HM Queen Elisabeth II that very year. Well, there was a load of bands and artists in the line-up; the Fall, John Cale, New Order, the legendary Howard Devoto and his Luxuria (and rumours of a reunited Magazine, or even better - the Buzzcocks!). Plus The Smiths. Just weeks after they've out their third album, The Queen is Dead.

I wasn't much of a Smiths fan before this evening in Manchester, but, hey, did I see the light (that never goes out)! A raving, drooling, maniac dancing Morrissey fronted a band I couldn't dream had this punch. So, shortly after coming back home to Norway I bought The Queen Is Dead, which has ranked among my favourites for years. From the first tones and lines of "Take Me Back To Dear Old Blighty", which jumps straight into the thumping, drum-driven intro of the title track, you get hooked from the start. The jangly sound of Marr's guitars, the twisted and wry sound of Morrissey's voice, and last but not least the cunning lyrics of 'the Moz'. There's wit and humour, sadness, pain, embarrassment, self-exposure, nakedness. He can be extremely poetic, as well as utterly pathetic within the same song. His lyrics are for real, and you'd better take a stand, or beat it. It's a love/hate thing. "The Queen Is Dead" is a smashing opening song, and it shows Morrissey's humour, showing that he's not afraid of cracking a jokey line about himself: "...she said: "I know you, and you cannot sing". I said: "That's nothing - you should hear me play piano"."

Some songs, or parts of songs, tend towards the sulking, whining stuff being too much. Read: my loneliness is bottomless, endless, and unstoppable. Yet again, when Morrissey is about to corner himself in something you think is embarrassing gobbledygook, he just go clear with a nice lyrical 'football dribble'. He (and Marr) came up with touching songs like "Never Had No-One Ever", "There Is A Light That Never Goes Out", "The Boy With The Thorn In His Side", and "Never Had No-One Ever". Then there's the stand-out song of the album, "Bigmouth Strikes Again", with another fave Morrissey lyric, the incredibly cheesy and fascinating line: "...and now I know how Joan of Arc felt, now I know how Joan of Arc felt, as the flames rose to her Roman nose, and her walkman started to melt." Or the sugar-brute opening: "Sweetness, sweetness, I was only joking when I said I'd like to smash every tooth in your head." "Bigmouth..."'s guitar-intro still makes me swirl my head, looking for a mosh-pit dance-floor. And, of course the album's got a brilliant 'outro' with the deadpan funny "Some Girls Are Bigger Than Others".

I could've said much more about The Smiths, but I won't. Oh, yeah, just have to mention the cover art. Great as always with this band. The cover star for The Queen Is Dead is French actor Alain Delon (a shot taken from the 1964 film L'insoumis), lying on his back, hands hovering over his chest. At first glance I thought it was some dead, or dying, Queen...

Back in Manchester, 1986, at the G-MEX festival: me and my two friends were quite smashed after The Smiths gig, when the big name of the night entered the stage: New Order. Disappointment. Big time. So, we left after a few songs. Long before the pale-faced Ian McCulloch entered the stage as the guest singer on "Ceremony".

If I don't recall wrongly some live recordings from this evening appeared later. Was it on The World Won't Listen? Listen closely and you'll hear 3 wise men (or 3 little pigs) in the audience singing The Smiths in Norwegian! Fluently.

Copyright © 2006 Håvard Oppøyen e-mail address

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