Weird at My School: Stephen, You’re Really Something

smiths84

My friend Scott in New York forwarded me the above flyer yesterday. He was feeling nostalgic for New Year’s Eve 1983, when The Smiths played their first-ever U.S. gig at Danceteria in NYC (yes, he was there), and found this image on eBay — the original is up for sale.

My buddy forwarded the picture cuz he knows I carry a torch for Hermine, one of my all-time favorite new wave “singers who can’t sing” (i.e. she’s more of a diseuse than chanteuse). But it seemed like kismet The Smiths were the big draw on that card. Because Morrissey has been hovering over me like a specter for days now.

It shouldn’t surprise me. Mozzer has done so much for me over the years, even during the long periods when I neglected, even publicly rebuked him. (Although he’s a sucker for that kind of abuse.) Without Morrissey, who coaxed Nancy Sinatra out of retirement, I might never have gotten to enjoy face time with the “Boots” singer. His celebrity endorsement validated several of my adolescent obsessions — Joe Dallesandro, Jean Cocteau — while pointing me towards new ones: Sandie Shaw, Shelagh Delaney’s “A Taste of Honey.” In college, circa 1985, wearing my Hatful of Hollow t-shirt helped me make friends faster than a dozen passes through freshman orientation.

He’s still turning me on to music. When I pop “Morrissey” into the search function of my iTunes, 73 selections come up. That’s more than David Bowie, Arthur Russell, or Kylie Minogue. (Yes, I’m gay. Duh.) A huge percentage of those titles come from his Songs to Save Your Life and Under the Influence: Morrissey compilations. Sure, I found Sparks, Klaus Nomi and Patti Smith on my own — just like any other brooding adolescent in a small town. But Ludus? Raymonde? Jobriath? These were just mysterious names from old issues of The Face before Moz dropped them into my lap.

Hell, Morrissey even cleaned my office. Sort of. Yesterday, I was so irked that I couldn’t lay hands on some of my Smiths 7-inches, because my workspace looked like an archeological dig that’d collapsed, that I spent the entire day pulling it into some semblance of order. Today? I know exactly where my copies of “The Boy with the Thorn in His Side” and “Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now” are — and also my old tax returns, photos I thought I’d lost years ago, that copy of David Sedaris’ Holidays on Ice I so desperately wanted on Christmas Eve… you get the idea.

As I write this, I’m listening to Morrissey’s forthcoming album, Years of Refusal (due Feb. 17). It’s every bit as good as You Are the Quarry and Ringleader of the Tormentors, robust and romantic at the same time. 25 years later, there’s still plenty of life left in the old dear. I might not have gotten to see that first U.S. show back in 1983, but Morrissey has since provided me with a lifetime of worthwhile music. And a much tidier work space in which to enjoy it.

DJ El Toro is the host of the overnight show In Between Sleep & Reason, Wednesday mornings from 1 AM to 6 AM on KEXP 90.3 FM Seattle and kexp.org. His column, Weird At My School, appears every Monday on the KEXP Blog.

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