Love With A Capital L

A journey towards living an inspired life of love in the modern world

Steven Patrick Morrissey — June 26, 2019

Steven Patrick Morrissey

Late last week, my sister tagged me in a Facebook post that advertised a Morrissey concert near Philadelphia, roughly an hour from my house.

She tagged me because her my brother-in-law would never go, he can’t stand Morrissey, hates his voice like fingernails on a chalkboard. He’s wrong, and it calls into question every other opinion he holds. She also tagged me because Morrissey has been my favorite singer since I was 13. You know how, when people are asked what they listen to, they usually think for a minute and say, “oh, well, everything really?” Or pause when they’re asked what they’re favorite song is? I never pause, because I don’t have to think. I say, “Morrissey/the Smiths” (the Smiths are the Very Important Band Morrissey fronted for a time in the ‘80’s) or “There Is A Light That Never Goes Out,” as if I’ve been waiting for someone to ask. Then they either nod, impressed, or confess that they have no idea who Morrissey is. 

It is no exaggeration to say that he changed my life. I’ve had a 30 year relationship with him and the songs/albums that have provided the soundtrack for EVERY SINGLE significant moment of my life; celebrations, heartbreaks, joy, pain, times when I was broken and times when I was whole. I listened to Louder Than Bombs (‘Unloveable’ on repeat) on my way home from an ex-girlfriend’s apartment after we had separated. I listened to Bona Drag on my way to and from my high school graduation. I knocked off school every time a new album was released – in fact, when World Peace Is None Of Your Business was released in 2014, I woke up at 3am to download it so I could have it for the gym at 4 and work later that day. If CDs and New Release days were still a thing, I imagine I would’ve knocked off of work that day, too. “There Is A Light That Never Goes Out” was my wedding song, played right in the middle of the ceremony, for all of us to hear about “double-decker bus” crashes and the pleasure and privilege of dying “by your side.” 

In the book High Fidelity, Rob asks if we find the music or if the music finds us – if the songs change us or we are the kind of people who can be changed by the songs. It probably doesn’t matter if I was hypersensitive and dramatic and that’s why Morrissey appealed to me so deeply, or if his lyrics/voice led me to be hypersensitive and dramatic. I am hypersensitive and dramatic and I love him like he’s a member of my family, and if I were to ever meet him, I would thank him for being who he was to me.

I almost met him once. He was playing a show at the Electric Factory in Philadelphia and I got there at 8am to stand in line so I could press myself against the stage for the show. Around 5-ish, I think, there was rumor that he was there, but there had been many such rumors during that day, and the line was looong by then and I couldn’t trust its validity. Of course, he was there and signed everything as he spoke with the fans who found him… 

I saw him twice in concert. The first was the Electric Factory show when I was 18 and the second was with my special lady (and first son, who was safely tucked inside her stomach, listening and I imagine thoroughly enjoying himself and judging us to be The Coolest Parents in America.)     

We use the word love for everything. I love my car, these shorts, pizza, my sister, and my nephew Nathan who just graduated from high school (who incidentally, sadly agrees with his dad about Morrissey), but I don’t love them all the same. If I were to list the things I love, Morrissey would be above ALL things that aren’t people. I love him more than pizza and baseball (both in the top 10) combined, no matter how many regrettable things he says or how many shameless cash-grab greatest hit/b-side collections/deluxe editions he releases. I don’t like the new album, but at this point, it’s irrelevant. He’s family, and I don’t like or agree with everything every person I love does or says. That’s part of growing up. In college, too many relationships ended because they didn’t like Morrissey enough. I’m different now.

I don’t care anymore if you like ‘There Is A Light That Never Goes Out,’ though I suspect if you don’t understand why I do, you may not like me that much. 

I’m not going to the Morrissey show with my sister, even if he was playing in the high school in my town, because I don’t go to shows anymore period. It is no longer my scene. (Well, maybe I would go if it was in the high school in my town…) And I’m not buying the new California Son album – bad covers albums aren’t my scene anymore, either. 

The music found me when I was 13 through a family I worked with at the PA Renaissance Faire from the Philippines (one was named Mark, another named Jay and another was a gorgeous girl who had what looked like a stencil of a leaf on her tongue), and I’m a different person now. I’ve seen so many things come and go, graduated high school and college (twice), fell in love with Jesus, got married, buried my dad, had 2 children. So, so many changes, but one thing that never changes is Morrissey. 

I have no idea why I wrote this. There’s really no point, but I guess love letters don’t really have to have a point. The love IS the point. 

So Trish, thanks for asking, but I think I’ll pass.       

California Son — April 25, 2019

California Son

I’m not a child, I understand that writers don’t wait for inspiration. They write. However, in the last several weeks, I’ve been undisciplined and lazy, spending too much time watching tv and feeling like I must have some kind of disease or disorder. (I wonder if there is some kind of causality (or at the very least, a connection between the 2…))

So. Today I will write. And it feels very good, like an ice bath or batting practice.

I heard ‘Suedehead’ for the first time in my sister’s car when I was 14 years old, an insecure, depressed misfit without a clue, and when I did, a crack appeared in the darkness and a seismic heart-shift occurred. For the first time in a long time, something made sense. The space around me felt safe and warm, like I was home, that I belonged somewhere (even if it was imagined in a voice on a cassette tape.)

All of my spare time was focused on him, searching out old albums, books, interviews, bootlegs, b-sides, videos, live recordings, anything I could get my hands on. There was a week where I agonized over a decision to drop over $90 I didn’t really have on the cd single for ‘Suedehead’ because it had a track I hadn’t heard and couldn’t find elsewhere: ‘I Know Very Well How I Got My Name.’ I didn’t do it, but if I had, the song was absolutely worth it.

Anyway.

I’m now 43 years old and don’t feel quite the same way – is it even possible to feel as deeply about art as an adult as we did as teenagers? I still circle release dates on calendars, still love awesome things with an irrational love, still think Morrissey is THE GREATEST.

A new covers album called California Son comes out next month and I will not be buying it. Sure, there will be moments where I put it in a virtual shopping cart and listen to segments on iTunes and entire tracks on YouTube, but I will stand strong.

As you know, there is a disgusting practice in pop culture (following the slimy trail of technology companies) re-releasing “special editions” with “extra tracks” or “all new material.” Books are re-packaged, sometimes with new titles, always new covers, and a fresh chapter or 2. Albums are called “Deluxe” have live, acoustic and/or demo versions. Films have a “Director’s Cut” or “Bonus footage.” These things are all designed to fleece those suckers who have already bought inferior versions and have to upgrade. It is now high art, this method of separating us from our money.

Morrissey used to write songs of disdain about this very thing! (See Paint A Vulgar Picture, and Get Off The Stage) As he himself said, “Oh, the sickening greed.”

I have countless copies of the same album. I am the target market. It only recently stopped, with the Low In High School deluxe edition (a sub-par offering, as originally released, but I still would love to hear the tacked-on, what-I-would-assume-to-be filler…maybe someday…)

So. I suppose this is my small revolution, my insignificant rage against this sleazy machine. I want all Morrissey albums to sell a gazillion copies, all radio stations to play nothing but old Smiths records, but I can’t do it anymore. I am trying to, as the Bible says, no longer “conform to the pattern of the world,” especially when those patterns make me feel like an utter imbecile. This is a toxic relationship, I can see that now. So this is goodbye. It’s not you, it’s m… No, no, wait, it IS you. “But you could have said no, if you wanted to. You could have walked away, couldn’t you?”