(Photo of the author in 1990)
If I'm feeling happy, nostalgic or sorry for myself, I put on The Smiths. I was more of a Depeche Mode sort of gal during my coming of age years. The Smiths have stood the test of time better than Depeche Mode. Lead singer and song writer Morrissey sings about dead poets, saints, and World War 2, in a way that sounds timeless and relatable in the 1980’s and 2016.
Singer song writer, Ryan Adams says "Whenever I’m stuck when I’m writing, I could just put a Smiths record on, and it’s kind of like if my songwriting was an iPhone, it recharges it in like, five minutes.” I understand. The Smiths do the same for me in whatever mood I am feeling.
Sweetness I was only joking
When I said I'd like to smash every tooth
In your head
When I hear Big Mouth, I’m in 8th grade again. After years of torment and abuse, my parents are finally getting a divorce. Although I feel safer now that my father is out of the house, I am as confused as ever. My mother in her own pain, has disengaged from us children. I am worried about the future, worried about where I’ll go to school next year, where we are going to live. I’m angry too but I have no idea how to express that feeling yet. Morrissey expresses it for me. I sit each night listening to him while I take a single hole punch and punch holes into a shoebox until the palm of my hand bleeds. On the last day of 8th grade, I have a full shoebox of confetti and dump it over my small private school campus. This was as angry or rebellious as I knew how to be at the time.
So, if there's something you'd like to try
If there's something you'd like to try
Ask me, I won't say no, how could I?
I ended up having to go to different high school than the one I had grew up thinking I’d go to. The one all my childhood friends went to. At this new public high school, I knew only one other person. In the first few weeks of school I became friends with a boy as thoughtful and complicated as I was. We hung out constantly. We’d listen to music, goof around in the little uptown area by my house or I’d watch him practice magic tricks. Of course, I loved him.
The summer between our sophomore and junior year, after a full day of hanging out, his mom picked him up to go home. He called me as soon as he got home. I thought it was strange until I realized that he already missed me and didn’t want our day to end. He comically started singing The Smiths Ask, giving him words for what he was too embarrassed to say. “Ask me to come back over” he finally blurted, so I did. He rode his skateboard back to my house. After my mom went to sleep I snuck out to the street to sit on the sidewalk and kiss while the hot summer night brought out cockroaches around our feet. I didn’t care. At 15, to me, it was romantic . I was amazed that anyone thought me lovable.
Take me out tonight
Where there's music and there's people
Who are young and alive
Driving in your car
I never never want to go home
Because I haven't got one anymore
Instead of becoming a unified team after parents’ divorce, my sisters, mother and I were 4 separate entities, existing completely on our own. I worked to fill that void with work and school that would get me out, into a new and better life. After working waiting tables or after theater rehearsal, I had a few buddies to ask for a ride home. All of them loved to take long drives to wind down after a full night. I was always happy to go along for the ride. We’d rarely talk, quiet in our own thoughts while we listened to John Coltrane or Gene Krupa depending on the company. I felt more supported and more part of a family riding in those cars for hours than I did at home. When I got home I’d have to face whether my younger sisters ever came home, whether there was food in the fridge or if my mother was going to ask me for the money I earned waiting tables. I couldn’t let my buddies know how much I needed this or how much it meant to me. I rode along quietly forming a plan for my escape.
When I listen to the Smiths now, it either fills me with glee that I no longer live in that state of uncertainty anymore or it brings back that old gnawing pain in the back of my heart, the one that tells me you aren’t home. But more than all this, like Ryan Adams said, it “recharges” him, The Smiths reminds me of who I am. The aching, yearning feeling comes back immediately, a sensation I never want to lose, for it’s me at my core. It’s annoying and so…by it’s very definition, wanting but it’s still me.