James McDermott: My Top Five Morrissey Songs

James McDermott Headshot - crop

‘Frankly Mr Shankly’, an anthem for every aspiring star who wants to quit the day job and become a legend, was the first Morrissey song I ever heard. That voice and those lyrics instantly kidnapped me. I adore this song as it contains one of Morrissey’s best lines about the mundanity of work (‘Frankly Mr Shankly this position I’ve held/it pays my way but it corrodes my soul’) and one of his funniest lyrics: ‘sometimes I’d feel more fulfilled/making Christmas cards for the mentally ill’.

Growing up in Norfolk I felt invisible as stories set by the sea were seldom seen or heard.  Then I found ‘Everyday Is Like Sunday’, Morrissey’s celebration and commiseration of an out of season English coastal resort, and suddenly I felt less lonely.

‘Pretty Girls Make Graves’, Morrissey’s hilarious account of struggling to have sex, helped me feel less freakish as a sexually confused sex-scared teenager. I think that the lyrics ‘I could’ve been wild and I could’ve been free/But nature played this trick on me’ and ‘She wants it now and she will not wait/But she’s too rough and I’m too delicate’ are some of the best he’s written.

‘The Never Played Symphonies’, Morrissey’s most beautiful song about unrequited love, not only stuns me because he elegantly compares those ‘never laid’ to ‘never played symphonies’  but because it contains one of his wittiest cheekiest saddest lines: ‘you slipped right through my fingers not literally but metaphorically’.

‘Dear God Please Help Me’, Morrissey’s cryptic ballad about falling in love with someone or somewhere, contains one of his most beautiful vocal performances and one of his most beautiful metaphors about the heart: ‘I am walking through Rome/With my heart on a string’. Only matched by ‘the heart has a heart of its own’ in 2009’s ‘It’s Not Your Birthday Anymore’. Pure poetry.


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