From Ramones to Patti Smith: 15 songs that influenced Morrissey
Morrissey, it appears, may be capable of dividing audiences in 2020 in a similar fashion as he was able to unite them in the mid-1980s. While it doesn’t take away from the fact that he has very good taste in music, his penchant for right-wing politics is one of the lasting images of the singer. Former frontman for The Smiths, Morrissey actually began his time in the limelight as a searing music critic and it makes the songs he calls his favourites all the more unique.
This selection of 15 songs from Morrissey has arrived from 2003 and was first crafted by the Mancunian legend as part of a project called ‘Under the Influence’, an effort which saw artists pick the music which influenced them most. While the songs picked out by artists like The Libertines’ Carl Barat, The Stone Roses’ Ian Brown and Paul Weller are equally brilliant, there’s something about Morrissey’s picks which shows the music fan behind the persona.
When The Smiths first arrived on the British indie scene they not only had a band capable of turning a whole nation into poem-reading, letter-writing, Smiths-listening fan group but a lead singer who was as charismatic as he was antagonistic. It meant, especially in the TV world of the eighties, that Morrissey was often drafted in to offer his opinion on bands and singers, usually providing a hefty soundbite capable of starting feuds and finishing careers.
In 2003, however, Morrissey was in a different kind of mood. Rather than lambasting the musical picks of others, the singer instead compiled a CD of his favourite songs or, more accurately, the tracks that influenced him to become the icon he was. The list of songs showcases an artist who had his roots in the brilliance of pop.
Of course, considering it is Morrissey’s picks, there is a nod to the “world’s most perfect pop group,” the New York Dolls with the selection of their track ‘Trash’. There are some other New Yorkers to boot, including the Ramones song ‘Judy Is A Punk’, the track that launched Patti Smith into the punk pantheon ‘Hey Joe’, a Nico masterclass in ‘All That Is My Own’ as well as a tribute to Klaus Nomi with his harrowing swansong ‘Death’.
Now, if you were looking for a musical education and have so far been disappointed by Morrissey’s selections, fear not. He does offer not only classic tracks in The Sundown Playboys’ jiving song ‘Saturday Nite Special’, Nat Couty’s wonderful ‘Woodpecker Rock’ and Jimmy Radcliffe’s ‘The Forgotten Man’ but also Britain’s first organic reggae band The Cats and their vision of ‘Swan Lake’.
Perhaps the keenest insight comes from two selections. Morrissey shows his hand, and his penchant for melodrama, by selecting pop geniuses Sparks, Marc Bolan’s glittered glam rock with T. Rex’s ‘Great Horse’ and the brilliant, and often overlooked, Ludus with ‘Breaking The Rules’, all of which surmount to the quality which put Morrissey ahead of the pack.
While much of the list can be aligned with The Smiths sound, it is these artists (as well as the New York Dolls) that we get the clearest image of the icon Morrissey would become. It is in these bands and artists that we can see the DNA of Moz. Below, we’ve collected it to create a searing playlist.
Morrissey’s favourite songs:
The Sundown Playboys – ‘Saturday Nite Special’
New York Dolls – ‘Trash’
Nat Couty – ‘Woodpecker Rock’
Diana Dors – ‘So Little Time’
Ludus – ‘Breaking The Rules’
Charlie Feathers – ‘One Hand Loose’
T. Rex – ‘Great Horse’
Jimmy Radcliffe – ‘(There Goes) The Forgotten Man’