The controversial figure of Morrissey is one that has loomed over the music industry ever since he and his band The Smiths unleashed the indie anthem ‘This Charming Man’ upon the world in 1983. But one thing that is not up for debate is Morrissey’s incredibly powerful vocal.
On this isolated vocal track, originally posted on Morrissey-Solo, of the band’s aforementioned mainstream debut ‘This Charming Man’, Moz’s vocals take on an extra weight as the singer’s poetic lyrical vision is more clearly enacted.
Written of course by the all-powerful songwriting partnership of Johnny Marr and Morrissey, the track relies heavily on the two members of the partnership delivering what they delivered best—lyrics and a guitar. But when you remove one of those factors, in this case Marr’s guitar along with the rest of the band, the song’s senses are heightened.
The song’s lyrics are deeply steeped in Morrissey’s love of literature and film. From the iconic line “jumped-up pantry boy” being taken from the 1972 film Sleuth starring Laurence Olivier and Michael Caine to his nod to the adaptation of Shelagh Delaney’s A Taste of Honey. Using protagonist Rita Tushingham’s reply when asked whether she will be going dancing tonight: “I haven’t got any clothes to wear for one thing.” These words ring out with an impassioned imprint on the isolated vocal track.
In an interview with NME in 1984 Morrissey would broaden this spectrum a little though as he also suggested the line was born from his past, “I found that on those very rare occasions where I did get invited anywhere, I would constantly sit down and say, ‘Good heavens, I couldn’t possibly go to this place tonight because I don’t have any clothes… I don’t have any shoes.’”
With anything Morrissey does, the song’s content and intent is largely debated but it does see the writer compose an indie-pop banger flecked with the potency of his literary and literal life. It has never been truly discovered as to what the song is about. Though it’s clear the story has both an innocent character in need of direction, approval, and confirmation, as well as an experienced character who offers that in spades—the final intentions of each character are hard to discern.
While many have mused on the sordid insinuations of sex and salacious behaviour, the truth is likely somewhere a little more confusing. In fact, a little more Morrissey. He said that lyrics were a collection of lines that “seemed to stitch themselves together under the umbrella of ‘This Charming Man’”, which seems about right to us.
However they may have been composed, the lyrics for ‘This Charming Man’ ring out across the track as strongly and intently as any vocal does across any rock and roll song. With it, The Smiths and Morrissey announced themselves to a national audience and made sure indie dancefloors would never be the same again, now filled with echoing sound of a club of Morrissey impersonators. No better are those lyrics heard than below.
Make sure you check out the real thing before you torture the ears of unsuspecting neighbours and listen to the powerful isolated vocals of Morrissey on The Smiths’ ‘This Charming Man’.