A look at the secret messages Morrissey etched into The Smiths’ vinyl releases
Morrissey is undoubtedly a creative soul. Despite his polarising opinions of recent years it is still hard to deny the singer’s impact on music with his band The Smiths, the band who championed intellect and integrity above all else.
Morrissey’s lyrics are famed for their literary weight and he introduced swathes of a generation to the works of Oscar Wilde through his flagrant adoration of the literary figure. In fact, sometimes the band’s songs were so dense with lyrics that Morrissey had to use the vinyl itself to get over the last message.
If you’re a diehard Smiths fan, this won’t be news to you. You’ll have been cooing over the bonus treat Moz gave his fans for decades now. But for those of us without such fandom, we can take a look back at some of Morrissey’s genius etchings.
The idea was a simple one. Morrissey would scratch in a simple message, a joke, a double entendre or indeed anything that popped into his brain, into the dead space on the record and gift his and The Smiths fans another reason to smile. Below are a few of our favourites but you’ll find a comprehensive list at Morrissey-Solo, the only place on the internet for pure Moz iconography.
The band’s most famous song ‘This Charming Man’ was, of course, given the Moz treatment and the 7″ single was inscribed with “SLAP ME ON THE PATIO” a reference to early Smiths track ‘Reel Around The Fountain’ while the 12″ release came with “WILL NATURE MAKE A MAN OF ME YET” etched with ferocity on to it.
On the band’s seminal album Meat Is Murder there was a doubleheader as the singer inscribed the record with “ILLNESS AS ART” / “DOING THE WYTHENSHAWE WALTZ” as both a reference to Johnny Marr’s hometown and the violence of Manchester seen in ‘The Headmaster Ritual’.
The release of ‘William It Was Really Nothing’ saw the blank space etched with “ROMANTIC AND SQUARE IS HIP AND AWARE”, apparently a quote from John Lennon in reference to his marriage with Yoko Ono. But it also neatly surmises The Smiths to their basic elements.
Often the inscriptions would be simple plays on words too. On the cherished single of ‘That Joke Isn’t Funny Anymore’ was the simple, if not somewhat crude, joke “OUR SOULS, OUR SOULS, OUR SOULS”. On the release of ‘Ask’ and ‘Cemetry Gates’ is “ARE YOU LOATHSOME TONIGHT?” / “TOMB IT MAY CONCERN”, the first a play on the Elvis tune, a perennial figure for Morrissey, and the second offers a reference ot the B-side.
We could go on and on, but you’re best off going to the source of knowledge on all things Moz, Morrissey-Solo, and finding the full list from diehard fans. But we will leave you with his homage to the aforementioned Mr. Wilde.
In response to the legendary quote-maker’s remarks when being stopped at customs, allegedly saying “I have nothing to declare but my genius”, Morrissey inscribed on his solo LP Kill Uncle, “I HAVE NOTHING TO DECLARE BUT MY JEANS”.
It’s just another moment in which Morrissey shows off his way with words. It wasn’t enough that with The Smiths he must’ve increased the volume of books being bought by young people, he also had to add in a joke or clever thought on the physical record too. He had to have the last word.