“Everyday Is Like Sunday”: Growing Up Irish In An English World

[photo credit: David Martínez]

From rumor to reality, the Smiths’ former frontman has recently released his long-awaited autobiography. However, unlike many other rock stars who bequeathed their enduring fans the story of their lives, Morrissey takes sole credit for the narratives contained between the covers bearing his name. As such, it often exhibits the characteristics of an imagination that has spent a lifetime composing lyrics, inspired by life and imagination, as opposed to marshaling archival sources into an historical discourse. More Lord Byron than Edward Gibbon, if Byron were working-class Irish growing up in Manchester, Morrissey evokes a nonlinear array of early memories, impressions really, of his childhood. Always the odd one out, Stephen Patrick Morrissey was a sensitive kid, though frequently a bit too clever for his mates. At this stage of the book, which is bereft of chapters, Morrissey recalls a child’s life in which clocks and calendars have yet to rule the day, instead only the natural rhythms of home, school, and play matter. Eventually, as Morrissey matures, his narratives become more aware of time and place, particularly as he discovers the music of his generation. Whether he’s waxing poetic in his adulation for Patti Smith or relishing every chord played and lyric sung by the New York Dolls, complete with insights into the Sex Pistols and the Ramones, Morrissey emerges as not only a true lover of music but also as a very gifted music historian, much of which is based on personal experience. With respect to the Smiths, Morrissey displays an unexpected candor in his criticism of the band’s first album, even as he admires his bandmates’ copious talent, especially guitarist Johnny Marr. Some may regard his remarks about the music industry, including those who should have been concerned with the band’s best interest, such as Rough Trade and Sire Records, as classic sour grapes. Others will find the anecdotes intriguing, as Morrissey recounts a touring life that was often anything but glamorous, while appreciating Morrissey and Marr’s ever growing musical maturity, replete with memorable hooks and provocative lyrics. Who else, other than maybe the Sex Pistols, would dare title an album ‘The Queen Is Dead’ for the UK market? In any case, Morrissey doesn’t hold back at making it clear that “fame, fame, fatal fame” doesn’t guarantee happiness. In fact, although the end of the Smiths’ recording career is portrayed as a non-event, a kind of mutual understanding between band members, the subsequent antagonism is purely the result aging egos not necessarily aging well, as Morrissey’s solo career took off, leaving the others, even Marr to a certain extent, in the shadows of times past. With respect to the latter, if I have one criticism of this book, it’s the fact that a little too much time is spent picking apart the legal case that former bandmates, Andy Rourke and Mike Joyce, brought against Morrissey and Marr over a royalties dispute. Indeed, the critique of the proceedings becomes a bit much when Morrissey begins going page by page, tearing apart all of the the inconsistencies, unanswered questions, and absurdities recorded in official court documents. He’s more sharp, not to mention concise, in his opprobrium for NME magazine, in particular a certain unnamed editor who clearly had it out for the Smiths and especially Morrissey from the beginning. While Morrissey never loses his wit, nor his humanity, despite all he’s endured, it goes without saying that the best parts of this book are about the music; from teenage nouveau to lyrical frontman and onward to seasoned singer and raconteur, Morrissey will forever be remembered for the sarcastic charm that begot everything from “Bigmouth Strikes Again” to “Suedehead.”

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White Man’s Burden: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.

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The Shining is Stanley Kubrick’s 1980 masterwork, based on Stephen King’s novel of the same title, starring Jack Nicholson and Shelley Duvall in two memorable performances. At one level, the story is about one man’s descent into madness, as his demons return to haunt him as he succumbs to the immense forces of loneliness and isolation induced by the towering and foreboding presence of the Overlook Hotel. At another level, the story is as iconic as 2001 in its portrayal of humankind, ie the Torrance family, against the backdrop of eternity, which is the snowy immensity of the Rocky Mountains. However, while it’s tempting to begin analyzing characters and scenes for their philosophical and spiritual content, the emotional impact of the Jack Torrance’s steady decline into homicidal insanity is driven by his irrepressible alcoholic personality and his penchant for violently expressing his anger, frustration, and shame. As Jack’s inner torment consumes him, he fills every room in the hotel with his paranoid rage, terrorizing and traumatizing his wife and son. Ultimately, in the empty spaces of the hotel, including the elaborate hedge maze outside, far from so-called civilization, the devil that Jack has once again become–for their is evidence that he has been at the brink of self-destruction before–rends asunder the fabric of reality, through the cracks of which the tragic history of this place, this hotel, has beheld over the decades. Behind this facade of the white man’s conquest of the American West, where presidents, movie stars, “all the best people” have stayed, lies a world completely out of balance, deteriorating from its own spiritual decay. All that remains is for nature, as it unleashes a snowstorm across the land, to reclaim this place by purging itself of the arrogance that built this monument to man’s ego.

“A Royale with cheese.”

[photo credit: David Martínez]

Will there be a 20th anniversary edition of ‘Pulp Fiction’ (1994) next year? And when there is, how many of us will be amazed to learn that two decades have passed? For many of us, Tarantino’s fourth directorial effort has become as iconic as the first two Godfather movies, Scar Face, Casino, and Goodfellas. Immersed in an array of pop culture references cutting across the 70s and 80s, the ensemble cast enact a story of desperate lives, criminal ambitions, and lost souls, all of whom are draped in memorable personas, uttering scatalogically infused bits of wisdom. “I’ll just walk the earth.” As for what’s in that briefcase, it’s the essence of every dream you’ve ever had about wealth and power, your secret or not so secret lust to control your world while making others tremble at the sound of your name. We all want a nickle-plated 9mm and a wallet that says BAD MOTHER FUCKER. So, do we really control our own destiny or is life fate or a series of coincidences? Maybe it doesn’t matter as long as we think we can get more out of the life we have, even if we have to take it!