To many alternative music fans, Morrissey is nothing short of legendary. He sang with punk band The Nosebleeds in the 1970s before he and Johnny Marr formed The Smiths in 1982, unaware then that it was to become one of the most seminal bands in British music history.
Following The Smiths’ dissolution in 1987, Morrissey embarked on a prolific solo career which now spans three decades. Last week, he released his eleventh studio album, ‘Low In High School’. Of the hundreds of songs he’s written and recorded, some have been immensely successful while others remain tucked away in the less-renowned corners of his back catalogue. Here are ten of those hidden gems …
‘Late Night, Maudlin Street’ Appears on ‘Viva Hate’ (1988)
Morrissey’s debut solo album was one of the most highly anticipated releases of the late 1980s. Its singles, ‘Suedehead’ and ‘Everyday Is Like Sunday’, remain two of his most famous songs, still often featuring on setlists. Other songs on the album, though, have been cast into obscurity, ‘Late Night, Maudlin Street’ among them. It’s not difficult to see why it hasn’t become a hit. Just shy of 7 minutes long, slow-paced and without a chorus, it doesn’t pack the punch of the singles. What it lacks in catchiness, though, it more than makes up for in beauty. Its raw honesty, bittersweet reminiscence and quiet poeticism are deeply moving, and the delicate, yearning vocals and instrumentals are deliciously listenable.
‘Driving Your Girlfriend Home’ Appears on ‘Kill Uncle’ (1993)
Widely considered one of Morrissey’s weaker albums, including by Morrissey himself, ‘Kill Uncle’ nevertheless contains some wonderful tracks. ‘Driving Your Girlfriend Home’ is notable for featuring Morrissey’s best friend, former Ludus frontwoman Linder Sterling, on backing vocals. An exploration of the confusion of failing relationships and of emotional intimacy between near-strangers in times of desperation set to gently swaying, verging on breezy instrumentals, it’s wonderfully understated and wonderfully human.
‘Nobody Loves Us’ Appears on ‘Dagenham Dave’ (1995), ‘My Early Burglary Years’ (1998) and ‘Southpaw Grammar (Expanded Edition)’ (2009)
Although recorded in the sessions for his fifth solo studio album, ‘Southpaw Grammar’, Morrissey originally only released ‘Nobody Loves Us’ as a B-side, though he later included it on the 2009 expanded edition of the album. It is everything Morrissey’s songs are loved for – stunningly well-written and, yes, melancholy, but also celebratory of the mundane pleasures of everyday existence, and a hymn to life’s forgotten outsiders, the “dreamers and schemers, all pie-eyed and bug-eyed and cross-eyed.”
‘A Swallow On My Neck’ Appears on ‘Sunny’ (1995) and ‘The HMV/Parlophone Singles 1988 – 1995’ (2009)
While under contract to EMI, Morrissey recorded several songs which did not make it onto ‘Southpaw Grammar’. EMI released one song, ‘Sunny’, as a single with ‘Black-Eyed Susan’ as its B-side on 7” and cassette. ‘A Swallow On My Neck’ was then added for the CD release. Written under the working title ‘The Dennis Cockell Song’, it takes decidedly punk imagery of boredom, tattoos and binge drinking, throws in classically Morrisseyesque references to crematoriums and funeral parlours, and spins them into a jubilant, almost choral track which revels in the freedom and irresponsibility of youth.
‘Trouble Loves Me’ Appears on ‘Maladjusted’ (1997)
‘Maladjusted’ is another of Morrissey’s under-performing albums. Like ‘Kill Uncle’, it peaked at number 8 in the UK album charts, making it one of Morrissey’s only two albums not to reach the top 4, and it was not a great commercial or critical success, failing to reach the silver certification threshold of 60,000 sales or receive much in the way of praise from the music press. Despite its comparative unpopularity, however, it features possibly some of the best offerings of Morrissey’s career. ‘Troubles Love Me’ is a song which blooms as it plays out, starting out slow and stripped-back and gradually building before arching, in the final minute, into a captivating climax which manages to be both eloquent and conversational, and feels delightfully off the cuff.
‘No One Can Hold A Candle To You’ Appears on ‘I Have Forgiven Jesus’ (2004)
Music is Morrissey’s first love, and he has released many covers of songs by artists he admires throughout his career. One such cover is ‘No One Can Hold A Candle To You’, originally recorded by his close friend James Maker’s band Raymonde. Morrissey used the song as a B-side to ‘I Have Forgiven Jesus’, and it appears on the live concert DVD ‘Who Put the M in Manchester?’ from his homecoming concert on his 45th birthday in 2004. An intimate, idiosyncratic, poetic and punchy song, it fits very nicely among his own creations.
‘The Never-Played Symphonies’ Appears on ‘Irish Blood, English Heart’ (2004), ‘You Are The Quarry (Deluxe Edition)’ (2004) and ‘Swords’ (2009)
Ironically, this song is something of a never-played symphony itself. Excluded from the standard edition of the incredibly successful ‘You Are The Quarry’, it has slipped from popular memory, overshadowed by the likes of ‘Irish Blood, English Heart’ and ‘First of the Gang to Die’. A pity, since many fans consider the song to be one of Morrissey’s greatest works of the 21st century. The opening line, “reflecting from my deathbed,” sets the scene – written as someone’s dying thoughts, it could easily be morose. Instead, it oscillates poignantly between serene resignation and impassioned recollections of brief but cherished moments with someone who could have been their life’s great love, now “gone forever… not quite”. A lovely demonstration of Morrissey‘s flair for crafting astute and expressive narratives.
‘On The Streets I Ran’ Appears on ‘Ringleader Of The Tormentors’ (2006)
While many Morrissey songs deal with emotional turbulence and inner conflict, they take on a political edge in this track. ‘On The Streets I Ran’ explores the disparity between his working class upbringing and the luxury of his adulthood. A confessional letter of apology to his younger self and the community he grew up in for profiting from their suffering, listening to it feels almost intrusive. An earlier song, ‘Interesting Drug’, contains the lyrics “once poor, always poor.” ‘On The Streets I Ran’ is a stirring examination of the lasting psychological effects of this product of the deeply entrenched English class system. Eclipsed by other songs from the album like ‘You Have Killed Me’, which reached number 3 in the UK charts, it’s deeply deserving of further attention.
‘Christian Dior’ Appears on ‘In The Future When All’s Well’ (2006) and ‘Swords’ (2009)
Recorded during the ‘Ringleader Of The Tormentors’ sessions in Rome but relegated to B-side status, ‘Christian Dior’ is as clearly influenced by the culture of Morrissey’s surroundings as his lyrics with The Smiths were by Thatcherite Manchester. A far cry from its author’s reputation as a purveyor of misery and angst, ‘Christian Dior’ is an acclamation of the pure joy of simply being alive, and a call to arms for resistance against clinical professionalism that seeks to forget that we are, after all, all made of flesh and blood.
‘Art-Hounds’ Appears on ‘World Peace Is None Of Your Business (Deluxe Edition)’ (2014)
‘Art-Hounds’ is the very last track on the deluxe bonus disc of Morrissey’s tenth studio album, the political and cynical ‘World Peace Is None Of Your Business’. As a result of its placement, it has received less attention than the other songs on the album, and Morrissey only very occasionally performed it live when he toured with the album between 2014 and 2016. Whatever the reasons for this may be, it’s a shame. With a dazzling instrumental opening, powerhouse vocals, cutting lyrics and memorable refrains, it is arguably one of the strongest songs on the album, and could have made a superb single.