Song/Lyric Meanings...

Worm

Taste the diffidence
Morrissey has said in at least one interview that I know of that he admires the work of Stevie Smith. I thought of that poem too when I heard the song.

For an opposite take on the "drowning girl" scenario, there's the wonderful "Ya Ho" by James, where a beach full of people hope that a girl drowns after finding freedom away from the shore.
 

Sunbags

Sunbags
Rachel said:
Lifeguard Sleeping, Girl Drowning...I read in this one book that it's about this woman who everyone thought was going to be ''Mrs Morrissey''...until they had a falling out, but now they're friends again. She was on his management apparrently.
From Les Inrockuptibles interview, 1995 -

Q: You're not always free from any reproach: in Lifeguard Sleeping, Girl Drowning, we find a cruelty in your voice, in your words. A nastiness which seems not to be autobiographical.

M: It's a song inspired by real facts but what's the use of talking about it since the girl in question in this song sank a long time ago ? (smile) Yes, I can be cruel. Yes, I can be as cruel with women as with men.

We have all learned a valuable lesson here - do not go sailing/swimming with moz and ESPECIALLY do not attempt to fish in the presence of the mozmeister. That is all.
 

mozmic_dancer

One of the Good Guys
Worm said:
Morrissey has said in at least one interview that I know of that he admires the work of Stevie Smith. I thought of that poem too when I heard the song.

For an opposite take on the "drowning girl" scenario, there's the wonderful "Ya Ho" by James, where a beach full of people hope that a girl drowns after finding freedom away from the shore.

I like James. I never heard of that particular song, but I looked up the lyrics. Good stuff! I seem to remember Morrissey was a fan of them all those years ago.

I never realized "drowning" was such a popular theme in poems and songs!
 

Summal

Member
Hey how about Asian Rut?
Its my least favorite Moz song but I will admit, after hearing it a few times, I began skipping it so I have never even tried to figure it out.
Depending on my mood, I both love and loathe this song. Seen from a minorities perspective it's all about racism. Tragically though, Morrissey was interpreted as being the racist, but this of course is all wrong.
The first two verses hint towards the fact that this asian boy has gone through so much pain, hatred and violence that he's lost it completely, and is left with no other option than seeking revenge (revenge possibly being justice in law, and a fair society without racism, but supposedly revenge as in murder).

However, at the end hour, the complicated situation ends up as a battle in which the asian boy is once again alone, and thus doomed. The boy is killed, and the bad circle continues.

A man from a specific race is being killed in the name of racism, and other people from the same race feel threatened, and feel the need for arming themselves.

The protagonist himself only whitnesses this, and the last verse is a cry for a better and fair society:

I'm just passing through here
On my way to somewhere civilised
And maybe I'll even arrive
Maybe I'll even arrive

He arrives a civilised society the day racism is gone, and people can live side by side in peace. In REAL peace.


This is my interpetation of the song, and indeed, I may be wrong. There's no doubt that this is one of Moz' more controversial songs, and his desire of walking on the edge of what is socially acceptable shines through. But I think, as I will do with all Morrissey's lyrics (mistakably so?) , that he means what is politically correct.
 
maybe said:
I'd love to hear someone's take on some of the new b-sides like Good Looking Man About Town and If You Don't Like Me..., as well as others' interpretations of In The Future When All's Well
If You Don't Like Me is pretty self-explanatory, isn't it? It's yet another in Morrissey's seemingly endless row of songs about thwarted affections and unrequited love, executed with the usual elegance and eloquence.

I'd say that the most interesting thing about this song in particular is that it's so clearly written from the perspective of someone who is bi-sexual. I was slightly amazed the first time I listened to the song that he so explicitly states both a "young man" and a "young woman" as the objects of his desires. He used to be so vague and ambiguous but lately it seems that he wants to specify gender, whether it be female ("the woman of my dreams/she never came along") or male ("then he motions to me/with his hand on my knee"), in a mucher higher degree than he used to.

Good Looking Man About Town is more complicated but it basically concerns the same themes. Again it's gender-specific, the person who is addressed is a homosexual man, and again it deals with feeling inept and unable to find an outlet for one's sexual desires. Morrissey himself seems to identify with the "good looking man" initially, with characteristic nonchalance stating that "corruption of the spirit isn't in it for a good looking man about town", which might be a reference to, and negates the moral of, "The Portrait of Dorian Gray". At the end, though, he finds himself waking up from the dream of his delusions, alone and deserted on an empty street that doesn't offer any solace, be it worldly or otherworldly ("no moon and no stars"). The line "hear the gang say:marry me, marry me" is probably a reference to the huge amount of admiration morrissey gets from his fans and as a public person. In the context of the song it is of course meant to suggest that that kind of fan worship doesn't help him a bit.
 

veradicere

Senior Member
Uncleskinny said:
Look....

Alma Matters is about recognising your female and male personae.
At the time the song was released Amanda Barrie played Alma Sedgewick/Baldwin/Halliwell and came out as a Lesbian. Listen to the lyrics, in my mind it's so obvious...in mind body and soul, in part and in hole. He's saying be happy with your sexuality whether in part (male) or hole (female). In short Morrissey is saying whatever your persuasion, be happy with it, and if you have a female side, embrace it.

Goodnight,

Peter
Wow, that's a great interpretation...I went back and looked at LASID, and it does indeed say "hole" not "whole."

If your interpretation is correct, I don't know who's more clever, you or moz :)
 

veradicere

Senior Member
mozmic_dancer said:
I personally can't confirm that story, but you are right to suggest that "Lifeguard Sleeping, Girl Drowning" does address someone in particular.

Is anyone here familiar with Stevie Smith? She wrote a poem called "Not Waving, But Drowning". I always wondered if Morrissey knew her work and decided to do his own version of the poem? They are similiar in theme in that in Smith's poem and Morrissey's song, the cries for help are both ignored/misinterpreded:

Stevie Smith - Not Waving But Drowning

Nobody heard him, the dead man,
But still he lay moaning:
I was much further out than you thought
And not waving but drowning.

Poor chap, he always loved larking
And now he's dead
It must have been too cold for him his heart gave way,
They said.

Oh, no no no, it was too cold always
(Still the dead one lay moaning)
I was much too far out all my life
And not waving but drowning.
wow, that's an amazing poem, thank you for posting that.
 

[email protected]

Sugar Booger
Summal said:
Depending on my mood, I both love and loathe this song. Seen from a minorities perspective it's all about racism. Tragically though, Morrissey was interpreted as being the racist, but this of course is all wrong.
The first two verses hint towards the fact that this asian boy has gone through so much pain, hatred and violence that he's lost it completely, and is left with no other option than seeking revenge (revenge possibly being justice in law, and a fair society without racism, but supposedly revenge as in murder).

However, at the end hour, the complicated situation ends up as a battle in which the asian boy is once again alone, and thus doomed. The boy is killed, and the bad circle continues.

A man from a specific race is being killed in the name of racism, and other people from the same race feel threatened, and feel the need for arming themselves.

The protagonist himself only whitnesses this, and the last verse is a cry for a better and fair society:

I'm just passing through here
On my way to somewhere civilised
And maybe I'll even arrive
Maybe I'll even arrive

He arrives a civilised society the day racism is gone, and people can live side by side in peace. In REAL peace.


This is my interpetation of the song, and indeed, I may be wrong. There's no doubt that this is one of Moz' more controversial songs, and his desire of walking on the edge of what is socially acceptable shines through. But I think, as I will do with all Morrissey's lyrics (mistakably so?) , that he means what is politically correct.
Thank you very much. I will give it another go. Loved it live with Day on stand up, but its got to be Morrisseys slowest song. It almost comes to a complete stop it seems.
 

wolve

the sad punk
To talk about Smiths-songs now:
I'm still a bit in the dark about Reel around the fountain & Hand that rocks the cradle...
Really, you cannot deny the critics it got about the subject being 'sex with children'?
 

faroffplaces

How I feel in my mind
wolve said:
To talk about Smiths-songs now:
I'm still a bit in the dark about Reel around the fountain & Hand that rocks the cradle...
Really, you cannot deny the critics it got about the subject being 'sex with children'?
I read Reel Around the Fountain on a couple of levels; my favorite is that it's a come-on to fame, or the whole of England - "virtually dead" and "easily led" being comments on the state of an unhappy, pop-culture-saturated society, which the narrator doesn't think is unredeemable, and on the contrary thinks is kind of cute. ("People see no worth in you...I do.")

"Fifteen minutes with you" then becomes a reference to Andy Warhol's fifteen minutes of fame. It's not the only reading, and the narrator could really be anybody -it's a fairly generic story about passive lust- but that's how it's always made the most sense to me. Admittedly, it probably read very differently at the time, before Morrissey was so strongly associated with this rough relationship he has with the public and press.

(I will admit that this wasn't my instinctive reading; I stole it from someone, I no longer remember who - however they struck me as so right that I've internalized the thing completely.)

Anyway, even if you're reading it primarily on face value, I don't see "sex with children" at all in "Reel." The line "how you took a child and you made him old" doesn't really make sense when taken literally. The narrator's lust is unrequited; he's being "made old" only in the sense that he's having a rough time with his sexual awakening, and is suffering from a crush on someone who, thus far, somehow refuses to sweep him off his feet with a breathy "take me to the heaven of your bed."

"Hand that Rocks the Cradle," conversely, I totally read as being about a smothering, abusive, incestuous relationship. It's fairly ambiguously written and I can see why some people read it otherwise. At any rate, I don't see why it bothered the press on such a personal level, it's obviously fiction since none of the band members had ever been married or had children, but eh.

(Final note on "Reel;" I love the repetition of "I do" at the end - has the resonance of an imaginary marriage...could do without the glingle-glingle-glingle piano after "like a butterfly," but that's just a personal pet peeve)
 
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Sister

Losing my edge
slurred_veneer said:
I'd say that the most interesting thing about this song in particular is that it's so clearly written from the perspective of someone who is bi-sexual. I was slightly amazed the first time I listened to the song that he so explicitly states both a "young man" and a "young woman" as the objects of his desires. He used to be so vague and ambiguous but lately it seems that he wants to specify gender, whether it be female ("the woman of my dreams/she never came along") or male ("then he motions to me/with his hand on my knee"), in a mucher higher degree than he used to.
For some reason, I always felt that the "young woman" was somehow forced into the song, for a balance, but doesn't really belong there.

Disclaimer: I do not support the theory that everything he writes is about men, it is just this particular song that gave me the feeling.
 

King Leer

Leering since '97
I remember when Alma Matters came out there were critics who liked it simply for it's sparkling pop sound, whereas others loathed the vulgar pun. It wasn't obviously unless you read the lyric sheet (not unlike "I am the son and the heir...") Clever clogs.
 

wolve

the sad punk
I have a question about "Now My Heart If Full", does anybody know what the line
"Your Father cracks a joke
And in the usual way
Empties the room "
has got to do with the rest of the song?
 

Kewpie

Member
Moderator
Subscriber
I have a question about "Now My Heart If Full", does anybody know what the line
"Your Father cracks a joke
And in the usual way
Empties the room "
has got to do with the rest of the song?
Because the father cracks a joke which makes the narrator and his friends go out, as simple as that.
 

nightandday

New Member
For some reason, I always felt that the "young woman" was somehow forced into the song, for a balance, but doesn't really belong there.

Disclaimer: I do not support the theory that everything he writes is about men, it is just this particular song that gave me the feeling.
Well, for some reason, I didn't feel that way, and I really don't see why I would? You could just as well claim the other way round with just as much support for your claim in the song... which means, no support.

The "bisexuality" that he deliberately chooses to express in the opening lines is nothing new - and yes, I am delibrately putting the word in quotation marks to point out that the term should be loosely used. I always though that 'young man' and 'young woman' in this case were used in generic meaning; they are not any particular man or woman. The terms can apply to anyone in his potential audience rather than just people he knows personally. I don't think that 'young man' and 'young woman' are objects of desire, but that he simply states that he wants to be the object of their desire (adoration, love, admiration...) The only conclusion I could possibly draw about his sexuality from that song (and even that applies only if you assume that he regards people addressed in the song as possible romantic/sexual partners, rather than just referring to a star/audience relationship) would be that he still maintains that he is 'open to ideas' - which is very, very old news and hardly a subject for a renewed discussion. It's a very simple song really, the title says it all.
 
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nightandday

New Member
From Les Inrockuptibles interview, 1995 -

Q: You're not always free from any reproach: in Lifeguard Sleeping, Girl Drowning, we find a cruelty in your voice, in your words. A nastiness which seems not to be autobiographical.

M: It's a song inspired by real facts but what's the use of talking about it since the girl in question in this song sank a long time ago ? (smile) Yes, I can be cruel. Yes, I can be as cruel with women as with men.

We have all learned a valuable lesson here - do not go sailing/swimming with moz and ESPECIALLY do not attempt to fish in the presence of the mozmeister. That is all.
Can you post the entire interview? I've read so many interesting quotes from it, but I've never seen the actual interview.

as for Lifeguard Sleeping... it really seems to be one of the most ambiguous Morrissey songs. I never heard cruelty in his voice... To me, 'doesn't she see, he's had such a busy day...' seemed sarcastic, and I thought he was actually sympathizing with the girl. "she swam too far against the tide...", "she was nobody's nothing" sounded ironic and very sad. I thought it was one of the songs written about a female character who he empathizes/partly identifies with (as "November..." or "This Night Has Opened My Eyes"). I was surprised to learn that Johnny Rogan and others all seem to see it in a completely opposite way.

But that quote is quite interesting... Because his implication in that interview seems to be that there was an actual girl that he himself metaphorically let 'sink'... However, I believe it's still possible to sympathize with people even while you are the one who has hurt them...

It's one of those song that I wouldn't claim to have a definite reading of, it can be interpreted in so many different ways.
 
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nightandday

New Member
"Songs That Saved Your Life" (I think it was, or maybe Rogan) says "Girlfriend In A Coma" is a play on a subgenre of 50s rock and roll dealing with the death of a loved one under tragic circumstances. Youth cut short, etc. It's also a witty companion piece with the next song on the album ("Stop Me"), both songs describing the singer's basic ambivalence. Toward one woman or women in general is hard to tell.
I would say that it's simply another one of Morrissey's sad fictional tales - his little kitchen-sink dramas about unhappy and doomed relationships ("Jeane", "Girl Afraid"). So you might say that it does indeed represent ambiguous or plainly pessimistic attitude to love/relationships.

It amazes me what some people manage to read into the simplest of Morrissey's lyrics. I'm surprised that nobody ever managed to interpret the line "You're the one for me, fatty" as being some kind of big statement on homosexuality :p
 
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Jones

Senior Member
"Lifeguard Sleeping" is an interesting song for me as I've never seen an interpretation that I agree with. I think, unusuallly for Morrissey, it's a metaphorical song. It also plays upon a theme that recurrs a lot in his work which (for whatever reason) people seem to want to ignore, the Girl or Woman of your Dreams.

In this song the Lifeguard is really the one that needs saving but he chooses to ignore the one person that could do so and lets her sink instead, just because he can't make the effort to respond to her.

The last line makes this explicit "When he awoke, The sea was calm, And another day passes like a dream", in other words, his life could have been very different, but he chose to carry on with the old one, which is no real life at all.
 

nightandday

New Member
Swallow on my neck...and why he left out some of the lyrics in the lyric book to it? morrissey's relationship with someone here i'm guessing
There was some talk about it very recently in this thread: http://forums.morrissey-solo.com/showthread.php?t=65489&page=3&highlight=swallow

There's a lot of confusion and ambiguity in the song, don't you think? People have talked about the ambiguity between 'swallow on my neck' as 1) fake tattoo or/and 2) a lovebite. Some of the lines seem to point out to the latter, but it's interesting that Morrissey did have a fake tattoo of swallow on his hand, at least, at the time. I would love to know the symbolism of the swallow...But I think that tattoos (an old fascination: 'tattoed boy from Birkenhead') stand for something as well: my guess is, the (desired or actual) transformation from someone who lives their life in a cerebral way, to a person who can easily express themselves in a physical way (which probably includes sex, though it's not limited to it).

There is, however, another ambiguity about it that nobody ever mentions. If the song is about a relationship, who with? There seem to be two people mentioned in that song - "you" and "he" are clearly not the same person.

"I am a simple man
Not much to gain or lose
And I don't know why I held out
So long for me and you

Until he drew
A swallow on my neck
And more, I will not say

He drew
A swallow, deep and blue
And soon, everyone knew

(...)

You have been telling me
That I have been
Acting childish
Foolish, ghoulish and childish
Oh, I know, I know, I know !
I know, I know, I know
But I don't mind
I don't mind
I don't mind "
 
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nightandday

New Member
"Lifeguard Sleeping" is an interesting song for me as I've never seen an interpretation that I agree with. I think, unusuallly for Morrissey, it's a metaphorical song. It also plays upon a theme that recurrs a lot in his work which (for whatever reason) people seem to want to ignore, the Girl or Woman of your Dreams.

In this song the Lifeguard is really the one that needs saving but he chooses to ignore the one person that could do so and lets her sink instead, just because he can't make the effort to respond to her.

The last line makes this explicit "When he awoke, The sea was calm, And another day passes like a dream", in other words, his life could have been very different, but he chose to carry on with the old one, which is no real life at all.
I always thought it had to be metaphorical, I just wasn't completely sure about the meaning, but your interpretation is the first I really find satisfying.

You are right about the recurring theme... Somehow people always ignore it when discussing "Southpaw". Do you have the impression that it's one of the Smiths/Morrissey songs where he is addressing himself as "you"?

The great thing about many of Morrissey's songs is that you often can't simply point out who is narrator or who they are addressing, it's not clear if Morrissey is somewhere in the song or what his attitude to his characters is... yet he might be identifying and projecting parts of himself in one or more of them. "Maladjusted" is a perfect example - I love that song, but I've never been sure what it means, even though I've read some interesting interpretations. Still, the closing lines are so haunting... maybe because he literally sings them in two difference voices. Do you think that he might be singing them from two points of view, maybe switching from one person to another?

"Maladjusted, maladjusted
never to be trusted
never to be trusted"
(falsetto: )
"There's nothing wrong with you
there's nothing wrong with you..."
 
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