The Smiths A-Z: "Half a Person"

BookishBoy

Well-Known Member









Next up in our Smiths A-Z project is this song, originally a B-side on the "Shoplifters of the World" single in January 1987, and subsequently included on The World Won't Listen compilation. (The Peel Session version, in December 1986, was produced by John Porter.)

The song was never played live by the Smiths, but was played a few times by Morrissey in 1999/2000 before reappearing in some of his 2020/21 shows.

What do we think?
 

Watson

Well-Known Member
A slight but deeply moving and beautiful song. I love the Peel version. However, even after 30 years, I cannot get out of my head the thoughts of my best friend at the time who said that he liked the song, but wondered why Moz had cast himself in the role of a 'black scrubber'...when I said that I thought it was 'back scrubber' he agreed that it probably made more sense.

Unbelievable that they were churning these songs out as b-sides.
 
O

On his way out

Guest
So essentially Smithsian. I misheard "equally dour" as something like "on the hour" for a long time. I still find "equally dour" a little clunky. Otherwise perfect.
 

Janice

Well-Known Member
One of the best.
When I posted the set list from Leeds 2 years ago, there were a number of shocked and happy posters
20 years since it’s last live runout. 🥰
 

Flibberty

Well-Known Member
A cracking song and I particularly like the slightly perkier Peel Session version. If I were to make a one CD compilation of my favourite of the group's stuff, this would easily make the list.

It's especially interesting, as others have commented before, for the very unusual way Morrissey's lyrics blend (or don't blend) with the music. Most lyricists listening to that backing track would never think of structuring the words in that way. Morrissey's lack of traditional musical training generally proved a real positive for the group.


Just to show other viewpoints and not because they should be considered in any way definitive...

In the poll on this board this song ranked 22nd from 73 of the group's songs.
In the poll on the Hoffman board this song ranked 5th from 73 of the group's songs.
 

Famous when dead

Vulgarian
Moderator
Screenshot_20220207-132138.png


"Give us a shout if you want your back scrubbed..."
(misquoted by Goddard).
Regards,
FWD.
 

SuedeMoz

Well-Known Member
Seems like I'm in the minority on this one. Of course, I found the message of being young, awkward, and pining after someone unaware or uninterested infinitely relatable at the time. I do prefer the Porter/Peel version but find the original and Morrissey's vocal a bit on the "dirgy" side. A song I like and listen to... just not on my personal list of top Smiths songs.
 
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Dirk Blaggard

Well-Known Member
One of the most perfect moments, in pop music history.
This, song, to me, is truly beautiful.
There are some Smiths songs, "Heaven Knows" etc, , that sum up the band, in terms of the public mind's eye and then there are those songs and moments that sum up Smiths to us, the fans

Just as the lyric "People see no worth in you, I do " is such a powerful statement, Pure Smiths So the lyric " In the days when you were hopeless and poor, I just liked you more" , Is also pure Smiths, and although not as powerful as the first lyric, it still hits the mark, deep and true.

Just like Reel around, is perfect Smiths. so to is this song to me, anyway (I haven't read the posts before this one, yet)
His vocal is so heartfelt. It's soulful in the true sense of the word and its so romantic and open-hearted, at times it can make me cry with joy

Like all good bands, The Smiths had many sides, yes they had an attack and venom, they were arch and funny and many other things.
But it was the love they projected that made them special When people talk about the sense of love that is in the music, this song is a prime example
"Call me morbid, call me pale. I spent too long on your trail" . True of us fans with M, himself
 
D

Deleted member 30524

Guest
I nearly choked to death on my Coors when Moz pulled this song out of the bag at Leeds a couple of years back. The highlight of the night.
This song has to be in the Smiths
Top ten of all time, and I never tire of listening to it.

10/10
 
M

Mr Anonymous

Guest
One of my three favorite Smiths songs. It is so beautiful. My only quibble is that I never understood what the YWCA back scrubber lyric meant. Does anyone happen to know?
 

Amy

from the Ice Age to the dole age
In the days when you were hopelessly poor
I just liked you more

Still hits hard after all this time.
 

Amy

from the Ice Age to the dole age
One of my three favorite Smiths songs. It is so beautiful. My only quibble is that I never understood what the YWCA back scrubber lyric meant. Does anyone happen to know?
Isn't it just a bit of Moz humour?
Instead of going to the YMCA (men's hostel) as you'd expect - he wants to go to the women's one instead, and volunteers to scrub their backs at bathtime? :lbf:
 
D

Deleted member 30524

Guest
Isn't it just a bit of Moz humour?
Instead of going to the YMCA (men's hostel) as you'd expect - he wants to go to the women's one instead, and volunteers to scrub their backs at bathtime? :lbf:
The YWCA is an actual organisation
I was never to sure what a back scrubber was myself .
 

Famous when dead

Vulgarian
Moderator
It's probably humour.
A women's Christian association wouldn't have males scrubbing backs - so toying with gender and the futility of following the person potentially.
In The Family Way, Mill's is asserted to have said ...backscrubber, but it is incorrect (that's not to say Morrissey didn't adapt the real line as previously stated).
See:

Ridiculously, age-gated video.
FWD.
 

CrazyFaceGenes

Active Member
It's probably humour.
A women's Christian association wouldn't have males scrubbing backs - so toying with gender and the futility of following the person potentially.
In The Family Way, Mill's is asserted to have said ...backscrubber, but it is incorrect (that's not to say Morrissey didn't adapt the real line as previously stated).
See:

Ridiculously, age-gated video.
FWD.


It felt very Carry on when i first heard it, i like it more as a simple joke than a reference to The Knack or some other film from the 60s
 

Mayfly

Well-Known Member
I hope he sang « 60, clumsy and why - that’s the story of my life « when he pulled it out in Leeds, Koln and London in 2020.
Anyway, an absolute highlight at these shows.

I seem to remember that this song was written very quickly, a privilege reserved for the most gifted songwriters.
 
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