Life is never kind
I purchased Viva Hate at The Record Exchange in 1989 after watching the Suedehead video on MTV.
Hi Jeff, that's exactly right! I saw Howie's post on AOL, and he called me. He told me Morrissey had searched high and low in his house (would that have been Manchester at the time?) and even he didn't have a copy. Howie told me he had heard from a few fans who did have a copy, but they wanted thousands of dollars for it. He assured me that the cassette wouldn't be damaged in the mastering and that it would be returned to me. I told him all I wanted in return was maybe a postcard from Morrissey thanking me for the cassette, which I never got, but Howie did send me a box of about 40 Sire CDs from various artists by way of thanks, which I thought was nice. And they sent the cassingle back, which I still have around here, somewhere.
I remember my Dad thought it was a great story about the power of the Internet -- a record company reaching out to fans to release a record. He was right, it was a cool story, more about the Internet and the power to connect people than about Morrissey or the Smiths. I think it's interesting that Howie went on to become a progressive blogger (Down with Tyranny!) -- he definitely got the power of the Internet early on. Them was lovely days.
I didn't buy it. Morrissey was kind of a non-entity for me in late 1991. I was aware of his existence, but he had not not entered my life (I hadn't heard anything of his) nearly as much as my other teenage obsession, The Cure. I was living in Corvallis, Oregon, and regularly going to Happy Trails records with the little money I had, and buying anything Cure that I could get my hands on. Incense scented posters- (because they always burned incense to hide the smell of pot from the back room) postcards, cassettes, vinyl, VHS etc. They knew me as The Cure kid, and any time there was something new, I would be informed about it as soon as I came in.
One day, there was nothing new for me to buy, so I remember I picked up Once Upon A Time, the Siouxsie singles and was ready to leave disappointed when the young woman behind the counter asked if I liked Morrissey. I was pretty dismissive and figured I'd spend what I had left on something to eat, or some coffee, but she insisted that I needed to listen to him. When I said maybe I would, she reached into the case and pulled out a copy of Viva Hate and told me "Just take it. I want you to go and listen to this. It will change your life." I thought she was being a little dramatic, but I took it and distinctly remember looking at the shot on the cover, and being intrigued by the half smirk on his face, eyes hidden in shadow, and thinking that he looked like he either knew something I didn't, or was in on a joke that I didn't get.
I remember sitting outside on a bench as the weather turned gray, and hitting play on my walkman. The directness and accusatory nature of "Were you and he lovers- and would you say so if you were?" Just floored me. Each word enunciated with crystal clear precision, spat out with such bile, yet humor and class. By "Leather elbow on a tweed coat- is that the best you can do?" My life was changed. Here was a guy who chewed on language until the juices ran down his chin. A guy who didn't need to hide behind metaphor and smokescreens like The Cure. Where they took my confusion and angst, and all of the wonderfully awful feelings of adolescence and change, and ran them through a filter of ache and beauty, here was a guy who just laid it out bare, in a way that felt like the music shook you by the lapels and screamed you awake, and said that these feelings that made you feel like you could never be "one of them" somehow made you not only not one of them but somehow "better than them" by virtue of introspection, sensitivity, and kindness. That yes, words could be a weapon, and words could save your life and raise you up above the mundane.
A little nostalgia thread, because I like to hear people's stories...
Where did you buy "Suedehead" and/or "Viva Hate" for the first time?
For myself, I purchased "Viva Hate" on LP at Pitchfork Records and Tapes on Main Street in Concord, NH, on the day of its release (March 14, 1988). I still couldn't drive then, and I remember my mother had to pick something up at the K Mart on Fort Eddy Road after we went to the record store, and, while she ran in, I sat in the car and assiduously read the lyric sheet. When we finally got home, I was absolutely appalled by the opening riff of "Alsatian Cousin." 'Dear God,' I remember thinking, 'what have they done to you?' Later that evening I called my best friend and played him "Everyday Is Like Sunday" over the phone. 'How does he do it?' he said, with admiration.
In April of that year I went to England with my mother and I bought the 12" single of "Suedehead" at the HMV in London. I'm sure there were several HMVs there at the time, and I don't remember which one -- maybe near Piccadilly Circus? I also loaded up on about half a dozen Smiths 12" singles, as well as a cassingle of "I Started Something I Couldn't Finish", which -- true story! -- would later be used by Sire to master "What's the World?" for the b-side of the "Sweet and Tender Hooligan" cd single released in 1995. Literally, every recording you now hear of that song came from the cassingle I bought that day.
Later that summer I found the CD single of "Suedehead" in a record store in Manchester, NH, and listened to "Oh Well, I'll Never Learn" as though it were the rarest and most precious thing in the world. Which, to me, it was.
Truly, I'd forgotten the side story of "What's the World?" when I started this post. So, in real earnestness, where were you when you first bought Morrissey's first single and LP?
I found a purse while walking my girlfriend home which had a couple of quid in and a ten pound Woolies voucher, so I emptied the contents into my pocket and lobbed the purse into the dock, then nipped to Woolworths, Goole, and bought the Viva Hate cd for £11.99. I bought Suedehead from Crash Records in Leeds with (I think) Dominion by The Sisters Of Mercy. It’s only recently that I’ve felt a little bit guilty about stealing someone’s voucher, but they would have probably wasted it.