Which Morrissey melodies are most Morrissey

Catholic

Member
I, a musical ignoramus, have been studying old threads regarding the vocal melodies Morrissey contributes to others' music.

This is a specific question, mainly addressed to the musically literate:

If Morrissey contributes - sometimes at least - a vocal melody that is significantly his own creation, not merely following the chords (don't even know what a chord is, if I'm honest) then . . . which songs most reflect his own innovation or his own original input?

IOW, I think there must be a SPECTRUM of songs here.

At one end of that spectrum are songs where Morrissey's _musical_ contribution is more minimal. He has just added (great) lyrics to a clearly defined tune.

At the other end of that spectrum are songs where he's gone further, creating a more distinctive melody that reflects his own original style/sensibility.

"His own original style/sensibility" is what I mean, then, by "most Morrissey".
 

Radis Noir

Well-Known Mumbler
Although Morrissey is always credited as a lyricist, he has always written his own melody lines as well. His method of working, developed in the early days of working with Johnny Marr and continuing to this day, is that songwriters submit tapes with what are essentially backing tracks and then Morrissey writes both words and the melody line to which the words are sung. Although he has input at the recording stage in terms of arrangements and mixing, so far as I know, he interferes very little with the harmonic structure of the songs he is given.
 

Catholic

Member
Many thanks, Radis Noir. I am slowly gathering this from past threads, as well.

But what I also gather there - and maybe not correctly! - is that sometimes these "melody lines" closely follow the music submitted on tapes, but sometimes they deviate considerably owing to Morrissey's innovation.

So my question is what would be examples of such innovative melodies originating with Morrissey himself where his melodic line is somewhat or even substantially different from what might be expected from a simple lyricist?

Or maybe I'm too musically thick to get this and they're all much the same really. Maybe his melodic lines never really add a significantly different melodic addition to the "backing music"?

But IF there are songs (??) that do owe more his own distinctive melodies - which songs might they be?
 

Amy

from the Ice Age to the dole age
Morrissey's vocal melodies are often sublime and have saved many an average backing track in his solo career. Johnny has said he never, ever did what you might expect with a backing track - he'd leave a long intro and come in on what was meant to be the 'chorus', put the actual chorus where the writer thought the verse would be and basically make up his own preferred structure.

Sometimes there's just one line, one magic 'moment' that just takes the song to another level.
Some of my favourites:

Late Night, Maudlin Street
I've Changed My Plea to Guilty ("See how your rules spoil the game?")
Lost ("So if I see you, and I tell you, how I've watched you...")
Boy with the Thorn (the entire song is a God-level masterpiece)
Now My Heart is Full ("Loafing oafs in all-night chemists, underact express depression")
Nobody Loves Us ("Caaaall us home... kiss our cheeks, nobody loves us"
Last of the Famous International Playboys
November Spawned a Monster
Shoplifters of the World..
Ask
Stop Me
I'll Never Be Anybody's Hero Now
Blue Dreamer's Eyes
 
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GirlAfraidWillNeverLearn

Well-Known Member
It's hard for me to explain in musical terms but try listening to some instrumental demos of songs and then you'll probably realise what Morrissey brings to the table both in terms of vocal melody and song structures.
Many of his collaborators have pointed out that his contributions to the songs are often criminally underrated.

Last but not least, his enunciation, intonation and emphasis is incredibly well thought out, which contributes immensely to the uniqueness of his vocal delivery.
 
A

Anonymous

Guest
This video is more geared towards Morrissey's earlier vocal melody choices, as he has increased his range dramatically over the years, but it's an interesting and amusing look at where he tends to gravitate to, and how this affects the feel of the song as a whole.
 

gordyboy9

GAME OF DEATH.
theres too many to mention,im currently hooked on Im Playing Easy To Get and Swallow On My Neck,a lot of his songs have great melodies thats why repeat listens isnt a problem.
 
A

Anonymous

Guest
One thing that isn't mentioned too often is how clear Morrissey sings the lyrics, there are very few lines in his whole discography where it is difficult to hear the words he's singing. This is great as it's easy to learn the songs quickly but it's also rare as so few singers do sing clearly, nearly everyone mumbles their way through songs, like Vic Reeves club singer, haha!
 

Catholic

Member
Some may find this OTT for me to say this - but I am really very grateful, touched and HELPED by the responses here so far. Helped in a way that is more mysterious than I can easily explain . . .

A couple of comments to:


This video is more geared towards Morrissey's earlier vocal melody choices, as he has increased his range dramatically over the years, but it's an interesting and amusing look at where he tends to gravitate to, and how this affects the feel of the song as a whole.


Yes this really helps a lot, including this bit: "earlier vocal melody choices".

And this, Amy, also really helps me very much in this aforementioned mysterious way:

Morrissey's vocal melodies are often sublime and have saved many an average backing track in his solo career. Johnny has said he never, ever did what you might expect with a backing track - he'd leave a long intro and come in on what was meant to be the 'chorus', put the actual chorus where the writer thought the verse would be and basically make up his own preferred structure.

Sometimes there's just one line, one magic 'moment' that just takes the song to another level.
Some of my favourites:

Late Night, Maudlin Street
I've Changed My Plea to Guilty ("See how your rules spoil the game?")
Lost ("So if I see you, and I tell you, how I've watched you...")
Boy with the Thorn (the entire song is a God-level masterpiece)
Now My Heart is Full ("Loafing oafs in all-night chemists, underact express depression")
Nobody Loves Us ("Caaaall us home... kiss our cheeks, nobody loves us"
Last of the Famous International Playboys
November Spawned a Monster
Shoplifters of the World..
Ask
Stop Me
I'll Never Be Anybody's Hero Now
Blue Dreamer's Eyes


Great list. There is something very haunting for me in these songs and maybe this "haunting" je ne sais quoi is what Morrissey's melody has added?

By contrast, there are other (often later) songs I feel less haunted by, songs that sometimes feel a bit more like "standard rock fare", albeit with potent lyrics and vocals.

If Amy you or anyone else knows what I mean by "more like standard rock", I have a question:

Does it seem that, in these cases, Morrissey has added less to such songs in terms of melody, added less of this haunting quality, instead following more closely the music lines submitted to him?

Again, very grateful for responses. They help me to identify something very mysteriously moving for me in Morrissey ...
 

Amy

from the Ice Age to the dole age
If Amy you or anyone else knows what I mean by "more like standard rock", I have a question:
Does it seem that, in these cases, Morrissey has added less to such songs in terms of melody, added less of this haunting quality, instead following more closely the music lines submitted to him? Again, very grateful for responses. They help me to identify something very mysteriously moving for me in Morrissey ...
Sometimes it comes down to Morrissey's input but I think the quality of the backing music is a big factor in how a song turns out, too. There are times when singing along with the basic melody really works (Boy with the Thorn), times when it's dreadful (People are the Same Everywhere) and times where Moz comes up with a great vocal line seemingly from nowhere, despite very sparse backing (Well I Wonder, Half A Person).

So it varies. The harder "chug-rock" is probably most obvious in places on Ringleader and Refusal. His vocal melodies and lyrics have became gradually more blunt and "in your face" over time; to me, "The Youngest Was the Most Loved" and "I Just Want to See the Boy Happy" are perfect examples of a plodding, weak backing carried only by his voice. Jesse Tobias is responsible for a lot of the bashing, crashing, "harder' sound in that period... not something I'm keen on.

Someone once pointed out "Teenage Dad on His Estate" as a song which has a pretty unimpressive, plodding backing too, lifted by the lyrics.

 

Amy

from the Ice Age to the dole age
Another example of where Moz takes a very sparse backing and makes something haunting out of it:

 

Catholic

Member
Sometimes it comes down to Morrissey's input but I think the quality of the backing music is a big factor in how a song turns out, too. There are times when singing along with the basic melody really works (Boy with the Thorn), times when it's dreadful (People are the Same Everywhere) and times where Moz comes up with a great vocal line seemingly from nowhere, despite very sparse backing (Well I Wonder, Half A Person).

So it varies. The harder "chug-rock" is probably most obvious in places on Ringleader and Refusal. His vocal melodies and lyrics have became gradually more blunt and "in your face" over time; to me, "The Youngest Was the Most Loved" and "I Just Want to See the Boy Happy" are perfect examples of a plodding, weak backing carried only by his voice. Jesse Tobias is responsible for a lot of the bashing, crashing, "harder' sound in that period... not something I'm keen on.

Someone once pointed out "Teenage Dad on His Estate" as a song which has a pretty unimpressive, plodding backing too, lifted by the lyrics.

Thank you, again, Amy. You have truly helped me with all these examples to hone in on the answer to my question: Which Morrissey is most Morrissey?

Also quite agree with you re Refusal, "chug rock" etc. That's exactly what I was trying to get at. And the examples you cite here point to exactly what I also find so much more soulful, stirring and meaningful.

I don't want to keep begging for examples. But this question as to which songs most reflect Morrissey's musical "soul" (as opposed to lyrically which I think all the songs do) remains mysteriously important to me.

So if you or anyone else want to continue educating me here, I shall listen with great interest. Otherwise, I'm really very grateful for all the above.
 
A

Anonymous

Guest
Sometimes it comes down to Morrissey's input but I think the quality of the backing music is a big factor in how a song turns out, too. There are times when singing along with the basic melody really works (Boy with the Thorn), times when it's dreadful (People are the Same Everywhere) and times where Moz comes up with a great vocal line seemingly from nowhere, despite very sparse backing (Well I Wonder, Half A Person).

So it varies. The harder "chug-rock" is probably most obvious in places on Ringleader and Refusal. His vocal melodies and lyrics have became gradually more blunt and "in your face" over time; to me, "The Youngest Was the Most Loved" and "I Just Want to See the Boy Happy" are perfect examples of a plodding, weak backing carried only by his voice. Jesse Tobias is responsible for a lot of the bashing, crashing, "harder' sound in that period... not something I'm keen on.

Someone once pointed out "Teenage Dad on His Estate" as a song which has a pretty unimpressive, plodding backing too, lifted by the lyrics.

I mostly agree with you, but Well I Wonder.. seriously? I've been thinking it's one of the best works of Johnny and Andy and very completed as a instrumental track itself.
 
A

Anonymous

Guest
I, a musical ignoramus, have been studying old threads regarding the vocal melodies Morrissey contributes to others' music.

This is a specific question, mainly addressed to the musically literate:

If Morrissey contributes - sometimes at least - a vocal melody that is significantly his own creation, not merely following the chords (don't even know what a chord is, if I'm honest) then . . . which songs most reflect his own innovation or his own original input?

IOW, I think there must be a SPECTRUM of songs here.

At one end of that spectrum are songs where Morrissey's _musical_ contribution is more minimal. He has just added (great) lyrics to a clearly defined tune.

At the other end of that spectrum are songs where he's gone further, creating a more distinctive melody that reflects his own original style/sensibility.

"His own original style/sensibility" is what I mean, then, by "most Morrissey".
A chord is simply three or more notes all played at the same time.
 
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