Least-Favourite Moz/Smiths Tracks

Qvist

Well-Known Member
Yes, but Johnny wasn't a lead songwriter in any of the other bands mate...he was a (guest) musician who simply got told what to play and how :)

And what do you think that shows?

If he was the creative force of the Smiths musically, why was he content to spend the next two decades as a "guest musician"?

cheers
 
D

DAVIE

Guest
And what do you think that shows?

If he was the creative force of the Smiths musically, why was he content to spend the next two decades as a "guest musician"?

cheers

Most probably the bands didn't want their songs to sound like Smiths songs :thumb:
 

Worm

Taste the diffidence
And what do you think that shows?

If he was the creative force of the Smiths musically, why was he content to spend the next two decades as a "guest musician"?

cheers

If you'll excuse my rude interruption... :rolleyes:

Don't equate creativity with ambition. Whenever you assess Johnny's career, you have to account for his own designs and goals, as given out in interviews over the years. Since The Smiths Johnny's ambition seems to have been taking a secondary role, allowing him both maximum personal freedom and the chance to work with musicians who were also good friends. He seems very happy with his career and I doubt he's sitting around brooding about "Twisted Tenderness" not hitting #1 on the charts.

Besides, with all due respect, Qvist, I think your argument's on the specious side. Looking at post-'87 material is hardly a substitute for assessing what he actually accomplished in The Smiths. Marr's contributions were at least as vital as Morrissey's and I would go further and say it's not a stretch to call The Smiths Johnny's band (as Johnny does, in fact, do). Ask yourself what would have happened to each of them had they never met.
 
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Worm

Taste the diffidence
If you sat someone down wh didn't know the credits, played them the Smiths, played them Morrissey's solo albums, played them the various stuff Johnny 's been in and then asked them who they thought wrote the music in the Smiths, what would they answer? My bet is that at least 9 out of 10 would plump for Morrissey.

cheers

I think your point here is valid-- to an extent. Any honest person would probably say, listening to all of Morrissey's solo material, that the music (a) sounded a lot more like The Smiths than Johnny's post-Smiths work but (b) was not written by Johnny Marr.

Also, reiterating my comment above, you have to consider Johnny's intentions, not just his output. Noting that his work doesn't sound like The Smiths isn't really a useful observation because he obviously wanted to go in a different direction, beginning with Electronic. We could compare their solo careers to see if they were "successful" in the sense of having released music that was as important to people's lives as The Smiths were, regardless of what genre it was, and on that score Morrissey wins-- but largely because he's Morrissey and Johnny has, again, chosen to take on a secondary role (in all but The Healers, which is an anomalous case because he wasn't returning to his "top billing" role as songwriter, as in The Smiths, but trying to take on both the Morrissey/Marr roles, which is akin to Morrissey attempting to write his own music, i.e. a bizarre and catastrophic experiment).
 
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Amy

from the Ice Age to the dole age
I don't think anybone would dispute that Marr and Morrissey were both absolutely essential to the Smiths. But I do question if it is possible to apply a clear "Marr: Music, Morrissey: Lyrics and iconic status" divide. Considering the songs that Johnny Marr has written post-Smiths and the songs that Morrissey has produced post-Smiths with a wide array of songwriters, it's rather hard to believe the music side was entirely or essentially down to Johnny. It is also hard to ignore the fact that Morrissey has continued to produce material that is not only much closer to the Smiths in quality but also in style. Morrissey is involved on the music side - he writes the vocal melodies, which is a pretty damn central part of a song. No doubt he is also involved in other aspects of the music. If you sat someone down wh didn't know the credits, played them the Smiths, played them Morrissey's solo albums, played them the various stuff Johnny 's been in and then asked them who they thought wrote the music in the Smiths, what would they answer? My bet is that at least 9 out of 10 would plump for Morrissey.

cheers

Qvist, you're a reasonable person so I'm not going to start an argument, but you seem to have a serious chip on your shoulder when it comes to Johnny and I really can't understand your beef with the man. After The Smiths, Johnny played music with/for his friends and for his own enjoyment. Morrissey, on the other hand, was still feverishly chasing after chart success and experimented with a whole string of co-writers to that end.

The 'vocal melody' stuff is a very weak argument. Tuneless, thrashing pub rock like Ringleader of the Tormentors is the garbage that results when Morrissey's backing band are left to go wild, and no melodious yodelling can disguise it. Johnny was a gifted young kid in the driving seat of The Smiths from the word 'go'.
 

CrystalGeezer

My secret's my enzyme.
I don't think anybone would dispute that Marr and Morrissey were both absolutely essential to the Smiths. But I do question if it is possible to apply a clear "Marr: Music, Morrissey: Lyrics and iconic status" divide. Considering the songs that Johnny Marr has written post-Smiths and the songs that Morrissey has produced post-Smiths with a wide array of songwriters, it's rather hard to believe the music side was entirely or essentially down to Johnny. It is also hard to ignore the fact that Morrissey has continued to produce material that is not only much closer to the Smiths in quality but also in style. Morrissey is involved on the music side - he writes the vocal melodies, which is a pretty damn central part of a song. No doubt he is also involved in other aspects of the music. If you sat someone down wh didn't know the credits, played them the Smiths, played them Morrissey's solo albums, played them the various stuff Johnny 's been in and then asked them who they thought wrote the music in the Smiths, what would they answer? My bet is that at least 9 out of 10 would plump for Morrissey.

cheers

I've often thought this. I don't own a Cribs album but have been exposed to enough of his side projects to think that Morrissey HAD to have lent a hand in the music.
 
D

DAVIE

Guest
I've often thought this. I don't own a Cribs album but have been exposed to enough of his side projects to think that Morrissey HAD to have lent a hand in the music.

Morrissey knows sod all about music, he's said in many interviews....If anything it would be Andy Rourke
 

Worm

Taste the diffidence
I've often thought this. I don't own a Cribs album but have been exposed to enough of his side projects to think that Morrissey HAD to have lent a hand in the music.

So much has been written about how Morrissey and Marr created The Smiths' music that one basic fact has been muddled: Marr wrote the tunes and Morrissey sang over them. I have read each of them say this. I have seen and heard them say this in interviews. Marr wrote the music. Morrissey sang over it. This is the core of their musical relationship.

Now, I've also read the descriptions given by Goddard, Rogan, et al of The Smiths' recording process and I understand the music underwent revision after Morrissey sang over Marr's music, often changing it in the process. For example, Morrissey would surprise everyone by singing the chorus over what Marr thought was to be the verse, and so Marr would tweak the music accordingly. I've also read of cases (like "Panic") where Morrissey and Marr seem to have written together, simultaneously.

All this notwithstanding, their central relationship was Marr producing music, Morrissey producing vocals and words, and then the two were fused in the recording process. Remember, Morrissey never failed to write "Words: Morrissey, Music: Johnny Marr" on the sleeves. I believe this is largely how Morrissey's solo career has gone, too. Writers like Goddard have pointed out that Morrissey's vocal arrangements played heavily into The Smiths' songwriting as a way of highlighting Morrissey's talent. He's not just a good singer and a gifted writer, we're reminded, his vocal styles also deeply influenced the music, as if his voice were itself one of the instruments.

This is all perfectly valid-- Morrissey's talents and contributions should be celebrated-- but it in a certain sense we're just stating the obvious: of course Morrissey's vocal melodies deeply impacted the music, such that he deserves a share of credit for The Smiths' music. But if you go that far one way, you have to go equally far in the other: how many of Morrissey's vocal melodies sound infinitely richer because of Johnny's beautiful guitar arrangements? We only need to think about the handful of disastrous solo songs in which Morrissey joined feeble lyrics to crap music to understand how fragile the balance was. There's also a point to make here (pure speculation, never provable) that Morrissey's lyrics were improved thanks to the original inspiration he got from Johnny's music, given to him beforehand on cassettes.
 
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Qvist

Well-Known Member
Qvist, you're a reasonable person so I'm not going to start an argument, but you seem to have a serious chip on your shoulder when it comes to Johnny and I really can't understand your beef with the man. After The Smiths, Johnny played music with/for his friends and for his own enjoyment. Morrissey, on the other hand, was still feverishly chasing after chart success and experimented with a whole string of co-writers to that end.

The 'vocal melody' stuff is a very weak argument. Tuneless, thrashing pub rock like Ringleader of the Tormentors is the garbage that results when Morrissey's backing band are left to go wild, and no melodious yodelling can disguise it. Johnny was a gifted young kid in the driving seat of The Smiths from the word 'go'.

On the contrary. I have no chip on my shoulder concerning Johnny Marr. I love the guy. I loved his guitar playing before I loved Morrissey's vocals or had even tried to listen to his lyrics. It's as integral a part of the Smiths as anything else, maybe even more so. He is clearly the reason why the Smiths were so very superior to Morrissey's solo work. I'm not out to put him down. But, however much you'd like to say otherwise, you can't get away from the fact that he really has not accomplished anything over the past two decades that seems significant in remotely the same way as what Morrissey has done.

I used to believe that Marr was the music side of the Smiths, but I simply don't anymore. For that, Morrissey's solo output is too rich in the qualities present in the Smiths, and the same qualities are too absent in Marr's work. I just don't buy it. Morrissey must have affected more than just the words and the singing. Worm's admirable description above is broadly how I understand it too, but in the end it's a symbiotic thing. Who knows how things affect each other. Mark E Smith coaxes brilliant music out of semi-proficient strangers he met down the pub, and he doesn't claim to write any music. But The Fall still sound like The Fall, despite a revolving door of musicians and songwriters.

If you think the vocal melodies are unimportant, I invite you to reflect on how exciting Oscillate Wildly or The Draize Train is compared to the rest of the Smiths output. And if anything's weak here, it's the seemingly widespread notion that Johnny Marr could have made brilliant music, but just chose not to because he wanted to enjoy himself and have fun instead. ;)

cheers
 
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Qvist

Well-Known Member
Most probably the bands didn't want their songs to sound like Smiths songs :thumb:

He was content to spend two decades as a guest musician in other bands because the bands didn't want their songs to sound like Smiths songs? Are you sure you really had the question before you when you wrote that answer?
 

murder and desire

Junior Member
Qvist, you're a reasonable person so I'm not going to start an argument, but you seem to have a serious chip on your shoulder when it comes to Johnny and I really can't understand your beef with the man. After The Smiths, Johnny played music with/for his friends and for his own enjoyment. Morrissey, on the other hand, was still feverishly chasing after chart success and experimented with a whole string of co-writers to that end.

The 'vocal melody' stuff is a very weak argument. Tuneless, thrashing pub rock like Ringleader of the Tormentors is the garbage that results when Morrissey's backing band are left to go wild, and no melodious yodelling can disguise it. Johnny was a gifted young kid in the driving seat of The Smiths from the word 'go'.

I must agree....to a degree. Its true the Moz is in need of a good backing band and that Johnny still has more talent in his toes than boz boring and co have put together- AW was the only really talented writer (I think).
I would say though that I can't think of one good song, bar the one johnny did with The The that is any good, where as Morrissey has written a load of classics songs.
 

Eraserhead

Accept Myself
And you ran back to Marr
which set the pace for the rest of your days........:D
 

Worm

Taste the diffidence
But, however much you'd like to say otherwise, you can't get away from the fact that he really has not accomplished anything over the past two decades that seems significant in remotely the same way as what Morrissey has done.

Define "significant". We all love plenty of Morrissey's solo material but none of it has been as "significant" as The Smiths. Not "Bona Drag", not "Vauxhall", not "Quarry". The peak of Morrissey's "significance" was in 1986, just as Marr's was.

If you mean that Morrissey released a few classic albums (like the three mentioned above) which touched thousands of lives, whereas Johnny had nowhere close to the same success with his projects, well, I can't and won't argue that point. But as I've argued before (haven't I argued everything before, six times at least, on this site? :) ), there was no way Johnny could have had the same impact on music the way Morrissey did. The comparison is faulty. Morrissey was capable of going solo and being 100% of The Smiths because he could drag in passable imitations of Johnny. But Johnny could never be 100% of The Smiths because imitating Morrissey is impossible-- and other strong singer/songwriters of Morrissey's caliber don't grow on trees.

For that, Morrissey's solo output is too rich in the qualities present in the Smiths

Hmm...

and the same qualities are too absent in Marr's work.

Because he chose not to repeat himself. Do you honestly think he couldn't have churned out 189 versions of "Cemetry Gates" if he'd wanted to? He walked away from his Smiths output. May have been a bad choice, but it was a choice. Why do you find that notion to be weak? Artists change all the time, sometimes not for the better. Johnny probably understood, as too few people do, that even the greatest rock and roll talents who ever lived are lucky to have a run of four or five years of superlative material. He had his run. What was left, besides turning out a few club hits for his Ibiza vacations?

in the end it's a symbiotic thing. Who knows how things affect each other.

Yes, and in the end this is what always goes missing in these debates, and probably what went missing in 1987. Don't dismantle the magic music machine because you think it's made of lawnmower parts and only needs a quick reassemble job with components who won't talk back. A band isn't a mix 'n' match Ikea bedroom set, a lesson learned, sadly, far, far too many times in rock history.

P.S. The live version of "The Draize Train" is among my most-played Smiths tracks in the last ten years.
 
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Qvist

Well-Known Member
Because he chose not to repeat himself. Do you honestly think he couldn't have churned out 189 versions of "Cemetry Gates" if he'd wanted to? He walked away from his Smiths output. May have been a bad choice, but it was a choice. Why do you find that notion to be weak? Artists change all the time, sometimes not for the better.

Well, that line of reasoning would have been fine if he'd changed in the direction of producing a string of terrific albums that were nothing like the Smiths. But he didn't. He didn't make much of an impression at all. He's been relatively insignificant in a wide variety of styles of his choice.

Johnny probably understood, as too few people do, that even the greatest rock and roll talents who ever lived are lucky to have a run of four or five years of superlative material. He had his run. What was left, besides turning out a few club hits for his Ibiza vacations? J

Ahem. That's a bit of hyperbole, surely? Mark E Smith? David Tibet? Steven Stapleton? John Lennon? The Rolling Stones? Lou Reed? Radiohead? Bob Dylan?

cheers
 

Amy

from the Ice Age to the dole age
On the contrary. I have no chip on my shoulder concerning Johnny Marr. I love the guy. I loved his guitar playing before I loved Morrissey's vocals or had even tried to listen to his lyrics. It's as integral a part of the Smiths as anything else, maybe even more so. He is clearly the reason why the Smiths were so very superior to Morrissey's solo work. I'm not out to put him down. But, however much you'd like to say otherwise, you can't get away from the fact that he really has not accomplished anything over the past two decades that seems significant in remotely the same way as what Morrissey has done.

I used to believe that Marr was the music side of the Smiths, but I simply don't anymore. For that, Morrissey's solo output is too rich in the qualities present in the Smiths, and the same qualities are too absent in Marr's work. I just don't buy it. Morrissey must have affected more than just the words and the singing. Worm's admirable description above is broadly how I understand it too, but in the end it's a symbiotic thing. Who knows how things affect each other. Mark E Smith coaxes brilliant music out of semi-proficient strangers he met down the pub, and he doesn't claim to write any music. But The Fall still sound like The Fall, despite a revolving door of musicians and songwriters.

If you think the vocal melodies are unimportant, I invite you to reflect on how exciting Oscillate Wildly or The Draize Train is compared to the rest of the Smiths output. And if anything's weak here, it's the seemingly widespread notion that Johnny Marr could have made brilliant music, but just chose not to because he wanted to enjoy himself and have fun instead. ;)

cheers

I never said otherwise? I'm aware that Johnny has largely "wasted" himself in the years after the Smiths split, if you want to look at it like that - as I explained in my earlier post on his Madchester tinkerings. I don't see how the notion of him making music for enjoyment is weak, though - if he's essentially jamming with his mates, it's not going to be ground-breaking, is it? When The Smiths started, Morrissey and Marr had a shared vision and they wanted to be successful. Every note, every word, had to count. When The Smiths were over (as I've already said) Johnny had nothing left to prove, and still doesn't. He's made his mark, he's made his money, he could have retired to a Cheshire mansion in 1990 and the music world would have been none the worse for it.

Another point that I think is very important is that Morrissey and Marr inspired greatness in each other. There were occasional flies in the ointment - "The Draize Train", as you mentioned, and the absolute hash that Morrissey made of the beautiful music for "Some Girls.." - but generally they pushed and pulled each other to further ambition and creativity. This has lacked almost entirely in Johnny's solo work - he has never worked with a "Morrissey-like" figure (perhaps by choice!) with the same lyrical talent and aesthetic principles. He went instead for the lazy potheads and the sub-par indie bands of the 'new' generation, who don't inspire anything in him, and consequently his music becomes as lazy as their words. Meanwhile, Morrissey didn't immediately run for a Marr-substitute, but he certainly wanted music and writing of a similar calibre. He aimed higher than Marr in his post-Smiths efforts, and raised his own game to match.

Re: vocal melodies. I could listen to almost any Smiths song as an instrumental, purely for pleasure. "Bigmouth Strikes Again", "Boy with the Thorn", and pretty much all the first album - they are beautiful pieces of music. I would never do that with any song from Morrissey's solo output - the music simply isn't good enough. If anything, Moz' lyrics have carried his solo career when for other artists, it would have been dead and gone.
 

Worm

Taste the diffidence
Ahem. That's a bit of hyperbole, surely? Mark E Smith? David Tibet? Steven Stapleton? John Lennon? The Rolling Stones? Lou Reed? Radiohead? Bob Dylan?

Yes on all counts. 4-6 albums of first-rate, Historically Significant material. That's all. Maybe I'll give you Dylan, but he's the exception that proves the rule, and only because he's crazy.

Mark E. Smith? Are you kidding? The guy's darts hit the songwriting bulls-eye about once in twenty tosses. And he's a prolific tosser. :straightface: :)
 
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Qvist

Well-Known Member
Well. The Fall has poured out significant albums for 30 years, with no very distinctive peak or valley period. Their last two albums both made the Quietus top 10 albums of the year. Same with Current 93 - while I personally favor Tibet's mid-nineties output, his recent work is not far behind. I know people who are very serious Current fans who rate some of it as his best ever. To expand the list, Peter Christopherson's (RIP) last work with Coil was as good as anything I've heard from him, which is saying something considering the bands he's been in. Nick Cave's been making great music for nearly 30 years. Tom Waits, not much less, or arguably even longer. And also And Also The Trees (ahaha). Even New Order has managed the occasional great single during the past decade. And I could go on.


All in all, it's not as if 4-5 years of shining creativity followed by 20 years of virtual artistic insignificance is par for the course. You are very right that 4-6 brilliant, classic albums over the course of a career is as much as you could ask for. But I'm not complaining that Johnny Marr hasn't continued to churn out all-time classics. Something significant would do very nicely. Something as good, say, as the Birthday Party, or Young Americans, or even True Faith.

As for Mark E Smith: As far as I understand, he doesn't do songwriting at all. Apparently, Fall songs somehow come into being at rehearsals. Nor does he play any instrument. Or, technically, sing. He just writes the words and snarl them at the music. Oh, and he has somehow consistently coaxed brilliant music out of often pedestrian musicians for 30 years, and undisputably provided the only common denominator that could account for the unmistakeable musical profile of The Fall despite not writing any music or playing any instrument. A good example of how a creative force can make its imprint on a band's music without actually writing or playing any of it. Not that I'm suggesting that Morrissey dominated the Smiths remotely in the same way that Smith apparently terrorizes The Fall, but given the stupefying brilliance of Marr's work with Morrissey and the utter mediocrity of his work elsewhere, you do have to ask if that is entirely coincidental, in my opinion.

cheers
 
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Qvist

Well-Known Member
Ok, I'm going to do this properly:

All-worst top ten:

Morrissey:

1. Tony the Pony
2. Redondo beach
3. At Amber
4. Children in Pieces
5. Slum Mums
6. Skin Storm
7. East West
8. Do your best and don't worry
9. Ammunition
10. Ouija Board, Ouija Board

The Smiths:

There are only two Smiths songs who are not good, namely Golden Lights and Work is a Four-letter word. With the rest, it's just a question of being not as good as the rest. Just wanted to make that clear.

1. Golden Lights
2. Work is a four-letter word
3. Money changes everything
4. Oscillate Wildly
5. The Draize Train
6. Barbarism begins at home
7. The death of a disco dancer
8. Death at one's elbow
9. Unloveable
10. Paint a Vulgar Picture

cheers
 
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