What Can Writers Learn From Songwriters? Morrissey

This week we look at the timeless wisdom of The Moz.


Where do I begin with Morrissey? Well, first of all, let’s start by dispelling the myth that he’s a big, depressing moan. He’s funny as hell! Don’t believe me? Look at the song titles for starters:

“You’re the one for me, Fatty”, “Shoplifters of the World Unite”, “Some Girls are Bigger than others”, “Vicar in a Tutu”, and on and on.

Now let’s look at the lyrics. If you want to learn how to write a vicious, hilarious quip (think Oscar Wilde, our Moz’s hero) then look no further:

“I bear more grudges than lonely high court judges”
(The More You Ignore Me, the Closer I Get)

“As Anthony said to Cleopatra
As he opened a crate of ale
Some girls are bigger than others
Some girl’s mothers are bigger than other girl’s mothers”
(Some Girls are Bigger than others)

They say “Brevity is the soul of wit” and this is certainly true in the case of Morrissey. No-one is better able to disarm with a razor-sharp quip or devastate with a poignant line or two. And yes, it’s not all fun and games. He can be serious. Very serious. But, oh, so poignant with it. Has there been a more beautiful line penned than:

“And if a double-decker bus crashes into us
To die by your side is such a heavenly way to die.”
(There is a Light that Never goes Out)

“End of the pier, end of the bay
You tug my arm, and say: ‘Give in to lust,
Give up to lust, oh heaven knows we’ll
Soon be dust …’”
(Pretty Girls Make Graves)

“I am human and I need to be loved
Just like everybody else does”
(How Soon Is Now?)

And, of course, at times, he can be both poignant AND funny:

“I look at yours, you laugh at mine, and “love” is just a miserable lie”
(Miserable Lie)

I don’t usually proselytize in these posts but in this one I’m going to. If you don’t have Morrissey in your life, my friend, you’re missing out. Yes, he’s a misanthrope but so was Philip Larkin and they wanted to make him Poet Laureate! In fact, Morrissey SHOULD be Poet Laureate. No-one represents Britain in all its wonderful and crazy idiosyncratic ways than Morrissey.

All kidding aside, it’s very easy to underestimate just how influential Morrissey has been on fiction writers. Writers like Douglas Coupland have borrowed Morrissey’s song titles for their book titles, and it’s safe to say Morrissey’s writing style has influenced not only theirs but many of the new breed of novelists who emerged in the 90s, such as Will Self and others. The fact of the matter is that Morrissey broke the mould. He took the witty lyricism of the likes of Wilde and Larkin and mixed it with a brutal honesty and willingness to confront controversial topics that would go on to influence a generation of new writers, such as Coupland, Bret Easton Ellis, et al.

And, as always, I’ll finish with a personal favourite of mine:

“And if you have five seconds to spare
Then I’ll tell you the story of my life
Sixteen, clumsy and shy…
I went to London and I
I booked myself in at the Y.W.C.A.
I said: “I like it here – can I stay?
I like it here – can I stay?
Do you have a vacancy for a back-scrubber?”
(Half a Person)

(Image: Click the pic for credits)

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