5. The Smiths – This Charming Man

A punctured bicycle on a hillside desolate. Will Nature make a man of me yet?

It’s the mid-nineties, a Saturday evening and my roommates and I have a party to go to. I’m bouncing with anticipation. The party starts at eight, so we’ll arrive around eleven. First, we don’t want to hang out with the self-conscious punctual people and second, we get to watch The Late Show. We get there, everybody’s having a fine time so we party for a couple of hours and head out early because we’re bored and sleepy.

Looking back, it is obvious that we weren’t twenty-four hour party people, but the anticipation was fun. This is what This Charming Man means to me. I hear it and I want to put on a fancy shirt and go out and be seen for bit. Then I want to come home and go to bed before it gets too late.

Morrissey sings, “I would go out tonight but I haven’t got a stitch to wear,” and we know it is a show of resistance. After all, he’s being charmed by the handsome man who knows so much about these things. If he really didn’t want to get picked up he should have carried a repair kit to fix his punctured bicycle. I love his old school lyrics (“hillside desolate”), as though he hangs around romantic poets all day. The best part of his singing is when he doesn’t have the words to fill a line and he ‘woos’ instead: “Whoa whoa whoa whoa, this charming man.”



I’d never seen this video before, but it is good. Morrissey looks like you expect: his shirt is open, he’s twirling flowers and his hair is just huge. Johny Marr’s guitar also has flowers, but the stems and petals don’t affect his playing. Andy Rourke’s bass line is great, much like a James Jamerson line (e.g. the bass in You Can’t Hurry Love). I’m wondering if the Motown-reminiscent bass line is part of the reason the song has a big effect on me. I grew up listening to my Mum’s Motown records.

I could have put Morrissey in twice by including Last of the Famous International Playboys but I figured position number five was sufficient. He is a great songwriter, with or without Johnny Marr.


Next: 4. Beirut – Sunday Smile

Previous: 6. Madness – Night Boat to Cairo


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