Memory Songs #9 “Shoplifters of the World Unite” by The Smiths

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(Image by Linder Sterling from “Morrissey Shot”)

Morrissey.

So much to answer for.

He won’t of course.

Ours has become an increasingly fractious relationship.

He is not the man I thought he was.

We don’t spend as much time together as we once did.

Maybe that is just the way of things.

People change, not always for the better, and then we have to decide what to do about that; accept it, forgive it, refuse it?

It wasn’t always like this.

At one point in time my love for him was absolute.

Hopelessly devoted.

Apostle.

Disciple.

More than a mere “fan” but always fanatical.

In the Channel Four documentary “The Importance of Being Morrissey” various talking heads are interviewed and asked to comment on the enigma of Mozzer; J.K Rowling laughingly confesses to enjoying a bacon buttie or something, Alain Whyte his erstwhile songwriting partner shares concerns over how some songs may be received, the saintly Kathy Burke makes comments that only she could make and even, inexplicably, Bono arrives to gurgle something.

The most telling contribution however arrives from one of the most erudite men in England, Will Self; author, wit, raconteur, provocateur and so much more besides.  Commenting on the moments during Morrissey’s live appearances when fans clamber onto the stage to touch Him, Self had this to say;

“Flinging themselves onto the stage, to catch the King’s touch, as if the King could cure, in some way, the scrofula of loneliness.”

I have been lonely.

Surrounded by thousands of people at a concert or in the confines of a football stadium I have felt total separate.

I can hear the voices, feel the bodies pressed against mine, know that I am part of it…and yet feel, well, lonely.

Self is right in his prognosis, maybe diagnosis, of the underlying reasons for young men, and it usually is men even if they are no longer young, who behave in that way.  They really do believe that Morrissey can cure them…make them whole…fix them.  Of course he can’t…maybe nobody can, except ourselves.  Accept ourselves.

On December the 10th, 1997, I wound my way to London.

Giddy London.

Home of the brash, outrageous and free.

My travelling companion…my then companion in every way…and I had managed to persuade friends of friends to allow us to stay in their Pimlico property for a day or two.  That wasn’t why we were going though.  We were going because Morrissey was to appear at the Battersea Power Station.

I polished my Doctor Marten boots.

I pressed my Levi jeans.

I ensured the turn-ups were equal.

A red gingham Ben Sherman.

A black, three button, suit jacket.

Hair quiffed.

It had actually been a while since I had adopted the Morrissey uniform…Britpop had plunged me headlong into the Mod/Skinhead/Suedehead style and my hair hadn’t been tugged and teased to attention for a quiff for many long months, possibly years.  It’s like riding a bike though…you never forget.

The support act were the deliriously demented Elcka.

Surprisingly for a Morrissey support act they enjoyed a warm welcome and an even warmer farewell.  With songs as stadium friendly, yet ironically intimate, as theirs that perhaps shouldn’t be surprising but a Morrissey crowd are not there for support acts…they are their for the headliner.  They haven’t come for a show, they have come to worship and adore.

We were pressed against the barrier as the show began.  It was a little over waist high.  Then there was a deep pit, more like a moat, between us and the stage itself which was heavy with burly bouncers.  As the set wound its way through songs from “Maladjusted”, “Southpaw Grammar”, “Vauxhall and I” as well as one nod to The Smiths in the shape of “Paint a Vulgar Picture” it was noticeable that nobody had breached the abyss to reach the stage.

The main part of the set concluded with “Satan Rejected My Soul” and the crowd roared and screamed and wailed and hollered for more…although everybody knows that for the devout, for the faithful, He could never give them enough.

As the band returned to the stage and Morrissey announced that they would play “Sorrow Will Come in the End” and while people pretended to be pleased the truth was that this dirge was not what we meant when we said we wanted more.

But the band didn’t play “Sorrow…”

No.

Clever old Morrissey was playing with us.

Instead they crashed headlong into “Shoplifters of the World Unite” and we, collectively lost our minds and, quite possibly, our hearts and souls.

My companion, herself only a casual fan, could contain herself no longer and immediately started to scale the barrier.  She was immediately spotted by security who began to drag her away…except her trailing leg was caught in the crowd and they couldn’t get her out.  Soon there were three guards pulling at her.

I should be ashamed of what happened next.

I didn’t try to help her get free of either crowd or bouncer.

Instead I saw my chance.

And by God I took it.

With scant regard for her well being I flung myself over the barrier, into the pit and began my ascent to the stage.

Within seconds I was there.

Alain Whyte, whom I knew a little, recognised me and said “Bloody Hell!  Max!” but I could only nod in acknowledgement as I knew I had little time to reach my target before security would apprehend me.

I dashed forwards.

Shook his hand.

Threw an arm around his shoulders.

Kissed him.

I turned to the audience.

Raised my hands high above my head in order to receive their best wishes.

Delight, see our faces were all shining and I’ve never felt so wanted.

No longer alone.

Part of something.

I had gone from no-one to someone and then everyone in the space of just a few seconds.

Then a bouncer grabbed me.

As he began to drag me away from M I could sense that he only had a hold of my jacket…in an instant I shook myself free and as another hardy soul was being dragged along the floor and into the wings I dodged past another guard and back towards the centre of the stage.  Morrissey held out his hand for me but before I could take it once more I was again in the grip of a bouncer and I was pulled away.  As I left, unwillingly, Morrissey nodded to me…he approved.  He had seen me.  Love rarely ever felt so real.

I know you won’t believe any of this but you can watch it all for yourself here…the fun starts at around two minutes.

You’re very welcome.

One thought on “Memory Songs #9 “Shoplifters of the World Unite” by The Smiths

  1. I was at that gig…disappointed that it wasn’t actually in the magnificent power station but out the back in a tent. Moz echoed this as I remember…good days though!

    Like

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