Well I Wonder – Meat is Murder Revisited

meat

The second studio album from The Smiths is remembered, certainly by those outside the fevered inner-circle of Moz Apostles, for the titular track…a song that saw thousands of pale, bequiffed, listless young boys and girls take to the moral high ground of vegetarianism and embark on a life of hectoring, moralising and judging those who are less enlightened.

That is a great shame because, as we have seen in recent months, there is a vegan moment and the environmental and moral arguments for such a diet are strong…but they lose some of their power when people storm into restaurants and start making cow noises or, as is the case with Morrissey, start playing video footage from inside a slaughterhouse at a pop concert.

Fanaticism isn’t ever a particularly compelling way of…compelling people.

Whatever.

“Meat is Murder” casts a long shadow over “Meat is Murder” which is a shame because it isn’t a particularly good song…an important song for sure, but not a good song.  The music rarely lifts itself above a dirge and the lyrics while brutal and brutally forthright are, if we honest, a bit clunky.

I think that “Meat is Murder” would, in many ways be a better album without “Meat is Murder”.

I know.

Then it wouldn’t be “Meat is Murder”.

Granted.

But in an alternate universe I think The Smiths could have released a second album called “Well I Wonder”.

That album would look something like this.

Side A

  1. How Soon is Now?
  2. Stretch Out and Wait
  3. Nowhere Fast
  4. Rusholme Ruffians
  5. I Want the one I Can’t Have

Side B

  1. Barbarism Begins at Home
  2. What she Said
  3. Shakespeare’s Sister
  4. The Headmaster Ritual
  5. Well I Wonder

That little bundle of wonders will have Smiths purists spitting nails.

I can only apologise to you.

They will be cross about the inclusion of “How Soon is Now?” and the loss of “I Want the One I Can’t Have” and the absolute loons who believe that Morrissey is the Saviour will be furious about the omission of “That Joke Isn’t Funny Anymore”…despite knowing, deep in their hearts, that it is rubbish.

The fact that “How Soon is Now?” had already made an appearance on both the b-side to “William it was Really Nothing” and on “Hatful of Hollow” will irk some but this is my game and I’m making the rules.

The decision by Rough Trade not to release “How Soon is Now?” as a single in the UK is one of the great crimes in music history.  It is an epic, a song so immense, so grand and so anthemic that in the discography of almost any other band it would stand out as the pinnacle of their work…yes, ANY other band.  I think kicking off the second album proper from the band with this and releasing it as a single in its own right would have given them a massive hit single and cemented this non-existent album as a rock and roll classic.

The highlight of the actual album and my own fantasy version is “Well I Wonder”.

I was too young for The Smiths when they were still a going concern, coming to them a year or two after they had already split, but when I heard “Well I Wonder” for the first time it was the first time that a pop song had moved me to tears.

“Well I wonder 
Do you hear me when you sleep ? 
I hoarsely cry 
Oh…

Well I wonder 
Do you see me when we pass ? 
I half die… 
Oh…

Please keep me in mind 
Please keep me in mind

Gasping – but somehow still alive 
This is the fierce last stand of all I am

Gasping – dying – but somehow still alive 
This is the final stand of all I am

Please keep me in mind

Well I wonder 
Well I wonder 
Please keep me in mind 
Keep me in mind 
Keep me in mind”

Calling out to girls who didn’t know I existed but whose very existence was the only light in the otherwise dark streets of my life…do you hear me when you sleep?  Do you see me when we pass?

Dial-a-cliche.

Morrissey got it.

Morrissey got me.

How many times have you heard that from people who are old enough to know better?

From people who really should have moved on?

I have moved on from Morrissey…or rather Morrissey moved on from me.

Let’s not go into all of that.

I can’t escape the influence though.

I can’t forget the romance.

I can’t just dismiss the songs that saved my life.

“Gasping – dying – but somehow still alive”

I feel like that today.

I’m sick.

I’m tired.

I’m anxious.

I’m frightened.

I’m worried.

Gasping.

Dying.

Somehow still alive.

Hoping that someone will keep me in mind.

Grateful for the people closest to me who do.

Terrified that they don’t know how grateful I am.

Ah.

I really did try to make this a silly piece of fluff about how great “Meat is Murder” is but how it could have been even better if only I had been involved but, as ever when it comes to Der Schmidts, we have entered more meaningful territory.

More meaningful to who?

You’re cruel.

Fine.

This is self-indulgent and, probably, not very well written or even particularly interesting.

I’m sorry.

Let’s move on shall we?

Dry your eyes mate.

“Meat is Murder” is also a significant moment in British pop history because it was the first time that Stephen Street worked on an album with Morrissey.  He had, of course, worked as an engineer on “Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now” and then, following the slightly lumpen production on “The Smiths”, they had turned to Street to assist them with their next album.

Officially the production on the album is credited to The Smiths themselves with Street appearing on the credits as engineer as well as having contributed sound effects on three of the tracks…but I am going to go out on a limb here and suggest that Street had more of a role than his “engineer” credit suggests.

The crisper, cleaner, more polished sound of “Meat is Murder” has all the hallmarks of the Street sound…the sound of the Street.  From his other work with The Smiths to his central role on Morrissey’s emergence as a solo artist and on to his work with many of the biggest bands of the nineties, including Blur and Sleeper, and beyond this is an interesting point in pop music history.  Street, it is fair to say, is responsible for the sound of more records that you and I love than any other single figure.

What’s that?

Yes, OK, I’ll say it…he’s a genius.

Thirty four years old…a flawed, but not fatally, work of genius and an album that, still, has the power to change people’s choices and, in my case, reduce them to tears.

Not bad.

Not bad at all.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s