5/23/2009

Morrissey Turns 50

Morrissey, the musical master of anguish, loneliness, and dejection, turned fifty years old on May 22, 2009. He chose, quite fittingly and not a bit surprisingly, to celebrate the occasion of his fiftieth birthday by performing on the stage of the Manchester Apollo, a venue in his hometown of Manchester, England. It apparently was a happy homecoming for the famously low-spirited Mancunian, who first endeared himself to his excessively loyal followers by singing "Heaven Knows I'm Miserable Now," "I Want the One I Can't Have," "That Joke Isn't Funny Anymore," "I Know It's Over," "Last Night I Dreamt That Somebody Loved Me," and other mournful tunes.

According to British reports, the dour vocalist was attired in a black suit and a tie when he walked onstage, ruefully greeting his delighted audience with the words, "Fifty gruesome years!" He began his performance with a rendering of "This Charming Man," a coyly despairing song ("I would go out tonight, but I haven't got a stitch to wear") that he had recorded long ago, in 1983, as a member of The Smiths. By all accounts, Morrissey was in fine fettle throughout the show in Manchester, shaking hands with excited fans in the front row and offering frequent examples of his sharp wit. It seems that at heart, Morrissey remains a dedicated entertainer.

When The Smiths (comprising Morrissey, Johnny Marr on guitar, Andy Rourke on bass, and Mike Joyce on drums) were at the shining peak of their melancholy power in the middle of the 1980s, they were widely acknowledged as one of the greatest bands of their time, and Morrissey was deservedly renowned as the sullen voice of awkward youth. Hundreds of thousands of his young listeners, all disconsolately wallowing in the delicious piteousness of their private gloom, eagerly looked to him for bleak inspiration. It is, therefore, quite difficult to think of him moving onward in age, comfortably settling into his middle years.

After The Smiths broke up in 1987, Morrissey soon went forward without them, and since then he has been writing, singing, and performing in a style that is completely his own. It can be stated, truthfully and thankfully, that Morrissey has never shown the slightest sign of turning mellow as he gets older. Although he makes no pretense of being a young man, the playful sting of his tart personality appears to have remained gloriously intact. Year after year, and decade after decade, he continues to revel in his own contrariness, continues to stare down the world, continues to be a bitter, moody, and outspoken character. In short, Morrissey continues to be Morrissey.