Morrissey A-Z: ‘Action Is My Middle Name’

This Charming Bowie

Welcome to this knockabout world
Thanks to GirlAfraidWillNeverLearn for reminding me: this should be the first in our Morrissey A-Z discussions. What do you think of ‘Action Is My Middle Name’?
 

This Charming Bowie

Welcome to this knockabout world
Just listened to the song again to refresh my memory. It's actually held up quite well, with a nice piano intro and a fine chord progression. The lyrics are somewhat strange - this time Moz is the one 'moving too fast' in this relationship, an interesting little spin on the tried-and-true trope. The 'biting my initials into your neck' seems to acknowledge his brief tattoo obsession - if you could call it that - around 1994 ('A Swallow On My Neck', the inside cover of Vauxhall and I...). Not an amazing song by any means, but definitely rises slightly above the lower standards usually kept for these Maida Vale/Studio In Session tracks.
 

GirlAfraidWillNeverLearn

The Courage to Get on People's Tits
This one's one of my favourite later day Moz songs, I really have a soft spot for it.

Musically I also like the piano intro, but the vocal melody is what makes the song special for me.
I like the lyrics for the exact reason you've mentioned, it's a complete inversion of earlier themes - this time he's the one who's "too rough" and his partner might be "too delicate".

Interesting thought regarding the tattoos. I don't think his "obsession" was that brief at all. I think he's always been fascinated by the aesthetic. It goes back to The Smiths, be it eye-opening experiences with a tattooed boy from Birkenhead or- and this is the thing that the opening line from Action always reminded me of - the scratching of a lover's name on an arm with a fountain pen.
He's been photographed with fake tattoos in The Smiths a couple of times as well and again later in the 90s and one could argue that the glittery decals he loved to wear around Refusal (as seen on the cover) served a similar purpose.

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You're right that there was a surge in the mid-90s of course, possibly sparked by the arrival of Jake and his infamous inner lip BATTERSEA ink?
Johnny Marr also mentioned that Morrissey noticed and liked his tattoos when they met again in 2008.

I digress. Anyway, I love the song and the 25 Live version is a fantastic live recording of it. Unfortunately it doesn't appear to be on YouTube, so this fan recording will have to do (sound quality is rather bad though).

 

This Charming Bowie

Welcome to this knockabout world
This one's one of my favourite later day Moz songs, I really have a soft spot for it.

Musically I also like the piano intro, but the vocal melody is what makes the song special for me.
I like the lyrics for the exact reason you've mentioned, it's a complete inversion of earlier themes - this time he's the one who's "too rough" and his partner might be "too delicate".

Interesting thought regarding the tattoos. I don't think his "obsession" was that brief at all. I think he's always been fascinated by the aesthetic. It goes back to The Smiths, be it eye-opening experiences with a tattooed boy from Birkenhead or- and this is the thing that the opening line from Action always reminded me of - the scratching of a lover's name on an arm with a fountain pen.
He's been photographed with fake tattoos in The Smiths a couple of times as well and again later in the 90s and one could argue that the glittery decals he loved to wear around Refusal (as seen on the cover) served a similar purpose.

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You're right that there was a surge in the mid-90s of course, possibly sparked by the arrival of Jake and his infamous inner lip BATTERSEA ink?
Johnny Marr also mentioned that Morrissey noticed and liked his tattoos when they met again in 2008.

I digress. Anyway, I love the song and the 25 Live version is a fantastic live recording of it. Unfortunately it doesn't appear to be on YouTube, so this fan recording will have to do (sound quality is rather bad though).

Thanks for the info - I never really realised how much he had been interested in tattoos (perhaps because my main source of Moz info is Mozipedia, which doesn’t dive into this extended period that much).
Regards the 25 Live recording: the closest you can get (quality-wise) is the Studio in Session version from the bonus disc, which is on YouTube.
 

GirlAfraidWillNeverLearn

The Courage to Get on People's Tits
Thanks for the info - I never really realised how much he had been interested in tattoos (perhaps because my main source of Moz info is Mozipedia, which doesn’t dive into this extended period that much).
Regards the 25 Live recording: the closest you can get (quality-wise) is the Studio in Session version from the bonus disc, which is on YouTube.
Yep, actually prefer this one over the Janice Long version that was released on the b-side of Playboys re-issue.
25 Live still steals the show though imho. I just posted the fan video because it's at least from the same performance.
 

BookishBoy

Well-Known Member
Yes, the vocal melody really makes this song stand out, for me. It's straightforward really but so perfectly suited to his voice. Lyrically it feels like a sketch of a song but somehow it works - perhaps because the biting image right at the start is so startling? So much is conveyed in those few words!
 

This Charming Bowie

Welcome to this knockabout world
Yes, the vocal melody really makes this song stand out, for me. It's straightforward really but so perfectly suited to his voice. Lyrically it feels like a sketch of a song but somehow it works - perhaps because the biting image right at the start is so startling? So much is conveyed in those few words!
It's certainly a way to start a song!
It's a shame that it never got a proper place on an album, although perhaps not surprising - World Peace... is very differently, sonically at least, so it would probably stick out like a sore thumb there.
A "Maida Vale" EP would have been nice though, maybe with 'I'm Playing Easy To Get' on it too...?
 

Ben Budd

Well-Known Member
I think it's a decent enough song, but I think it's a little bit overrated by people on here. I also think it's got an enhanced reputation due to the dire state of the other 2011 Janice Long songs.
 
J

Janice

Guest
I think it's a decent enough song, but I think it's a little bit overrated by people on here. I also think it's got an enhanced reputation due to the dire state of the other 2011 Janice Long songs.
Probably a very accurate analysis this. It’s ok but, distinctly average. It disappeared off the live set for a couple of years, then resurfaced at one of the US dates maybe (can’t recall which) and I stood there thinking “nah, leave it off the set list in future). I wasn’t arsed in the slightest to see it return. As you said; the dire straits of the other 2011 efforts (art-hounds) aside.
 

GirlAfraidWillNeverLearn

The Courage to Get on People's Tits
I would have preferred to hear their version of Sultans of Swing, rather than Scandinavia actually.

:paranoid:
Same.

Although I have to admit that listening to a recording of their 2014 Essen show recently and to my own surprise, I actually found myself vibing with Scandinavia, as the young folk say...
 

Maradona

Senior Member
I love the version on the CD single of the Last of the Famous International Playboys single reissue (with Moz and Rick Astley on the cover).

I wish it was on Spotify. But it isn't (at least, not on Spotify UK).
 

Ben Budd

Well-Known Member
the mere mentioning of Scandinavia makes my blood boil. Possibly his worst solo song. At least some of the Kill Uncle b-sides were fun.
 

This Charming Bowie

Welcome to this knockabout world
I love the version on the CD single of the Last of the Famous International Playboys single reissue (with Moz and Rick Astley on the cover).

I wish it was on Spotify. But it isn't (at least, not on Spotify UK).
The choice of singles on Spotify/Apple Music/ITunes is somewhat strange. There is one 'Last of the Famous...' on there, but only has 'The Kid’s A Looker' on the B-side.
It would be nice to have a bigger selection than just the same two repeated over and over again ('Something...' and 'Paris'), although I suppose given Moz's record label-hopping tendencies, it doesn’t come as too much of a surprise.
Wow...I really went off on one there!
 

GirlAfraidWillNeverLearn

The Courage to Get on People's Tits
The choice of singles on Spotify/Apple Music/ITunes is somewhat strange. There is one 'Last of the Famous...' on there, but only has 'The Kid’s A Looker' on the B-side.
That's because that was the "b-side" of the digital edition.
Action is only available on the CD single.
 

This Charming Bowie

Welcome to this knockabout world
That's because that was the "b-side" of the digital edition.
Action is only available on the CD single.
Yes, I know, but what I wanted to highlight was the unevenness of the singles (i.e. the imbalance between older and newer).
Although, I contradict myself because I remember Moz’s preference for physical product (a thought I share) and exclusive tracks for Record Store Day and the like are more centred towards his M.O.
Perhaps I’m comparing him too much to other artists - ones that don’t jump between record labels as much, I suppose.
That precedent doesn’t really apply here, does it?
 
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