The Britishness of Southpaw Grammar

sonandheir

Member
I don't think I could disagree more. For me, the album is a high point for the band. On Southpaw Grammar, it as if Morrissey's vocals and lyrics take a backseat to let the music tell the story. In most of Morrissey's solo work, I think the opposite is true. The music frames and supplements the vocals/lyrics. It is the most unique of the Morrissey albums and for that, I love it. Southpaw Grammar is also, in my opinion, the best Morrissey album to listen to while driving at high speeds. Beginning somewhere in the middle of "The Teachers are Afraid of the Pupils," the album takes on a harsh intensity that doesn't let up until the end of "Southpaw." It sounds ridiculously corny, but I think the most appropriate thing I can say is "this album really rocks."

100% agree ... :)
 

Worm

Taste the diffidence
I don't think you're quite correct about that, Danny. I mean, to a certain extent there's truth to the idea that the music industry controls perception, and woe to the artist it decides has "lost it". But in Morrissey's case I think "Southpaw Grammar" came at a time when his career had dipped a little. Some of the momentum from the "Kill Uncle" tour and the album and tour for "Your Arsenal" had subsided a bit with "Vauxhall and I".

My little theory about why "Southpaw Grammar" stalled has more to do with the way it was packaged. It felt and looked improvised and slapdash. This may sound slightly bizarre but as soon as I saw the sleeve for "Dagenham Dave" it seemed to me that he really didn't care. It did not feel, as earlier releases did, that he had brooded over certain subjects, taken trenchant observations from his notebooks, and tied it all together into a striking aesthetic. "Dagenham Dave" is half a song, it's barely there, and that's reflected in the sleeve-- one of his absolute worst. Then the album's sleeve, which also looks cheap, thrown together to beat a deadline. It looked like a rough draft; some of the scribbled mock-ups in "Peepholism" look more fully realized. Everything had suddenly become rather shoddy, not well thought-out. I didn't need a jaded critic to tell me what that crappy Times New Roman font announced clearly enough.

Add to this the fact that he toured sparingly, if at all, between "Arsenal" and "Maladjusted", and you have the appearance that he wasn't going full throttle.

In that sense I agree-- it was appearance, because "Southpaw Grammar" is a good album and doesn't actually show signs of creative waning-- but I think Morrissey was responsible for that more than the record companies, critics, and fans. As great as he was in the mid-90s, he wasn't the phenomenon he was in the early part of the decade. He's largely to blame for that, although of course it's completely understandable. He just isn't built to sustain the kind of hysteria that greeted his 1991-1992 tours. Few people are.
 

Bluebirds

Well-Known Member
Southpaw is most commonly associated with boxing terminology for leading with the left hand.

Grammar is grammar! As in what you're supposed to learn in school but noone seemingly does anymore.

MAke up your own mind what Moz is trying to get at.. he was going through his boxers stage at the time!

This may enlighten you some more:

Southpaw Grammar is the school of hard knocks. It's coming up the hard way and taking your bruises with you.

http://motorcycleaupairboy.com/interviews/1995/fookin.htm
 

M-in-Oz

Active Member
I think Morrissey said something about it being 'the school of hard knocks' - correct me if wrong. Southpaw, to me, also refers to left-handedness.

When the album came out no one I knew was even slightly interested in it. I think this was reflected in the theory stated previoulsy 'that Morrissey was not interesting to the music press'. It would have been difficult to repeat the reception that came with Vauxhall.

I think this has been repeated with 'Quarry' and 'Ringleaders'. Huge media reception to 'Quarry' but the songs aren't really that great.

In response to I think the initial comment 'Reader Meets Author', I thought that was about authors like Martin Amis who like to 'slum it'
 

Still Tired

as it were...
Southpaw has been a strange album for me, I do appreciate it but it is the album I’ve listened to least. Some of the tracks aren’t immediately accessible or just aren’t the kind of thing you stick on quickly whilst you’re getting ready to go out say. I’m not sure about the idea of British-ness being the key to understanding it, there seems to be a lot more tied up in the idea of masculinity, violence and just being older- it seems a very mature album, and these are some of the points where I relate a lot less to it.

Anyway, I was just reading this page on Pretty Petty Thieves which I found very interesting and insightful, it opened my eyes to some of the themes and just general interpretation of the mood of the album: http://prettypettythieves.com/moz/southpaw.htm Worth a read I think.

I’d never noticed the fact he says ‘help me, help me, help me’ at the end of Southpaw, I found that slightly heart-breaking to discover :(
 

vivabob

Ordinary Boy
i think he had some pretty deep personal issues around about the time of southpaw , which also slipped into malajusted as well . i think there was some pretty wrong decisions on the record companys side as well , which would explain why he didn't stay on it for long. i also think he would have found it hard to follow vaxhall which its self was a fantastic opus .

southpaw in its own was heading in a different direction musically from other albums , i think it was worth a try . you have to remember at that time music was focused very much in lad culture and quick pop songs .. which this album apart from daganham dave was devoid of

i agree its not his best work but he has to have some weaker work to make others stronger
 

Vauxhall95

I Know It's Over...
There are certain issues that only the British and further more the English can truly grasp. That goes for both The Smiths and Morrissey as a solo artist. The attitude of the English is alot different to that of the American attitude or outlook. At least as far as i can tell.

It is often clear on this board that there is a definate void for non-british fans

I agree. I believe I'm a reasonably intelligent person and an American (no, it is not a contradiction in terms); however, I still need my Irish friend to explain certain lyrics and places to me. "And this Peugot ad spins round in my head." I had no idea what that meant, but once it was explained to me it made perfect sense. As an American, I enjoy the fact I don't always "get" his lyrics right off. I've read: Brighton Rock, By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept, and A Taste of Honey soley because of listening to Morrissey. I cannot say that about another artist.

-Vaux
 

Vauxhall95

I Know It's Over...
You stole the words right out of my keyboard. It's interesting how we each interpret lyrics differently. Still, I think the poster really nailed this one. I will definitely go back and relisten to The Operation again, sans the opening drum solo...

-Vaux
 

Vauxhall95

I Know It's Over...
I have often read about how this album is very British, more so than many other Moz records and that Americans are not supposed to "get it".

Where did this part of your question come from? I cannot say I've ever heard that Southpaw was more or less "British" than anyother Morrissey album. In fact, just reading the Observer article on Sunday, there would seem to be far more "British" references in the music of the Smiths than Morrissey's solo work.

-Vaux
 

Vauxhall95

I Know It's Over...
Southpaw was, in a word, unique.

No picture of Moz on the album's cover, it is book ended by two immense tracks, The Operation has that awkward drum solo, Best Friend feels lyrically incomplete, the whole album comes in at less than 40 minutes, Boy Racer jumps into a chorus almost immediately, and finally the "Prog Rock" sound or whatever you want to call it just seemed to be the flavor of the day instead of an artist known for going his own way. (I know, run on sentence from hell...)

Still, there are some gems on Southpaw. Reader Meet Author, Teachers, and for me Do Your Best and Don't Worry were all noteworthy.

What I will never understand is how Nobody Loves Us gets released as a B-Side? It is arguably the best song of the period. Why it didn't make the album is a mystery I've yet to have explained to me.

-Vaux
 

thewarroom

Scorpion Kicker
Where did this part of your question come from? I cannot say I've ever heard that Southpaw was more or less "British" than anyother Morrissey album. In fact, just reading the Observer article on Sunday, there would seem to be far more "British" references in the music of the Smiths than Morrissey's solo work.

-Vaux

From It May All End Tomorrow:

The title Southpaw Grammar is, as Morrissey says, referring to "the school of hard knocks" (southpaw being boxing slang for a left-hander). Note also that "left-handed" can also mean "homosexual".

Roger has this to say concerning the lyrics :

I don't think that it's lyrically disappointing at all. The problem with SG is that most people don't have a clue what Morrissey is singing about.

SG is very English.. The "I love Sharon on the windowscreen" for instance is often dismissed as silly lyrics, but when one knows what this line is actually about, it makes sense! The whole reason behind "Nobody Loves Us" being a b-side for "Dagenham Dave" speaks so much as well, IF you knew what he was talking about...

Also, people who critiscize SG's lyrics are generally American. No offence here, but I believe that English people (and us colonialists) actually understand what this album is about. I speak generally of course... I'm sure that there are Americans who do undertsand it, and English people who don't ;)

Morrissey is very English, and he always has been.. from singing about the Moors murders, and the Thatcher woman to everything he sings about on SG. Southpaw Grammar to me is Morrissey singing about something he *wanted* to song about, something which obviously means something to him...

I don't expect Amerinans to understand it, just as I don't understand some things Americans sing about sometimes.. But does that make it a bad album? Because we don't undertsand it, are we entitled to call it rubbish?

I think that Morrissey himself, by including so many SG songs on his various tours thereafter, is telling us that this album means something to him. Morrissey *wants* us to understand it, and what it means to him, but we're failing him. Well some of us are anyway.. We demand what *we* want to hear, which I believe is wrong. Morrissey is an artist, and sometimes artists want to paint a picture for themselves.. Sometime artists paint something which they know will not be what their fans are expecting, but they need to paint it anyway... Fans dont' have to like things like this, but there's no need to rubbish it either

As a Morrissey fan, I listen to what he creates and I try to understand why he's done that. I don't always agree with or like what he does (eg. that Lawyer/Liar song) but I at least realise why he did it.

Southpaw Grammar is Morrissey's story of working class England. It's where he came from, and he obviously felt some need to sing about it. I'm sorry that so many people can't understand what he's singing about, but just maybe we should open our ears a bit and try to think, instead of just demanding what *we* want to hear about...
 
D

Dave

Guest
I don't think I could disagree more. For me, the album is a high point for the band. On Southpaw Grammar, it as if Morrissey's vocals and lyrics take a backseat to let the music tell the story. In most of Morrissey's solo work, I think the opposite is true. The music frames and supplements the vocals/lyrics. It is the most unique of the Morrissey albums and for that, I love it. Southpaw Grammar is also, in my opinion, the best Morrissey album to listen to while driving at high speeds. Beginning somewhere in the middle of "The Teachers are Afraid of the Pupils," the album takes on a harsh intensity that doesn't let up until the end of "Southpaw." It sounds ridiculously corny, but I think the most appropriate thing I can say is "this album really rocks."

Thanks, I agree. How many "singers" would let the band have so much room? It's my favorite Morrissey album.

All the British/American talk is pretty funny, as usual.
 

Vauxhall95

I Know It's Over...
"I don't think that it's lyrically disappointing at all. The problem with SG is that most people don't have a clue what Morrissey is singing about.

SG is very English.. The "I love Sharon on the windowscreen" for instance is often dismissed as silly lyrics, but when one knows what this line is actually about, it makes sense! The whole reason behind "Nobody Loves Us" being a b-side for "Dagenham Dave" speaks so much as well, IF you knew what he was talking about..."

Okay, then please enlighten me. I thought the whole "I love Sharon on the windowscreen" was just Dave replacing the windshield with a sticker of the individual he was infatuated with on that particular day/time. If there is more to this than please let me know (seriously).

As for Nobody Loves Us as a B-Side. It is simply a superior song. It should have made the album, whereas the lyrically disappointing Best Friend on the Payroll could have been a B-Side (IMO).

I agree with the premise that as an American I'm not getting all the refereces; however, I totally disagree that Southpaw is more "British" than say Vauxhall & I for instance:

The title being a European automobile
This is Not Your Country - Irish struggle for independence
Spring Heeled Jim
Lyrics like "All night chemists", "jammy poets", references to Graham Greene's novel Brighton Rock... There are soo many "British" references...
 

thewarroom

Scorpion Kicker
^^My point exactly. I don't think Southpaw is any more "British" than the rest of his work, so the author of the above "synopsis" must be seeing things that aren't there.

And I too took the Sharon/Karen line as shown in the video.
 

Worm

Taste the diffidence
I don't doubt English people "get" Morrissey more than Americans or others, but it's not such a huge difference of understanding. The English/American divide is overblown. Non-British Fans who live and die by the lyrics will, if confused by a line, simply look it up (or come here to ask questions like "What is the National Front?"). English culture is tough to understand at times, sure, but there's a whole lot you can look up in books.

Plus, there are other ways to "get" Morrissey. Gay people can say they have a superior understanding. So can vegetarians. So can a fan who was a teenager or an adult in 1984 rather than a shrieking brat puking in a pram. So can, y'know, the especially devoted fans who have taken Morrissey out on shopping sprees in L.A. and photographed him waltzing with Freddie Mercury. It becomes kind of silly to insist on a privileged status as a listener.

Far more than his Britishness or any other aspect of his art, the most compellingly beautiful thing about Morrissey's songs is that they're about universal human emotions. I don't think there's a song on "Southpaw Grammar" I don't comprehend fully other than "Dagenham Dave", and frankly that song is so awful I don't really care. Calling that stinker "British" is an insult to the realm.
 
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Vauxhall95

I Know It's Over...
"English culture is tough to understand at times, sure, but there's a whole lot you can look up in books."

What, read?! Jesus, perish the notion! :)

-Vaux
 
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