Tomorrow, Morrissey will defy his doctor's orders and play a show at the Observatory. The show sold out in seconds despite the hefty price tag, and the show will overwhelmingly be Mexican, as they have been in Southern California for the past 20 years or so. I wrote about the phenomenon back in 2002, and Morrissey has only become even more Mexican since then.
Yet the question continues to get asked: Why do Mexicans like Morrissey so much? I will answer it anew in the video version of my ¡Ask a Mexican! column this coming Monday, but the short answer is the music: as I wrote in my article so long ago, “For all the machismo and virulent existentialism that Mexican music espouses, there is another side–a morbid fascination with getting your heart and dreams broken by others, usually in death.” In other words, Morrissey–and behold 10 proofs for my conclusion: the most Mexican Morrissey/Smiths songs of them all.
10. “Glamorous Glue”
All these years later, I still don't know what the hell Morrissey is singing about save for the following, which I mentioned in my article:
The argument can even be made that Morrissey's acknowledgement of his Latino lovers goes back as early as 1992's Your Arsenal; on “Glamorous Glue,” he wondered, “We look to Los Angeles/For the language we use/London is dead/London is dead/Now I'm too much in love.” Elizabethan English and its people have perished, he tells us; long live the Spanglish race of Nuestra Lady de los Ángeles.
Morrissey would eventually get more blatant in his valentines to his Mexican fans, as the following songs will show, just like…
Um, DUH. Here's a lyric: “It seems if you're rich and you're white/You'll be all right./I just don't see why this should be so.” Ranked low on this list, though, because it's a bit too obvious a bone thrown to the fánaticos and relies more on truisms than thematics for its Mexi mettle. On the other hand…
8. “Sing Your Life”
Morrissey expresses the fierce individualism that has characterized his career, the fierce individualism also praised in Mexican song and in the Mexican character–a fierce individualism that society always tries to smothere or rob. “You have a lovely singing voice/a lovely singing voice/and all of those/who sing on key/they stole the notion/from you and me,” he sighed A particular favorite of the Mexican female Morrissey fans that I know, for the obvious reasons.
7. “The Last of the Famous International Playboys”
Steven Patrick has always had a perverse love for the bad boys, just like every Mexican male since the days the Tlaxcalans aligned themselves with Cortés, and this song nails the sentiment. Here, the dream criminals were the Kray twins; in current Mexican song, it's whatever narco lord is the flavor of the month for the plebes. A favorite of the rockabilly portion of Morrissey's fan base for the obvious reason along with “Sweet and Tender Hooligans.”
6. “I Want the One I Can't Have”
“As in ranchera,” I wrote in my 2002 screed, “Morrissey's lyrics rely on ambiguity, powerful imagery and metaphors. Thematically, the idealization of a simpler life and a rejection of all things bourgeois come from a populist impulse common to ranchera.”
This song, besides capturing the heartbreak and desire of ranchera, also includes one of my all-time favorite Morrissey lyrics: “A double bed/And a stalwart lover for sure/These are the riches of the poor.” A celebration of the amorous working class out of the Antonio Aguilar playbook.
5. “How Soon is Now?”
Crazy-but-true story: I knew this song before I ever even knew of Morrissey and the Smiths, because they used to play the jangling guitar intro during Los Angeles Dodgers games back in the 1990s–or was it during the breaks at baseball games at Saybrook Park in Montebello way back when? Anyhoo, every Mexican in Southern California knows this song whether they love the Smiths/Morrissey or not, because their damn Eastlos cousin used to blast this song back in the day–hell, still do. The rest of the song is not particularly Mexican, save for the lyric “There's a club if you'd like to go/you could meet somebody who really loves you/so you go, and you stand on your own/and you leave on your own/and you go home, and you cry/and you want to die,” which sounds like a night at Florentine Gardens.
4. “The Boy with the Thorn in His Side”
Mexican machismo exposed for all its weepy, wussy, bravado–'nuff said. Give this song to Vicente Fernández, and all it needs to become part of his repertoire is a rooster, Bukanas, and actual tears.
3. 3. “Irish Blood, English Heart”
Call the song “Mexican Sangre, American Corazón,” change no other part of the story, and you have the Chicano experience in a 3-minute rager, of the push-and-pull that a colonized people have toward their Yankee overlords…or something like that. Extra credit to this song for a cameo by Morrissey/Smiths cover band Sweet and Tender Hooligans headman José Maldonado in the crowd–catch him if you can!
2. “First of the Gang to Die”
The only Morrissey song to explicitly reference his fan base–and, of course, he gives a shout-out to the homeboys. Not my favorite Moz song, but gotta give the man respect for the shout-out, you know? Kudos to him for setting it in LA, for giving it a bit of an oldies groove, for mentioning poor Hector (“Such a silly boy”), and for even obliquely critiquing la vida loca–but will the cholos get it? NAH…
And the most Mexican Morrissey/Smiths song of all time? Easy…
1. “There is a Light That Never Goes Out”
No debate about this one–none. As I wrote in my feature so long ago:
Morrissey's most famous confession of unrequited love, “There Is a Light That Never Goes Out,” (“And if a double-decker bus/Crashes into us/To die by your side/Would be a heavenly way to die”) emulates almost sentiment for sentiment Cuco Sanchez's torch song “Cama de Piedra” (“The day that they kill me/May it be with five bullets/And be close to you”).
And now, with the power of the Internet, match this song with “La Cama de Piedra” and behold my proof. Enjoy, cabrones, and see you mañana, you gladiola-tossing boys and girls, you!