"Sing Your Life", 21 years ago.
I'm in the picture above. That grasping hand, in the long black shirt. That's me in the corner. At the time, I was who I was. 18 years old. Somewhat spotty. Blessed with a mane of long, brown, boring hair that was part of my traditional teenage rebellion. Well, you say rebellion. I was just exploring who I was in the world. I was 18. With big hair. Bad shirts. A sense of confusion. I just can't find my place in this world. Being 1991, we all had bad hair and big shorts and wore bright colours and had a bizarre sense of style – at best. At this point I had had one girlfriend, kissed three people, possibly four, and had to be blunt no idea about who I was, or what my life was going to be or what I wanted to do in this world. I was becoming myself. Forming from the ashes of potential into being something or someone else. I wasn't quite going to be who I wanted to be, but I was going to be the best me I can be. Life is hard enough when you belong here.
At this time, Morrissey spoke to me : as he still does, just in a different way. Some people think you should grow out of things as you get older, but I like to think I had good taste then, and that remains. I take these things with me as I grow older. Not to forget, but as part of the history. It would be dishonest not to acknowledge your history. I was unashamed then, and I am unashamed now. At the time, I didn't think much of “Kill Uncle” - his album at the time. I think even less of it now.
But as he came on stage in Leicester, in the final show of his debut UK tour, there was an electricity in the air. A tangible, touchable sense of anticipation. As if the appearance of the Indie Jesus would cure us of our still ills and ailments.
In my forty years on this planet, I've never seen a response quite like it. To the strains of a classical, baroque piece, under the watchful eye of an enormous Harvey Keitel, his musicians – Boz Boorer, Gary Day, Spencer Cobrin, and Alain Whyte – appeared on stage. The reception was akin to a euphoria. A Jesus. The crowd moved, swayed, undulated, a human wave of enthusiasm, love, and passion. Screams filled the hall. In a way I could never imagine : these screams and yelps, the tears, the mass swell of released, repressed human emotion, was animal, inhuman. And then. There he was. In front of us. Alive.
The gig was a rapture. His band were fresh, and ravenous : passionate, once in a lifetime, riding a fresh cusp of fame – and the reborn, bequiffed indie Jesus, roamed the land and conquered all. The screech and howl of a messanic comeback on that tour has never been accurately captured by anyone, and quite unlike anything I have ever experienced any other time in my life. The band leaped out as hungry tigers, and Morrissey himself preened and shone after a five year exile from the stage.
It was all over so quickly. According to the bootleg recording, 62 minutes and 9 seconds. He opened with the staggering “Last of The Famous International Playboys.” dear hero, imprisoned, with all the new crimes that you are perfecting. The sea of people – 2,400 of which I was in the nearest 150 or so – rolled like a boat in a perfect, bequiffed storm. The unceasing torrent of people towards the stage saw him drowned in fans. By song six - “November Spawned A Monster”, fact fans – I saw my chance, and I took it.
After that, I recollect little. As I was bundled off stage, and thrust into the crowd, during “Driving Your Girlfriend Home”, I remember distinctly someone touching me by osmosis, as if somehow the fact I had just touched his sweating neck would cure them of loneliness. Of course, I would happily have cured her of that, being young and unattached, but she was not interested, having eyes for just one man that night.
His band powered through the rest of the set : on recollection, the band have a cheap sound taken from the basic instrumentation and the a lack of time to rehearse or prepare expensive equipment. What they lacked in finesse, they made up for in enthusiasm and guts, performing material they (mostly) had no hand in writing, and acquitting it with passion : with the exception of a new song, the live debut of “Pashernate Love”, it was all someone else's material.
The end of the show came abruptly. As he sang “Disappointed”, he paused at the line “This is the last song I will ever sing.” The lights went dark, the band stopped playing, and then, in the dramatic pause, he, and his band left the stage. When the lights came up, it was empty. The crowd slowly realising that their saviour had abandoned them.
I walked around as the crowd empties, which I generally still do to this day. Around me, I distinctly recall several crumpled heaps of women, and men, some with quiffs, some without, some sobbing inconsolably at the thought that this is the end of the line, that there will be no more shows, no more music, no more songs, no more beauty. As I walked through the crowd, the unconsolable clung to the tattered shreds of his golden shirt, or a setlist, or on each other, or in a daze, lost and deflated but elated, seduced, and abandoned, disappointed, but sated. The sound of tears of the handful that believed they may never see him again. This is the last song I will ever sing.
Of course, it wasn't. But that was the great unknown : The future was always thus.
If you want a flavour of the night, see this video of a show a couple of days before.
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