We over at Applause Books have partnered with Erie Gay News to give away a copy two of our books. From November 17 to December 8 you have a chance to enter to win Mark Clark’s book, Star Wars FAQ. And starting today you can enter for a chance to win A Chorus Line FAQ by Tom Rowan! The contest for A Chorus Line FAQ ends on Friday, December 11, 2015 so make sure to enter before it’s too late!
The ultimate treasure trove of information, A Chorus Line FAQ presents history and fun facts, including: the unique workshop process through which the show was developed and written, the stories of its creators, the record-breaking Broadway run and numerous touring productions, and the captivating movie version. The book also features all-new chapters on the Broadway revival, the two London productions, and notable regional productions around the country. In addition to a chapter on A Chorus Line cultural history – with a guide to all the pop cultural references in the show – the book includes extensive photos as well as biographical information on the casts of the major productions. There are also chapters on recordings, previous books on the topic, and the landmark show’s influence on subsequent Broadway musicals and films.
In his foreword to Star Wars FAQ Everything Left to Know About the Trilogy That Changed the Movies, Alan Dean Foster, critically acclaimed author of more than a hundred science fiction and fantasy novels, sums up what the Star Wars FAQ is all about: “Reading a book like Star Wars FAQ is a bit like strolling the streets of London without a guidebook. You know where Big Ben is, but stumbling across the first public drinking fountain in Britain is apt, in its own more modest way, to be even more enchanting.”
Star Wars FAQ offers an original analysis of the series’ enduring appeal and cultural impact. In the process, author Mark Clark tells a story as thrilling and action-packed as the movies themselves, with bold characters facing apparently insurmountable odds.
Mark Clark, author of Star Wars FAQ: Everything Left to Know About the Trilogy That Changed the Movies, with Mr. Media recently to talk about “the trilogy that changed the movies.” Check out the video below to see more of what they had to say! Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!
In his foreword to Star Wars FAQ: Everything Left to Know About the Trilogy That Changed the Movies, Alan Dean Foster, critically acclaimed author of more than a hundred science fiction and fantasy novels, sums up what the Star Wars FAQ is all about: “Reading a book like Star Wars FAQ is a bit like strolling the streets of London without a guidebook. You know where Big Ben is, but stumbling across the first public drinking fountain in Britain is apt, in its own more modest way, to be even more enchanting.”
Star Wars FAQ offers an original analysis of the series’ enduring appeal and cultural impact. In the process, author Mark Clark tells a story as thrilling and action-packed as the movies themselves, with bold characters facing apparently insurmountable odds.
Featuring 38 chapters, such as Echo Base: Homage in Star Wars, New Hope: Assessing Episode IV, and Far, Far Away: Production of Star Wars, Star Wars FAQ introduces the reader to early screenplays drafts that were never filmed and to short biographies of many people who made key contributions to the movies’ success. Star Wars FAQ details every aspect of the original Star Wars Trilogy (Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back, and Return of the Jedi). Along the way it unearths under-reported stories and illuminating minutiae often skimmed over or completely ignored in other histories of the legendary film series.
Visit Mr.Media’s webpage here to learn more about this interview.
Tomorrow marks the fourth annual installment of Star Wars Reads Day! We over at Hal Leonard can’t wait to celebrate with one of our published books, Star Wars FAQ. It has gotten great reviews and the online blog, The Bearded Trio, has even said:
“One thing I’ve learned since 1977 — you can ever know too much about Star Wars, and there will always be something you don’t know. I’m constantly (and pleasantly) surprised when I run across a fact or image that is new to me, and Star Wars FAQ did not disappoint on this count. Highly recommended!”
Read the full review here.
To prepare you for a day that is sure to become more and more popular each year, below is an excerpt of Mark Clark’s, Star Wars FAQ Everything Left to Know About the Trilogy That Changed the Movies. Enjoy!
Even before George Lucas had completed his Star Wars screenplay he was faced with finding actors to portray his still-evolving characters. Auditions began in late August 1975, while Lucas was finishing the fourth draft of the script. While not quite as excruciating a process as writing the film (see Chapter 4), casting soon became another protracted ordeal—both for Lucas and for the actors under consideration for major roles.
Lucas wanted to hire young, unknown performers for the picture’s leading roles, as he had for American Graffiti. This was in part a cost-containment strategy, but he also believed that actors not already associated with other characters would be more effective in the fantasy context of Star Wars. It was one thing to ask viewers to accept Wookiees, lightsabers, and the Force, but something else again to ask viewers to accept someone like, say, Ron Howard as Luke Skywalker. To assist with the talent search, Lucas again relied on casting director Fred Roos, who had served marvelously on Graffiti. At the beginning of the process, Lucas, Roos, and several assistants worked twelve-hour days, seeing as many as 250 actors per day. After three grueling weeks of this, to save time and money Lucas joined forces with another young director, Brian De Palma, who was looking for a group of young unknowns to star in his film Carrie (1976). Lucas and De Palma took the unusual step of hosting joint auditions. Hundreds more actors were invited to come in and try out for both films. Lucas’ demeanor during this process was so low-key that some of the would-be cast members mistook him for De Palma’s assistant.
Nevertheless Lucas had definite ideas about what he wanted and placed a premium on chemistry between his leads. During callbacks (without De Palma), he screen-tested actors as ensembles to see how various would-be Leias, Lukes, and Hanses worked in concert with one another. Early on, Lucas wanted to hire legendary Japanese actor Toshiro Mifune to play Ben Kenobi, but Mifune declined. “If I’d gotten Mifune, I would’ve used a Japanese princess, and then I would have probably cast a black Han Solo,” said Lucas in J. W. Rinzler’s The Making of Star Wars. One of the trios in contention for the leading roles featured newcomer Will Seltzer as Luke, former Penthouse centerfold Terri Nunn as Leia, and a young Christopher Walken
Jodie Foster was given serious consideration as Princess Leia. She was screen-tested but not hired because she was only thirteen years old at the time, and casting a minor would introduce restrictions on the shooting schedule. (De Palma declined to cast her in Carrie for the same reason.) Other performers in the running for major roles included John Travolta, Amy Irving (both eventually hired for Carrie), Nick Nolte, Tommy Lee Jones, and Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs (later “Boom Boom” Washington on Welcome Back, Kotter)—a potential Han Solo. Ultimately, of course, Lucas settled on Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, and Carrie Fisher for the leads; a pair of distinguished British actors for key supporting parts; and four performers with specialized talents (and physiques) for the remainder of the primary cast.
None of their lives would ever be the same.
David Bushman and Arthur Smith, authors of Twin Peaks FAQ, to be published this spring by Applause Books, remember Catherine Coulson. Coulson worked behind the scenes on many features and independent films since the age of 15, but perhaps the most iconic role was her role as Margaret Lanterman in the TV series Twin Peaks.
Upon hearing the sad news of Catherine E. Coulson’s passing, we wanted to take a moment to acknowledge her unique contribution to the brilliantly skewed tapestry that is Twin Peaks, as well as her status as one of the most beloved figures in Twin Peaks fandom, adored for her iconic performance as Margaret Lanterman—the fabled “Log Lady”—and for her warmth and generosity towards the show’s fans, many of whom she met and talked with at the numerous Twin Peaks fan events she attended with joyous dedication.
The Log Lady was an early point of reference for pundits and fans enumerating Twin Peaks’s intriguing eccentricities: a grave, forbidding figure whose distinguishing characteristic was her ever-present log, a sturdy branch she cradled to her bosom like a beloved child and with which she consulted on matters most troubling and mysterious. She served as the story’s Cassandra figure, dispensing gnomic nuggets of mystically obscure prophesy and insight derived from her log’s silent (to us) utterances. The absurdity of this idea, presented with such solemn gravity, perfectly encapsulates Twin Peaks’s ability to exploit the tension between narrative and aesthetic extremes to create a uniquely disorienting/seductive atmosphere.
Coulson’s deadpan, nearly affectless performance only deepens the strangeness (though she is possessed of a certain flinty, defiant streak: witness her slapping Cooper’s hand away from a tray of cookies, or her habit of leaving her pitch gum stuck to various surfaces in the Double R), and her physical appearance has from the start been one of Twin Peaks’s most recognizable visual elements. We had this to say about her look in the fashion chapter of our upcoming book on the series:
“Mrs. Lanterman definitely has some Earth shoes in her closet—she tends toward earth tones in general (they match her chief accessory, a log), and her eccentric art professor look, with oversized red spectacle frames, voluminous cardigans, severe bobbed haircut, and nature-referencing pins and brooches, suggests a hippy past. One of the series’s most visually iconic characters, the Log Lady is a popular choice for TP cosplayers.”
Coulson had known David Lynch long before the creation of Twin Peaks: she appears in his landmark feature debut, Eraserhead—starring Jack Nance, her husband at the time, who would also join the Twin Peaks cast as good-hearted fisherman Pete Martell. The story goes that Lynch had the Log Lady role in mind for Coulson before there even was a Twin Peaks; during the filming of Eraserhead, he pitched her on a project that would be called I’ll Test My Log with Every Branch of Knowledge, which would feature her as a widow who carried a log around after her husband’s death in a fire.
That show never made it past the idea stage, but clearly the Log Lady concept was an alluring one for Lynch, who recycled the character for Twin Peaks, included her in the series finale after not appearing in the shooting script, gave her an emotionally wrenching scene with Laura Palmer in Fire Walk with Me, and drafted her to present newly written introductions (written by Lynch himself) for Twin Peaks episodes when the series was rebroadcast on the Bravo network.
We get it. The Log Lady is terrific: funny, weird, distinctive, haunting, and sui generis. We will not see her like again . . . thank you, Catherine Coulson, for making television a place more wonderful and strange.
Hal Leonard Performing Arts Publishing Group, the leading publisher of books on music, theater, film, television, and pop culture, is celebrating the arrival of the 50th book in its popular FAQ Series with the publication of Haunted America FAQ by the series’ most prolific author, Dave Thompson.
Since the release of Fab Four FAQ in 2007, the FAQ Series, published under the Backbeat Books and Applause Theatre & Cinema Books imprints, has evolved into a robust, wide-ranging, and successful line, offering books that are one-stop sources for information, history, and minutiae on any given topic, be it an music artist, a film genre, an iconic television show, or, in the case of the 50th FAQ, a pop culture topic. Packed with a staggering amount of data, rare photographs, and period ephemera, these reader-friendly volumes are presented in a lively, engaging style. Each chapter in any FAQ book serves as a freestanding article on any aspect of the story, allowing readers to put down and pick up the book with ease.
“A key aspect of the FAQ series is that the authors are rabid fans of the subjects they write about, and they have keen insight into what other devoted fans are hungry for,” explained Backbeat Books series editor Bernadette Malavarca. “The flexibility of the series’ topical editorial format gives authors an opportunity to cover the subject matter widely but at the same time in great detail. In an FAQ book, info a fan would have to glean through devouring a multitude of different types of media—articles, biographies, documentaries, music histories—comes together in one cohesive, lively volume.”
True to that description, Haunted America FAQ is a fast-paced survey of the ghosts, ghouls, and associated denizens of the nation’s haunted history. Tracing local ghost stories back to Native American legends and forward through horror tales, both ancient and modern, Thompson visits some of the countries best-known haunted locales and most obscure creepy places – from private homes and hotel rooms to schools, parks, prisons, hospitals, battlefields, and nearly anywhere else people go.
In addition to Haunted America FAQ, this fall’s new entries in the series include The Twilight Zone FAQ, also written by Dave Thompson; Star Wars FAQ by Mark Clark; The Beat Generation FAQ by Rich Weidman; The Smiths FAQ by John D. Luerssen; Dracula FAQ by Bruce Scivally; Michael Jackson FAQ by Kit O’Toole; A Chorus Line FAQ by Tom Rowan; The X-Files FAQ by John Kenneth Muir; and TV Finales FAQ by Stephen Tropiano and Holly Van Buren.
Coming soon from Applause Books is The X-Files FAQ! Writer Chris Carter, known for his work on The X-Files and The X-Files ’ cinematic spin-offs, helps contribute to this book by writing the foreword. Read what he had to say below!
As I write this, we are shooting the second episode of the six-episode “event” series that will air on Fox in late January 2016.
It will be the first time the series has aired on TV in fourteen years, and it will be twenty-three years on from the airing of the pilot episode in 1993. That period encompasses about a third of not just my life but the lives of many people who have come back to work on the show now. The comeback could be viewed cynically as an attempt by Fox execs to capitalize on The X-Files “brand,” programming by feather duster, but let me destroy any notion of this from my side of things. Or our side of things, as is the case.
The show was and is a labor of love, and thus a work of art. It takes a great many people working in absolute harmony to create something lasting on television. It is this esprit de corps that makes it all worthwhile. This does not happen accidentally, and I’d like to make it abundantly clear that while I created the show, a great many artistic souls have raised that infant idea into the monster it is today. Beginning with Morgan and Wong, and Gordon and Gansa, in the beginning, Messrs. Spotnitz, Gilligan, and Shiban in the end, the show was protean by nature, including the efforts of writers who came and went and whose contributions are under-sung.
And as you will read in the always impressive and thoughtful musings of John Muir, the writing is only half of it. We work in a visual medium, and the show somehow managed to turn that rectangle box we all viewed each week into something special and often unexpected. The signature qualities of mood and light and perspective can be attributed largely to production design by Michael Nemirski in the pilot, to Graeme Murray and Corey Kaplan on the series, but also to Tom Del Ruth, John Bartley, Jon Joffin, Joel Ransom, and Bill Roe, who lit and photographed it. All under some of the most talented directors and storytellers TV has even known: Rob Bowman, Kim Manners, David Nutter, and R. W. Goodwin. A manager’s dream starting rotation, backed by a bullpen of long and short relievers who stepped in and stepped up. This is not lip service or faint praise. These people helped save my life.
In John Muir’s introduction, I’m quoted as saying, “I didn’t understand what I didn’t understand,” in reference to running the show in the beginning. This is true, but I’d like to put a finer point on that. “I didn’t know what we couldn’t do” is more like it. From the outset, we tried anything and everything we could think of. Met with much resistance, both creative and financial, we managed to do a great many things simply because our imaginations were wilder than the forces trying to tame them. That was also not an accident, and people such as Peter Roth, Ken Horton, Charlie Goldstein, two Jeffs named Eckerly and Glazer, and also Jonathan Littman came to understand we knew what we were doing and rallied in support. Executive Producer R. W. Goodwin was often a convincing voice of reason.
But as I’ve always maintained, none of our good work, artistry, or effort would add up to much if it weren’t for Mulder and Scully. David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson brought, and now continue to bring, power and soul to characters who surprisingly continue to grow. To watch them step back into old shoes and bring something new has been a joy. They and the characters have grown wiser with the years, and as I’m often reminded, adversity is the forge of character.
Not just in them, but in us.
If your a fan of The X-Files, or want to read more, purchase the book over at Applausebooks.com
Theodore Bikel, who died on Tuesday, toured for decades as Tevye in “Fiddler on the Roof,” but, before he mused about being a rich man, Bikel created the role of Baron von Trapp in the original Broadway production of “The Sound of Music.” In The Sound of Music FAQ: All That’s Left to Know About Maria, the von Trapps, and Our Favorite Things, author Barry Monush profiled Bikel.
Being not only authentically Austrian but accomplished at playing the guitar, Theodore Bikel (born in Vienna on May 2, 1924) proved ideal casting for Captain von Trapp. His own family had, in fact, faced a similar dilemma as the Trapps, having to flee Austria once the Nazis took power in 1938. In Bikel’s case, however, being Jewish, the threat was even greater. Settling in Israel, he took an interest in dramatics, joining the Habima Theater in Tel Aviv and then journeying to London to attend the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts. A role in a 1948 revival of You Can’t Take It with You led to director Laurence Olivier casting him as one of Stanley and Mitch’s poker-playing pals in the London debut (October 12, 1949) of Tennessee Williams’s A Streetcar Named Desire, starring Olivier’s wife, Vivien Leigh. This, in turn, brought him his first film, John Huston’s Oscar-winning The African Queen (1951), popping up near the climax as a German sailor. That same year he returned to the West End to play a Russian in Peter Ustinov’s comedy The Love of Four Colonels, which he would stay with for two years.
Continuing his run of supporting roles in movies, Bikel covered nearly every nationality possible, playing a Serbian king in the Oscar-nominated Moulin Rouge (1952); a Belgian opera director in Melba (1953), which featured Robert Morley playing Oscar Hammerstein II’s father); a Dutch doctor living in Canada in The Little Kidnappers (1953); a German naval officer in Above Us the Waves (1955); and a French general in The Pride and the Passion (1956). During this time he made his Broadway debut (February 1955), playing an imposing French police inspector in the short-lived Tonight in Samarkand, followed later that year by the more successful The Lark, as a French captain pressured into helping Joan of Arc (Julie Harris). (The cast included Christopher Plummer, putting the two future Captain von Trapps in the same property for the only time). For playing a doctor in the drama The Rope Dancers (1957), Bikel earned his first Tony nomination. He finally appeared in an American-made movie when Stanley Kramer cast him as the sympathetic southern sheriff in The Defiant Ones (1958), which brought him an Oscar nomination for supporting actor. He was also seen in another of the year’s top releases, as a psychiatrist offering assistance to condemned prisoner Susan Hayward in I Want to Live!, directed by Robert Wise.
After the head of Elektra Records, Jac Holzman, heard Bikel perform, he signed him to his label, launching his second career as a noted folk singer with a 1955 album, known alternately as Theodore Bikel Sings Songs of Israel and Folksongs of Israel. There followed An Actor’s Holiday (1956) and Songs of a Russian Gypsy (1958), among others. He did not shut down this side of his career to concentrate exclusively on TSOM, however, appearing for two concerts at Town Hall on November 29, 1959, only two weeks after the musical’s Broadway opening.
At the time The Sound of Music premiered on Broadway, Bikel was thirty-five, a decade and a year younger than the real Captain von Trapp was at the time he and Maria first crossed paths.
Today marks the premiere of the new movie ‘Mr. Holmes’ starring Ian McKellen as Sherlock Holmes. A multitude of actors that have portrayed Holmes through the years, from Nicholas Rowe to Robert Downey Jr. to Benedict Cumberbatch, and in his book, Sherlock Holmes FAQ, Dave Thompson has picked his favorite — Basil Rathbone. Here’s an excerpt from Sherlock Holmes FAQ in which talks about the first, and in Thompson’s eyes, the best Holmes on screen:
Born in Johannesburg, South Africa, on June 13, 1892—that is, in the same month as “The Adventure of the Copper Beeches” brought the first volume of Sherlock Holmes stories to an end in The Strand magazine—Philip St. John Basil Rathbone was the son of a mining engineer, Edgar, and a violinist, Anna.
His filmography includes starring roles in such well-remembered epics as David Copperfield, A Tale of TwoCities, Anna Karenina, Captain Blood, The Adventures of Robin Hood, The Last Days of Pompeii, Son of Frankenstein, and The Mark of Zorro. But his crowning glory,at least in terms of his future reputation, arrived in 1939, when he was cast as Sherlock Holmes in 20th Century Fox’s upcoming production of The Hound of the Baskervilles.
Still regarded among the definitive retellings of Holmes’s best-known adventure, the movie was only ever intended as a one-off. Its success, however, prompted the studio to swiftly follow up with The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, a movie ostensibly based upon William Gillette’s original play but scarcely recognizable in any form. Indeed, Rathbone’s second Holmes movie retains only a handful of that earlier piece’s characteristics—a bit of subplot, a couple of characters, and a nice piece of sparring between Holmes and Moriarty. Like so many of Rathbone’s performances, however, his very presence overcomes any attempt to contextualize the story in terms of the original Holmes; he is just such a great actor, with such a formidable grasp on the role, that one is instantly sucked into this tale of fiendish ne’er-do-welling, while admiring the fresh insights into a genuinely Holmesian mind that it delivers.
It is The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, for instance, that introduces moviegoers to the detective’s attempts to discover the most potent insecticide ever known; having trapped some bluebottles inside a brandy glass, he is now plucking his violin at them, “observing the reaction on the common housefly of the chromaticscale.” It is his belief—or, at least, hope—that somewhere within the range of notes, there will be one that will strike such horror into the heart of the pest that it will leave the room directly.
Who was your favorite Holmes? How does Ian McKellen measure up? Let us know in the comments section!
The Grateful Dead rose out of San Francisco’s ’60s underground rock scene with an unprecedented sound and image. Its members, steeped in rock, folk, classical, and blues; their instrumental prowess; and their refusal to bow to commercial conventions helped originate jam band music. Unapologetic in its advocacy of drug use as a means toward mind expansion, the Dead helped catapult psychedelic music. After performing at the Monterey International Pop Festival and Woodstock, the group became iconic without ever scoring a hit single. A large, devoted fan base – “Deadheads” – began to follow the band everywhere. The group suffered a tragedy when bandleader Jerry Garcia slipped into a coma in 1986, but returned the next year with a top-selling album and surprise hit single, “Touch of Grey.” By 1993, the Dead was the top-grossing live act in the United States. The band ended when Garcia died in 1995, but the music lives on with a stream of live releases.
In Grateful Dead FAQ, Tony Sclafani examines the band’s impact and influence on rock music and pop culture. This book ventures into unexplored areas and features a host of rare images, making it a must-have for both Deadheads and casual fans.
Morrissey’s US tour has officially begun! If you’re a fan of Morrissey, hurry and get your tickets! And also, pick up a copy of D. McKinney’s new book Morrissey FAQ: All That’s Left to Know About This Charming Man. For now, please enjoy the following excerpt from the book:
From Metalhead to Mega-Wuss: How I Became a Fan of the Great and Powerful Moz
You obviously know who my favorite performer is. But guess who is my second favorite?
And my third favorite?
Sparks and Devo are my other two favorite bands, so I’m not THAT cheesy.
But still—people always give me a strange look after I am asked about my favorite bands. Morrissey and Gene Simmons have absolutely ZERO in common: Moz likes veg, Gene likes vag. Both of them do have sideburns, so I guess that counts. So what made me go from “Detroit Rock City” to “My Life Is So Shitty”?
I credit my love of music to two things, the first being that I was fortunate enough to have young parents. There was always music in our apartment (and lots of weed). My mom was into Frank Zappa, David Bowie, and Alice Cooper. My dad liked a lot of southern rock, white-boy blues, and Loverboy. Both of them liked oldies and soul music, so being the oldest and only child (at that point), I liked what they liked. I remember someone asking me what my favorite record was, and I had two—Private Eyes by Darryl Hall and John Oates, and Alice Cooper Goes to Hell (which are still two of my favorite albums). I never got totally into Frank Zappa or Loverboy, but it would have happened eventually if it were not for the second thing that turned me into a musical genius.
Oh yes, the glory days of MTV. Dee Snider versus Neidermeyer, Pat Benatar pretending to be a teenage runaway, and Madonna’s floppy “Borderline” hat with the bow—it did not get any better than that. The older I got (and the older MTV got), the more I started to lean toward the metal side of things. I still listened to all types of music, but as soon as I was welcomed to the jungle by Guns N’ Roses, it was on. Big hair, tight pants, and falsettos became my favorite. It did not help that I was starting to go through puberty, so besides being attracted to thundering drums and hot guitar licks, I was also attracted to thundering bums and hot guitar d . . . well, you know what I mean. I even stayed loyal to the “metal cause” through the grunge years, although I did like Alice in Chains because they were a little harder than the other Seattle bands.
I admit it, I got a little lost in high school. That is because metal kind of died on me. Grunge broke its legs, alternative stomped its head, and hiphop peed all over it. But that was okay, because like every other teenager, I discovered punk rock. Even my taste in punk rock was tainted by metal—my favorite band was the Misfits, which led me to Samhain, which then led me to Danzig. Man, I loved me some Glenn Danzig. He was going to be my future hairy husband. After punk, my tastes started to broaden again in the absence of metal. I started listening to goth music and industrial while revisiting my ’80s MTV favorites. And it was during this time that I fell in love with my other future hairy husband.
I can tell you exactly when and how it happened.
I was hanging out at my friend Mark’s house. It was the usual gang of idiots and the usual Saturday night filled with cigarette smoke, cheap rum, and Jack in the Box tacos. Because I did not smoke and I did not want to listen to the Melvins, I was sitting on the couch in the living room watching 120 Minutes while everyone else was in the dining room with the turntable.
It was the usual college music crap fest: Hüsker Dü, the Replacements, and lots of PJ Harvey.
And then they showed “Tomorrow” by Morrissey.
At first I rolled my eyes and was all “whatever” about it. But I continued to watch. I watched him slink around France in black and white. I watched him pout at me, asking me about “the one thing that I’ll never do.” And when he demanded “tell me that you love me” with that sly crooked smile, I was hooked like a vegan fish.
At first I was embarrassed by my Morrissey crush. I was “punk rock” and madly in love with Glenn Danzig at the time—no way could I let anyone know that I preferred sensitive sideburns now. Plus, I still was not all that crazy about his music. I had tried to listen to the Smiths in the past, and I just could not get into it. I liked “How Soon Is Now?,” but EVERYONE likes “How Soon Is Now?” And forget about even listening to his solo stuff—my friend Mark poisoned me by playing “Ouija Board, Ouija Board” to show me how dumb Morrissey was: “You’re right,” I said, “that song is pretty fucking stupid. Let’s listen to ‘Walk Among Us.’”
But after that, I would feast my twenty eyes on Morrissey’s hairless chest and pompadour. I borrowed Your Arsenal from a friend and loved it. It was surprisingly harder than I expected it to be, and it encouraged me to check out more of his stuff. Surprise! Most of it was pretty hard, and I loved how the slow jams were over the top. Soon after, I found myself giving up the devil lock and accepting the pompadour poof into my life.
I was now a member of the Church of Morrissey.
Whenever I meet people and Morrissey comes up in the conversation, I find that there are two kinds of people: Morrissey Lovers and Morrissey Haters. I am totally understanding and tolerant of other people’s tastes, and I usually don’t get mad when people disagree with me—as a record collector, there is nothing I like more than having a conversation with others about music. But when people tell me that they hate Morrissey, and I ask them why, they can never give me a good reason. It is always:
• He is stupid.
• He is whiny.
• He is all gloom and doom.
• He is still stupid.
I never get a good reason because there is not a good reason to not like Morrissey. They realize they can’t hate on someone who writes witty and insightful lyrics. They can’t hate on someone who was a great front man—Morrissey brought just the right amount of mystery, sexiness, and audience interaction. They can’t hate on someone who wants some privacy. And how can you hate someone who wants to save the animals? You can’t, so that is why I get barraged with lame arguments, insults, and jokes about my Morrissey love. But the joke is really on them—after all, if you have such passionate feelings (both negative and positive) about someone or something, then it is obviously affecting you more than you would like to admit.
Like him or not, Morrissey has an effect on pretty much everyone.
But don’t think for a minute that I am a blind worshipper. I fully believe that the only true fans are real fans, and to be real, you have to remain truthful. I love me some Morrissey, but there are songs that I do not like. He has said stuff that I do not agree with. And there have been times when I just shake my head and roll my eyes. I have met other Morrissey fans who blindly love everything he does and have gotten belligerent if anyone says anything negative. I always point out that underneath all of the hair and satin shirts, he is a normal person like you and me. And then I out-asshole them and remind them that he is human and needs to be loved—just like everybody else does!
So now let’s talk about love.
Why do I love Morrissey? I think the one thing I love the most about Morrissey is the “drama.” I love the mugging, the curling up in a fetal position on stage, the brooding, and the microphone cord whipping. I love the songs where he is mock crying, mock angry, or mock in love. I love the moaning and groaning and the yelping. I liken him to menopause: sometimes he gets you hot, sometimes he gets you depressed, and he changes your life forever.
I hear a lot of Morrissey fans speak about why they love Morrissey, and usually their #1 reason is “I can relate to him.”
Well, I guess that works for some people, but not for me. I am sorry, but I cannot (and could not) relate to Morrissey—I did not grow up in gloomy, dreary, working-class Manchester; I did not feel like an outsider; I am capable of loving someone other than myself; and I prefer cardigans to pullover sweaters. Yeah, we both buried ourselves in music and literature, but other than that, we really have nothing in common. After a long time thinking about what my deep-rooted reason is that I love Morrissey, it suddenly came to me.
I love Morrissey not because I can relate to him, but because he was there for me.
I have loved Morrissey literally for most of my adult life, and he has been the one solid constant thing throughout. Always there with a great album, always there to be judgmental of my meat consumption, and always there when I needed a laugh (or a well-deserved snicker). I knew that if I wanted to feel better or to tune out life, I could just turn on Morrissey.
Morrissey and the Smiths in general proved that you can really just be yourself when it came to music. Sure, they promoted the consumption of flowers during the early years, but other than that—no gimmicks, no bullshit. They brought a new and fresh sound to listeners and paved the way for indie bands to become indie bands. Morrissey also proved with his lyrics that no matter how tragic life was, you had to see the humor in it—because as Morrissey has proven for many people, humor is the only thing that can keep a person going in life.
Morrissey FAQ will look at and explain how a shy and quiet introvert became the hero to millions just like him. Because of the worldwide fan base, fans and information regarding Morrissey are widespread— Morrissey FAQ will provide a complete volume of everything a new fan or old vet needs to know about Morrissey.
I want you to think for a minute: Have you ever met people who have admitted that the Beatles saved their life? That Elvis Presley knew how they felt about getting bullied in high school? Not that the Beatles and Elvis aren’t just as important as Morrissey, but they’re just not as real as Morrissey. Real people have emotions and real people are very much human in nature, and that is why real people can relate to pretty much anyone. And Morrissey is very much real to a lot of people.
Other than the Beatles or Elvis Presley, I cannot think of anyone else but Morrissey who evokes such a crazed and passionate following. From the sweaty dudes who climb up onto the stage to hug him to the legions of fans lined up for his autograph, we are there for Morrissey because he has been there for us. And he represents us: the misunderstood loners, the sexually repressed, and the sardonic chubby people like myself. And although I could not relate to his life, Morrissey represented mine: all of my trials and tribulations, loves current and lost, and late nights lamenting about life.
I have said it once and I will say it again: “There Is a Light That Never Goes Out” is the “Free Bird” of my generation.
I have evened out my musical tastes again, liking a little bit of everything (except Zappa). I am at peace with my eccentric tastes—Black Flag sounds great next to Bell Biv DeVoe on a playlist, and I love to get into conversations with fellow music nerds about Duran Duran stealing everything from Japan (I am talking about you, Nick Rhodes!). Writing Morrissey FAQ was quite an adventure for me: I continued to work full time while writing in my spare time, I had two major surgeries, and I dealt with an abnormal number of ups and downs. But the one person who was there for me throughout it all was Morrissey.
My boyfriend was also there for me, but he doesn’t have the cool sideburns.