After last week's interlude, I was severely tempted to post up the Morrissey & Siouxie duet which was a Top 20 hit back in 1995.
But given that earlier this week saw the release of the first single from the latest album, I've instead gone back to the last time a single and LP were so eagerly anticipated.
Given how many records he has released over the past 5 years, not to mention the number of times he has toured the UK (often playing towns and venues that are never visited by minor singers or bands far less someone of his stature), it is sort of easy to forget that there were no new Morrissey music released between 1997 and 2004 - a period of time that was well in excess of his career with the Smiths.
The disappointment of Southpaw Grammar and Maladjusted (although I don't think the latter is as poor an LP as is often perceived), combined with the fact that only one of the last ten singles had ever cracked the Top 20 led many to write off Morrissey once and for all. He had been signed and dropped by a number of labels in the 90s and it looked as if his recording days were over.
But this period of inactivity at the end of the 20th Century coincided with many writers and journalists getting all nostalgic and acknowledging his importance to pop music, mostly in partnership with Johnny Marr. It also coincided with a fresh interest in indie-music as it came back into vogue one more time, and many of the singers and songwriters now being profiled in magazines, newspapers and within these new-fangled things called blogs started namechecking Morrissey all the time.
In 2002, he undertook a three-month long world tour, partly as a reminder that he still existed, but mainly to air a number of new songs that he had written over the past five years in the hope that some label would come in with an offer that wasn't insulting. The tour got a lot of positive publicity, with many reviewers commenting that much of the new stuff sounded as good as anything he'd ever released and many alos wrote that they hoped these would see the light of day on a forthcoming record.
It was also noted that many of the new songs had a contemporary feel to them - ie indie-pop - that would find favour with a brand new audience, many of whom hadn't been born when The Smiths formed and to who Morrissey was a mysterious figure that loads of their mums, dads, aunties and uncles held in high esteem.
I first heard the comeback single courtesy of MTV2. I wasn't actually paying all that much attention at the time when the first notes were struck - I was reading the sports section of a newspaper - but then I realised that this was a voice with which I was very familiar. The focus of my attention immediately shifted.....
I was stunned. At long last, Morrissey sounded important again. Here was a single that was wasn't all that different from the sounds being churned out by the popstars of the moment, but his presence on it - his vocal delivery, his charisma within that video, his ability to come up with a great singalong chorus without it being something dumb - made it something truly special.
The other great trick was that we were getting to see the video some 4 weeks before the actual single was available in the shops, so that with every showing and listening, we realised how exceptional a song it was, especially compared to recent Morrissey songs. Some old fans might have bought the single out of habit, but many more came back to Morrissey for the first time in a over a decade, and along with an army of new fans bought it because it was something worth owning.
And despite it getting very little support from Radio 1 in the UK, the comeback single entered the UK charts at #3 which was easily the highest position in his entire career. If this single had been a stinker and a flop, then I guess Morrissey would have had no option but to retire from music, so in many ways, this was probably the most important record of his career:-
mp3 : Morrissey - Irish Blood, English Heart
mp3 : Morrissey - It's Hard To Walk Tall When You're Small
mp3 : Morrissey - Munich Air Disaster 1958
mp3 : Morrissey - The Never Played Symphonies
What initially struck me when I bought the two CD singles was that the other songs were actually more than half-decent tracks and that in being able to issue them as mere b-sides, Morrissey must have great confidence in the dozen or so that he was going to issue on his comeback LP, You Are The Quarry.
His confidence wasn't misplaced, as it is a very fine recording, ....but I'll argue that it could have been a truly great album if some of the tracks that he kept back as b-sides (four singles were eventually issued) had replaced some of the less memorable tunes on the album.
But that's Morrissey for you.....he never really does things the easy way. Long may he reign over us.