The other night I went to see Morrissey and the ticket only cost $38. I repeat, I went to see MORRISSEY and THE TICKET ONLY COST $38! My friend S from home sent me a message: “I believe you went to worship at the temple of Morrissey at the weekend. Very jealous… got to be worth a trailing spouse blog!” My friend S from Louisiana and my neighbour S from DC both said, separately: “Who’s Morrissey?” (that temporarily deflated my excited retelling of the experience).
If you’re round about my age (48) and a Brit it’s inconceivable that you won’t know who he is. Many, many more people than just those who share my demography will also know. But for the benefit of those of you who don’t, like my two pals, the American S’s, he was the lead singer of the seminal Manchester band of my youth, The Smiths. Arguably no band, or singer, since has quite matched the dark creamy depths conjured by the always lurching combination of bleak, painful, poignant, but oh-so-funny lyrics, the sweeping melodies and his honeyed Northern voice. I don’t for one minute want to get into a best-band-ever argument or a then-versus-now debate. Apart from anything else, I’d lose, I’m just so not a musico, I don’t claim a wide knowledge or even massive interest; I never know who’s who from my sons’ repertoire of, admittedly often rather good, playlists [though as an irrelevant but amusing aside, I wouldn’t defend H (my daughter)’s dodgy music taste, which can be illustrated by F (middle son)’s recent comment to her: “listening to that stuff coming out of your iPod this morning just made me feel sorry for you”]; basically I like what I like. But, of course, The Smiths did provide the score to my late teens and early 20s, always a massive factor, don’t you think, in what resonates? Suffice to say, then, that there are lots of people who would concur in my opinion of them and him.
So, back to the recent night out. He is and always was a massive vegetarian (here, massive = fundamentalist). The Smiths album, Meat is Murder, aside from being marvellous musically, is quite simply enough to turn a meat eater off the flesh. It did me, for two years anyway (“how can I possibly be a Smiths fan and eat meat?” went my less than ethical thinking). Even now, all these years on, if I were to conjure up Morrissey and, say, a rump steak, together in one thought, I would feel a bit ashamed, a sham fan. He would absolutely not give me the time of day were we to bump into each other [ffs, listen to me!] and I told him the truth about my carnivorous habits. Obviously if and when our paths ever cross socially [can’t help imagining it, sorry!] I will lie. His animal protectionism (Morrissey’s own terminology) is accompanied by an arsey-ness that has led over the years to all sorts of public spats and cancelled gigs and controversial outbursts. This latest tour is mainly in small-town theatres which I think is because he won’t play anywhere that sells meat. I’m guessing the Toyota Centre in Houston told him to eff off, if it wanted to sell hot dogs on the night it would. Hence we Houstonians had to travel all the way to Beaumont, an hour and 40 minutes east and nearly in Louisiana, for the closest venue.
And travel we did, along with maybe 90% of the whole audience, from Houston. Beaumont, TX, doesn’t look or feel like the sort of place that would be able to fill more than 10% of a theatre, even the cosy smallish one we were at. You skirt alongside Beaumont when you drive to New Orleans, on the vast strip of concrete that is the I-10, the interstate freeway that can take you from Florida to California and back if you want. Beaumont slides by unnoticed behind the ubiquitous Chilis, Waffle Houses, Dennys and the rest, after you’ve just passed the miles of clanging metal and chimney stacks and pipelines and detergent smell that constitutes the refineries of Baytown. I’d put the price of a Morrissey ticket (and more, considering how cheap it was) on no-one I know ever having had cause or want to stop and take a look round there.
We – me and my fellow fans, the Scottish C and J – had, in our enthusiasm for the whole enticing caper, decided to make something of, if not a day then a late afternoon and evening of it, and head to Beaumont early to have a pre-show dinner. Which we wouldn’t have done if we’d ever been there before. Which, like everyone else in Houston, we hadn’t. So after some exploration on foot of the closed and deserted “downtown”, we headed back west along the I-10 to the ubiquitous Chilis etc, and settled for Carrabba’s. It was heaving, clearly the place to be in Beaumont (or rather, nearly in Beaumont) on a Sunday night. There were definitely date nights going on, and family dinners, but also, we suspected, at least half the up and coming Morrissey audience from H-town. When we mentioned to the waiter why we were there, he quipped quick as a flash, “yes, I know, isn’t it funny that Beaumont is actually a place that people are coming to!”.
And that was not to be the only funny (in the same sense as Beaumont being a destination, funny odd, not funny ha ha) interlude of the trip. Morrissey, in his apparent current incarnation as this charming man passed his mic out to the audience and first up was someone from Derby. That’s Derby, small-town England, not Derby small-town Kansas, America. The same Derby, indeed, which also happens to be about eight miles from my home. Someone else from over there, standing right here with me, in Beaumont, Texas, of all the goddamn places!
Well Morrissey was brilliant, our mini road trip there and back so worth it, cheap tickets and all other things considered (and especially since Scottish J did all the driving with his foot down hard on the gas). And that’s it, the end of my little tale. I wanted to write this mainly to spread the Morrissey gospel to Morrissey virgins, but haven’t we all learnt some other lessons along the way? Like: the English and the Scots get on famously (so come on guys, in September don’t abandon us to a Tory England for ever more please); and, a small town is a small town is a small town and even small-town Texas can sometimes seem not so far from home, especially when Morrissey’s in it and singing Every Day Is Like Sunday (which he did). Home truths indeed.