If I had to choose one word to describe my current state it would have to be malaise. I've ground to a halt and I'm sitting here in a gruesome state of inertia. I guess the weekend in L.A. was just too much excitement for my feeble old bones to withstand or something. I've been trying to gather my strength so I can offer my "Post-Convention Post" but I've finally come to the realization that right now I'm as strong as I'm likely to get until the weekend, so here goes...
Let me start by saying that it was an absolute privilege to meet so many beautiful people. If the world was populated by Askers, what a wonderful world it would be! I'm sorry if I may have seemed a little reserved and out of it for the after-party and the convention. I'm naturally quite shy and reserved in social settings... which tends to surprise some people, although I've no idea why. I would just like to thank everyone I met for making me feel so welcome and for helping to make my weekend such a smashing success. It's so refreshing to feel like I actually BELONGED somewhere, for once in my life. If only for a short while... I just never thought I could feel as comfortable as I did around a group of people I'd never met before... but then I felt as if I already knew so many of you. It was a very special feeling. I can only hope that we can do it again sometime soon... like maybe the next time Morrissey tours? I can only hope...
I went to the convention with my Mozbuddy Don, who leads quite a charmed life. He's the one who gets up onstage with Morrissey and puts the necklace around his neck in the "Live In Dallas" and he's also chatted with Johnny Marr. Well, wouldn't you know it? He happened to be one of the lucky few who won dinner with Mike and Andy. And, since I am his best Mozbuddy, I got to tag along. Talk about a wonderful experience! I thought it was actually quite perfect that we would get to go because we had spent a great bulk of Saturday night sitting in a pizza joint in Pasadena and discussing the relative music importance of Mike and Andy. We had talked about all the questions we wanted to ask them and, as fate would have it, we got our chance.
The dinner was at the Hard Rock Cafe. Funnily enough, we originally drove to the wrong HRC and, consequently, arrived a bit late. Fortunately, though, Mike and Andy were a few minutes later than we were, so we didn't miss a thing. I had a wonderful time chatting with several Smiths fans, including Jose, the singer for the impressive Smiths/Moz cover band, the Sweet And Tender Hooligans. He had the most incredible story to tell about how he met Morrissey. It was truly heartwarming. He posts on here occasionally... so, Jose, if you're out there, you should really share that story with the group. I know it made my heart glow to hear it.
Anyway, the biggest moments were naturally when we were able to chat with Andy and Mike. I think the thing I found most satisfying was being able to confirm everything I've ever believed about the relationships within the Smiths. And it was the saddest thing I've ever heard. It's completely tragic the way that Morrissey and Marr have turned their backs on Andy and Mike. For instance, Don asked Andy what his relationship was like with Johnny these days and Andy replied, with a shrug and a sad look on his face, "There isn't one". Don said, "That's too bad because you guys were really close once, weren't you?" and Andy replied in a melancholy voice, "Yeah, well, we've known each other since we were 12 years old. We grew up together. We were best mates for a long time... so, yeah, it is sad... but that's what money does to people." I just felt so awful for him, to have been betrayed so bitterly by the person he considered to be his best friend.
As far as Mike was concerned, it was also quite tragic because you could just tell how much he loved, and to a large extent still loves, Morrissey. I remember in his Smiths-era interviews how he used to speak of Morrissey in such glowing terms. He looked up to Moz as the genius that he was and appreciated him every step of the way. And then, to have Morrissey refer to him as lawnmower parts... that must have been just devastating for him. I mean, while talking to him he quoted Morrissey several times. "You are the living sign," he said to Don at one point. When asked about how happy the band used to look (in the backstage footage that was screened at the convention) and how distant and hostile they've now become he replied, "Money changes everything... but it doesn't change everyone". So sad.
We asked Andy about the bass line to "Barbarism Begins At Home" and he said that he had a big smile on his face the day that he came up with that one - he knew it was great. Mike talked about how thrilling it was to drum with the Buzzcocks and how he was amazed to find out that Steve Diggle, who he had long admired, was a big Smiths fan. Mike talked about his unique style of drumming and how he drums along with the singer rather than the bassist. To illustrate this, he sang the rhythmic line from "I Keep Mine Hidden" - "Yellow and green, a stumbling block/I'm a 20-digit combination to unlock" - while he air drummed his part. He explained how doing this freed up the bassist to play a different melody if he wanted to. We talked at length about how the music of The Smiths was like a symphony, in that every individual musician was composing a song within the song. Johnny's guitar played one melody, while Andy's bass lines played another (and were in themselves so hummable that I caught myself humming the bass line to "Frankly Mr. Shankly" just that morning. I told Andy this and he smiled shyly...) and, of course, Morrissey's vocals cut across the music in another, entirely different melody. Capped off by Mike's powerful drumming, they formed a sound that was so rich and full that, to this day, whenever I listen to a Smiths albums with headphones on, I hear new things in the mix.
I told them, in total honesty, that I think they were the greatest rhythm section of all-time and Mike thanked me and said, "That's one of the things I miss the most about The Smiths - not being able to play with Andy anymore." I second that emotion. I thanked the both of them for creating those wonderful bass lines and drum patterns that have been ricocheting through my head for the past 13 years and gave them both big hugs. Mike Joyce kissed me on the cheek as we said our goodbyes. Both Andy and Mike were the nicest people you could meet, although Andy was much shyer and I think suffers from a bit of an inferiority complex because it seemed that anytime he was complemented he would shrug it off with a doubtful look. I had to let him know how much his playing has meant to me over the years, because it's fairly obvious that he doesn't get much in the way of kudos back home in England, where, as he put it, "The Smiths are old news". He talked about how refreshing it was to come over here where the fans are still excited by The Smiths, as compared to the U.K. where they are generally ignored. But, as Mike said devilishly, "People will slag us off... but then our records still sell really well there. So, I think they're slagging us off to their friends and then sneaking off to the record store to buy a Smiths album." Mike was so funny and friendly, a truly honorable guy. It was altogether one of the best nights of my life and a memory I will long cherish.
It could only possibly be surpassed by meeting with Morrissey and Marr. If I can ever get the chance to thank those two for their substantial contributions to my life, I will feel complete. ... If that day ever comes...
Oh, I still have things to say about the convention... but I'm tired of typing, and I'm sure you're all tired of reading, so I think I'll save them for another post. Take care, all you beautiful people.