Rubbish, piffle, tommyrot, drivel and utter bilge

Saturday, October 19, 2013

100 Records That Shook The World, #12

This Charming Man

The Smiths

Jangly guitars, references to Keats and Yeats, mutant choirboy vocals... doesn't sound like much of  a recommendation for a band, does it? Yet when The Smiths second single This Charming Man was released on Rough Trade Records at the end of October 1983, it ushered in a new age.

The song is defined by Marr's jangle pop guitar riff and Morrissey's characteristically morose lyrics, which revolve around the recurrent Smiths themes of sexual ambiguity and lust.

Morrissey deliberately used archaic language when composing the voice-over style lyrics for "This Charming Man". His use of phrases and words such as 'hillside desolate', 'stitch to wear', 'handsome' and 'charming' are used to convey a more courtly world than the mid-Eighties north of England, and evoke a style that has, in the words of the music critic Mat Snow "nothing to do with fashion".

Allmusic's Ned Raggett noted that "Early Elvis would have approved of the music, Wilde of the words", and described the track as "an audacious end result by any standard".

The song's lyrics features dialogue borrowed from a cult film. The line "A jumped-up pantry boy who never knew his place" is borrowed from the 1972 film adaptation of Anthony Shaffer's 1970 homoerotic play Sleuth, in which Laurence Olivier plays a cuckolded author to Michael Caine's 'bit of rough'.


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