I realize discussing this song is like discussing “Like a Rolling Stone” by Bob Dylan. It’s a song that so epitomizes the artist, yet has become so commonplace that there’s nothing more that can be said about it that hasn’t already been said better.
All I will add is that no matter how many times it turns up on compilations, films, and classic “alternative” mixes, I still can’t turn this song off. It’s a song that completely epitomizes the Smiths, yet is so much better than most of their catalog.
In “Citizen Kane,” there’s a brief and pivotal scene where Bernstein, one of Charles Foster Kane’s oldest associates, is talking to the reporter trying to uncover the meaning of Kane’s last word “Rosebud.” As Bernstein puts it, “A fellow will remember a lot of things you wouldn’t think he’d remember. You take me. One day, back in 1896, I was crossing over to Jersey on the ferry, and as we pulled out, there was another ferry pulling in, and on it there was a girl waiting to get off. A white dress she had on. She was carrying a white parasol. I only saw her for one second. She didn’t see me at all, but I’ll bet a month hasn’t gone by since that I haven’t thought of that girl.”
I don’t have anything quite that poetic, but a friend recently Facebooked about being stuck on a train and it reminded me of taking the train to visit my Dad back when I was a teenager. On one particular trip when I was 15, I was sitting next to a cute girl my own age and we seemed to hit it off (though at the time, I didn’t realize it). She was not only cute, but also hip (she liked the B52s … this was before their huge commercial breakthrough in 1989 with “Cosmic Thing”). Anyway, when the drink cart came by, I threw all caution to the wind and ordered a beer. Being 6’2″ at 15 years old, they either thought I was of drinking age (21 at the time), or didn’t care, so they took my money and served me my Molson (it was Canadian, so I felt especially debonair … it wasn’t until years later when I moved closed to the Canadian border that Molson is like Busch in Canada). Anyway, the girl sitting next to me was VERY impressed with my drink ordering skills, laughed at all my jokes, and we had a great conversation all the way back home in the train car. Natch, she even lived in my hometown. Did I even think of asking for her phone number? Of course not. This was one of the few suave (OK, suave for a 15-year old) James Bond moments of my life and … I didn’t even think to go for it. The PMRC should have gone after the Smiths back in the day. They’ve arguably ruined more lives than Ozzy ever did.
Anyway, wherever she may be and whatever her name is, this is for “train girl.”
Back when I was in high school during the mid-late 1980s, I was vaguely aware of the Smiths. I knew they were the hip band du jour in England and in many quarters in America. However, I didn’t really listen to a lot of their stuff. Sometime around 1986 or so, I noticed random goth girls looking at me very intently. I wasn’t quite sure what this was about until one told me I looked like Morrissey of the Smiths. She showed me a picture and I did see a resemblance. Only knowing that people considered him hip, I thought this was very cool and started to explore the Smiths music in more detail. Not being the fastest human in the world, I thought this would be my entree into stud-dom … I’m going to pause for 60 seconds for all of you to finish convulsing in hysterics … OK, are we done, now? Let’s continue …
At the time, I didn’t realize that girls that were into Morrissey were not exactly the types that would be ready to request my services in the carnality. It didn’t help matters that I lettered in theater … Seriously, stop laughing, motherf–kers! … It’s only after I realized that Morrissey was not a role model for someone who wanted to be successful with girls that I sort-of started to come into my own.
I stopped listening to the Smiths and Morrissey for several years and have only started to re-explore their stuff. They’ll never be my favorite band, but there are some gems in their oeuvre. “Everyday Is Like Sunday,” from Morrissey’s debut solo album “Viva Hate,” is a particular favorite and I think is the greatest song he ever had any involvement with.