This list of songs is inspired by a list published by radio station, KEXP, from Seattle in 2010. For the most part, I will faithfully countdown from their list, from Song #500 to Song #1. So, when you see the song title listed as something like: “KEXP: Song #XXX”….it means that I am working off of the official KEXP list. If I post the song title as being: “KTOM: Song #xxx”….it means I have gone rogue and am inserting a song choice from my own personal list of tunes I really like. In either case, you are going to get to hear a great song and learn the story behind it. Finally, I am not a music critic nor a musician. I am a music fan and an armchair storyteller. Enough said! Let’s get on to today’s song.
KEXP: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History.
Song #287: This Charming Man by The Smiths.
In 1983, The Smiths released their self-titled debut album. The second song from that album to hit the airwaves was, “This Charming Man”. This is the song that changed everything for the band. It was the very first taste of success for the song writing team of Johnny Marr (music) and Morrissey (lyrics). It was, also, a revelation to thousands of fans who were captivated by the power of Morrissey’s voice and the genius of Marr’s guitar work. More than that, though, “This Charming Man” is a song about homosexuality that is directly-stated, dressed up in Edwardian language and made to seem elegant and respectable. At the time of its release, “This Charming Man” by The Smiths was seen as a counter-balance to the flamboyant ways of singers such as Boy George from Culture Club”. As previously noted, The Smiths spoke to the unheard and the unseen and, with “This Charming Man”, they spoke directly to those struggling with their sexual identity. “With “This Charming Man”, The Smiths told their fans that they could be sexual and desirable and classy and, most importantly, that is was ok to be themselves.
“This Charming Man” is based on a movie called, “Sleuth” starring Sir Laurence Olivier and Michael Caine which, in turn, is based upon a Tony-Award winning play. The gist of the song is that a young man has an incident while riding a bicycle and is “helped” by a dashing, older man who happens along, offering him a ride in his car.
“Why pamper life’s complexity
When the leather runs smooth
On the passenger’s seat” croons Morrissey.
He, then, goes on to utter one of my favourite lines:
“I would go out tonight But I haven’t got a stitch to wear.
This man said, “Its Gruesome that someone so handsome, should care.”
One of the things that makes “This Charming Man” such a good song is the intentional decision to use rich language to evoke a more elegant exchange of favours. Morrissey, who is Gay, has been quoted as saying that he never saw himself reflected in the Gay scene, as depicted by the Media and the Entertainment Industry of the early 1980s (who were promoting Boy George) and was looking to create a something, more in the image of what he wished for himself, that might inspire and comfort others, too. It appears that he got his wish. When The Smiths first appeared on TV to play this song, they did so with an artistry and confidence that captured the attention of many who watched them. From that appearance on “The Peel Sessions”, all the way into our more modern and increasingly accepting times today, “This Charming Man” has been held up as one of the best songs ever for those who question whether or not being Gay and feeling elegant are compatible attributes. They most certainly are.
So, without further delay, please enjoy the song that really started it all for The Smiths. Here is “This Charming Man”. Enjoy.
The link to the video for the song, “This Charming Man” by The Smiths, can be found here.
The link to the official website for The Smiths, can be found here.
Thanks to KEXP for supporting the best of music, regardless of the sexual orientation of the artist or band. Their wonderful website can be reached by clicking on the link here.