When the British rock singer/songwriter with the singular name, "Morrissey," was beginning his music career with his first professional band, The Smiths (1983-87), he proclaimed that the band would never do any type of "glossy promotional" videos. Morrissey, or "Moz" as he soon came to be called in Britain, proclaimed that any song is at least 50% imagination; that is, at least half of one's experience while listening to a song is one's own personal interpretation of what it means and what it is.
The Smiths would go on to make a few videos, though no "glossy promotional" ones, and after Morrissey embarked on his solo career, he continued to use the medium of film for artistic expression. But, he never strayed very far from his convictions: with few exceptions, any Morrissey music video can be said to have little or nothing to do with the actual song itself. The vast majority of the videos stand alone as separate artistic works; the fact that a particular song is playing in the background often is inconsequential.
On October 17th, 2000, Moz released a video compilation on DVD spanning all of his solo career to date, entitled "!Oye Esteban!"--originally titled "I Could've Been Elvis" before permission was denied. While this compilation is not definitive, it is a wonderfully compiled collection of many of his most popular videos, as well as a couple that are so rare they were presumed lost.
"!Oye Esteban!" spans almost all of the artist's albums to date: "Viva Hate," "Bona Drag," "Kill Uncle," "Your Arsenal," "Vauxhall and I," "World of Morrissey," "Southpaw Grammar," and "My Early Burglary Years." The video reviews below are presented in the order the songs appear on the DVD.
"Everyday Is Like Sunday": This song is a picture of depression, explicating that "Everyday is like Sunday/ Everyday is silent and gray." It's the scattered tale of a person trapped in "the seaside town that they forgot to bomb," and the singer is backed by what sounds like an entire orchestra.
The video is a brief but rather shocking artistic promotion of animal rights. A girl is depicted walking around a seaside town and an abandoned carnival, seeing evidence of cruelty everywhere: a butcher shop, old women in fur coats, etc. Sporting a shirt with the George Bernard Shaw quote, "I don't eat my friends," the girl scrawls on postcards "MEAT IS MURDER" (the tittle of both a Smiths' album and one of Morrissey's own songs with The Smiths) and "CRUELTY WITHOUT BEAUTY," which she gives to the fur wearers. All in all, it's a wonderful plug for vegetarianism and animal rights. About the only connection with the song, though, is the location of the action: a dreary, depressing "seaside town that they forgot to close down."
"Suedehead": The title actually is the name of a clan of skinheads in Europe; however, this has nothing to do with the song. The song itself is a brief but haunting message to an anonymous friend who relentlessly pursues the singer, sneaking into his room to read his diary but only finding on the pages "so many illustrations." This was one of Morrissey's greatest commercial successes.
The video is a tribute to one of Moz's idol's, James Dean. It opens with the singer in a bubble bath, surrounded by James Dean photographs, Smiths memorabilia, a typewriter, and a book a verse by Byron. The video follows the singer as he, cloaked in black, visits Fairmount, Indiana, James Dean's home town. He's shown going to the theater of Dean's old school (where Morrissey scrawls his name on a wall), and eventually out to the farm where Dean grew up, where Morrissey plays a tonga drum for the cows and eventually finds himself at Dean's grave. The closing shot is of the mourning Morrissey sitting beside Dean's tombstone, surrounded by flowers.
"Will Never Mary": This song is a very brief, yet indescribably emotional message Moz sends out to the adoring cult of fans who send him love letters daily. He explains simply that he dearly appreciates the sentiment, "I'm writing this to say in a gentle way/ Thank you, but no," but, finding himself a celibate, incurably lonely character, he can never reciprocate: "I will live my life as I will undoubtedly die alone."
The video is an unbelievably heartfelt tribute to his fans. It is comprised almost solely of clips from his live concerts. Specifically, the video is simply scenes of his fans--men, women, skinheads and Moz look-alikes--hugging and kissing him, and throwing him to the ground to embrace him, all the while the singer has expressions of gratitude and longing on his face. Coupled with the background song, it's a real tear-jerker. This is quite possibly the greatest and most moving video made. It ends with a fan on stage shaking the singer's hand and bowing in front of his feet. Moz reciprocates the gesture.
"November Spawned a Monster": This song was actually inspired by "Frankenstein" by the New York Dolls, a 70s glam-punk band that Morrissey followed relentlessly. Morrissey's song is the chronicling of the misery and isolation of a poor crippled girl who cries "But Jesus made me so Jesus save me/ From pity, sympathy, and people discussing me." This is another of the singer's greatest commercial successes.
The video is shot in Death Valley, and opens with a shot of Moz sporting a straw hat with "VILE" written on the brim. He is clothed in all black and wearing a large hearing aid (a prop he had worn previously as a Smith, championing the rights of the disabled); and for the entire length of the video he flails and gesticulates in pain and frustration as he croons out the song lyrics and throws dirt at the camera.
"Interesting Drug": The song tells of the squalor and depression of life in the working-class slums (a place where Moz grew up and attended the school of hard knocks). The song has an interesting twist, as the singer turns the aspects of drug use around and says of the interesting drug, "tell the truth, it really helped you." In answer to his critics who would complain that saying such a thing is irresponsible, Moz replies "Look around/ Can you blame us?"
The video is another of his animal rights series, but mixed with aspects of unemployment and adolescence. It opens with school boys graffiting a bathroom by writing on a wall that there are "SOME BAD PEOPLE ON THE RIGHT." The film progresses to Morrissey handing out animal rights pamphlets to these kids after school, which prompts them to break into a research laboratory and free all the test animals.
"The Last Of The Famous International Playboys": This song is a tribute to the English Mafia hit-men, the Kray twins. In the song Moz writes to these two while in prison, asking "do you know my name?" and saying "I am the last of the famous international playboys." This is, of course, flippancy, as Moz is more a retiring shut-in than a playboy. But, the song makes a bold statement on the news media and fame: "In our lifetimes those who kill/ the news world hands them stardom." It is here that Moz, always desperate for fame, admits "I never wanted to kill/ I am not naturally evil."
The video consists of shots of Morrissey singing with his band mixed in with scenes of a young hoodlum as he shadow boxes in his room and roams the streets at night. The implication in this film is that the kid, who is depicted as an angry loner, is the future "international playboy," as he idolizes the criminals made famous by the media and looks longingly at a life of street crime.
"My Love Life": This simple, moving song asks "I know you love one person/ so why don't you love two?" The singer pleads with the listener to "give a little something to my love life." The song ends with "I know you, Love" repeated over and over, with the reverberating "oh, give up," which makes the listener wonder whether this plea is directed at the singer's love interest or back at himself.
The video is in black and white and follows the entire band as Morrissey drives them around Los Angeles in a Roles Royce convertible. All are in fifties attire, with slicked hair and somber expressions. Aesthetically and artistically, this might well be the best video of them all.
"Sing Your Life": The song is directed at the listener as the singer tells of the value of writing and singing honestly and openly, as "any fool can think up words that rhyme." The entire song is comprised of the singer urging "sing your life," as we should enjoy our talent now while we can: "Make no mistake, my fiend/ your pointless life will end."
The video is shot in a fifties dance club. Morrissey and the band are all in period clothing (the singer in a powde