Morrissey Shares Three New, Lost Demos
These are strange and uncertain times for Morrissey fans. Nine months after he released his thirteenth studio album in March 2020, Morrissey was unceremoniously released by BMG Records. The news barely made the trades, and the only way most fans found out their hero was without a home was when details of the split were posted on his website.
He referred to being let go after his third LP for BMG as being “dumped.” His three LPs for them weren’t his strongest works (although Moz called them “the best of me”), but they certainly weren’t his worst. And it must be stressed that the old man’s voice sounded great on all three of ‘em -- strong and assured without showing any signs of road wear.
In an official statement about the split, Morrissey cited that BMG had “new plans for diversity” in regards to their roster of artists. BMG reps neither confirmed nor denied Morrissey’s accusations, but they noted that his contract was always for three LPs. This three-record contract might’ve been set in stone, but Morrissey’s controversial political views and sluggish sales didn’t encourage BMG in presenting the singer with a contract extension.
So here we are again. Morrissey has been rendered somewhat rudderless, without a record contract. He’s not taking it sitting down on a chaise lounge at the Sunset Marquis, waiting to be courted by a parade of slippery record execs with more pie-in-the-sky promises though.
Instead, he seems to have dusted off his dungarees, got his band back in the studio, and returned to the stage in the time of Covid with a triumphant five-night residency at Caesars in Vegas, and a headlining spot at Riot Fest where he also curated the festival’s opening night.
And now without warning, Morrissey released three new “lost demos” on his nephew’s YouTube account this past weekend. Details are vague. Other than their co-writers and lyrics, there are no other details about this new material.
It would be nice to know when and where these demos were recorded. It’d be nice to know if these are throwaways for b-sides, or if there’s a grander plan for them. They were uploaded with incredibly poor audio quality, but that gives them their charm. It sounds like they were recorded on a four-track TASCAM, transferred to a used cassette tape, which was then thrown in the back of Morrissey’s MINI Cooper, only to be found years later by his nephew who uploaded them with the worst compression option possible.
Yet with everything going against these dusty demos, they’re comforting. The music and the lyrics mesh almost perfectly. Here they are in their order of appearance this weekend…
If Saturday Ever Comes
A great slow churner co-written with bassist Mando Lopez with ‘50s undertones. It has a warm, comfortable Billy Fury meets Gene Pitney feel to it. It’s “Town Without Pity” about the American military system, but without Morrissey’s usually tongue in cheek. If this one ever makes it to a proper LP, hopefully it’ll stay mostly in its demo form, stripped of all modern technology.
Once Upon a Woman’s Body
Another pleasant number, this one co-written with guitarist Jesse Tobias. It’s a mid-tempo three-and-a-half minute tune that would sound right at home on the B-side of Ringleader or Years of Refusal. The maestro’s lyrics conjure up visions of The Smiths’ “Miserable Lie” – uncomfortable liaisons with a willing woman in bed. It’s also another song that benefits from the bare-bones production, but ends too soon.
You Don’t Need Their Approval
Another co-write with Tobias and probably the demo with the most layers and complexity. Morrissey’s lyrics glide over a plucky piano and percussion number about speaking up for one’s self. He might have written the song about himself, but this could easily be a missive to the listener – “You don’t need their approval, for anything you want to sing.” It could be “Sing Your Life” part deux. There might be more instruments on this one, but the quality is so murky (murkier than the other two demos).
As far as new material goes, these “leaks” sound like old Morrissey is back in old form. One can only hope an overeager producer doesn’t take these seedlings and suffocate them with over-processed studio hokum. Songs like these can stand on their own – they don’t need bells, whistles, or any other audio effects that come with Pro Tools.