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May 8, 2018 Jukebox Happy Hour

The Queen is Dead

Rosemary Harp

The Queen is Dead photo

The Smiths
Album: The Queen is Dead
Released: June 23, 1986 (U.S.)
Label: Sire Records
36:48

I spent much of the summer of 1986 lying on a pink towel in my suburban Detroit backyard listening to The Queen is Dead on a portable cassette player, also pink. I was fourteen. I listened to the cassette so obsessively, the strain of play-rewind-play-rewind snapped the tape. I walked the five blocks to the record store, bought another copy with my babysitting money, and got back to The Smiths. “There is a Light That Never Goes Out” is the acknowledged classic on The Queen is Dead but I also loved the wit and silly energy of “Cemetery Gates.” I contend that a better pop song about literary plagiarism has never been recorded.

The album’s gay innuendos sailed right over my head. When a neighbor about ten years older than me heard what I was listening to, he said, “Great album. Too bad they’re fags.” I knew that was an unkind word but not why, exactly, or how to respond. Confused, I couldn’t meet his eye.

Two years later, I fell in love with a boy whose devotion to The Smiths matched my own. We spent hours on the phone parsing the lyrics' lacerating irony. I ignored Call Waiting and twisted the phone cord around my wrist as we talked. This boy also enjoyed campy soap operas and hosting elaborate theme parties. I didn’t even see what was coming. “If a ten-ton truck killed the both of us, to die by your side, well, the pleasure, the privilege is mine,” sang Morrissey. On one hand, I knew that line was meant to be a little tongue in cheek, comically overwrought. On the other, that was how I felt about him.

Drink: Obviously Boddington’s Pub Ale, brewed in Manchester, UK.

 

image: Mary Ardery


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