Tag Archive: homoeroticism

LIST OF THE LOST by Morrissey (Penguin Books, 2015)

“If you must write prose and poems, the words you use must be your own. Don’t plagiarise or take on loan” – lyrics from Cemetry Gates by The Smiths.

The kindest thing you can say about Stephen Patrick Morrissey’s first, and surely last, published work of fiction is that he follows his own advice and writes in his own words.

Some lines would even make admirable song lyrics :
“Accept the enslavement of my undying love,
Or bear my unpleasant cruelty,
For dearly I love you,
More than any other could”

Unfortunately, this is not a record but a novella and the results are positively dire. Continue reading


Part of an irregular series of bite-sized posts about 7″ singles I own – shameless nostalgia from the days of vinyl. (Search ‘Backtracking’ to collect the set!)

THE SMITHS – Hand In Glove b/w Handsome Devil (Live)  (Rough Trade, 1985)

Hand in Glove

"The sun shines out of our behinds"

“There’s more the life than books, you know, but not much more”. As soon as I heard Morrissey sing this line from Handsome Devil, I knew that The Smiths were the band for me.

When you start describing the words to the band’s songs you quickly run out of superlatives. Most have at least half a dozen quotable lines and delivered in droll Mancunian tones with Johnny Marr’s inspired guitar backing there was no-one to touch them.  Imitators have come and gone since but nothing can compare to the original template.

Hand In Glove was their first single and I bought it a few days after buying This Charming Man. Every other single of their I got on 12″ on the week of release.

The cover shot and some lyrics (especially to Handsome Devil) have a fairly obvious homoerotic slant (“A boy in the bush is worth two in the hand”) but there is deliberate ambiguity too – “Let me get my hands on your mammary glands”.

No one was writing songs like this with the combination of foppish poetry and Northern plain talking. With Hand In Glove, The Smith arrived fully formed and pop music never sounded so vital.



Anne Briggs

When Francis James Child was collecting his 305 ballads in the 19th Century maybe he realized he was on to a winner with number 100. This is a traditional Scottish ballad dating from 1775 sometimes called Lord Thomas of Winesberry but more commonly recorded a Willie o’ Winsbury.

Without intending to I have built up my own modest collection of this song with the following versions :

Anne Briggs – on the Topic Records collection – the first version I heard and still the best in my book. With just a mandolin accompaniment her perfect English diction may not please the Scottish folk fanbase but her rendition gives a clarity and soul to the song.

Charlotte Grieg on Bloodshot Records compilation The Executioner’s Last Songs Vol.2

Dick Gaughan from the 1972 album Gaughan (sung in broad Scots )

Meg Baird does a nicely arranged version on her new labum Lost Companion; she also covered this along with Helena Espvall & Sharron Kraus on the 2006 album Leaves From A Tree.

Fairport Convention – Farewell Farewell by Richard Thompsom from Liege and Lief uses the tune with new lyrics. On The Wicker Man soundtarck the melody is used in the song Summer Is Icumen In. (I know that Pentangle also covered the song but i haven’t got this yet).

The story of the song is that the King has been away (in Spain) and comes back to find his daughter Janet (or Jane) looking “pale and wan”. He fears that she has been inpregnated while he’s been away, she denies this but he gets her to strip naked and the truth that she is with child is plain to see. The cad turns out to be Willie and for this deed the king vows that he should hang. This is quite a predictable outcome but then the story gets interesting. When the king sets eyes on Willie he is besotted with this young man who is dressed in silk, has cheeks like red berries and milk white skin. He declares: “Had I been a woman as I am a man, my bedfellow you would have been” . Instead of hanging him he asks if he’ll make an honest woman of his daughter and offers to make him lord of his land. Willie is his own man, however, and while he consents to marry Janet he refuses to become a Lord. The couple ride off and presumably live happily ever after.

It is in these final details which hint at the King’s homoerotic fantasies for this young Willie (pun intended) that for me explains why it continues to fascinate today’s folky laddies and lasses.

You can download Anne Brigg’s marvelous collection which includes this song from e-music.

Edit (29th December 2008): Yet another version of the song found on the album The High High Nest by Stephanie Hladowski (Singing Knives records)

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