In 1995, all was well in my own little world. At the end of another English summer, Morrissey released “Southpaw Grammar” (on August 28th be precise) and it stormed up the charts to a credible position of number 6 in the UK. We didn’t know it at the time, but this would be the beginning of a temporary fall from grace for our Moz. The critics hated the album and off the back of all the negative publicity, the album quickly slipped down the charts and into oblivion until 2009 when Morrissey re-issued the album with a completely new running order and extra tracks.
Personally, for me, the album only works when opened with “The Teachers Are Afraid Of The Pupils”. The day I bought the LP was the day Morrissey truly encapsulated everything my 18 year old brain has spent the past few years trying to work out. It was only some 18 months prior that “Vauxhall And I” hit the summit of the British charts but “Southpaw Grammar” was a step in an entirely new direction with a harder edge and shall, we say punchier lyrics that outsiders like myself could fully appreciate on every level.
The cover art used a vintage photo of American boxer, Kenny Lane (himself a southpaw) who hailed from Michigan. This of course was due Morrissey’s fascination with boxing after having toured earlier in the year on an 18 concert UK jaunt in the February of 1995 for the “Boxers Tour” which also promotes the then current single, “Boxers” and compilation album, “The World of Morrissey”
After the gritty opening, we move into “Reader Meet Author”. It’s possibly the catchiest track on the entire record complete with a grand string section to give the number a quintessentially British ambience. The three longest tracks on the record, “The Operation”, “Southpaw” and the previously mentioned opening track are covered in glory thanks to sublime drum solos from Spencer Cobrin who, somehow manages to take all three songs to a level I previously thought unattainable on a Morrissey album. This aside, there isn’t a bad track on the entire album. Even the playful “Boy Racer” and “Dagenham Dave”, the first single released in early August and peaking at number 26 in the UK charts are more than just the throwaway fluffy singles critics at the time made them out to be. They are strong, balanced numbers that allow the album to breath a little from the heavy firepower otherwise present throughout.
To support the album, Morrissey went on tour as the support for David Bowie but fell foul of the tour after just 9 dates. No definitive reason was ever given for the abrupt departure from the European tour though it has often been assumed that ego’s were definitely part of the problem. Bowie himself mentioned in the press conference prior to commencing the tour that he hadn’t yet met up with Morrissey to discuss the finer workings of the tour.
Sadly, “Southpaw Grammar” came, went and barely conquered like the theme of the album suggested. Morrissey would return for a brief spell in 1997 to promote his “Maladjusted” record which snuck in at number 8 on the charts. From then on, it was a tough road without a record contract until 2004 which saw the beginning of his critical resurgence via “You Are The Quarry”.
A lot of water has passed under the bridge in the twenty-three years since “Southpaw Grammar” was issued. In an age where good albums are hard to come by, perhaps it’s time for more fans and music critics of to re-asses one of the truly forgotten greats that came out in an era when bubblegum tunes and Britpop were at their collective peaks and all the rage. After all, you could do a lot worse tonight than sitting back with a glass of wine and allowing “Southpaw Grammar” to take you on a sonic adventure.