26/06/2010

Everyday Is Like Sunday



Sometimes a song can be written with a place in mind but captures a feeling or image that can be transferred by the listener to an experience or setting of their own. One such song is Everyday Is Like Sunday, Morrissey’s 1988 hit and his second single post-Smiths. It saw a number of later cover versions, most notably by Chrissie Hynde and 10,000 Maniacs, but the song really needs Morrissey’ s sense of a particularly English glumness to do it full justice.

Like many of his songs, the lyrics are open to interpretation. You can read them as an expression of the ennui and depression that can come from an out-of-season seaside town-‘how I dearly wish I was not here’. You might also see it as about the crushing boredom and loneliness of teenage years, a statement on Thatcher’s Britain of the late 1980’s or a nod to the burden of the past on the present.

The place itself is not identified. The video made to accompany the song when first released, with Billie Whitelaw making an appearance, was shot in Southend. However, given Morrissey’s Lancashire upbringing he may well have had in mind somewhere like Southport or Morecambe. In a sense the exact place doesn’t really matter. The role of the seaside resort as a symbol of boredom or decay and decline, mixed up with nostalgia , has been explored before: John Osborne’s play The Entertainer (the film of the play was shot in Morecambe), or by Bruce Springsteen and his songs about Asbury Park, New Jersey. However, to anyone who grew up in an English seaside town, Morrissey’s lyrics of the ‘coastal town that they forgot to close down’ will strike a chord. The references are, like the resorts themselves, looking to the past . The ‘win a tray’ and the ‘greased tea’, the postcard on the promenade, the conscious echo of John Betjeman’s 1937 poem on Slough,( Morrisey has said that Betjeman is his cultural icon). ‘Come friendly bombs and fall on Slough’ becomes ’In the seaside town they forgot to bomb- come, come, come, nuclear bomb’. This was, after all, still the decade of Reagan and Mutually Assured Destruction.

Seaside resorts play an important but ambiguous part in the country’s cultural, history. The past is inescapable, whether in the piers, hotels and cafes that have seen better days or the conscious quest for nostalgia for long-gone holidays of deckchairs, Punch and Judy, donkey rides on the sand and Donald McGill postcards. If you grew up in such a place, childhood is fine. It is only when you get into your teenage years that ‘everyday is silent and grey’. Everyone seems old, the sea seems a barrier, the funfair seems tatty, sitting huddled and cocooned in a towel like a hibernating tortoise behind a windbreak whilst sand blows into your hardboiled egg and mug of tea loses its charm. You notice the sign in the cafe window ’No gypsies, beatniks or hippies’.

Later in life I did spend some time in a bedsit in Morecambe. I had heard the expression, ‘It’s about as much fun as a wet weekend in Morecambe’, now I could live the dream and experience quite a few such weekends. Morrissey’s song had yet to be written but I would have smiled if I had heard it then, especially with Heysham nuclear power station just down the road. The place did have its compensations, however. Taking a driving test in Morecambe on Wednesday half-day closing proved rather easy and one surreal afternoon, whilst sitting on the promenade, I was engaged in conversation by the mum of Rodney Bewes (of The Likely Lads fame).

Like Ray Davies, ‘Englishness’ is an integral part of Morrissey’s song writing, -though the reference points are more likely to be Alan Bennett and Oscar Wilde than George Orwell – and this song has a specific cultural framework. However, oddly perhaps, it has also become time-referenced. The phrase, ‘everyday is like Sunday’, makes little sense today when shops are open as usual, you can go the pub any time, television channels are no different from any other day and cars are not such a novelty that families go for Sunday drives. Sunday, in fact, is like every day. Nostalgia is a funny thing-people get nostalgic for times before they were born or for times that never actually existed. It may be  that there will yet be nostalgia for a time when Sunday was different enough to be a reference point, even when grey and endless.

Link to song

13 comments:

  1. If only the Mods and Rockers would show up again..... striking horror into the hearts of the local people: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s4Lw86RK8-c !

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  2. Geoff, I absolutely think it was a comment on Thatcher's Britain. Wasn't it on the same album as "Margaret on a Guillotine"?

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  3. I think it would be interesting to compare the song to Springsteen's "Long Walk Home" - which is ironically nostalgic for old values, innocence, an old ideology (ironic because it's from the perspective of a disillusioned veteran).

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  4. Karen (Sweden)27 June 2010 at 07:34

    Thanks for mentioning John Betjeman! At one Morrissey concert I was at, he broadcast recordings of "A Child Ill" before it began, so I definitely think there are links between his lyrics and Betjeman's poetry.

    Great column Geoff - I just found it and read all the archive so far!

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  5. Thank you for writing about this Geoff. I grew up in Bournemouth. Oh, the claustrophobic old-fashioned hotels, the way that everything smelt of fish and chips, your column (and the song) captures it all so perfectly.

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  6. The column reminded me of the Delays' debut album title, Faded Seaside Glamour!

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  7. I loved this interpretation of the song. I always despised it because I thought it was a call for faith - against nihilism or even secularism (you know, the usual rant against modern dissatisfied life - the "strange dust" as he puts it of an unblessed grave). And this level of preachiness seemed irritating. I suppose I thought it was cry against Sunday no longer being the Lord's day, a day for communal congregation and mass, etc. This kind of wistfulness would be different to the one you're talking about. So I like your interpretation better, about beckoning Armageddon as a social rather than a spiritual critique.

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  8. Thanks for the Pathe News clip, JJ-it brings it all to life-mods and rockers, punch and judy and the British bobby! That time was later captured in Quadrophenia

    Yes, you are right Mick-both tracks came off his first solo album, Viva Hate

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  9. Hey Alan, I spent some years in Bournemouth too.More pretentious than Weymouth, with the old-fashioned hotels serving afternoon high tea and resident guests brought their lapdogs down-whilst outside the seafront stalls sold fish and chips

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  10. Ah yes, afternoon high tea and the lapdogs, and so much fish-and-chips. And grey seas; bacon sandwiches; B&Bs; stony beaches. Ice cream parlours, donkey rides, buckets and spades and sandcastles, saucy postcards and end of pier shows. Thank you again for writing about all this, Geoff.

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  11. It is really a nice post. I am impressed with the blog. Thanks for such wonderful blog.

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  12. Oscar Wilde = Irish

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