Morrissey A-Z: "Billy Budd"

GirlAfraidWillNeverLearn

The Courage to Get on People's Tits
Ok. But what is Morrissey freeing Marr from? And what could Morrissey possibly do to free Marr from ‘it’?
He can't do anything. That's kind of the point of what he's saying. He'd happily sacrifice something very important but it wouldn't change anything.

The 'it' is whatever's confining him. Holding his creative spirit back. The music industry, contractual obligations, personal restraints, pick one. It doesn't matter what exactly 'it' is.
It's about being free and able to create great art again.
 

Nerak

Reverse Ferret
Ok. But what is Morrissey wanting to free Marr from? And what could Morrissey possibly do to free Marr from ‘it’?

Maybe he'd free Marr from Morrissey?

It's weird being together in the public imagination when you're no longer together.

I don't know though!
 

GirlAfraidWillNeverLearn

The Courage to Get on People's Tits
Maybe he'd free Marr from Morrissey?

It's weird being together in the public imagination when you're no longer together.

I don't know though!
Obviously, none of us knows. It's just my interpretation. (And I haven't heard an interesting alternative yet.)

And I'm certainly not trying to convince anyone, least of all Ket. It's much more interesting when she disagrees.
I'm just making sure that I get my point across.
 
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Famous when dead

Vulgarian
Moderator
The poem is actually worth a read.
Full of imagery that has a resonance with his own writing.
I think the 'cryptic' nature of a lot of this type of lyrical examination can be explained away if we assume he does actually keep books full of things written down that he's heard or seen that made an impact (eg the wealth of 'borrowed' lines).
Throw in some emotional upset and an intense period of songwriting alongside said books and it's no surprise there's 'hints' and a host of possible historical links to explain his words - that's all part of the mystique isn't it!? :)
Regards,
FWD.
 

Ketamine Sun

<><><><><><><><><><>
He can't do anything. That's kind of the point of what he's saying. He'd happily sacrifice something very important but it wouldn't change anything.

The 'it' is whatever's confining him. Holding his creative spirit back. The music industry, contractual obligations, personal restraints, pick one. It doesn't matter what exactly 'it' is.
It's about being free and able to create great art again.

First I should state I don’t mind if the song is about Marr (it seems to be so). And I don’t
disagree with your interpretation of any song. As much as anyone interprets a Morrissey song it’s still always going to be open to more interpretation. And I believe Morrissey would prefer it that way.


Yes I understand that the main character in the song (Morrissey?)
would sacrifice anything if it was able to make Billy (Marr?) the boy happy and free.

If it is about a friendship between Morrissey and Marr, wouldn’t Marr only be able to be free and flourish again artistically if he was to work again with Morrissey? I mean wouldn’t that/shouldn’t that be Morrissey’s point of view? I mean if Morrissey had the power to choose someone beside himself for Marr to work with that would enable Marr to experience this freedom again then who would it be?

I know that they’re both trapped by the history of having been in The Smiths, so I guess for both there is a desire to be free of that so they can move on. So there’s that.


‘Say, Billy Budd
So you think you should?
Oh, everyone's laughing’

What is he questioning Marr in what he should do? Work with him again?
What are people laughing at?

If the song is about a relationship (sexual) between two men then I can see how there could be trouble in town with getting a job/being accepted by society. Does Billy Budd dare to have a a relationship with another man? Everyone will laugh (or be hateful) at the folly of that decision. Maybe it’s best to keep the public in the dark of the true nature of their relationship?

Or none of this/all of this. :lbf:
 

GirlAfraidWillNeverLearn

The Courage to Get on People's Tits
First I should state I don’t mind if the song is about Marr (it seems to be so). And I don’t
disagree with your interpretation of any song. As much as anyone interprets a Morrissey song it’s still always going to be open to more interpretation. And I believe Morrissey would prefer it that way.
I agree

If it is about a friendship between Morrissey and Marr, wouldn’t Marr only be able to be free and flourish again artistically if he was to work again with Morrissey? I mean wouldn’t that/shouldn’t that be Morrissey’s point of view? I mean if Morrissey had the power to choose someone beside himself for Marr to work with that would enable Marr to experience this freedom again then who would it be?
No, I don't think that was his point of view anymore by the time he wrote that song. That's why I said I see it as him bringing down the curtains on the chapter of his life that was The Smiths. Compare his answer from Select, 1991.

What was the secret?
"It was a special musical relationship. And those are few and far between. For Johnny (Marr) and I, it won't come again. I think he knows that and I know it. The Smiths had the best of Johnny and me. Those were definitely the days. Luckily, there's still more on his part and more on my part to contribute.
It was sad when The Smiths ended, but I don't think there's much that...
(he laughs) I'm babbling, aren't I? I'm swallowing my own teeth. It's interesting to choke on your own words. It must be very gratifying for a journalist to see somebody choke on his own words."

Try again.
"I guess, I feel a complete sense of hopelessness about the demise of The Smiths. I think Johnny was very unhappy that he didn't get an overwhelming degree of attention in the general assessment of The Smiths during their existence. There would be many, many album reviews which scarcely mentioned his name. And I feel that he wanted - that he needed - a stronger platform. He needed to be seen, and that's been his aim since the demise of The Smiths."
If the song is about a relationship (sexual) between two men then I can see how there could be trouble in town with getting a job/being accepted by society. Does Billy Budd dare to have a a relationship with another man? Everyone will laugh (or be hateful) at the folly of that decision. Maybe it’s best to keep the public in the dark of the true nature of their relationship?

Or none of this/all of this. :lbf:
Well, it could be that as well, of course. Would you say it mirrors Hand In Glove at all? In sentiment, I mean. Regardless of the subject of the songs.
 

GirlAfraidWillNeverLearn

The Courage to Get on People's Tits
The poem is actually worth a read.
Full of imagery that has a resonance with his own writing.
I think the 'cryptic' nature of a lot of this type of lyrical examination can be explained away if we assume he does actually keep books full of things written down that he's heard or seen that made an impact (eg the wealth of 'borrowed' lines).
Throw in some emotional upset and an intense period of songwriting alongside said books and it's no surprise there's 'hints' and a host of possible historical links to explain his words - that's all part of the mystique isn't it!? :)
Regards,
FWD.
Yes, very nice indeed.

I particularly like this part:

Twined we were, entwined, then riven,
Ever to new embracements driven,
Shifting gulf-weed of the main!


Whenever the discussion comes to the point of his writing process I have think of this picture from ~1985/86, with the line used years later in Now My Heart Is Full, scribbled on a torn out page with Wilde's Requiescat, and I have no doubt that the boxes of pieces of papers and books full of notes are quite real. It would explain the feel of associative writing much of his work exudes.
He once said he's like a "net trawling in the sea", always on the lookout for something interesting.


MorrisseyRequiescatRushToDanger.jpeg
 
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Gregor Samsa

I straighten up, and my position is one of hope.
The fact that the song was written and recorded in 1993 (ELEVEN years after the formation of the Smiths) does put an end to the Marr theories, right?
It's a good song, but definitely one of the "weaker" ones off of V&I (if you could call any track on such a formidable masterpiece "weak"). It's dwarfed by the incredible stuff surrounding it.
 

Nerak

Reverse Ferret
Obviously, none of us knows. It's just my interpretation. (And I haven't heard an interesting alternative yet.)

And I'm certainly not trying to convince anyone, least of all Ket. It's much more interesting when she disagrees.
I'm just making sure that I get my point across.

I just meant mine was a passing thought. 🙂
 

GirlAfraidWillNeverLearn

The Courage to Get on People's Tits
The fact that the song was written and recorded in 1993 (ELEVEN years after the formation of the Smiths) does put an end to the Marr theories, right?
It's a good song, but definitely one of the "weaker" ones off of V&I (if you could call any track on such a formidable masterpiece "weak"). It's dwarfed by the incredible stuff surrounding it.
No, not really. Not for me anyway.
It was released in 1994 (though originally scheduled for a late 1993 release), something Morrissey may have been aware of when he recorded the vocal (or not).
It doesn't change the fact that he later sometimes adjusted the year to fit with 1982 (13 in 1995 and 15 in 1997) while at other times he'd just use other numbers (18 in 1999 was a close one, later he'd use 30, 50, 100, 500, 1000 etc. He's not good with numbers, as we know. Especially years 😉).

It also doesn't erase any of the other points.

Also, try singing the line with "eleven". It flows terribly.
 

Mayfly

Well-Known Member
The fact that the song was written and recorded in 1993 (ELEVEN years after the formation of the Smiths) does put an end to the Marr theories, right?
It's a good song, but definitely one of the "weaker" ones off of V&I (if you could call any track on such a formidable masterpiece "weak"). It's dwarfed by the incredible stuff surrounding it.

But don't you think Morrissey was aware that the song would be released in 1994 ? And then there are some lyrical resemblances with Hand In Glove, as GirlAfraidWillNeverLearn pointed out, hardly a coincidence imo.
 

Gregor Samsa

I straighten up, and my position is one of hope.
No, not really. Not for me anyway.
It was released in 1994 (though originally scheduled for a late 1993 release), something Morrissey may have been aware of when he recorded the vocal (or not).
It doesn't change the fact that he later sometimes adjusted the year to fit with 1982 (13 in 1995 and 15 in 1997) while at other times he'd just use other numbers (18 in 1999 was a close one, later he'd use 30, 50, 100, 500, 1000 etc. He's not good with numbers, as we know. Especially years 😉).

It also doesn't erase any of the other points.

Also, try singing the line with "eleven". It flows terribly.
The changes made in 1995 and ‘97 are definitely interesting. I won’t argue with that. Your other theories are just that - theories. Not saying they don’t hold up or that they’re not intriguing, but one shouldn’t forget that they’re just theories. Who knows what Moz thinks about it all. Would love if the song was about him and Marr, though. Reading that excerpt from that 1993 interview was heartwarming to say the least. Hadn’t read that in a long time.
 

GirlAfraidWillNeverLearn

The Courage to Get on People's Tits
The changes made in 1995 and ‘97 are definitely interesting. I won’t argue with that. Your other theories are just that - theories. Not saying they don’t hold up or that they’re not intriguing, but one shouldn’t forget that they’re just theories. Who knows what Moz thinks about it all. Would love if the song was about him and Marr, though. Reading that excerpt from that 1993 interview was heartwarming to say the least. Hadn’t read that in a long time.
Of course they're just theories. I'd never claim them to be anything else.

Morrissey would probably scratch his head :lbf:
I wouldn't be surprised if much of this stuff was unintentional and the product of his subconscious.

One more thing regarding the year - the originally scheduled release date was supposed to be autumn 1993, but it got delayed and they were still recording in August, so it's quite likely that he knew it would be released in 1994.
 

Mayfly

Well-Known Member
Seeing the competing interpretations of the lyrics makes me feel that this is a great lyric. I like it when it is multi-layered, when it can mean different things to different people. And it comes with references to other people's work. The energetic and upbeat tune makes me think that it is a happy song, so I am more inclined to link it to Jake than to Johnny.

It is not the best song on V&I but that's only because the bar was very high on that one.
 

Mike Rourke

Active Member
Billy Budd is pretty good but not that good, like 3 or 4 songs off V&I (e.g. Spring Heeled Jim and The Lazy Sunbathers) which is why although I like the album, it's never been my favourite. Too much filler.
Haven't read all the comments but the idea that it's about Marr is surely due to the timing - 12 years on which would take you back to 1982 (or 81 if it was written in 93).
Edit - just listened to this for the first time in yonks. It's better than I remembered. Good energy and nice guitar work!
 
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Verso

Well-Known Member
One of the weaker songs on Vauxhall, but the bar is set so high that this qualification is essentially meaningless. One of the few from this album that's better live, in my opinion. I'm a a devout believer of this song being about Johnny Marr, but to answer @Ketamine Sun's question: I always felt that the last line was just one of Morrissey's idiosyncratic expressions of quiet loyalty coming from the same place as the last line in "Angel Angel Down We Go Together."
 

gordyboy9

its not me its you.
the next line after 12 years is Since I Took Up With You,think this tells us that this is definitely a nod to marr.at just over 2 minutes its over before it even began.
 

Surface

Vegan Cro’s parents regret the condom splitting
One of the weaker songs on Vauxhall, but the bar is set so high that this qualification is essentially meaningless. One of the few from this album that's better live, in my opinion. I'm a a devout believer of this song being about Johnny Marr, but to answer @Ketamine Sun's question: I always felt that the last line was just one of Morrissey's idiosyncratic expressions of quiet loyalty coming from the same place as the last line in "Angel Angel Down We Go Together."

It was one of my favourites back then, he opened with it at Sheffield City Hall in 95. I had been on an all day session prior to the gig and ended up on the stage at one point, little did I know that I would end up on the Introducing Morrissey video! I think Benny The British Butcher was at the Blackpool gig the night after.
 

Verso

Well-Known Member
It was one of my favourites back then, he opened with it at Sheffield City Hall in 95. I had been on an all day session prior to the gig and ended up on the stage at one point, little did I know that I would end up on the Introducing Morrissey video! I think Benny The British Butcher was at the Blackpool gig the night after.
Lucky you. Those shows are legendary.
 
J

Janice

Guest
It was one of my favourites back then, he opened with it at Sheffield City Hall in 95. I had been on an all day session prior to the gig and ended up on the stage at one point, little did I know that I would end up on the Introducing Morrissey video! I think Benny The British Butcher was at the Blackpool gig the night after.
Do you even know BTBB?

I did a number of those Boxer shows. As much as I tell myself they were brilliant, I don’t think they actually were.
 
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