The Smiths – Hatful of Hollow

There are songs that feel specifically written for you.  The fact that we all think and emote in a unique way means we all live a separate psychological and emotional reality.  Most of us tend to live in 2 worlds.  One in which we are prisoner and slave to our relationship with our own incessant thoughts and the second world which is our relationship with everyone outside of us.  There are mediums that are able to pierce both.  “How Soon Is Now?” is that song, that medium for me.

While I didn’t have to walk 9 miles to school in the snow every morning, I certainly did not have the modern accessibility to music we now have.  As a child growing up in the 80’s, the radio was our only music ally.  Typically, a radio station would play 3-5 songs then cut to commercial break.  The DJ would usually introduce the first track and maybe the last.  You would be very lucky to get the names of the tracks in the middle.  We didn’t have the song identification technology of apps like SoundHound or the like.  If you liked a song you were unfamiliar with, you had to stay attentive and hope the DJ gave you that info.  Then proceed to a brick and mortar music shop to buy the tape or eventually the disc.  That or always have your tape recorder ready to go if at home.

With Prince, Phil Collins, Duran Duran and even Tina Turner dominating the mainstream, I’m not sure how The Smiths saw the light of day in America.  However, none of those artists were able to create the same cathartic effect on me as Johnny Marr’s tremolo effect and Morrissey’s tone and lyrics on “How Soon is Now?”  The dark, bouncing opening riff is one of the most iconic, personal sounds in all of music.  To the outside world, I was an extremely extraverted, class clownish, athletically and socially advanced child, but inside, I was a very confused and oftentimes extremely sad and lonely child.  And I really have no clue why I felt that way.  I just did.  As young as 5 or 6 years old, I would hide in this clearing covered by trees in our next door neighbors, ironically The Smiths, yard.  I knew no one could see me so I could let out whatever was inside that was troubling me.  I would just sit there and cry.  Later as I approached adolescence, the location changed.  As you may know, my childhood bed was a tall four poster bed and underneath it we usually kept a trundle that soon became just a spare mattress.  At night, I would get underneath the bed and do the very same thing.  I don’t know why and I never admitted it to anyone.  I thought it would outcast me or create a problem for my parents.  Around that time (the track was released in 1985 and again in 1992),  I first heard the song “How Soon is Now?”  It felt made for me.  It echoed my own loneliness and felt so comforting.  There were others out there who felt like me.  We are all, at our core, humans who just want to be loved.  There was nothing wrong with me.  Sadly, it took me forever to find out who sang it.  The Smiths.  My neighbors?  What kind of band name is that?  Typical Marr and Morrissey making light of this dark world we live in.  My Smiths fascination would grow into a hidden obsession and the band remains a favorite today.

The Smiths are a hard act to define.  Indie pop? Post Punk?  Proto Emo? Maybe even Goth?  There is no debate though that The Smiths are, at their core, Morrissey and Johnny Marr.  Who is more integral to the band?  That’s the eternal debate and the most likely reason the band split up.  In my opinion, Marr was the sound and Morrissey was the emotion.  However, The Smiths could never be The Smiths without each of their contributions.  Buttttt back to Hatful of Hollow.  First of all, the title.  Another opportunity at humor.  A hollow headed person is a sort of British slang for an ignorant, unintelligent being.  I feel the sound of the album falls less under the aforementioned genres.  I get more of a jangle/rockabilly/ cowpunk vibe which Morrissey croons and yodels mercurial thoughts over, his biggest strength.  The ability to take a simple occurrence and stretch it into a gut wrenching emotive personal battle.  There are 16 tracks on this compilation, and they comprise some of The Smiths finest.  Side A is  punchier with “William, It Was Really Nothing” “What Difference Does It Make” “This Charming Man” “How Soon Is Now”  (probably a better fit on Side B) “Handsome Devil” “Hand In Glove” and Andy Rourke even finds time to shine on bass on “These Things Take Time.”  Side B is much more macabre than Side A.  It begins with arguably The Smiths best song “Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now” then Rourke shows up profoundly again on “You’ve Got Everything Now.”  The album ends with Morrissey’s longing masterpiece, “Please Please Let Me Get What I Want.”  

Acceptance is a struggle.  Acceptance of self and from others.  The arts can be a beautiful bridge to that acceptance.

Favorite Tracks: “William” “Charming Man” “How Soon is Now?” “Hand In Glove” “Heaven Knows” “Accept Yourself” “Please Please Please”

Pressing: Rough Trade. ROUGH-76. UK Original. 1984