Stay open


In terms of emotional resonance, not many things come close to the music that touches and shapes each of us in our teenage years. That’s why, for me, The Smiths will always be the greatest band that ever lived. I’ve written a lot on here about the life-changing power of creativity; the combination of Morrissey’s words with Johnny Marr’s guitar are a wonderful example of this. Individually outstanding but utterly magical together, their music has always moved me in ways I find extremely difficult to put into words. The adjectives I reach for always seem corny, trite, inadequate. Suffice to say, these songs give my life more layers of meaning.

I Won’t Share You (above), has always been my favourite song from my favourite Smiths album, Strangeways, Here We Come. Most Smiths fans look at me as though I’ve just told them that I’m a Creationist or, more bonkers still, that I think the Daily Mail is a quality newspaper when I tell them this. But one man does agree with me – in his brilliant Autobiography, Morrissey calls Strangeways The Smiths’ masterpiece.

The sublime beauty of I Won’t Share You is in its simplicity, it’s subtlety. The words are somehow both direct and oblique at the same time. Is it about an unrequited lover? Is it about Johnny Marr? Or both? Or neither. As ever with Morrissey’s lyrics, it’s impossible to say. And the stringed accompaniment is disconcertingly lovely. Johnny Marr had been wanting to move away from his ‘jingle-jangle’ guitar sound and had been listening to The Beatles’ White Album a lot. In Autobiography, Morrissey tells a wonderful story about how Marr came up with the riff:

“A window ledge in a forgotten corner of Wool Hall Studios showcases a peculiar stringed instrument from 1777, which Johnny instantly grabs – ‘Oh, let’s see how this sounds’ – and, by second run-through, he can play the oddly stringed lyre that has no sound hole. The strings are possibly horsehair, and there is a barely usable tuning bar, but the sound Johnny finds is mesmerizing, and the song I Won’t Share You is alive. It is a fascinating moment when Johnny’s inner ear leads the way to somewhere unknown – somewhere mistrusted by all until the final depth of thought strikes.”

This is, for me, a textbook case of creativity in full flow. The idea of being on a roll, alive to possibilities, unafraid to fail, creating almost instinctively. It’s a beautifully inspiring reminder about the power of spontaneity. And the idea that great creative opportunities are always out there, waiting for us, whispering to us. We just need to stay open to them.


About antmelder
Executive Creative Director at Host/Havas Sydney; passionate vegetarian; lover of books, boxing and Bruce Springsteen.

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