#36, "What Difference Does It Make?," The Smiths (1984)

So, yes, I took a few days off. I think my last Favorite Song post was on Thursday. I’ve been feeling like I’m doing a ton of stuff lately, none of it well. So I took this weekend to relax a tiny bit and hammer out some progress of major projects, which I did and I'm very glad for it. I’m so terrified of having not used my Pandemic Time wisely, I’m making myself a little nuts. I used Labor Day weekend to kind of stand back a little. 


So that partly explains my absence and that’s mostly the reason, but I’ve also felt demotivated to work on this since starting the process the night before the projected post-date, as I do. I began the work on it, reading up on the song and artist to refresh my memory, find inspiration, and learn new stuff, as I do. One of the first things I read was that “What Difference Does It Make” is well-known to be Morrissey’s least-favorite Smiths song, because OF COURSE IT IS. I was lowkey not looking forward to having to write about this creep anyway and reading this kind of put me over the edge. 


There are two camps: people who hate Morrissey and everything he ever did, and people who hate him but love everything he ever did. I fall into a non-fanatical subcategory of the latter, which I think is rare. I think the Smiths have many really incredible songs, but they aren’t my favorite band. I wouldn’t even listen to them every day even though, again, I cannot deny their greatness. The Smiths are a definite Mood that I’m often-but-not-always feeling. It’s not even your stereotypical Post-Punk Sad Bastard mood, either. I’m not frequently subject to that one. I don’t know what it is. 


Though the Smiths were always sort of around, I didn’t go on a semi-permanent Kick until 2013 or so when they became a staple. This was influenced by if not directly caused by becoming close friends with those who fall into the fanatical category of those who hate Morrissey and love everything he ever did. Though not technically one of them, as a recovering Screeching Weasel fan, I understand this. For years I was able to look past Ben Weasel’s atrocities because his music meant so much. Then, after a point, his music no longer meant very much because his atrocities just kept getting worse and worse. For some reason, Morrissey’s fans generally seem to have not yet hit this point, despite Morrissey’s atrocities being equal to if not worse than Ben’s to date. I don’t judge the Morrissey fanatics for this, really. I think the cult is just that intense. Respect. 


Another unexplainable issue with the Smiths and Morrissey is how popular they are (though perhaps waning) among the Mexican and Mexican-American communities, particularly in Los Angeles. When I first heard about it, I thought the person relaying the Fact of Mexicans and Morrissey was making it up. But in fact, this is a well-enough documented pop cultural quirk that it trickled down to an episode of Orange is the New Black when a Mexican-American inmate described love as “getting into a bath but the water is like, warm chocolate pudding. And the Smiths are playing ‘There’s a Light That Never Goes Out.’” That was my favorite moment of the show. The popularity among such an unlikely population is such an intense, interesting, weird quirk of pop culture, learning it directly caused a friend of mine to leave the sociology grad program we attended together because he felt as if he wasn’t going to be able to ask the important questions in that context. He eventually became a lawyer. 


Concerning the other camp, people who hate Morrissey and everything he ever did, this existed even before his aggressively careless rhetoric crossed over from annoying but ultimately harmless to white-nationalist and actually harmful. I think this might be at least in part due to his being an animal-rights vegan before veganism at all was super mainstream. The mere act of another self-identifying vegan or even vegetarian used to be a trigger for some people, but I think we’re fairly well past that, since the internet arguments got so tedious and repetitive nobody wanted to have that discussion again. But the hatred remains, I think. 


One more fun aside: many, MANY years ago, the Philadelphia Eagles played the San Francisco 49ers and as we’ve done, my friend Adam Brodsky and I placed a wager on the game. If San Francisco won, Adam would have to produce a video of himself playing “William It Was Really Nothing” on acoustic guitar shirtless for me to share on social media. I don’t remember what my end of the bet was because it didn’t matter, the 49ers won soundly. He didn’t make good on this wager until literally years later, but when he did, it was so exhilarating, I didn’t care that it was delayed for years. He even sang it into a raw chicken leg, punctuating the performance by giving the raw chicken a kiss. I invite him to share the video in the comments, if he so pleases.


Speaking of Adam, he’s been known to say “chicks love the minor key.” I agree and think that’s part of why I love “What Difference” so much. I’m not a musician, but know enough to identify it here. I’ll take it a step further and say that the key sets the perfect tone for the rambling and self-effacing lyrics, spout by Morrissey in the perfect careless rant about a broken friendship or affair (I can’t actually tell). Towards the end he stands quite firm: “no more apologies, oh I’m too tired, I’m so sick and tired and I’m feeling really sick and ill today.” He has us right where he wants us before jerking us back with “but I’m still fond of you, whoa-oh-oh.” Contradiction isn’t unique in music but it is when presented in such a nonchalant tone. I’m also a big fan of both the content and delivery of “oh the devil will find work for idle hands to do.” I do actually find Morrissey-in-his-heyday pretty hot and I also know that this is weird and probably pretty gross to a lot of people and I do not blame those people. Still, the sex or non-sex implied in that line and its delivery is also quite hot.


Do I like this video? Not sure. I generally don’t like clips from TV shows that are passed off as “videos” on YouTube even if that’s probably just a function of it being the best-available and closest-thing-to an actual video and is technically better than nothing. This is an above-average version of the TV-clip video, fairly common for bands from this era and just before. It’s above average in part for the aforementioned eye candy that is Morrissey appropriately dancing very loosely and casually with a blank expression on his beautiful bespectacled face. Bonus: he’s not singing into a microphone which is both funny and allows him to swing his arms around like an idiot, which in addition to his open shirt is an enhancement.


So there you have it. Now I never have to write about Morrissey or the Smiths again.