Lyrics by Morrissey, Music by Marr

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DavidA ®

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Post 05-Feb-2007 23:51

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I'm going to confess something that I should probably know already having read all the biographies, listened to the interviews and watched the documentaries.
I know that Johnny would write the music often ahead of the lyrics being added. When he put his tape through Morrissey's letterbox was there a melody line for him to put his lyrics to? I'm assuming Morrissey didn't make the melody up. Is that right? I read that he'd sometimes run his lyrics over the melody in a different way to how Johnny had imagined.
So the question is, did Morrissey create anything of the melody?
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steve

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Post 06-Feb-2007 09:06 (after 9 hours)

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I thought the melodies were all Morrissey's. I imagine that Johnny might have had a melody in his head when writing the music, but, as you said, Morrissey often turned his intended song structure upside-down. Johnny has often described his guitar playing as providing a counter melody. I think the thing that makes Smiths songs special is the marriage of Johnnys music and Morrissey's melodies (and the lyrics of course). I don't think any of their subsequent work apart quite hits the same level.
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Sictransitgloriamundi

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Post 06-Feb-2007 11:55 (after 2 hours 48 minutes)

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Well, I think it's almost certain, especially from interviews, that the vocal melodies were strictly Morrissey's. In fact, Morrissey said that he would often have entire vocal melodies written before even hearing the music. It's not difficult for a musically inclined person to transfer those pre-written vocal melodies into a given track. it's really a matter of altering the key and tempo when necessary.
This is why you tend to a get a feeling of wonderful counterpoint when listening to The Smiths. The bass, drums, guitar, and vocals all seem to be going down their own path, yet remaining connected throughout. In regards to the music alone, Johnny often accomplished this with his own overdubbing skills as well, therefore increasing the sensation. He really knew how to create counterpoint. There' was this wall of melody hitting you from all directions. I also think that Stephen Street did a great job producing them. He seemed to understand their production values, which is evident by his work with Morrissey when he went solo.
While many of Morrissey's solo vocals are still based on great melodies, he does seem to be singing along with the chord patterns much more. I think this is a result of many of his current songwriters having played mostly chord patterns to support Morrissey's vocal melodies, instead of writing distinct tunes that you would often hear from Johnny. I think Johnny's tune writing gave Morrissey more to work with in terms of exploring his own vocal melodies.
Anyhow, that was a far too long of an opinionated explanation.
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DavidA ®

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Post 06-Feb-2007 13:34 (after 1 hour 39 minutes)

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Ha! I had persuaded myself that Johnny wrote the melodies, but now it makes much more sense. More credit is due to Morrissey than I first thought.
It makes perfect sense. When I listen to These Things Take Time (for example) I love the fact that the melody leaves the music behind and meanders around before re-uniting at the chorus. e.g. "Oh the alcoholic afternoons..." That's a part of The Smiths songwriting that I love. A great songwriting pair.
It also explains that while I find some of Morrissey's solo music catchy, I find it lacks the substance of music of The Smiths. Despite a large section of this site being dedicated to Morrissey's solo material, I only have a couple of his studio albums.
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taco

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Post 07-Feb-2007 01:58 (after 12 hours)

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Don't cut Johhny out. The guy created some great music on the guitar. If you play the Smiths on a acoustic guitar, you truly hear something special, which is all Marr.
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ezears

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Post 09-Feb-2007 06:56 (after 2 days 4 hours)

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At first this sounds like a political debate. Each side with distinct ideas that almost have you convinced!
I personally thought all the melodies were Johnny's and that Morrissey would then work in his lyrics to mesh with the melodies. I've always given more credit to Johnny when it came to the music. Maybe ultimately it's a combination of both. I still think that the music, if stripped of all the lyrics (while genius in content), would stand as a great work of instrumental art all on its own. I happen to love all three Smiths instrumentals, though I do wonder what the songs may have evolved into with lyrics, despite what Morrissey thought of them.
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SweetFA

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Post 14-Feb-2007 23:23 (after 5 days)

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At first this sounds like a political debate. Each side with distinct ideas that almost have you convinced!
I personally thought all the melodies were Johnny's and that Morrissey would then work in his lyrics to mesh with the melodies. I've always given more credit to Johnny when it came to the music. Maybe ultimately it's a combination of both. I still think that the music, if stripped of all the lyrics (while genius in content), would stand as a great work of instrumental art all on its own. I happen to love all three Smiths instrumentals, though I do wonder what the songs may have evolved into with lyrics, despite what Morrissey thought of them.
You've not heard the version of "Money changes everything" which Bryan Ferry sang on and released as a single, presumably?
"The Right Stuff" is the name of the track, i think it's awful personally!
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BeerFunk

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Post 03-Apr-2007 11:02 (after 1 month 16 days)

[Quote]

Well, I think it's almost certain, especially from interviews, that the vocal melodies were strictly Morrissey's. In fact, Morrissey said that he would often have entire vocal melodies written before even hearing the music. It's not difficult for a musically inclined person to transfer those pre-written vocal melodies into a given track. it's really a matter of altering the key and tempo when necessary.
This is why you tend to a get a feeling of wonderful counterpoint when listening to The Smiths. The bass, drums, guitar, and vocals all seem to be going down their own path, yet remaining connected throughout. In regards to the music alone, Johnny often accomplished this with his own overdubbing skills as well, therefore increasing the sensation. He really knew how to create counterpoint. There' was this wall of melody hitting you from all directions. I also think that Stephen Street did a great job producing them. He seemed to understand their production values, which is evident by his work with Morrissey when he went solo.
While many of Morrissey's solo vocals are still based on great melodies, he does seem to be singing along with the chord patterns much more. I think this is a result of many of his current songwriters having played mostly chord patterns to support Morrissey's vocal melodies, instead of writing distinct tunes that you would often hear from Johnny. I think Johnny's tune writing gave Morrissey more to work with in terms of exploring his own vocal melodies.
Anyhow, that was a far too long of an opinionated explanation.
No, that is an excellent summary of the songwriting duo, I couldn't have put it better myself! To me, it is obvious that Morrissey and Marr both had original ideas for songs, and had to work to combine them into the final tracks. I don't think there is any better partnership in any other bands, possibly ever.
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wiseass73

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Post 17-Apr-2007 08:03 (after 13 days)

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The Q&A section on Johnny Marr's web site is currently offline, but I remember someone posted that question to Marr.
From what I remember, Marr said something along the lines of: he wrote all the music, but Morrissey always wrote the vocal melodies. Sometimes Morrissey would base the melodies off the guitars, but most of the time, it was completely Morrissey.
The approach does explain a lot about the Smith's sound. I also remember an interview during the Electronic days. It sounded like Marr and Bernard Sumner took similar approach, though sometimes, the music and arrangements would volley back and forth between the two of them.
And I read this on Marr's site years ago. There's been a lot of beer injested inbetween. My memory is shot. I could be making all this up.
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