"Suedehead" is a 1988 single by English singer Morrissey, released on 15 February 1988. Co-written by Morrissey and former Smiths producer Stephen Street, the song was Morrissey's first solo release after the Smiths break-up. Morrissey was inspired lyrically by the suedehead subculture, recalling an individual from his teenage years in the context of the movement. Street, who had originally sought to contribute his musical ideas to Morrissey to use for Smiths B-sides, also contributed bass guitar, while Vini Reilly and Andrew Paresi rounded out his new solo band.

Single by Morrissey
from the album Viva Hate
Released15 February 1988 (1988-02-15)[1]
GenreJangle pop[2]
Producer(s)Stephen Street
Morrissey singles chronology
"Everyday Is Like Sunday"
Music video
"Suedehead" on YouTube
Professional ratings
Review scores

"Suedehead" was featured on Morrissey's debut album, Viva Hate, and the compilation album Bona Drag, the latter of which also featured the B-side "Hairdresser on Fire". Upon release, the song saw commercial success, reaching number five in the UK, as well as rave reviews for its Smiths-esque musicianship and the new Morrissey-Street writing team. Encouraged by the success of the single, Morrissey would continue working with Street for subsequent singles and the rest of Viva Hate.

Since its release, "Suedehead" has become one of Morrissey's most successful songs and remains critically acclaimed by modern writers.

Background edit

Morrissey wrote the lyrics to "Suedehead" about a figure he knew from his teenage years, though he refused to specify the individual in an interview, commenting, "I'd rather not give any addresses and phone numbers at this stage." The song took its title from the suedehead subculture.[4] Morrissey elaborated on his feelings about the subculture in a June 1988 interview with Spin magazine:

A suedehead was an outgrown skinhead, but outgrown only in the hair sense. An outgrown skinhead who was slightly softer. Not a football hooligan. Back in '71, when youth cults were on the rampage in Manchester, there was a tremendous air of intensity and potential unpleasantness. Something interesting grabbed me about the whole thing. I don't think there were any good guys; everybody had several chips on several shoulders. There was a great velocity of hate. Everybody got their head kicked in. It's made me what I am today.[4]

It shares a title with the Richard Allen book of the same name, which similarly was set in the subculture, but Morrissey commented, "I did happen to read the book when it came out and I was quite interested in the whole Richard Allen cult. But really I just like the word 'suedehead'." The song also features the lyrics, "It was a good lay", which Morrissey jokingly commented was actually a mishearing of "It was a bootleg".[5]

"Suedehead" was Morrissey's first songwriting collaboration with former Smiths producer Stephen Street. Street, who initially believed the Smiths would reunite within a few months of breaking up, sent demos of his instrumental tracks to Morrissey as possible ideas for Smiths B-sides.[6] With a band including Street, Vini Reilly, and Andrew Paresi, Morrissey attempted the song in his first solo recording session. With regards to his bassline, Street noted, "One thing I always picked up on working with the Smiths was that Morrissey often positions himself in relation to what the bassline is doing. So when I worked on 'Suedehead' I made the bassline melodic, not just root notes."[7]

Release edit

"Suedehead" was noted as a potential single early in the song's recording process. Street recalled, "I think that it was quite evident straight away that it was going to be a single. There was something about it that was really special."[8] Morrissey commented in a 1988 interview that he was worried it "would gasp in the higher 30s and disintegrate" and that he was hesitant to release it but was "carried along on a wave of general enthusiasm."[5] Street later disputed this, remembering, "Morrissey sent me a card saying, 'Don't read the interview'. I think he realised after he'd done it that he'd been a bit negative about things. The idea that he didn't want 'Suedehead' to be the single is utter rubbish, he was just as excited as anyone else about releasing it."[9] The record label's affinity for the song helped assuage concerns with Street writing the whole Viva Hate album.[9]

"Suedehead" was released by Morrissey as his debut solo single in February 1988. The single was a commercial smash in the UK, peaking at number five on the UK Singles Chart and reaching the top 10 in Ireland and New Zealand. The single charted higher than any of the singles Morrissey released while in his former band the Smiths. The commercial and critical success convinced Morrissey to continue his collaboration with Street, who recalled, "It wasn't until 'Suedehead' came out at the end of February – and got fantastic reviews across the board – that he got back in touch with me again. If 'Suedehead' had come out and been a complete failure and hadn't been a hit, I'd never have heard from him again!"[10] In addition to appearing on Viva Hate, the song appeared on Morrissey's 1990 compilation album Bona Drag.

The music video, directed by Tim Broad, features Morrissey walking through the streets of Fairmount, Indiana,[11] the hometown of actor James Dean, including shots of the school where Dean studied and the Park Cemetery, where he is buried. Other allusions to Dean in the video include a child (played by Sam Esty Rayner, Morrissey's nephew, who went on to direct the video for "Kiss Me a Lot" in 2015) delivering to Morrissey a copy of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry's The Little Prince, Dean's favourite book.[12] Morrissey characterized the video as him "messing with James Dean's soil."[4]

The artwork of the single features a photo taken by Geri Caulfield during a Smiths gig at the London Palladium. Morrissey debuted the song live at his infamous debut solo concert at Wolverhampton's Civic Hall in December 1988.[13]

Critical reception edit

Upon its release, "Suedehead" saw critical acclaim and was praised as a worthy successor to Morrissey's work in the Smiths. NME gave the single 'Single of the Week 2' saying that "his vocals hit a pitch that turns your stomach with queasy delight. It makes you feel vulnerable and provokes emotions you've forgotten about." In the 1988 NME Year in Review the song was described as "The best No. 1 '88 never gave us".[14] Sounds said in a 1988 article, "The song was not as good as prime Smiths, but it was a beautifully reflective tune, showing that ex-Smiths co-producer Stephen Street could step into Marr's previous role as composer."[5]

In a retrospective review for AllMusic, critic Ned Raggett described it as "a memorable number, with Street's subtle orchestrations carrying the sweep of the song."[3] Stereogum ranked it as Morrissey's best solo song, writing, "Perhaps Morrissey's best-known, most loved track and with good reason: It's unimpeachably, undeniably great, and utterly ubiquitous. If nothing else, Morrissey proved to us that, fresh out of the gate as a solo artist, he was able to write one of the best Smiths songs never written by the Smiths."[15] Spin rated it his second best, writing, "The show of confidence on Morrissey’s debut solo single felt nothing less than triumphant."[16] Consequence named it his fifth best, concluding, "Though 'Suedehead' is as jangly as any number of Smiths songs, it was just Morrissey enough to mark the clear start of a new era."[17]

Track listings edit

  • 7-inch vinyl
  1. "Suedehead"
  2. "I Know Very Well How I Got My Name"
  • 12-inch vinyl
  1. "Suedehead"
  2. "I Know Very Well How I Got My Name"
  3. "Hairdresser on Fire"
  • CD and cassette
  1. "Suedehead"
  2. "I Know Very Well How I Got My Name"
  3. "Hairdresser on Fire"
  4. "Oh Well, I'll Never Learn"
Country Record label Format Catalogue number
UK HMV 7-inch vinyl POP1618
UK HMV 12-inch vinyl 12POP1618
UK HMV Cassette TCPOP1618

Personnel edit

Charts edit

Chart (1988) Peak
Australia (Australian Music Report)[18][19] 45
Europe (Eurochart Hot 100)[20] 19
Ireland (IRMA)[21] 2
Netherlands (Dutch Top 40 Tipparade)[22] 2
Netherlands (Single Top 100)[23] 30
New Zealand (Recorded Music NZ)[24] 8
UK Singles (OCC)[25] 5
West Germany (Official German Charts)[26] 29

2012 reissue edit

"Suedehead (Mael Mix)"
Single by Morrissey
Released21 April 2012 (2012-04-21)
LabelEMI (UK)
Morrissey singles chronology
"Glamorous Glue"
"Suedehead (Mael Mix)"
"The Last of the Famous International Playboys"

A remix of the song by American band Sparks was released for Record Store Day 2012. The remix was originally released in 2006 on a compilation album.[27]

Track listing edit

10-inch (EMI 5593331)

  • "Suedehead (Mael mix)"
  • "We'll Let You Know" (live in London 1995)
  • "Now My Heart Is Full" (live in London 1995)

References edit

  1. ^ "New Singles" (PDF). Music Week. 13 February 1988. p. 31. Retrieved 26 July 2021.
  2. ^ Leivers, Dannii (3 December 2014). "Live Report: Morrissey At The O2 Arena, London". Clash. Retrieved 3 January 2016.
  3. ^ a b Raggett, Ned. "Suedehead Review". AllMusic. Retrieved 18 October 2012.
  4. ^ a b c "Viva Morrissey: Our June 1988 Cover Story". SPIN. 14 March 2018. Retrieved 11 May 2022.
  5. ^ a b c Phillips, Shaun (18 June 1988). "Confessions of a Bigmouth... Private Diary of a Middle-Aged Man". Sounds. ISBN 9780859658744. Retrieved 28 April 2022.
  6. ^ Kinney, Fergal (23 February 2012). "Stephen Street - exclusive interview". Louder Than War. Retrieved 28 April 2022.
  7. ^ "My Life In Vinyl: Stephen Street". Classic Pop. 14 February 2022. Retrieved 11 May 2022.
  8. ^ "In Conversation: Stephen Street (Part 2)". God Is in the TV. 25 November 2019. Retrieved 11 May 2022.
  9. ^ a b Brown, Len (2 July 1988). "Hate Male". New Musical Express: 10, 45.
  10. ^ "Stephen Street talks "Viva Hate" and trying to keep Morrissey happy". Super Deluxe Edition. 29 March 2012. Retrieved 11 May 2022.
  11. ^ Bret, David (2004). Morrissey: scandal and passion. London: Robson. p. 105. ISBN 978-1861057877.
  12. ^ Devereux, Eoin; Dillane, Aileen; Power, Martin J. (2012). Morrissey : fandom, representations and identities. Bristol: Intellect. p. 25. ISBN 978-1841505961.
  13. ^ "Morrissey debuts 'Suedehead' at his first solo show, 1988". Far Out. 25 February 2020. Retrieved 11 May 2022.
  14. ^ NME Suedehead Reviews
  15. ^ Bracy, Timothy; Bracy, Elizabeth (21 February 2013). "The 10 Best Morrissey Songs". Stereogum. Retrieved 11 May 2022.
  16. ^ "50 Best Morrissey Songs". Spin. 28 December 2017. Retrieved 11 May 2022.
  17. ^ "Morrissey's Top 10 Songs". Consequence. 6 July 2021. Retrieved 11 May 2022.
  18. ^ "Australian Top 50 Singles Chart – Week Ending 15th May, 1988". ARIA. Retrieved 4 March 2016.
  19. ^ Kent, David (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970–1992 (Illustrated ed.). St. Ives, N.S.W.: Australian Chart Book. p. 208. ISBN 0-646-11917-6. N.B. the Kent Report chart was licensed by ARIA between mid 1983 and 19 June 1988.
  20. ^ "Eurochart Hot 100 Singles" (PDF). Music & Media. Vol. 5, no. 11. 12 March 1988. p. 17. Retrieved 13 November 2020.
  21. ^ "The Irish Charts – Search Results – Suedehead". Irish Singles Chart. Retrieved 13 November 2020.
  22. ^ "Tipparade-lijst van week 16, 1988" (in Dutch). Dutch Top 40. Retrieved 18 March 2023.
  23. ^ "Morrissey – Suedehead" (in Dutch). Single Top 100. Retrieved 13 November 2020.
  24. ^ "Morrissey – Suedehead". Top 40 Singles. Retrieved 13 November 2020.
  25. ^ "Official Singles Chart Top 100". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 13 November 2020.
  26. ^ "Offiziellecharts.de – Morrissey – Suedehead" (in German). GfK Entertainment charts. Retrieved 13 November 2020.
  27. ^ "PassionsJustLikeMine.com". Retrieved 24 December 2017.