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The Smiths There is a scene in High Fidelity that is really interesting to me.

Not because it's a particularly well-done scene, or really a particularly memorable movie overall, but because it completely encapsulates what music means to me. The main character, Rob Gordon, is at an all-time low, and a friend comes over and he explains that he's been reorganizing his record collection. He explains that he's been organizing his music collection autobiographically, according to the connection and effects on his life. This is exactly how I view music in my life. It is not so much the music, but the influence, the connection of the music, to every other part of my life experience. Let me start with a truth. I know nothing about music. That's not to say I know nothing about Music History, I have a general idea about the progression of popular music in America over the last hundred or so years. I know a fair bit about how the Music Industry grew, about the rise of Jazz out of New Orleans, Chicago, New York, Kansas City, St. Louis. I am pretty knowlegdable about the birth, branding, and conquest that is Rock 'n Roll, and am a Curator-level expert on a few subgenres (Ska, Lounge, being the two big ones) and while I'm usually at least a year behind nowadays, I try to keep up. But I really know nothing about MUSIC. Have no clue about how music is made, what certain things mean, about terminology, about tone and mood and scales and modes and on and on and on. I just don't understand that stuff. I get the songs, I get albums, I get the effect that music has on me, on my personal history and philosophy, but I don't actually get the music. It is probably a side-effect of being completely tone-deaf. Now, a part of this has to do with a fellow BArean named Janice Whaley. She's actually from San Jose, the city I spend a lot of my time in. She stopped singing for a while, but then decided to go back and do a one-year project where she recorded versions of every song in The Smiths songbook. She called it The Smiths Project, Every one, and she did it in a year. She also used no instruments other than her voice and tape loops. Well, that's what they would have been back in the day, but the idea is the same. So, she recorded these amazing, deeply layered, beautifully produced renditions of every song The Smiths ever produced. It's incredible, and it inspired me to do this issue, where I look at how every Smiths track on their 4 canonical records (and a few singles-only releases) and explain how it collides with my life, sometimes literally, sometimes with a layer or two of distance, and sometimes in ways that kinda scare me. As an example of the way coincidence in my life works, I present how I learned of The Smiths Project. I had just finished watching Evelyn, had made lasagna for her and her mom, and left, but wanted to be out of the house for a while, so I went to Streetlight records. While I was at Evelyn's, we had watched an episode of Psych, starring James Roday and Dule Hill. It was the episode where there is a "Killer in the House" mystery that featured folks from the movie Clue, as well as Curt Smith, from Tears for Fears. I got in a bit of a foam, because it's been a long time since I listened to any T4F, so I slid

it into the CD player in my car and was rocking out to Mad World on the way to Streetlight. On the seat next to me was the Psych tie-in novel A Fatal Frame of Mind. I walked into the store, and while looking for some more Tears for Fears, I saw a plastic divider labeled The Smiths Project. I've always loved the Smiths, so I took a look and noticed that on one of them was a blurb from Curt Smith! That was awesome! I bought it and took it into the car. As always, when I've bought a CD, I open it up and take a look at any liner notes. I noticed that in the list of Producers was the name James Roday. James Roday who plays Shawn Spencer on Psych. I would later discover that Janice and James had even recorded a version of Ideas as Opiates for Curt Smith's 50th birthday. Weird... And so, now the random connection and implications of The Smiths' music on the life and times of Christopher J Garcia

The Smiths - Released February 20th, 1984 by Rough Trade (Sire Records in the US) Track 1 - Reel Around the Fountain (5:58) The sad thing is sometimes, these songs become quantum entangled with moments of deep sadness. I can name you a hundred songs that are permanently attached with death for me, including several that will be included here, but this one, this one is darker. It's a story of loss of a sadder kind. SaBean's not had it easy, between certain familiarities with certain substances, certain people, certain activities. She always kept her head about her, in a completely reckless way, but she was always guiding herself, even if it was towards destruction. Reel Around the Fountain is perhaps one of The Smiths' darkest songs. Read one way, it's a story of a chicken hawk and the young victim is his hawking who is convinced that he's in love with him. Another reading, that it is a young gay man who doesn't truly come to the discovery of his sexuality until an older man takes him. So, when I walked into SaBean's apartment one day and saw her sitting on the floor, wearing only a slightly too large tank top. She was expecting me. She'd known I was coming for almost a week. The movie was in an hour. She was sitting there, completely un-done. I'd seen her in this state many, many times before, but never with that look on her face. That look that had nothing behind it. She was just staring, without emotion or connection. She hadn't ever seemed to recognise that I opened the door. "Hey." I said, already worried. She didn't answer. "Hey, we still going to see Leaving Las Vegas?" I said. She finally difinitively looked at me. "It's stronger than I am." "What is?" "All of it."

When a junky says something like that to you, you have to take the conversation a certain direction. "That your first step? You wanna make 11 more?" "That's not what I'm saying. It's stronger than me. I can't fucking play in that field anymore. It's gonna kill me." "Still soundin' like the start of a trip to NarcoNon." "I've done serious shit to my body. Serious shit." "Ballet's a gateway drug, darlin'." "It really is, Chris." For a moment, her eyes got dark and clear. "You want to stop using?" I stupidly asked. "No, I just want to be stronger." And with that, she stood up, walked over to me, wrapped her arms around me, and just sorta hung there. She didn't fall to her knees, in fact she transferred 0 weight to me. She just lightly put her arms me, still staring into the area by the door. It was as if she wasn't there. It was as if she were made of air. I hadn't noticed that she was listening to The Smiths, and in particular, Reel Around the Fountain was on repeat, it seemed. We stood there for ages, her just touching me as if she were trying to keep as little of us in contact as possible while still being able to claim we were embracing. "Morrissey? Are things so bad?" "The Smiths." "That Smiths." I said. "Yeah, things are that bad." She still had a long way to go until she cleaned up. We still have many long nights wondering if she'd live or die, but that was the only time I really worried if she had lost her will to fight.

Track 2 - You've Got Everything Now (3:59) Three feet of snow. That's how much had fallen in the week we were there. It was Yosemite and the week of Winter Break was always a good time to visit the Yosemite Valley, especially with a young lady friend. The cabin we'd gotten for the week was warm, comfortable, small, perfect for two people who had brought in only the essentials: a CD player, a few days' change of clothes, and case of good whiskey, a few bottles of wine. Days - out in the valley, hiking and trudging through the snow and taking hundreds of pictures of ice formations on the Merced River and meadows full of snow with deer peaking around. We walked all over the place, spent a lovely afternoon nestled under one of the bridges, out of the snowflakes the size of small children that fell for hours and hours and hours. Two young people, a couple for only a month or so, with a picnic basket full of cured meats, fruits, and most importantly, wine wine wine.

By night, we'd snuggle up in the lodge, by the fireplace with the families fresh from dinner, passing around hot chocolate to the young ones, flasks back and forth between moms and dads and rangers and Germans all enjoying the sights. Then, usually by 9, we'd retire to the room, cuddle up, enjoy personal time with one another's gentle kisses, and not so gentle, all while listening to the stack of CDs I'd insisted on bringing. The Smiths was the third night's gentle playing while the two of us were playing. After a while, we settled into comfy cuddling, the cold only slightly bothering me, and for the first time, I think, she was listening to the lyrics. "What's it mean?" she asked. "The song?" I asked, getting out of the bed to get us each a tumbler of Bushmills. "He said But I don't want a lover. I just want to be the back of your car. Why?" "Well, it's about two friends from school who either were or are or could have been lovers, I think. One's made it, the other hasn't and he wants a part of that." "Or is he just riding his coattails?" "It's always safest to assume every lyric Morrissey writes is about a guy trying to come to grips with being gay." She paused, bit on her lower lip in that adorable way she always did when she had a thought that was much smarter than anything I could come up with. "Turn it off, comes back to bed." Like I said, a much smarter thought. Track 3 - Miserable Lie (4:29) In a way, Miserable Lie is the most interesting song on the album. Why? It starts off one way, then it turns, bites the listener, and gives us something we were not expecting, then turns again. It features Morrissey going all falsetto, it features the hyper-jangle of Marr's guitar at rates we had yet to encounter. More than anything, it is a song made for mix tapes. You remember mix tapes, no? They were big in the 80s and 90, faded away, then were huge for a while a few years back. I used to make one every couple of weeks, give 'em to my friends, girls I had things for, or just to listen to my beat-up Volvo. Miserable Lie was on a lot of those. Why? Because it wasn't a single song, it was a collage. It was two tones of a song, pushed into one frame, like an old drawing done by two markedly different artists. It opens so sweet, then changes to what is best thought of as a freight train run fast and straight ahead and unyielding. It wasn't something hobbled together from two completely different ideas, the kind that Wings seemed to always do (and that I hate!). It's a turn, and one that fits with the lyrics, the tone of the song, the mood of the singer. it's one of the best pieces of work in the entire Smiths ouvre!

And it works as a transitioner piece. You might have something like Puttin' on the Ritz (Taco, not the annoying original) and you want to go to something like I Need You Around by The Smoking Popes. You can't just slip them right up against one another. That would be awful! Instead, you need something to go between the two that plays in both fields. Miserable Lie works wonderfully in that field. I never said these would all be deeply personal. Track 4 - Pretty Girls Make Graves (3:24) She was pretty once. Hell, even now, twenty years down the line, four kids, beatings beyond belief, heavy nights dragging herself to her car, sleeping with a gearstick jabbing her kidney, she still had the look of that girl I first noticed in eighth grade. Still the girl who had that smile that led to the crush from across the Typing classroom. She was the first cutter I ever knew. I don't know how we started talking, but I know it was in the library at Buscher Junior High. I think she was a TA in there one period and I often got to go and find books for various classes. pretty much every time I'd go in, we'd chat, mostly about TV. She was big into One Life to Live, just like I was. One day, I saw a long scarf-like thing on her arm, tied tight. She was leaning against the counter on the business side. You could see that there was a stain that seemed awful fresh. She made no attempt to cover or hide it. "What'd you do to your arm?" She upwrapped it, showed three inch-long cuts, still kinda oozing. "You do that to yourself?" "I did." "Why?" "Sometimes you just gotta do something to yourself, you know." I didn't. I had no idea. None. Why would you cut yourself? What sort of relief could that possibly bring? No ideas floated up to me. "You do that a lot?" "Once in a while." "They ever get infected?" "I take care of 'em." Miss Manoukian, the Librarian, came into sight. She grabbed the scarf, wrapped it back around her arm, tied it tight. I had no idea what to say. It was surreal, and at that point, I hadn't watched enough David Lynch films to really understand how to deal with surreal situations. Or real situations, really. I had no way of dealing with the feelings of others. I sorta stood there, and then I looked down and written on her binder, in the sort of floral flowing hand-script that you can only find on the binders of 8th Grade girls. Upon the sand, upon the bay

There is a quick and easy way, you say Before you illustrate I'd rather state I'm not the man you think I am I'm not the man you think I am And sorrow's native son He will not smile for anyone And pretty girls make graves Track 5 - The Hand That Rocks the Cradle (4:38) It was finals week at Emerson. I had pretty much nailed it so far. I was almost certain to graduate. Almost. You see, I had plenty of credits, and great grades, in my history classes, in the electives, in my art history classes, in my science and speech and so on and so on. I was a Writing, Literature & Publishing Major, emphasis on Creative Writing, and there was only one thing I didn't get very good grades in. Creative Writing. You may see this as a start of a pattern. I wasn't very good at the thing I was doing the most. In fact, I was pretty damn terrible at it, especially the re-writing part. The most frequent note I got on my re-writes was 'Considerably weaker than the first pass'. Every damn time. Typically it was that I would either go too bare-bones in my re-writing, or I would go all the way to the other side and be way too verbose. I was never happy with a single piece I wrote for any class I had at Emerson, save for one; my senior project. Now, as a Creative Writing kid, I had chosen to focus on Children's Writing, mostly taking classes on Children's Lit and Writing with Lisa JaughnClough, a fine published children's author herself. I wrote a lot of stuff that was no good, but I had an idea that I love, that I still love, and once in a while I toy with going back into fiction just to finish it. It was a YA-ish novel called LOS RUDOS, LOS RUDOS, LOS RUDOS!!! The basic premise was it was 1995 in an unnamed school named after the city of Santa Clara, California, and a Biology class team that is put together for an assignment and ends up with all sorts of personal and romantic entanglements. It had everything, wrestling, a long-con, science fiction talk, goth parties, swings, a four-way love triangle, sexuality being discovered, and most importantly, it had music running all through it. That's right, all through the book music was a major component, each chapter opened with a quote from a song that had been important to the

story that chapter was telling. My suitemates, good guys one and all, mocked me mercilessly every time I sat down to write in my room, my door open, Alt Rock tunes floating out, often on repeat. The chapter I was working on in those last days of April, the 7th as I remember it, was crucial to the plight of the Character Steve. Steve was the pillar of the team; solidly in the realm of reality, a lot of fun, wanted nothing more than to watch wrestling, make variations on meatloaf, play cards, talk books. In other words, he was me, only with some talent at those things I mentioned above. He was struck with a lightning bolt in the first chapter. The lightning bolt's name was Marcy, the loveliest young woman Steve had ever seen. A tall raven-haired girl who apparently loved nothing more than the sight of floortiles, as that's what she so thoroughly investigated while walking from class to class. He fell hard for her, in much the same way I had with several young ladies at Santa Clara High when I was there. She was exactly my type, and if the young lady who I based her on ever found out I had written of her, I am certain she'd have taken her eyes off the floor long enough to deck me hard as she could. The Chapter focused on Steve and Marcy walking back from their evening watching wrestling at the San Jose Arena. He, crushing hard on her, trying to draw her out, and as they cross the Guadalupe River, he mentions that once, there were beaver in the river, hundreds of them, so many that even the Ohlone that lived in the area prior to the Missionaries arrival complained about their number. That lit her up! "They're never coming back! I mean, look at the river! Trash and garbage and refuse and you can here the homeless bums humping from here! We've killed this river. Killed it like a bullet from a gun! It makes me sick!" I'd always loved exclamation points The pair of them keep walking, and talking, and things got kinda dark at times, as she had secrets, in this chapter only hinted at. I do remember the intro lyrics that I introduced with the chapter. Ceiling shadows shimmy by And when the wardrobe towers like a beast of prey There's sadness in your beautiful eyes Oh, your untouched, unsoiled, wonderous eyes My life down I shall lie Should restless spirits try To play tricks on your sacred mind Of course, that doesn't really say much, but it hints at something I've felt over the year when I hear the words. Someone so enraptured by the merely physical presence of someone they're attracted to. Those wondrous eyes, and I spent far too much time in description of those wondrous eyes and whatever thoughts live behind them, are what he would more than anything like to drown in, and if that means fighting to the death with the imaginary monsters of a bedroom, so be it.

Of course, the chapter ends with her giving him a hug that he might, in fact, have misinterpreted. The next chapter the group gets back together and the Goth Girl, Amelia, who has an even larger crush on Steve, catches his admiration of Marcy. Of course, Marcy also ends up being a lesbian and there are many layers of confusion and awkwardness to deal with when Steve finds out. I would have put out a Spoiler Alert, but the odds of me ever finishing it are pretty much 0.