Don’t Forget the Songs-365: Mach Tres: Day 244
Mon. Oct. 14, 2013

“Ouija Board, Ouija Board”


“♫ Hear
my voice/
the table
is rumbling

Just like watching the banned video series Faces of Death, facing your fears by channeling your deepest imagination while attempting to conjure spirits with a Ouija Board, Morrissey’s 1989 much maligned single was a homage to a simpler time before the inter-webs, iPads, cell-phones, lab tops and any mobile electronic device that you could name, where using a Ouija Board among friends was actually a rite of passage. It was no accident that Morrissey recorded “Ouija Board,” in Johnny Rogan’s book Morrissey; the former Smiths vocalist himself shared some of his supernatural beliefs when he explained, “Yes, I do believe in the afterlife. I have a very open mind and I have tried a few things. If you stare into a mirror at midnight in a completely darkened room with a candle below your face, your face supposedly changes into a face of somebody who has died and who wants to reach you or somebody who had died that doesn’t particularly want to reach you…It’s extremely frightening because most people’s faces do change automatically and it’s not just a matter of darker shades of mustache.”

Maybe the spirit of “Ouija Board” didn’t want this 1989 single to be born. Since Morrissey was having financial issues with former producer, co-writer and collaborator Stephen Street, Moz asked Clive Langer and Alan Winstanley to step in at the last moment to produce “Ouija Board.” Langer told Johnny Rogan about the troubles he and Winstanley had during the studio sessions when he explained, “Actually recording it was very difficult. After about two days the session collapsed—there was just a really nervous atmosphere in the studio—and I was wandering around the garden with Morrissey and we both realized it wasn’t working.”

Langer story had a happy ending as he shared with Julie Hamill in another one of her world famous Fifteen Minutes with…interview when the producer said,” And then when we got back the band were kind of running through Yes I am Blind, which sounded really good, so we kind of looked at each other and said well, let’s see this through. And that was it. I think they sounded great, those two tracks.” So it was Andy Rourke’s co-written gem that kept “Ouija Board” from dying a short recorded death. Looking back, it’s now safe to say, the spirit of the Smiths saved this very underrated 1989 single.

Morrissey spoke of the negative criticism that “Ouija Board” received when he told Vox magazine in 1990, “[…] while I admit that ‘Ouija Board Ouija Board’ wasn’t ‘Chirpy Chirpy Cheep Cheep’, I do think the backlash has been slightly overdone.” But the condemnation had a lasting effect on the sessions that Morrissey had begun with Langer and Winstanley. Did you know that Bona Drag was originally going to Moz’s second solo record but the “Ouija Board’s” critical backlash haunted Morrissey so much, he scrapped the sessions and decided to release his own Hateful of Hollow kind of compilation instead? The collection that became Bona Drag was a critical and commercial success that regained Moz’s creative confidence enough to ask Clive Langer and Alan Winstanley to produce the sessions that would become my favorite album of his 1991’s Kill Uncle.

In Simon Goddard’s Mozipedia, Langer recalls the hostile critical reactions by saying, “I still think “Ouija Board” is a great song. We tried to make it as simple as possible but it was the Happy Mondays days, Everything had a dance beat. It was slammed everywhere.” But that’s what a loved about Morrissey’s single, it was so different from everything club related that was ruling the airwaves at the time. But Morrissey’s song had the last laugh, who can name any of those dance singles that kept Moz’s song off the top ten that year, “Ouija Board” was a timeless tribute to a more sinister yet simpler time and it was a song that Morrissey’s former Smiths collaborator was fond of as Langer remembered, “But, the funny thing, many years later I saw Johnny Marr and he told me how much he liked “Ouija Board”. That was really nice.”

Langer is so right and yet he wasn’t the only one; Siobhan Fahey of Shakespeare’s Sister fame, yes the Bananarama offshoot inspired by the same Smiths song, said in 1992, “I’ve recently started to appreciate Ouija Board in a way that originally I didn’t. Like so many Morrissey songs, it evokes two reactions: laughter and sadness. The melody is gut-wrenchingly sad but the words are hysterically funny. That’s my current favorite...”

Lest we not forget, guitarist Kevin Armstrong who played on “Ouija Board” told Julie Hamill in her essential Fifteen Minutes with… interview, “We put a lot of work into that record. We all loved it. So did Clive Langer, he loved it. And then to have it dismissed by the press was upsetting for us and obviously Morrissey. But I believe that if work has a timeless quality, or a real quality, it will surface in the end.”

A thousand departed and still living Morrissey fans can’t be wrong. Open your ears, don’t believe horror filled hype or Anton Corbijn’s ghost like cover Moz photo scare you away from re-experiencing the timeless magic of “Ouija Board;” you might just find the sounds of Mozzer’s otherworldly single will raise you spirits. Definitely worth the resurrection and if Johnny Marr likes it, give “Ouija Board, Ouija Board” another spin and I guarantee Morrissey will finally put your outdated fears about this 1989 once forgotten single, to rest.

Happy Halloween from DFTS-365!