Don’t Forget the Songs-365: Mach Tres: Day 245
Fri. Nov. 1, 2013

“November Spawned A Monster”


“♫ One
fine day
let it be
soon/ she
won’t be
rich or

“November Spawned A Monster” was more than just another single from Morrissey’s lyrical arsenal, in fact, this Clive Langer collaboration was historically significant in this Mancunian Songsmith’s career; for this powerful 7 inch proved that Stephen Patrick could go at it alone as Moz explained to Spin Magazine in 1991, “I didn’t have any high expectations of my solo career. There are lots of lead singers in groups who attempted solo careers and it never happens, Mick Jagger couldn’t sell a solo record to save his life, so why should it happen to me? I think a lot of people were very, very, surprised that I’ve continued to sell records. The general opinion was that once Johnny Marr unplugged the umbilical chord I would just kind of deflate like a paddling pool.” “November” became Morrissey’s personal dared lyrical offspring that succeeded creatively, where his former band failed to conquer globally, thus murdering any chance of a Smiths reunion with this 1990 hit from Bona Drag.

Morrissey longed for his solo career to expand on what, he believed. The Smiths failed to do which was craft exquisitely produced hit singles as he explained to Spin Magazine, “Well, the Smiths were never terribly well-produced, terribly polished—it doesn’t mean the records were bad, of course, because they weren’t—but when I listen to a lot of the Smiths’ discography I wince slightly and decry the fact that we were often forced to do things under somewhat threadbare conditions.” Well it goes to show the greatness of The Smiths if they were able to create such vintage songs in such horrible environments. Morrissey wanted to take the spirit of The Smiths aura and recreate it in proper studio atmospheres. For this he needed Clive Langer, former Madness producer’s help. Langer and Morrissey would craft the song, “November Spawned A Monster” that would eventually closed the book, in Morrissey’s mind, ending any possibility for a Smiths reunion.

Clive Langer talked about how he came up with the genesis of “Monster” telling Julie Hamill, “Well I wrote it all on the piano. The guitar riff [sings: ‘dong-dong-donk-a-donk-a-donk-donk]. I was probably trying to do a Stones thing or something. Maybe a bit like The Last Time or We Love You but slightly different. I always liked writing songs were the riff kept going but the chords would change underneath.” Later, in the same interview with Hamill, Langer recalled his working on “Monster” with Morrissey, when he said, “Well we recorded it, and I listened to it, and thought it was really good. I thought, what about if we split it in the middle? When I wrote music for Morrissey, I didn’t know what was going to be the chorus or the verse. He knew I had an idea of what I thought, but he’d sing right over my chorus and put his chorus where you weren’t expecting it. […] It took it to a different level. We had a guide vocal on it, pulled it apart, and then he spoke to Mary Margaret O’Hara, and that was amazing to get her.”

If you’re wondering how Mary Margaret O’Hara came up with those wailing vocal sounds, Morrissey explained the intimate instructions he gave to the female vocalist when he told Len Brown in Johnny Rogan’s book Morrissey, “I went into the vocal booth and said, ‘Just simply give birth,’ which she expertly did, while I stood behind with a mop and a bucket.’Drummer Andrew Paresi remembered the moment he first heard “November” on the radio, telling Julie Hamill, “I wish there had been a better reaction to Ouija Board, or November. Radio One just couldn’t cope with Mary Margaret O’Hara’s middle vocal section. I remember Morrissey and I were in the car and Nicky Campbell cut it off just before and Morrissey was like: ‘Oh. It’s like having my lungs cut out of my body’. It was an epic song, but at a time when epic songs weren’t popular with the powers that be.” Regardless Morrissey was so thrilled with the results of their epic anti-pop song incarnation that Langer recalls sharing again in his interview with Hamill a surprise he received from the former Smiths singer when he said, “I just remembered, it was Christmas he wrote me a note that said ‘The only thing that’s really making me happy is November’. That was really nice. I’ve still got it somewhere. A special card saying thank you.”

More than just another single in Morrissey’s song canon, as Simon Goddard could attest when he wrote in his book Mozipedia, “Morrissey would cite [“November”] as a ‘turning point’ in his career, marking the first time since the end of The Smiths that he no longer ‘missed’ Marr with the realization that, as a solo artist, he was finally ‘in a better position.’” So true, “November Spawned A Monster” was a peaking pinnacled point for Morrissey’s solo career. Even author of My Meetings with Morrissey, Len Brown agreed with the former Smiths singer’s assessment when he wrote, “[…] when I received an advanced cassette of his spring 1990 single ‘November Spawned A Monster’, all my previous concerns were laid to rest and I instantly realized it was a truly remarkable piece of pop music, even in the context of the dance-oriented Madchester music that was dominating the charts: [The Charlatans UK’s] ‘The Only One I Know”, [Happy Mondays’] “Step On,” & “Kinky Afro.””

With “November Spawned A Monster,”Morrissey prove that he could do it alone. Moz crafted his own hit single away from the club Madchester sounds topping the charts circa 1990. For the first time in his career Morrissey created a single that was nothing like anything heard on pop radio before. This powerful anti-pop song was creatively adventurous and stimulating to Morrissey, he had, finally single-handedly surpassed The Smiths legacy that had been weighing down his solo career in one swooping hit single.

Any inkling of a Smiths reunion, in Mozzer’s mind, was finally laid to rest when he birthed this “Monster” top 20 UK hit single. Can you blame Morrissey? Mozzer finally discovered the creative confidence that could steer his own career ship and with “November” there was no looking back, why would he? With Langer and Armstrong’s assistance he finally eclipsed being in Johnny Marr’s creative shadow. If you’re wondering why your favorite Manchester band from the 1980’s won’t return to the stage, just blame this “November” song. Now you understand how huge this Bona Drag song was for Morrissey. On this first day of November, go back and resurrect this song that was a defining moment in the solo career of Morrissey. Not just another single from 1990, those harrowing vocalized strangulation sounds from Mary Margaret O’Hara can now be heard as, Morrissey literally; bringing to life the “Monster” song that finally murdered any possibility of a Smiths reunion.