Standing left to right, Rourke, Morrissey, Marr and Joyce don’t exactly paint a stand out portrait of festive materialism as they stand outside the Saldford Lads club. Nevertheless, the sombre silhouette of the 80’s indie pop foursome remains condensed on the windows of England this holidays.
When I first watched the Christmas John Lewis advert, It left me in the same perplexed state as everybody else. A softer, slower rendition of one of the defining pop songs from one of the defining bands of the 80’s, making the swap from Manchester to Merseyside, putting quiet smile on my face. All because of that restless, brown haired little boy pacing around his bedroom, twiddling his thumbs and rushing to bed on Christmas eve made me do so. You’d have to be even more cynical than I am to not quiver a sly grin when our unlikely hero dashes past his present to give his own poorly wrapped gift to his parents. Still, following the afflicted genius of The Smiths propagating behind the images of the advert, I can’t help but feel a little bit bemused.
Amelia Warner, better known as Slow Moving Millie, contributed her angelic rendition of The Smiths classic ‘Please Please Please Let Me Get What I Want’ to the John Lewis advert, and has been very well received by the British public. So much so, that her single peaked at a the befitting place of 31 one in the UK charts, outdoing The Smiths original that only reached 83 in the charts. Now, I can accept that statistic. I like Warners cover of ‘Please Please Please Let Me Get What I Want”. The vocals are delicate, the piano playing is kept gentle and the song fits the advert. However, there is one thing I can not defend. The use of the song entirely in the John Lewis advert.
Let be honest, although Slow Moving Millie has propelled the song further into the mainstream shades of pop culture, all credibility has been taken away from one of the founding artists of romantic pop songs. Twisting the head on the conventional dolly pop singles, blurting out meaningless nonsense about marriage, lust and sexual expression, the song writing duo of Morrisey and Johnny Marr created a genre as undefinable and ambiguous as Susan Boyle’s blood pressure. Living up to their melon collie reputation, Morrissey and Marr composed songs reflecting on the despair of politics, the romance of hate and the bitterness of being alone. Yes, a tad on the dreary side, but a band that manage to attract a huge following, even without surviving the entire decade as a complete four piece.
Listening to Warners cover, although the music is tight and the recording is technically sound, there is nothing about the song that parallels The Smiths interpretations. Layered over the John Lewis advert, all I hear now when listening to Slow Moving Millie’s version of The Smiths classic, is the shameless excretion of marketing and consumerism. There are so many differences and rivalries to pedantically pick at when comparing the two separate scores. The original portrays the gutted remains of working class Manchester, while the cover has been carved from the finest middle class Liverpudlian granite. One version was written on a scratched and grimy acoustic guitar in Johnny Marr’s effortless discernment, while the other was grafted through the re-writing moody pop perfection.
Creativity and novelty have always been the two inspiring and unquestionable traits behind the music, characteristics and services of The Smiths. Now, I wasn’t even born when The Smiths topped the album charts with their beautifully emblematic The Queen Is Dead, but every time I listen to the record at home, and take into consideration everything people have described about The Smiths from the 80’s, I know exactly what they mean. Just like acts before them, like Joy Division and The Beatles, their legacy anchors a very strong emotive and provoking consciousness to their listeners.
It’s a shame to think that the John Lewis advert wouldn’t be anywhere near as tear wrenchingly sweet with the original composition of ‘Please Please Please Give Me What I Want’ playing in the background. But at the same time, I’m glad. I’m glad that The Smiths make me feel cheated, alone and angry. I seriously never thought I’d see the day when Morrissey gargles out a gothic indie pop classic behind the slates of advertisement, and truth be told, I still haven’t. The two versions of The Smiths ballad are so far apart, that I can rest easy this Christmas time, festering in my own self loathing with ‘How Soon Is Now’, ‘Some Girls Are Bigger Than Others’ and ‘Vicar In A Tutu’ resonating off my walls quite gleefully.
Having said all of that, I must admit, Slow Moving Millie’s cover of ‘Please Please Please Let Me Get What I Want’ does make me feel angry, just as I do when I listen to The Smiths version of the song. Sadly, it’s the wrong kind of anger.