Big Mouth Strikes Again
Board graphic for StrangeLove Skateboards’ "The Flower Wimps" Collection. The two other boards in the series were created by Sean Cliver ("Vicar In A Tutu") and Todd Bratrud ("You're The One For Me, Fatty"). The story below is from the zine, Morrissey's Toilet, that accompanied each board.
"Sweetness I Was Only Joking": A Collagification
Part of the attraction of collage is the unexpected juxtaposition of disparate subject matter. It’s interesting to “let go,” let the pieces fall where they may, and see what comes together. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. For this Morrissey collage, however, Chance played a lesser role than it usually does. Mostly because the subject of the collage (Morrissey), and the format (a Paisley board), were predetermined, so there was more curating of the imagery involved. And while there was a general idea conceived at the beginning, and the final image came out more or less as planned (that doesn’t happen very often), I’m still trying to figure out exactly what the fuck is going on in this graphic. And I like that.
Here is the concept as it was conceived at the outset:
1. The graphic will mostly relate to The Queen Is Dead.
2. Morrissey is the Queen.
3. Oscar Wilde (top, as the peculiar octopus/owl skull thing) and Joan Of Arc (middle, from the Hermann Stilke’s painting, “Joan Of Arc’s Death At The Stake”), together with Morrissey (bottom), form a blasphemous Holy Trinity.
The first two should be self-explanatory: 1. There are visuals related to Smiths lyrics throughout (“and her Walkman started to melt”) and, 2. Morrissey, though not dead, is indeed a queen in real life. The third item, The Holy Trinity concept, is, however, where we run into trouble.
The general idea of a “Morrissey Holy Trinity” came from a literary theory proposed by Stephen Dedalus in James Joyce’s Ulysses.
“It’s quite simple,” Stephen’s friend Buck Mulligan explains in the book. “[Stephen] proves by algebra that Hamlet’s grandson is Shakespeare’s grandfather and that he himself is the ghost of his own father.”
While Buck is mocking Stephen, his summary isn’t much stranger than Stephen’s actual theory, which, in short, goes something like this:
Shakespeare’s real-life son, Hamnet, died in 1596 when he was 11 and Stephen argues, as many other scholars have, that Shakespeare’s character Hamlet is a tribute to his dead son, Hamnet.
Next, Shakespeare’s own real life father, John Shakespeare, died five years after Hamnet in 1601. Thus casting Shakespeare himself into the role of the grieving son (Hamlet).
Lastly, there is evidence that Shakespeare played the role of the ghost of Hamlet’s father in the early performances of the play at the Globe Theater.
Stephen’s theory of Hamlet, then, attempts to show that Shakespeare is, all at once, Father (of Hamnet/Hamlet), Son (of his recently deceased father, John, and thus he is also Hamlet), and Ghost (Hamlet’s father on stage). Thus, Shakespeare engages in a transmutation of identities similar to that of the Holy Trinity: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.
Interesting, right? It is if you’re into this sort of intellectual masturbation. Which I am.
So I thought it would be funny to create a similarly surreal backstory for this collage in which Morrissey is the daughter of Oscar Wilde and Joan Of Arc, but also the Mother of both. Or the murderer of both. Or all three are one and the same. I’m not really sure. All I know is my scenario never quite lines up as neatly as Stephen’s. In part, I suppose, because everyone in my triumvirate happens to be gay. But then that just adds to the absurdity of this whole exercise, doesn’t it? Anyway, the cast:
Joan Of Arc: Morrissey’s father and husband to Oscar Wilde.
Oscar Wilde: Morrissey’s mother and wife to Joan Of Arc.
Morrissey: daughter to Joan and Oscar, but then grows up to become a blasphemous Queen who sentences her own parents to death.
Yes, Joan and Oscar begat Morrissey, who becomes Queen, then kills his parents. I arrived at this conclusion mostly through “Big Mouth Strikes Again.” What else is he talking about when he’s verbally threatening “Sweetness?” I think that “Sweetness” is alternately Joan Of Arc and Oscar Wilde.
Joan is, of course, disguised as “Sweetness” in the first line—“Sweetness I was only joking when I said I'd like to smash every tooth in your head”—an obvious reference to the ancient custom of smashing the teeth out of the heads of those who have fallen in battle, a practice that Joan Of Arc would not have been unfamiliar with in the early 15th century. (In fact, in the 1999 film, The Messenger, Joan Of Arc even tries to stop a soldier from performing this gruesome act.)
Meanwhile Oscar is “Sweetness” in the next line—“Sweetness I was only joking when I said by rights you should be bludgeoned in your bed”—a conspicuous reference to Wilde’s own death in which he was bludgeoned by the wallpaper in his very own bed as he read.
But that’s okay. Because the conclusion I arrive at, and I think any rational human would agree—even though I don’t give a Tinker’s fart if anyone agrees with me or not because it’s my collage and I can make up whatever nonsense about it that I please—is that Morrissey is singing about murdering his mother and father in “Big Mouth Strikes Again.” The collage is an illustration of this patricide. Look at the smirk on his face. And the horns. He seems to be enjoying the idea of Joan Of Arc going up in flames and Oscar Wilde being reduced to a hideous monster with Walkman diarrhea.
Yet I also see Morrissey extinguishing his “parents” as part of an infinite cycle of regeneration. If you listen closely to his lyrics, you’ll hear numerous references to his affinity for the pair, most notably, “Keats and Yeats are on your side, while Wilde is on mine,” and, “Now I know how Joan Of Arc felt.” At one point he even seems to imply that he actually is Joan Of Arc being burned at the stake with the rather explicit reference to a hearing aid melting in the flames, a device that Morrissey wore on occasion. It’s easy, then, to imagine the three of them being manifestations of a single entity that he refers to as “Big Mouth,” an allusion to their combined inability to keep their traps shut. The transposable trio go round and round and round in an interchangeable cycle of reincarnation.
First, at least in our historical record, is Joan Of Arc who blathers on about her visions and is burned at the stake for her efforts, but she is then reincarnated later as Oscar Wilde; Oscar Wilde, poet to the heavens, also gets himself into hot water for his indiscretions, dies, and then comes back as Morrissey; Morrissey, the salty queen, will die someday, too, and presumably be reincarnated as a future Joan Of Arc, who will be burned at a future stake, then resurrected as a future Oscar Wilde, and the cycle continues through the ages ad infinitum. Joan, Oscar, Moz, Joan, Oscar, Moz, Joan…
That’s the general gist of it anyway. As I said at the beginning, I’m not really sure what the backstory to this image is, but I thought it was worth sharing my jumble of thoughts because maybe someone reading this has a better idea of exactly what is going on here.
Or not. Maybe we should just enjoy the image silently, without words, and heed this little piece of wisdom I once heard: “Never miss a chance to keep your mouth shut.” It’s a lesson our three subjects might have benefitted from? Then again we wouldn’t have had the privilege of receiving their gifts had they never opened their big mouths.