Smiths Project: Janice Whaley sings entire catalog
Aidin Vaziri, Chronicle Pop Music CriticSan Francisco Chronicle January 15, 2011 04:00 AM
Saturday, January 15, 2011
Stop Me If You Think You’ve Heard This One Before…
Heaven Knows I’m (not) Miserable Now, but if you tried to Ask me about my plans for the new year — surely it’d involve introducing my ears to some new cover tunes. Like the ones created by our featured artist Janice Whaley, who undertook a major project that would have lesser-mortals saying: “I Started Something I Couldn’t Finish!”
What She Said about recording a 6-disc tribute to The Smiths catalogue is simple — These Things Take Time.
I Know It’s Over for your friend 2010, and we’d be going Nowhere Fast on a Miserable Lie to think otherwise, but This Charming Man is surely in awe of Janice’s ability to create a cappella renditions of Morrissey and Marr’s finest tunes. She even tapped Kickstarter to help fund the project rather than relying on Shoplifters of the World Unite-ing to purchase it.
When the physical discs are released in March, there will surely be a rush to buy them – perhaps even causing Panic on the streets of London. Luckily There Is a Light That Never Goes Out (a Limelight in fact;)) helping her in clearing the titles.
So Please, Please, Please, Let Me Get What I Want and make sure someone buys me a copy so it doesn’t wind up being an Unhappy Birthday.
When do I want it? How Soon is Now?
Spotlight on Janice Whaley (The Smiths Project)
- Artist Name + Website : Janice Whaley (www.thesmithsproject.com, www.janicewhaley.com)
- Hometown: “Joshua Tree, California, but I’ve lived in the Bay Area since 1995.”
- Influences: “Some of my biggest influences are The Smiths / Morrissey and The Cure as a teen, Radiohead and Bjork as a young adult, and then I became more interested in experimental music of John Cage, Pauline Oliveros, and many artists on John Zorn’s Tzadic label. I went to school for Electronic Music composition as well. This is where I learned ProTools and digital Musique Concrete style of sound editing.”
- Cover songs licensed: “The entire Smiths’ catalog plus their cover of Twinkle’s Golden Lights since it appeared on the major compilation album Louder Than Bombs. Some of my project favorites include, “That Joke Isn’t Funny Anymore”, “Rubber Ring”, “How Soon Is Now?”, “What She Said”, and “There Is A Light That Never Goes Out”.”
- Story behind the covers and the inspiration for them: “I have had a difficult time keeping up with music the past ten years or so. It’s always been a hobby of mine but usually the first thing I put down when other deadlines need to be met (work, school, family, parenting, etc…). 2010′s New Year’s resolution was to get music back into my life. I wanted to set a goal for myself that I could maintain throughout the year and I needed it to be personally interesting to keep me returning to the studio. I decided to record myself singing Smiths songs because they are some of the most well-written songs in my CD collection. Those songs always meant a lot to me in my teenage years and they have stuck with me ever since. Plus, there were roughly 70 songs in their catalog-enough to keep me going through the year.
I had started the project by singing a single track of vocals and blogging about it but it quickly became clear that people were listening and I needed to step up my game. My boyfriend suggested I do the songs in a layered vocal style like I had done a few other times before and thus the real project began in earnest. I generally worked on between 5-10 songs at once. There are between 30-50 layers of vocals on each song, and take as many hours to complete over a period of a few months. I posted between 1 and 2 songs per week for the entire year and was thrilled to meet my goal of completing the full catalog in less than one year. I completed mid-December and was able to enjoy my son’s birthday and the holidays without the looming weekly deadlines of weekly song postings to the blog.”
- About Funding the Album + Mechanical Royalties through Kickstarter: “It’s a costly project, but it would not be a fitting tribute to a band I so greatly admire if I were to not give them their rightful share of royalties. It is difficult for musicians in the digital age to receive credit and proper compensation for their work, but it is a major injustice to the artist and the craft of song writing in if we take music without permission. Royalties are a small price to pay and an easy way to say ‘thank you’ to artists who write these amazing songs we are compelled to cover!”
For more information about Janice’s wonderful journey through The Smiths catalog, you can visit her BandCamp and Kickstarter pages. The Guardian (UK) also wrote a piece on their blog. Tracks are currently available for stream via her BandCamp site, with fans who choose to fund the project at certain levels receiving cool extras (including an advance copy of the box set). In short, we’re psyched!
Top… Uh, Music Related Stuff of 2010?Joey Flispart (@changingmyplea)
Lots of cool shit went down this year, and here are a few of our favourite things. Just pretend we’re the Oprah of music.
These are not in a ranked order, they are purely in a numerical listed order for tracking purposes.
The Smiths Project
The Smiths Project was started by Janice Whaley, with a goal to cover every song in the entire catalog of The Smiths. Sounds like an easy task, right? Know some of the guitar parts, fiddle with the bass a bit, electronic drums in a snap, yodel and moan about for the vocals. Well, this one is a bit different and difficult than just covering the songs that saved our lives. Janice decided to take the route of covers by using nothing but her voice. Layers over layers over layers and over and over of only vocals come together to form her take on some of the greatest songs ever written. It works. From Reel Around The Fountain to I Won’t Share You, everything is there, all cast in a familiar light (that never goes out, of course). Though Janice puts her own mark on these, so don’t expect to know everything going in to a first listen. In all my Smiths/Morrissey experience I believe these aren’t only compliments to the originals, but necessary companions. I never appreciated the song Jeane as much until this project happened, and the take for Last Night I Dreamt That Somebody Loved Me is so hauntingly beautiful. Thank you and congratulations on finishing the project, Janice.
Please visit http://thesmithsproject.blogspot.com/ and take a look and listen. Worth every second you spend there.
Joey’s top 5 song Recommendations:
I Know It’s Over
Some Girls Are Bigger Than Others
Last Night I Dreamt That Somebody Loved Me
Janice hace la discografía entera de los Smiths a capella
December 28, 1910, 12:05 28 Dic 10, 12:05
For JNSP Por JNSP
JNSP's Website JNSP's Website
Free Listen to dozens of curious Bandcamp versions of the Smiths. Escucha libre en Bandcamp de decenas de curiosas versiones de los Smiths. And media such as The Guardian had been developing a girl walking around the world preparing a capella versions of the Smiths. Ya medios como The Guardian habían venido adelantando que una muchacha andaba por el mundo preparando versiones a capella de los Smiths. When the media interviewed Janice Whaley in October the singer was on his track number 54. Cuando este medio entrevistó a Janice Whaley en octubre la cantante iba por su pista número 54. Since then he has had time to finish the idea (usually takes about 20 hours to record each cut, which takes 20 to 30 vocal tracks) and has appeared online for Christmas his little masterpiece: the entire discography of the Smiths in order its Bandcamp , including also between studio albums, the singles that were not included in any of the albums, which were many and abundant. Desde entonces ha tenido tiempo de terminar la idea (suele tardar unas 20 horas en grabar cada corte, que lleva hasta 20 ó 30 pistas de voces) y por Navidad ha aparecido online su pequeña obra maestra: toda la discografía de los Smiths en orden en su Bandcamp , incluyendo, también, entre disco y disco, los singles que no fueron incluidos en ninguno de los álbumes, que fueron muchos y abundantes. The project is called 'The Smiths Project', sells for $ 60 in a six-disc direct access to the download of these dozen songs, and though we could not help illustrate this story with a tribute catlike to Morrissey, the cover gives the hit completely. El proyecto recibe el nombre de 'The Smiths Project', se vende por 60 dólares en una caja de seis discos con acceso directo a la descarga de estas decenas de canciones y, a pesar de que no hemos podido evitar ilustrar esta noticia con el homenaje gatuno a Morrissey, la portada da el pego totalmente. Janice also has a blog where he has been telling anecdotes about the recording. Janice tiene también un blog en el que ha venido contando las anécdotas sobre la grabación. In a recent post he recalls how he almost throw in the towel for lack of time, because he spoiled the computer or because I had to take care of her four years. En un post reciente recuerda cómo ha estado a punto de tirar la toalla por falta de tiempo, porque se le estropeaba el ordenador o porque tenía que cuidar de su hijo de cuatro años. Therefore, appreciates the messages of support he has received from his fans, especially fans of the Smiths, which is saying a lot because it is not very common for talifans give its approval to such projects. Por tanto, agradece los mensajes de apoyo que ha recibido de sus fans, sobre todo de fans de los Smiths, lo cual es mucho decir pues no es muy habitual que los talifans den su visto bueno a proyectos de este tipo. However, versions of "Reel Around The Fountain 'or' How Soon Is Now '(some seem to have taken ideas of' Medúlla 'by Björk) well worth it. Sin embargo, las versiones de 'Reel Around The Fountain' o 'How Soon Is Now' (algunas parecen haber tomado ideas del 'Medúlla' de Björk) bien lo valen. On the other hand, these days you publish a bootleg with unreleased demos of Smiths titled "Unreleased Demos & Instrumentals' double blue vinyl, according to Morrissey-Solo.com . Por otro lado, estos días se publica un disco pirata con maquetas inéditas de los Smiths titulado 'Unreleased Demos & Instrumentals' en doble vinilo de color azul, según Morrissey-Solo.com .
October 25, 2010
San Francisco Resident Janice Whaley Covering the Smiths' Entire Catalog a Capella by 2011
by Chris Martins
We're still a little salty about Morrissey's diss of our fair city (a city he's called home) but Los Angeles' estimable Smiths fans shouldn't be punished for the rantings of cranky old men.
Janice Whaley plans to record every Smiths song a capella by the end of 2010.
One young resident of California -- San Francisco's Janice Whaley -- has been working her way through the Smiths' entire catalog, covering every song they've ever recorded and playing every single part ... with her voice.
It's called The Smiths Project, and Whaley originally set out to wrap it in a year. So far she's completed all of The Smiths ('84), Meat is Murder ('85) and The Queen is Dead ('86), and is working her way through Louder Than Bombs ('87).
The effect is positively Björk-like, recalling both the drama of Selmasongs and the experimental heft of Medúlla. Check it out:
Listen to more at Whaley's Bandcamp page. A recent message from Whaley on her blog:
If I though so many people would be listening to these covers when I first started out, I would have been too shy to do this project- BUT I'm so glad that I did. I'm doing all the things in life I'd like to!
Speaking of, I'd really like to finish this project! I just calculated that I need to post 2 songs per week from now to Dec 31. INSANITY. Wish me luck, guys...
October 15, 2010
by Brian Ibbott
Thanks to Conor H. for letting me know about this: Singer Janice Whaley is covering every Smiths song by the end of the year, using just her voice. But if you think you know how it’s going to sound (perhaps a cappella in the style of Petra Haden?), think again.
She’s deftly using some digital trickery to make her voice tracks sound like no voice you’ve ever heard. Have a list to the songs in the widget below, and then visit her site to keep up to date on new tracks and announcements.
October 12, 2010
This charming plan (to cover every single Smiths song)
by Stephen Kelly
Janice Whaley might have a job and a toddler but that didn't stop her taking on a time-consuming project to reimagine every Smiths record. Luckily, the results are stunning
"The feat of a true apostle" – that's how Simon Goddard, author of The Smiths: The Songs That Saved Your Life, puts it. "Once it's over you shall be officially anointed Saint Janice of Smithdom."
Morrissey may not be the messiah – on the contrary, he's a very naughty boy – but the religious analogy is perfect. For if the Smiths provoke that most evangelical breed of fanaticism (I once met a chap whose wife offered him the ultimatum of "It's either Moz or me" – he now lives alone) then San Francisco's Janice Whaley is embarking upon a pilgrimage of biblical scale. Forty days and nights in the desert? Pah! Try 365 days and nights trying to fit in a full-time job, a hyperactive toddler and an homage to every song Bigmouth and co ever committed to record. That's the ambition of The Smiths Project – a tribute like no other.
Understandably, in an age where any note-strangling ninny can scream into the World Wide Abyss, this may fail to sound astounding – but Janice is no ninny and she certainly doesn't strangle notes. If anything, she's testament to just how charming, creative and arduous the modern tribute can be. While the last decade saw the rise of the cover as an ironic novelty, her versions are fuelled by something sincere: a passion for the songs that defined her life and a compulsion to make them all wonderfully hers.
From the soul-destroying Walmart job she quit after listening to Heaven Knows I'm Miserable Now to the recent deaths of two friends that inspired her to turn again to music (a passion she had long neglected), Janice earnestly and honestly relates her life through songs which – as a fan – you hear anew. Sweet and Tender Hooligan goes from a jangle-fest to the song at the end of the world; Some Girls Are Bigger Than Others is dragged kicking and screaming into dystopianism; Still Ill burns with eerie slowness; This Charming Man becomes a ballad and if I Know It's Over – Morrissey's lament from the abattoir of love – wasn't enough to tear down the world of the broken-hearted before, Janice's rendition has Cupid turning the arrow on himself.
They've proved good enough to win over fans that usually despise covers ("The Smiths Project, loved by haters!" she says) but, to me, Janice's greatest achievement has been to highlight and detach the art from the artist – or, in this case, the brilliant songs from the solipsistic dope of questionable quotes.
Featuring no instruments at all, her arrangements are constructed entirely from layers of vocals using a dodgy old microphone and the Pro Tools production software left under her Christmas tree last year.
"Typically, every track has 20-30 layers of vocals or drums and they take about 20-30 hours each to complete," she explains over the phone while her three-year-old son plays loudly in the background. "That time is spread out over any time that I'm alone in the house or haven't got my 'Mommy' hat on. I've essentially given myself a part-time job's worth of a task. Without pay! What have I done?"
It's a fair question. With this week's posting of her 54th effort, a characteristically menacing version of Panic, she has 20 tracks (or around 600 hours of work) to go. At the moment she's averaging one song a week, but has to step it up to two to stand any chance of seeing in the new year triumphant. It's going to be tight, although given what she's achieved already there's hardly anything to feel disheartened about. Janice, take a bow.
October 12, 2010
Boom Boom Chik
Janice Whaley’s The Smiths Project is a feat made possible by cheap technology, the Internet, and sheer willpower. I have a deep love and appreciation for DIY artists and projects, and this project is quite unique.
Unlike other artists who have endeavored to write and record a song a day for 365 days or a song a week for a year, Whaley’s decided to write and record vocal arrangements of every single song written and recorded by The Smiths. She started January 1st this year and purportedly has just another 20 tracks to record.
Words like “homage” and images like “cover band” are inevitably conjured up upon reading this, but Whaley’s the shit and she has the chops to prove it. Using a microphone and Pro Tools, Whaley’s arrangements are ridiculously complicated and intricate, each song comprised of 20-30 vocal and drum tracks and taking anywhere between 20-30 hours to record. Not to mention, she also holds down a job and is a mother to a toddler.
I’ve read a few articles who herald her talent above that of others who are presumably not so talented. I think along with Whaley’s talent, we should be proud of how the Internet has allowed countless people to record covers or other homages of countless artists, some of who we may have never been acquainted with prior to happening upon something like The Smiths Project or your run-of-the-mill YouTube song cover. A bad song cover is still a whole lot of flattery, and a project of the time and size like Whaley’s, we have to give more than just props. I really hope my man Morrissey intends on inviting her to tour with him – toddler in tow.
Here’s Janice Whaley’s cover of The Smiths’ “Panic” (there’s a mouthful!)
October 5, 2010
Music on a Stick- This Charming Girl
I draw your attention to Smiths fan and musician Janice Whaley, the creator of The Smiths Project. Her goal is ambitious — to record every Smiths song by December 31st, 2010, using only multi-layered arrangements of her voice. Imagine that Morrissey and Imogene Heap made musical love, and this project would be the result. All of the recordings are free for download, with my favorite track so far being her version of “There is a Light that Never Goes Out”.
Listen, download, visit her, and if you feel so inclined — give her some Paypal love.
Sunday, September 19, 2010
by Fetesha N. Downs
What is the Smiths Project?
That's exactly what I was wondering when I was approached on Twitter about doing a write-up on it. Per the description, the Smiths Project involves a "unique arrangements of every Smiths song by Dec 31 2010". Hmmmm...An interesting goal, huh? Well, as someone who's just been introduced to the Smiths through the project, I have to say I'm highly impressed. It's one thing to say you appreciate a particular musician or band, but this kind of dedication is unheard of to me. Combine that with a highly-talented female musician to begin with--where can you really go wrong?
Janice Whaley, the woman behind this whole project, is documenting her journey here. Reading over some of the entries, what I found so intriguing (and there really is a lot to be impressed by), is the fact that her voice is literally her instrument. This isn't just a plethora of song covers. She is actually using her voice to represent everything from the guitar to the drums and the listener is being swept away to an unknown destination. But you know what, you won't even mind. Nor will the unconscious smile be able to leave your face. If you're a fan of the Smiths, or are like me and just want a unique way to get introduced to them--check her out.
Add her on Facebook & Twitter. Download her song covers here. You can also listen out for her on Breakfast with The Smiths: The World of Morrissey and Hang the DJ. And don't forget to keep spreading the word!
The Smiths Project
August 27, 2010
No comments I have been getting quite inspired lately but some brilliant people and concepts I am coming across online. The PostSecret project is one and then…..
This morning I woke and flicked on Twitter and found a message from someone called Janice who I did not know. She was pointing me to a project she is doing. I am a The Smiths fan and so is she. Well, all I can say is it is one of the best Twitter links I have EVER followed. Quite simply Janice is working through the entire catalogue of songs by The Smiths, recording them all just with voice. She uses her voice in a variety of ways to cover all aspects of the the instrumentation of the songs. Most impressively, she is not trying to build direct covers, she is actually effectively remixing the songs as well. What she is building is a marvelous collection of lushly layered and multitracked covers of these beautiful songs. What she is, quite obviously, is bloody brilliant and clever! I am listening to some of the tracks as I write this, each one new to my ears. The problem I am having is everyone becomes my favourite after listening to it, they are all seriously good arrangements. Well done Janice and thank you for the link to your lovely work.
Here is one of her tracks, The Boy With The Thorn In His Side…..
Check the rest of her work out at http://thesmithsproject.blogspot.com
August 5, 2010
Old Familiar Way
Two things I love: The Smiths and songs made up completely of vocals.
June 23, 2010
The Smiths Project I stumbled onto Janice Whaley's Smiths Project last week (via Slicing Up Eyeballs, which is a cool 80s sorta alternative music blog). She's basically trying to cover every Smiths song by the end of this year, and it looks like she's on track to hit that goal. You can go to the blog and listen, and you also can download tracks here. As of this writing, there are 32 tracks for your downloading pleasure. I also grabbed her widget thingy (man, that sounds dirty) from which you can listen here, as well. That is, if you're lazy and don't want to navigate away from Pop Molecule. Anyway, I think her endeavor is very cool and anyone who is a fan of The Smiths should give it a listen. And really, who doesn't like The Smiths?
July 17, 2010
I stumbled onto Janice Whaley's Smiths Project a short time ago (via Slicing Up Eyeballs, which is a cool 80s sorta alternative music blog). She's basically trying to cover every Smiths song by the end of this year, and it looks like she's on track to hit that goal. You can go to the blog and listen, and you also can download tracks here. As of this writing, there are 32 tracks for your downloading pleasure. I also grabbed her widget thingy (man, that sounds dirty) from which you can listen here, as well. That is, if you're lazy and don't want to navigate away from here. Anyway, I think her endeavor is very cool and anyone who is a fan of The Smiths should give it a listen. And really, who doesn't like The Smiths?
June 30, 2010
The Smiths Project, l'idea geniale di Janice Whaley!
Claudio Critelli http://claudiocritelli.blogspot.com/2010/06/smiths-project-lidea-geniale-di-janice.html?showComment=1278708106108
Fans degli Smiths, adoratori della premiata ditta Morrissey & Marr (con Andy Rourke e Mike Joyce a dare il loro prezioso contributo), prendete nota di questo blog: The Smiths Project. L’indirizzo esatto è thesmithsproject.blogspot.com. I più pigri lettori di questo post potranno raggiungerlo semplicemente cliccando QUI. E’ lo spazio nel quale Janice Whaley ha deciso di pubblicare durante il 2010 covers vocali dell’intero repertorio della band di Manchester. Si tratta di un progetto ambizioso reso affascinante dalle capacità mostrate da questa bravissima 34enne cantante e polistrumentista di San Francisco. Ogni canzone degli Smiths viene proposta con un arrangiamento completamente nuovo. E, come le cose più belle, anche con questi nuovi abiti le composizioni non perdono lucentezza rivelando, anzi, sfaccettature sorprendenti. Dall’inizio dell’anno Janice ha registrato circa metà dei 74 brani che hanno cambiato la vita di molti. La mia compresa. Andando su The Smiths Project potrete ascoltarli, scaricarli e, soprattutto, stupirvi. The Smiths Project è anche su Facebook.
"Fans of the Smiths, lovers of the Morrissey & ...Marr’s award-winning company (with Andy Rourke and Mike Joyce to give their valuable contribution), take note of this blog: ‘The Smiths Project’ (thesmithsproject.blogspot.com).It’s the place in which Janice Whaley decided to publish, during 2010, vocal covers of the entire repertoire of the band of Manchester. This is an ambitious project made fascinating by the skills displayed by this talented 34 year old singer and poli-instrumentalist born in San Francisco. Every song by The Smiths is proposed with a completely new arrangement. And, like the finer things, even with these new clothes the compositions don’t lose shine revealing, indeed, surprising facets. Since the beginning of this project Janice has recorded about half of the 74 songs that have changed the lives of many persons. Mine included. Going to 'The Smiths Project' you can listen, download and, above all, surprise yourself. 'The Smiths Project' is also on Facebook" .
June 16, 2010
Slicing Up Eyeballs
To date, Whaley has posted more than 30 tracks (out of 74 or so total songs), working her way through The Smiths, Hatful of Hollow and part of Meat is Murder, in addition to hitting some rare songs, such as “This Charming Man” B-sides “Jeane” and “Wonderful Woman” — plus a few fun detours, like a jam session with “Reno 911!” star and Morrissey fanboy Thomas Lennon (as seen above in Josh Cadwising’s photo).
On her blog, Whaley writes that she embarked on this project “to reconnect to my ‘inner musician,’” and chose the Smiths’ catalog because, “These were the songs that I listened to through my formative years. The music that saw me through good times and bad … These songs have been in my life for the past 20 years.”
The fun in hearing Whaley’s inventive covers is the variety of different approaches she takes in layering her wonderful voice, from making “Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want” sound even more detached and mournful by singing it through a Vocoder to her liberal use of vocal distortion on “What She Said,” giving it, she notes, a My Bloody Valentine feel. Or just take in this almost angelic-sounding version of “Hand in Glove.”
Hear some of Janice Whaley’s Smiths covers after the jump…
May 8, 2010
"If you love The Smiths like I love The Smiths … then you will love THIS project."
April 9, 2010
What You're Missing
The Smiths Project, a fantastic blog by Janice, who intends to sing and record all the Smiths catalogue by the end of 2010. She's got a beautiful voice and has created the best Smiths covers ever! really worth a visit/Un fantástico blog de Janice en el que cuelga sus grabaciones de todas las canciones del repertorio de The Smiths. Tiene una preciosa voz y sus versiones son las mejores que he escuchado. Pretende acabar este proyecto al final de 2010. vale la pena echarle un vistazo.
April 1, 2010
Do you know The Smiths Project ? A girl named Janice decided to record a cover version of all Smiths songs by the end of 2010. I listened to most of her songs and she have a lot of talent !
March 15, 2010
This Charming Man: The Legacy of Morrissey & The Smiths Unless you’re lacking in some serious musical education, you know who Morrissey and The Smiths are. But just in case, I’ll humor those of you who just furrowed your brow thinking “Who?!” The Smiths were a terrific Manchester rock band in the early to late 1980s. They released four studio albums from 1984 to 1987: “The Smiths,” “Meat is Murder,” “The Queen Is Dead,” and “Strangeways, Here We Come.” After their breakup in 1987, lead singer and lyricist, known simply as Morrissey, went solo to release nine studio albums, most recently, 2009’s “Years of Refusal.” Why are we so still so obsessed with the man? The sometimes profoundly depressing lyrics? The sometimes gut-wrenching hilarious lyrics? The jangly guitar riffs? The enigma that is Morrissey? In 2002, British music magazine NME named The Smiths the most influential artists of the past 50 years. But why exactly does Morrissey still enrapture us? I contacted some notable Morrissey enthusiasts and gathered my own thoughts to find out. I have been a fan of The Smiths and Morrissey ever since I first heard the plucky guitar intro to “This Charming Man” on the drive back from my local Tower Records (remember when we physically bought music?) where my older sister got the “Best of The Smiths Vol. 1” CD back in 2001. I’ve been a fan ever since. Most fans have a similar, earth-shattering first experience; Jose Maldonado, who hosts the radio show “Breakfast with The Smiths” on Los Angeles’ Indie 103.1, describes his experience in a phone interview: “I was in a record store and they were playing the brand new Smiths album, at the time “Cemetery Gates” was on, and I stopped what I was doing and just sat there to listen. The song that came after that was “Bigmouth Strikes Again” which was very cathartic, and life changing—in every sense of the word. These amazing guitar tracks with a unique voice and equally unique lyrics that I’d never before heard in my life. And in that moment I needed to know who this band was and what they were all about and the rest is history.” Maldonado’s show devotes a full two hours to The Smiths, Morrissey, and related artists each week. Maldonado is also the lead singer in Smiths tribute band Sweet and Tender Hooligans and he even played Morrissey in the indie film “My Life with Morrissey,” in addition to his day job as an L.A. County lifeguard.
Through the radio show, I stumbled upon The Smiths Project, a sort of Julie/Julia blog, but replaces the fattening French cooking with the nutritious tunes of The Smiths sung by 34-year-old Janice Whaley. Whaley’s goal is to chronicle the entire Smiths discography, spanning their entire discography but in her own personal vocal style by the end of 2010.
“I’ve always felt a connection to the way each song was written, and how the music and vocals play off each other. Musically speaking, Morrissey and Marr are really night and day but they compliment each other perfectly. For example, just listening to the jangly instrumentation, could you conceive of laying a slow, melodic vocal line on top of that?” Whaley told me via email, referencing the paradoxical juxtaposition of Morrissey and guitarist Johnny Marr in their Smiths years. “The opposite is also true, if you were to only hear Morrissey’s vocals, could you weave in 10 layers of guitars that compliment that without sounding busy or cluttered? I’m also in awe of Morrissey’s quirky and intelligent lyrics. He often tackles difficult or unusual subjects and, in general, he makes you think.”
Singer-songwriter Pete Yorn, who frequently covers Smiths songs live in concert, also told me via Twitter that Morrissey’s lyrics set him apart as a musical icon: “I think I respect Morrissey ‘cause he’s able to articulate what seems to be in his heart and get away with it. The music comes second…He says what’s on his mind and sometimes he says it for us.”
Morrissey’s reach as a lyricist is a clear connecting thread among fans. Maldonado concurs: “I think that speaks to why he such a great singer-songwriter that he is, that fact that years later there are still fans discovering the music for the first time and realizing how timeless those emotional, feelings, and lyrics will always be.”
Inevitably, Morrissey’s appeal is more than just his musical talents. In addition to Morrissey’s smooth, lulling voice, he is known for his eccentric duds: billowing paisley buttons-downs, cuffed blue jeans, oversized geek specs, and of course, his cartoon-ish coiffure, coveted by twenty-something hipsters worldwide. Whaley stated: “I definitely think Morrissey is an icon. His signature hair style, unmistakable voice, his views on the world…it all works together to make a completely unique human being that many strive to emulate.”
“I think it’s funny that he’s perceived as a sex symbol,” Crystal Becerril said, recalling Morrissey whip off his shirt in a salacious frenzy during a concert. Becerril, host of “Love is Noise” on BU’s own WTBU, said “As much as I want to think the music is separate from a musician’s personal life, it’s completely connected.” Becerril and Morrissey share similar views on vegetarianism and animal rights and she views this as furthering her connection to the music, rather than creating it.
“There is a certain time where I just cannot listen to them or else I think I might jump off a bridge,” Becerril joked. But fellow DJ Maldonado disagreed when he said:
“I’m going to tell you the God’s honest truth: driving home from a gig or driving home from the radio station, I am listening to Morrissey and The Smiths on the way home…It really takes a special kind of artist to, generations later, still be reaching out to new audiences. Most artists that are true to themselves would trade being a Britney Spears pop star who is loved by so many millions, for maybe someone who was loved by a select few, and will continue to be loved for generations to come. It’s an envious place to be. What’s really crazy is after all these years I find myself still attached to this artist, I still get butterflies in my stomach waiting to see what it’s gonna be like—before I even get to hear the songs, just to hear the titles of the songs, that anticipation to see what is “Satan Rejected My Soul” going to be about. He’s unique in that sense, I don’t feel that same sense of anticipation for really anyone else.”
Morrissey’s lyrics are truly poetic, crafting together verses that capture raw emotion with the sharp signature Morrissey wit we’ve come to know and love through his prolific 26-year career. His introverted, wilting flower persona, longing for love and affection has been upgraded into a strong and confident singer-songwriter that has gained the undying devotion he desperately yearned for and sings about consistently. Morrissey is not just a lad to listen to when you’re depressed on a rainy day and feeling like a tortured soul; he tells melancholy tales of heartbreak and longing and the humanness of desperation and sadness through sometimes hilarious lyrics, sometimes tragically lonely lyrics juxtaposed alongside danceable melodies.
Maldonado recalled one of his favorite Morrissey lyrics from 1994’s “Speedway,” which states “In my own sick way, I’ll always stay true to you.” He confessed “For me, sums up what my relationship means, my love for Morrissey, in my own sick way.”
March 11, 2010
Janice Takes A Bow
http://simongoddardwords.blogspot.com/2010/03/janice-takes-bow.html (website has since moved)
There’s a young woman called Janice who, unlike Dionne Warwick, knows the way to San Jose (she must do: she lives there) where, since the first week of January, she’s been devoting her spare time to an extraordinary feat of “apostledom”. By the stroke of midnight on 31 December 2010, it is Janice’s aim to have recorded a cover version of the entire Morrissey/Marr Smiths songbook via the power of some crafty computer technology but mostly the melodious set of pipes she was born with. So far, Janice has been doing roughly one song a week and posting the resulting mp3 on her blog called simply The Smiths Project . The bad news for Janice is that there are only 52 weeks in the year but something in the region of 70 Morrissey/Marr songs (instrumentals included). Unless she gets those proverbial skates on, the chances of her bagging the lot by Hogmanay are a bit slim. The good news, though, is that her efforts thus far has been remarkable. This week she celebrates the first major milestone in her quest having now covered 1984’s The Smiths album in its entirety...
Now, obviously, any old fool could sit in their bedroom and sing unaccompanied Smiths songs, badly, and share with the rest of the world with no skill or charm whatsoever. But Janice isn’t any old fool and what she’s done is so skilfully charming that I really would urge the world to listen. And I say that as somebody who, as a rule, doesn’t really like Smiths covers.* (As somebody once said of their hair, “Why meddle with a masterpiece?”)
Our Janice, however, has the voice of an angel, albeit one that’s been trapped in the catacombs. By accident, design or a divinely eccentric combination of both, so far she’s made those top 80s pop picks What Difference Does It Make? and Hand In Glove sound like pagan sacrifice. If ever a singing voice came wearing a cassock, it is hers. Listen carefully to her Miserable Lie and in the distance you might hear Edward Woodward being burned inside The Wicker Man. Janice’s You’ve Got Everything Now might sound like Jacqui McShee doing vocal warm-ups in an airing cupboard but the aroma of flaming torches prevails. Just to be perverse, her Suffer Little Children is as dreamy as a fabric softener commercial. There is something of the Pre-Raphaelite about Janice in as much as a part of me would like to believe every night she lowers herself to sleep in an icy brook. For her and her loved ones’ sake, I hope I’m wrong.
All this I mean as sincere praise. Janice has said some very kind things about my writing and she certainly warrants a gigantic, garland-strewn return of compliment. More than anything I applaud, not only her singing, but her near-radioactive joyous devotion. Talking of which, last week I interviewed an ageing bona fide “rock’n’roll legend” who also salivated in awe of The Smiths. “So much of that which has earned duckets in the rock industry of the late 80s plods,” they said. “The Smiths did not plod!”
More of that encounter next time, but for now congratulations to Janice. 11 down, another 59 to go (not including cover versions, the Cilla song, unreleased bits of fluff et cetera).
Check, and marvel at, her Smiths Project blog by visiting thesmithsproject.blogspot.com ...
(* - But I make an exception for Jeff Buckley’s I Know It’s Over)