Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Lyrics (Over)Analysis - This Charming Man By The Smiths

This time I am analysing the lyrics of The Smiths which is a band that has my favourite lyricist in Morrissey. The song I'm analysing is This Charming Man where you can hear the song above.

Just remember that when I'm interpreting lyrics from songs not written by me, I'm not saying my interpretation are an objective truth or that my interpretation matches the lyricist himself. This is just how I choose to perceived the lyrics to be about. I'm quite sure that Morrissey probably has different opinion on what the song is about.

I interpret that this song is about a homosexual man who is confused over his own identity and then met "this charming man" who helped him become comfortable with it.

I believe this song has beautiful and funny lyrics

A punctured bicycle
On a hillside desolate
Will nature make a man of me yet ?

I interpret that the punctured bicycle on a hillside desolate implies that the main protagonist feels lost and isolated.

When he cursed nature to make a man of him, he is implying that his feeling of lost and isolation is due to his homosexuality and he is blaming nature for making him that and wished that nature turn him into a normal straight man.

When in this charming car
This charming man

However he sees a charming man drives in like a knight in shiny armour to save the day

Why pamper life's complexity
When the leather runs smooth
On the passenger seat ?

Maybe this interpretation reveals more about my sick mind then the song itself. However I see it as a humorous comment that means, why worry about life's complex problem (why pamper life's complexity) when you can have sex on the smooth passenger seat of a luxury car. I admit that this interpretation would have made more sense if he wrote "When the leather runs smooth on the BACK seat" which is the seat more associated with that act. However this is my interpretation and it makes me laugh when I hear that line even if it may not be the true meaning. 

I would go out tonight
But I haven't got a stitch to wear
This man said "It's gruesome that someone so handsome should care"

This is probably my favourite line of the song. The protagonist was worried about going out when he hasn't got any decent clothes to wear and is self conscious about his appearance (if we follow this song from Hand In Glove, the protagonist is probably dressed in rags as well).

However the charming man reassures him that he is too handsome to care about the clothes he wear.
From personal experience, I have met certain girls who put so much effort on the type of clothes they wear and get so anxious about their appearance when it seems like they would look good wearing anything even if they were dressed in rags (That's an interesting line to used "It's gruesome that someone so pretty should care"). So this line has always resonated with me and it's a beautiful line.

A jumped up pantry boy
Who never knew his place

This was actually a quote from a movie called "Sleuth" that was used when a wealthy class man described a poorer person derogatively who was disobeying him by saying he just a pantry boy (which is the lowest of house servant) who is behaving outside his own social status and class. So it does establish that the protagonist is just a poor boy (albeit a rebellious one). Although originally the quote "who never knew his place" was originally meant that the person didn't know their social status. In the context of this song, this means that the main character did not know his place with his own sexuality.

He said "return the ring"
He knows so much about these things
He knows so much about these things

The charming man than tells the protogonist to return the ring. Marriage is an exclusive domain of heterosexuality in most parts of the world and I believe this line symbolises the charming man telling him to reject heterosexuality and be comfortable with himself. The main protagonist admires the charming man for knowing so much about this issue.

So that's my opinion on what "This Charming Man" by The Smiths was about. Feel free to offer your own interpretations.


  1. I think Morrissey use the interests. vagueness and taboo of possible homosexuality to allude to his new fame. It seems as if he uses "charming man" to allude to the person that discovered him, possibly and organization, a music label, or talent search. Morrissey reminds himself of his humble beginnings. He even talks about expereincing the good life on the leather of the passenger seat. He obviously could have used back seat to allude to something more sexual, yet he chooses the passenger seat as this person is showing him the ropes. This could have homosexual connotations and is definitely intended, but it seems as if this guy is seeing his talent and wondering why some one as talented as him is making excuses. This is seen in the verse "I would go out tonight
    But I haven't got a stitch to wear
    This man said "It's gruesome
    That someone so handsome should care"

    The song starts off with Morrissey feeling alienating and contemplating when life with get better with him. He alludes to greek mythology, as spartans who failed, or seen as week, were left to die on a hill. He contemplates when things will get better when he questions when nature will finnally make him a man as perceived by the majority. SOme one sees his talent and realizes he transcends all the bs. He decides to explore and take a chance in stead of pampering "life's complexities. Through the soung he brings up his class to show how new it is and remind himself where he came from. Ultimate he uses the returning of rings to bring himself back to reality and remember where he started. The "charming man" seems to be a mentor as he guides him to return the rings. Morrissey probably let fame and money get to his head and his mentor helped him see what was up. Morrissey realizes his experience when sings about how much more he knows about "these things" than himself. This charming man is someone who helps him realize how great he is but still brings him back to reality and what's important. He uses this story to reveal the complexies he had with who he is and what fame could do.