“Grow up, be a man, and close your mealy-mouth.”

Dial-A-Cliché is the twelfth and penultimate track on Morrissey’s 1988 solo debut, Viva Hate. Though it was never a smash hit single, I was quickly drawn to its snarky title: the perfect retort to repetitive boilerplate lecture nonsense that young people can’t seem to avoid. The music is pensive and relaxing.

Len Brown at Spin Magazine seemed convinced that the song “reflects on the difficult relationship between father and son”. That sound reasonable. I’ve got no cause to dispute it. Without reconstructing Morrissey’s entire childhood, I thought I’d be remiss not to snoop around Google for at least some little tidbit about dear old dad that might enhance our understanding of the song. Here is what I found, from the 2004 book Morrissey, Scandal and Passion, by David Bret, page 38:

There was a man of a certain age who, behind his whiskers and alcohol ravaged pallor, looked incredibly like Morrissey. He would jump on to the stage and try to dance with the group. This was Morrissey’s father. He used to hang around a lot backstage, trying to pick up girls. He became such a terrible embarrassment for the singer, who ended up barring him from all The Smiths’ future concerts.

That could have turned out either really cool or really awkward, depending on the guy. It seems like the Mr. Bret is leading us in the direction of the latter, although I hate to judge before all the facts are in. Wikipedia identifies him as Peter Morrissey.

 

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