Have you ever encountered that incredible moment when a song you once dismissed as uninteresting unexpectedly reveals its true brilliance, completely captivating your musical senses and dominating your listening habits? I call these revelations musical ‘clicks.’ These clicks can completely change the way you view a song, album, or artist and encourage you to broaden your musical horizons and challenge yourself in search of that next ‘click.’
In my own musical journey, one such click is The Smiths’ ‘The Hand That Rocks The Cradle.’ Renowned for Morrissey’s infectious hooks and Johnny Marr’s jangly guitars, The Smiths had already captivated me with their distinctive sound. However, upon first listen, ‘The Hand That Rocks The Cradle’ seemed to defy expectations, lacking the typical allure of The Smiths. But as I delved deeper into its lyrics, a haunting and introspective atmosphere revealed itself, rewarding the attentive listener.
I was first introduced to The Smiths in my college years, and was quickly drawn to tracks like ‘This Charming Man’ and ‘Still Ill.’ These songs followed a standard verse-chorus structure, allowing me to half-listen while studying. In contrast, when I first listened to ‘The Hand That Rocks The Cradle,’ it seemed like Morrissey was rambling for almost five minutes (in fact, the track consists of only one verse). Nevertheless, the lyric ‘There’ll be blood on the cleaver tonight’ lingered in the back of my mind, despite not initially enjoying the track.
Years later, after graduating college, I found myself with more dedicated time for focused music listening. As I dove deeper into Morrissey’s lyrics for ‘The Hand That Rocks The Cradle,’ I discovered the imagery within the words that made the track ‘click’ for me: ‘Please don’t cry / For the ghost and the storm outside’ ‘Wavering shadows loom / A piano plays in an empty room’ ‘Ceiling shadows shimmy by / And when the wardrobe towers like a beast of prey / There’s sadness in your beautiful eyes’
In my mind, these lyrics painted a stormy night in an English countryside mansion. Particularly, the line ‘Ceiling shadows shimmy by / And when the wardrobe towers like a beast of prey’ evoked memories of waking up during a storm, seeing rain reflections on the ceiling, and momentarily mistaking furniture as ghostly figures. Morrissey’s eloquent way of portraying the scene in just 14 words astounded me, as it took me 38 words to describe the same ambiance.
With my newfound appreciation for the lyrics, I listened to the track repeatedly. I even recall driving 70 miles one night, exclusively tuned into the October 1983, John Porter monitor mix, eagerly unearthing any hidden musical nuances concealed within the lyrics and arrangement. The track that once seemed monotonous, nearly causing me to dismiss The Smiths’ debut album altogether (a rather silly thought, in retrospect), now consumed my listening time completely.
This ‘click’ was a transformative moment for me, opening my ears and mind. It led me to revisit the entire Smiths discography, curious to discover other tracks I had previously dismissed and were awaiting rediscovery (hello, ‘Half a Person’). I cherish these ‘clicks’ because they challenge me to step outside my musical comfort zone and engage with music I might not have otherwise explored.
These musical clicks hold a special place in our individual musical journeys. They remind us of the beauty and depth that lie within songs and albums, beckoning us to embrace the joy of discovery. I encourage you to embrace musical clicks in your own explorations. Challenge your preconceptions, for who knows what hidden gems await your ears, ready to ‘click’ into place and unveil their brilliance.
The journey of music discovery is never-ending. With each click, we uncover new layers, experience fresh emotions, and foster a deeper appreciation for the artistry that moves us. Keep chasing that next enchanting click, forever changing the way you listen to music.