Every Song has a Story to tell: The Smiths – Rubber Ring

There are few bands in history who, despite existing less than a decade, left such a legacy and such important back catalogue as the Smiths did. The band formed around the highly charismatic and sometimes (well, often) controversial vocalist Morrissey existed during most of the eighties but then split up, with virtually no chance at all of a reunion. But in those few years of existance the band did release several studio albums (in those days, it was not a habit yet to leave a gap of 2 or 3 years between albums) that each have become iconic in their own way and which will stand the test of time without the slightest doubt.

Morrissey’s often tongue-in-cheeck and sometimes bitterly hard society criticism, combined with his often tormented and poetic lyrics, have appealed to fans worldwide and still continues to do so. Few bands are still as often discussed and listened to (even by young people not born yet when the band existed) so many years after disbanding. The lyrics of Morrissey, often dealing with subjects such as loneliness, being unloved, being misunderstood, feeling alienated and out of place, … have appealed to many people who recognised themselves in the lyrics of these songs. "How soon is now" (describing someone impatient of being loved but being misunderstood and ignored all the time) to me still is the ultimate Aspie anthem. However, for someone whose sexuality has remained a mystery even today, and who claims to have chosen abstainance by choice, some other Smiths songs have a strong sense of romance. Finally, Morrissey never hesitated to (sometimes in shocking ways lyrically) to vow his political opinions, with songs such as "Meat is murder" and "The Queen is dead" as highlights.

The band’s lyrics can be seen as sombre sometimes, but especially those which are inspired by Morrissey’s incredible love for/knowledge of literature, can also be surprisingly uplifting or at least beautiful in their own way.

The band’s back catalogue contains some of the most brilliant songs of their era, some which will never be touched by the hands of time. Johnny Marr’s unique guitar playing style added a lot to the band’s very distinct sound too, even when Morrissey got most attention due to his mysterious and at the same time charismatic personality. But songs such as "How soon is now" (with lyrics so recognisable for anyone facing loneliness), "Panic", "Ask", "Hand in glove", "Girlfriend in a Coma", "Please please let me get what I want", "Pretty girls make graves", "There is a light that never goes out" (combining the sense of belonging nowhere with a morbid-romantic chorus) will still be played many decades from now.

Out of that impressive legacy, I pick a less usual song to discuss: "Rubber ring".

"Rubber ring" in a way is a lovesong, but not in the conventional way: it is about love for music itself, more precisely: the song is about how, in the darkest depths, it is music that can pull you through and give you new hope and courage. The song in fact is a tribute to the emotional power of music itself, a power which I’m sure we all experienced how strong it is.

The message in the lyrics is clear:
"But dont forget the songs
That made you cry
And the songs that saved your life"
because, as Morrissey sings, "they were the only ones to ever stood by you".

and especially the final words of the last stanza speak for themselves, when the musician takes the word and passes his message to the listener:

"And when youre dancing and laughing
And finally living
Hear my voice in your head
And think of me kindly"

The title refers to a rubber ring people throw in the water when someone is drowning ; the rubber ring can be grabbed to hold on to and not drown. Similarly, your beloved music can be a lifesaver and loyal companion in those times when you emotionally feel like you’re drowning.

Out of the entire Smiths catalogue, I do think this is one of the most underrated songs. That said, for a band that left such a mark on music and with such legacy, it would be wrong to single out one or two songs. So maybe in the future you’ll see another Smiths song occurring on this blog.

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About thepathslesstravelled

An Aspie who has had a lifelong fascination with travelling, discovering new cultures and discovering new ways of life, and with a strange attraction to the less known and often forgotten places in the world. And very obsessed with sports and music.
This entry was posted in Artists, Bands, Music, Songs and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Every Song has a Story to tell: The Smiths – Rubber Ring

  1. Yann says:

    Hi,

    You have a really interesting blog, well, I have to say that the Smiths and football always tend to gel really good! I really liked your coverage of Istanbul BB, a few years ago. I’m a student in journalism and I’m now writing my thesis on Istanbul BB. Is there any chance of having your email to discuss about how you got such good info ?

    Yours sincerely,

    Yann

    • Hi Yann!

      Thanks for the nice comments. Choosing Istanbul Büyüksehir Belidiyespor as subject of your work is quite unique. I mean, it is not a famous club and not a loved one neither. The reason how I have this info is because I lived in Istanbul for 8 months (and if it wasn’t for the hard-to-get working permits, I wouldn’t have left because it is a fantastic city with amazingly friendly people and beauty everywhere you go). So this expanded my knowledge on Turkish football a lot, a bit of translating help from Google and visits to the IBB website did the rest 🙂 I wrote down your email address and will be in touch. PS: I am also following Israëli football as well as I can, so if you would be interested in that too … The other Middle Eastern countries attract me as much as Turkey and Israel but I somehow seem to find info online and email contacts a lot easier in these two countries.

      As for the Smiths… Indeed, hard to resist, but I hope the poppy sound of some of their songs doesn’t distract people from realising the seriousness and depth of Morrissey’s lyrics. Take songs like “Hand in glove”, “This charming man”, “You just haven’t earned it yet, baby”, and many more (maybe most of all “Sheila take a bow”). All quite commercial in terms of sound, but there is a lot of meaning in those songs, and the lyrics are very strong. It’s kinda like “Like the weather” by 10000 Maniacs (with Natalie Merchant), “True faith” by New Order, or “Enola Gay” by OMD : all songs that are danceable and sound happy, but have a lyrical meaning that is very much contradicting that sound. The Smiths sounded accessible for the mainstream audience but the lyrics of Morrissey are virtually unmatched and are extremely intelligent and deep. “Rubber ring” is a good example of that, hence why I chose that one for the article, although I’m sure more Smiths articles will appear on the blog ; the band has such an impressive discography …

  2. Alex Fynney says:

    Reblogged this on factuallyprobable and commented:
    My love of The Smiths explained perfectly.

  3. iggy says:

    It’s amazing things going with a new feeling produce rancor in beginnings.

  4. iggy says:

    It’s amazing things going with a new feeling produce rancor in beginnings. Bijou.

  5. Dan Rashal says:

    Great blog and a great piece about Rubber Ring.
    Being an Israel (but growing up in Washington DC, where I was first introduced to the Smiths during the 80s and never looked back since…), I would love to discuss Israeli football with you if you’d like.
    Please feel free to write me at your convenience.
    Dan

    • Thanks a lot! Glad you appreciate my writings!
      Which are your favourite Smiths songs? Other than”Rubber Ring” I am very fond of “How soon is now?”, “Hand in Glove”, “Pretty Girls make Graves”, “Girlfriend in a Coma”, “Sheila take a Bow”, “Ask”, “You just haven’t earned it yet, baby”, “Some Girls are bigger than others”, … and probably forgetting more! Morrissey’s lyrics often are pure poetry. That said, I do miss Johnny Marr’s input in Morrissey’s solo work.
      I was extremely heavily into Echo & The Bunnymen and The Smiths in my early twenties, and the fascination for these bands never stopped 🙂

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