Song: Hold On To Your Friends
In most instances, I hate songs that revolve around long guitar arpeggios (plucking each note of a chord individually). I can’t stand Stairway To Heaven, Angie, or Hotel California for that reason (and other reasons too). Only a handful of songs featuring arpeggios escape my disdain. I enjoy Fourth Time Around by Bob Dylan, I Want You (She’s So Heavy) by The Beatles, and the appropriately titled Radiohead song Weird Fishes/Arpeggi. I’ve discovered one more song to add to the list: Hold On To Your Friends by Morrissey.
This isn’t your normal boring, whiny, self-important arpeggiated ballad. It may seem that way at first, but once the first verse ends and the tightly synchronized rhythm kicks in Hold On To Your Friends turns into a powerful and moving song.
Morrissey is, in my opinion, one of the ten best lyricists in rock music, and Hold On To Your Friends is a fine case in point. Here’s my favorite couplet:
There are more than enough
To fight and oppose
Why waste good time
Fighting the people you like?
In these lines you can see the punk spirit of The Smiths has carried over into Morrissey’s solo career. It’s a solid piece of rhetoric too. I have met plenty of people who say they won’t bother learning about politics or follow current events, but then they will mire themselves up to the neck in the mud created by gossip and lies among friends.
As great a writer as Morrissey is, in the end it’s the music that says more than he can. The lyrics, when taken separately, can be read as uplifting and anthemic, but when the outro kicks in, the discords and the guitar feedback swell chaotically for several measures, expressing wordlessly the difficulties of maintaining friendships, slyly hinting that Morrissey’s message is Utopian and unattainable. The song does what a good friend should, it gives you advice, but in the end, empathizes with how hard your life is.
—–I’ve written a book titled The Madness of Art: Short Stories available on Amazon in paperback and as an ebook.
Hold On To Your Friends by Morrissey should be in the catalogue of every karaoke bar in America. It’s a perfect song for last-call.