Wordsmith Wednesday – Morrissey’s “The Ordinary Boys”

Welcome to the second Wordsmith Wednesday. Today we’re going to look at the lyrics of Morrissey‘s The Ordinary Boys. I was having trouble deciding on something from my own collection. Spoiled for choice, you could say. So I jumped on Twitter and put out a call for help. Semibold responded almost immediately, asking if I liked Morrissey and The Smiths. I told her like wasn’t an issue so much as interesting was. She then pointed me to the song we will be discussing today. Here are the lyrics:

The Ordinary Boys by Morrissey and Stephen Street

Ordinary boys, happy knowing nothing

Happy being no-one but themselves

Ordinary girls, supermarket clothes

Who think it’s very clever to be cruel to you

For you were so different

You stood all alone

And you knew

That it had to be so

Avoiding ordinary boys

Happy going nowhere, just around here

In their rattling cars

Ordinary girls

Never seeing further

Than the old, small streets

That trap them

But you were so different

You had to say no

When those empty fools

Tried to change you, and claim you

For the lair of their ordinary world

Where they feel so lucky

So lucky, so lucky

With their lives laid out before them

They are lucky

So lucky, so lucky


True confessions time. That is a lot of how I felt in high school…the isolation of being unique, feeling like the “normal” kids had it easy, that they were out to get me. When I read those words, I was instantly transported back to that time in my life.

By turns, the lyrics are hurt (“think it’s very clever to be cruel to you”), condescending (“those empty fools”), and jealous (“they are lucky”). It sounds as though a bitter teenager is venting his spleen. I looked up the dates and found out that Morrissey was nearly thirty in 1988 when Viva Hate, the album on which the song appears, was released. Seriously? You get to almost thirty and still can’t get over the mean kids in high school? Still, the lyrics made me think.

When I was in high school, everything felt so difficult, bewildering, and hurtful. There were kids that I thought were “so lucky”. The rich kids, the popular kids, the pretty kids, all of them had to have had it easier than me! Gradually, I learned how wrong I was. Nobody has it easy in high school. Nobody has it easy EVER.

Life is difficult. Some days it goes well, others go horribly wrong. Money, popularity, and looks only change the types of problems one has. I didn’t like these lyrics, they brought me back to a time of petty meanness and sadness. However, they got my brain whirling, and for that I kinda love them too. What about you? What do these lyrics say to you?


  1. semibold said

    Oh, I’m glad you chose this one!

    Sometimes it takes A REALLY LONG TIME to get over that stuff. Everyone reacts differently.

    But I don’t necessarily think he WASN’T over it then — I think he could still access that pain and write a song from that POV, even if he’s not directly feeling it anymore. I know I could.

    And that’s also a big part of his schtick, if you want to call it that. Morrissey is the voice of the outcast and downtrodden and unlovable! And that’s why we love him.

  2. Gigi Salem said

    I get that it can take a long time to get over that stuff, it just sounded so petulant and whiny for an adult, like he wasn’t over it, and that turned me off a bit. Plus, I’m sort of an emotional sponge when it comes to music. I don’t WANT to feel like the outcast but listening to that sort of music exacerbates those feelings in me. It’s why I love Duran so much. They engender all sorts of pleasant emotions in their music in me.

    I do love that the lyrics got me to thinking about how far I’ve come since high school, especially since I’ve been feeling like I’ve gotten nowhere in my life. It reminded me that I have at least progressed emotionally, you know what I mean?

  3. semibold said

    A lot of people have that problem with Morrissey — “Ugh, what a whiner.” I think part of the reason I love him so much is that he’s absolutely naked about it. He slices open his guts and lets you see all the emotions and insecurity, and he doesn’t really care how he looks doing it.

    It was crucial music for me when I was in the depths, because it was the only thing that told me I wasn’t alone. Now I listen to it with more of a sense of nostalgia. “Aw, remember when I was miserable? I’m so glad I had this music then.”

    • Gigi Salem said

      I can dig that, and I wish I could take music that way. I call John Taylor’s “Feelings Are Good” album my therapy album for just that reason. There’s just something about it that, rather than winding me up, sort of soothes me as I scream along with it.

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