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November 22, 1963 "spawned a monster"

Don't Forget the Songs 365
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OKLAHOMA CITY – Hearing the Morrissey song “November Spawned a Monster” yesterday (and again today),  I couldn’t help but look out the window, out at the cloudy sky and the dead leaves blowing in the wind and dwell upon the 50th anniversary of the assassination of John F. Kennedy.

November Spawned a Monster” was released in April 1990 (the month Twin Peaks premiered a show about a small town with a dark underbelly, meant to be, as Joe Daly notes, is a “microcosm of America”) and featured the British rock singer, formerly of The Smiths, dancing and writing in a stylish shirt in Death Valley – the “lowest point in America.” His hair is in his trademark “quiff,” echoing the popular hairstyle from the 1950’s and early 1960’s.

Morrissey, while in The Smiths, would embrace late 1950’s and early 1960’s pop culture and movie stars. He would include stills from these films on the covers of single and album sleeves.

As Chloe Veltman wrote in The Believer magazine about Morrissey: “Even before he dropped his Christian names and became a pop icon in his own right, Steven Patrick Morrissey obsessively worshipped outsiders. As a bookish, isolated teenager holed up in his bedroom in Manchester, he idolized a string of famous misfits, from James Dean to Oscar Wilde, going as far as to pen a booklet about Dean entitled James Dean Is Not Dead. He was an avid reader of feminist texts and fan of outmoded 1960s British, female pop divas like Sandie Shaw and Twinkle. 1960s kitchen sink dramas such as A Taste of Honey and Billy Liar, both studies in the themes of isolation, marginalization and the power of the imagination, exerted a potent influence on him.”

It’s definitely one of Moz’s more notable videos and it shouldn’t be surprising, after reading this article, why Death Valley, the “lowest point in America” (36 degrees latitude North) was chosen to synchromystically highlight one of the “lowest points in American history” – the events of November 22, 1963.

And the song, while seemingly about an “ugly, twisted” child born in November, one can’t help but interpret it in a broader way.

For me, “November Spawned a Monster” could have been spawned in a subconscious sort of way and be a musical commentary on how the month of November did spawn a monster – 50 years ago today.

One November spawned a monster / In the shape of this child, who later cried: ‘But Jesus made me, so Jesus save me from pity, sympathy and people discussing me ‘…”

When the popular and inspirational JFK was murdered, the world gasped and could not believe this popular international figure and seeker of peace could be dead just as he had stated earlier in November that the escalating “police action” in Vietnam was “not worth another American life.” The nuclear-test-ban treaty was a great success for him and Soviet leader Khrushchev was open to Kennedy’s ideas about working towards ending the Cold War and “radical reductions in the Soviet military,” as Rolling Stone reports this week. Civil rights were being taken seriously. 

These steps towards peace and goodwill were angering the “monster” – the military-industrial complex President Eisenhower had warned about – and it was there, looming,  waiting to be strike. JFK knew he was being bold and he knew the knives were out.

And regarding “Jesus,” at the time (and to this day in many respects), “good Christians” (which Morrissey refers to bitingly in “Yes, I Am Blind” and happened to be playing at the moment I wrote this) are those who saw America as the one place where “Jesus is King” and America is a “Christian nation” and that that notion was manipulated and promoted by war hawks, using it to promote their greedy and warmongering ways while seemingly well-meaning Americans went along – for a while, anyway.

These “monsters” (i.e. President Johnson, etc.) standing firmly behind “God and country” they had to stop the atheistic peril that was communism. They weren’t about God or country. They were about themselves.

But people were beginning to catch on to their “other” ruse. And the voice of his generation, Bob Dylan, would offer the stunning “With God on Our Side” where the Minnesota-born troubadour sings the verse “I’ve learned to hate the Russians / All through my whole life / If another war starts / It’s them we must fight / To hate them and fear them / To run and to hide / And accept it all bravely / With God on my side.”

That song, recorded in summer 1963 was released in January 1964 on Dylan’s The Times They Are A-Changin’, less than two months after Kennedy’s assassination and less than a month before the arrival of The Beatles in America and “The Sixties” really took off, influencing a young Steven Patrick Morrissey.

These steps towards peace and goodwill were angering the “monster” – the military-industrial complex President Eisenhower had warned about – and it was there, looming, waiting to be strike.

Nothing was ever quite the same after Kennedy’s assassination. A psychic wound remains. Ask anyone. Dark clouds descended over the country, following the sunny days of the Kennedy years.

As Morrissey sings of a “poor twisted child” with a “frame of useless limbs,” he is synchromystically singing about the end of the optimism and joy that swept Space Age America after Kennedy’s election. Kennedy was taking America in a new and positive direction and forces unseen and sinister sought to destroy Camelot.

What can make good of the bad that’s been done?” Morrissey metaphorically sings, the bad being the Masonic killing of a “king,” being President John F. Kennedy, a topic addressed by the late James Shelby Downard and currently by Adam Gorightly and Loren Coleman.

One November spawned a monster / In the shape of this child / Who must remain / A hostage to the kindness / And the wheels beneath her … a symbol where mad, mad lovers / Must pause and draw the line.”

Morrissey, who has lived in America (Los Angeles, most recently), released a song in 2004 called “America is Not the World,” on the stunningly excellent You Are the Quarry, which essentially castigates this nation for its hamfisted foreign-policy decisions and bullying ways and declarations of “freedom” while bombing and killing and lying and snarling their way to the top.

Steely blue eyes with no love in them, scan the World, And a humorless smile, with no warmth within, greets the world / And I, have got nothing, to offer you.” The legacy of a post-Kennedy America. Angry and thrashing about with a terrifying and awesome power, the world on eggshells.

And Morrissey, in “November Spawned a Monster,” concludes the song by saying (synchromystically) that America will get its comeuppance and soon be confused, lost and broken after the charade and house of cards comes tumbling down, sometime soon: “Oh, one fine day / Let it be soon / She won’t be rich or beautiful / But she’ll be walking your streets / In the clothes that she went out / And chose for herself.

And the tortured cries of what one would first assume is a physically-challenged girl (made by Canadian singer Mary Margaret O’Hara) could be interpreted as the uncontrollable and inconsolable sobbing of this “child” – a sick, sad, confused and monstrous America. We are it. It is us. And it all syncs back to that autumn day in Texas 50 years ago. 

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Andrew W. Griffin

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Andrew W. Griffin received his Bachelor of Science in Journalism from...

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