Music News

Make Like Morrissey

Morrissey, England's most dapper downer, isn't quite as depressed as he used to be. In fact, he almost seems to be enjoying what he does these days. Nevertheless, the guy is still as press-shy as ever and just can't be bothered to pick up a phone to chat with nosy writers about his continued success and ever-increasing popularity — thanks, in no small part, to a legion of Latino fans here in the U.S. Because of his indifference, we decided to go to the next best thing: the Sweet & Tender Hooligans, a hugely successful Morrissey tribute band based in Los Angeles and fronted by Jose Maldonado. Maldonado has the unique perspective of being a lifelong Morrissey fan while being Morrissey, too. Well, sort of.

New Times: Can you talk about Morrissey's ever-increasing popularity, which has a lot to do with the Latino community?

Maldonado: If you come to southern California, and you come to these Morrissey shows, and you look out at the audience, you'll see they're 90 percent Latino. And they're not just there. They are passionate; they know the lyrics to every song.

NT: But what is it about Morrissey that appeals so much to the Mexican-American experience?

Maldonado: I like the theory that because we're a passionate people and Morrissey is a passionate guy, that's why we gravitate toward him. His lyrics are so melodramatic and over the top about the feeling you're experiencing at that very moment. A lot of Spanish-speaking music is the same way. "You could cry a million tears and I would swim through them to get to you" — that kind of thing. Then there's the loneliness and isolation feeling that we, as Latinos growing up in southern California, can kind of identify with. There's that feeling of being an outsider in a place that really wasn't for you. It was somebody else's place, and then, suddenly, we all moved in. Morrissey's experience growing up Irish in northern England was probably not unlike what Latinos experience growing up in southern California. From my understanding, I know Irish immigrants in northern England grow up Catholic and working class; their families are closer and larger; they're as big of fans of soccer as we are. Even though Morrissey doesn't necessarily sing about that, maybe that's how we identify with him subconsciously.

NT: When did you realize Morrissey knew who the Sweet & Tender Hooligans were?

Maldonado: In 1999, he opened his tour by saying, "Hello, we're the Sweet & Tender Hooligans." That's when I realized, "Oh, my god, he knows who we are." Later, as it turns out, at an autograph session, I was like the 127th person in line and as soon as he made eye contact with me, he was like, "Oh, there you are." I gave him a look and said something to the effect of, "Oh, you know who I am?" And he said, very jokingly, "Of course, I know you. It's as if I was looking in the mirror." Right after that, his words were, "How was the show last week?" meaning he knew about a show we just did at the House of Blues. He asked what songs we played and I mentioned "Lost," and he said, "You've done that song before, and you know how I know? I have a copy of one of your shows on VHS." To have him tell me that was incredible.

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Cole Haddon