This Charming Man

Why Morrissey is newly hip among bands that sound nothing like him

There's also nothing ancient about Morrissey's live act, which he'll be showing off as one of the headliners of Lollapalooza this summer. Drawing fans as young as six to a late-April show in his adopted hometown of Los Angeles, he purred solo favorites such as "Everyday Is Like Sunday" and "Hairdresser on Fire" with sweeping gusto. He also preened like Elvis and dodged countless stage invaders with cool aplomb amid pristine readings of Smiths chestnuts such as "There Is a Light That Never Goes Out" and a fiery "Hand in Glove." In his dapper red shirt, Morrissey more closely resembled a swanky nightclub entertainer than an alternative rocker -- a classic pose that's not lost on Madden.

"There's no way you could ever be like Morrissey. He's just his own thing," he says. "To me, it's more like [Frank] Sinatra or Dean Martin. Sinatra also said things that no one else could say in a way that no one else could say them. They're two totally different singers, don't get me wrong, but they each have things that captivate you, and when you love him, you love him."

Madden has a point. Like the debonair members of the Rat Pack, Morrissey isn't merely a musician. He's an untouchable icon first and foremost -- a figure of sorrow, of understanding, of unrequited love whose myth and mystery is sometimes more famous than his music.

It's fitting that the angst and melancholy Morrissey started preaching twenty-odd years ago has finally gotten its mainstream due now, in a completely different form. He's never achieved fame through normal means; why should his influence be traditional? After all, if doing things "my way" is good enough for Ol' Blue Eyes, it's good enough for Morrissey; he cued up that very song a few minutes after slipping offstage in LA.

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