The Smiths and Their Impact on My Life

If I remember correctly, I was a frail 18 year old boy lifting miniscule weights, in my parents garage, when I heard that voice. That unique, crooning melody that weaved its way ever so warmly into the core of me and changed my life. Before that moment I was knee-deep into the "Latin Freestyle" movement but had begun to grow weary of it. My friend George had just introduced me to "New Wave" and it opened up a whole new world to me. A world I felt more comfortable in. A world where my skin seemed to fit a bit better around my thin bones. He threw names like "New Order and The Cure" at me that didn't mean much until I heard their songs. Songs that I had never heard before but somehow felt so familiar.

I digress. The mix tape was playing and I believe I was in the middle of curling all but ten pounds when I was stopped dead in my tracks. "Call me morbid, call me pale/ I spent six years on your trail/ six long years chasing your tail." "Excuse me, sir? Are you singing at me and how do you know my life story?" I said to myself as I put my weights down and cocked my ear to the speaker. I was done for. This singer was singing right into me and knew all about me. He knew how empty I felt inside and the void that occupied the area just below my stomach. How could he know I felt so lost and wayard in society? More importantly, how the heck did he know about that girl in biology class that I pined and longed for throughout the years?!

In the weeks that followed, my hunger for this band, simply called The Smiths, was insatiable. I went to almost every record shop within the vicinity only to hear, "the who's?" in which I'd respond to myself, "The Smiths, you prick! Only the best band this century! Duh!" Finally, my friend suggested I go to "The Headstand" in Northeast El Paso to find them. "Oh, The Smiths, yeah. Here ya go buddy," the clerk said as he handed me that little packet of gold. It read "The Queen Is Dead." Needless to say, I couldn't get home soon enough.

As cliche' as it may sound, from the moment I popped in that tape and hit play, my life was rearranged. My knees seemingly buckled and I slowly slid to the floor. I listened intensely. A hurricane of thoughts and emotions stormed through me. My life. My loves. My longings and desires. They were all in every song and lyric. This "Morrissey" guy was the Mesiah as far as I was concerned. This was the explanation for everything and nothing all in a little magnetically coated plastic package. I was both saved and destroyed all at the same time!

I felt the calling to be a singer and writer, at an early age, but this was my vehicle! Until that day it was simply an island floating far off in the ocean of dreams that I had no way of getting to. Now I had the means! I joined several bands and always tried to sound just a bit like Morrissey (as we all, in some way or another, mimick our heroes) and got ridiculed for doing so. I even swayed awkwardly on stage, like he did, but I drew the line at placing gladioli in my back pocket or wearing a hearing aid. My skills as a singer and writer grew but I knew I'd never be him and, if I couldn't, then what was the point of trying to be, right? So, I eventually set my vehicle to the way of the wind. Adrift again.

I won't bore you with the intricate details of the years that followed, nor the countless heartbreaks that The Smiths always seemed to pull me through, like a best friend in waiting anytime I needed them. Nor will I mention the countless drives with windows down and their music blaring through the night, easing my mind. And I definitely won't mention the intimacies where Morrissey's voice lulled us to sleep after the sear of passion. However, my friends, I will say that as I nip at the heels of middle age, my days are filled with nostalgia more often than not and, nostalgia can be dangerous and incapacitating. When I hear Smiths songs now, there's always a distinct memory linked with them (sometimes good, sometimes bad) and ironically, because of this, I don't listen to them as much as I used to. Crazy, I know, but it's kind of like those precious pictures you put away in the attic, and only bring out on special occasions in order to not wear their worth out. Yes, they are that precious to me.

Esteban Luis Soto


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