Why “Rubber Ring” Is the Best Song Ever
1. That riff. The funkiest little thing Johnny Marr has ever come up with?
2. It’s written from the point of view of a song. Its narrator is the song itself.
3. In the corner of your room, can you hear me?
4. That dervish of an organ fill that comes in right after Morrissey says, “Hear my voice in your head and think of me kindly.”
5. When I was 17, I never would have believed that one day I would think of the Smiths as being corny and melodramatic.
6. Do you love me like you used to?
7. When I was 27, I never would have believed that one day I would realize that I had been right about the Smiths when I was 17. Well, maybe not 100% right, but pretty much.
8. But don’t forget the songs that made you smile and the songs that made you cry when you lay in awe on the bedroom floor and said, “Oh smother me, Mother…”
9. “Rubber Ring” employs the looped samples and noise in its cacophonous finale in a way that puts Wilco’s “Poor Places” to shame. Well, maybe not to shame, but I would be willing to bet that “Rubber Ring” is what Tweedy and Bennett were going for…
10. As originally released in September 1985 on the b-side of “The Boy With The Thorn In His Side” twelve-inch, it fades into the song, “Asleep.”
11. You are sleeping. You do not want to believe.
12. That sample was recorded by Latvian psychologist Konstantin Raudive, who claimed to be able to record the voices of the dead in his 1971 book, Breakthrough: An Amazing Experiment in Electronic Communication with the Dead.
13. There is another world. There is a better world. There must be.
14. Everybody’s clever nowadays.
15. It is truly a sad fact that most people eventually grow out of the music that kept them alive as teenagers. The issues that bother teens are very real and serious. Grownups think kids’ problems are trivial and silly and that the kids are being overdramatic, but the grownups are wrong. That shit’s serious. It’s more serious than the stock market or the mortgage payment or that new promotion or whatever mundane bullshit adults get all worked up over. Those sad, strongly affected songs help us sort out our feelings and put them in a context we are just starting to understand.
16. Yes, you’re older now and you’re a clever swine, but they were the only ones who ever stood by you.
17. And now, listening to the music with fresh ears after several years of hating everything about my teenage self, I can cut myself—and Morrissey—a little slack. We were all right. A little goofy, sure, but who isn’t?
18. I remember my Hitachi dual-cassette deck with stickers all over it playing Louder Than Bombs, while I sat on my bedroom floor, listening.
20. Later that summer, Jeff and some friends drove to Chicago to see the Smiths on the Queen Is Dead tour. They had invited me, but I didn’t go. I hadn’t listened to the tape much yet, and besides, my mom probably wouldn’t have let me go anyway.
21. The passing of time and all of its crimes is making me sad again.
22. By the time I got ahold of a tape of Louder Than Bombs in the spring of 1987, I was already a big Smiths fan.
23. Again, it was a taped copy. It was taped for my girlfriend by a guy in her community theater group who had said he didn’t care who he would have to sleep with to get his Equity Card. He filled the extra room on the 90-minute tape with the b-sides of the “Panic” and “Ask” twelve-inches.
24. One of the reasons my girlfriend and I broke up is that I was obsessed with the Smiths. I remember arguing about the lyrics of “Sweet and Tender Hooligan.” She thought Morrissey was saying, “In the midst of life we are in death,” and I knew it was “in debt.”
25. I can remember a spot on that tape where it got all warbly because I spilled something on it. Probably bubbles. We were into blowing bubbles at that time. “These Things Take Time.” The next track played fine though.
26. The next track is “Rubber Ring.”
27. Years later when I got my first Mac, one of the first things I did was figure out how to loop bits of songs. One of my first loops was “Peace Frog” by the Doors. Another one was “Rubber Ring.” When I got my second Mac, those sound files wouldn’t play anymore.
28. I got Johnny Marr’s autograph after the The The show in Royal Oak, Michigan. I almost fainted. Earlier that day, I bought a guitar. Afterwards, I kissed a girl I had just met.
29. I’m not sure when I first started being embarrassed about the Smiths. Sometime in college. Sometime after I discovered Sun Records, Frank Sinatra, Funkadelic, Mike Nesmith, marijuana, CCR, Neil Diamond and hip hop.
30. Don’t forget the songs that made you cry and the songs that saved your life.
31. Recently, I’ve come back around. I no longer wallow in adolescent melodrama when I listen to the Smiths. Now it’s more of a celebratory thing. The music perfectly captures the exuberance and anxiety of being a teenager.
32. And now that I’m dancing and laughing and finally living, I hear that voice in my head and think of it kindly.
33. And I do love those songs like I used to. Well, maybe not exactly like I used to. Now my relationship with the Smiths is more mature, more understanding, and a lot healthier. We laugh together and have fun. We ride the train to work in the morning together and go for long drives on the weekends.