When I would get home from middle school, I would run to my bedroom, sit in front of the stereo, and put on my favorite radio station. I grew up in Tijuana, right on the US-Mexico border, and back then we had little direct relationship with the center of the country. So when it comes to my musical upbringing, I owe it all to 91X, a radio station from San Diego. I’d spend my afternoons listening to the radio with my fingers on the “play” and “record” buttons of the cassette deck. If I liked a song they were playing, I quickly pressed the button— mastering that art of getting them both right at the same time— and I knew that the songs wouldn’t be so ephemeral. I could capture them on tape and listen to them again as many times as I wanted. I’d sit there for hours and disconnect from everything else completely— just me and the radio and the cassette deck.
That’s how, in the middle of the 1980s, The Smiths came into my life. “Big Mouth Strikes Again” was the first one to reach me and at that moment, I fell in love. But I was too busy falling in love to record it, so I waited for it to come on again and luckily I was ready— my fingers were on the buttons and I pressed down as fast as I could.
In those days, I was lucky enough to be able to easily cross the border from Tijuana into San Diego and I convinced my mother to take me to the record store that was in her favorite shopping center. I went running through the store’s aisles searching for the letter “S” and there it was, the LP of The Queen is Dead. Once we were back home, it went right on the turntable— the same one that’s still there— and listened to it day and night. My love for The Smiths was off and running. Meat is Murder was next, then Strangeways, Here We Come. And then, and then.
When my friend Camilo Lara called me a little over a year ago to tell me that he wanted to form a band that would re-imagine songs by The Smiths and Morrissey, I was incredibly excited to be a part of it. After not listening to all this albums for a long time, I realized that I hadn’t forgotten a single word, a single melody. They say that the music you listen to as an adolescent stays inside of you for your whole life, and now I know just how true that is.
I knew about the love Mexico has for Morrissey (and the love that Morrissey has for Mexico). Some say that there is a mutual affection for melodrama— the melodrama we Mexicans love so much in our TV and music, and the melodramatic lyrics of Morrissey. Others say that his style of singing is reminiscent of a mariachi singer. I once heard rumors that Morrissey used to visit Tijuana and would go to a vegetarian restaurant near the house where I grew up. I can’t prove that, but I love the idea that we could be that connected.
My band Mexrrissey - where we sing Morrissey songs in a Mexican style- was born because of these links, and because of the deep admiration we feel for this music. It’s a re-imagining of his songs, which we play with great love and respect.
Over the years I’ve listened to all kinds of music, from all over the world, but now when I listen with fresh ears to The Smiths and to Morrissey, I am transported right back to my teenage bedroom. I put on my headphones and everything else just melts away.
-Words by Ceci Bastide of Mexrissey
Mexrissey's album No Manchester is released 04/04 on Cooking Vinyl