Single Stories: Morrissey, “Piccadilly Palare”

Tuesday, October 9, 2018
Morrissey - Bona Drag

28 years ago today, Morrissey released his last new song (as of this writing) to feature a musical contribution from a fellow former member of The Smiths.

Co-written by Morrissey and Kevin Armstrong, “Piccadilly Palare” was the first, last, and only new single from BONA DRAG, a compilation of various Morrissey A-sides and B-sides. Armstrong, who also played guitar on the song, wasn’t what you’d call a regular Morrissey collaborator – the only other track they wrote together was “He Knows I’d Love to See Him” – but he’s had a solid track record as a songwriter both before and after this composition, having helped pen The Passions’ “Love is Essential,” Thomas Dolby’s “Dissidents,” Sandie Shaw’s “Strange Bedfellows,” “I Love Peace,” and “Flesh and Blood,” Tin Machine’s “Run,” and David Bowie’s “Outside.”

Lyrically, “Piccadilly Palare” is about male prostitution around the Piccadilly area of London, and while it seemed to please the critics well enough, it tied with “Ouija Board, Ouija Board” as Morrissey’s lowest-charting single up to that point, which may or may not be why he looked back on the track in his autobiography so dismissively, calling it “a student work of novelty that wears off before noon.”

Still, “Piccadilly Palare” is notable for the reason we teased in the opening paragraph: it is, at least as of this writing, the last time Morrissey worked with any former member of The Smiths. The member in question was Andy Rourke, who played bass on the track, and he’s not the only high-profile guest, either: Suggs, the lead singer of Madness, contributes background vocals.

Given the way the various members of The Smiths continue to remark about the distinct unlikelihood of a reunion anytime soon, we’d probably better just cherish the few songs we’ve got that feature any of them playing together, so if you’re a fan, give “Piccadilly Palare” another spin, as it’s likely the last time you’ll ever hear Rourke backing Morrissey again.

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