Meaning of “Suedehead” by Morrissey

Suedehead is a song from British singer Morrissey’s debut solo album titled Viva Hate. Lyrically, Suedehead sees the narrator (Morrissey) talk about someone with whom he once had a romantic relationship. From the lyrics, despite the relationship coming to an end, the narrator’s lover (whose gender is unknown) still comes visiting and contacting the narrator even though they know doing such things makes “things difficult” for the narrator (who is clearly not interested in the relationship anymore). Despite being aware of the discomfort they are causing the narrator with their constant calling, coming around, etc, the narrator’s former lover (who is apparently obsessed with the narrator) still carries on with their persistent bothering; at one point even going as far as sneaking into the narrator’s bedroom to read the narrator’s diary, thereby making the narrator to become “so very sickened”. Despite being sickened by the persistent “bugging” of the former lover, the narrator goes on to say that the former lover was actually “a good lay”. The phrase “a good lay” the narrator uses almost makes us feel as though all the narrator wanted was a one night stand with the former lover. And now that the narrator got it, the narrator didn’t want to have anything else to do with the former lover.

Are these lyrics autobiographical?

Yes! According to Morrissey, the lyrics of Suedehead have something to do with his life growing up as a teenager. But what we don’t know is which of the lovers Morrissey was. Was he the obsessive lover who kept calling and hanging around his former lover even when he/she didn’t want anything to do with him? Or was he the one who didn’t want to have anything to do with his former lover?

NOTE: Morrissey is fond of writing very ambiguous lyrics, which tend to be open to various interpretations. And since, Morrissey has never revealed what these lyrics really mean, we at interpreted this song based purely on the lyrics. Despite the music video of Suedehead showing things about the late actor James Dean, including the actor’s burial ground, the song has lyrically nothing to do with the actor. However, it must be known that growing up, Morrissey had a severe obsession with James Dean.  Interestingly enough, Suedehead also talks about an obsessed lover.  Do you see any connections there? Somehow, we do! And it is very clear!

Our Favorite line from the Song

Here is our favorite line from the lyrics of the song: Suedehead lyrics

Facts about “Suedehead”

  • The song was Morrissey’s first single as a solo artist.
  • Suedehead was written by Morrissey and his longtime collaborator producer Stephen Brian Street.
  • The song came out on February 15, 1988 and was the 7th track on his 1988 debut solo album Viva Hate.
  • Suedehead reached the 6th position in the UK Singles Chart and peaked at the 2nd position in Ireland, thereby making it the highest charting single of Morrissey’s career, both as a solo artist and as a member of the Smiths.
  • Suedehead‘s artwork is a picture of Morrissey taken while he was performing live on stage with The Smiths. The smiling little boy at the beginning of the music video who hands Morrissey a parcel is Morrissey’s nephew Sam Esty Rayner. And the parcel Sam delivers to Morrissey is actually a copy of the book titled The Little Prince written by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. The Little Prince happened to be actor James Dean’s favorite book. Sam grew up to become a professional photographer. In 2015, he directed the music video of his uncle Morrissey’s song Kiss Me a Lot.
  • American singer-songwriter Ryan Adams talked about Suedehead in the first track of his 2000 debut solo studio album Heartbreaker, in which he had a short argument with singer and guitarist David Rawlings about whether or not Suedehead was in Morrissey’s debut solo album Viva Hate.
  • The English rock band Suede reportedly got their name from the song.
  • The song got its title from the 1971 book titled Suedehead written by Richard Allen (whose real name was James Moffat). In the Oxford English Dictionary, the word “suedehead”, which is a noun, is defined as a young man or woman with appearances that are similar to a skinhead.

3 Responses

  1. Abbott Cooper says:

    Without ever looking for anyone else’s explanation of the meaning of “Suedehead,” I decided that it was about a person who had given the singer AIDS. Now the singer wants nothing to do with the guy, except that, on reconsideration, it was a good lay.

  2. Jared says:

    I interpret this differently. I thought it was about someone who gets dumped and then their ex keeps showing up to their fav spots and acting like it’s all water under the bridge while the narrator is dying inside. I thought the thing about the diary happened while they were still together and caused them to break it off, but they’re still being patronizing, and the line “I’m so sorry” meant they were sorry about the diary entries and even sorrier about the relationship ending. Like the ex is acting like they’re still friends which makes it hard for the narrator who wants to be more than that.

    • Alexandre says:

      I have interpreted similarly. The only difference is that I see the sentences “I’m so sorry” and “It was a good lay, good lay” coming from the ex.

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