The Smiths’ “Vicar in a Tutu” Lyrics Meaning
The title of this song (“Vicar in a Tutu”) is symbolic, though said symbol is meant to be pictured literally. A “tutu” is a type of dress that is worn by female ballet dancers. And what is so striking about the imagery of a vicar rockin’ one is that, first of all said religious figures are traditionally male.
Indeed the vocalist clarifies, via the use of gender pronouns, that such is in fact the case with the vicar at hand. So the first logical implication would be something like he’s gay or gender fluid.
And secondly, ranking religious officials associated with the Catholic Church are known for their disciplined, and shall we say stoic demeanor, even if stereotypically so. But this one is also depicted later in the song as dancing freely in public, even in front of the entire congregation. So it’s like he’s gay in both the emotional and sexual connotation of the word, neither of which are deemed generally acceptable as far as his profession is concerned.
Ultimately, as explained by co-writer Johnny Marr, the ever-controversial Morrissey, who is the vocalist and primary writer of this piece, isn’t speaking to anything religious per se. Instead he just decided to sorta have fun with this song. And yes, picturing a “vicar in a tutu” dancing about is comical, for lack of a better word in context.
But it also becomes obvious based on the outro that that the vocalist is alluding to a concept more to true-to-life, i.e. this piece being an espousement of individuality. Or more to the point would be an acceptance of individuality, i.e. the singer himself not having any problem with a person as unorthodox as “a vicar in a tutu” and more or less encouraging the listening audience to adopt a similar disposition.
So it’s as if Morrissey is holding himself up as an example of tolerance. And whereas he has dealt with his own fair share of criticism as an artist, at the end of the day it can be said Morrissey was indeed a visionary in that regard, as the UK has firmly established itself as one of the most-tolerant countries in the world when it comes to matters such as gender fluidity.
When was “Vicar in a Tutu” released?
This track was released on 16 June 1986, being a part of The Smiths’ iconic album “The Queen Is Dead”.
The aforementioned album, which came out as The Smiths’ third album, went on to achieve incredible success the world over. For example, Rolling Stone magazine included it in their list of the “500 Greatest Albums of All Time“. In a 2020 update of that list, the album appeared at the 113th position.
Aside Rolling Stone, numerous other publications have given this album very high ratings. One such publication is the NME. In a 2013 list of the Greatest Albums Ever, the NME actually placed “The Queen is Dead” at number 1.
The success of this album was made possible thanks to such songs as “Vicar in a Tutu” and the following:
- “Frankly, Mr. Shankly”
- “The Queen Is Dead”
- “Cemetry Gates”
- “The Boy with the Thorn in His Side”
- “Bigmouth Strikes Again”
- “There Is a Light That Never Goes Out”
This Smiths’ classic was written and produced by Morrissey alongside his bandmate, Johnny Marr.
Ultimately Morrissey apparently meant to use the “vicar in a tutu” to serve as a symbol of tolerance.
Vicars aren’t Catholic, they’re Church of England.
It is true that Vicars are also found in the Church of England. However, Vicars are also present in the Protestant Episcopal Church as well as the Roman Catholic Church. And since Morrissey was born to Irish Catholic parents and grew up as a proper Catholic, the Catholic church in this case is more plausible. That being said, thanks for your contribution all the same.
Are you implying that Morrissey is a practicing Catholic? Please. He lives in Britain. His listeners are not majority Catholic, but majority Anglican. If it makes you feel better thinking of a Catholic vicar, that’s your prerogative. But it’s silly to imply he’d affirmatively decided which sect the imaginary Vicar in a Tutu belonged to.
And it’s not as if Morrissey is being tolerant by writing a song. And cross dressing doesn’t mean you’re gay. Also too, as I’m sure you know, Morrissey is gay, so tolerance is not at issue.
This is just your 2022 misinterpretation of a song you didn’t hear in the context of its release in the 80s.