What follows is a comprehensive list of the reasons The Smiths’ There Is A Light That Never Goes Out is the finest love song ever penned. For the purposes of reading this post, it’s probably best you listen to it, especially if you’ve lived under a rock since 1980 and have never heard the song.
1. It’s not about the other person. Perhaps that’s because Morrissey is too self-centred to bother writing about anyone else, but even if that is the case, it doesn’t matter. When you think about being in love, it’s never about the other person. It’s about how they make you feel. “Falling in love” only takes a second, but “being in love” is about making yourself loved by them. Relationships are just long, protracted attempts by both parties to make themselves more valuable to the other than their partner is to them, so the partner feels obliged to try even harder. Emotional blackmail and guilt are the very deepest foundations of true love.
2. The opening line is, “Take me out tonight, where there’s music and there’s people and they live in the light.” Morrissey understands that loving someone is a way to make the rest of the world more palatable. I’m fairly certain I was born a total misanthrope but I’m not arrogant enough to believe I’m unique in this respect. Love is right up there with Religion in the “lies we tell ourselves to make life taste better” stakes. Love is redemption, sex is communion, your partner the Messiah.
3. The “light that never goes out” echoes similar themes. Love is eternal and unchanging, and this is supposed to be comforting. At the same time, the chorus references mortality – “to die by your side is such a heavenly way to die”. No-one wants to die alone, because that’s the single thing more depressing than living alone. Love is the antidote to loneliness. And it makes death easier to face, so much so that getting flattened by a ten-ton truck can be “heavenly”.
4. The song’s protagonist reminds us he has no home, which signifies that he has given himself over completely to his partner. This is also what being in love is about. It’s about being reliant on someone else to an extent we would usually find disconcerting. It’s about being homeless, naked, at the mercy of another. This is beautiful precisely because it’s so fucking scary, but that doesn’t lessen the inherent terror of abandoning self-reliance.
5. “In the darkened underpass, I thought ‘Oh God, my chance has come at last!’ but then a strange fear gripped me and I just couldn’t ask.” This fear is the fear of The Real. The “thrill of the chase” is often the most exciting part of a relationship because so much is unknown, so much is fantasy. Nothing can live up to these fantasies we construct, which is why the first time two people have sex is usually more of a relief than anything euphoric or life-affirming. Then again, maybe that’s just me. It would explain why millions go for the “guy meets girl, guy pursues girl, guy finally fucks girl after many tribulations” film genre while I can’t get my head around it. When I lost my virginity to the only person I’ve ever loved (at least in the Hollywood/Disneyfied, Happily-Ever-After sense) it didn’t change my life. It was just, “Oh right, there you go. Another box ticked.” Maybe that’s just a sign I should stop treating my life like an enormous fucking Amazon wishlist.
There you have it. A few reasons There Is A Light That Never Goes Out is the best love song ever. I’m not even sure I believe it myself, but it is a wonderful little framing point. Hopefully this whole mini-essay wasn’t too downright drab and depressing in tone. As always, your opinions are welcome. I’m more than happy to
ignore your point entirely engage in some constructive (or even destructive) debate.