"This Charming Man" as written by Johnny Marr and Steven Patrick Morrissey....
Punctured bicycle
On a hillside desolate
Will nature make a man of me yet?

When in this charming car
This charming man

Why pamper life's complexity
When the leather runs smooth
On the passenger's seat?

I would go out tonight
But I haven't got a stitch to wear
This man said "it's gruesome
That someone so handsome should care"

Ah ! A jumped-up pantry boy
Who never knew his place
He said "return the ring"
He knows so much about these things
He knows so much about these things

I would go out tonight
But I haven't got a stitch to wear
This man said "it's gruesome
That someone so handsome should care"
La, la-la, la-la, la-la, this charming man
Oh, la-la, la-la, la-la, this charming man

Ah ! A jumped-up pantry boy
Who never knew his place
He said "return the ring"
He knows so much about these things
He knows so much about these things
He knows so much about these things


Lyrics submitted by Idan

"This Charming Man" as written by Johnny Marr Steven Morrissey

Lyrics © Warner/Chappell Music, Inc., Universal Music Publishing Group

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This Charming Man song meanings
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  • +18
    General CommentSuch a well written song, conjuring such wonderful imagery with a minimum of lyrics.Its quite simply "charming" is what it is!

    I interpret the song literally.
    The protagonist has a punctured tyre on a deserted hillside and contemplates whether adversity will force him to grow up and mature into a man.
    Then a charming man in his nice car offers him a ride. He then decides to stop thinking so deeply and enjoy the free ride in this mans luxury car.
    The charming man then asks the protagonist out that night. He replies that he cant because he hasnt got appropriate clothing.Denoting the charming man is of a higher class than the protagonist and that the occassion might be a bit fancy.
    The charming man then complements the protagonist exclaiming that he neednt worry as he is so handsome that he could get away with wearing anything.

    Now this is where the song gets a little obscure.

    The line "a jumped up pantry boy, who never knew his place" comes from the movie Slueth(its on youtube). Where Michael Caines character is being confronted for having an affair with Laurence Oliviers characters wife. Oliviers character says to Caine "Youre nothing but a jumped up pantry boy , who never knew his place!" He is making a stab at Caines character for being working class - a pantry boy being a servant working in the kitchen of an English manor house.

    So for me this could be interpreted as - the protagonist has met someone above his class through his associations with the charming man and intends to propose.The charming man frightens the protagonist "AH!" when he confronts him telling him to get back in his place and not to marry someone above his class.He should return the ring as he wont be able to support her affluent lifestyle. The charming man knows about these things as he has seen it before or is speaking from experience.

    -Thats my take
    waxinglyricalon November 26, 2011   Link
  • +13
    General CommentHandsome and sexually confused young cyclist crashes and punctures one of the wheels, leaving him stranded, until he's picked up by a strangely obliging gent who convinces him that getting married would be a mistake and a fiasco, and presumably seduces him on the smooth leather of the passenger seat. Gotta love it.
    Chloe le Fayon July 11, 2002   Link
  • +6
    General CommentBeen a Smiths fan for years. Here's a slightly different take:

    This to me is about not only an obviously homosexual older man/younger man affair, but also a young man's proclivity to rely on others to support him. The line "will Nature make a man of me yet?" refers to the fact that he is used to the sheltered world of modern society, and he's quite unable to handle it alone, hence the "leather runs smooth..." line. The juxtaposition of him using his own legs to get through life versus riding shotgun on someone else's ticket is great. And his own method (symbolized by the bike) is useless, since his bicycle is broken (he has no career skills, etc)...the desolate hillside imagery is perfect too, symbolizing his ineptitude if left to make it alone. In a scenario where the young man might be inclined to fend for himself , he is lured by the "free ride" the man has to offer, and takes the easy way out, where he doesn't have to ponder how he's going to survive- he can just hustle/pimp himself out to maintain his comfort level.

    However, this lifestyle has a price (and here's the twist that I offer)- "Return the ring" means that he is calling the man, but the man is not taking or answering his calls. In other words, the man possibly used him for sex, but while the "charming man" can offer the young man things like an nice car seat, or other material amenities, it is only temporary, and he will discard the young man and his "services" when he tires of him. But the young man needs the sugar daddy figure to maintain his lifestyle.

    The other possibility is that the man picked him up in the car, asked him to go out, and told him that he was handsome, etc. But the boy is struggling with his place in life, sexuality, etc.. and battling his tendencies to go for the easy way out, or just unsire in general. The "jumped-up pantry boy" could be one of his friends, or a flatmate, telling him to take the man's calls (the man who picked him up and asked him out), "he knows so much about these things" means that the friend is a hustler, and knows a good "mark" when he sees one. The other possiblity is that his friend/hustler is telling him to return the jewelry the man gave him, a warning to avoid the path that he took as a houseboy/prostitute.

    It's also interesting to think that the young man was staging the whole thing from the beginning, working his first "John."

    Oh, and I always kind of imagined the punctured bicycle as a representation of his youth, the point where the innocence of youth is "punctured" by some event or series of events, which goes in line with the obvious sexual references.

    But I think that's the beauty of any great piece of art, there can be several valid interpretations of the same thing, and I think this song reflects that. There is an interpretation that identifies with everyone, and that is the gift that Morrissey possesses in spades, theft or no theft, haha.
    Just a few thoughts, hope it triggers more.
    OneTwoon March 16, 2005   Link
  • +4
    General Comment"Punctured bicycle
    on a hillside desolate"

    -I'm a failure and my future prospects are grim. I'm broken and no one cares in this 'desolate' landscape.

    "will Nature make a man of me yet?"

    Morrissey was celibate and stated in an interview that celibacy was not necessarily his choice... he said that he told the world that he was a virgin when most people would be ashamed of it. So I think this line is referring to the fact that he's a virgin.

    "When in this charming car
    this charming man"

    -A lot of people are postulating that this line is proof positive that the song is about homosexuality, but I think that's pretty far off the mark. I interpret 'this charming man' as being an adviser to the protagonist. He sees that the protagonist is broken and hopeless and so offers his wisdom and generosity. I think the song is mainly one of gratitude, Morrissey (or the protagonist) thanking the man for being there for him at that point in his life.

    "Why ponder life's complexities
    when the leather runs smooth on the passenger seat?"

    -Why be stuck in your head when being in the moment is so pleasurable? Introverts have a tendency to be 'absent' from the present moment and lost in their minds. I think Morrissey is expressing here how, even though it sucks that his 'bicycle is punctured' (he has thus far been a failure), there is hope and pleasure in the present moment, and worrying about what happened to him and what will become of him in the future is rather pointless. Why not just enjoy the moment?

    "I would go out tonight
    but I haven't got a stitch to wear
    this man said "It's gruesome
    that someone so handsome should care"

    The protagonist wants to be social and actually start living, but he finds excuses to always stay at home and always be alone. The man, this muse, perhaps not even a real man (as the 'man' is metaphoric) gives a boost to the protagonist's self esteem. He wants the protagonist to believe in himself, and he sees the charisma and the potential that the protagonist cannot see in himself.

    "A jumped-up pantry boy
    who never knew his place
    he said "return the rings"
    he knows so much about these things
    he knows so much about these things"

    The protagonist, being a virgin, was looking to marry the first girl he had sex with. The 'charming man' has been divorced and advises the protagonist to not get married.

    I could be wrong, of course, but that's the most likely meaning I can come up with. When you consider who Morrissey is and his depth, you'll have a hard time reconciling that this song is simply about a homosexual romp.
    HatedEnemyon July 18, 2007   Link
  • +3
    General CommentNobody seems to be noticing that the line "a jumped-up pantry boy who never knew his place" could be referring to a young boy "in the closet," not quite knowing how to live the way he's expected to live.
    k_oss_mrldon October 11, 2004   Link
  • +3
    General Commenta jumped up pantry boy I always thought referred to the charming man, that as the boy sits in the car he is caught between evaluating this mans position and the validity of his experience to give him advice and being so caught up in the magic of the situation that he accepts the charming man does indeed know so much about these things... its like logical critical capabilities being submerged by this mans charms. but I dunno

    Its called doing a Morrissey in my house when someone steals something because he was great at doing that - he did it with class
    tallulaton December 27, 2004   Link
  • +2
    General CommentI agree with a lot of things said here. But no one talked about the homossexualism. Dont u notice the obvious homossexual mentions? Ive heard even that the BIcycle refers to homossexualism...
    but you can interpret it more literally and less metaphorically...
    To me it goes like that:
    a cyclist gets it wheel punctured. having no way to go home - because he's on a desolated hillside - he accepts a lift from a charming man. why complicate life thinking about a way to go home and carry his bike if the passenger seat of the charming man's car is free and it is smooth? ok, then he tells the man he would go out at that night, but he didnt have any cloth there and needed to go home, but the man says it doesnt matter cause he doesnt care, theyd go out together. He still praises the cyclist saying he's handsome: obviously a homossexual one, who wants to bring the cyclist to the same way.
    now theres kind of a confusion in who's moz talking about: the jumped up pantry boy is the cyclist who never knew his place, the homossexual one, that the charming man has just shown him.
    I dont know where u guys found so much about marriage, but maybe this return the rings has sth to do with it. but, in that case, the marriage would be between the charming man and the cyclist, not a real wedding but an affair. and, finally, moz says that he agree with the charming man and goes with him, when he says "he knows so much about this things".
    So, i think moz is telling about a homossexual experience or initiation. I hope u guys like this interpretation, and let me know what did u think about it answering. I wont mind if you disagree, mainly because my english isnt very good and thats why maybe i dont understand the lyrics well.

    oh, by the way, i love it.
    ilanon June 06, 2003   Link
  • +2
    General CommentI like what people have thought about it, so now I'll give my input on it as well. It reminds me a heck of a lot about The Picture of Dorian Gray. I don't know if anyone has mentioned it, I assume someone has.

    Because there's this one part where Dorian is invited to something by Lord Henry, and he says he doesn't have anything to wear. Henry then says that it shouldn't matter, because of his good looks. And Wilde was homosexual and the book carried on a tinge of homosexuality. And with the rings, Dorian wore a couple of rings, and it's clearly mentioned in book that they are of some significance.

    I'm guessing it's kind of fuse between this situation that Morrissey has created and adding Dorian.

    and i see it has been mentioned :D
    vintagebeautyon October 25, 2008   Link
  • +2
    General CommentLots have people seem to have misinterpreted this song, and there is in fact a clear misprint in the lyrics that have been put up on this site but I will get to that in a minute.

    This song is actually about a charming naturalist, the signs are everywhere. The "protagonist" travels on a bike, the perfect vehicle for riding around in the countryside. The bike is punctured, that could only be from the thawns and such debris one would find in nature.

    The scene occurs on 'a hillside desolate'... and the protagonist tellingly cries "will nature make a man of me?" The evidence is clear enough, but it is confirmed by the repitionion of the final lines of the song as they are actually sung:

    "he knows so much about bee stings"
    "he knows so much about bee stings"
    "he knows so much about bee stings"

    It is the protagonists admiration of the charming man's apiculture, and his maintenance of several honey bee colonies which cements his love for him.
    MyChemicalPoledanceon April 02, 2009   Link
  • +2
    My InterpretationI mean "this charming man" is reference to Morrissey himself. You know, he's so charming, but he's got such pointless problems like he "haven't got a stitch to wear", or "punctured bicycle". And
    "this man said it's gruesome that someone so handsome should care" about these little things. And yeah, it's actually all his life about: He is charming, but he's got such a issues with his shyness, self-confidence and stuff.
    simaCZon December 13, 2012   Link

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