At the record company meeting
On their hands - a dead star
And oh, the plans they weave
And oh, the sickening greed

At the record company party
On their hands - a dead star
The sycophantic slags all say :
"I knew him first, and I knew him well"

Re-issue! Re-package! Re-package!
Re-evaluate the songs
Double-pack with a photograph
Extra track (and a tacky badge)

A-list, playlist
"Please them , please them !"
"Please them !"
(sadly, this was your life)

But you could have said no
If you'd wanted to
You could have said no
If you'd wanted to

"Please them ! Please then!"
(sadly this was your life)

But you could have said no
If you'd wanted to
You could have walked away
...Couldn't you?

I touched you at the soundcheck
You had no real way of knowing
In my heart I begged "Take me with you ...
I don't care where you're going..."

But to you I was faceless
I was fawning, I was boring
Just a child from those ugly new houses
Who could never begin to know

Who could never really know

Best of! Most of!
Satiate the need
Slip them into different sleeves!
Buy both, and feel deceived

Climber - new entry, re-entry
World tour! ("media whore")
"Please the Press in Belgium!"
(This was your life...)

And when it fails to recoup ?
Well, maybe :
You just haven't earned it yet, baby

I walked a pace behind you at the soundcheck
You're just the same as I am
What makes most people feel happy
Leads us headlong into harm

So, in my bedroom in those 'ugly new houses'
I danced my legs down to the knees
But me and my 'true love'
Will never meet again...

At the record company meeting
On their hands - at last! - A dead star !
But they can never taint you in my eyes
No, they can never touch you now

No, they cannot hurt you, my darling
They cannot touch you now
But me and my 'true love'
Will never meet again

Lyrics submitted by weezerific:cutlery, edited by Mellow_Harsher

"Paint a Vulgar Picture" as written by Johnny Marr Steven Morrissey

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

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Paint a Vulgar Picture song meanings
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  • +5
    General CommentAs many have said, this song is a great summation of the music biz. It is also a great summation of Morrissey and the Smiths recording careers, minus the death. I know some may say, 'well, reissues and repacking is in the hands of the record companies'. Well, even if Morrissy and Marr 'couldn't have said no' they could at least of spoken out against it right? In fact, the latest Morrissey release is a compilation of his recent b-sides, with *no* new material whatsover, which Morrissey is actively promoting. So does he want his fans to buy his singles or not? Or does he want them to re-purchase them all with a nifty new photograph of himself on front?

    Paint a Vulgar Picture is a Wilde quote and also seems to refer to Wilde's novel the Portrait of Dorian Gray. The protagonist of that novel sells his soul to keep his youth and beauty and pledges to lead a life of sin and debauchery in return. A beautiful portrait that an artist has done of him will age instead and reflect the true state of Dorian's soul- which is as ugly as the sins he commits. The Dorian story is a very apt reference for the recording industry. When an artist is young, they seem to be more pure- in it for the art than the money (though not as true these days). The fans want to believe in this image. Its the commonly held stereotype that the more successful a person becomes in the recording industry, the more corrupt they inevitably become- due to wealth and the general environement of the music industry. The record companies themselves add a lot of stress and pressure to the artists, which can lead them to all sorts of bad choices. However, the record companies attempt to maintain an artist's pristine image so they will remain popular with the fans- so they hide the needles, stash bottles and cover up the embarrassing stories. The beautiful public image is maintained, while the artists private selves are secretly decaying. As an artist inevitably falls out of favor, retires, or dies, the recordings themselves eventually get corrupted through endless reissuing and repackaging- becoming little more than widgets for the companies to squeeze more $$ out of. And of course, the biographies and tell alls come out about the corrupted and morally bankrupt stars- leading the fans to either become horribly disillusioned or, as in the song, leaving the fan to sadly cling on to the artists previously manufactured image or their ideal of what the artist was when they began their career.
    BillyBuddon December 12, 2009   Link
  • +3
    My InterpretationI created an account just to give my interpretation of this song.

    Well, for me, Morrisey is imagining how everyone will react to his own death, like the record companies will celebrate that they have a dead star on their hands, the "sycophantic slags" will claim to have known him well, and all the sales will be soaring.

    Then he goes on to re-examine his present life from a rather self-loathing point of view, like he was constantly being told to please everyone, and he repeats himself that it was his choice, he could have walked out if he had wanted to, so he has no excuse.

    Also, for me, when we talks about touching someone at the soundcheck, I think it is literal, like he saw a person, a complete stranger, and he imagined he/she was exactly like him ("you are the same as I am"). And could have saved him, taking him away from all that life he dreaded so much, and he walked behind him/her, and hoped that somehow he/she would know, know what an agony he was living in. But as he/she did not notice, he interpreted it as another blow to his self-esteem, thinking "to you I was faceless I was fawning, I was boring" And then he goes home and tries to remain happy ("I danced my legs down to my knees") but he cant help thinking that himself and his "true love" would never meet again. Still he comfort himself by thinking that in his mind he/she will not be corrupted like he was by record companies and fame (we could assume the stranger was involved in the music business, given that he'd seen him/her at a soundcheck), "but they can never taint you in my eyes"
    To him he/she will always be some undefiled version of himself.
    Agustina17on February 15, 2013   Link
  • +2
    General CommentI still remember the announced press-conference in Belgium with The Smiths. Every newspaper and magazine had sent their journalists and photographers, and they were all been gathering in the hotel in Brussels but at the right time Morrissey, nor the others didn't turn up. It ended with furious articles in the press, about the snobby attitude of Morrissey, and with 'official' apologies from the record company stating to demand explications of the band.

    A few months later the Smiths gave a personal comment to the press in Belgium in this song about being a toy in the hands of greedy businessmen, and being told to 'please the press in Belgium'...

    What a band!...
    patfrombelgiumon September 17, 2009   Link
  • +1
    General CommentThis song gives me the chills, given Moz's current situation-- reissue, repackage, repackage!" Until he releases new stuff, the record co's that own the older will doubtlessly give us "Best ofs Morrissey"-- and there's not a damn thin ghe can do about it. The irony is that this song was directed at the larger labels (I believe the SMiths were on Rough Trade, a smaller label when this was written) and now Moz refuses to sign with a smaller label, though he has a full CD recorded. AAARGH!!
    jenwill2on March 12, 2002   Link
  • +1
    General CommentMorrissey tells us how the record company truely operates. Eating you up and spitting you up. The dead star, perhaps Morrissey was preparing us for the Smith's breakup?
    mourninggloryon July 03, 2004   Link
  • +1
    General CommentWhat a gorgeous song... Apparently about 60s singer Billy Fury who died in relative obscurity at age 42 - another one of Moz's musical obsessions/inspirations. Does anyone know if he met Billy Fury when he was young as described in the song?
    Nina78on September 03, 2006   Link
  • +1
    General CommentWhat I love most about this song is how it takes a sad theme, a sad situation, and makes a beautiful and uplifting song. You see the same in There Is A Light. This meta-song illustrates how music lifts you up, how you "dance your legs down to the knees", even as "me and my true love wil never meet again".
    tamninon April 06, 2008   Link
  • +1
    General CommentFav. Smiths song of all time (for right now!).

    BillyBudd has it on the spot. First of all, Morrissey already talks about the subtle cruelty of the record companies. Secondly, if you have read the lyrics of Cemetry Gates, you would know Moz is a fan of Wilde.
    This interpretation fits the song perfectly.
    PaintAVulgarPicon March 28, 2010   Link
  • +1
    General CommentWhat a great song. I used to listen to this on my morning commute drive to film school in Halifax (2001). Several of the lyrics are different looking at them here than I had ever realized. I thought the lyrics were "on the hands of dead stars".

    To me this song always revealed something new every time I listened to it, and as many expressed, although it is a sad song, the tone is very positive and uplifting. I actually refer back to it whenever I'm feeling down. It is one of those songs that cheers me up.

    I often felt this song was about a man that Morrissey was secretly in love with but couldn't reveal. I'm not sure about Morrissey's actual preference (I have heard he is A-sexual, or not attracted to women or men). For whatever reason, I just got this feeling that in this case, he was referring to a man. Either someone who stopped by the recording studio who had little to do with the music industry, but Morrissey was strangely attracted to as someone untainted by the music business, and he could not reveal his feelings, but wished he could remove him self from his current life as a recording musician and go wherever this stranger was going. I think many people here have made some great comments suggesting this song is about Morissey talking about specific individuals, or referring to himself at the time reflecting back on a younger, more pure version of himself.

    The line, "I danced my legs down to the knees" always seemed to have sexual connotation to me... going back home, to his bed in his room and "thinking" about the stranger he was attracted to. Basically, a metaphor for masterbation. Being both attracted to someone but realizing he would never see them again. If this is a common expression, I have never heard it used outside of this song.

    The line "Me and My True Love will never meet again" is very epically romantic and tragic. This line always reminded me of Shakespeare or medieval stories and poems. I envision a ship sailing away across the sea with two lovers being separated by the ocean.
    It is a really beautiful song with so many interesting l lines that take us to several different places: The company meeting, Belgium, the soundcheck, the ugly new houses, and finally wherever his true love is going off to.
    Great, great music!
    simon10154on October 19, 2016   Link
  • 0
    General Commentdefinitely a small defining of what the Smiths are all about
    KungFu_Metal_Masteron March 07, 2002   Link

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