Death At One's Elbow

Album: Strangeways, Here We Come (1987)
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Songfacts®:

  • Morrissey warns his ex-lover to stay away throughout this gruesome breakup rockabilly.

    Oh Glenn
    Don't come to the house tonight
    Because there's somebody here
    Who'll take a hatchet to your ear
    The frustration it renders me
    Hateful, oh...


    Morrissey has seen the breakup coming, and dishes out bitter indictments at his ex.
  • The song's title is taken from the published diaries of playwright Joe Orton, which Morrissey had just finished reading. The quote is from December 28, 1966, when Orton returned home on the eve of his mother's funeral.

    "As the corpse is downstairs in the main living-room," Orton wrote. "It means going out or watching television with death at one's elbow."

    Morrissey's scenario mirrored Orton's own death half a year later, when on August 9, 1967, he was bludgeoned by his lover Kenneth Halliwell with nine hammer blows to the head.
  • This was criticized for a perceived lack of musical substance. Guitarist Johnny Marr defended the song:

    "It was good sometimes to have a track that wasn't trying to win the war like There Is A Light That Never Goes Out," he said. "It was almost like, 'We have the right to be slightly less intense.' I liked Morrissey's singing and I liked my own backing vocals."

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