John Fowles’s The Collector and The Smiths: What Difference Does It Make? It makes none

27 Jul

“Oh, the devil will find work for idle hands to do”

(The Smiths)

The original cover featuring Terence Stamp

This is my third and final post (well at least final for now) in relation to John Fowles’ novel “The Collector”; I already wrote a book review, a post about the theme of art in the novel because Miranda was an art student, and now this post which connects the film with the song by The Smiths. Allow me to first open the Bible of misery, melancholy and self-pity: Morrissey’s Autobiography that is, and let us go to the page one hundred and sixty three and see what is there to be said about the song What Difference Does it Make? and the Terence Stamp cover picture incident:

I nominate Pretty girls make graves as the third single, but a bastion of bearded Rough Trade battleaxes drop on me like a ton of beansprouts and argue against a song with a title that would have made Mary Wollstonecraft throw in the tea-towel. Rough Trade wheel out “What Difference Does It Make?” as the next single. I had loved the song until its defilement on “The Smiths” album; the loose swain’s saunter now sounded stiff and inflexible, the drums sounding too frightened to move, the voice sounding like something gone to its reward – or, at least, resting in peace. I use a photograph of Terence Stamp as the sleeve image partly because I am assured that clearance can be gained from Stamp through Geoff’s mutual friendship with Sandie Shaw. Once the single is issued, Terence Stamp objects and will say (years later) that ‘Morrissey did not ask for approval.’ A new shot is panicked together, wherein I imitate the Stamp shot, although I choose to hold a glass of milk in place of Stamp’s strychnine-soaked muslin cloth. I am ugly against Stamp’s glamor-handsomeness, but it will have to do, since the single has already risen to number 12. Evidently Rough Trade are quite pleased about the sudden censoring of the original sleeve, because it might mean that collectors buy the single with the new sleeve also, thus bumping up sales.

I really adore the song Pretty girls make graves, so I agree with Morrissey. In the novel, Frederick (played in the film by Terence Stamp) drugs the beautiful art student Miranda with chloroform not with strychnine, but oh well Morrissey, I forgive you a lousy little mistake. It seems that in both covers the devil did find work for idle hands to do because they are both holding something. Even though the song and the film have nothing in common really, the cover picture was Morrissey’s homage to the films and film stars of the 1950s and 1960s that he loved. The aesthetic of the kitchen sink dramas appealed to his grim view of the world around him.

The cover with Morrissey and a glass of milk

All men have secrets and here is mine
So let it be known
For we have been through hell and high tide
I think I can rely on you
And yet you start to recoil
Heavy words are so lightly thrown
But still I’d leap in front of a flying bullet for you
So, what difference does it make?
So, what difference does it make?
It makes none
But now you have gone
And you must be looking very old tonight
The devil will find work for idle hands to do
I stole and I lied, and why?
Because you asked me to!
But now you make me feel so ashamed
Because I’ve only got two hands
Well, I’m still fond of you, oh-ho-oh
So, what difference does it make?
Oh, what difference does it make?
Oh, it makes none
But now you have gone
And your prejudice won’t keep you warm tonight
Oh, the devil will find work for idle hands to do
I stole, and then I lied
Just because you asked me to
But now you know the truth about me
You won’t see me anymore
Well, I’m still fond of you, oh-ho-oh
But no more apologies
No more, no more apologies
Oh, I’m too tired
I’m so sick and tired
And I’m feeling very sick and ill today
But I’m still fond of you, oh-ho-oh
Oh, my sacred one
Oh

4 Responses to “John Fowles’s The Collector and The Smiths: What Difference Does It Make? It makes none”

  1. rhjbyron 27th Jul 2020 at 5:07 pm #

    Now your talking, love the smiths, a revelation I never saw that, thanks

    Kind regards Richard Byron 07766713513

    >

    Liked by 1 person

    • Byron's Muse 29th Jul 2020 at 7:22 pm #

      Thank you fore reading and commenting. Love to meet a fellow Smiths fan. Cheers!

      Like

  2. mmmm 2nd Dec 2020 at 2:08 am #

    The hero “Ray Smith” in the Dharma Bums is often quoted “what difference does ….” https://terebess.hu/english/kerouac-db.html.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Byron's Muse 3rd Dec 2020 at 10:54 pm #

      Hi there, thanks for that info and the link! I love other Kerouac’s novels a lot, especially Tristessa, but I haven’t yet read Dharma Bums.

      Like

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