Flashback Friday: The Smiths, A Soundtrack to Awkward '80s Dance Moves

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Where we're going, we don't need roads; just a synthesizer, eyeliner, and a touch of androgyny. Welcome to Flashback Friday.

Los Angeles-based rockers Ozomatli reminded me of a cold hard fact at last month's McDowell Mountain Music Festival; if you're a Latino, particularly a Chicano like myself, you have an insatiable appetite for quintessential '80s acts like The Smiths.

For the past 30 years, Latinos have had a strange love affair with the British indie rockers -- specifically frontman Steven Patrick Morrissey. This isn't a gross generalization, either. Spanish-language television network Telemundo documented the infatuation in a 2007 interview with Mozz.

"I think Latinos are full of emotion, always," Morrissey says. "Whether it's tears or laughter, they're ready to explode, and they want to share their emotions . . . so I think that's the connection, because when I sing it's very expressive."


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Morrissey rocking Mexican soccer club Chivas gear.
Between 1982 and 1987, the Smiths departed from the synth-driven pop of the day and relied on catchy guitar hooks by Johnny Marr and Morrissey's poetic intonation and lyrics rife with emotion. The Smiths exploded onto the underground scene with 1983's "Hand In Glove," and hit their peak in terms of commercial success, with 1987's "Sheila Take a Bow," released 25 years ago today.

I became a fan as a kid listening to my dad spin vinyl cuts of "This Charming Man" and "How Soon Is Now." Even though a lot of the symbolism, humor, and irony escaped me in those days, the music validated my angst and comforted me with its brooding swoon. Rediscovering the sound as an "adult" only got better when I'd walk into any Los Angeles-area nightclub on "Latin Night" to perfect that weird arm-swinging dance move to any number of Smiths/Morrissey singles.

Morrissey is playing the Tucson Music Hall on Wednesday, May 23, if you're down to make the trip.

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