As much as I poke at Morrissey for being, well, Morrissey, he's done something that I find quite touching, thoughtful, and kind. A long-time fan of his recently died and he wrote this remembrance of her at a popular Morrissey fan site. Melinda Hsu was not his friend, it should be noted; he did not know her much more than being a friendly fixture at the front row of many of his concerts.

She was a rock n' roll fan. Those of us fans, who have made absurd efforts over the years to do whatever it takes to see our favorite bands, to be in the middle of the madness and fun and energy and moment, understand why Mel saw so many shows, even if Morrissey himself can't understand why anyone would keep coming back as she did. Although, really, he does know. He does, because he too remembers what that feeling was like, to be immersed in sound and spectacle, something that makes your spirit soar, makes your life brighter and better. He stood where she did.

Mel was not his friend; she was, however, his ally, and a tip of my hat to Morrissey for saying it.

My trusted ally Janice Long has passed news on to me of the sudden death of Melinda Hsu. I did not know Melinda personally, but I felt as if I did because she had been a front row fixture for many years. In fact, from her many letters and gifts I understood her name to be Mel Torment, or even, when she felt at her most pernickety, Smel – which I’m certain was not her given name. Mel was a smiling face who lent strength to every single concert, even when events were going somewhat pear-shaped. I felt as if I knew Mel because she was always there – regardless of wherever ‘there’ happened to be; no snowbound landscape too far, no off-the-beaten track too untrekkable. I often handed her the microphone mid-concert and she would always make an effort to say something different each time. What is more, she always seemed so happy to be there on the front row, even though she had heard these live renditions enough times to emaciate the brain of the most inherently decent devotee. However, she was booed by the audience once – in Killarney, when she asked (via microphone) with a tone of disbelief “why Killarney?” but I don’t think she meant the contorted snootiness assessed by the rest of the audience because she was not that type.

Those who travel from concert to concert as Mel did possibly don’t realize the contribution they make. They are as much a part of the night as I am, but I sometimes feel embarrassed because I think they are asking for more than there is, and, mustily, I can’t give it. The goat-like vocals and the tipsy monologues are all that I am.

Mel had passed a note to me at Pomona saying that it would be her final concert of the tour. Yet, hours later, in another venue, there she was again. Even after all she had done, even after all the money she had spent and the millions of miles she had hiked she still could not keep away from the squeeze and bend of yet another version of “First of the gang to die” – never imagining, I’m sure, that it is she who would be the first. As ever delighted and content at Ventura (where we gave our final bow), I cannot imagine whatever it was that Mel believed she saw or felt as she fixed upon the stage night after night, year after year.

Her contribution was a declaration of love for which she seemed to save all of her strength, and for which I could only ever repay with half-witted mumbles of thanks.

The only way to deal with Mel’s death is to accept it. There is no other way. We all have a certain unbreakable appointment and we are all helpless targets in that regard. Life’s only promise is its final deadline. When Mel, and others who are dear to us, depart, we should at least realize as we shuffle along living our small and persecuted lives, how absolutely ridiculous it is to be afraid of anything or anyone on this unhappy planet. Most people are standardized and unoriginal, which is useful, because it makes the Mels of the world stand out even more. Rich in ideas, her self-made calendars and t-shirts were always very funny. You will catch up with her in the afterlife, where I’m sure she will be as creative and busy and as Mel Torment as ever.

Thank you to Julia at True-to-you for printing this.

France, april 2010