On the 25th of January 2022, Morrissey Central published an Open Letter from Morrissey to Johnny Marr requesting him to stop talking about him.
It’s normal celebrity feud material, but the response has Folk Devil relevance.
With no stand out word or phrase in the letter to demonise him with, it was called bitchy, moany, odious (Rock’s Page Pages email – they have no issue with the homophobia in their back pages – in fact they highlighted the NME’s homophobic 1992 article, still lying that Morrissey had flirted with racism) and untruthful – with journalists insisting that Marr has to be cajoled into talking about Morrissey (how is Morrissey supposed to know that?)
It’s not quite clear what Johnny Marr said recently to piss off Morrissey, but it resulted in an extremely bitchy “open letter” from the former Smiths singer to his one-time guitarist and songwriting partner. (Rolling Stone, January 2022)
And it was linked to the far right racist narrative by jokes about free speech…
… a clunky association with Donald Trump…
… Marr changing his Twitter profile pic to his Simpsons character – the Morrissey character being a fat, meat-eating, gay racist (weirdly proving the racism allegations and homophobia go hand in glove the Simpsons violated their diversity casting policy by hiring a straight actor to play Morrissey and including a homophobic joke in Tim Long’s script.)…
… And choosing to RT a tweet that reinforces the idea he’s the the nice left-winger in contrast to Morrissey’s evil right-winger while giving the For Britain logo yet more reach…
Plus the return of the Lucky Dip from the List of Word Crimes – The Guardian chose Hitler, Brexit, Rape Apologist, Immigration, Merseyrail, and For Britain. The Independent chose For Britain, Hitler, Own Race and Khan’s Accent. Consequence went for Con-Vid and For Britain. That’s, For Britain, a far right party that Morrissey didn’t vote for, join, or give money to, that he didn’t believe was far right (he explicitly condemned racism and fascism) & that he hasn’t mentioned since May 2019 getting mainstream press nearly 3 years later just to hate on him.
Though many people can’t even remember which party & confuse it with either the real Britain First party (openly far right and violently homophobic. For Britain’s gay vegan leader fallaciously insists she’s on the centre right, and was forced there because the left won’t listen to her concerns about women’s/gay & animal rights) or with Trump’s America First slogan.
And think they’ve had to steer clear of his fascism for decades.
Which brings us back to the mirror that cracked – The NME.
They kept it general with ‘controversial‘ Morrissey & ‘legendary‘ Marr.
Which is fitting.
At some point after the Smiths’ breakup, they decided Marr was the star. (The violent homophobia and false racism allegations of 1992 were meant to have killed Morrissey’s career stone dead.)
I must admit, pestered Marr. A relentless mixture of journo and fan, I have nagged away at him to break the silence he has so studiously maintained about The Smiths these last four years.
During those years (while Marr was doing his ‘have guitar, will travel’ routine) the true story of The Smiths has become a prisoner of Morrissey’s whimsical memory and busy tongue, and, worse, the loaded imaginings of hacks.
But now – at long bleedin’ last and maybe just to shut me up – Marr has steeled himself and agreed to do a once-and-for-all, no-holds-barred interview about the band that, more than any other, illuminated ’80s Britpop.
He has chosen his moment with care. The imminent release of Electronic’s second single (‘Get The Message’); and the album that’ll quickly follow, will place Marr at the creative crux of his second great band. It will confirm him as one of the most gifted and influential musicians of the last decade. Maybe the most.
Before we start, one more thing needs making crystal clear; Johnny Marr is a Very Happy Man. And why not? At 27 years of age (27? Shocking, isn’t it?) he has it all, sorted. A career on the very brink of new pinnacles: a blessed marriage to Angie; a collection of guitars vast enough to satisfy even as voracious an axe-freak as he; a car too big for most of the streets of his native Manchester; a studio refuge in the depths of his home. Did I say ‘happy ? This, people, is the proverbial pig in shit.
But best of all, though, is Johnny Marr’s healthy relationship with his past. He has refused to let it haunt or hinder him. Nor is he cramped, like some, by an undue reverence for Morrissey. Indeed, he (like all the Factory mafia) now refers to his former soulmate as ‘Dorissey’ and has re-christened the limpid lad’s last 45 (‘Our Frank’) as ‘Alf Wank’. (Danny Kelly, NME, April 1991)
Side Note: if Morrissey mimicked a Black artist it would have been in his List of Word Crimes:
This is nervy, routine business-avoidance. We’re here to talk Smiths. Start at the start.
“I was born a poor black chile …” he grins, in one last attempt at stalling. (Danny Kelly, Johnny Marr, NME, April 1991)
Side Note 2: straight men in music truly can say what they like.
Defends Neil Young:
Politically-speaking, its hard to exorcise the ghost of his 1980s pronouncements, when he swung hard-right behind the Reagan presidency and lashed out at gays (“you go to the supermarket and you see a faggot behind the fucking cash register, you don’t want him to handle your potatoes”) and welfare spongers. “Stop being supported by the government and get out and work,” Neil advised. “You have to make the weak stand up on one leg, or half a leg, whatever they’ve got.” Set against all this, however, is some of the finest music of the last 30 years; a body of work that’s at once earthy yet haunting. Marshalling the case for the defence I would direct the jury, in particular, to listen to Everybody Knows This is Nowhere, After the Goldrush, the wonderfully sepulchral Tonight’s the Night, choice portions of Harvest, Zuma and Rust Never Sleeps, and the whole of On the Beach (recently reissued and every bit as good as I remember it) (Xan Brooks, the Guardian, September 2003)
Condemns Morrissey – who had expressed support for left-winger Bernie Sanders in June 2016 and left-winger Jeremy Corbyn in September 2015 and who released a political manifesto that was all about animal welfare in March 2016 when considering running for London mayor on behalf of the left-wing Animal Welfare Party. Yet the implication is he’s now right-wing for immigration comments that were wildly exaggerated in a rehash of the NME’s homophobic 1992 article, and one word in a statement that wasn’t about hating the Chinese, but about pointing out how inhumane animal cruelty footage looked.
Did he and Morrissey have similar politics? “Yeah, we did back then.” And now? “I wouldn’t expect so. Probably not.” In recent years, Morrissey has made headlines for suggesting that immigration is compromising British identity; he sued the NME (successfully) for defamation, releasing a statement that “racism has no place in our society”. In a 2010 interview with this magazine, he described the Chinese as a “subspecies” when it came to their treatment of animals. Marr prefers to talk about the days when Morrissey reserved his bile for Margaret Thatcher. (Simon Hattenstone, the Guardian, October 2016)