Between 1963 and their arrest in 1965, Manchester serial killers, Ian Brady and Myra Hindley, kidnapped and murdered at least five children – Pauline Reade, John Kilbride, Keith Bennett, Lesley Ann Downey and Edward Evans – and buried them on Saddleworth Moor.
In 1984 the Smiths released Suffer Little Children, a song about the murders, as a b-side to Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now, creating outrage in the press, which was defused by Morrissey meeting the mothers of the victims to reassure them that he wasn’t mocking or glorifying their deaths.
Some of the reports in newspapers in Portsmouth and Hartlepool – all the places that really count – some of the reports were so full of hate, it was like I was one of the Moors Murderers, that I’d gone out and murdered these children. Some of them were so full of hate that one just had to do something, but not read them. It was incredible.” (Morrissey, Melody Maker, March 1985 )
An interesting thing to note is the level of tone policing that Morrissey is subject to. There is huge anxiety about whether he’s ironic or sincere. His peer group can write ghoulish songs about crime – he has to be sincere. Any pop star can enthusiastically hold a Union Jack – he has to be ironic.
The Smiths would appear to be degenerating into an effete, mincing version of The Pretenders on this evidence, and I reckon M should take another tip from Chrissie and do the decent thing by Sandie soon. Anything to at least partially halt the collapse of the band into the annoying, silly, blubbering, infantile mess on display tonight… The common-or-garden Smiths – lots of flim-flam, lots of skullduggery, no great shakes. (Adrian Maddox, Melody Maker, May, 1984)