Bonfire of Mourners

On the 1st of July 2022, Morrissey sang the title song from his unreleased new album, Bonfire of Teenagers.

It was about (or inspired by) the 22nd May 2017 Manchester Arena bombing.

On the 23rd of May 2017, Morrissey had been condemned for a Facebook post where he said he was angry and thought the killing would never stop if the authorities were focused more on words than protections. Because of the NME’s 2007 rehash of the Finsbury Park fabrication, it was interpreted as an attack on Islam, on immigration, on immigrants and on people of colour – despite him having a history of condemning draconian immigration policies, and blaming antagonistic authorities for terrorism.

A few days later, at a vigil for the dead, a woman started singing the Oasis song, Don’t Look Back In Anger, a few people joined in, it went viral, and became the defining media narrative of the city’s response.

11 days later, on the 4th of June 2017, One Love Manchester, a benefit gig for victims was held at Lancashire Cricket Club’s Old Trafford ground. Hosted by Ariana Grande, she sang Don’t Look Back In Anger with the band Coldplay, in front of a euphoric audience. 10,000 people had apparently tried to claim free tickets by falsely claiming to have been at the Manchester attack.

One Love Manchester, uploaded on 4 June 2017

In interviews with his nephew, Sam Esty Rayner, Morrissey expressed dissatisfaction with the social pressure not to be angry.

The Manchester Arena Bomb took place on your birthday, and I was there celebrating with you, and I came into the room and announced that at least 19 kids were dead. You spoke out about it immediately, yet you weren’t invited to sing at the Arena event for Manchester. Why was this? 
Because I DO look back in anger! I would have sang “World Peace Is None Of Your Business” or “Life Is A Pigsty” – or something truthful and meaningful. If my child had been killed at Manchester Arena I wouldn’t be lighting candles and swaying … I’d be in a complete rage. 
(Morrissey, Morrissey Central, April 2019, published 24 June 2019)

‘Bonfire of Teenagers’ the track is magnificent, but you must be expecting some manufactured paranoia … the usual ‘you can’t sing about THAT’ pearl fumblers.
… because?
It’s about the Manchester Arena Bombing.
It’s about the kids who were murdered, yes. We are not encouraged to look beneath the surface because it’s dark and hidden. But the song is anti-terror, and anyone who finds that offensive can only be devoid of personal morality. As your brother once said to me, the Manchester Arena Bombing was Britain’s 9/11. We should appreciate anyone who asks questions.
But there is a very annoying necessity everywhere for debating something that is actually factual. Doesn’t this exhaust you?
It wasn’t always so. I spoke several times in the late nineties of a noticeable dumbing down of Britain, and it is now fully in force and I think most noticeable in the new flux of television commercials which, for me, makes watching television unbearable. I might sometimes want to see a certain program but I won’t switch on because I know the moronic dancing commercials will make me ill.
(Morrissey, Morrissey Central, June 2021, published 5 July 2021)

Cheerful defiance in the face of what could be ongoing terrorist attacks isn’t a bad thing, but it’s not a way of processing real grief and it can mask criticism of security failures.

After his gig on the 1st of July 2022 the lyrics of Bonfire were published on fan site Morrissey Solo.

Bonfire Of Teenagers.
By the ear of Famous When Dead
Live preamble:
This, this song is new.
It’s about, it’s about England’s 9/11
And yes, I heard you, I heard what you just did under your breath.
And erh, as well you might.
Obviously, in jolly old England, most people won’t talk about it.
I will.
Bonfire of teenagers
Which is so high it made North West sky
Oh you shoulda seen her leave for the arena
And the way she turned and waved and smiled
Goodbye goodbye
And the silly people sing don’t look back in anger
And the morons sing and sway
Don’t look back in anger
I can assure you I will look back in anger ’till the day I die.
Bonfire of teenagers
Which is so high it made North West sky
And oh you shoulda seen her leave for the arena only to be
And all the silly people say
Don’t look back in anger
All the morons sing and sway
Don’t look back in anger
I can assure you I will look back in anger ’till the day I die
Go easy on the killer
Go easy on the killer
Go easy on the killer
Go easy on the killer
Easy on, go easy on the killer
Go easy on, go easy on the killer

It’s not realistic. There was no fire. No one was vaporized. The killer is dead. He doesn’t name anyone, or any of the locations. It’s written from the point of view of someone who has lost a loved one and doesn’t want to singalong.

There was nothing racist in the song – but the reputation Morrissey’s press coverage has given him means the alt far right will claim it is anyway.

The other controversies being – he’s directly telling the families of dead children that they were vaporized on a bonfire. And that he’s directly telling the grieving people of Manchester that they’re silly morons.

It’s exactly the same as the Suffer Little Children controversy.

The Sun, 1984

Morrissey called ‘people’, ‘silly’ and ‘morons’ (it isn’t connected with a disability in the UK, it’s an informal word for foolish) in a song with no names or locations – social media called him c*nt, said he should be sectioned, wanted him dead and compared him to a paedophile rapist (Jimmy Savile, who was a celebrated DJ during his lifetime. He always said acceptable things in public).

The media might amplify the outrage.

It depends how much effort they want to put into a scandal when Morrissey’s mental health issues have reduced his world to his gigs, a website run by his nephew, his inner circle and a few pubs and hotels.