So that when you think of him you think of Hitler.
The Scottish edition of The Times (Peter Ross, 3 October 2022) picked, ‘Morrissey, now 63, has long been a divisive figure. However, more recent public statements, including his support of the far-right political party For Britain, have made it difficult for some fans to continue to follow and enjoy his work. To attend a concert is to ask oneself: am I, with my presence and money, condoning his views? I would not buy his new music, but I listen to the old records with pleasure. I know people who do not have even that consolation. The Smiths, for them, are soured‘. https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/morrissey-review-in-the-wilderness-and-in-fine-voice-bcf6qrqfl
So you know it’s immoral to have anything to do with him.
So you don’t ever engage with his politics and just assume he hates immigrants.
Local reviews and blogs were positive.
Say what you like about Morrissey (do you say it because certain people who populate your social circle say certain things because it’s cool, or ‘in’ to say certain things about the ‘out’ man, who changed the face of the ’80s in glasses for god sake?) but there is no denying the ability of the great Northern curator to catalyse a live crowd, an audience explicitly in concert with, into heaps of steamy bald men with a dollop of quiff on top, who briefly return to their teenage years when reduced to tears at the sight of their oddball pop star, now in a scant batch of remaining legends who have survived selling their souls to some brand (butter, car insurance, etc…) or other. (Ryan Walker, Louder Than War, 6 October 2022)
The Guardian and Independent ignored him.
The Spectator used the same misquotes and misinterpretations to positively frame him as an anti-immigration, anti-‘woke’, Islamophobic, Brexiteer.
No doubt the fact that Moz has dared to sing about an act of Islamist-inspired mass murder will be held up by his haters as further proof that he’s now ‘hard right’. Apparently it’s right-wing, and possibly Islamophobic, to be concerned about radical Islam… He describes Brexit as ‘magnificent’, wears a vest that says ‘Fuck the Guardian’, and loathes what is widely referred to as ‘wokeness’, especially for its intolerance of freedom of speech and alternative ways of thinking. ‘I’m a stern believer in free speech, but in my case I actually mean free speech for everyone, not just for those who agree with me’… (Brendan O’Neill, the Spectator, 10 October 2022) https://www.spectator.co.uk/article/morrisey-is-right-about-the-manchester-arena-bombing
The show was sold out, Morrissey is ‘nostalgic‘ for the 1960s and 1970s, a time after the mass immigration of Black and Asian people from the British Commonwealth to the UK, and there was no nationalism at all – so Fergal had to insinuate.
Morrissey’s ‘constantlyreshuffledthemes‘ are ‘isolation, sexual repression and English nostalgia‘.
The room is ‘far smaller than the O2 Arena or Royal Albert Hall.’
Nowadays he’s a ‘resident of the US.’
His odd choice of political party – which is defunct – which was run by an Irish, lesbian, vegan, feminist – which he dropped in May 2019 – can be explained as arrogance – so it proves every lie ever told about him: ‘Morrissey’s far-right sympathies – the subject of press speculation since at least the 1990s – passed beyond the border of plausible deniability, a border often busily patrolled by his fan base. He has voiced support for the minor right-wing groupuscule For Britain, which is led by the doomed Ukip leadership challenger Anne Marie Walters. The bewildering obscurity of his nationalist affiliations appears to be a point of pride.‘
Educated young people don’t agree with Morrissey, “It’s very difficult to reconcile,” said Lottie, an 18-year-old English literature student from Colchester in the queue for the Brixton performance. “I don’t think he has said anything racist, I just think he has different opinions on national identity to everybody else, and I respect it. I don’t agree with it.”
Racist old people do agree with Morrissey, ‘Others are more strident. “Leave Morrissey alone!” Juliet, a Londoner in her late 50s, told me. “He’s a tender, kind guy. What he’s thinking about is the forgotten English people. It’s fine for us here, watching foreign films or going to foreign restaurants, but he’s defending them.”
His band is composed of two Columbians, a Mexican-American, an Irish-South Korean-American, and one lone white man, so they’re described as, ‘his five-piece band.’
He wrongly claims that Morrissey is wearing a ‘Royal British Legion poppy,’ picks out ‘material four decades old.’ and misleadingly claims that, ‘The past, in Morrissey’s art, is always the place to be, and fittingly tonight’s set is close to that of a heritage act. Three new songs aside, very little of the past 20 years of his career is showcased.
The setlist is a mix of rarities, new songs and a few that could count as ‘hits’.
How Soon Is Now? (1984) / We Hate It When Our Friends Become Successful (1992)/ Our Frank (1991)/ Knockabout World (2020) / First Of The Gang To Die (2004) / Irish Blood, English Heart (2004)/ Shoplifters Of The World (1987)/ Sure Enough, The Telephone Rings (2021)/ Rebels Without Applause (2021)/ I Am Veronica (2021)/ Half A Person (1987)/ My Hurling Days Are Done (2020)/ Bonfire Of Teenagers (2021)/ Everyday Is Like Sunday (1988)/ Never Had No One Ever (1986)/ Have-A-Go Merchant (1994)/ The Loop (1993)/ Please, Please, Please, Let Me Get What I Want (1984)/ Jack The Ripper (1993)// Sweet And Tender Hooligan (1987)
He constrasts the good (celibate) Smiths version of Morrissey, ‘a byword for a kind of literate, fey outsiderdom,‘ with the bad (gay) solo version of Morrissey, ‘tough, rough… heavy machismo‘.
And uses his backdrops as evidence of racism ‘pictures of Manchester terraced streets from the 1950s and 1960s, before subsequent developments – and, perhaps, demographic shifts (Morrissey has complained that “you’ll hear every accent under the sun apart from the British accent” on London’s streets),’ and sexism, ‘When women do appear on the backdrop, they are exclusively Coronation Street matriarchs.’
His song about the Manchester bomb is ‘lumpen‘, and ‘crass‘, he’s ‘at his most animated… finger pointing and accusatory.‘ It doesn’t contain any racism but, ‘given what we know about the singer’s political affiliations, there’s a sense too of a man pulling his punches, of implications he is not prepared to make explicit.‘
Don’t Look Back in Anger’ gave people a ‘popular civic language’ – meant to make you think Morrissey’s language is ethnonationalism – and the Pet Shop Boys, ‘spoke in clear, certain terms about the attack being a “hate crime” and dedicated “Being Boring”, a gorgeous and mournful song about lives that do not get to grow old, to the 22 victims,’ – unlike Morrissey, they are good gays.
He ends the review by asserting that Morrissey wants to deny the young the ‘immigration‘ and ‘change‘ that created the Smiths because he wants to ‘walk backwards into comforting, fanciful and false visions of a bygone England‘ – but – you can still like the Smiths because of the heterosexual guitarist:“Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want”… feels hard to dim even by association. The waltz’s grandiose melancholy terrifically betrays the Irish parentage of its two songwriters, Morrissey and Marr.’
Morrissey ends the show with Poly Styrene on his t-shirt.
In the NME’s homophobic hit piece in 1992, they cited, the Smiths song/album, The Queen is Dead, as one of Morrissey’s ‘English Nationalist’ songs.
“Take me back to dear old Blighty…”So sang Cicely Courtneidge in The L-Shaped Room, as grafted onto the evocative intro to ‘The Queen Is Dead”s opening title track. The ’60s kitchen sink movie is one of Morrissey’s pet favourites; the use of the patriotic pub singalong a mere atmosphere-setting quirk on an album littered with ambiguous pro/anti-nationalist signals. But, as ever with the controversy-courting bard of Whalley Range, it conjures images of Old England, Dunkirk spirit, British bulldog nostalgia and — stop us if you’ve heard this one before. (Andrew Collins, NME, 22 August 1992) https://folk-devil.com/2022/07/21/sexually-ambiguous/
Farewell to this land’s cheerless marshes Hemmed in like a boar between archers Her very Lowness with her head in a sling I’m truly sorry, but it sounds like a wonderful thing
“I say, Charles, don’t you ever crave To appear on the front of the Daily Mail Dressed in your Mother’s bridal veil?” Ooh, ooh, ooh And so I checked all the registered historical facts And I was shocked into shame to discover How I’m the 18th pale descendant of some old queen or other
Oh, has the world changed, or have I changed? Oh, has the world changed, or have I changed? As some 9-year-old tough, who peddles drugs I swear to God, I swear, I never even knew what drugs were Ooh, oh-oh, ooh
So I broke into the Palace with a sponge and a rusty spanner She said, “Eh, I know, and you cannot sing” I said, “That’s nothing, you should hear me play the piano” We can go for a walk where it’s quiet and dry And talk about precious things
But when you’re tied to your Mother’s apron No one talks about castration, ooh, oh-oh, ooh We can go for a walk where it’s quiet and dry And talk about precious things Like love and law and poverty, ooh-ooh (These are the things that kill me)
We can go for a walk where it’s quiet and dry And talk about precious things But the rain that flattens my hair, ooh (These are the things that kill me) All their life, they make love and then pierce through me
Pass the Pub that saps your body And the church who’ll snatch your money The Queen is dead, boys And it’s so lonely on a limb
Pass the Pub that wrecks your body And the church all they want is your money The Queen is dead, boys And it’s so lonely on a limb
Life is very long when you’re lonely
The Queen Is Dead, 1986, Morrissey
After the death of the Queen the song began to trend on Twitter, and it featured in articles about the pop music she inspired.
Morrissey has been slagging Queen Elizabeth for decades, almost too many times to count. Hell, it was even the name of the Smiths’ third studio album. Explaining what motivates his hatred for the royals to an Australian outlet in 2016, he said, “Monarchy represents an unequal and inequitable social system. There is no such thing as a royal person. You either buy into the silliness or else you are intelligent enough to realize that it is all human greed and arrogance.” (Joe Lynch, Billboard, 9 September 2022) https://www.billboard.com/lists/queen-elizabeth-ii-songs-lyrics/her-majesty-the-beatles-1969/
It also led to more demonisation.
He’s a notable eco-fascist (no examples are given):
… some on the far right are adopting xenophobic, racist ideas about what’s causing climate change — ideas that are rooted in eco-fascism. Fascism can be defined in many different ways, but typically, the oppressive ideology has characteristics rooted in white identity and violence against marginalized people, such as Black and Brown people, immigrants, and those in the LGBTQ+ community. Vice describes eco-fascism as an ideology “which blames the demise of the environment on overpopulation, immigration, and over-industrialization, problems that followers think could be partly remedied through the mass murder of refugees in Western countries.
Dick Gregory, America’s last hope, dies, aged 84. He knew how all aspects of the human condition connect to politics. He was a man of thought and a man of action, when most of us cannot manage to be just one of either. He worked breathlessly – work, words, deeds. He demanded for all what was snatched by the few. He disturbed the White House, and he was too quick for the American print media. They will be pleased that he now ceases to be amongst us… as we are left with earth-threatening Trump, who will race into war in search of peace.
Morrissey, 20 August 2017, Switzerland, posted on his nephew’s Facebook page
Side Note 2:
What A Creep podcast compared him to a wife beater (Ike Turner), and two alleged sexual predators (Win Butler of Arcade Fire, and Ryan Adams).
Morrissey has never been accused of physical violence or sex crimes.
Morrissey’s website, Morrissey Central, went live on the 28th March 2018.
It’s run by his nephew, S.E.R, a photographer.
Aside from the occasional interview with Morrissey or a statement with Morrissey’s name and the date, most of the content is taken from social media.
By this point, Morrissey, had already been completely dehumanised by the press and on social media, and had been labelled a racist pariah. Central seemed to be scrabbling around for support, finding it on the hard right with the Spectator, the Post Millennial, the National Review, and alt-right YouTubers.
The site has James Baldwin on the landing page and a list of animal charities they’d like you to support, which doesn’t appear designed to further white supremacy.
But, it attracted the attention of Far Right activists already excited by the amount of times they were being told by the press that Morrissey rants against immigration, is an extreme English ethno-nationalist, and hates black people.
Morrissey’s oldest friend, James Maker, wrote a defence on Facebook – that indicated Morrissey was coming from a left-wing perspective – one that had concerns about human rights clashes within identity politics.
Is Morrissey a racist? The answer is an emphatic ‘no’. In the forty years that I have known Morrissey, I have never once heard a racist epithet pass his lips. The terms ‘racist’, ‘fascist’, and ‘Islamophobe’ are so freely used nowadays against those whose opinions and worldview differs from our own, that they have lost their power and meaning. Also, there is a worrying trend on the Left that, ironically, echoes fascism in its intolerance of reasoned debate. One is not only ‘wrong’ in expressing a different opinion, but one is also now ‘evil’. I believe that calling Morrissey a racist is unjustifiable and wrong. However, if you want to run out of the house wearing a garment ill-suited to the elements in order to throw Viva Hate into the Manchester Ship Canal, then that is, of course, your right. In supporting Brexit, this does not make Morrissey an immigrant-hating ‘Little Englander’ who lives only to reverse the metric system and bring back steam trains. The truth is, there are myriad reasons why people voted to leave the EU. One of them is a mistrust of Brussels technocracy where unelected representatives make decisions that are arguably a matter for sovereignty. Patriotism and Nationalism are very distinct: the former is characterised by an affection for one’s country; the second is a more extreme and unforgiving form of allegiance to one’s homeland. Morrissey might be guilty of patriotism, but not of nationalism. Opposing Sharia Law in the UK, or FGM, or institutionalised misogyny—which is (trigger warning) widespread in the developing world—is an appropriate Western response borne of democracy and the development of civil liberties. It is neither racist nor Islamophobic. After all, if I were to move to the United Arab Emirates in search of a better life, I wouldn’t reasonably expect to be able to build a hot dog stand empire, serving pork products whilst dressed in a gender-neutral miniskirt. To oppose halal slaughter is to oppose slaughter with additional cruelty. The zakat tax payable for Halal certification is used by Islamic organisations to fund mosques and religious schools. Such is the many-tentacled nature of zakat, it is difficult to determine whether it is also being used to crowdfund Islamist extremism. There is a growing concern in some quarters that it might be. Hitler was indeed ‘Left-wing’ in the sense of incorporating the word ‘socialist’ into the party’s name to cynically draw voters away from communism and towards populist nationalism dressed as socialism. Hence, ‘Hitler was Left-wing.’ Morrissey was not suggesting that Hitler and Yvette Cooper (for example) share the same political ideals. The fact is, Left-wing totalitarianism looks little different to Right-wing authoritarianism — if you’re being oppressed, it’s the same experience. Again, is Morrissey a racist? My answer is an emphatic ‘no’. (James Maker, Facebook Post, 26 April 2018)
On the 30th May 2019, the Guardian, published yet another roundup of why Morrissey is despicable with Finsbury Park – the gig where Morrissey was the target of a homophobic hate crime that resulted in him being the only artist in British history to be branded a racist by the press for touching a Union Jack – as its keystone.
Waving the union jack during his show at Madness’s Madstock festival in Finsbury Park, London, in 1992, felt like a more aggressive move (this was before Britpop’s Cool Britannia-era reclamation of the flag, and its association with the far right was still strong). And it was done in the knowledge that the Madness crowd contained a significant fascist/skinhead element. (Tim Jonze, the Guardian, 30 May 2019)
Again, James Maker, defended him on Facebook.
In support of Morrissey: The truth is, there is a hate campaign which is artificial, fabricated and does not reflect the views of real people: people who attend concerts and buy records. ‘For Britain’ is repeatedly described as a ‘far right-wing party’, when it isn’t. It is run by an irish lesbian who opposes patriarchy. People are murdered on London Bridge, or children destroyed by nail bombs at concerts, or….the list is legion….There is a very much a problem linked to extremist Islam: its 21st-century core beliefs are still affirmatively anti-feminist, anti-LGBT, and anti-democratic. This is NOT anti-Muslim; it is anti-undemocratic; anti-patriarchy; anti-religious extremism. Morrissey was a contrarian in the 1980s and 1990s. and who saved many people’s lives—as many hundreds avow—through the messages of his songs., In 2019, he is still a contrarian. Yet, in the UK, he is a hate figure whom a British newspaper is bent upon destroying. For a person who could have given such pleasure to millions, over the years, this is very sad, indeed. (James Maker, Facebook Post, 1 June 2019)
On the 3rd of June 2019, Central posted a link to an article by Fiona Dodwell, that responded to the Guardian article, and concluded with:
Using an old image of the former Smiths frontman from 1992, in which he is depicted onstage holding a Union Jack, Jonze asks his readers, “True Colours?” As if beholding a flag of one’s own country is somehow a barbaric act, rather than one of pride. Where were the offended writers when Geri Halliwell made headlines by wearing her Union Jack dress on stage? Or are we to set different standards for different public figures? (Fiona Dodwell, Tremr, 2 June 2019)
On the 28th June 2019, rapper Stormzy, headlined at Glastonbury wearing a Union Jack vest.
On the 29th of June 2019 neo-Nazi, Morgoth, made a video comparing the positive reaction to Stormzy’s Union Jack (which he claimed was promoting multiculturalism) to the negative reaction to Morrissey’s Union Jack (which he claimed was promoting white pride). It was posted on YouTube, where it’s now set to private, and on Bitchute.
Morgoth and his circle had been trying to link themselves to Morrissey.
Central is known to post things that have been recommended to them.
On the 30th of June 2019 Central posted the video from YouTube, without comment, under the title Nothing But Blue Skies For Stormzy… the Gallows for Morrissey.
Morrissey has never mentioned Stormzy or Morgoth. Central posted a picture of Kirsty MacColl on the same night and then nothing until July 8th when Morrissey penned a sweet tribute to Blue Rondo.
Morrissey doesn’t speak to the media and isn’t on online so the post would have limited reach if Billy Bragg hadn’t spread the word as part of a public campaign to have Morrissey ostracised, something easily achievable in private, since he’s extremely isolated within the industry.
Naturally, Finsbury Park was brought up.
Which he’d also used to call Morrissey a hypocrite for being against the flag-waving jingoism of the London Olympics.
His campaign had started before the video.
And no one in the UK arts and media establishment has decried the Spectator’s TV critic, James Delingpole, for having Morgoth on his podcast.
During the pandemic, SER, became and anti-vaxxer and posted videos and memes that were against lockdowns, masks, and vaccine passports.
… Morrissey’s official website, which is increasingly reading like the work of a conspiracy-driven right-wing nutjob. (Ryan Leas, Stereogum, 16th November 2020)
On the 27th October 2021, Central posted two far right talking points in the same week they were circulating on the far right. One was a story about animal cruelty in vaccine labs, from Tucker Carlson at Fox News, the other was opposing vaccine mandates, from alt-right YouTuber, Tarl Warwick aka Styxhexenhammer666 (the 2nd video is now unavailable).
On the 27th July 2022, they posted a video by white supremacist, Black Pigeon Speaks, linking Morrissey’s song about the Manchester Bomb, Bonfire of Teenagers, to mass immigration. This was seemingly in response to a thread on Morrissey Solo where it was argued that the lyrics of Bonfire meant that there wouldn’t be a scandal about immigration. Black Pigeon had been posted on Solo on the 25th of July 2022 by Listening Loud, an unregistered user. https://shorensteincenter.org/anatomy-of-alt-right-youtuber/
On the 30th July 2022, Carl Eric Scott, a hard right Republican, published a substack on Bonfire of Teenagers that claimed it was a suppressed song, was about mass immigration and Islamism, and falsely stated that Morrissey had supported the far right anti-Islamic street protest group, the English Defense League. It was posted anonymously on Morrissey Solo on the 31st July 2022. And ciruclated on social media.
.. it is said he is racist, or “culturally racist,” or culturally insensitive, because he… voiced support for a group called the English Defense League, the EDL, back in 2013, and a few of its members were later proved guilty of physical attacks on non-whites… (Carl Eric Scott, Substack, 30 July 2022)
On the 28th July 2022, Morrissey made a statement about Your Arsenal that cited “opinions” without saying what those opinions were.
It was a time when singers such as I were made successful by the people. Now, a harmony of all interests and opinions is not allowed in modern music, and this is why the music world is now dominated by singers whom most of the world cannot stand. We are trained to expect nothing from modern music. There are no modern songwriters of whom we can say ‘no one but you could have written that song.’ There are no modern songwriters to whom we can say, ‘you’ve really hit on something.’ All that happens depends on something already achieved by somebody else. Consequently, there has never been a time when people so desperately need a true projection of how life really is. From “Your Arsenal” to “Bonfire of Teenagers” I know that music remains more permanent than life. But there is far more to fight against now, in a music industry that allows only for one opinion everywhere. “Your Arsenal” in its 30th year tells me that we have nourished each other for a very long time, and we have come a long way together in a truly different and elevating journey. If I know, you must know. (Morrissey, Morrissey Central Instagram, 28 July 2022)
On the 27th of October 2022, Michael Edison Hayden, of the Southern Poverty Law Center, tweeted that American white nationalist website, VDare, was raffling tickets to see Morrissey in Washington.
VDare is against South American immigration to the United States; most of Morrissey’s band and his LA fanbase are South American. It’s also homophobic and transphobic, so it’s unlikely they’d support him if they actually knew him – but a mix of his press coverage and Central’s posting habits, is attempting to sell him to the American far right with a story pieced together from the NME’s lies.
He believes England is a distinct place that comprises a distinct people, reprehensible as they may be. But because his audience is large, loyal and international (he’s huge in Mexico!), he can galvanize opposition to non-white mass immigration without fearing cancellation… Notwithstanding his reckless blasts at Margaret Thatcher and Donald Trump, Morrissey is a patriot. Still making excellent records—California Son and I Am Not a Dog on a Chain—he is determined to defend England. And he’s pointing a finger at the left, where it belongs, for trying to destroy it. We Americans might be asking, “Where’s our Morrissey?” (Carl Horowitz, Vdare, 15 October 2022)
On July 29th 1992, Nicky Crane – National Front/British Movement skinhead and roadie for neo-Nazi band Skrewdriver; who featured in the same Nick Knight photo essay as the V-flicker on a Morrissey t-shirt – came out as gay on a UK Channel 4 documentary, Out: The Skin Complex, that explored gay skinhead subculture. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-25142557
On August 22nd 1992, the NME spent 5 pages denouncing Morrissey as a racist – for holding a Union Jack for 3 minutes and using an art print of two skinhead girls as a backdrop – while supporting headliners Madness, at Finsbury Park, on August 8th 1992, after he cut his set short and cancelled the next day’s appearance, due to the crowd throwing missiles and heckling homophobic abuse. https://illnessasart.com/2020/11/26/nme-22-august-1992/amp/
NME, 22 August 1992
Select reported the homophobia while blaming Morrissey for it.
Bad move one: he appears in front of a backdrop featuring two androgynous skinhead girls – one – perversely – resembling Carrie Fisher. The men’s men in the crowd offer the opinion that Morrissey is a “poofy bastard” and elevate many a middle finger. It’s boneheaded bullshit, sure, but nothing you shouldn’t be able to weather. Bad move two: Moz produces a Union Jack which he brandishes throughout “Glamorous Glue” as an art statement. This is a spectacularly stupid stunt, given the unwelcome right-wing following Madness always tried to get rid of and the putrid characters milling around outside. Thank God they can’t understand the words to “National Front Disco”… But contrary to his press statements, there was no hail of shrapnel to force a cancellation of the Sunday slot – just a reception that didn’t suit. Gallon Drunk stuck it out, didn’t they? Somewhere in the distance, you can hear The Farm, who would have gone down immeasurably better on this lads’ day out, laughing up each others’ sleeves. Who can even be bothered to feel sympathy for Morrissey? Perhaps we’ll see an end to his terribly modish flaunting of skinhead imagery. Perhaps he’ll learn that you can treat your fans with cavalier disdain once too often (most of the unfortunate Moz kids have bought tickets for Sunday – Glastonbury part 2). Or perhaps he’ll just emigrate. (Select, October 1992)
He certainly got a hard time from the homophobes, but nothing the most acid tongue in pop couldn’t handle. (Select, January 1993)
The Independent didn’t pick up on anything untoward with his imagery – but blamed the crowd’s negative reaction on his lack of masculinity.
From the start of his career, he rejected or invented labels for his gender and sexuality – and in the early/mid 1980s he said he was celibate.
Prince says he isn’t… Michael Jackson says it’s a sin. Elton John is married… David Bowie says he was never even bisexual… Lou Reed is maritally heterosexual… Little Richard [and] Donna Summer are on the anti-gay trail… music… has gone homophobic… And there’s also Morrissey, who’s … yes, gay...ensconced in a corner of Salisbury, a gay London pub… Morrissey, spoke with THE ADVOCATE:What do you mean by the fourth gender? I think labels are too restrictive. Like everyone is either heterosexual or homosexual. People are simply sexual. Do gay musicians say they’re celibate to appease the homophobic segments of the public?It may well enter into that, if it’s a lie. Certainly celibacy has a spiritual attractiveness… like a little halo.Is it harder to get into the media if one is gay, rather than noncommittal? It is more difficult. What was your childhood like?Wonderful… the teenage years were rotten… hormones divided us into camps, and as any gay person knows, that’s the time you start losing friends – or those you thought were friends. And then those professional heterosexuals, those people in those boxes, are closed to you for life. (Morrissey, interviewed by George Hadley-Garcia, the Advocate, 16 October 1984) https://illnessasart.com/2021/07/13/the-advocate-16-october-1984/
His imagery was often coded as gay.
In 1991, he toured with the Jewish, lesbian, singer, Phranc.
In a Facebook post in 2021, his guitarist and co-songwriter, Alain Whyte, wrote that the crowd hated Morrissey because they thought he was queer.
The NME’s hit piece made a direct link between sexuality and racism, with one paragraph echoing publicity surrounding the Channel 4 gay skinheads documentary.
Caucasian Rut: “A child in a curious phase…“? (NME, 22 August 1992)
At one extreme, Kylie Minogue miraculously transforms herself from the jovial girl-next-door to a strutting nymphet who cavorts lustily with black ‘dancers’ to suggest risky sexuality. And, at the other extreme, Steven Patrick Morrissey undergoes a gradual metamorphosis from a miserable, loveless outsider with a sense of humour to a miserable, loveless outsider who flirts with racist imagery. (NME, 22 August 1992)
Dr Dinesh Bhugra, a psychologist at the Institute of Psychiatry, speaking on Skin Complex, the Channel 4 programme to be screened on Wednesday, argues that gay men adopting the skinhead image is not surprising. In a society that is producing a tremendous amount of homophobia, you have to try and protect yourself by whichever means you can and if, in order to do it, it means you are identifying with the oppressor then people will do that in order to survive. (Independent, 26 July 1992)‘
Let’s not forget that the adolescent Morrissey used to be chased through the streets of Manchester at night by leering beer-boys, some of whom may have held NF sympathies, simply for being ‘different’. And he definitely spent a lot of time in Whalley Range, a multi-racial area. Is he now identifying with his former oppressors? Has he changed from the persecuted to the persecutor? Or, is he fascinated by the idea of racism, by the look of violent skinheads, to the extent of being oppressed so much he falls in love with his oppressors? (NME, 22 August 1992)
They falsely claimed that most football hooligans were affiliated with the NF and BNP, and deliberately misrepresented We’ll Let You Know.
We may seem cold Or we may even be the most depressing people you’ve ever known At heart, what’s left, we sadly know That we are the last truly British people you’ve ever known We are the last truly British people you will ever know You’ll ever, never, want to know (We’ll Let You Know, Steven Morrissey/Alain Whyte)
We’ll Let You Know’ is ostensibly a love song to football hooligans, casting them as “the last truly British people you’ll ever know”, which wouldn’t be that irritating if you didn’t realise that a significant percentage of them are also NF or BNP affiliated. (NME, 22 August 1992)
A review in the Melody Maker falsely claimed that Morrissey was holding the Union Jack while singing the National Front Disco as supporters shouted Sieg Heil – so the NME’s admonition that he had racist friends and liked outsidertrappings could come from that – or it could point to Nicky Crane.
Morrissey is, despite all hopes, despicable… Look, Steven, if you’ve just run 100 metres in 9.98, you can have some sort of vague, if dubious, claims to wearing a Union Jack around your shoulders. If you’re singing the National Front Disco and getting too scared/weary to put inverted commas around the England for the English bit, while Sieg Heils butter you up down the front, don’t expect much sympathy… (Paul Mathur, Melody Maker, 15 August 1992)
For what it’s worth, I don’t think Morrissey is a racist. He just likes the trappings and the culture that surround the outsider element. He has some racist friends. And if he carries on this way, he’ll have thousands more. (NME, 22 August 1992)
Why I’m a Skin:I grew up in remotest and desolate suburbia… Untidy, shy and eccentric, I was first bullied, then ignored… I discovered… what respectable men did with each other in toilets. I joined in with enthusiasm. At school I was Charles Laughton. In the cottages I was James Dean… The skinhead is beyond fashion and cannot be assimilated… This animal’s only secondary sexual characteristics are his braces worn up to exaggerate the width of the shoulders, down to emphasise the curve of the bum… He is pure sex… He is an anarchist, not because he rejects the rules, but because they cannot be applied to him. (Square Peg, No 12, 1986) https://tenderbooks.co.uk/products/square-peg-magazine-a-complete-run-with-related-ephemera?variant=39743140561080
I just felt towards all these figures in popular music who were trying to be gay and outrageous – why does it always have to be so shocking? I think ‘This Charming Man’ was the most revolutionary single in popular music in that area – I’m really quite convinced of it, because it was all just completely natural about male relationships, it was nice and natural, but it wasn’t banal. (Morrissey, Square Peg, No. 6, 1984) https://illnessasart.com/2020/01/06/square-peg-no-6-august-1984/
In 1981, Nicky Crane’s picture was used on the cover of a compilation album, Strength Thru Oi, that was released by Sounds magazine, causing a scandal over his neo-Nazi connections, and the allusion to the Nazi slogan strength through joy. He also appeared in gay porn films and worked with transgender singer-songwriter, Genesis P-Orridge.
NAZI FARTSY : Earsay’s snippets (Channel 4) on Genesis P-Orridge et al featured an unexpected guest – a certain Nicola Crane. Crane, the neo-Nazi who by a series of errors made the front cover of ‘Strength Thru Oi’, turned out to be one of the ‘stars’ of a Psychic TV video film. Let’s hope the media are as quick to condemn this obviously deliberate airing for Crane as they were with that accidental airing three years ago. (Sounds, 22nd September 1984)
In 1984, Nicky led an attack on left-wing skinhead band, the Redskins, at a GLC benefit gig. The Smiths were on the bill. He was also working for, Gentle Touch, a firm that provided security for left-wing and gay events. In 1986, he marched at gay pride, under a ‘gay skins’ banner. When asked, gay pride organisers, said they felt it was ok because he’d been seen kissing an Afro-Caribbean man.
Ken Livingstone and the GLC had been under fire for giving money to gay organisations.
Including a gay skinhead disco.
The National Front/British Movement/BNP were violently homophobic, assaulting and murdering gay people, attacking and bombing gay events and venues. And had been rocked by gay scandals.
Those naked Nazis: I am somewhat pleased to see the National Front arseholes scratching each other’s eyes out over the Martin Webster scandals. John Tyndall is so so upset about Webster’s homosexual image that he’s formed a breakaway NF organisation and is openly slagging Webster in his publication, Spearhead. It seems he accuses the Front of being full of queers and morally corrupt and that Webster is giving the Front A BAD NAME! It’s okay to smash someone’s head in, but it’s the biggest crime of all to be gay. (Zipper, 24 October 1980)
When Crane came out as gay, he was disowned.
It just goes to show that nationalism and homosexuality do not fit in together, because Nationalism is a true cause and homosexuality is a perversion. Nicky Crane left, and I think that it was the best thing he could have done, but he should have left a hell of a lot earlier. He was living a lie for all of them years. I’ve got no respect for the bloke anymore. (Ian Stuart Donaldson, lead singer of Skrewdriver, Last Chance fanzine, 1992) https://amp.theguardian.com/world/2014/dec/05/skinheads-christmas-far-right-archive-1985
After the Madstock gig – Morrissey’s press office blamed “projectiles” thrown by a “National Front skinhead” for his refusal to play the next day. Morrissey reportedly said it was “too dangerous” (NME, 22 August 1992).
Madstock’s promoter, Vince Power, blamed the backdrop and the Union Jack, “in a way he got the audience he was looking for” (NME, 22 August 1992).
Peter Hooton, thought it was payback for his band, the Farm, being dropped from the bill, for not being “manly” enough, “I was amazed at the Morrissey camp’s reaction. He’s dealing with contentious stuff, flirting with right wing views in front of a Madness crowd… he’s a very sad and mixed-up man.” (NME, 22 August 1992)
Flowered Up’s keyboard player, Tim Dourney, said Morrissey was “asking for a bit of trouble. Maybe he thought he could win over the skinhead contingent but you’re going to put backs up prancing around like that.” (NME, 22 August 1992)
Derek Ridgers worried that the girls who WERE racist imagery (to the NME) were being used in a distasteful or demeaning way. “Being a Morrissey fan I thought he’d use them in a tasteful way. My main concern was that it wasn’t going to be demeaning to people in the picture.” (NME, 22 August 1992)
The NME admitted that the National Front was in London on the 8th of August to confront a Troops Out march – but deliberately skipped over the National Front’s hostility to Irish Catholics and Irish Republicans, didn’t mention that Morrissey had expressed Irish Republican sympathies, gave the wrong impression that his ‘ethnic group’ was English (he’s Irish Catholic), and used the skinhead backdrop and the Union Jack to directly connect him to the National Front – with their skinhead membership and their Union Jacks.
Morrissey’s affection for the skinhead and nationalist imagery was given its most public display ever at Finsbury Park. With Derek Ridgers’ skinhead photos used as a backdrop, he waved and wrapped a Union Jack flag around his torso. Meanwhile, outside the park’s perimeter, Union Jacks were also brandished — by National Front and British Movement supporters congregating to confront a Troops Out march. (NME, 22 August 1992)
… could the same writer harbour such seemingly ignorant thoughts as “‘England for the English'” (his inverted commas) considering his beloved England’s past colonial adventures? (NME, 22 August 1992)
A feature of the Bloody Sunday marches was that the far right (BNP etc.) often mobilised to oppose them, so that in the pubs and streets surrounding the demonstrations there would be skirmishes between anti-fascists and racists. In 1990 for instance, three Anti Fascist Action (AFA) members were jailed after notorious Nazi skinhead Nicky Crane was dragged out of a taxi in Kilburn in the vicinity of the Bloody Sunday march. (History Is Made At Night, 30 January 2012) http://history-is-made-at-night.blogspot.com/2012/01/bloody-sunday-1972-forty-years-of.html
The NME invents a variety of motivations for the crowd’s hostility – all of which blame Morrissey – one of which implies that he’s a gay man trying to join the National Front and getting the violence he deserves.
It almost doesn’t matter who pelted him offstage (NF skins who don’t want his glitter-shirted type diluting the ‘movement’, Farm fans disgruntled at his alleged part in getting them chucked off the bill, ordinary Joes and Jos disgusted by his toying with nationalist imagery, people who just never liked The Polecats!); the fact remains: given all the above, it was almost inevitable. (NME, 22 August 1992)
While positioning themselves as ‘right-on’, ‘compassionate’ and ‘liberal’ – concerned that Morrissey has chosen to incite violence, racism and genocide.
In agitated times when the twin spectres of fascism and ‘Ethnic Cleansing’ are sweeping across Europe, and when there’s been a return in England to the horrifying incidence of burning immigrants out of their homes, we must wonder why Morrissey has chosen this precise moment to fuel the fires of racism by parading onstage with a Union Jack and writing such ambiguous dodgy lyrics as ‘The National Front Disco’ and ‘We’ll Let You Know’ on his recent album. Is he so starved of lyrical ideas that a touch of controversy is the best way to cover-up ‘writer’s block’? Is he completely fed-up with the liberal consensus in the more compassionate side of the media that he’s resorted to baiting the right-on crowd? Is there a sizeable degree of irony at work? (NME, 22 August 1992)
In contrast to Morrissey, who is now the opposite of ‘gentle and kind’.
Equally, his recent response to the publication of Johnny Rogan’s Smiths book The Severed Alliance, was at best distasteful, at worst illustrative of a severe lack of perspective… Morrissey, while admitting that he’d never even read it, condemned the book, and said that he hoped Rogan died in a car smash on the M3… Is this the same man who, in The Smiths’ finest moment (‘I Know It’s Over’) wrote “It’s so easy to laugh, it’s so easy to hate, it takes guts to be gentle and kind“? Sadly, yes. The same man but now displaying a cruelty and lack of deftness that makes his golden days seem light years away. (NME, 22 August 1992)
They try to firm up the accusations by bringing up the ‘hip hop wars’, fabricated by music journalists who were excluding black artists from rock music, and accusing him of ‘race-hate‘.
1992 isn’t the first time Morrissey has been accused of fanning the flames of race-hate. When The Smiths released ‘Panic’ in 1986, at the height of what’s now known within NME as ‘the hip-hop wars’, certain writers at this paper branded Moz a ‘racist’ because of the sentiments “Burn down the disco… Hang the DJ” expressed therein, seeing the song as an all-out attack on dance music and therefore black people. (NME, 22 August 1992)
They interpreted Bengali In Platforms as an anti-assimilation diatribe – so they could conflate him with anti-immigrant-anti-Irish-Catholic, ex-Tory, Ulster Unionist MP, Enoch Powell.
Viva Hate’, his first ‘solo’ LP, contained the charmingly titled ‘Bengali In Platforms’, a convoluted diatribe against assimilation: “He only wants to impress you/Bengali in platforms/He only wants to embrace your culture/And to be your friend forever/ … Oh shelve your Western plans/ … life is hard enough when you belong here.” And where does this somewhat gentle ridicule leave the Bengalis who were born in England? On the next boat captained by Enoch Powell? In the lurch? The main complaint Little Englanders have about immigrants is their seeming abhorrence of the host culture and feisty determination to cling to what they know and understand. But here we have someone who won’t let them do the opposite either... (NME, 22 August 1992)
They created a list (the template of all future lists) of out-of-context faux-racist quotes (Andrew Collins, Angelfire, 26 July 2001) used as evidence that he’s racist, violent, and a hypocrite, who has no right to complain about being attacked (by homophobes).
“I’m not totally averse to violence. I think it’s quite attractively necessary in some extremes. Violence on behalf of CND is absolutely necessary… obviously CND care about the people and that’s why they do what they do. That’s patriotism.”(Morrissey, December 1984)
“The common sense for the future is to try and preserve as much as we can from the past.” (Morrissey, December 1984)
“Reggae is vile.” (Morrissey, NME questionnaire, February 1985)
“Personally, I’m an incurably peaceable character. But where does it get you? Nowhere. You have to be violent.” (Morrissey, March 1985)
All of this is a smokescreen – they even tell the reader how it’s constructed. They charge him with being a nationalist, a racist, right-wing and violent – then accumulate ‘problematic’ associations: Panic hates black people. Rusholme Ruffians hates Asians – who ‘duffed Moz up’ – as if his songs are literal and autobiographical.
The novel Suedehead is black-hating and gay-bashing, so the song Suedehead is black-hating and gay-bashing, which makes Bengali In Platforms, Asian Rut, We’ll Let You Know and The National Front Disco, black-hating and gay-bashing. He’s ambiguous – he causes unease and disquiet – he’s always carping about black people – it’s accelerating now he’s solo – he’s a danger to gullible and suggestible fans – he’s unwholesome.
Let’s deal with the first, and infinitely more difficult of these charges, the whole ugly grab-bag of nationalism, right-wingery, violence and racism… The Smiths’ ‘Panic’ could be construed as an attack on black music and therefore, by extension, black people. But the unease predates even that. One Mancunian music journalist has voiced disquiet that the ‘Ruffians’ on ‘Meat Is Murder’ — who duff up the Moz at a funfair — should be from ‘Rusholme’, the only part of Manchester that might be identified as ‘Asian’.It’s since the advent of Morrissey’s solo career, however, that misgivings about some of his chosen subject matter, lyrics, imagery and associations have begun to accelerate. His very first solo single, ‘Suedehead’, was named after the black-hating, gay-bashing post-skinhead gangs glamourised by Richard Allen’s notorious 1971 novel of the same name. Since then there’s been ‘Bengali In Platforms’ (from ‘Viva Hate’), ‘Asian Rut’ (‘Kill Uncle’) and, most recently, ‘We’ll Let You Know’ (with its line about “we are the last truly British people you will ever know”) and ‘The National Front Disco’ (from ‘Your Arsenal’).Nobody is denying Morrissey’s right to write about what the hell he likes and nor are any of these songs intrinsically problematic, but not all of his audience are as smart as him and the constant, unfocused, reference to these delicate matters, allied to Morrissey’s steadfast ambiguity in interviews (see quotes) does have a cumulative effect. Add to this his constant carping about reggae, disco and any other music that’s usually prefaced with the word ‘black’ (and the ‘Panic’ provision, that hating black music doesn’t mean to hate black people, still applies) and you can see how the gullible or suggestible fan, or the suspicious critic, might start to build up a pretty unwholesome portrait of the artist. (NME, 22 August 1992)
The skins are Nazis – but also male – and there are homosexuals about.
The original skins were about working class (primarily male) solidarity and an alternative to the stultifying mundanity and bullshit of everyday life, recurring themes in Morrissey’s writing. But they were also, despite their taste in ska and early reggae, generally racist, nationalistic, chauvinistic British bulldogs, proud wavers of the Union Jack and standard bearers (at a time when Enoch Powell was talking about the race ‘problem’ turning Britain’s streets into “rivers of blood”) of the Keep Britain White fanatics. Richard Allen’s Skinhead chronicles are full of sickening accounts of violence against blacks. And, for that matter, homosexuals.As the ’70s progressed, the skinhead faction began to shrink, boiling down to the hardcore rump of the ‘Oi’ movement, overtly racist nutters served musically by groups like The 4-Skins and Skrewdriver and responsible for the Southall riots when an Asian pub was fire-bombed. And although the cultural signals of shaving your head and wearing boots have remained confusing (no-one’s calling Sinead a fascist!) it’s undoubtedly true that in recent times, the skinhead has enjoyed a new lease of life in France, Italy, Scandinavia and especially Germany, as the vanguard of the post-Wall revival in Nazism. Are their flag-waving certainties and xenophobic imagery fit icons for him to be playing with, however cleverly? (NME, 22 August 1992)
The language used throughout the article is leading, loaded, and sexualised – the NME wondered how far his infatuation had gone, hoped his thrills with Mensi, a good guy, were only vicarious, but feared he was there to meet his desired skins in nail varnish. The shadowy iconography could be innocent, but, like his sexuality, it’s ambiguous. He could be actively seeking a lesspleasant new image; he won’t let them near to find out.
How far has his infatuation with the skins and their paraphernalia gone? (NME, 22 August 1992)
He’s still got the rockabilly quiff, sure, but recently, as the pictures scattered around these five pages show, he’s taken to presenting himself with the iconography of the shadowy nationalistic right. Union Jack badges … Union Jack flags … cross of Saint George T-shirts … Oi T-shirts … suedehead backdrops; all innocent enough in their own right (or at least safely ambiguous) but, again, collected together they present a sorry and worrying spectacle. He’s also spent time recently with Mensi from right-on skins the Angelic Upstarts who, as a decidedly good guy, perhaps provides the Moz with a safe route to vicarious skinhead thrills. (NME, 22 August 1992)
And finally, given Madness’ sad and unwanted link with the National Front skin faction, why did he choose to make his only UK appearance so far this year at the Finsbury Park bash? Precisely to address his desired new congregation of ‘skinheads in nail varnish’? (NME, 22 August 1992)
What about the second contributory strand to Morrissey’s current problems, his apparent decline from blessed and effortless surfer on the golden wave of pop fortune, to unreliable, grudge-bearing seige-mentality curmudgeon? From a distance (and Morrissey doesn’t allow journalists any nearer), it all looks like one of two things: either he’s just lost all sense of judgement and subsequently effective control over his career, or he’s got it all perfectly under control and is actively seeking a new and less-pleasant-than-the-last image. (NME, 22 August 1992)
They implied that he was at Madstock to pick up racist men, despite the fact that he’d worked with Madness producers Clive Langer and Alan Winstanley on two albums – Bona Drag, and Kill Uncle – was friends with Cathal Smyth of Madness, and Suggs, sang on Picadilly Palare.
Steve Sutherland had singled them out in a review of Kill Uncle that called Asians ‘dusky‘, Morrissey fans ‘emotionalretards‘ and Morrissey a snide, crabby old spinster, creepy sniching perv.
In ex-Madness cohorts Langer and Winstanley, he was [sic] chosen the two most parochial producers alive, as if to diminish his international appeal as far as possible… ‘Asian Rut’… mentions drugs, a tooled up dusky assailant hellbent on vengeance, and racial tension in schools, but it’s not even vivid soap opera… Morrissey once managed the improbable by focussing on the peripheral – no sex, no drugs, no life to speak of – as the centre of attention and in doing so, he caressed the nerves of millions of other emotional retards… but now he’s like some snide, crabby old spinster… he’s become some creepy snitching perv. (Steve Sutherland, Melody Maker, 23 February 1991)
When he was in the Smiths, the press mocked his sexuality – but thought he was sexless.
The Smiths perverse glamour lay in their self-denial… [thier] manifesto of vengeneance on the world through disability, withdrawl and asexuality (it was impossible to imagine that Morrissey actually had a penis) was immensely attractive… It is now widely assumed that most of Morrissey’s lyrics were coded references to homosexuality… the male is invariably feminised… “This Charming Man”, which first aroused the is-Morrissey-gay debate, is way too obscure to fathom… (Simon Price, Melody Maker, 15 August 1992)
By the late 1980s they panicked that he might be a sexually active gay man – putting real gay culture into his work – with a fanbase of teenage boys – who were desperate to touch him.
Picadilly Palare might have been inspired by bisexual skinhead and former Picadilly prostitute, Mick Furbank. Mick designed the ‘crucified skin‘ logo for London skinhead shop, The Last Resort, where Nicky Crane was a regular customer.
Mick Furbank is a shock tactician. Former Piccadilly rent boy—gasp! Skinhead artist—never! Mimes buggery in public performance—disgraceful! Masturbates with a Doc Marten boot on stage—appalling! Says many skins are gay, just too hung-up to acknowledge it—the world turns upside down! What he wants to tell us about is ‘Gangs. Uniforms. Pain.’ All the tender emotions suppressed, sexuality suppressed, violence expressed. His chosen approach is part and parcel of his skinhead persona. ‘No fuss. Mo mess. Pure impact.’ Very hard art. (Phil Sutcliffe, Sounds, 10 January 1981) https://standupandspit.wordpress.com/2015/01/04/skinhead-art/
The NME warned him that his sexual ambiguity could end his career. Which mutates into an accusation that he’s equivocal about Englishness.
If Morrissey has sinned in his rise to self-styled King of the Western World then it must surely have been indulging in his only weakness, which he himself credited as being a ‘listed crime’… it is Morrissey’s own ambiguity which has led to what many people insist on hinting at as being a somewhat spectacular cover-up… apart from a very early interview with our own Cath Carroll where Morrissey spoke directly about the eroticism of the male body (and an interview in a lesser rag that was littered with tawdry references to public toilets), Morrissey has rarely been questioned about the highly sexual nature of his lyrics… As it is, without wishing to undermine his aggressive challenge to the staid institution of compulsory heterosexuality and monogamy, I find it hard to believe that it is a Crown Prince Of Celibacy who is responsible for such knowing or flirtatious songs as ‘Late Night, Maudlin Street’, ‘Reel Around The Fountain’, ‘Hand In Glove’ and ‘Alsatian Cousin’. Or for the specifically sexual visual control of his image, from the topless NME front cover to the particularly lustful dancing of the young tearaway hoodlum on the new video… Maybe it is this over-enthusiastic curiosity from fans that forewarns him of a more offensive and dangerous threat to the often remarkable relationship with his art and his audience that he has developed – ie from the blood-hungry tabloids. If this is the case, then Morrissey should be wary of the fate that killed off both his heroes Wilde and Dean… (James Brown, NME, February 1989) https://www.nme.com/features/morrissey-talks-sex-stalkers-and-the-smiths-in-classic-nme-interview-756834
How has Morrissey come to this none-too-pretty pass? The answer comes in the convergence of two trends that have intensified as his post-Smiths career has developed. The first is his penchant for clever but equivocal lyrics (and, in fact, interview statements) about ‘Englishness’, ‘Britain’, insiders, outsiders and belonging. Wittingly or otherwise, he has continued to pick away at the scab of race relations in this country. (NME, 22 August 1992)
In-coming NME editor, Steve Sutherland, had written a homophobic review of Morrissey’s Hulmerist VHS implying he was abusing his fans via his t-shirts. The NME ridiculously linked his t-shirts to a flirtation with racism.
The faint hint of homoeroticism around “The Last of the International Playboys”… opens a whole different can of worms. Is the tee shirt thing a sick joke – the celebrated celibate getting his kicks sticking to the sweaty skin of every boy and girl in the hall? From “Playboy”, with Mozzer like a stripper constantly tugging at his neckline and threatening to expose a nipple… [to] barely able to sing “Sister I’m a Poet” for the boys invading the stage and embracing him… (Steve Sutherland, Melody Maker, 26 May 1990)
Morrissey’s flirtation with racism didn’t really begin until The Smiths split and he became a law unto himself, gleefully wearing his own T-shirts, aspiring to be the consummate egotist. (NME, 22 August 1992)
The NME’s concerns about his ‘sway’ over the minds of ‘a generation’ echo social fears that predatory older gay men corrupt children, then playing out in a fierce debate about lowering the gay age of consent from 21 to 16. In Ireland (where most of Morrissey’s family are from) male homosexuality was illegal until 1993. https://www.beh-mht.nhs.uk/news/history-of-lgbtq-rights-in-the-uk/1750
Firstly, Morrissey has held, and continues to hold, sway over the minds of a generation who take tips from his every utterance, try to model themselves on his sense of fashion and live their lives at least partly according to codes he’s laid down with a flourish (just try imagining the number of people who converted to vegetarianism upon hearing The Smiths’ ‘Meat Is Murder’). (NME, 22 August 1992)
At Glastonbury, where this paper was one of the sponsors, kids came to the NME tent and literally wept about Morrissey’s absence. (NME, 22 August 1992)
The point about “protecting the young” was made over and over again. Lynette Burrows in The Sunday Telegraph (7 Jun) based her objections to any change on the idea that adolescent boys are easily persuaded to give up their heterosexuality by “predatory homosexuals who would gain most if they were allowed to recruit from among them… One must conclude that the basis for the relentless self-advertisement of many homosexuals is related to this desire to recruit new partners. Many are dedicated to the untrammelled appetite for sex that… often results in degradation and disease. It is… a life-style that can easily be portrayed to a vulnerable teenager as the answer to all his problems of identity and sexual longing.” (Media Watch, Gay Times, July 1992)
They don’t have a snowball’s hope in hell of getting this through… There is a small minority of paedophile homosexuals who want to corrupt and ensnare youngsters. They must be stopped at all costs. (Geoffrey Dickens MP, the Daily Star, April 1992)
The Melody Maker/NME – both publications owned by IPC and working out of the same building – couldn’t directly attack Morrissey’s sexuality. Gay rights was a small, and unpopular cause, but it was edgy, young and fashionable.
Accusing him of racism deflected attention away from the NME’s homophobia and created a ludicrous debate over whether his use of the Union Jack was racist or ironic.
Six months before Finsbury Park, the NME had featured a Union Jack on their cover, alongside a celebration of young female groupies.
The myth that it was rarely used before ‘Britpop’ reclaimed it was concocted by Stuart Maconie and Andrew Collins to explain why they used it on the front cover of Select in April 1993, just 8 months after claiming that Morrissey waving it could cause a genocide in Europe.
In 2019, The Guardian used the myth to claim that it was Morrissey who was being aggressive at Finsbury Park. And this was somehow a clear signal to fascists in the audience that he was ONE OF THEM.
Waving the Union Jack during his show at Madness’s Madstock festival in Finsbury Park, London, in 1992, felt like a more aggressive move (this was before Britpop’s Cool-Britannia-era reclamation of the flag; and its association with the far right was still strong). And it was done in the knowledge that the Madness crowd contained a significant fascist/skinhead element. (Tim Jonze, the Guardian, 30 May 2019)
The NME repeats the Melody Maker’s lie about Seig Heiling skins, but they focus on his ‘camp’ performance – dancing, draped, glittering. Randomly selecting the Who and the Jam as flag-wavers, who reclaimed the flag, from a vocal mirco-minority – as if we’d have to reclaim the official flag of the United Kingdom from a micro-minority. It’s also inacurrate. The National Front was bigger in the 1960s and 1970s. And the 1992 version of the BNP had been formed in 1982 after a gay scandal in the National Front, in order to exclude ‘queers’. https://eprints.bbk.ac.uk/id/eprint/46529/1/46529.pdf
All this is sad, but not as sad as the day Morrissey appeared on the Madness bill at Finsbury Park, and danced around with a Union Jack draped around his glittering shirt during ‘Glamorous Glue’. For his pains, he was attacked with various minor missiles by an unruly element in the audience, but anyone could have told him that there was a small but vocal contingent of Seig Heiling skins in the audience… Of course, one realises that The Jam used the flag to optimum effect when they were in existence, but they explained themselves by claiming they were reclaiming the flag from The Far Right. In the ’60s The Who were also notorious flag-wavers, but those were markedly different times and both the NF and the BNP didn’t exist in the same form (a vocal micro-minority) then. Morrissey, however, must be aware of what flag-waving means in the Euro-90s… (NME, 22 August 1992)
Describing him as a shallow, laughable, eccentric who wants to be a teenager, is less like a violent racist, and more like a gay stereotype.
But then, along with being an English eccentric who wishes he was a teenager in the ’50s, Morrissey has often been attracted to surface gloss, to style-over-content. Is he satisfied, this way? Would he like to be a laughing stock? (NME, 22 August 1992)
They demanded an interview. Morrissey refused.
Morrissey was told of both the general gist and some particulars of this piece and asked for his comments and if he was prepared to do a full scale interview. He responded, through the press office, with the following statement: ‘My lawyers are poised. NME have been trying to end my career for four years and year after year they fail. This year they will also fail.” (NME, 22 August 1992)
Students protested, beneath the Union Jack that decorated the entrance to his record company, EMI.
NME, September 1992
The band Cornershop burned his picture.
27 years later, the Guardian, used the 3 minutes he held a flag to ask if he was showing his true colours, and to claim that he had a long history of supporting far right organisations.
Morrissey might have just been looking for some temporary credibility from Love Music Hate Racism. Certainly, the long history of support for racist and far right organisations speaks to something else. We certainly wouldn’t be taking any further donations from Morrissey‘ (Zak Cochrane, the Guardian, May 2019)
The intention was to kill his career.
Moz is history, and we’d all do well to learn it. (Andrew Collins, NME, April 1992)
… a lack of grace and control… seems to have become endemic in dealings with him; a career that once looked effortless, touched by the hand of God almost, has now become characterised by a series of feuds, upsets, no-shows and general tetchiness. (NME, 22 August 1992)
And seperate him from the Smiths.
They could have sensationalised his sexuality more overtly. Sire had sidelined the Smiths in America after Rolling Stone labeled Morrissey gay.
A piece in Rolling Stone claimed Morrissey was gay, completely contradicting his stand against sexual roles and their divisive consequences. “That brought a lot of problems for me”, he recalls ruefully. “Of course I never made such a statement”, Immediately their American record company, Sire, recoiled from supporting The Smiths. “They were petrified”, he remembers with disgust. “I thought that kind of writing epitomised the mentality of the American music press. That sicking macho stuff. After it appeared in Rolling Stone it ran rife through the lesser known publications, which to me was profoundly dull”. (Melody Maker, November 1984) https://illnessasart.com/2020/01/05/melody-maker-3-november-1984/
The publicity around Out: the skin complex mentioned that some gay black men were angry that it was hard to tell a gay skinhead from a violent skinhead. Morrissey’s quiff & gold lame shirt – as well as the description of him as ‘prancing’ & the fact he was attacked by the homophobic crowd – wouldn’t cause thatproblem, but in 2001, Andrew Collins was using Dele Fadele’s skin colour to justify the story and labelled him a cultural tourist for holding a Union Jack, and standing in front of a picture of two girls with shaven heads.
I never said the Morrissey witch-hunt issue was ‘real journalism’, Jon. I said it was “real” journalism, ie. closer to real journalism than the shit we usually did. I was at Madstock and the crowd was pretty dodgy… Whether Moz is/was a racist or not was less important than the fact that he was flirting with far right imagery – like a cultural tourist – and not going on record about his real reasons, or his real feelings. He could have stopped that cover story with one statement. He chose to remain enigmatic and distant, compounding his error… At first, as features editor, I refused to get involved, but I was ordered by my boss into an emergency staff meeting, and once the decision was made, it was up to the senior staff (me Danny Kelly, and Stuart Maconie) to get the copy done, along with an excellent piece by Dele Fadele who is black and could therefore give a perspective none of us NME white boys could. (Dele was furious about Moz’s actions and needed no coercion to write.) All I did was compile Morrissey’s faux-racist quotes from every interview he’d ever done, and collate the lyrics… We did our job. (Andrew Collins, Angelfire, Re NME disappearing up its own PR, 26 July 2001) https://www.angelfire.com/super/sotcaabits/forums/nme01.html
In the mid-90s, Morrissey was rumoured to be in a relationship with Jake Walters, a photographer, and skinhead.
In 2002, the NME wrote an article about the Smiths that entwined their obsession with Morrissey’s sexual ambiguity with their lie that he was unambiguously a racist. The UK didn’t have a predominatly black DJ culture and the crowd at Madstock made no comment on the Union Jack. They heckled that he was a ‘poof’ (a UK slur for a gay man).
He fastidiously cultivated his own eccentricities into an iconography. A depressive nature could be a flamboyant selling point, not an introverted whimper. An unspecified sexuality could be ruthlessly exploited, especially when there was speculation of a homoerotic tension between him and his stoic foil, Johnny Marr... Morrissey always chose to be brutally upfront about some subjects: his hatred of black music, for one thing – ‘Reaggae is vile’, he told us in February 1985. But on matters of sexuality, he was tantalisingly ambiguous… ‘The Queen is Dead’… another title calculated to draw controversy: cheers from the generally leftist, republican NME, and its readers; moral indignation from the mainstream. Morrissey’s paranoia may have been increasing, but his knack of sensationally voicing the prejudices of his followers was undimmed. Only when he began to misjudge the balance – to offend the liberal sensibilities of the paper – did the love affair start to founder… ‘Panic’ was both brilliant and newsworthy, pivoting as it did on the chorus of ‘hang the DJ’. After Morrissey’s previous comments on black music, certain critics saw the line as implicitly racist, an attack on the predominantly black DJ culture of the time… to imagine that Morrissey hadn’t considered the statement’s ambiguity would be to credit him with implausible naivety… a certain discomfort with Morrissey that had already been brewing started to flourish… The story reached a climax in 1992… On August 22… he was photographed at a show supporting Madness in London’s Finsbury Park. In his hand, he waved a Union Jack – in spite of the fact that the gig was known to have attracted a number of skinheads who would have interpreted the gesture unambiguously. ‘Flying the flag or flirting with disaster’ read the headline, while the article calmly examined what it interpreted as a distasteful infatuation with the imagery of British racism… One of Morrissey’s most potent skills was to encourage an illusion of intimacy, appearing to confess when in fact he was being scrupulously protective of his private life – never openly discussing his sexuality… We ridiculed him, demonised him, accidentally split up his band… but for a few magnificent years, we were bewitched by him… (NME, 20 April 2002)
The press kept obsessing about his sexual and ethnic ambiguity.
Morrissey intends to remain undefinable. He’s a conversational escapologist, eluding any attempt to pin him down. Take, for example, his sexuality. It’s 20 years since Rolling Stone magazine described him as gay, much to his annoyance, and he still refuses to specify. Often he denies any kind of sex life at all. That’s his business, but it’s a long time to maintain ambiguity... On his new single, Irish Blood, English Heart, he sings of “standing by the flag not feeling shameful, racist or partial”. He’s referring to his notorious performance at Madness’s Madstock weekender in 1992, when he wrapped himself in a Union flag and was branded a racist by the music press, casting a long shadow over his solo career… Could he not have simply explained his intentions? “Well, you know, I haven’t just arrived from the village,” he snaps. “I did think of all these things. I knew the people I was dealing with and there was no point in reaching out to them. It’s more dignified to step away than to run towards them and say, ‘Please forgive me for something I haven’t done.’ (Dorian Lynskey, the Guardian, 9 April 2004) https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2004/apr/09/shopping.morrissey
The success of his album in 2004, You Are The Quarry, gave him a brief respite.
… excised from the hearts of many, horrified by the messy “flirtation” with racist imagery. (Victoria Segal, NME, November 1999)
… nevermind the shaky accusations of racism… all those years of being Mother Teresa for the clumsy and shy and suddenly he was being reviled for crimes he’d never committed. (Victoria Segal, Mojo, May 2004)
But in 2007, the NME hyped some mild comments about immigration and reprinted the Finsbury Park story, this started a press persecution that escalated after Tim Jonze became the Guradian’s music editor in 2010.
Len Brown’s biography has come under fire in the September issue of Q magazine. Dorian Lynskey, who interviewed Morrissey for The Guardian back in 2004, argues the book is “fundamentally flawed” because of Brown’s “20-year relationship” with the artist. He accuses the ex-NME journalist of “having no flair for narrative” and also complains that Brown “fudges the issue of the singer’s contentious statements about national identity”. The review awards the book three stars but is headlined “Friend Of Mozzer Pens Biography – Thorny Subjects Ignored”. (Anonymous, Morrissey Solo, 9 September 2008)
Dele Fadele died in 2018. In his belated Guardian obituary, Jonze, managed to echo the homophobia of 1992.
I’m surprised that it has taken so long for the press to get round to “The Secret Gay Life of Star Frankie” (Sunday Mirror, 9 Aug). I don’t know who is supposed to be surprised by the knowledge that Frankie Howerd was gay, but apparently the papers find it “shocking”. Of course, as they tell it, the comedian’s gay nature was part of his “dark side” . (Media Watch, Gay Times, September 1992)
[Dele summed up] the dark side of Morrissey...[he] famously helped persuade the magazine’s staff to run its Flying the flag or flirting with disaster? cover story, which called out their most bankable star Morrissey’s dalliance with the far right for the first time. (The former Smiths man refused to talk to the paper for more than a decade after it was published; his reputation remains tarnished to this day.)… It was in 1992, though, that Dele played his most pivotal role. He had attended Madstock in Finsbury Park, the now-notorious gig in which support artist Morrissey draped himself in the union jack, a move some saw as a move pandering to the crowd’s skinhead element…Dele was appalled by what he’d witnessed… “It was Dele’s finest hour,” recalls Andrew Collins, who along with then-editor Danny Kelly reworked the cover around Dele’s critical piece – an arduous process to do at the last minute back then. “He wrote from the heart – and, uniquely among the staff – from an actual vantage point. [Dele was’t gay] This was not a moment to be lily-livered and Dele seized the day. It was a turning point for Moz’s provocations. Dele wrote if not his most important piece, certainly one that gave urgency and weight to an otherwise hand-wringing situation.” (Tim Jonze, the Guardian, September 2020) https://www.theguardian.com/music/2020/sep/14/dele-fadele-remembered-nme
For 30 years (and counting) Morrissey has been called a racist because he was the victim of a homophobic hate crime.
He’s been dehumanised, demonised, and made a pariah.
His public image has been fused with Nicky Crane – a bad gay – toxic, vicious, fascist. His moving solo work conflated with Skrewdriver. A queer second generation immigrant singled out as the only artist in the UK who can’t touch a Union Jack.
Side Note:My Favourite Worst Nightmare – Morrissey & Madstock
Of course, I was only through the Park gates for a few moments when a lager-swilling huddle of bovver-booted neo-Nazis spotted my quiff and garb and blew poisoned kisses in my direction, tweeting, ‘ooh, Morrissey, Morrissey!'”“Meanwhile, Morrissey, a Liberace shirt slung over his skinny frame, is waving these fascist-spawned monsters’ Union Flag at them while relating the experience of Davey, the young man who went to the National Front Disco’; if ever there was an sudden irony failure at NME, who’d slated Morrissey’s solo work for not treading on the taboos of old’, it was right here. Only a couple of years later, they would laud Britpop and the reclaiming of the British flag, yet here, it was Morrissey, and not this foul minority in Madness’s audience, who they cast as the racist.”“Morrissey finished his otherwise triumphant set early and failed to show for day two; Suggs never mentioned, nor was he ever quizzed upon, his band’s neo-fascist supporters’ behaviour that day. Meanwhile, me and my fellow Moz heads made our tremulous way to the tube station, well before midnight, in blissful ignorance of just how this story was about to be spun by the popular music press we’d supported for years; so long as we remember exactly what took place that day, the chroniclers and revisionists can simply get on with glossing over the inconvenient truth.” (Johnnie Craig, State, 11 October 2009) https://web.archive.org/web/20131027211741/http://state.ie/features/archive/my-favourite-worst-nightmare-morrissey-madstock
Side Note 2: the artistic closet
“Outside” effectively marked the end of George Michael’s career as a serious artist. Not because “coming out” turned the straight world against him, but because, paradoxically, it meant that he could no longer write about “inside” feelings honestly. He could only be a spokesperson. (Mark Simpson, Salon, 30 April 2004) https://www.salon.com/2004/04/30/morrissey/
Side Note3: Homophobia has never been taken as seriously as racism – and racism has been used as a reason for ignoring homophobia. In 1992 Buju Banton released a song with lyrics about torturing and killing gay men. The Guardian accused gay rights campaigners who complained of being racist. And found it easy to accept his explanation that it wasn’t literal.
In the 11 years since Buju Banton released his single Boom Bye Bye, which appeared to advocate shooting gay men, the singer has done much to shake off the controversy that surrounded him… Banton pointed out that he wasn’t literally advocating murder, but maintained that homosexuality was against his religious beliefs… Banton is fiery enough to make me feel personally responsible for every British injustice towards Jamaica in the past 300 years. (Dorian Lynskey, The Guardian, March 2003) https://www.theguardian.com/music/2003/mar/03/artsfeatures.popandrock
In 2009, Buju would meet with gay rights activists in San Francisco, but went on to blame them for a pepper spray attack: This is a fight, and as I said in one of my songs ‘there is no end to the war between me and faggot’ and it’s clear. The same night after I met with [gay activists], they pepper-sprayed the concert. So what are you trying to tell me? I owe dem nothing, they don’t owe I nothing.”https://www.queerty.com/buju-banton-met-with-the-gays-then-he-spat-in-their-faces-20091016
Side Note 4: the NME’s claim they were just as hard on Eric Clapton, David Bowie & Elvis Costello is untrue.
So why, at the end of all this, is NME bothering? Why are our knickers in such a twist? Well, there’s nothing new in this. In the past, when the likes of Eric Clapton, David Bowie and even Elvis Costello have dipped their unthinking toes into these murky waters, the music press have been equally quick on the case. And Morrissey, unlike, say, a bigoted idiot like Ice Cube, holds tremendous sway over thousands of fans in Britain and is generally regarded as one of our most intelligent rock performers. Therefore when he sends out signals on subjects as sensitive as those discussed above there seems little room for playfulness, never mind ambiguity. In Europe in 1992, with ‘Ethnic Cleansing’ a reality and the new Nazis on the rise across the continent, the need for clear thinking and clear statements is more acute than ever. (NME, 22 August 1992)
Eric sailed past an anti-racist letter appealing to his better self into 1980s rock aristocracy while still supporting Enoch Powell. The worst it got for David Bowie was the NME faking the picture of a Nazi salute that became gossipy rocklore (although it might be significant that he dropped his gay alien persona for something more hetero). And the NME refused to believe that Elvis Costello could mean it when he called James Brown a “jive-arsed n——” and Ray Charles a “blind, ignorant n——.”
Side Note5: The Union Jack is ubiquitous in UK culture – at no point in our history has it ever been a clear signal of fascism or has it needed to be reclaimed from the far right. Some comrades on the hard left hate it as a symbol of the British Empire, but that’s a minority opinion.
Skinheads were a working-class subculture that spanned the political spectrum and listened to Reggae, Punk and their variants. They had widespread coverage in the press, including in the NME.
During a support gig for Madness, at Finsbury Park, on the 8th August 1992, Morrissey was “bottled off-stage” by a crowd shouting homophobic slurs.
The men’s men in the crowd offer the opinion that Morrissey is a poofy bastard and elevate many a middle finger. A coin or two flies. (Select, October 1992)
Morrissey was upset by the crowd’s reaction and refused to play a second gig. His press office ‘cited projectiles and a 50p thrown by a National Front skinhead’ (NME, 22 August 1992) as the reason for the cancellation. The National Front was in London that day to attack an Irish Republican march. Morrissey is an Irish Catholic and had expressed support for Irish Republicanism in 1983. In the 1990s it was still a controversial subject. And there was still a strong strain of anti-Irish racism in the UK.
Sinead O’Connor and her murdering IRA friends should rot in hell after what they’ve done… Hopefully Miss O’Connor will get blown up by an IRA bomb one day. (MDN, NME letters page, 3 March 1990)
The scale of the violence in Dublin that night, and the wicked glee of the perpetrators as they ripped up the upper west stand came as a shock to most people. But the warning dots were there; it was just that nobody connected them. There had long been a hard core of England fans who viewed football as war by proxy and Ireland as the enemy. (Sean Ingle, the Guardian, 25 May 2013) https://www.theguardian.com/football/2013/may/25/england-ireland-1995-rioting-international
This was also a time when far right violence against gay people (& people perceived to be gay) was extreme. The BNP was formed after a row about suspected homosexuality in the leadership of the National Front. Both the National Front and the BNP, ‘queer-bashed’, murdering and beating up gay people, attacking gay events and bombing gay pubs. If elected, The BNP pledged to make homosexuality illegal. In 1990, a gay man was murdered and pressure group Outrage was created to tackle both violence against gay people and indifference and persecution from the police and the media. The press and authorities believed that the “gay lifestyle” was “asking for” violence.
Twenty years ago yesterday, a nail bomb exploded in the Admiral Duncan pub in Soho, killing three people and injuring dozens more. It marked the conclusion of a campaign by David Copeland, a neo-Nazi intent on igniting a race war… At Copeland’s trial, the prosecution distinguished between the ‘political’ bombings in Brixton and Brick Lane, and the ‘personal’ bombing in Soho: ‘The defendant told police that he was very homophobic. He hated gay men and he said his hatred stemmed from the way his parents had treated him as a child.’ Suggestions of Copeland’s sexual and psychological aberrance – denial, closetedness, sadism – recur in the journalism around the case, though with little supporting evidence… Copeland’s violent homophobia was commonplace in the neo-Nazi circles he moved in, from the British National Party to the National Socialist Movement. It was as much a part of their politics as racism was: they all declared their intention to outlaw or kill homosexuals. The BNP took pains to distance itself from the perceived tolerance of homosexuality among the directorate of the National Front; the BNP saw queers everywhere, intimately linked to tolerance and cultural degeneracy. Writing in the BNP’s Spearhead magazine in 1999, a few months before he became leader, Nick Griffin decried gay demonstrators against the Admiral Duncan bombing as ‘flaunting their perversion’, showing ‘just why so many ordinary people find those creatures so repulsive’. (James Butler, London Review of Books, 1 May 2019) https://www.theguardian.com/theobserver/2002/sep/01/features.magazine37
A former leading light in the National Front, no friend of homosexuals, is accusing the prospective leader of the British National party, also no lover of homosexuals, of the unthinkable – having an affair with another man. Quite apart from the embarrassing fact that the BNP has an official policy of wanting homosexuality outlawed, the tiff reveals the supposed hard men of the right as curiously sensitive… “There is a great deal of narcissism among the fascist leadership based on the macho image and elaborate uniforms.” (Tom Robbins, Sunday Times, 5 September 1999)
Homosexuality was a problematic topic in the music magazines:
Gays are not perceived as normal by the general public… being gay is nothing to be proud of… ‘proud to be gay’ does not ring out with the same force as ‘proud to be Black’ and that is where the minority angst comparison ends. (Alex, NME letters page, 28 April 1990)
It’s terrible shite… I’m sure Morrissey would have preferred to have inspired screaming fag glam rock types… (Barbara Ellen, NME, 24 March 1990)
Phrases like ‘pig-ugly American lesbians’, ‘I didn’t get it because I didn’t feel part of their community’, and ‘nothing more than a cabaret act playing to a minority’, tend to illustrate the old blind spot when it comes to musicians who, against all odds, make gay pop. (Richard Scholey, NME letters page, 19 May 1990) He was just speaking his mind and not trying to cover things up with that smarmy liberal sheen so often affected by media pundits… (in reply, Dele Fadele, NME, 19 May 1990)
Young gay people were banned from placing personal ads:
And Morrissey was being warned that his “sexual ambiguity” wasn’t going to be tolerated for much longer:
For too long, a faction around here feels, the fey, blithe, Morrissey has been allowed to saunter through pop history unchecked, fawned upon even, and it was about time some of the chaps got together to administer a tarring, a feathering, and deposit him in the nearest ditch. (David Stubbs, Melody Maker, 19 March 1988)
If Morrissey has sinned in his rise to self-styled King of the Western World then it must surely have been indulging in his only weakness, which he himself credited as being a ‘listed crime’… it is Morrissey’s own ambiguity which has led to what many people insist on hinting at as being a somewhat spectacular cover-up… apart from a very early interview with our own Cath Carroll where Morrissey spoke directly about the eroticism of the male body (and an interview in a lesser rag that was littered with tawdry references to public toilets), Morrissey has rarely been questioned about the highly sexual nature of his lyrics… As it is, without wishing to undermine his aggressive challenge to the staid institution of compulsory heterosexuality and monogamy, I find it hard to believe that it is a Crown Prince Of Celibacy who is responsible for such knowing or flirtatious songs as ‘Late Night, Maudlin Street’, ‘Reel Around The Fountain’, ‘Hand In Glove’ and ‘Alsatian Cousin’. Or for the specifically sexual visual control of his image, from the topless NME front cover to the particularly lustful dancing of the young tearaway hoodlum on the new video… Maybe it is this over-enthusiastic curiosity from fans that forewarns him of a more offensive and dangerous threat to the often remarkable relationship with his art and his audience that he has developed – ie from the blood-hungry tabloids. If this is the case, then Morrissey should be wary of the fate that killed off both his heroes Wilde and Dean… (James Brown, NME, February 1989)
While Freddie Mercury’s death from AIDS was getting viciously bigoted coverage.
“Freddie’s life was consumed with sodomy. He died from it,” opined Peter McKay of the London Evening Standard (28 Nov), while Joe Haines in The Daily Mirror wrote: “He was sheer poison, a man bent”… John Junor (Mail on Sunday, 1 Dec): “If you treat as a hero a man who died because of his own sordid sexual perversions aren’t you infinitely more likely to persuade some of the gullible young to follow in his example?” (Media Watch, Gay Times, January 1992)
Even socialists sympathetic to gay people have a blind spot – failing to recognise that homophobic violence and ideology, was and is, on a par with racism. The Socialist Worker admired Morrissey writing a song about gay sex – Dear God Please Help Me – but didn’t know that the far right murdered gay people.
Today the pop industry can easily cope with artists who are openly gay, but can it cope with artists singing about men having sex with men? : On the Isle of Dogs in east London, the Nazi BNP won its first council seat in decades. Three young black men were stabbed to death in south east London. What was Morrissey’s response? He draped himself in the Union Jack at a Madness concert in Finsbury Park and released an album called Your Arsenal, which contained the song “National Front Disco” – a glorification of fascism. (Martin Smith, Socialist Worker, 1st May 2006) https://socialistworker.co.uk/socialist-review-archive/morrissey-and-love-dare-not-sing-its-name/
The NME insinuated that the heckling and violence at Finsbury was incited by Morrissey because he was attracted to racism as part of his sexuality and alluded to the gay skinhead scene. A month before Finsbury, channel 4 had shown a documentary about gay skinheads – in which Nicky Crane, ex-Skrewdriver roadie and ex-National Front/British Movement member, had come out as gay – and a few years previously there had been a row about a gay skinhead disco on GLC property.
I think he was asking for a bit of trouble. Maybe he thought he could win over the skinhead contingent but you’re going to put backs up prancing around like that. (Tim Dourney, NME, 22 August 1992)
The NME probably took their cue from a review in The Melody Maker – it blatantly lied about the situation – seemingly to protect the reputation of headliners, Madness.
Morrissey is, despite all hopes, despicable… Look, Steven, if you’ve just run 100 metres in 9.98, you can have some sort of vague, if dubious, claims to wearing a Union Jack around your shoulders. If you’re singing the National Front Disco and getting too scared/weary to put inverted commas around the England for the English bit, while Sieg Heils butter you up down the front, don’t expect much sympathy… short of burning the flag, there’s little Morrissey can do to convince that his is anything but a bleary, parochial fool, the Peregrine Worsthorne of pop. (Paul Mathur, Melody Maker, 15 August 1992)
Peregrine Worsthorne was the homophobic editor of the The Sunday Telegraph.
The NME would go on to conflate Morrissey with anti-immigrant, former Tory, Ulster Unionist MP, Enoch Powell, and blame him for racist attacks and genocide; pretending that the Union Jack that he’d held for less than 3 minutes (using it as a whip, a cape and a skirt, before throwing it away) was ‘racist imagery’. The NME had used the Union Jack on their front cover 6 months before Finsbury, held by the heterosexual (as far as we know), Damon Albarn.
1992 was also a year in which there was fierce debate about lowering the gay age of consent from 21 to 16. The concerns about boys being corrupted by older homosexuals are echoed in the NME’s concerns about Morrissey’s ‘gullible fans, following their leader” And their fixation on his masculinity and sexuality. If you swap out ‘racism’ for ‘gayness’ – the 1992 article makes more sense.
How far has his infatuation with the skins and their paraphernalia gone? (NME, 22 August 1992)
“And where does this leave gullible Morrissey acolytes and fans who hang on his every word and applaud his every image-move… It’ll be a scary prospect if some think it’s hip to follow their leader on this one (NME, August 1992)
And so, the Government is, after all, going to allow a vote on the gay age of consent. “Mouthy Edwina Currie has set herself up as a sage,” ranted a Daily Star editorial. (26 May): “She’s now campaigning for the homosexual age of consent to be lowered to 16… How can she possibly support such a hideously revolting idea which will contribute to the corruption of so many sick and weak-minded young kids?” The Sun said (2 Jun): “… We can be sure that even if the age were brought down to 16, the gay lobby would not be satisfied. They would want to follow the Danes and the Dutch down to 12 or 13.” … The Sunday Express (31 May) [said]: “If MPs place heterosexuals and homosexuals on the same legal basis they will imply that there is no moral difference between the two.” The point about “protecting the young” was made over and over again. Lynette Burrows in The Sunday Telegraph (7 Jun) based her objections to any change on the idea that adolescent boys are easily persuaded to give up their heterosexuality by “predatory homosexuals who would gain most if they were allowed to recruit from among them… One must conclude that the basis for the relentless self-advertisement of many homosexuals is related to this desire to recruit new partners. Many are dedicated to the untrammelled appetite for sex that… often results in degradation and disease. It is… a life-style that can easily be portrayed to a vulnerable teenager as the answer to all his problems of identity and sexual longing.” (Media Watch, Gay Times, July 1992)
The NME’s follow up comments increased the victim-blaming and the hints about homosexuality. Lavender has long been a colour associated with gay people.
Let’s examine why Morrissey might have cuddled the Union flag. One, he might have wanted to show his national pride. Possible, but if I was a BNP yob I’d think he was taking the piss and would throw something, and if I wasn’t, I might throw something anyway because nationalism stinks – keep those ‘Ethnic Cleansing’ concentration camps in your mind. Two, he might have been reclaiming the flag for non-racists. Great, but cue missiles. Three, he might have been taking the piss, provoking the crowd. Here come those coins. Maybe he just likes the pattern on the flag, I dunno. But don’t kid yourself. Morrissey is no idiot. He must have suspected that a Madness gig would attract a football crowd. Even if he wasn’t, he must have been aware that there were some yobs there. To go onstage in the flag is to be a 50p magnet, no matter what it might mean in an ideal world. Don’t go feeling sorry for him: he has more power than you’ll ever have. He probably relishes this controversy. You’ll have your own battle to fight: let Morrissey fight his. He’s hardly a bloody martyr for being hit by a carton of juice, is he? He’s a pop singer, not Jesus – IM (Ian McCann, NME, 29 August 1992) https://mycuttings.blogspot.com/2021/04/1992-08-29-morrissey-nme.html
In the past, Morrissey’s interesting and ambiguous foibles were of a personal nature; his new fascinations have taken him into an altogether more public domain. Morrissey’s sexuality, for instance, subject to so much speculation and teasing over the years, is, at the end of the day, his own affair. His flirtation with skinhead/nationalist/racist imagery and ideas is a whole other thing… It’s pathetic that so many of Morrissey’s fans feel driven to fight Morrissey’s battles for him (painting themselves, voluntarily or otherwise, into all sorts of disgusting corners) while the man himself hides behind the lavender handkerchief of Artistry. WHY?(Danny Kelly, NME, 5 September 1992) https://mycuttings.blogspot.com/2021/04/1992-09-05-morrissey-nme.html
The footage of the gig has been on YouTube since at least 2008 – confirming that the crowd heckled things like ‘bloody poof’ and their aggression had everything to do with his ‘prancing’ and nothing to do with the flag. And it’s backed up with eye witness accounts from the day disputing the NME version.
In his book, Cider with Roadies, Maconie recounts his near-guilt at his then-employers, the NME, trying to finish off his hero by daubing him as a racist. Maconie tells the tale of Morrissey’s doomed gig at Finsbury Park, supporting Madness in 1992 and gets it as wrong wrong wrong as everyone else has down the years. I was there, near the front, so let me explain. Morrissey was on the same bill as Ian Dury, Flowered Up, Gallon Drunk and, of course, Madness. What kind of audience do you think those bands had? Maconie’s account (and the usual old cobblers recorded in music press annals) is that Mozzer was bottled off by a liberal crowd who disapproved of him waving the Union Jack and singing a song about the National Front. In this version, the Finsbury Park crowd turn their back on our hero because he is ‘flirting’ with ‘racism’ etc etc. Actually, Madness’ crowd – who knew? – had a very rough and tumble skinhead element who despised Morrissey for his perceived gayness. There he was in his gold lame shirt, prancing around playing his B-sides, when the first 50 rows of the crowd would have preferred someone more suitable to slot into the none-more-geezerish bill. Chas and Dave, maybe. There were chants and heckles that these days would be called homophobic and eventually he was bottled off. I got a punch in the face too. There were loads of fights all over the place and no security. The summer of love it wasn’t. Mozzer was NOT bottled off for being too right wing. He was bottled off for not being right wing enough. For being too gay. Of course you could blame Mozzer himself for his still-ongoing attempts to ally and ingratiate himself with the Big-Lads-With-Tattoos-Who-Don’t-Like-Poetry faction. You might say he was asking for it, starting the set with a load of B-sides. But I am sure if any of the other acts on that stage that Saturday had waved the flag, much of the crowd would have been only too happy to fall in line and prepare to invade France. (The Pastel Collision, WordPress, March 19th 2009) https://pastelcollision.wordpress.com/2009/03/19/117/
A few months later the Union Jack was everywhere – a key symbol of Britpop – which started with the ersatz queer Suede before de-queering Indie completely.
In 1997, NME editor, Steve Sutherland – who had written a homophobic review of Morrissey’s Hulmerist VHS, and who thought that Billy MacKenzie had been made gay, possibly by Morrissey – repeated lies from his former paper, the Melody Maker, to argue in Vox, that Morrissey was the only artist (in the entire history of showbiz) too sinister to touch a Union Jack.
[Morrissey] had appeared at Finsbury Park the previous weekend on a bill with Madness and draped himself in the Union Jack, inciting a flurry of Sieg Heils in the crowd and a shower of coins and cans. Morrissey had already been flirting with skin and suedehead imagery in his recent solo work… five years on and Geri Spice appears at the Brits in a Union Jack dress… Morrissey flaunting the flag in a field full of nascent racists is a tad closer to the Nuremberg Rally than Geri Spice wearing the flag on telly. The symbolism is far heavier and the intent quite conceivably more sinister. (Steve Sutherland, Vox, June 1997)
“His sexual orientation seemed to change after Sulk  ” says Steve Sutherland. “When I first met him, he had a girlfriend. After that, there was no question that he was homosexual.”… mid-eighties gossip suggested Morrissey and Mackenzie were having an affair. (Paul Lester, Uncut, June 1997) http://www.billymackenzie.com/articles/uncut0697.htm
Things didn’t improve until 2004 & they fell apart again in 2007 when he was interviewed in the NME, by Tim Jonze.
By the 2000s, London, and other major cities had gentrified and corportised. Morrissey was ambivalent about it. But he had clearly been against draconian (antagonistic, racist) immigration policies.
All the awful cliches about Los Angeles are, of course true. But I feel less affected by them than most, because I happen to think that ALL PEOPLE EVERYWHERE are mad. (Morrissey, Rolling Stone, September 1999)
Two compelling reasons emerge as to why he has stayed put in LA. The first is that he has become inexplicably popular with Mexicans… The other big draw for him in LA is his house. “It’s quite decayed, but all the more interesting for that. It remains in the condition it was in when I stepped into it. The paint is peeling, and I’ve had a few floods.” It is, in fact, a place redolent with Hollywood legends and decades of partying, known to movie historians as “the gayest house in Hollywood”… One of the reasons he was not unhappy to leave Camden, he says, was because of the way it became trendy around the time of Britpop. Bands such as Blur began talking up the local bars, “which was disturbing, because the pubs in the area, which had a flavour of the past, were suddenly full of trendy foreign students. It was shocking”. (Robert Sandall, Sunday Times, 9 May 2004)
My mother still lives [in Manchester], I can’t recognize the town. Everything has been restored. It’s an incredible town, where people are stylish, sexy. When I was younger, it was a depressive, dark town, showing scars from war. And then, suddenly, the elders are gone: where did they put them? Are they all dead? I just see now young people up with fashion, with tan skin due to the sun. But, well, I don’t imagine myself like that, so no regret. (Morrissey, Les Inrockuptibles, 19 May 2004, translation by Guillaume Deleurence)
With all my heart I urge people to vote against George Bush. Jon Stewart would be ideal, but John Kerry is the logical and sane move. It does not need to be said yet again, but Bush has single-handedly turned the United States into the most neurotic and terror-obsessed country on the planet. For non-Americans, the United States is suddenly not a very nice place to visit because US immigration officers – under the rules of Bush – now conduct themselves with all the charm and unanswerable indignation of Hitler’s SS. Please bring sanity and intelligence back to the United States. Don’t forget to vote. Vote for John Kerry and get rid of George Bush! (Morrissey, True to You, 28 October 2004)
The first signs of trouble played out on fan websites and newspaper blogs.
I was in the vicinity when Tim from the NME sat down with Morrissey and raised the issue of immigration and the influx of immigrants to the UK. Morrissey agreed that it was a problem and Timothy continued with some leading questions. (Anonymous, Morrissey Solo, 19 November 2007)
Hi Merck [Morrissey’s then manager], Hope you’re well. I should mention that for reasons I’ll probably never understand, NME have rewritten the Moz piece. I had a read and virtually none of it is my words or beliefs so I’ve asked for my name to be taken off it. Just so you know when you read it. Best, Tim (email from Tim Jonze, posted on True To You, 27 November 2007)
Hi Merck. I need to drop you a line about the Morrissey piece running in NME this week. It’s going to be much stronger than we’d originally discussed. Having lived with Morrissey’s comments from the second interview and discussed [them] with the editorial team we’re running a piece where the comments aren’t ducked and NME’s position is made very clear… given that his views are not those that we’d normally expect to come from someone in the very liberal world of rock’n’roll, we’re not able to either support them or print them without comment. (email from NME editor, Conor McNicholas, posted on True To You, 27 November 2007)
To further muddy the issue, unlike Powell’s largely venomous, racially-slanted speech, Morrissey’s follow-up interview comments consist pretty much of what you’d expect of any reader of this newspaper. Explicitly denying that immigration is the reason he doesn’t want to live in Britain, he damns this country over the cost of living and the shooting of Jean Charles de Menezes, admits that managed immigration “enriches” the country, says his favourite actor and singer are from Israel and Iraq, says he finds racism “very silly” and supports the Love Music Hate Racism campaign. Indeed, he wanted the slogan on the (now withdrawn by NME) free single. Although the use of language like “the gates are flooded, anybody can have access to England” is perhaps unfortunate when taken out of context, in the context of the interview his position is remarkably similar to that adopted by all three mainstream political parties in this country – that immigration is beneficial but shouldn’t be a free for all, nor should it be contrary to the retention of a firm and recognisably British national and cultural identity. Without wishing to sound like his hero Kenneth Williams, the latter is the central thrust of Morrissey’s position… I agree with NME that in the current climate Morrissey’s comments – and certainly, the way they have been sensationalised – are “unhelpful”, so why are they a) prompted in interview and b) splashed across the cover of the paper? (Dave Simpson, 28 November 2007) https://www.theguardian.com/music/musicblog/2007/nov/28/mozgate
But also condemned him – mostly based on the Finsbury Park article from 1992 – though adding in the detail that he’s an Irish immigrant. His ‘comeback’ hit, ‘Irish Blood English Heart’, had made his ethnic and religious background hard to ignore. Rather than making them rethink the allegation that he was a racist for holding a Union Jack, it just added to their disgust with him.
… the son of Irish immigrants should have known better. I suppose I just blanked out his appearance draped in the union flag at Finsbury Park. I dealt with it by not listening to Morrissey any more, confining myself to the Smiths records I had loved in more innocent times. But the latest gaffe is probably one too many. The complaint that Britain is losing itself is the classic whinge of an expat – no more serious than that – but there comes a time when you can’t listen to music made by someone whose views you find repugnant. (Jeevan Vasgar, the Guardian, 29 November 2007) https://www.theguardian.com/music/musicblog/2007/nov/29/whythisbritishasiandoesnt
Then Jonze wrote a Guardian blog in which he blamed Morrissey for a British Empire which had laws against Irish Catholics, compared him to a BNP which would have murdered him for his sexuality, blamed him for fear-mongering press coverage which Jonze was about to add to, and told him to apologise and educate himself about race issues when Jonze knew absolutely nothing about Irish Catholic or LGBT+ issues.
I wrote a piece saying that Morrissey – although liberal in many of his views – was using the language of the BNP and Enoch Powell when it came to immigration. In the piece I mentioned that his comments likening the UK to that of “going to Zagreb and hearing nothing but Irish accents” were offensive as they compared British ethnic minorities to tourists. I also said he was being overly nostalgic for a Britain built partly on empire and imperialism and that someone as well travelled as Morrissey had no excuses for such comments…. Were Morrissey’s comments ill-informed and likely to provoke anger inside those of us who are tired of hearing the right wing press and the BNP whip up fear with the same factually distorted statements? Undoubtedly…. If Morrissey holds these opinions he should either be sticking to his guns and standing by them or – more honorably – educating himself on race issues, realising why his comments were both offensive and inflammatory, and apologising for them as quickly as is humanly possible. (Tim Jonze, the Guardian, 30 November 2007) https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2007/nov/30/timjonze
Now, if I’d come screaming out of the interview shouting “HE’S USING THE LANGUAGE OF THE BNP, I’M GOING TO TELL THE WORLD” then I’d never have got to see the gigs (essential part of my brief) and I’d have had pressure from management to swing the piece in their favour which, although it wouldn’t have made a difference, I’d sooner not have to put up with. There’s no obligation to tell management that you don’t like their artist’s comments. It’s his own stupid fault for spouting all that drivel. By now, Morrissey should really know how interviews work. He doesn’t deserve warnings and copy approval. (Tim Jonze, below the line comment, the Guardian, 2 December 2007)
The interview was published in the NME on 1 December 2007. Morrissey said nothing bad. The shock-horror value rested on hyping up a few dramatic words – this is a man who writes love songs about being killed by a ten-ton truck – linking it to the Finsbury Park story – and lying about his ‘immigration stance’.
NME Editorial: there comes a jarring moment towards the end when he steers the conversation on to a topic we never thought we’d find ourselves discussing with him again: immigration. Suddenly the natural biligerance we’ve come to expect from him over the years takes him into dangerous territory.
Are you annoyed by the state of the world?
Can we help but be annoyed? Certainly in England, everyone is taxed for everything under the guise of saving the planet. Which is pathetic because unless cutbacks happen on an industrial level then the world will always be a mess.
Is there hope for the future?
I don’t see why because to be a politician you have to be corrupt. There’s no democracy in England because they pay no attention to the people who elected them. If anything, they quite despise them.
You live in Italy now? Would you ever consider moving back to Britain?
Britain’s a terribly negative place. And it hammers people down and it pulls you back and it prevents you. Also, with the issue of immigration. It’s very difficult because, although I don’t have anything against people from other countries, the higher the influx into England the more the British identity disappears. So, the price is enormous. If you travel to Germany, it’s still absolutely Germany. If you travel to Sweden, it still has a Swedish identity. But travel to England and you have no idea where you are.
Why does it bother you?
It matters because the British identity is very attractive. I grew up with it, and I find it quaint and very amusing. But England is a memory now. Other countries have held onto their identity, yet it seems to me, England was thrown away.
Isn’t immigration enriching the British identity, rather than diluting it?
It does in a way, and it’s nice in a way. But you have to say goodbye to the Britain you once knew.
That’s just the world changing.
But the change in England is so rapid compared to the change in any other country. If you walk through Knightsbridge on any bland day of the week you won’t hear an English accent. You’ll hear every accent under the sun apart from the British accent.
For two decades, Russian cash surged into the capital – Transparency International has estimated that between 2015 and 2022 alone, £1.5bn of property was bought by Russians accused of corruption or having links to the Kremlin: by the end, London was so popular with Russia’s richest, it became known as “Londongrad”. “You didn’t actually think at the time that a lot of people had been crushed, or whatever happened to them in Russia… You look back on… the nine unsolved murders. And of course, what’s happening today, with this ghastly Putin. And you’ve got to realise that they have no respect for human life. They have no respect for anything.” (Emma Haslett, the New Statesman, 11 May 2022) https://www.newstatesman.com/the-business-interview/2022/05/they-have-no-respect-for-anything-the-quiet-remorse-of-the-man-who-sold-london-to-putins-oligarchs
That’s not true, you sound like a Tory.
Mmmmmm. I understand, because I would like the freedom to go around the world and be anywhere. So you have to allow others the same freedom, really. So I’m not sitting here saying it’s a terrible thing. I’m saying it’s a reality and to many people it’s shocking.
After the infamous race row [the 1992 Finsbury Park story], do you not worry about talking about this?
Not really, because the more I travel the more I love the world as a whole.
There are people who are still very offended by some of your songs.
If you consider yourself to be a social writer then you have to stretch yourself and put certain topics on the table for discussion. And I think it’s quite interesting to push people slightly and see how far they’ll go before they put their hands up and say, hang on. But I can’t understand why anybody would be offended.
The line that a lot of people find hardest is from Bengali In Platforms [written in 1988, nearly 20 years previously], ‘life is hard enough when you belong here’.
Yes, but those people don’t know the protagonist in the song, who didn’t belong here. I wasn’t writing about those people. It was someone else.
So why don’t they belong here?
Because they didn’t. Some people just don’t.
Again – it’s worth pointing out that Morrissey had direct experience of growing up between two cultures (Dublin and Manchester) and that he’d talked about the confusion it caused, the discrimination he’d faced, and the way he often felt he didn’t belong.
I’m wondering if you’ve ever felt completely at home.Do you mean on this planet?Yeah.Not at all. That’s what I fret about all the time. There’s a place in my mind, obviously a little fantasy setting, as there is in all our minds—but no. And what’s that fantasy?It’s self-control, and it’s learning to be still and be quiet and sit still and not be concerned about the revolving world. But it’s just a place of peace. Feeling settled with oneself. (Morrissey, GQ, April 2004) https://www.gq.com/story/morrissey-interview-jim-nelson/amp
NME Editorial: This is not the first time that Morrissey has trod clumsily around the area of immigration. At the start of the 90s there was a huge fallout between Morrissey and this magazine. On August 22nd 1992 NME’s cover featured an image of Morrissey prancing around on stage at Finsbury Park with a Union Jack flag and the coverline “Flying the flag or flirting with disaster?” Inside the piece accused Morrissey of experimenting with racist imagery, not just at the Finsbury Park show where he was supporting Madness (whose audience at that time included a vocal contingent of far right National Front supporters), but also in the lyrics of some of his songs. 1998‘s Bengali In Platforms from his 1st solo album, Viva Hate, contained the couplet: “oh, shelve your Western plans/ And understand that life is hard enough when you belong here”. Meanwhile the brazenly titled National Front Disco, ostensibly the tale of a mother grieving for a son lost to right-wing extremism, was widely criticised for its lyrical ambiguity in lines such as “you’ve gone to the National Front disco/ Because you want the day to come sooner. As is the case today, the early 90s were agitated times when a new influx of immigration[there was no influx of immigration] coincided with the rise of far right activity and the BNP recruiting at an alarming rate.
I gather you were unhappy with how some of your comments came across.
That’s not entirely true. I just think it could be construed that the reason I wouldn’t wish to live in England is the immigration explosion. And that’s not true at all. I am actually extremely worldly and there are other reasons why I would find England very difficult., such as the expense and the pressure. And certain things do worry me. In my view the face of Britain is not Gordon Brown or David Cameron, but Jean Charles de Menezes. His story, I find shocking, absolutely. It was termed an accident, but you don’t shoot someone seven times in the head, by accident. The people who control these investigations are always in on the game, and everybody associated with the murder was exonerated or promoted, which is shocking.
Ok, but did you think back over anything you said and think, ‘I don’t mean that’?
I feel that… the racism slur is dead wood, isn’t it? And in my life my favourite actor is an Israeli, Lior Ashkenazi, and my favourite singer was born in Iraq and now lives in Egypt. So, I’m not part of Little Britain. And by that I don’t mean the show, obviously.
Here, Morrissey is reminded – yet again – that he doesn’t belong in England – and he isn’t entitled to a full range of opinions.
Immigration allowed your parents into Britain and that’s how you got to make your very British music.
Yes, but once again, it’s different now. Because the gates are flooded. And anybody can have access to England and join in.
If you were in charge would you close the gates?
You have to be sensible about everything in life. You can’t say ‘everybody come into my house, sit on the bed, have what you like, do what you like. It wouldn’t work.
This gets related to Asians – despite the increase in immigration in 2007 being due to freedom of movement within the European Union – and Morrissey not mentioning Asians – or expressing any hostility to any immigrants.*
If you were an Asian Morrissey fan and you read that, would you not feel like you were being blamed for something?
No, I wouldn’t at all. I don’t blame anybody. Millions of people leave the country every year because they don’t recognise the place, so I’m not saying anything unusual. If you travelled to Croatia tomorrow, for instance, and walked around Zagreb hearing nothing but Dublin accents, you’d find it shocking.
Do you think these comments are at the very least badly worded?
No, not at all. I don’t think they’re inflammatory, they’re a statement of fact. Whatever England is now, it’s not what it was, and it’s lamentable that we’ve lost so much.
Did you see the Love Music Hate Racism issue of NME?
Would you like to support that campaign?
Yes. Although I find racism very silly. Almost too silly to discuss. It’s beyond reason, and makes no sense and is ludicrous. I’ve never heard a good argument in favour of racism. I gather this is going to be a sensational scathing piece and I’m going to be pilloried?
This isn’t a stitch up. There is obviously a need for debate around taboo issues like immigration.
Well, I agree with you. So what you’ve just said in the final seconds of this conversation is my point entirely.
But some people could find your comments very offensive.
I can’t imagine anyone being offended by it. Why would I want to offend anyone? I think people want to be offended and there really is nothing we can do about that.
NME Editorial:so there we leave it, shocked that 15 years on, we’re once again locking horns with Morrissey over the issue of cultural identity in Britain. Morrissey, the son of immigrants, who has lived for most of the past decade in either LA or Rome wants others to have the freedom to travel the world like him, but implies that he would shut the gates to people coming to live in the UK [he didn’t] At the very least it smacks of naive hypocrisy, but mostly sounds like the ravings of a rogue Tory MP. And at the very worst? Well, we’re certain that Morrissey would absolutely seek to distance himself from racist organisations, what he won’t realise is that the language he’s using about a ‘traditional’ England lost under a ‘flood’ of immigration dangerously echoes that used by the crypto-fascist BNP. Here at NME fresh from the support we’ve given the recent Love Music Hate Racism campaign, we’re not in the mood to play in grey areas. He might once have been the voice of a generation, but given his comments in these two interviews, he’s certainly not speaking for us now. https://illnessasart.com/2021/12/16/nme-1-december-2007/amp/
The hard/far right hates immigrants. They don’t just miss old things. They don’t just use words in ways that ‘liberal’ magazines disapprove of. Although that ‘liberal’ magazine had no issue with homophobic language or homophobic violence. And in ripping out ‘England is flooded’ etc – that ‘liberal’ magazine was giving tabloids and the far right an excuse to spread more hate.
10 years later, white supremacists, Generation Identity England, could use it in their memes.
And The New European would think it was ‘ironic’ that Morrissey didn’t support the Tories or Trump (not twigging that Morrissey thought May’s immigration policy was antagonistic, not too lax) – while reminding him that he’s from a nastier immigrant group – and fretting about a distinctive cultural identity – a thing immigrant, sexually ambiguous, Morrissey – isn’t allowed to do.
In May 2017, Morrissey took to Facebook to tell his followers what to blame for the bomb that killed young music lovers in the native city of Manchester: “Theresa May says such attacks ‘will not break us’, (meaning) that the tragedy will not break her, or her policies on immigration.” A fandom turns its back and gags… It is worth noting that the bomber was born in Manchester to Libyan parents. Like most extremists, he was a second generation migrant, and it didn’t escape me that Morrissey was born to Irish immigrants and grew up at a time when the IRA were creating more pain and misery on the British mainland than the Islamic State are capable of today. Should Elizabeth and Peter Morrissey have been denied the right to settle in Manchester? Should Morrissey’s romantic Manchurian childhood have been precluded by the minuscule possibility that he would grow up and plan a mass murder instead of merely sing about one? Ironically, Morrissey ought to be a fan of the Conservative government, who have used thick layers of bureaucracy and restrictions to create conditions that barely fall short of President Trump’s infamous travel ban by making it almost impossible for anybody from African and the Arab world to settle in the UK… In 2016, as Morrissey and John Lydon celebrated Brexit from the Hollywood hills, I created a new rule and decided to delete every song I had that hadn’t been realised in the previous two years… unless we make an effort to rally around new voices, our generation will sink into history without a distinctive sound to call its own. (Nicholas Barrett, the New European, 25 June 2018)
Morrissey was upset by the NME’s hit piece.
My heart sank as Tim Jonze let slip the tell-all editorial directive behind this interview: “it’s Conor’s view that Morrissey thinks black people are OK … but he wouldn’t want one living next door to him.” It was then that I realized the full extent of the setup… (Morrissey, the Guardian, 4 December 2007) https://amp.theguardian.com/music/musicblog/2007/dec/04/morrisseyresponds
The NME claimed he singled out immigration.
There is no doubt Britishness is changing… [but]… To single out immigration as the key is, we believe, inaccurate and inappropriate. This matters because it’s the kind of victimisation, of ‘us’ and ‘them’, and we’re not into that, not one bit. (Connor McNicholas, NME, 8 December 2007)
Ex-NME hack, Steve Wells, wrote a hit piece – misinterpreting his lyrics, taking quotes out of context – telling him he doesn’t belong here and doesn’t understand the English – entirely oblivious to far right homophobia.
I’ve never liked Morrissey. His band the Smiths all but wrecked Brit alt-music in the 1980s. And then there was his penchant for dodgy statements about race and ethnicity. “Reggae is vile,” he sniffed. “Obviously, to get on Top of the Pops these days one has to be, by law, black,” he whined. He flirted with skinhead imagery. He draped himself in the flag. And there was “Bengali in Platforms”—a song the NME called “a convoluted diatribe against assimilation”—featuring the line: “Life is hard enough when you belong here.” And “We’ll Let You Know,” in which Moz serenaded soccer hooligans as “the last truly British people you’ll ever know.”… then, a couple weeks ago, Moz gave an interview to the NME during which he vomited up the sort of ill-informed stupidity about immigration that one often hears from embittered and pig-ignorant old idiots, usually prefaced with: “I’m not racist but … ” “These days you won’t hear an English accent in Knightsbridge,” said Moz—a bit rich, coming from a son of Irish immigrants who now lives in Rome. “The gates of England are flooded. The country’s been thrown away,” he moaned, sounding horribly like some vote-grubbing anti-immigrant politician.The English have always been good at hybridity. We’re a hybrid people. Total mongrels. It’s our greatest strength. It’s what makes us English. It’s astounding Morrissey has never grasped this. (Steven Wells, Philadelphia Weekly, 12 December 2007)
Ex-NME hack, David Quantick, would use a review to associate Morrissey with Enoch Powell, the National Front, Tories, Eric Clapton (who had made white supremacist comments at a gig in the 1970s, and supported Enoch Powell, without it harming his career – it’s Morrissey who gets the punishment for Eric’s politics) He also used it to claim that Morrissey’s – homoerotic – solo music excluded minorities, and to state that he should be ashamed of himself because he’s an immigrant.
But what I find intolerable is the sheer, deep-dyed, everyone-loathing self-obsession of the man. And even that… would be less unpleasant if it hadn’t manifested itself in what is surely the least attractive trait in any popular musician since Eric Clapton sided with Enoch Powell… I can accept his all-too-frequent songs about British culture (let’s have them: Asian Rut, Bengali In Platforms, The National Front Disco, Irish Blood English Heart) are sincere attempts to address thorny topics. I’m sure his love for skinheads and the Union Jack is rooted in… eroticism and patriotism. Fine.What vexes me is that once Morrissey made music that talked about the underdog, the victim, those in the minority. Now he makes music that excludes those people. The odd song about a Mexican gang member and a lonely lesbian doesn’t disguise the fact that he’s quite happy to dismiss a whole chunk of the population as people who, to use the nasty phrase from Bengali In Platforms, don’t belong here… as the child of an immigrant parent, he really should know better than to attack immigration (which is, you ignorant quiffy rock exile, what keeps this country from being a Royal Family-led NF tourist park). For his waving of the flag (for publicity too, it would seem), for his ingrained habit of paying lip service to anti-racism while talking like an old Tory immigration spokesman, and for his abandonment of everything that made The Smiths a band for outsiders, Morrissey should be ashamed of himself. Sadly, he never will be” (David Quantick, The Word, March 2008)
Finsbury was the keystone for every narrative denouncing Morrissey as a bigot. And just as his suspected homosexuality was the reason for his racism – his Irishness became a reason for his (English) racism.
The two decades in between show a pattern of questionable behaviour from Morrissey. ‘Reggae is vile’, Bengali in Platforms, Asian Rut, National Front Disco, We’ll Let You Know: none of it decisively damning, of course… The divorce came in 1992. The NME, which had overindulged on Moz for years, ran a piece questioning a particular kind of flag worship in front of an audience of skinheads… Irish Blood, English Heart is an ambiguous call to arms wishing the English could rally round the flag without being called racists… Morrissey brought up the issue of immigration effectively unprompted… So it appears to be something he genuinely wants to talk about, and always has… the words of this ageing English-speaking Rome-resident economic migrant are dull and distasteful, and say nothing to me about my life. (Rob Morgan, MSN Music, December 2007)
Morrissey In Satanic Baby Record Sleeve Shocker… Morrissey has been painted as a few unpleasant things in his time – Nazi, control freak, skinhead-appeaser, reggae-hater, sanctimonious vegetarian… Now he’s really gone potty, if the cover for his new album Years Of Refusal is to believed. What, pray, is that on Morrissey’s arm? The result of a chip pan accident? A vicious assault from Tim Jonze’s biro or Andy Rourke’s voodoo doll? A cheap, ill-conceived tattoo done in Camden after one of Moz’ nights out in the Edinburgh Castle? More disturbing, though, is the baby that he’s holding. Whose is it, for a start? Ponder that, and look at the baby’s forehead… We’ve only got a Photoshop-defying low-res version to examine, but what on earth are those lumps and bumps, arranged in a suspicious pattern? Might not they be a pentagram carved into the poor mite’s perplexed noggin? People should be told. (The Quietus , December 2nd, 2008) https://thequietus.com/articles/00822-morrissey-in-satanic-baby-record-sleeve-shocker
But they also reported that the NME wanted to use Finsbury Park as evidence against him.
…the NME’s lawyers argued that it would be unreasonable to expect them to remember the events of 2007, yet they went on to stress that if the case went to trial, they would wish to cross-examine Morrissey on events leading back not 3, but 19, years, to 1992, when the NME aggressively ran a “is Morrissey racist?” campaign. (The Quietus, November 7th, 2011) https://thequietus.com/articles/07345-morrissey-issues-nme-statement
In 2010, Jonze joined the Guardian and used its clout and credibility to “prove” Morrissey was a racist, shaming charities, roping in colleagues and lobbying for the music industry to shun him.
It was the NME row that led to the word ‘subspecies’ being lifted from a Morrissey interview (in the Guardian, in 2010) – and continuously repeated to condemn him. If they worried about the effects of ‘inflammatory’ language then endlessly repeating it to destroy an Indie singer, who mostly refused to give interviews, and who clarified that he was only condemning China’s welfare laws, was a strange way of improving race relations.
If you’re asking me if I miss Wilfred Pickles, the answer is no. I don’t miss the old Manchester of my youth because it was too violent. You’d walk through city centre Piccadilly on a Saturday afternoon and it would be a constant test of nerve. As soon as someone met your gaze you knew you were in trouble. (Morrissey, Loaded, February 2013)
It doesn’t take much to be thrown into a cell at LAX! You will notice that the Immigration Officers are persistently ordering you to ‘stand there’, which is a test to see if you will bow to their orders… they can be as illegal as they wish. Incidentally, when I arrived in Sydney last year the officer at Passport Control did her best to insult me and to cause a scene when there was no need… They use the ISIS issue as an excuse to denigrate everyone, and they absolutely love it. (Morrissey, News Com Au, 3 August 2016)
But the stress of being relentlessly attacked by supposedly progressive Guardian journalists – who were repeating lies and misinterpretations that were decades old, while trying to twist everything he said into a new public outrage – took its toll.
In 2017, his new album, Low In High School, was derailed by social media’s amplification of every out of context quote or false claim every made about him.
In a 2010 interview with the Guardian, he referred to the Chinese as a subspecies. In 2014, he told fans there was no difference between eating animals and pedophilia. Before and after these comments, Morrissey repeatedly, consistently made nasty remarks about immigrants… we need to stop giving Morrissey a platform to be so awful. This means newspapers need to stop interviewing him and people need to stop going to his shows and buying his albums… and anyway, his new album “Low in High School” and its flirting-with-fascism lyrics is no “The Queen is Dead.” (Jed Gottlieb, Boston Herald, 7 December 2017)
Looking for an explanation for the Guardian’s implacable disfavour, his nephew seems to have picked up on alt/far-right memes that were aimed at left-wing wedge issues. Vegans, feminists and LGBTQ+ people were particularly targeted. Which is why Morrissey believed that, Anne Marie Waters, who went from the Labour Party, to UKIP, to her own movement, For Britain, was being lied about.
I despise racism. I despise fascism. I would do anything for my Muslim friends, and I know they would do anything for me. In view of this, there is only one British political party that can safeguard our security. That party is For Britain. Please give them a chance. Listen to them. Do not be influenced by the tyrannies of the MSM who will tell you that For Britain are racist or fascist – please believe me, they are the very opposite!!! (Morrissey, Morrissey Central, 20 April 2018)
The Guardian want to destroy you because you said you were not a member of the ‘Loony Left’. At this stage, anything you say they will turn into a global threat to humanity. (Sam Esty Rayner, Morrissey Central, April 2019, published on 24 June 2019)
Mentioning Anne Marie Waters (3 times), For Britain (3 times, he wore their badge twice), and Tommy Robinson (once, in one sentence; Robinson being the far right grifter who recruited Anne Marie to what she believes is the centre right, who is now co-opting** the ‘gender critical movement’, which is supported by several Guardian journalists, sitcom writer Graham Linehan and J K Rowling), was the killer blow.
The For Britain Badge joined the Union Jack as a visual symbol of his unique evil.
Waving the union jack during his show at Madness’s Madstock festival in Finsbury Park, London, in 1992, felt like a more aggressive move (this was before Britpop’s Cool Britannia-era reclamation of the flag, and its association with the far right was still strong). And it was done in the knowledge that the Madness crowd contained a significant fascist/skinhead element. When – according to Pat Long’s book The History of the NME – the paper’s sole black writer Dele Fadele persuaded NME’s editors to publish a critical cover story about it, Morrissey refused to speak to the magazine for 12 years. Tjinder Singh from Cornershop says his band were admirers of the Smiths, but began to feel wary of Morrissey in the late 80s, thanks to the tone of his solo songs such as Bengali in Platforms (“Shelve your western plans / And understand / That life is hard enough when you belong here”). In fact, by 1992, Singh was so incensed by the singer’s behaviour, Cornershop burned a picture of the singer outside the central London offices of EMI, Morrissey’s label. “We took action because we needed to. We expected other people to take action, but it never happened.” It is hard not to agree that proper, forceful criticism of Morrissey is overdue. (Tim Jonze, the Guardian, 30 May 2019)
This homophobic lie remains on the Guardian website – and the article is one of the first things to come up if you Google Morrissey. Which might be ironic:
Where an older generation of music writers succumbed to something akin to homosexual panic in the face of Turner and Kane’s swinging sixties idyll, Jonze used it as the spur for a bold acknowledgement of the homo-erotic foundations of the UK’s rock ‘n’ roll heritage, blithely asserting that ‘a firm friendship between two consenting males has been the overriding story through five decades of British guitar music’. Perhaps there’s hope for the old paper after all. (Inky Fingers, the Guardian, 16 May 2008) https://www.theguardian.com/music/musicblog/2008/may/16/inkyfingersmaggotylambpick5?CMP=gu_com
In three interviews with his nephew on Morrissey Central, spread over three years (2018-2020), he tried to explain why he was being accused of racism, which only gave them more material to falsely accuse him of racism.
… the blustering 80s idol is in irreversible decline… since 1992, when he supported Madness in north London’s Finsbury Park wrapped in a union jack, the singer’s pronouncements have tended towards the controversial… The word “bell-end” tends to appear in the comments section under reports of his antics on this organisation’s website. (Kitty Empire, the Guardian, 4 March 2018)
But he’s still labeled ‘right-wing’ or ‘reactionary’ and is still a pariah.
In the modern-day culture wars, Morrissey’s emergence as, first, a critic of immigration, then a supporter of Nigel Farage, and finally an endorser of the proscribed far-right organisation Britain First put him on the wrong side of history – far beyond the pale. It’s so sad to see the once scourge of The Daily Mail’s middle England readership become such an espouser of its core values. (Sean Smith, the Independent, 14 May 2022)
The Smiths’ song cast as long a shadow as the Sex Pistols’, and it is a peculiar irony that both bands’ singers soured into nostalgic reactionaries. (Dorian Lynskey, the Guardian, 1 June 2022)
While Tim Jonze found that John Lydon’s heterosexual relationship mitigated his – genuine, in context – pro-Trump, pro-Brexit, anti-woke, anti-BLM political opinions.
Lydon has been misunderstood for most of his life… So, yes, Lydon still backs Trump. But he dismisses our own Trumpian prime minister as a “Humpty Dumpty teddy bear” who can’t get anything done. Then he does another about-turn by hitting a rather Johnsonesque note about loving flag waving and his issues with “BLM and the woke and all of that – making problems that really were almost semi-non-existent”… It seems pointless to get into an argument about any of it. Instead, I think about how this follow-up call was made possible in the first place: Lydon is speaking from his bedroom, where he has set up a video monitor so he can keep an eye on [his wife] Nora… This, I suspect, is where the real John Lydon resides. The rest, as they say, is just noise. (Tim Jonze, the Guardian, 13 June 2022) https://www.theguardian.com/music/2022/jun/13/john-lydon-sex-pistols-johnny-rotten-danny-boyle-the-queen
Side Note: one argument is that there was no homophobia against Morrissey because the 1980s had successful gay and bisexual pop stars. But they made dance music with a huge female fanbase, like the Pet Shop Boys, or they camped it up, like Elton John, or they were jammed in the closet, like George Michael. Morrissey was one of the few non-heterosexual men in Indie, he was the ‘voice of a generation’ – not One Of Them being Exotic – and he had a fanbase of teenage boys who wanted to touch him.
What about that story that you were “sick over a blonde” at the club? I’m suing over that. Which is why The Sun have never been after me recently and are still after me. That story was a total fabrication — I was never even there, I never saw this girl. Next everyone’s telling me they’re going to run a big gay story on me. I’m prepared. As far as I’m concerned my life is on course now. I feel great now and I have to believe that the relationship I’ve built up with the public over the last 5 years strong enough to withstand any crap the papers throw at me. People have been saying that I was gay for years anyway; people have been questioning my sexuality from the start. But you’ve always enjoyed playing with it, teasing people, haven’t you? I did, yeah. And you’ve deliberately never denied being gay? Yeah, but that’s for three reasons. One, because I was playing with it. Secondly, I think it’s extremely distasteful that once you get in a position of public renown you’re supposed to prove your sexuality one way or another. Thirdly, what’s the point of denying it? It doesn’t make any difference if people want to believe it they will. I have no doubts about my sexuality. Anyway, if I had thought about sleeping with men and if I was going to do it I wouldn’t sit here and say it to Smash Hits. Sexuality is a totally private thing and it should always stay that way. So what about someone like Morrissey who claims to be celibate? I don’t believe Morrissey’s asexual. I believe he’s totally winding everybody up. I really do. What if he’s not? I think it’s a shame. Sex is one of the most important experiences in life and I think it’s a shame if it’s denied to anybody. I’m not advising 13 year olds to go and do it though. (George Michael, Smash Hits, 3 June 1987) https://gmforever.com/1987-smash-hits-magazine-interview-with-george-michael/
Before they became absorbed by multimedia Muzak, ‘Two Tribes’ and ‘Relax’ seemingly offered a ticket to amorality with their sado-masochistic lyrics and commercial dance rhythms. Disco (dance), hitherto the province of underground gay clubs, became publicly acceptable… without FGTH, “hetero” teen acts like Take That wouldn’t get away with their peculiar brand of homo-erotica… “We took questionable advice at the onset and perhaps the spotlight put on us by the media contributed to our falling apart. It was very thrilling but also disturbing and it definitely backfired on us. There was potential controversy the whole time. The imagery of bondage and sadomasochism I introduced was simply to attract attention because I believed people wanted sex and spectacle rather than serious musicianship.” For 18 heady months, the Frankie story had everything: sex, whores, controversy and ruined hotel rooms, with the classic sub-text of hard drugs, discarded teenyboppers, loose women, loose men, violence and vegetable oil. (Max Bell, Vox, December 1993) https://www.zttaat.com/article.php?title=209
In public homosexuals have to conform to certain unwritten rules of behaviour, which of course, do not apply to heterosexuals. If they don’t, they face intolerable heckling and in many cases physical assault. Queer-bashing still seems to be quite a popular sport in urban areas. (Salford University Students’ Union Gazette, 1 June 1978)
The past year has seen an increase in the number of attacks on gay people, the successful prosecution of Gay News and its subsequent banning by WH Smith, the vicious assaults on lesbians by the Evening News and the Daily Express, and the attack on the Royal Vauxhall Tavern by members of the National Front. Yet again gay people have been sacked, beaten up, and murdered and the police harassment of gay people has been stepped up. (Gay Pride, 1978, leaflet)
Remembering the day defiant activists clashed with the National Front over an iconic Huddersfield gay bar: Scott-Presland and other activists marched through Huddersfield towards the town’s polytechnic, where they had planned a day of entertainment for queer revellers. Needless to say, the march didn’t go off without a hitch, thanks to the ominous presence of the National Front. “We had tremendous excitement getting from the park to the thing because this is where all the National Front people came out of the woodwork,” (Patrick Kelleher, Pink News, 21 June 2021) https://www.pinknews.co.uk/2021/06/21/london-pride-huddersfield-west-yorkshire-police-the-gemini-gay-bar/
A group of affluent teen-age ″skinheads″ suspected in attacks on up to two dozen homosexual men boasted to police after their arrest in a park, authorities said… The loose-knit group calls itself the Buffalo Rochester Aryan Skinheads, or B.R.A.S.H., and its 10 members live in affluent neighborhoods in the Rochester area… In his statement to police, one of the group’s leaders, 16-year-old Timothy Waite, of Rochester, said, ″Basically, what we believe is that we do not like blacks or homosexuals.″ Rickard said it appears the attacks were only against homosexuals. (Randolph Picht, AP News, 17 May 1989)
Garard and Hyder condemned hatred spawned by neo-Nazism and white supremacy. But they see no contradiction in advocating violence against gays as an act of morality, patriotism and self-defense. “I’ve fag-bashed before,” said Garard, acknowledging that his former apartment served as a base for skinheads, including some who told him they beat up Rod Johnson and others in September. Garard said he is aware of other groups of skinheads in the Washington area who have beaten gays. Many of the attacks have been in a part of Rock Creek Park, called the P Street Beach, that serves as a sexual rendezvous for gay men. Hyder and Garard said skinheads who beat gay men do so because they are offended by public expressions of homosexuality, such as gay men holding hands or kissing. Defending his attacks on homosexuals, Hyder said, “If they flaunt it in my face, that’s disrespectful.” Hyder said that gay men meeting for furtive sex at night in little-used parkland were not necessarily “flaunting” their homosexuality, but said he sought to beat them anyway because “it’s hard to do it in broad daylight. We’d get arrested.” Garard and Hyder said they feel threatened by homosexuality in society. (James Rupert, Washington Post, 19 December 1988)
Three alleged neo-Nazi skinheads from Huntington Beach were found guilty Thursday of beating a Laguna Beach man in a gay-bashing incident but were acquitted of charges that they were trying to kill their victim. It was the first conviction in the state under a 1987 civil rights statute that outlaws crimes of hatred against a specific group, such as homosexuals, prosecutors said. The jury in Superior Court in Santa Ana also convicted each of the three men of felony assault. Gay community leaders said the misdemeanor civil rights conviction represents an important social statement of opposition to crimes aimed specifically at gays and other minority groups. (Eric Lichtblau, Los Angeles Times, 2 December 1988)
The Secret Gay Life of Star Frankie” (Sunday Mirror, 9 Aug)… of course, as they tell it, the comedian’s gay nature was part of his “dark side”… Being gay can never… be a simple fact of life, it has to be “sordid”. (Media Watch, Gay Times, September 1992)
Richard Ingrams in The Observer (3 June) had no doubt what was going on. “It is all part of the campaign by militant homosexuals to dictate the vocabulary… the expression ‘homosexual community’, suggesting a persecuted racial minority, helps lend respectability to the cause.” (Media Watch, Gay Times, July 1990)
Side Note 2: more context/commentary on the Morrissey Question.
The allegation is dangerous and insulting… especially when you consider that he has never publicly espoused racist views… However, the NME is right to stress the alarming cumulative effects of Morrissey’s flirtation with right-wing imagery… Yes, he was fascinated by Suedehead and its lurid tale of violence against blacks and homosexuals, but… he wrote the wonderfully moving ‘Suffer Little Children’ and… his most romantic song (‘There Is A Light That Never Goes Out’) eulogised violent death… (Johnny Rogan, open letter in the NME, 29 August 1992)
Andrew Collins has changed his story a few times over the years:
Morrissey was “branded a racist” according to popular lore, which, although untrue, stuck. He declined to speak to the NME after this… He is a drama queen… (Andrew Collins, his blog, 28 November 2007) https://wp.me/pRMkU-7E
I maintain that the important bit was Dele’s editorial, and I will continue to maintain that. The ideal cover story would always have been an interview with Morrissey, perhaps conducted by Dele Fadele, or Danny Kelly… in 1992 we ran a piece that should have contained an interview, but didn’t, and had to rest upon editorial and speculation, and no rebuttal ever came… The NME had its own new spat with Morrissey and, ironically, this was much more similar to the Richard Herring story, in that it was based upon an interview, and came down to misrepresentation. And it went to court… It remains one of the very few NME covers that people remember from the 90s, and do you know why? Because 99% of NME covers were, and are, nice photos of bands, advertising their latest record or tour. Like it or loathe it, the August 1992 cover was an attempt at news; an instant reaction to events. I say an attempt, because a decent news story has input from the protagonists of the story – at the very least a statement. Ours had nothing of the sort… I will always wish Morrissey had spoken to us that week, even though what’s done is done and dwelling on the past causes tumours. This is not deflection of blame. We wrote what we wrote. But it could have been different, and it would have been better. However, since he is enjoying a purple patch of creativity and critical respect in middle age and seems (how can any of us ever know, even those of us who’ve met him) happy and looks terrific, I don’t feel guilty. (Andrew Collins, Morrissey Solo, August 1st 2009)
His writing partner, Richard Herring, had a similar experience – but is media savvy – so it didn’t last long. Morrissey is more emotional and gets upset with the editors.
In an attempt to prove the debatable point that there is a “new offensiveness” in comedy, Logan quoted that one off-colour line and nothing else. He then included contentious statements from two more of my routines (about hating Pakistanis and supporting the BNP), providing little indication of how or why they might have been said. Is it possible he interviewed me with an argument already in mind, cherry-picking the lines that supported his hypothesis? (Richard Herring, the Guardian, July 2009) https://amp.theguardian.com/stage/2009/jul/31/richard-herring-standup-comedian-brian-logan
I wanted to read the new Morrissey interview. I was on the staff in 1992 when we ritually turned on the man, concerned that his thoughts on race and immigration were rather ambiguous. It was a defining moment, a chance to consider the Union Jack, the revival of Fascists in Britain and the wisdom of getting patriotic at a Madness gig in Finsbury Park… The new interview has been painted up as some titanic battle between the mag and the Moz. Certainly, they won’t be on speaking terms for another decade or two. Even the journalist Tim Jonze is unhappy, claiming that the paper has editorialised around his transcript. Morrissey’s management has threatened to sue. The gist of the debate is that the singer believes that the English character has been “flooded” by immigrants. He still yearns for the days of Nobby Stiles, Rita Tushingham and tetchy ruffians. He thinks this era was “quaint”, and essentially over. He’s surely correct. Which is rich coming from the son of a Dublin blow-in. Who lives in Italy, California, or wherever. But reading the piece, it seems that Moz bears no malice to the newcomers. Back in 1992, we might have welcomed this distinction. The new debate is half-cooked, loosely argued and out of character with the paper’s thin agenda. You know, it’s really nothing. (Stu Bailie, BBC Blogs, 1 December 2007) https://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/stuartbailie/2007/12
John Harris has a faulty memory:
During the Thatcher years and beyond, Union Jacks, RAF targets and the merest whiff of patriotism were enough to prompt instant exclusion from “indie” circles. When Morrissey danced around with a Union Jack on stage in 1992, the NME’s headline was: “Flying the flag or flirting with disaster?” A year later, Blur heralded the release of Modern Life Is Rubbish with a promotional picture titled British Image 1, featuring the group clad in skinhead-style attire and posing with a threatening-looking dog, and some writers on the same paper, where I worked before I became the editor of Select, were equally irate. But then, almost without warning, there was a sea change. By 1995 the very word “Britpop” crystallised the sense of newly acceptable – albeit camped-up – patriotism. (John Harris, the New Statesman, 1 May 2017)
The Pat Long version is riddled with untruths and errors.
Forget acid house and baggy, Morrissey was the NME, something which made what happened in August 1992 all the more strange. On a sunny weekend in North London’s Finsbury Park, Madness re-formed to play their first gigs since they’d split acrimoniously in 1986. Only one act performing wasn’t a Londoner: Morrissey, who was due to go on stage immediately prior to the Nutty Boys. The paper’s sole black writer, [any gay writers?] Dele Fadele, arrived at the office, fuming. “Dele was an amazing guy,” says Collins, “a fabled African prince who lived in a squat. He came in to work absolutely impassioned and offended by what he’d seen at Finsbury Park.” As Fadele described it to the rest of the staff, Morrissey had waved a Union Jack thrown on to the stage in front of a huge picture of two skinhead girls taken by NME photographer Derek Ridgers in 1980. It was a provocative move in front of Madness’ crowd, which had always been dogged by an unaccountable association with the Far Right.[Suggs was a skinhead, and was friends with the lead singer of neo-Nazi band Skrewdriver]But the fact that Morrissey’s set also included the songs Bengali in Platforms (“Bengali, Bengali/ Oh, shelve your Western plans/ And understand/ That life is hard enough when you belong here”)[his set did not include Bengali In Platforms] and a new track, The National Front Disco, seemed calculated to inflame both the right-wing and liberal members of the crowd, for entirely different reasons. In retrospect Morrissey’s dalliance with skinhead imagery was just another manifestation of the singer’s fascination for rough boys rather than any evidence of fascist tendencies. But that year there was nothing cute about messing about with such imagery. 1992 was the year that Combat 18, the white supremacist group implicated in the deaths of several non-white Britons, was formed. [they also attacked and killed gay people and Irish Catholics] When the NME’s staff heard about what Morrissey was up to, they were aghast. An emergency summit meeting was held at King’s Reach Tower. “It was like a Cobra meeting for the government,” says Collins, “like being on a real newspaper” The following week’s NME featured a five-page examination of his lyrics and interviews, scouring all for clues to racism, as well as an impassioned piece by Fadele. The conclusion? While crediting Morrissey with the ability to employ irony, the NME staff had to conclude reluctantly that their hero was, at best, a misguided Little Englander. (Pat Long, excerpt of the NME Story, The Times, 9th March 2012)
Morrissey intends to remain undefinable. He’s a conversational escapologist, eluding any attempt to pin him down. Take his sexuality. It’s 20 years since Rolling Stone magazine described him as gay, much to his annoyance, and he still refuses to specify. Often he denies any kind of sex life at all. That’s his business, but it’s a long time to maintain ambiguity… He feels the press victimised him, too. On his new single, Irish Blood, English Heart, he sings of “standing by the flag not feeling shameful, racist or partial”. He’s referring to his notorious performance at Madness’s Madstock weekender, in 1992, when he wrapped himself in a Union Jack and was branded a racist by the music press, casting a long shadow over his solo career. Four years later Noel Gallagher emblazoned the flag on his guitar without censure, an irony that did not escape Morrissey. Could he not have simply explained his intentions? “Well, you know, I haven’t just arrived from the village,” he snaps. “I did think of all these things. I knew the people I was dealing with, and there was no point in reaching out to them. . . . I think it was a couple of journalists who couldn’t stand the sight of me and wanted to topple me. And they tried. And now they’re gone. And I’m sitting here in the Dorchester talking to you.” He smirks triumphantly. (Dorian Lynskey, the Guardian, 8 April 2004)
He is… driven by revenge. He wants the last word. “I do feel as though I have been somewhat victimised,” he told Mojo a few years ago. But what has he been “victimised” for? The 1992 show where he sang “The National Front Disco” draped in a union flag seems to have been a turning point. At the time, I was one of the few people in the music press who felt that Morrissey should have been given the benefit of the doubt. Perhaps he was trying to make some arcane point about the nature of Britishness to a park full of Madness fans. In retrospect, though, it seems pretty clear that he was defying people to misunderstand him, fattening his persecution complex. (Peter Paphides, the Guardian, 10 March 2012) https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2012/mar/10/debate-morrissey-national-treasure
Morrissey is, if anything, an easy artist to leave behind: his politics seem so fundamentally antithetical to his original appeal that it’s hard to find a reason to continue supporting him, his famous laments now stinging with resentment and anger. Then again, as The Guardian point out, Morrissey’s anti-immigration views may be bolder than before but can be traced across his career, having spoken out against a “black pop conspiracy” against The Smiths during the band’s last years, and flirting with nationalist imagery and lyrics in the ’90s. (JaredRichards, Junkee, 8 November 2019)
Although Morrissey only spoke out explicitly about his reprehensible views in the two thousands, he had been courting the attention of racists since the early ’90s… From 1992 onwards, the performer emerged onstage draped in the Union Jack; around the same time, he welcomed the “skinheads” that had become part of his fanbase. (Joseph Earp, Junkee, 20 April 2021)
Side Note 3: Some Irishness and Catholicism
The singer Morrissey grew up in the Stretford area of Manchester. His mother was a librarian. (‘I was born in Manchester Central Library,’ he later said. ‘The crime section.’) His father is the usual mystery: he liked football and appears not to have been close to his football-ignoring son. He got divorced from Morrissey’s mother when the singer was 17 and was later rumoured to ring radio stations insisting on his estranged son’s Irishness.
Andrew O’Hagan, London Review of Books, 4 March 2004
Here is a second-generation Irishman, and sometime Dublin resident, who has infamously flirted with right-wing British nationalism… For an Irish audience, perhaps, the most interesting thing about Morrissey has been his willingness to wrap himself in the Union Jack in a fashion that has left him open to the accusations of associating with Britain’s Far Right… It strikes us as strange that an artist whose Irishness bleeds through in so many ways — his tireless cheerleading of bands from the old country, his love of Oscar Wilde, his stint in Dublin — should be connected with extreme British nationalism. It is in the context of his Irishness that Morrissey’s worship and championing of Oscar Wilde makes particular sense, suggests Campbell. “Wilde is interesting and not only because of his sexuality, which I think Morrissey obviously identified with,” he says. “Wilde is situated between Ireland and England. There are lots of English people who aren’t necessarily aware of Wilde’s Irishness. (Ed Power, Irish Independent, 29 July 2011)
A lot of Morrissey’s problems come from his indirectness of speech – which may have its roots in his Irishness.
the “post-colonial personality” revolves around various types of constriction, which are in response to domination by the colonizer. Constriction takes the form of social and personal withdrawal. The former embraces “elaboration of secret worlds, superficial compliance, indirect communication and lack of self-revelation” (Moane 1994: 259), generating behaviours such as “passive aggression, evasiveness, understatement, backbiting and avoidance of competition or self exhibition” (Moane 1994: 259). Indirectness, Kenny (1985: 73) asserts, is a “survival technique which had a strong survival value in the face of oppression where it was important to learn to be evasive, to develop a mental dexterity and a sharpness of intellect which answered a question with a question, and was effective in deceit and manipulation”. Linked with this is a tendency to find it difficult to “be confronting of others”, even if the complaint is justified. This results in a tendency to complain to one another about a third party rather than directly confronting the third party (Martin, Gillian. “Indirectness in Irish-English business negotiation: A legacy of colonialism?”. The Pragmatics of Irish English, edited by Anne Barron and Klaus P. Schneider, Berlin, New York: De Gruyter Mouton, 2011, pp. 235-268. https://doi.org/10.1515/9783110898934.235 )
Englishness is all too often a codeword for home counties. (Sukhdev Sandhu, the Guardian, 10 March 2012)
The English philosopher John Locke is seen, not just by Anglosphere advocates, as a founder of liberalism and of notions of tolerance. He was also a shareholder in the Royal African Company, which supplied African slaves to the English colonies. His Two Treatises on Government argued that “all men by nature are equal” while also making a case for the legitimacy of slavery. Locke’s view that Catholics should be denied rights shaped English law for two centuries. (Kenan Malik, the Guardian, 26 September 2021) https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2021/sep/25/the-anglosphere-is-just-a-cover-for-the-old-idea-of-white-superiority
The first is the staggering racism involved in invoking the drunken Irish stereotype on any pretext. Secondly, the DUP’s evangelical bent means many party big-wigs are entirely teetotal. Furthermore, even those DUP diehards who don’t ascribe to abstinence would sooner drink holy water than Guinness. Despite its solid Protestant, unionist heritage, it is synonymous with Dublin, and therefore not a big hit with the east Belfast set. (Seamas O’Reilly, the Irish Times, 11 June 2017) https://www.irishtimes.com/culture/art-and-design/apes-psychos-alcos-how-british-cartoonists-depict-the-irish-1.3149409
* Two news stories might have contributed to the NME’s sensationalist stance. In December 2006, ENB ballerina, Simone Clarke, was outed as a member of the BNP. And In January 2007, Bollywood actress, Shilpa Shetty, was bullied on reality TV show, Big Brother (UK).
Clarke attracted a high-profile supporter to the performance in the shape of Richard Barnbrook, BNP councillor for Barking and Dagenham. “I don’t normally go to the ballet but I’m going to support Simone Clarke. I’m supporting her freedom of expression.”… Mr Barnbrook claimed to have no objection to Clarke’s relationship with Cuban-Chinese partner Yat-Sen Chang. “He works, he pays his taxes, he pays his dues, he has as much right to be here as anyone else,” he said. However, he hoped the couple would not have children.”I’m not opposed to mixed marriages but their children are washing out the identity of this country’s indigenous people,” he explained, quickly adding: “That’s my view, it’s not the party’s view.” (Press Association, the Guardian, 12 January 2007) https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2007/jan/12/thefarright.dance
I was fuming watching Dispatches about the preachers of hate that New Labour have allowed to infest some mosques in this country and who seem to be free to spread their hatred and religious intolerance among young British Muslims. I am not saying all Muslims are fanatics, but clearly there are some who must now be regarded as the real enemy within. However, rather than condemning these religious, fascist nutters and calling for the Government to boot them out, the usual suspects on the Left have been busy getting their knickers in a twist about ONE ballerina, Simone Clarke, who’s joined the BNP. (Jon Gaunt, the Sun, 16 January 2007) https://www.islamophobiawatch.co.uk/hands-off-bnp-ballerina-gaunt-demands/
I guess the other thing Barnbrook demonstrates is how close artistic subcultures, including queer subcultures, have come to fascism over the years. If you want to play six degrees of separation from Jarman to Griffin, he’s probably the winning move but hardly the only one. You could go via Psychic TV to Coil to Current 93 to Tony Wakeford, who used to be in the Front. Or via Marc Almond, who was apparently initiated into the Church of Satan by Boyd Rice, who also worked with Current 93. Or straight from Psychic TV to Nicky Crane, who appears in their ‘Unclean’ video. Or use Stevo Pearce, whose brother ran the Front alongside Griffin in the ’80s. Or Richard Moult, or … well, you get the picture. (Max Schaefer, 3am Magazine, 26 July 2010) https://www.3ammagazine.com/3am/children-of-the-sun-max-schaefer/
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. https://folk-devil.com/2022/05/26/facebook-manchester-bomb-post-of-evil/
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. https://www.bbc.co.uk/newsround/40097004
In interviews with his nephew, Sam Esty Rayner, Morrissey expressed dissatisfaction with the social pressure not to be angry.
sam: 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? M: 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)
SAM: ‘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. M: … because? SAM: It’s about the Manchester Arena Bombing. M: 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. SAM: But there is a very annoying necessity everywhere for debating something that is actually factual. Doesn’t this exhaust you? M: 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. But, I will. Sings: 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 Vaporised Vaporised 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.
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.
Pop music is nostalgic in its bones – it is part of Morrissey’s gift always to have known this – and fans who adhere to its magic are in love with something that was passing as soon as it was made. True fans live in exile: that is their nature, their glory and their tragedy.
From the very beginning of Morrissey’s career, homophobic journalists tried to get his fans and colleagues to ditch him.
In 1983, Garry Bushell, in his Jaws column, urged the BBC and Rough Trade to dump the Smiths because of their “sicko songs”
The Beeb have finally rumbled the unpleasant truth behind ‘hip’ Manchester band, The Smiths… whose repulsiverepertoire includes perverted paens to child moslesting… To the anger and embarrassment of many Sounds staffers, the band’s songs were first brought to the world’s attention, and in fact praised, by David McCullough, who described them as ‘the kind of ultra violent grime rock n roll needs’. Try telling that to the mother of the six year old Brighton boy recently mob raped by paedophiles… Rough Trade should ban Smiths’ records… Beeb bosses should keep this perverted filth off the air. (Jaws, Sounds, 10 September 1983)
Later, his homophobia was more explicit.
Garry Bushell is a member of Mensa — an organisation for people who declare themselves to have above-average IQs. In Mensa’s latest journal he says that homosexuality is a “sad, dead-end perversion” and that people working in TV are promoted “solely because of their sexual preference”. (Media Watch Gay Times, February 1992)
Sometimes, journalists cloaked it in concern that Morrissey was exploiting his fans by ‘pretending’ to be vulnerable.
Ah, Morrissey. Clever, clever, shrewd Morrissey. Cunning, manipulative, exploitive, smug, irresponsible, Morrissey. This letter [Backlash letters page] makes me sicker than he could ever pretend to be. It’s so hopeless and passive and give up the ghost. Which means the orgy of duping, the career structure of the con-man rock star goes on. When twits like Mr S [a “fan”] top themselves, will you be there in the nick of time, Stephen [Morrissey] after a few quick changes of mannerisms in a handy phone booth? And if you’re so weak and timid, how come you’ve never had the slightest reluctance to show off? (Chris Roberts, Melody Maker, 26 March 1988)
Sometimes it was pure abuse:
Your hero [Morrissey] is in the twilight of his creativity… The public can see right through Old Flowery Twat. (Dele Fadele, NME, 19 May 1990)
In 1990, Steve Sutherland, decided that Morrissey was a threat to children because he looked gay in the International Playboys video.
The faint hint of homoeroticism around “The Last of the International Playboys”… opens a whole different can of worms. Is the tee shirt thing a sick joke – the celebrated celibate getting his kicks sticking to the sweaty skin of every boy and girl in the hall? From “Playboy”, with Mozzer like a stripper constantly tugging at his neckline and threatening to expose a nipple… [to] barely able to sing “Sister I’m a Poet” for the boys invading the stage and embracing him… (Steve Sutherland, Melody Maker, 26 May 1990)
video, The Last of the International Playboys, 1990
In the next edition, fans were encouraged to throw darts at the homoerotic nipple.
I’m talking about Morrissey fans… You’d scarcely credit there being any left in the early nineties, especially, when thank the Lord, you can be inoculated against everything… anyone who is still devoted to a camp, ageing parody of a would-be icon like Morrissey, deserves nothing more than a kick in the pants. These people are sick in the head… We’ve set up a poster of Morrissey and we encourage them to throw darts at his face and his exposed nipples… We’re hoping to raise enough to hire a hitman, so that we can really get to the heart of the problem… (“Thora Hird“, Melody Maker, 2 June 1990)
Melody Maker, 2 June 1990
In 1992 – building on the fallout from Frank Owen’s racist interpretation of the ‘Hip Hop Wars’ that saw Morrissey accused of racism for trying to answer his loaded questions – the NME accused Morrissey of inciting a homophobic hate attack against himself, at a Finsbury Park gig, by touching a Union Jack (for less than 3 minutes). They split his career into The Smiths (acceptable asexual) and solo (toxic homoerotic). And tried to bury him.
… excised from the hearts of many, horrified by the messy “flirtation” with racist imagery… the fact that this…man generates any interest at all this far down the line of lackluster albums and gallingly ambiguous behaviour is a mystery… Morrissey is an adoration junkie, plain and simple… his devoted audience has no such excuse… Times are hard, and yes, you’re going to need someone on your side. But at this point in the century, it really shouldn’t be this man. (Victoria Segal, the NME, November 1999)
… he has been tainted with accusations of nationalism and racism since he wrapped the Union Jack around himself at a Finsbury Park gig in 1992. Two weeks ago, the NME listed his crimes in anticipation of his British tour this week, and advised its readers to “brick” the singer offstage… Once the initial shock of Morrissey’s professed celibacy had abated, he was subject to… nasty innuendo and speculation about his sexuality… Despite all the evidence to the contrary the bittersweet eulogies to Handsome Devils and Sweet and Tender Hooligans, the iconoclastic images of male beauty that fill his record sleeves, the huge backdrops of skinhead boys [actually, girls] at his ill-fated gig in Finsbury Park in London, and quite apart from his slightly camp persona, we shouldn’t expect an imminent announcement that Morrissey is out and proud. (Sean Smith, the Big Issue, 15 November 1999) https://www.morrissey-solo.com/content/interview/big1199.htm
I would say ’97 felt bleak: racism was mentioned in nearly every Maladjusted review. The ’99 tour was accompanied by an NME article inviting readers to ‘brick’ morrissey offstage. Things didn’t get any warmer until 2002, when a new enthusiasm for The Smiths seemed to give Morrissey a bit of purchase. But even the 2004 NME interview was represented (by Steven Wells) as Morrissey grovelling for forgiveness. Things didn’t feel on an even keel until 2006. And we all know that lasted mere days. (“Hovis Lesley“, Morrissey Solo, 13 October 2021)
… he is a more intimidating presence than expected – unusually tall for a rock star, and thicker-set, not the droopy ironist you hear singing those droll and bitchy songs in a roughed-up Noel Coward-like voice… like an old-school East End villain… a soft but emphatic Mancunian brogue… characteristic contrariness… widely presumed to be gay… inexplicably popular with Mexicans. (Robert Sandall, the Times, 9 May 2004)
After a brief respite; in 2007, Tim Jonze, rehashed the 1992 homophobic hit piece, using mild remarks about immigration as the pretext. When Jonze joined the Guardian in 2010, he used its clout, credibility and connections to chip away at the fanbase, and slander Morrissey within the music industry.
Morrissey deserved to be marginalised:
If Morrissey can’t make a living out of playing to an audience as large and vociferous as the foam-flecked fundamentalists who follow him, there can be little hope for anyone else. But in some respects Morrissey is the author of his own marginalisation… Meanwhile the public persona that used to provoke and entertain – “Reggae is vile”, wishing unsanctioned biographer Johnny Rogan death in a car crash, “Cook Bernard Matthews” – became predictable, bitter and knee jerk. Likening Anders Breivik’s massacre at Utøya to a day at KFC, describing the Chinese as a sub-species, and blaming the royal family for the suicide of nurse Jacintha Saldanha all tried the patience of any but the most committed Morrissey sycophants. (Andrew Harrison, the Guardian, 22 July 2013) https://www.theguardian.com/music/shortcuts/2013/jul/22/morrissey-light-finally-gone-out?CMP=gu_com
He’s only worth ‘perverse lolz‘:
Morrissey, aloof as a queen, smug as a cat…As far as Morrissey concerts go, the one immortalised in his latest film Morrissey: Live isn’t the best. It saddens me to say it, but my love affair with Mozza is well and truly over… The low-point of the movie shows Morrissey handing the microphone to a selection of front-row fans who compete to give the best impressions of lobotomy patients… To hear him sing “For once in my life, let me get what I want” after several fans have done everything short of offering themselves up to him for sacrifice is ungrateful at best, disingenuous at worst. Ever decreasing circles of co-dependency with the ‘fans’ whilst the wider, more critical Audience either left long ago or now only go, like me, for the perverse lulz. (Ryan Gilbey, the New Statesman, 20 August 2013)
Here, Morrissey enters quasi-erotic raptures over the bad-lad fans, and tough-girl followers who constitute his final, uncritical, fanbase. (Andrew Harrison, the New Statesman, 14 November 2013)
The heterosexual one has to save the Smiths:
So it’s time for an intervention. Johnny Marr, protector of all that is right and good about the Smiths, we need you like never before. If you can banish Cameron to the wastelands, forcing him to salvage whatever meagre delights he can from the Mighty Lemon Drops, surely you can do the same to Morrissey. Just one tweet, that’s all it would take. “I forbid Morrissey from liking the Smiths.” That’s it. Then we can band together, Samwell Tarly and all, and breathe a sigh of relief knowing that our enjoyment of a perfectly good band won’t once again be tainted by the lunk-headed ravings of a professional irritant like Morrissey. (Stuart Heritage, the Guardian, October 2017) https://www.theguardian.com/music/commentisfree/2017/oct/03/morrissey-fans-are-about-to-give-up-on-him-johnny-marr-please-stage-an-intervention?CMP=twt_gu
He’s an animal:
Morrissey is a boring old jackass. In his old age, the king of the outcasts has become just like your weird racist Fox News-loving uncle… He cancels so much that many fans wonder if he has some kind of serious illness or mental disorder that would explain his erratic behavior. When he does manage to make it to the stage… straight white men openly weep and fling themselves at him… I wonder what Morrissey’s conservative friends think about that. I wonder what Morrissey thinks of that… My brain won’t fully allow me to disconnect his sickening quotes from the music… So if he doesn’t want to lose even more fans to their consciences, he’ll do what he should’ve done many years ago: Shut his stupid face. (Jamie Lees, Riverside Times, 22 November 2017)
He’s a monster:
… his allegiances can no longer be assumed to lie with the marginalised. Perhaps they never could, and the real shock is not one of Morrissey’s betrayal but of our own (my own) self-deception… One of us has to grow up, I suppose, but that still doesn’t mean I know what to do about monsters either. (Ben Brooker, Overland Review, November 2017)
He must be stopped:
He knows his diehards will continue to buy his records and sell out his shows, so he gleefully goes on — sorry, Morrissey has never done anything gleefully. He stodgily goes on, sowing discord and making deliberately inflammatory statements. (Jed Gottlieb, Boston Herald, December 2017)
In 2018, self-described “former friend”, Dave Haslam, organised a party to protest against Morrissey’s supposed racism – getting positive coverage in the Guardian.
How horribly wrong we were. From the mid-1980s onwards, his utterances have been consistently rabid… It’s always hard to admit you fell for the wrong fella, that his poetry blinded you to his prejudices, that you were well and truly suckered. And that’s what we’re having to do now… For so long we Morrissey fans gave him the benefit of the doubt – surely a man is entitled to not like reggae and soul music, we’d squirm. Even now, we like to believe it is simply Morrissey who has changed. And that is true to an extent. But the warning signs were always there. (Simon Hattenstone, The Guardian, June 2018) https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/jun/29/protest-party-riposte-poisonous-parody-morrissey-smiths-tommy-robinson
And because Morrissey was asked about Kevin Spacey, and didn’t think the story he heard in 2017 sounded true, and because Morrissey is widely believed to be gay, Haslam would go on to insinuate that Morrissey is a paedophile –
Stewart Lee would write that he held Morrissey to ‘different standards‘ out of ‘sentiment’ – the other artist that he mentions, just happens to be heterosexual.
I’ve got vintage psychedelic vinyl by actual murderers, and books of poetry by antisemites and paedophiles, who are hard to write out of literary history. And the increasingly reactionary comments made by Mark E Smith in his latter years will not tempt me to part with even the most unnecessary Fall compilation. But somehow, illogically and sentimentally, I held Morrissey to different standards… Suddenly, I just didn’t want Morrissey in my home any more. And I couldn’t imagine any circumstances under which I would ever listen to him again. (Stewart Lee, The Observer, July 2018)
The Guardian tried to contact everyone Morrissey worked with on California Son – ripping quotes out of context, failing to mention that he’d clearly stated that he was against fascism and racism and believed For Britain had been smeared as right-wing (probably based on his own experience of being smeared as right-wing). Only one person talked to them, but they used a misleading headline: ‘I feel like I’ve been had: Morrissey’s collaborator’s respond to his politics’ (Daniel Dylan Wray, The Guardian, 1 March 2019) https://www.theguardian.com/music/2019/mar/01/morrissey-collaborators-respond-to-his-politics
Tim Jonze would write that fans felt betrayed – repeating misquotations, using bigoted framing and guilt by association, bringing up Finsbury Park as the keystone, and splitting his career into the now traditional good Smiths (asexual), and bad solo (homoerotic).
To see Morrissey embrace the far right so openly was shocking. But was it surprising? Ever since the early 90s, he has flirted with the far right and fascist imagery – wrapping himself up in the union jack, writing a song called The National Front Disco, making inflammatory comments about immigration… I have to admit, not even a date in the high court, nor accusations of having a “schoolgirl giggle” have put me off listening to the Smiths… although his solo stuff feels too toxic for me to go near… (Tim Jonze, the Guardian, 30 May 2019)
David Stubbs – who wrote a homophobic ‘satire’ about Morrissey in the Quietus – called him the ‘stuff of disease‘:
Sadly, he still has an ultra-loyal phalanx of fans, for whom the word “thickness” certainly does not apply to their skins, who insist that the “real bigots” are Morrissey’s critics demonstrating their “narrow-mindedness”. Like their idol, they view of all of this as random persecution, in which they take a simple, indignant pleasure… Many profess to have no interest in his political views, regarding him solely as a musical content provider, a beat maker, a purveyor of vocals. This is bollocks, of course; they’re clearly hugely invested in him. In any case, if you’re capable of blithely setting aside his views, then there’s something badly missing in you. Morrissey has long since ceased to be worthy of cultural assessment; he no longer deserves to be part of that conversation. He has come to represent, along with the likes of Farage, Waters and Robinson, something nasty, reactionary and dangerous in our culture, a poisonous voice at this critical point in Britain’s island history. Something has hardened like a tumour inside him over the years; what was once whimsical, amusing, pop-culturally apposite, is now the stuff of disease. ‘That Joke Isn’t Funny Any More’, isn’t funny any more. He’s not rarified; far too many people think and feel the way he does. And they’re making less and less of a secret of it. It’s frightening. And so, it’s come to this; with apologies to The Specials, if you have a Morrissey-loving friend, now is the time, now is the time, for your friendship to end. (David Stubbs, the Quietus, July 2019)
Morrissey tried to push back – but by this time his mother was dying, and his own mental and physical health had taken a severe hit:
Given the inexhaustible Hate Campaign executed against me by The Guardian and their followers, I am pleased with the UK chart position for “California son”. BUT WHO WILL GUARD US FROM THE GUARDIAN? No one, it seems. It is worth noting that their chief antagonist in this Hate Campaign is someone I took to court some years ago for writing lies about me. He lost his court battle then, and now he’s seeking his personal revenge by using The Guardian, who have been harassing everyone and anyone connected with my music imploring them to say something terrible about me for print… It is the voice of all that is wrong and sad about modern Britain. (Morrissey, Morrissey Central, 31 May 2019)
Billy Bragg – who uses LGBT+ activism to promote his career, but who joined in with the NME’s homophobia in 1992 – also kept attacking him:
I wish there was a way back for him. As a Smith’s fan and as an anti-racist activist, I wish. I worry that he may have burned too many bridges, though. I think he’s decided that he wants to betray everything he ever said in the Smiths, and he’s broken the hearts of a lot of people… I’ll listen to The Smiths, but I was never into [his solo stuff] anyway.” (Billy Bragg, NME, February, 2020)
Tony Fletcher, who doesn’t seem to know anything about the black writers who have inspired Morrissey’s writing – James Baldwin, Toni Morrison, Maya Angelou – urged people read about the blackness in the music of the Smiths (all white, all straight, apart from “the bad one“) in his Smiths book – but shun Morrissey’s current work – made with his Latino bandmates, Jessie Tobias, Mando Lopez and Gustavo Manzur, and including his (then) recent duet with Thelma Houston:
‘The Smiths? There’s more blackness in the music than you might initially perceive. Read about it. Search it out. And then boycott Morrissey’s music because he’s turned into your horrible racist grandfather. Seriously, stop apologising for the guy and stop listening to his recent music. He’s an embarrassment. (Tony Fletcher, his blog, 2020)
Similarly the Quietus called Morrissey’s mostly Mexican band, ‘white-ish’ and their Latino sound, ‘stinking.. trumpets of Old Albion’ and ‘crappy Britain‘.
My girlfriend however, well she’s a huge fan. A quick Google search later and there’s some sputtering…. how could the man who saved the lonely girl from Hull have become this… From its cheap-sounding production to the trebly, shallow musicianship (read: white-ish), to the basic structuring and the crowd samples that sound like fiendish Leave activists at Westminster, to the aesthetically stinking addition of those medieval trumpets of old Albion, this is the crappy Britain of old he conjures. (John Calvert, The Quietus, March 2020)
My guitarist Jesse, who’s been with me for 10 years, is Mexican. One night in Los Angeles the police approached us, spoke reasonably civilly to me, and then said to him, ‘which restaurant do you work at?’ I think that sums it up! One of the greatest guitarists of the modern age, but because his skin is brown, it’s assumed he washes dishes for a living.’ (Morrissey, Hot Press, 20th August 2014)
Because of the press, another ex-fan thinks that Morrissey – an Irish Catholic, ‘humasexual’, immigrant – is a homophobic English ethno-nationalist.
Only recently did I learn that shirtlifter was once a British slur for gay men; the phrase “Shoplifters of the World Unite” may be Morrissey’s play on words… Morrissey lamented the impact of immigration on his homeland: “England is a memory now,” he said… He spoke of how the Chinese could be a “subspecies,” … revisiting his lyrics, I began to find them more vituperative, less empathetic than I’d recalled. A song’s narrator would be woefully misunderstood, but that was because he was surrounded by the dim-witted and distinctly othered: women buck-toothed and monstrous; gay pederasts; Bengalis who don’t belong… I’m not sure there’s a place for (mixed-race, faggoty) me in that mythical past. (Jeremy Atherton Lin, the Yale Review, Spring 2021)
And the NME continues to exclude Morrissey from his own work – refusing to name him when praising the Smiths.
Echoes of the Manchester greats appear throughout ‘Ribbon Around The Bomb’ – namely those of The Smiths. Shimmering, Johnny Marr-style guitars appear liberally on the likes of ‘Born Wild’, a track that also employs haunting ‘Strangeways Here We Come’-era vocal lines as Ogden delivers some of his best, most revealing lyricism to date… (Rhys Buchanan, NME, 8th April 2022)
Naming him to underline that no one decent should ever want to be associated with him.
“Most interviews I have been very displeased with because, obviously, you don’t have any control. You can be very merry in an interview and it can come across as being very dour. Or you can say something flippantly which will be written in blood in the music press and it sounds as though you’re deadly serious. You’re throwing yourself on the mercy of a journalist who can be friendly during the interview but can turn out to be something of a behemoth in print.” (Morrissey, 1983)
The vast bulk of the interview (in the audio version, released later) is about animals & music. His main political purpose is getting abattoirs banned – ‘I reserve my vote for the political party that will get rid of the abattoir’. He doesn’t like a generic commercial pop sound – ‘When you hear the radio, because everybody sounds the same, and they use the same, uhh, uhh, counterfeit emotions and they don’t have a natural voice, you don’t know who you’re listening to’.
In the version of it published on the 18th November 2017, most of it is cut, and a social/media firestorm accused him of threatening to kill Trump, being a rape apologist for Kevin Spacey and Harvey Weinstein, loving Brexit, and hating refugees.
The Trump comment was hypothetical.
JL – I was taught, like, I’m not supposed to ask about politics, but some songs I like because, I want to talk about a few songs… like if you actually stay in bed a lot and if you actually think people shouldn’t follow the news anymore?
Morrissey – I believe they must not. For their own mental health, they must not, they must stop watching the news, because it’s, social engineering to a degree, whereby it’s only about control. It’s not about information. It is not the news. It’s about control and people no longer watch.
JL – For me personally, as I work as a journalist, I’m really tired, like even in Germany, you read about Trump every day, like every fucking day, and I feel like that’s what made him big.
Morrissey – He received so much attention, so much attention, whereas other candidates like Bernie Sanders and so on, did not…. all people had in their minds was Trump, Trump, Trump, making America great again, which is absurd.
JL – if, a moral question, if there was a button and if you press it, he drops dead, would you press it or not?
Morrissey – I would for the safety of the human race. It’s nothing to do with my personal opinion of his face, or his life, or his family, but in the interests of the human race, if I would, yes. I think he’s a terrible, terrible scourge and as I say, he’s the biggest threat to national security in America, consequently to the rest of the world.
JL – Yeah, like in Germany cos there were two things like, watching the news, we saw it wouldn’t happen, like one was like Trump, and the other was like Brexit. But like you’re said to be pro-Brexit. Is it true?
Morrissey – Well, it isn’t true. I was fascinated by the Brexit result because it was such an incredible strike for Democracy. The people said yes, even though Westminster said no, and the political elite and the establishment said no, no, no, we will remain with the EU. The public ignored the media, ignored all the hypnosis, ignored all the fear- mongering, and they said we will decide for ourselves, and this is why Brexit is very, very important, because it’s the biggest strike in the history of British politics for many, many years, whether you agree with Brexit or not, is a separate issue, but I was very, very proud of the people of England for ignoring the BBC, ignoring Sky News who were fear-mongering and telling everybody if we leave the EU will will all die instantly. I’m not kidding. That’s what was happening. So I felt very proud of the people. I felt very proud.
JL – I read some reviews that said that Jackie, the song, is like pro-Brexit, this it is the Union Jack.
Morrissey – Well, this is the silliness that one has to put up with.
The conversation about rape was more complex – he didn’t talk about Harvey Weinstein at all – and he wasn’t defending Kevin Spacey, so much as saying the version of the story he’d heard, didn’t sound true (to him) – which, in fact, it wasn’t (he gets the details wrong).
JL: as we’re in Hollywood, did you follow the whole scandal that came now with, like, Weinstein and Me Too and all those things.
Morrissey: uhh, to a point I did, but then it became uhh theatre and suddenly everybody’s guilty. Suddenly anybody who has ever said to another person “I quite like you”, suddenly they’re being accused of sexual harassment. But you have to keep it in perspective, because if you can’t say to somebody that you like them, then how will they ever know? But of course there are extreme cases and rape is revolting and any kind of physical attack is revolting. But we must keep it in perspective otherwise everybody on the planet is guilty. And everything. And we can’t constantly have this superior attitude about what you should do and what you are not allowed to do. Because then we’re all trapped, we can’t relax. And some people are very clumsy when it comes to romance and if they meet somebody, they’re very awkward, and they don’t know how to do it really and how to let someone know. So it can sometimes seem aggressive.
JL: If I like someone I ignore them for like 5 years.
Morrissey: Typical, that’s a typical response. And it’s dangerous, because it’s a waste of five years. But that’s, many people do that or if they see somebody they like they look away. Ridiculous. Ridiculous.
JL: What do you think that they cut Kevin Spacey out of films now?
Morrissey: I think it’s absurd because uhh, as far as I understand the situation, he was in a hotel room with a 14 year old. Well, Kevin Spacey was 26, the boy was 14, you have to wonder where the boy’s parents were. You have to assume that the boy had an inkling of what might possibly happen. I mean I don’t know about you, but I’ve never been, in my youth, in situations like that. Never. And I was always aware of how, where things could go. And if you’re in somebody’s bedroom, you have to be aware, where it could lead to, and you have to say why, why are we here, why aren’t we downstairs in the lobby… so it doesn’t quite ring true to me and it seems that he has been unnecessarily attacked.
JL: yeah, I’m also thinking about this whole thing with actresses. [in the printed version they lie about the question – SPIEGEL: Should that also apply to the actresses who went to the hotel room with Weinstein? – and make his answer appear to be about Weinstein’s victims, when it’s a general comment].
Morrissey: And you also must wonder if, people know exactly what’s happening and they go along with it. But then when it’s happened they find that they’re either embarrassed or they didn’t like it, so they then reverse it, and say I was ambushed, I was taken by surprise, I was dragged into the room. But if the incident had gone very well and they had really enjoyed it and it led to an incredible career, they wouldn’t mention it. And I hate to be that cynical because I hate rape and I hate attack, and I hate any sexual situation that is forced on a person against their will. But in many many situations you look at the circumstances and you think that the person who is called a victim is merely disappointed.
JL: Yeah, I think it’s important to, like keep justify up, that it’s still fair for everybody.
Morrissey: But also within the history of music and rock n roll, this entire history of groupies and people who throw, kids, that throw themselves at groups and stay in a hotel for the night, in the lobby, they want to be with those groups. And if you go through the history of music, everybody must be guilty of underage sex. So are you going to throw everybody in prison?
JL: Yeah, David Bowie, like, took the virginity of a 14 year old girl.
Morrissey: Yes, I think that was very common then.
JL: Did you ever have been in a situation like that?
JL: Not even from your, older people?
Morrissey: No. Never. Never. Never.
And – he doesn’t attack refugees. He doesn’t say immigration should be stopped. Or that refugees are rapists. Or any of the ‘inflammatory’ things that the press and social media (for and against) attributed to him. He just thinks that countries should have an identity, Empires are bad and that policies shouldn’t cause chaos.
JL – Do you think that provocation is an important part of such, of your art?
Morrissey – Provocation? Well, uhh, what is provocation? Is it stimulation?
JL – Like, em, I might be wrong but I think that, like you, of course you give your opinion about things, but I think sometime, you also, like I get the feeling, if the society says like this is good, or is it like you know there’s said things, I think like sometimes there’s a feeling you, like not fight against that, but say things in a way to make them think again, you know what I mean?
Morrissey – Yes, because we must open debate, whether it’s religion, and this goes back to the point you made about boycotting Israel, and so forth, there’ no point being like that. You have to sit together and listen to people and exchange ideas about every problem on the planet. You can’t simply say everything is black and white, I don’t want to listen to you, you don’t agree with me, so therefore you’re wrong. And that is the problem with most of the British press, that they, they, they will happily speak to you, but when the interview is in print, they correct your moral outlook. Which is no good, because that’s my moral outlook. And you came to see me, and you asked me, and I told you. But you can’t simply say that you’re wrong because you don’t feel the way I do. So provocation is too strong a word, but I do like to put the issue on the table.
JL – I wanted to ask you what is the last lie somebody taught about you, do you remember that?
Morrissey – Well, yes, this issue about I’ve written a song about Brexit. And isn’t this appalling and you shouldn’t do this, it really bleugh. This is absurd. The British press are very much like that, you can’t meet them halfway, they’re, it’s the looney left really, who are so extreme, and they have become like the third reich. They will not be swayed. And you cannot have an open opinion or a different opinion and it’s very, very boring, and it’s quite dangerous. But to hear that I’ve written a song about Brexit, and I’m demanding that everybody support Brexit. It’s exhausting. It’s very exhausting.
JL – Do you know Owen Jones, he is like…
Morrissey – I know of him, yes, yes. But people have become obsessed with where they stand politically and it’s usually very closed, in their mind, very very closed. Whether it’s right-wing or left-wing. But I don’t consider myself to be political, I’m apolitical. But I am a human being, living in the world today, and everything we do has a connection to politics. But I have never voted for any political party. I think Theresa May is absurd. I think Donald Trump is absurd.
JL – But you just have to look at their faces. Like, no, no not, on a superficial, but like people like, what they look like and who they are, are connected. Not like that ugly people are bad and beautiful people, like – look at anyone for Trump. But, em, it looks like a cartoon. If you took the villains from a cartoon.
Morrissey – there’s no sense of leadership…
JL – Anything that’s important to mention or what you would like your German audience to know?
Morrissey – Well, ummm, every second I’ve ever spent in Germany, I, I, I, I feel very privileged. I really do. I think it’s so exciting. And it’s been a great friend to me. I mean, I might not be too excited about that European Union, but that doesn’t matter, that really doesn’t matter, that much. I don’t want to be a part of the German Empire. I don’t think England should be a part of the German Empire, which is essentially what the EU is.
JL – It’s a, do you think so? It’s a German Empire?
Morrissey – I think so. Yes. I think a lot of people feel that way. Perhaps that’s why people voted to leave the EU.
JL – But why do people think that?
Morrissey – Because England can’t make any decisions for itself unless it refers to Germany and that’s absurd. No country should be like that.
JL – Angela Merkel’s a Mum of Europe.
Morrissey – But she wisely doesn’t say that much, she keeps very quiet, and uhhh, which is interesting. But I, I feel sad that Germany had to become the rape capital of Europe, which I think is shocking.
JL – the what capital?
Morrissey – Rape capital.
JL – is it, right?
Morrissey – Yes, yes, statistically yes. And it coincides with the, the open borders and the free flow, which is very, very shocking. And a lot of people do think that was a mistake of Angela Merkel. That she initially said, ‘oh, yes, yes, come, everybody, come, wherever you are, whoever you are, come. And then she’s saying, ‘oh, well, whoops, whoops, maybe not’. But, em, so. [in the printed version they put Berlin instead of Germany – and because of open borders, instead of coincides]
JL – So you’re against taking refugees in or are you just saying this should be really controlled or…
Morrissey – Well, it’s a question of multiculturalism and I like Germany to be German, I like France to be French. And I think that when you try to have, um, introduced a multicultural aspect to everything you end up with no culture because you don’t share any language, you don’t share any laws, you don’t share the same sense of liberty. So multiculturalism fails. And all European countries fought for many many years for their identity. And now it suddenly seems to be, they’re saying so what, let’s just throw it away. Anybody can do what they like to Germany, anybody can do what they like to France, and I think that’s quite sad. Because it you travel, if you go on holidays, for example, to Turkey, you want a particular experience. But if you go to Turkey and everybody in the country is speaking, uhhh, Spanish, you think, well this is very strange. So this applies also to England, to Germany, to France. If you arrive in France and everybody is speaking a non-French language it’s very peculiar.
JL – But isn’t America a bit like that? Where it’s like, people coming from all over, or is it different because it’s newly… you know what I thought about , when I went through LA yesterday, for the first time, in a certain way, I felt that you can feel it’s stolen land. In certain way, because, you know, it’s like in Europe, it’s kind of like, things grew. You know, it’s like, and you feel it like, it almost looks like garages, like a lot of fancy garages, and I had this real idea of wonder at what would have happened if the native Americans had time to develop, like high culture. Just thought, another thinking about that. Maybe, it’s stupid.
Morrissey – Well, it felt stupid, but you must remember also that every single country has a, it’s own history of uhh, revolution, and liberation, and so forth. And other countries don’t have your history. So it’s, uhh, it’s not easy to blend, uhh, people together and just assume that they will get on, and understand the same things, it can’t happen. People might, uhh, travel and migrate, but they bring all of their, uhhh, they bring all of their religion, and all of their beliefs with them. And they try to establish it in the country they’ve gone to, and that’s when the confusion starts.
JL – So you’re just saying, like, everybody should stay where they are?
Morrissey – No! I don’t think that! You stay where you are? Stop it! No, but I think it’s important for every country to retain the identity that it has, because it didn’t come easy. Millions of people died for the German identity, millions of people died for the British identity. And if you respect all those people, the loss of their lives, then you must protect your own country to a great extent. You cannot say that the identity of your country is nothing. You cannot say that. And that seems to be happening throughout Europe.
JL – I’m very German, unfortunately.
Morrissey – Please be proud, please be proud, please be proud.
On the 11th of December he posted a statement on Facebook, objecting to the way his words had been sensationalised and editorialised:
He’s telling the truth – he didn’t say he would literally kill Trump, he wouldn’t support rape, child abuse, or sexual assault, Der Speigal didn’t convey his views fairly and (so far) he has never spoken to the print media (I hope he walks back on this – they have nothing to lose by monstering him if he would never speak to them anyway, and young journalists only know the myth, which his blog, (run by his nephew) wittingly or unwittingly, reinforces.
Der Spiegel released the audio, timestamping the most controversial passages, so that most people would miss the wider context. He had talked about Trump, migration and Spacey and that was enough for everyone to declare that he had been caught lying.
He released a video statement on his nephew’s YouTube account, on the 17th December 2017:
Suddenly, I was sympathizing with sexual harassment. I was apparently sympathizing with pedophilia, I was sympathizing with rape, I was sympathizing with everything that would persuade anybody on the planet to stop listening to me. Of course, none of those assumptions were true. I do not support anything like that. You can hear it even in the tone of my voice… However, this is the world we now live in with the print media. It seems to me that, in the first place, they get very angry or very excited if you stop to say something that people are listening to or that reflect the will of the people. They get very nervous. They won’t allow it. They shut it down and so forth… But also, it seems to me that, in England at the moment, the right wing has adopted a left wing stance, and the left wing has adopted a right wing stance, so everybody’s confused, and nobody seems to know what people mean. This shuts down free speech. This shuts down any open debate about anything. And consequently, we’re all in a mess, and we don’t know where we stand… So I fear that the campaign for Low in High School and for the surrounding singles was derailed and damaged purposely by the haters. They’re not listening to the music. They’re not listening to anything, really. They see my name, and they want to get rid of it as quickly as possible.And as I said, in many ways, they do succeed. There’s not really that much you can do about it.
It would only get worse, as the old press homophobia that had seen him falsely accused of racism, crashed into the online tribal ‘culture wars’ where everyone had to use the same words in the same way to express the same ideas or they were ‘THE OTHER SIDE’.
Side Note: Almost all of Morrissey’s opinions are left-leaning – although he’s too much of a loner for organised politics. He could be used as a bellweather, since everything he picks up on turns into an urgent debate further down the line, viz.
The destruction and abandonment of labor politics means that, at present, immigration issues can only play out within the framework of a culture war, fought entirely on moral grounds. In the heightened emotions of America’s public debate on migration, a simple moral and political dichotomy prevails. It is “right-wing” to be “against immigration” and “left-wing” to be “for immigration.” But the economics of migration tell a different story. (Angela Negle, American Affairs Journal, November 2018) https://americanaffairsjournal.org/2018/11/the-left-case-against-open-borders/
In parts of the left, there is an unattractive blind spot that misses the importance of collective attachment to an inherited landscape, both physical and emotional. That landscape is not immutable but it shapes a sense of belonging and context. For many Leave voters, particularly those who have traditionally voted Labour, the emotional landscape of “England” has offered a way to express communal values neglected during 30 years of excessive individualism, licensed by both left and right. (The Observer, January 2021) https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2021/jan/17/proud-to-be-english-how-we-can-shape-a-progressive-patriotism
… One grandstands when one makes a contribution to public moral discourse that aims to convince others that one is “morally respectable.” By this we mean that grandstanding is a use of moral talk that attempts to get others to make certain desired judgments about oneself, namely, that one is worthy of respect or admiration because one has some particular moral quality—for example, an impressive commitment to justice, a highly tuned moral sensibility, or unparalleled powers of empathy. To grandstand is to turn one’s contribution to public discourse into a vanity project. (Justin Tosi, Brandon Warmke, Philosophy and Public Affairs, Summer 2016)
The internet… has encouraged us to hole ourselves up in ideological fortresses; to build moats around our value systems, to pull up our mental drawbridges; and to fire verbal arrows at anyone with a different perspective… with little room for uncertainty or nuance. The way we are pressured to “cancel” public figures we once admired is spiteful and reductive… It means many of us have a predetermined position on news stories even before they break. (Dani Garavelli, The Scotsman, October 2020)
While fluidity of identity, plurality, and multiplicity are always claimed on behalf of the VC members — partly to cover up their own invariably wealthy, privileged, or bourgeois-assimilationist background — the enemy is always to be essentialized. Since the desires animating the VC are in large part priests’ desires to excommunicate and condemn, there has to be a strong distinction between Good and Evil, with the latter essentialized. Notice the tactics. X has made a remark/has behaved in a particular way — these remarks/ this behavior might be construed as transphobic/sexist etc. So far, okay. But it’s the next move which is the kicker. X then becomes defined as a transphobe/sexist etc. Their whole identity becomes defined by one ill-judged remark or behavioral slip. Once the VC has mustered its witch-hunt, the victim (often from a working class background, and not schooled in the passive-aggressive etiquette of the bourgeoisie) can reliably be goaded into losing their temper, further securing their position as pariah/latest to be consumed in feeding frenzy. (Mark Fisher, Exiting The Vampire Castle, 2013)
On the 26th of October 2019, at a gig at the Hollywood Bowl, Morrissey wore a ‘Fuck the Guardian’ t-shirt.
In 2010 the Guardian had taken up the NME’s homophobic hate campaign that started in 1992.
Having his words relentlessly hyper policed for racism after he was violently attacked for being (perceived as) gay led him to believe that Anne Marie Waters, an Irish, lesbian, vegan, feminist, wannabe politician (an unlikely background for a British nationalist), was similarly a victim:
I despise racism. I despise fascism. I would do anything for my Muslim friends and I know they would do anything for me… do not be influenced by the tyrannies of the MSM who will tell you that For Britain are racist or fascist – please believe me, they are the very opposite… This is my last political strike. No wish to upset anyone! (Morrissey, Central, April 2018)
By May 2019 he dropped For Britain:
I am not an activist, I have never voted for a political party, I do not belong to any political party… I do not believe the most important thing about a person is the colour of their skin. (Morrissey, Kipper Central, June 2019)
But was (and often still is) wrongly described as the supporter of a far right party or aligned with the far right.
The t-shirt caused more frenzy in the press and social media:
His distress at the Guardian was framed as a right-wing attack on the liberal-left:
Side Note – no matter how moral the excuse for demonising someone seems to be – racists are bad – it quickly decends into the same type of attacks that have tradiontionally been aimed at outgroups and misfits – on their known or supposed sexuality, intelligence, gender idenity, ethnic/religious background, mental health, suicidal ideation, bodies, social isolation & deviance.
In line with the comforting theory that all radicals become reactionary before they threaten your aga and with Morrissey being the worst example, people asserted that if John Lennon hadn’t been murdered by a fan, he would have gone full Morrissey.
In a similar way, George Michael, was posthumously recognised as having all of the good qualities people had mistakenly assigned to Morrissey.
(They’re wrong about the clip. Morrissey is talking about authenticity in art. George is concerned about the fame game. They’re both smart.)
On a side note: while he was alive, George was hounded for his sexuality, fought to escape a stifling record contract and was mocked for his drug addiction, cottaging exposés and car accidents.