England’s Quare Cancer – Morrissey and Nostalgia

Morrissey was born into an Irish Catholic family, grew up as part of the minority Irish Catholic community and lived between Dublin and Manchester. He talked about his struggles to belong and make sense of his Irish and English identity in light of Ireland’s colonisation by England/the British Empire. He comforted himself with the idea that even if he felt out of place, English people also had life hard. And he knew the pain of parting as family members moved abroad.

It was a constant confusion to me why I never really felt ‘This is my patch. This is my home. I know these people. I can do what I like, because this is mine.’ It never was. I could never walk easily. (Morrissey, Melody Maker, September 1986)

my sister and I growing up, never really felt we were Mancunians. My Irishness was never something I hid or camouflaged. I grew up in a strong Irish community. Of course, early on I’d be teased about it, I was called `Paddy’ from an early age… this was back in the 1960s when it was a bitter and malevolent slur. But that’s how Manchester people are – they’re extremely critical of everything and everybody… I used to come back to Dublin… the people seemed happier and more carefree and Crumlin seemed so open – certainly more so than the confines of Hulme. We were quite happy to ghettoise ourselves as the Irish community in Manchester, the Irish stuck rigidly together. (Morrissey, Irish Times, 20 November 1999) https://www.irishtimes.com/news/paddy-english-man-part-1-1.252576

Obviously the Irish feel resentment towards England because England has historically been so appalling to Ireland. So it was somewhat confusing for me growing up… England has been a bully and is a bully. (Morrissey, Mojo, June 2004)

We had waved goodbye to Mary at Manchester Airport, a US emigree in her nineteenth year, and to never again be a Manchester lass. We all cry uncontrollably as Mary’s flight is called – a much loved branch hacked away. (Morrissey, Autobiography, 2013)

In Viva Hate every protagonist is dislocated in some way, and they’re all harried. Bengali in Platforms is consistent with the album, his lived experience of not fitting in, & Ireland’s vein of wistful, bittersweet, cautionary songs about the ‘curse of emigration’.

There’s a graveyard in Tir Conaill,where the blossoms sadly grow, There’s a sorrow stricken mother,kneeling o’re that lonely grave. My Noreen,oh my Noreen its lonesome since you’ve gone, Twas the shame of emigration,laid you low my Noreen Bawn. (Neil McBride, folk song, from Donegal, Ireland, 1910) https://www.irishcentral.com/culture/entertainment/songs-of-irish-emigration-exile

The NME said it was a “convoluted diatribe against assimilation” (22 August 1992) and reprinted Q’s assessment from March 1988 that: In Morrissey’s mind, (‘Bengali In Platforms’) may be a profound statement about personal alienation, but unfortunately it would go down very well at a singalong after a National Front picnic.

David Stubbs, thought all black and Asian people were interchangeable, and hit on the Irish stereotype of the Thick Paddy.

The appalling Bengali In Platforms, quintessentially Morrissey, Morrissey the Diana Ross hating Morrissey… dumb… embarrassing… a caring call to the sartorially inept Asian… appallingly patronising… deals with an outmoded stereotype… [should be about] the snappily-dressed Punjabi…. [Morrissey is] our last idiot. (David Stubbs, Melody Maker, 19 March 1988)

Along with temper, aggressiveness, deceit and a natural penchant for alcohol, one of the oldest and most enduring putative characteristics of the Irishman was his atavistic ignorance or, at best, his inveterate illogicality. The Irishman’s intellectual deficit, characterised by bulls, blunders and malapropisms, made him a lamentable figure of fun. (James McCabe, Presses universitaires François-Rabelais, 2008) https://books.openedition.org/pufr/5076

A consensus formed that Morrissey was telling immigrants to get out of the country.

the lyrics to Bengali In Platforms (“It’s hard enough when you belong here” – implication: you don’t) had long rubbed liberals up the wrong way, even though he was simpy addressing what he’d seen around him in multicultural Manchester. (Andrew Collins, his blog, 28 November 2007)

And that he was nostalgic for “an enclosed world that ends in roughly 1964, at some sort of point just before large-scale migration from the cotton districts of south Asia into the cotton districts of the North West of England” (Owen Hatherley, Verso, 31 March 2020).

In fact, South Asians arrived in the 1950s, and lived in the same immigrant slums as the Irish. And it was those immigrant slums that Morrissey was nostalgic for, never recovering from the trauma of the slum clearances, as communities were ripped apart by nice, well-meaning, middle-class people for their own good, and exiled into “ugly new houses”.

In a way it was like having one’s childhood wiped away. In Queen’s Square, my grandmother occupied the fourth house. We occupied the fifth house. And the sixth house was occupied by my mother’s sister and her family. So it was a very strong community and it was very tight. Very solid. And it was also quite happy. Well there’s nothing at Queen’s Square now… everything has just vanished. It’s just like the whole thing has been completely erased from the face of the earth. I feel great anger. I feel massive sadness. It’s like a complete loss of childhood. Because although I’ve always lived in Manchester, and I’ve always lived relatively close to here, to this part of Manchester, now… it’s just so foreign to me. And that’s quite sad, I think. (Morrissey, Oxford Road Show, BBC 2, 22 March 1985)

Morrissey’s lost England

In the Smiths his nostalgia was part of his oddity – because he was camp (the gay antiques dealer being a common stereotype) or because he was a nerd obsessively collecting pictures of old dead film stars, or a congenital idiot.

We afford [Morrissey] the sort of license that’s normally extended to children and idiots; sensing the presence of an innocence and simplicity that’s been civilised out of the rest of us. (Paul Du Noyer, NME, 16 February 1985)

The accusation that he’s nostalgic for a Green and Pleasant, white, Nationalist, Little England comes from the NME’s 1992 homophobic hit piece.

There is nothing wrong with celebrating England or Britain… but… once you start cavorting with the Union Jack, with all its ambiguities, and surrounding yourself with the paraphernalia and imagery of the skinhead cult, then that celebration has moved… into… dangerous territory. And that territory is not the green and pleasant land of Morrissey’s dreams... “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… (NME, 22 August 1992)

Morrissey advocates a cricket green England, an England where we tolerate immigration in small numbers, an England where it’s exotic to have a ‘brown’ neighbour… ‘Shelve your Western plans’ is a synonym for ‘England for the English’. It’s ‘go home P***’ in more poetic language with a prettier tune. (Martin Rossiter, the Quietus, 26 May 2017)

After that any reference to England in his work was heavily policed and maligned.

We are, this time round, spared any dubious songs about Bengalis who don’t belong here or visits to fascist discos. (“I didn’t invent the Union Jack” he sulked to a journalist recently, adding that he “didn’t understand the fascist implications of it”. Morrissey didn’t invent being an issue-fudging twat either.) There are no ballads. The twinkling insouciance of ‘Kill Uncle’ and the razor glam of ‘Your Arsenal’ are absent. Instead, Moz and the gang give RCA what they want, which is a loud mess to sell to America… In the end, there’s no reason why anyone who already owns a record made by Morrissey – or, more particularly, The Smiths – should even want to hear this record, let alone buy it. Its maker should call himself The Morrissey Formerly Known As Artiste. (David Quantick, NME, August 1995)

Certainly, the paper-thin caricature Englishness of much of Maladjusted is likely to go down much better with Americans, for whom the title-track’s mentions of the Fulham Road and “a Stevenage overspill” might yet retain a little declasse glamour. (Andy Gill, the Independent, August 1997)

In an era when every other UK artist was dripping in Union Jacks he was disparaged for writing a gay love song set in a part of London where he had lived.

Your leg came to rest against mine
Then you lounged with knees up and apart
And me and my heart, we knew
We just knew
For evermore
Where taxi drivers never stop talking
Under slate grey Victorian sky
Here you’ll find, my heart and I
And still we say come back
Come back to Camden
And I’ll be good, I’ll be good, I’ll be good, I’ll be good (Morrissey, lyrics Come Back to Camden, from the album You Are The Quarry, 2004)

The Smiths currently cast a longer shadow over British alt-rock than at any time since their 1987 split. You can hear their echoes in Franz Ferdinand and British Sea Power, while the Libertines appear to have been formed specifically to appeal to Morrissey: songs about a lost Albion and an on-stage penchant for gorblimey shirts-off male-bonding that frequently leaves them looking less like a rock band than something invented by Joe Orton… the lyrics seem trapped in the past: not the mythic pre-Beatles England that Morrissey’s songs usually evoke, but the less romantic environs of the mid-1990s… Irish Blood, English Heart makes a fuss about “standing by the flag not feeling shameful, racist or partial”, unaware that everyone else worked that one out around the time Geri Halliwell turned up at the Brits wearing a union flag miniskirt. Come Back to Camden offers a vision of Englishness so caricatured it would have caused the lowliest Britpopper to scoff: cockney cabbies, bad weather, tea. The urge to hit fast-forward before he mentions bowler hats, Yorkshire pudding or lovable chimney sweeps is quelled only by the song’s enrapturing melody. (Alex Petridis, the Guardian, May 2004)

A song about his clashing Irish-English identity had the Irish erased.

There’s a perfectly good anti-racist argument for allowing English ethnicity to speak its name, after all. The assumptions (expressed sotto voice, but unmistakably there) behind so much multi-culturalism weirdly duplicate those of imperialism: other people have ‘cultures’; we are normal. (Mark Fisher, K-Punk, July 2004) http://k-punk.org/slate-grey-victorian-sky/

This is the sort of ambiguous comment which seems to invite an assenting nod of the head but could easily have been uttered by Nigel Farage. Similarly, ‘Irish Blood, English Heart’, in which he sang, I’ve been dreaming of a time when/ To be English is not to be baneful /To be standing by the flag not feeling shameful/ Racist or partial/ Irish blood, English heart, this I’m made of /There is no one on earth I’m afraid of/ And I will die with both of my hands untied.” Ever since then, dog whistle by increasingly unsubtle dog whistle, living in splendid isolation from his home country and the consequences of his remarks, Morrissey has put himself beyond, and further beyond the pale. (David Stubbs, the Quietus, 4 July 2019)

Aptly the pale was a fence around English controlled areas of Ireland – beyond it was the savage Irish.

Morrissey was both cast out of & made to represent everything evil and wrong about England & the British Empire.

Morrissey is now, of course, almost a stateless person, although his seven years in Los Angeles don’t appear to have brought any great insight into either his new homeland or his old one. (Andy Gill, the Independent, 14 May 2004)

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… 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. (David Stubbs, the Quietus, 4 July 2019)

There followed the usual trawls through his cuttings file, where plenty of material awaited. From 1986: “To get on Top Of The Pops these days one has to be, by law, black.” Circa 1992: “I don’t really think … black people and white people will ever really get on or like each other.” And what about this peach, uttered three years ago? “The higher the influx into England, the more the British identity disappears.” As ugly as they seem – and to be more generous than he perhaps deserves – his views are not a matter of vicious, programmatic racism, but the same thinking that lies behind the more hard-bitten calls to Radio 4’s Any Answers: achingly conservative, terrified of difference, and in mourning for a lost country even the angriest white man might not actually like to live in...
Unlike plenty of other genres, its practitioners tend to pride themselves on an inclusive, liberal outlook, seen in an admirable campaign called Love Music Hate Racism (to which Morrissey made a donation in 2008, after the hoo-ha about his views on “British identity”). Indie’s home turf is urban bohemia, where diversity and difference are taken as read. But in his own gruesome way Morrissey embodies its contradictory collective id: a bundle of conservatism, parochialism and generic navel-gazing... In keeping with his catholic tastes, Albarn – a passionate fan of the music of west Africa – was performing alongside Bobby Womack, the rap trio De La Soul, and Snoop Dogg, but swarms of people soon departed the main arena in search of something more comforting. Presumably they were after some of the plodding, conservative fare that defines most of the rock aristocracy, and is an obligatory part of the outdoor ritual.
Morrissey, it’s fair to say, would have gone down a storm. (John Harris, the Guardian, Thu 9 Sep 2010)
https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2010/sep/09/morrissey-race-indie-back-yard

Morrissey is an extreme example of a common type [Fascista proudly racist Little-Englander… with] a nostalgia for misery, a longing for boredom… The ignorance. The pollution and the soot. The gay-bashing and the paki-bashing. The murders on the Moors… And who stands in the way of this self-aggrandisement through re-enactment? The Asians, especially the Muslims. The young. The left. The “woke”. And here, Morrissey is truly the voice of a generation. (Owen Hatherley, Verso, 31 March 2019)

And his work was stolen for the enrichment of the culture he was excluded from.

… you might have realised that our traditional national identity is crumbling around us. Any sense of imperialist superiority is disintegrating with every export barred or expat shipped home. Start a conversation with anyone with a Union Jack in their Twitter handle and you might be surprised at how little grace, discernment and gallantry ensues. Divided, exploited and at each other’s throats, we’ve so lost sight of who we are as a nation that we’re in danger of winning an international footballing semi-final on penalties. Which is why we should be protecting our prime cultural treasures at all costs. Exhibit one: The Smiths. Misery, isolation, melodic moaning, idolising American film stars and mainlining Coronation Street – could there be a more quintessentially British band? Yet over the years their legacy has been tainted by Morrissey’s support for far-right politics (among other pronouncements) and one of our greatest musical achievements has been at risk of being tipped into the ‘consequence culture’ canal. (Mark Beaumont, NME, April 2021) https://www.nme.com/features/opinion/the-smiths-morrissey-the-simpsons-2923272

Much of it driven by nostalgia. By branding Morrissey a racist they de-gay the Smiths, avoiding the discomfort of identifying with One Of Them, relegating him to an asexual ghost, rebounding on to the heterosexual axeman, replacing him with Brandon Flowers & Rick Astley.

The Smiths manifesto of vengeance on the world through disability, withdrawal and asexuality (it was impossible to imagine that Morrissey actually had a penis) was immensely attractive. (Simon Price, Melody Maker, 15 August 1992)

a lifetime of world-weary bitterness has soured the soul of Morrissey. This makes me sad, especially when one of his songs genuinely shook my self-centred 16-year-old self. In 1986 I was deeply affected by ‘I Know It’s Over’ from The Queen Is Dead and the lines “It’s so easy to laugh/ It’s so easy to hate/ It takes guts to be gentle and kind.” It would appear that, for Stephen Morrissey, hate will always be very much alive. (John Freeman, the Quietus, 13 March 2013)

… 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, 3 October 2017)

Morrissey embodied a more sensitive form of masculinity for the young me – but was I just kidding myself?… The Smiths are okay, as they predate their singer’s consistent insensitivity, but solo Morrissey isn’t. (Jordan Bassett, NME, 7 August 2019)

yeah that’s the thing. ‘reggae is vile,’ panic, bengali…it was always right there. (J Edgar Noothgrush, ilxor, 24 January 2022)

SoLow: Disease, Violence, Dairy

After the NME’s 2007 rehash of the 1992 homophobic hit piece, the press drive to defame him became acute, with a never ending series of scandals hyped up from sundry words, phrases, incidents & accidents. Ignoring his obvious ill health & the strong medication he said he was prescribed, some commentators decided he was an erratic, lying, crank.

[I] had a very bad time, I had internal bleeding and was rushed into hospital, and I lost a lot of blood and they tried to patch me together, over the following five weeks, but it didn’t quite work, and I was on a lot of IV drips for almost five weeks, and each time it seemed as though I was back to robust health I would decline. So this is what happened, I’m afraid with the festival this week I saw the doctors and they said, “no no no no, you cannot” because I had lost so much blood and I had became anemic, but I’m still receiving ongoing treatment and I’m very optimistic now. (Morrissey, Mexico City Reactor Radio, 19 March 2013) http://www.cristinarocks.com/2013/03/morrissey-mexico-city-interview.html?m=1

Flailing from controversy to controversy, Morrissey has the air of someone determined to generate headlines, regardless of the long-term impact on his reputation. (Ed Power, Irish Times, 29 July 2011) https://www.independent.ie/entertainment/music/is-morrissey-a-genius-or-a-crank-26756315.html

In 2014 a trio of scandals had their strongest impact on fansite, Morrissey Solo – nicknamed SoLow by Morrissey in 2003 when they posted a rumour that he hadn’t paid his tour crew.

There’s a hateful online creche called Morrissey SoLow, which cured me of canvassing opinions many years ago. (Morrissey, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, January 2013)

In June Morrissey had to cancel some gigs because of a cold that he thought he’d caught from support act Kirsteen Young. Kirsteen countered that she’d had a 16-hour allergy attack and not a cold.

https://www.theguardian.com/music/2014/jun/11/morrissey-cancels-us-tour-blaming-support-kristeen-young-cold

In July, Bradley Steyn, claimed that he was hired as Morrissey’s bodyguard and then was immediately fired for not agreeing to kill David Tseng, owner of Morrissey Solo.

https://www.rollingstone.com/music/music-news/morrissey-denies-former-bodyguards-violent-allegations-183129/

In December a rider for a gig in Croatia led to a long-running saga involving cheese wheels.

2006 and 2015 saw leaked email scandals.

In 2016 there was a palaver over Supreme t-shirts. Morrissey modelled for them but didn’t like the way he looked, didn’t like looking at himself all over town, thought it was linked to a meat company, and couldn’t use a photo he preferred because his nephew put it on Instagram.

https://www.gq.com/story/supreme-morrissey-tee-statement-spring-summer-2016-collection

And in 2017 he was upset by an armed Italian police officer who stopped him for driving the wrong way.

Cancelled, Money, Dead Bowie

Despite Morrissey being open about his anxiety and depression (and, since 2009, health battles that include ulcers, fevers, and cancer scares), people are angry that he sometimes cancels a show.

With some artists, interviews are easy. You book a time, turn up, switch on the tape recorder, and they give you the same old sales pitch that they’ve just doled out to a hundred other reporters. With Morrissey, it doesn’t work that way… Every so often, we’d bump into one another, but the interview that I’d been promised was like some sort of mirage… Meanwhile, a string of magazine and TV journalists were left angry and empty-handed as all their appointments were canceled… Morrissey can drive people nuts: He just doesn’t play the media and business game. (David Thomas, Spin, November 1992)

… it’s not surprising considering the number of hospitals I’ve been rushed into in the last 18 months. It all seems to have hit me at once, which I expect is just the way it goes. Acute fever, a bleeding ulcer, food poisoning, Barrretts Oesophagus… it’s hardly believable. The worst was in June in Boston when I was hospitalised with acute fever. I was delirious for six hours… talking absolute nonsense and unable to stop. I’ve never been so frightened in my life. Then of course you get bitchy comments for having to cancel shows. The hospital actually gave me a heroin-based medication to calm me down. But, so what? I’ve been in so many hospitals lately that there’s hardly any point in me leaving. (Morrissey, Hot Press, 20 August 2014)

It was one of the reasons that journalists chose to smear him as a racist after he was attacked by a homophobic crowd at Finsbury Park in 1992.

… disquiet had set in. He’d pulled out of Glastonbury, after his fans had bought their 49 quid tickets, and he pulled out of the second day of Madstock (another 20 quid down the pan). (Andrew Collins, his blog, 27 November 2007)

It was a bout of depression that led to him leaving a 1995 tour with David Bowie.

Although reportedly hospitalised for depression only a week ago in England, he was well up for the show… Morrissey certainly has his share of detractors. Many accuse him of whining, of being frivolous, or being a prima donna. These things may be true, but then again there’s no one quite like him. (Wayne Karrfalt, Japan Times, 16 December 1995)

Depression is such a misunderstood condition that its impact on his career & earning capacity gets ignored, and his ability to play smaller gigs shortly afterwards was deemed questionable.

In 1995, Morrissey agreed to open up for his hero on the European leg of Bowie’s Outside tour, but after getting a poor reception from crowds and critics, quit early on, citing an “illness”that didn’t stop him from touring Japan on his own a couple weeks later. (Steve Pafford, his blog, 4 July 2020)

The time for Morrissey to cash in on his association with David Bowie would have been the immediate aftermath of Bowie’s death when every man and his dog did a tribute show/book/blog/tweet/song/album/artwork… Morrissey, who has never joined in with anything getting blanket coverage, got flack for not saying anything…

Famously, during the notorious celebrity holocaust of 2016, Morrissey was filmed at the Manchester Arena at his only concert of the year not-so-subtly snubbing Bowie from the stage to the grave. Prior to ending the homecoming show with a run through of Oboe Concerto (a recent track off his World Peace Is None of Your Business album memorable mainly for its key line “All the best ones are dead”), the contrary one paused to reflect on the “year of the reaper,” name-checking several public figures who had passed that year, because he wanted “to remember” Victoria Wood, Caroline Aherne, Muhammad Ali, and Prince, with the singer claiming they left the world “too soon, too soon, too soon.” However, when it became evident the malignant Mozfather was refusing to pay tribute a fallen artist who, just a few miles away back in the day, just happened to be one of his biggest idols in the ’70s, a few fans responded with jeers. In an audience filmed video seemingly removed from cyberspace, as one dude shouted, “Bowie? another notices the slight and jumps in with a “You cunt!” directed at the curmudgeon. (Steve Pafford, his blog, 4 July 2020)

Then got accused of only caring about money when he released a duet with David, Cosmic Dancer, four years later.

“MORRISSEY LOVES DAVID” apparently. Well, he does if there’s money to be made and more eyebrows to be raised. Oh, and there’s nowt as queer as folk, obviously. (Steve Pafford, his blog, 4 July 2020) https://www.stevepafford.com/mozbowie/

David Bowie, Morrissey

Plays the Victim: Monster, Troll, Autistic, Nutter

From the beginning of Morrissey’s career he talked about his mental health issues and his problems with social interaction.

It is difficult to describe how really insular I was… I was entirely on my own… I found life unbearable at times… the fear and anguish… I seemed to be more depressed than anyone else. (Morrissey, Blitz, April 1988)

Before he was famous he was excluded and othered, after he was famous it continued.

One of the lads said, “you ought to hear the voice!” It was a very girlish, effeminate voice and his mannerisms were very effeminate – Noel Devaney on Morrissey’s first school day. (Johnny Rogan, the Smiths, Omnibus Press, 1994)

“Morrissey,” remembers Paul Morley, “was always laughed at in Manchester when we were kids. He was the village idiot. That’s the ironic thing – now he’s the poet of a generation. But in those days he was ‘that-one-in-the-corner, Steve the Nutter’.” (Jessica Berens, Spin, September, 1986)

[to Morrissey] I remember who and what you used to be. You were like the village idiot, the odd one out, the backward boy. (Paul Morley Blitz, April 1988)

When he was violently attacked by homophobes at Finsbury Park in 1992, the music press blamed him for it, labelling him a racist by twisting his words out of context, guilt by association, and falsely claiming that touching the Union Jack was fascist. It then became acceptable to gaslight him, monster him & be ableist.

https://folk-devil.com/2021/09/05/sexually-ambiguous/

To be a national treasure you have to be likable. Is Morrissey likable any more? I’m almost loth to say that he isn’t, because to do so would be to play into the persecution complex he has been nurturing for the best part of his solo career. Even when he makes pronouncements that, broadly speaking, I agree with, there’s something about the way he makes them that makes me recoil“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… (Peter Paphides, The Guardian, March, 2012)

The King of the Trolls title is hard to win. Between professional Russian tweeters and amateur armies of online haters doing battle with everything from CNN to Starbucks, there is no shortage of competition. But even in this crowded field, Morrissey shines like a true champion. (Jed Gottlieb, Boston Herald, 7 December 2017) 

Ultimately, you can’t help feeling that not only did Morrissey need Johnny Marr to achieve greatness, but the guitarist was also a restraining and civilising influence on his songwriting partner. (Mark Phillips, Medium, November 2019)

Morrissey isn’t senile, he’s always been a racist. (Mangal Media/Freedom Magazine, August 2019).

We interviewed Bid from The Monochrome Set whose view was that the creative part of Morrissey’s brain operated separately from the part that was prone to “spouting rubbish”. One of Svenja’s friends has been diagnosed with a mild form of Asperger Syndrome, a disorder characterised by difficulties with social interaction and repetitive behaviour. Her friend is adamant that they recognise aspects of their condition in his behaviour… Morrissey may well be socially awkward, like many creative people. But he’s not stupid. He has walked a thin line courting controversy and the uglier aspects of human sentiment. He knows exactly what he’s done and he’s made a very good living from it. His problem is that he has lost a lot of income and audience, and I’m sure he won’t enjoy being categorised under “racist cunt”. (Phil Ross, Louder Than War, March 19, 2020)

I feel that as a black man liking music made mainly by white people it means I will have to wince every now and then at lyrics… not to mention whatever Morrissey says… ever. (Gabriel Ebulue, the Quietus, 13 November 2019)

Then there’s their Irishness and the punk moment. Shane was immensely inspired by John Lydon. The Irish thing cannot be overlooked, as they were crucial to English pop music. John Lennon, Billy Fury, if we can still mention his name, Morrissey. There’s a great deal of Irish presence in English music. What’s different about MacGowan is that he made a real point of being Irish. (Julian Temple, Flood Magazine, December 2020)

Side Note: everyone else in rock gets forgiven.

Bryan Ferry, David Bowie, Joy Division, Lemmy, Banshees… bit of Nazi trouble. https://www.theguardian.com/music/2007/apr/16/news.joydivision

Eric Clapton had a bizarre racist period. https://www.irishtimes.com/culture/film/eric-clapton-opens-up-even-on-his-bizarre-racist-period-1.3327327

Elvis Costello was drunk… After 2AM he described James Brown as a “jive-arsed n——” and Ray Charles as a “blind, ignorant n——.” https://ultimateclassicrock.com/elvis-costello-racist-remarks/

The Cure’s killing an Arab is literature. https://www.robertchristgau.com/xg/music/censor-87.php

John Lydon racially assaulting a black singer, supporting Trump, Farage & Brexit, & hating left-wingers, is complex. https://theoutline.com/post/1315/johnny-rotten-would-hate-john-lydon

Worn Nazi imagery? Stabbed your girlfriend? Fragile and damaged. https://www.theguardian.com/music/2009/jan/18/sid-vicious-death-icon

It was right-wing to object to Marilyn Manson… ‘I have fantasies every day about smashing her skull in with a sledgehammer.’ (Spin, 2009) … nobody even batted an eyelash at these overt admissions of violence.… (Glamour, March 2018) https://www.glamour.com/story/why-is-nobody-talking-about-marilyn-mansons-fantasy-of-killing-evan-rachel-wood

Mark E Smith was ‘far too complex or intelligent to be a mere ogre‘. https://www.theguardian.com/music/2018/jan/24/mark-e-smith-the-fall

“From the opening, combative ‘The Classical’ the album seethes with rancour (the opening line “Where are the obligatory n—–s? Hey there, fuck face!” although not racist in the context of the song, is unpleasant to say the least and, unsurprisingly, cost them a record deal with Motown)”... the first thing that I failed to do when writing about ‘The Classical’ was to put the song in a solid contemporary context. Smith was far from the only musician dropping the n-word in this period and this usage exists right at the periphery of a much more well established continuum. (John Doran, the Quietus, 13 November 2019) https://thequietus.com/articles/27427-hex-enduction-hour-the-classical-the-fall-racist

… I’m fit and working again
And I feel like Alan Minter
I just ate eight sheets of blotting paper
And I chucked out the Alka Seltzer… (Fit and Working Again, The Fall, 1987)

Johnny Rogan

In Morrissey & Marr: the Severed Alliance (Omnibus Press, London, 1992) author Johnny Rogan paraphrased & commented on a 10 page letter written by Morrissey on the 5th of August 1977 when Morrissey was 18 years old.

Even when seriously denouncing racial prejudice, he was wont to admit that he disliked Pakistanis. “I don’t hate Pakistanis, but I dislike them immensely”, he wrote in one letter of the time. It was a flippantly blunt adolescent observation. The basis of his aversion (they give off odorous aroma) was crudely stereotypical and completely out of step with his general philosophy. Then again he may simply have been indulging himself in an ironic joke, expressed in his characteristically haughty tone.

The letter has never been published, so we only have Rogan’s version to go on. Racists in the 1970s were highly unlikely to use Pakistani over the four letter offensive short form & it’s structured as a joke.

Morrissey in the 70s

It was only highlighted because of the “race row” in 1986 – when Frank Owen’s framing of Black pop as everything dumb & dancey went unchallenged while Morrissey was condemned for remarks about reggae & mid 1980s American soul.

In August 1992 the NME used it as part of their “evidence” that Morrissey was racist. A student protest, under a Union Jack on the outside of EMI’s offices, cited it as their biggest reason that Morrissey had a “case to answer”. To the NME. In an interview.

EMI, September 1992

The NME also used Morrissey’s sarcastic joke about Rogan to suggest he was no longer “gentle & kind” & his career had taken a wrong turn.

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. Rogan’s book, which Morrissey was asked, but declined, to co-operate with (as Johnny Marr already had), is a well researched if slightly worthy account of the greatest British group of the ’80s. There seemed precious little in it for Morrissey to get upset about; indeed, members of his family have written to Rogan congratulating him on the book. Yet in an NME news story, 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. Asked in a more recent interview if he’d really meant that, he said no, what he really meant was that he hoped the journalist would meet his end in a hotel fire! 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)

Rogan either felt he couldn’t disagree with the NME (then the most powerful music publication in the UK) or he was influenced by the coverage, because in a letter to them he claimed he knew Morrissey was in trouble the moment he saw the Union Jack.

The moment Morrissey unfurled that Union Jack I knew he was in trouble. I assumed that the ‘Is Morrissey A Racist?’ debate was a discredited old chestnut, but now it’s back, bigger than ever… It’s the other trappings that I find irksome – particularly the Union Jack. Perhaps he regards the flag as a suitable prop to emphasise the sentiments of ‘Glamorous Glue’, but he well knows its other connotations. (Johnny Rogan, NME letters page, 29 August 1992)

Morrissey held the flag for less than 2 minutes, he scrunched it up & threw it away. There is absolutely no way a British Nationalist would interpret an effeminate Irish Catholic chucking away a Union Jack as a sign of support.

The people who threw missiles at him were calling him a “poof”. They started before he thrashed the flag about & they kept going long after. They weren’t interested in the flag at all.

Not to mention that any negative “connotations” were confined to squabbles on the hard left. To the vast majority of British people, it was just the flag.

Every year, including 1992, it was on prime time UK television at the Last Night of the Proms.

The Last Night of the Proms, BBC 1, 7.30pm Saturday 12th September 1992

It was on bunting, and party hats & respectable people wore it while raising money for charity.

The Mansfield Ladies Circle, 1991, concert to raise money for the Kings Mill Hospital Welcome Appeal

It was at every Royal Event…

Wedding of Charles & Di, 29th July 1981

It was on souvenirs.

1981

It was on record covers.

Single, April, 1992

It did not need to be reclaimed.

Right-Wing Conspiracy Site

Morrissey’s website, Morrissey Central, went live on the 28th March 2018.

It’s run by his nephew, Sam Esty Rayner, a photographer.

SER in the orange dungarees

Aside from the occasional interview with Morrissey or a statement with Morrissey’s name & the date, most of the content is taken from social media.

By this point Morrissey had already been completely dehumanised as a racist Pariah, and Central was scrabbling around for support, not surprisingly finding it on the right with the Spectator, the Post Millennial, the National Review & alt-right YouTubers.

Someone more pr savvy would have avoided right-wing sources, but it’s a fair bet a site with James Baldwin on the landing page and a list of animal charities they’d like you to support, isn’t trying to further white supremacy.

As no one was making fair bets, it was chum in the water for 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.

Way of the World is a neo-Nazi account.

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, May 2019)

On the 3rd of June 2019 Central posted a link to a response to the Guardian article by Fiona Dodwell that 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?

On the 28th June 2019, rapper Stormzy, headlined at Glastonbury wearing a Union Jack vest. 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).

Morgoth’s circle had already been trying to link themselves to Morrissey online.

And Central is known to post things that have been recommended to them.

from a post on fan site Morrissey Solo

On the 30th of June 2019 Central posted the video without comment under the headline 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 is too locked in his own world to give the far right reach, so it must have delighted them that Billy Bragg took up their cause. Taking their ideology – which Morrissey has never espoused – to as wide an audience as possible as he sought to have Morrissey and his art entirely erased from public life.

Morgoth’s circle getting into the Twitter pile-ons to scoop up views

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.

2nd image: Twitter, 22 October 2021

Central has stayed a source of controversy, mainly because of the determination to interpret everything Morrissey says as racist, and SER’s interest in anti-vaxx.

… Morrissey’s official website, which is increasingly reading like the work of a conspiracy-driven right-wing nutjob. (Ryan Leas, Stereogum, 16th November 2020)

The alt to far right has mostly given up on Morrissey. Sometimes a post or trending topic raises their hopes but it passes.

Con-Vid

On the 5th July 2021 Sam Esty Rayner published another interview with his Uncle on Morrissey Central.

https://www.morrisseycentral.com/messagesfrommorrissey/turning-the-inside-out

Morrissey talked about his emotional breakdown after the death of his mother and his life-long depression.

He also mentioned a murder committed by an Albanian, knife crime (often associated with black teenagers in the press) and the Manchester bomb.

But he didn’t use a startling enough phrase so scandal-mongers had to make do with Con-Vid & slavery.

SAM:
We now live in Covid Society which is gleefully inflicted on the British public – or should I say the poorer elements of British society, so why do you think the public take it lying down?
M:
Because they are quite used to the political scene being dominated by someone whom they can’t stand. The bigger problem is that nobody can any longer agree with anyone else, and this is the main outcome of Con-vid. It has brought the worst out in people, and we weren’t ever in this together. We are deprived of seeing and hearing other people, and above all, you want to be with others who see and hear what you see and hear, because this is basic oxygen for the human soul. Take it away and people are dead.
SAM:
Covid Society is also the precise description of slavery, yet we are supposed to be in a time when anything connected to slavery must be blown up or thrown in a canal in Bristol.
M:
Precisely. And more people are now forced into poverty which is another form of slavery, as is tax and Council Tax and all the other ways in which we are pinned down and tracked. Our present freedom is restricted to visiting supermarkets and buying sofas. The government act like Chinese emperors… “We will allow you to live as we do if you behave yourself.”
SAM:
Will there be a revolution?
M:
No, because the tanks would be turned against the people immediately. The police are already trained to believe that every answer you give them is a lie. This is all nothing to do with me. It’s just the way it is.

SAM:
Nine: will the UK ever be out of Lockdown?
M:
It isn’t really in Lockdown except for people at the lower end of the social ladder. People who have wealth are not remotely affected by rules and regulations. Their lives are as they always were. The police only fine people who live on council estates. Haven’t you noticed?

Sam had been posting a variety of anti-vaxx memes and videos on Central, but Morrissey himself had said nothing about masks or vaccines, hadn’t called it a scam and hadn’t demanded that restrictions be lifted.

His observation that the rich didn’t comply with the UK’s restrictions is true.

https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-politics-59577129

On a side note – Morrissey loves puns, so had referred to Covid as Kung Flu. And had also felt vindicated by widespread criticism of China’s inhumane wet markets. (He’s never quite grasped that he was accused of genocidal hatred when he figuratively used “subspecies” & seems convinced people thought he had falsely accused China of animal cruelty.) But surprisingly it was Paul McCartney who copped the Sinophobia scandal.

During this fascinating period of Big Brother conformism … otherwise known as Kung Flu, a lot of people have adopted Everyday Is Like Sunday as the summing-up of our times. (Morrissey, 25 April, in the year 2525 – in reality 2020)

… until the United Nations (who?), and the EU and the WHO announce STOP EATING ANIMALS – which they never will! $£$£$£$£ ker-ching! ker-ching! – the earth and its humans have only one word to say to each other: Joigin! Dovidenja! Sbohem! Farvel! Tot ziens! Nagemist! Na Kemiin! Au revoir! Auf wiedersehen! Ya sou! L’hitraot! Namaste! Viszlat! Vertu saell! Sampai jumpa! Slan! Arrivederci! Sayonara! Annyeong! Ha det bra! Zegnaj! Adeus!
La revedere! Adjo! Gorusuruz! Do pobachennia! Hwyl fawr! (Morrissey, Morrissey Central, April 2020)

I offer loud applause to Paul McCartney and Brian May, both of whom I love and respect greatly, for calling for a complete ban on China’s so-called ‘wet-markets’ … which is just a gentle name for hell on earth. There is enough footage of China’s ‘wet-markets’ on You Tube to enlighten you and sicken you at the same time. As with the British abattoir, such places are an evil torment that have no excuse in a civilized world. But is this world civilized? If I, on the other hand, made a comment on China’s ‘wet-markets’ the British press would set fire to my mother’s hair. (Morrissey, Morrissey Central, April 2020)

Chinese outlets have wasted no opportunity throughout the year to highlight the United States – and to some extent the UK’s – poor handling of the virus, and how these have exacerbated divisions. This has happened to such an extent that it has become popular for Chinese netizens to call Covid-19 the “America virus” or “Trump virus”.

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-china-55355401

A messy argument with a Johnny Marr fan on Twitter over Johnny calling Morrissey, ‘Dorrissey’, resulted in an accusation of anti-Asian propaganda because of a work by Brazilian artist, Rodrigo Pires, reposted from Instagram. So it could yet make headlines.

There is not plenty more. It’s this.

Diversity

On the 16th November 2020 Morrissey Central announced that Morrissey had been “dumped” by BMG. The post, probably written by Sam Esty Rayner, mentioned a new executive & his diversity plans.

BMG have appointed a new Executive who does not want another Morrissey
album. Instead, the new BMG Executive has announced new plans for ‘diversity’ within BMG’s artist roster, and
all projected BMG Morrissey releases/reissues have been scrapped.

https://www.morrisseycentral.com/messagesfrommorrissey/bmg-dump-morrissey

This was interpreted as Morrissey blaming Diversity.

Morrissey clarified that he meant that BMG wasn’t being diverse. To tumbleweed.

When the new BMG Executive says he now wants a label of ‘diversity’, what he
actually means is he wants all of his artists to be exactly the same. Make no mistake, the word ‘diversity’ is already trailing in the dust as an overused catchword that in fact means tighter restrictions and a fierce
exclusion of individuality. I have been dumped by BMG because I am TOO diverse for them. They cannot cope with an
artist such as Morrissey … who is, in fact, the very essence of diversity … whose lyrical concerns are multiple, different,
and who has been writing about all of our human differences since 1982. So, please don’t be fooled into thinking the word ‘diversity’ means varied and open; it has been warped to mean exactly the opposite. With these absolutely incomprehensibly senseless new guidelines, I’ll be surprised if BMG still exists in 18 months time. Or, if they do, they’ll be a label that no true artist would want to sign to. Perhaps this is what BMG prefers – a roster of artists who are so diverse that you’ll never be able to distinguish one from the other?”
(Morrissey, Morrissey Central, November 2020)

https://www.morrisseycentral.com/messagesfrommorrissey/the-rigid-rules-and-restrict

In fact Morrissey & his band tick all of the identity diversity boxes – he’s LGBTQ+, his mental health issues are a disability, he’s from an Irish Catholic immigrant community that faced discrimination in the UK & his band includes people of colour.

He Does The Devil’s Work

He dabbles in black magic:

I try a bit of black magic, put curses on people, I make effigies. Its a very common practice – everyone does it. Really. There’s certain people who cross my path in a very vindictive way. I make them from an old washing up liquid tub and a bit of wool. I don’t stick pins through them, I’ve got another method…..I rub them violently.(Morrissey, 1988 Smash Hits yearbook)

Suddenly Morrissey was off, galloping into a monologue which became increasingly weird as it went on. He said he’d ‘never come face to face with human evil’ until he encountered the judge, John Weeks. He uses the name John Weeks like an incantation or a curse. (Lynn Barber, the Guardian, September 2002)

https://www.theguardian.com/music/2002/sep/15/artsfeatures.popandrock

Irish cursing is best understood as an art, because it required knowledge, practice, wit, skill and composure. Intimidating, cathartic and virtuoso: cursing mingled gruesome yet poetic phrases with ostentatious rites, in the name of supernatural justice. It had many applications but was particularly valuable to Ireland’s marginalized people, fighting over food, religion, politics, land and family loyaltieshttps://academic.oup.com/past/article/247/1/113/5721469

His work foreshadowed the death of Princess Diana: https://dianamystery.com/

He was born under a bad sign: http://la-fontaine-de-mots.over-blog.com/2014/11/the-misfortune-of-being-born-under-a-saturn-opposition-morrissey.html

He is satanic: Hell’s Bells: The Dangers of Rock and Roll, 1989: “Smiths: combine Satanic imagery “with an intelligence and poetic passion rarely found” in heavy metal” https://pitchfork.com/features/article/6216-for-whom-hells-bells-toll/