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.
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.
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”.
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.
In April 2019 Morrissey was interviewed by his nephew, Sam Esty Rayner, who runs Morrissey Central.
The interview was posted on June 24th 2019.
In April Morrissey was still loyal to gay Irish vegan, Anne Marie Waters, who had set up For Britain. An oddity in UK politics she had started on the left as a secular feminist and moved to the right to oppose legal religious exemptions.
Sam asked Morrissey why he supported her and followed up with:
sam: The obvious press assessment is that she is racist, but I haven’t heard her say anything racist.
M: Neither have I. But if you call someone racist in modern Britain you are telling them that you have run out of words. You are shutting the debate down and running off. The word is meaningless now. Everyone ultimately prefers their own race … does this make everyone racist? The people who reduce every conversation down to a matter of race could be said to be the most traditionally ‘racist’ because everything in life is NOT exclusively a question of race, so why make it so? Diversity can’t possibly be a strength if everyone has ideas that will never correspond. If borders are such terrible things then why did they ever exist in the first place? Borders bring order. I can’t see how opposing Halal slaughter makes me racist when I’ve objected to ALL forms of animal slaughter all of my life.
Later Morrissey said:
The Independent reported how people are walking out of my concerts … which was a lie. It’s all very KKK, isn’t it? … share our views or we’ll smash your face in… My political stance is simple: I oppose barbarism … from the left from the right, or from the centre.
What Morrissey was saying is that each group might prefer their own ways but to get on with each other there are some things we have to agree on. These debates are being shut down by accusations of racism. And the people who shut down the debates are racist because they make everything about race.
He then mentions two things he’s been labelled a racist for – border chaos and halal slaughter.
This certainly indicates a difficult problem, whereby people are more troubled by the idea of being accused of racism than they are of being racist. It’s the absolute definition of racism to allow your responses to people to be governed wholly by their ethnicity… Closely linked to this story is that of “multiculturalism”, whereby all sorts of unsavoury activities have been allowed to flourish unchallenged in immigrant communities, because we all had to respect each other’s differences. My own perception was that the dangers of multiculturalism had been fully acknowledged back when it became plain that radical Islam was finding enthusiastic adherents in Britain, which we know it still is. I’m minded to imagine that these men considered themselves to be fighting their own little jihads; their war not to establish a caliphate but influenced by their idea that decadent westerners, even children, were getting what was coming to them. Multiculturalism’s most miserable miscalculation was that respect would always be mutual. (Deborah Orr, the Guardian, August 2014)
In fact, though, everyone – of whatever colour – is racist. As part of a TV documentary I’ve been working on, I’ve seen how our brains have a tendency to automatically associate our own race with good and other races with bad, whoever we are. (Mona Chalabi, the Guardian, Mon 5 Oct 2015)
And Implicit bias theory is part of Diversity training.
despite our best intentions and without our awareness, racial stereotypes and assumptions creep into our minds and affect our actions… That’s why implicit racial bias has been called “the new diversity paradigm — one that recognizes the role that bias plays in the day-to-day functioning of all human beings.” (Jenée Desmond-Harris, Vox, August 2016)
But despite that social media and the press ripped out Prefers Own Race and there was a vast amount of comment condemning him for preferring his own race – i.e. claiming he said he prefers white people.
They also failed to notice the discrepancy in the dates.
Morrissey had already dropped For Britain and tried to explain that he wasn’t against multiculturalism following the intense backlash against wearing a badge on Jimmy Fallon’s Tonight Show.
for every shade and persuasion … we shall always be alongside each other – everyone’s culture of value; no more fashionable outrage; cows are friends to humans – don’t kill them; beware of those who write in headlines; moral fiber means holding on … to your friends; (Morrissey, 24th May 2019)
He would try again shortly after Own Racegate:
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, 30th June 2019)
But it made no difference. To date (April 2022) he is still referred to as far right, racist, a For Britain supporter, a Pariah, Persona Non Grata and Public Enemy Number One.
In 1986 Frank Owen accused the Smiths song, Panic, of being an attack on black music.
“Pop has never been this divided,” wrote Simon Reynolds in his much-lauded, recent piece on the indie scene, referring to the chasm that now exists between indie-pop and black pop. The detestation that your average indie fan feels for black music can be gauged by the countless letters they write to the music press whenever a black act is featured on the front page. It’s a bit like the late Sixties all over again with a burgeoning Head culture insisting that theirs’ is the “real” radical music, an intelligent and subversive music that provides an alternative to the crude showbiz values of black pop. Morrissey has further widened this divide with the recent single, Panic – where “Metal Guru” meets the most explicit denunciation yet of black pop. “Hang the DJ” urges Morrissey. (Frank Owen, Melody Maker, September 1986)
Owen had a theory that “white” music was intelligent and “black” music was physical.
[Black music:] What it says can’t necessarily be verbalised easily. It doesn’t seek to change the world like rock music by speaking grand truths about politics, sex and the human condition. It works at a much more subtle level – at the level of the body and the shared abandon of the dancefloor. It won’t change the world, but it’s been said it may well change the way you walk through the world. (Frank Owen, Melody Maker, September 1986)
But the general assumption was that Owen meant the lines “burn down the disco” and “hang the DJ” were literally about burning down a nightclub playing disco music and hanging a black DJ.
In reality it was inspired by the juxtaposition of cheery pop and a news report about the Chernobyl nuclear disaster on BBC Radio 1.
A disco was any gathering where recorded music was played. Discos were regularly held in schools, village halls, universities and nightclubs all over the UK. Radio 1 had a live road show every Summer and their DJs played at live events throughout the year.
Miner’s Gala, Cannock Chase, 2nd June 1983:
When The Smiths came on it was quite obvious that there was going to be a bit of trouble. There had been numerous speeches by various mining union officials and Labour Party politicians, plus a rousing speech by Colin Welland which more than fired up the passions of the mainly male, largely drunk, audience. The Smiths were on stage for a couple of numbers before the verbal abuse started, most of it homophobic and directed at Morrissey. It was no surprise that the bottles and glasses started flying soon after and the band called it a night. (Nick Knibb, Passions Just Like Mine, http://www.passionsjustlikemine.com/live/smiths-g830602.htm )
But even if Disco meant the genre, Disco in the 1980s was primarily associated with its most ardent fanbase, gay men.
Between 1983 & 1985 born-again Christian Donna Summer caused intense outrage with an alleged series of homophobic remarks, including that AIDS is God’s judgement on homosexuals. Fans & some nightclubs boycotted her, the gay press condemned her, and Bronski Beat came under fire for covering I Feel Love.
Or just a play on Disco Inferno? (Burn baby burn) burn that mother down, (Burn baby burn) disco inferno, (Burn baby burn) burn that mother down.
Some journalists had their suspicions, but few seemed to twig that Frank Owen’s assertion was absurd.
The holier-than-thou aspect of Morrissey’s public profile has naturally enough tempted numerous journalists to try and bring him down, though none have met with any great success. Some have unsuccessfully tried to brand him as a racist, picking up on his ‘burn down the disco’ sentiments on black music… The other line has been to probe for a story on the man’s sexuality, taking their cue from the camp artwork on Smiths record sleeves and from lyrics like ‘I’m the eighteenth descendant of some old queen or another’. Perhaps the most “creative” of these investigations involved putting Morrissey together with his friend Pete Burns and “documenting” the outcome. (Stuart Bailie, Record Mirror, February 1987)
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)
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 loyalties – https://academic.oup.com/past/article/247/1/113/5721469
Between 1963 and their arrest in 1965, Manchester serial killers, Ian Brady and Myra Hindley, kidnapped and murdered at least five children – Pauline Reade, John Kilbride, Keith Bennett, Lesley Ann Downey and Edward Evans – and buried them on Saddleworth Moor.
In 1984 the Smiths released Suffer Little Children, a song about the murders, as a b-side to Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now, creating outrage in the press, which was defused by Morrissey meeting the mothers of the victims to reassure them that he wasn’t mocking or glorifying their deaths.
Some of the reports in newspapers in Portsmouth and Hartlepool – all the places that really count – some of the reports were so full of hate, it was like I was one of the Moors Murderers, that I’d gone out and murdered these children. Some of them were so full of hate that one just had to do something, but not read them. It was incredible.” (Morrissey, Melody Maker, March 1985 )
An interesting thing to note is the level of tone policing that Morrissey is subject to. There is huge anxiety about whether he’s ironic or sincere. His peer group can write ghoulish songs about crime – he has to be sincere. Any pop star can enthusiastically hold a Union Jack – he has to be ironic.
The Smiths would appear to be degenerating into an effete, mincing version of The Pretenders on this evidence, and I reckon M should take another tip from Chrissie and do the decent thing by Sandie soon. Anything to at least partially halt the collapse of the band into the annoying, silly, blubbering, infantile mess on display tonight… The common-or-garden Smiths – lots of flim-flam, lots of skullduggery, no great shakes. (Adrian Maddox, Melody Maker, May, 1984)
On the 5th September 1983 the Sun ran a story with the headline, “Ban Child Porn Song Plea To Beeb” that accused Morrissey of writing songs that were pro paedophila.
The NME hyped the drama, but was on his side.
Following allegations made by overweight Tory MP Geoffrey Dickens (described by Private Eye as the “Lothario of the dancant”) that ‘Handsome Devil’ was a song explicitly about child-molesting, Mancunian four-piece The Smiths were reportedly under scrutiny by the BBC. However, the claim, reported in The Sun by Nick Ferrari, turns out to be totally unfounded. Asked to comment, Scott Piering at Rough Trade said that he viewed the allegations “seriously”: “Morrissey made it clear that none of the songs were about child-molesting, and Ferrari accepted this, and then he went and wrote it anyway.” Added Morrissey, “this piece makes me out to be a proud child-molester and I don’t even like children. ‘Handsome Devil’ is entirely directed towards adults”… (NME, September 10th, 1983)
Sounds wanted him banned.
Singer Sandie Shaw worried that he’d harm her baby.
‘Morrissey would die to meet you’. At that point I was unaware of Morrissey’s penchant for melodrama and that Geoff was talking literally… The following day a hysterical story broke in ‘The Sun’ saying that the Smiths were releasing songs based on iffy subject matter: ‘Reel around the Fountain’ was supposed to be about child molesting or something, and another, ‘Suffer little children’, to be about the Moors Murders. I rang Geoff to cancel. ‘I can’t have a pervert in my home with my kids’… ‘Look, I’ll come with him to chaperone’… I uncancelled the appointment… I scrutinized Morrissey. He didn’t look like a child molester to me. Amie seemed to feel otherwise, and again I began to question my wisdom in meeting him. All my worst nightmares vied with the sweet angelic vision seated before me. As soon as he managed to mobilize his mouth and speak, all my fears subsided. He was the perfect gentleman… (Sandie Shaw, The World At My Feet, HarperCollins, 9 May 1991)
The BBC removed Reel Around the Fountain from a show.
However fatuous and fantastic The Sun article was, it did succeed in its dirtying The Smiths name (for reasons unknown). It also ensured that the session, which wasn’t being “investigated,” was censored and that a six minute version of “Reel Around The Fountain” was removed. According to Mike Hawkes, the producer for David Jensen’s show, the specially commissioned track was removed purely as a precautionary measure. (David Dorrell, NME, September 24th 1983)
The scandal burned out, but left a lingering sense that there was something sinister and sick lurking in Morrissey’s lyrics.
This was a era when gay or “sexually ambiguous” men were considered a threat to children. The gay age of consent was 21. And legislation was introduced to stop homosexuality being mentioned in schools.
It was also an era when underage girls were sexualised. Glamour model Sam Fox posed nude while still at school. The Police had a number one hit with a song about a male teacher having an affair with a female student. Bill Wyman of the Rolling Stones dated 13 year old “wild child” Mandy Smith.
I wanted to write a song about sexuality in the classroom… I’d done teaching practice at secondary schools and been through the business of having 15-year-old girls fancying me – and me really fancying them! How I kept my hands off them I don’t know. (Sting, L’Historia Bandido, 1981)
The prejudice resurfaced when a contingent and provisional conversation with Der Spiegel was reported as a robust defense of sex offenders.
Which stirred old stereotypes.
And slid unquestioned into the idea that parents had to protect their children from his music.
Some people are at pains to point out that Morrissey is a foreign racist, unentitled to opinions about Britain. He’s got Irish immigrant parents and he’s a ‘tax exile’.
For a long time now Morrissey has lived in self-imposed exile: hiding out in LA sneering at Britian for being a “dead” country; refusing to talk to the press because they dared to level criticism at him in the past; isolated from anything like musical progress and excised from the hearts of many, horrified by the messy “flirtation” with racist imagery. (Victoria Segal, NME, November 1999)
Culture is something that is ever evolving. There is no single ‘British culture’ that needs to be preserved. Whether or not Morrissey’s comments were taken out of context, or misquoted, I don’t know. However, if he did say what he was quoted as saying, he needs to be aware of how that will be interpreted. Apparently the Sun has come out in support of his comments, with a diatribe about immigrants coming over here, taking our jobs etc etc. It is also interesting that a tax exile who lives in Italy should feel qualified to comment on British culture. (Mark, Macclesfield, comment on BBC Radio 6 News website, November 2007)
“Forty-eight-year-old tax exile millionaire slams immigration” doesn’t make for much of a headline. Nor does “66-year-old millionairess businesswoman votes Conservative”. But if the millionaire is a pop star (Morrissey) and the millionairess a fashion designer (Vivienne Westwood) somehow these things are meant to be shocking. Actually, what Morrissey told the New Musical Express wasn’t at all shocking. The singer, who now lives in Rome, said he thought taxes had been raised too high under the guise of saving the planet, that politicians don’t listen to voters and that Britain has changed its identity enormously since his youth. He added that he had nothing against people from other countries; just that a country changes when it lets in lots of those people. (Henry Mount, the Telegraph, November 2007)
He has also weighed into the Brexit debate on numerous  occasions, despite not having lived in the UK for some time. (Simon Binns, Manchester Evening News, June 2018)
In 1995 he moved to Los Angeles. In 2005, talking to GQ, he agreed to the proposition that he had been “hounded out of England by the press”… this is the sort of nonsense that can take hold in a person increasingly insulated from contradiction… 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, July 2019)
Freudian choice of metaphor – the pale was a fence to keep the unacceptable Irish away from English settlers.
As always – Morrissey is bad no matter which way you cut it – so his attitude to tax is reactionary even without the exile:
This isn’t the first time Morrissey, who briefly worked for the Inland Revenue, has had a pop at the taxman. There’s always been a slightly reactionary, tabloid strain to his thinking… and he’s repeatedly attacked the whole apparatus of the apparently incompetent state: policemen, judges, and specifically the tax office on The World is Full of Crashing Bores. In doing so, Moz is following in a long line of “right on” rock stars who can’t understand the point of giving your money to a politician (hey, what would they know?) in the name of wealth distribution and social cohesion. (Tony Naylor, the Guardian, November 2007)
On a side note: Morrissey mentioned Brexit once, after the referendum, which he didn’t vote in. He then mentioned it twice in response to the negative reaction from the first. Despite this he’s routinely described as a “vocal supporter” and it’s been given as a reason why the Smiths (which Morrissey has no interest in reforming) will never reform – because Marr is the good Smith and Morrissey is filth.
2017 saw the release of an unofficial Morrissey biopic, England Is Mine.
Morrissey’s family disliked it.
The Guardian used it to emphasise that England does not belong to queer 2nd generation immigrants from colonised countries, because –
He’s a serial killer:
The darker side to his personality is uneasily acknowledged by showing a book in his teenage room about the Moors murderers. His mate Anji (a nice performance from Katherine Pearce) picks this book up and asks Steven if he can imagine them “like that”. In the next moment she makes it clear she means imagine being the victims not the murderers, though it’s a microsecond of ambiguity that I think brings us closer to Morrissey’s troubled soul than anything else. (Peter Bradshaw, the Guardian, August 2017)
His depression is self-pity and he should be slapped:
Leaving aside the issues of dramatising a period in which the central character took to his bed for six weeks for an extended self-pitying mope-fest, this film is crippled by the lack of Smiths music. Without Johnny Marr’s melodic guitar to defang Morrissey’s acerbic observations on life, we are left with a vitriolic stream of consciousness, poured down from a self-appointed position of intellectual superiority. Jack Lowden does his best with a thankless role, but there is very little here to disabuse the growing belief that what the young Steven Patrick Morrissey most needs is a slap. (Wendy Ide, the Guardian, August 2017)
It’s uniquely his fault that white males continue to dominate an industry they already dominated:
The widespread realisation that there is a problem – that not seeing yourself reflected in the culture is an actively damaging thing – is a ridiculously recent one, and increasingly hard to ignore… By definition, this argument could apply to the majority of music giants – but there’s something specific about Morrissey’s legacy that makes taking the time to honour him feel wilfully blinkered. Guitar music has never been particularly diverse, but in the early 80s the Smiths kickstarted a genre that would help ensure the white male would be lording it over the industry for decades to come (Rachel Aroesti, the Guardian, August 2017)
And he “increasingly” had views unacceptable to “progressives” who literally think a violent homophobic hate crime is less important than “belong here” in a lyric and an Irish Catholic touching a Union Jack:
Some of Morrissey’s solo work was similarly powerful, but his reputation wobbled in 1992 when his use of the Union flag during a concert drew attention to contentious lyrics in songs like The National Front Disco and Bengali in Platforms. Morrissey insisted the songs had been misinterpreted (“One can plainly hear that here is no hate at all”), but for Dunt, discussing Bengali in Platforms with his Indian girlfriend some years later, it was the last straw. “As I said the line, ‘Life is hard enough when you belong here,’ I felt so ashamed and embarrassed,” he says. “There’s a point where you have to say: fuck this.” (Dorian Lynskey, the Guardian, August 2017)
The idea that Morrissey is the evil Smith comes from the NME. Frustrated at the lack of Morrissey interviews & news in the wake of the Smiths split they fabricated a homophobic story smearing him as a racist after he was violently attacked at a gig.
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. (NME, August 1992)
And had been trying to launch Marr as the real Smiths star via standard rock mythology – guitars! cars! got the the girl! – supposedly reversing a situation in which Marr had been cast as the devil and Morrissey the saint by highlighting Marr’s manly virtue and Morrissey’s effeminate vice.
Before we start, one more thing needs making crystal clear; Johnny Marr is a Very Happy Man. And why not? At 27 years of age (27? Shocking, isn’t it?) he has it all sorted. A career on the very brink of new pinnacles; a blessed marriage to Angie; a collection of guitars vast enough to satisfy even as voracious an axe-freak as he; a car too big for most of the streets of his native Manchester; a studio/refuge in the depths of his home. Did I say ‘happy’? This, people, is the proverbial pig in shit… Best of all though, is Johnny Marr’s healthy relationship with his past. He has refused to let it haunt or hinder him. Nor is he cramped, like some, by an undue reverence for Morrissey. Indeed he (like all the Factory Mafia) now refers to his former soulmate as ‘Dorissey’ and has re-christened the limpid lad’s last 45 (Our Frank) as ‘Alf Wank’. (Danny Kelly, NME, April 1991)
But the vice-virtue polar opposites idea gains most of its momentum and malice after the NME rehashed their homophobic article in 2007, adding a smear that Morrissey is anti-immigrant while scolding him for being an immigrant.
Morrissey launched legal action, winning a case against Word magazine who had used the NME’s smears in a review in 2008, and winning against the NME in 2012.
The digs at Morrissey’s sexuality have stayed consistent.
For a band routinely dismissed as effete, the Smiths were always a surprisingly muscular rock’n’roll entity, whose musical heft created the liberty for the gladioli-thrashing freak at the front to carry on camping. Like the Rolling Stones with Quentin Crisp as lead singer. That dichotomy, however, comes with certain problems. There’s always been a laddish cult surrounding Johnny Marr. At school, it was the Dire Straits boys who couldn’t stand “that poof Morrissey” but grudgingly appreciated Marr’s guitars. Tonight, as he tours his solo album The Messenger, it’s the Huxleyan Epsilons who wear Pretty Green, grope your girlfriend, then get belligerent when you dare to confront them, and tell you that you belong at a different gig. (Simon Price, the Independent, March 2013)
It’s the lie that he’s racist and right-wing that’s crystallized, with Marr now the left-wing saviour of the Smiths, the only vaguely acceptable part of Morrissey’s perverted career.
In his 2013 review Price is misleading – though it’s hard to know if they believe it or not – Morrissey has never ‘implied Bengalis don’t belong here’, did not ‘complain there were too many blacks on Top of the Pops’ and has never ‘backed UKIP’.
None of this, of course, is Johnny Marr’s fault. Furthermore, Johnny Marr has never implied that Bengalis don’t “belong here”, complained that there are too many blacks on Top of the Pops, or backed Ukip, so, as ex-Smiths go, he’s still on the side of the angels… We’ve all seen what’s become of Morrissey, deprived of Marr. (Simon Price, the Independent, March 2013)
The Irish Times ascribes it to Morrissey’s indecent mouth in general.
Slowly and far more diligently, however, Marr has come to represent the polar opposite of Morrissey – less relentless barbed and tired wit, more common decency. (Tony Clayton-Lea, the Irish Times, Novovember 2016)
Price was also briefing other journalists against him – which came to light when Morrissey thought gay vegan, Anne Marie Waters, who set up For Britain, was being smeared as a racist in the way he was smeared as a racist for his sexuality.
The “outright party political broadcasts for actual fascists” is this:
I despise racism. I despise fascism. I would do anything for my Muslim friends and I knowthey would do anything for me… do not be influencedby the tyrannies of the MSM who will tell youthat 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)
There’s acres of examples of Morrissey’s words and motivations being hyped, twisted, conflated, the repetition of misleading selective quotes, and guilt by association.
For instance, he has never mentioned or supported burqa bans, forced deportations, benefit cuts or anything except animal rights, ending violence, and equality before the law; ‘bulldog breed…” is singled out to pretend he’s a British nationalist.
All of it culminating in Smiths fans needing Marr’s permission get past Morrissey’s taint.
Q – Morrissey’s recent political views have cast a shadow over the Smiths for me – reaching back into the past and tainting something that was very important to me. I’m so disappointed in him. Has it impacted how you feel about the Smiths or are you able to separate the past from the present, the band from the man? I find it very difficult to do so. Johnny Spence, Northern Ireland A – It hasn’t impacted how I feel about the Smiths. That’s all I can say about that. I’m certainly able to separate the past from the present. I don’t know whether you can separate the band from the man, but I can separate myself from the man and what I did, so when I do see how disappointed people are, it really does make me sad… I don’t have any answers. And I don’t want to have any answers. Q – I was at Glastonbury in 2019 when you played There Is a Light That Never Goes Out at the end of your set. Without wanting to sound too gushy and obsessive, men and women in their 40s and 50s were openly crying, I guess because it felt like you were giving us permission to love these songs again. What is going through your head when you perform these songs? Do you feel any sadness or regret, or do you feel that you are claiming them fresh, as yours? Lindsay Wright, London A – I’ve been asked about claiming the Smiths songs quite a lot before and I’m not doing that… I don’t think I need to claim anything, because I wrote them. (Johnny Marr, Q & A, the Observer, February 2022)
On a side note: there’s an infinite list of things heterosexual male rock stars can say/write and get a generous interpretation, while Morrissey – an Irish Catholic 2nd generation immigrant – can’t even put the word ‘belong’ in a narrative song about fitting in.
Disturbingly, Now He’s a Poof gloried in juvenile homophobia: “Aids and herpes, he’s got ’em / The evidence is written all over his bottom.” It was more than outrageous enough to get them condemned in the court of liberal opinion, yet listen closely and the Macc Lads were always a subversive parody of such unreconstructed macho bigotry. (Ian Gittins, the Guardian, June 2015)
Get stuffed you arse bandit. One of me best mates, He come from Macc, And we used to go out pulling crack, Now we know it were just a farce, ’cause he’s got spunk dribbling out of his arse. He’s got scabs from stalking other men, We’re never going to talk to him again, He’s gone all nesh and he’s making us sick, We wouldn’t give him cheese off us dicks. Now he’s a poof, we can’t handle it. Now he’s a poof, he does spermy shits. Now he’s a poof, he leaves white stains wherever he sits. He’s gone to pot and he’s shaved his head, He’s got some black bloke sleeping in his bed, AIDS and herpes, he’s got ’em, The evidence is written all over his bottom. Now he’s never in the pub, now he’s no fun, He’s got sores and scabs all over his bum. We’ll have to pin him down on the deck And pour some Boddies down his fucking neck. Alright? ’cause he’s a poof, he drinks lemonade, Now he’s a poof, and he’s full of AIDS, Now he’s a poof, and he likes his buttocks splayed…. Now he’s a poof, he’s a fuckin’ slob, Now he’s a poof, he’s got a shitty nob, Now he’s a poof, he’s got spunk all over his gob…. Now he’s a poof, he’s a fucking queer, Now he’s a poof, he’s got gonarhea Now he’s a poof, he can’t hold his fucking beer. Now he’s a poof, he’s an arse bandit, Now he’s a poof, he does spermy shits, Now he’s a poof, and he doesn’t like to feel girl’s tits. Now he’s a poof, we can’t handle it, Now he’s a poof, he leaves white stains wherever he sits, He’s a poof, he’s a fucking queer arse bandit, He’s a fucking poof, he drinks lemonade, For Christ’s sake he’s a poof, he likes his buttocks splayed, He’s a poof, he’s fucking going to spread AIDS all over the world, Kill the bastard….