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 July 2011 Morrissey was playing a gig in Warsaw and introduced Meat Is Murder by saying:
“Despite the love, we do live on a murderous planet, as you will have seen over the last few days in Norway, murder, murder, murder. Really every single day worse things happen in Kentucky Fried Chicken & McDonald’s, murder, murder, murder, murder, murder, murder.”
Animal liberationists believe that animal and human life are equal.
He wasn’t saying that the murders in Norway are less important – he was saying that we’re not seeing that animals are slaughtered in great numbers everyday as he was about to show a gruesome film of animals dying in extreme pain and fear.
He’s consistently linked his suicidal depression to a documentary on abattoirs that he saw when he was a child.
“When I was young I saw a documentary accidentally about the abattoir and I fell into an almost lifelong depression. I couldn’t believe I lived in a society that allowed this.” (Morrissey, The Times, November 2017)
He’s hyper-aware of the treatment of animals and is an avid PETA supporter.
Very few people are animal liberationists but to misrepresent his philosophical position & ignore his mental health to create a drama that would hurt the parents of murder victims is pretty poor even by the standards of the news industry.
The Daily Mirror broke the ‘story’ paraphrasing it to make it sound worse – also misquoting it as Kentucky Fried Shit, connecting shit, as well as (in most people’s view) lower life-forms, to murdered children.
There was a storm on social media, other papers picked up the clickbait.
“The comment I made on stage at Warsaw could be further explained this way: Millions of beings are routinely murdered every single day in order to fund profits for McDonalds and KFCruelty, but because these murders are protected by laws, we are asked to feel indifferent about the killings, and to not even question them. If you quite rightly feel horrified at the Norway killings, then it surely naturally follows that you feel horror at the murder of ANY innocent being. You cannot ignore animal suffering simply because animals ‘are not us.” (True To You, July 2011)
It made no difference.
When he was booked to play The Nobel Peace Prize Concert in Norway, in December 2013, there was an unsuccessful campaign to have him cancelled.
HP: Do you write when you’re happy/sad/drunk/sober or a combination of all four? Morrissey: I don’t say this for affect, but I’m never not sad… which is lovely grammar, I know… HP: How did appearing alongside the likes of Jake Bugg, Mary J. Blige, James Blunt and Claire Danes at the Nobel Peace Prize Concert rate in terms of surreal gigs? Morrissey: I didn’t know it would be so stately and ceremonious. They were very courteous, but the local mayor fought to have me taken off the bill because he didn’t like my views on mass-murderers. There’s always something, I suppose.” (Morrissey, Hot Press, August 2014)
On a Side Note: A Guardian ‘comedy’ article crassly ignored his history of mental illness & lumped it in with some comments he made about the suicide of a nurse who gave confidential information about The Duchess of Cambridge to Australian radio DJs in order to associate him with racist terrorism.
“a man who could once rightly claim to be a genius reduced to being rock music’s answer to an internet troll, flaming away then whining on about free speech and how there’s a vast conspiracy against him when anyone picks him up on it. It points to the way he brilliantly put the 2011 Norway terrorist attacks into perspective as “nothing compared to what happens in McDonald’s every day” – a rightwing Islamophobe extremist murdering 77 people because he hated multiculturalism being entirely analogous to eating a sweet chilli crispy chicken wrap – and asks: does that even remotely resemble the kind of thing a moron would write in the comments section of a website?”
It was The Guardian turning into the internet troll. Using a massacre in a wisecrack aimed at a ‘moron’ Indie singer is less edifying than mentioning it before a song against cruelty.
It’s esp. unedifying when there’s always been an indication that Morrissey’s melancholy is linked to the media. Becoming obsessive about things that are given a huge amount of coverage, like the Royals. On The Queen Is Dead:
“I didn’t want to attack the Monarchy in any beer monster way. But I find as time goes by this happiness we had slowly slips away and is replaced by something that is wholly grey and wholly saddening. The very idea of the Monarchy and the Queen of England is being reinforced and made to seem more useful than it is…But I do feel in an absolute way I’ve been sleepwalking for 26 years. On the bleak moments when I come to consciousness I was reading The New Statesman. You see I never did all those trivial pursuits. I did read all those music magazines.” (NME, June, 1986)
And his remarks about the Dutchess were not a conspiracy theory… it was just gossip that had been flying around combined with his belief that the Royals use PR to stay popular – which is true.
“It wasn’t because of two DJs in Australia that this woman took her own life, it was the pressure around her… [Kate Middleton] she was in the hospital, as far as I could see, for absolutely no reason… she’s saying nothing about the death of this poor woman. The arrogance of the British royals is absolutely staggering.” (December, 2012)
He also resents that the Royals are born or marry into publicity while he feels art is neglected – after an awkward interview with Dermot O’Leary on Radio 2, 30 April 2011, he said:
I’m sorry I made the Detergent O Leary radio interview so difficult but I was in a foul mood, having spent a full week surrounded by the royal dreading. England may very well be a Windsor dictatorship, but – PR Weddings aside, it is usually quite bearable. If my Front Row (Radio 4) interview sounded chopped and cropped, that’s because it was. I had spoken fluently about the royal dreading, but an Iranian censorship confiscated all of my views. It is distressing, but in all manner of British media in 2011 we are only allowed to hear the same old thoughts and feelings expressed over and over and over again. During the week of the royal dreading, Poly Styrene died. Having made an enormous contribution to British art and sound – at a desperate time when so many of us needed her, Poly Styrene’s death was all but ignored by the British television news media, who instead rained hours and hours of blubbering praise onto Kate Middleton – a woman about whom nothing is known on a personal level. The message is clear: What you achieve in life means nothing compared to what you are born into. Is this Syria?? To top off all the pageantry, ‘Very best of Morrissey’ (EMI/Major Minor) has yet to tunnel its way into what we older types refer to as Record Shops – six days after intended release. The gallant HMV has yet to stock it, and did not manage to stock the ‘Glamorous glue’ single until four days after its scheduled release. In fact, the CD of ‘Glamorous glue’ did not EVER make it to HMV. With ‘Very best of’ I face my first ever non-chart placing – which I shall bear with dignity, although I could never be unkind enough to express my views on EMI’s failings. It was John Lennon who coined the phrase ‘Every Mistake Imaginable’. I shall not repeat it here. I am delighted that the June dates sold out so quickly. Beware, we are looking at four more: Copenhagen, Aarhus, Helsingborg and Stockholm. The follow-up to ‘Years of refusal’ is ready and fluttering wildly against the bars. There is still no record label and the years shuffle like cards. My talents do not lie in DIY. I shall be in Perth – older, but no wiser. (Morrissey, True to You, 30 April 2011)
Morrissey has yet to comment directly, but his website carried an article saying: “Maybe Rick Astley will perform well in the upcoming shows… but make no mistake, no other artist can bring to the table what Morrissey can.” The irony being that what Morrissey “brings to the table” these days – support for far right politicians amid accusations of Islamophobia and racism – is exactly what makes him such a problematic hero now. He might have been guilty of wearing a dodgy trench coat in the 1980s, but unlike Morrissey, Astley has never suggested that “everyone prefers their own race”, claimed “the Chinese people are a subspecies”, or argued that the world “would be a more interesting place had Prince Charles been shot”. (Sarfraz Manzoor, the Times, 30 September 2021)
Songs about being a social outcast, written by a social outcast, stolen by a dominant mainstream that revels in his marginalisation.
Morrissey isn’t increasingly problematic. He’s been demonized. Held to a standard no one “normal” would have been held to. Had motives assigned to him that he doesn’t have. His words & actions twisted & spun into a narrative that has at its core a homophobic lie. https://folk-devil.com/tag/nicky-crane/
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.
I can still be surprised by bigotry, inaccuracy and smearing in the press – it’s stunning that in 2022, Dan Cairns, in the Sunday Times, can use Morrissey’s sexuality and martial status to negatively contrast him to married heterosexual, Johnny Marr.
While Marr has built a reputation as a modest and fundamentally decent man, still married to his childhood sweetheart, Angie, with whom he has two children, and still living in the Manchester area, his former bandmate has steadily dismantled his own reputation. Morrissey in 2022 cuts a sorry figure: a cantankerous, Los Angeles-based king across the water, and a self-described “humasexual”, his increasingly truculent and often borderline racist comments and postings have quashed, surely for ever, any hopes of a Smiths reunion. (Dan Cairns, the Sunday Times, February 2022)
They also deliberately lied that he was aligned with the far right – it’s been 3 years, there’s no justification for guilt by association on this scale.
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, April 2018
.. she [AMW] wants everyone in the UK to live under the same law. I find this compelling, now, because it’s very obvious that Labour or the Tories do not believe in free speech… I mean, look at the shocking treatment of Tommy Robinson… (Morrissey, June 2018)
for every shade and persuasion … we shall alwaysbe alongside each other – everyone’s culture of value;no more fashionable outrage; cows are friends tohumans – don’t kill them… (Morrissey, Central, May 2019)
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, Central, June 2019)
Even the basic facts are wrong. He hasn’t lived in LA for years. Or been celibate since the 1980s – when the press didn’t believe him anyway.
It’s also cruel and sick to relentlessly accuse Morrissey of “diatribes” and being “cantankerous”. He occasionally posts on his nephew’s website. He plays gigs. And he’s been seen in Manchester pubs. He hasn’t spoken to the press since 2017. And he has struggled with shyness and mental health issues his entire adult life.
Not to mention that Marr’s moral perfection has nothing to do with the Smiths getting back together. Morrissey has never wanted a reunion.
Side Note – the untrue racism allegations stem from a homophobic hit piece in the NME in 1992, after Morrissey was violently attacked by homophobes at a gig & they accused him of inciting it because of his sexuality.
Here is Marr playing beneath the NME’s idea of racist imagery – although perhaps the Union Jack needs to be held by a “poofy bastard” to be described as racist?
The men’s men in the crowd offer the opinion that Morrissey is a “poofy bastard” and elevate many a middle finger. (Select, October 1992. Review of the Finsbury Park gig that saw Morrissey branded as a racist by the NME for holding a Union Jack).
On the 25th of January 2022, Morrissey Central published an Open Letter from Morrissey to Johnny Marr requesting him to stop talking about him.
This is not a rant or an hysterical bombast. It is a polite and calmly measured request: Would you please stop mentioning my name in your interviews? Would you please, instead, discuss your own career, your own unstoppable solo achievements and your own music? If you can, would you please just leave me out of it? The fact is: you don’t know me. You know nothing of my life, my intentions, my thoughts, my feelings. Yet you talk as if you were my personal psychiatrist with consistent and uninterrupted access to my instincts. We haven’t known each other for 35 years – which is many lifetimes ago. When we met you and I were not successful. We both helped each other become whatever it is we are today. Can you not just leave it at that? Must you persistently, year after year, decade after decade, blame me for everything … from the 2007 Solomon Islands tsunami to the dribble on your grandma’s chin ? You found me inspirational enough to make music with me for 6 years. If I was, as you claim, such an eyesore monster, where exactly did this leave you? Kidnapped? Mute? Chained? Abducted by cross-eyed extraterrestrials? It was YOU who played guitar on ‘Golden Lights’ – not me. Yes, we all know that the British press will print anything you say about me as long as it’s cruel and savage. But you’ve done all that. Move on. It’s as if you can’t uncross your own legs without mentioning me. Our period together was many lifetimes ago, and a lot of blood has streamed under the bridge since then. There comes a time when you must take responsibility for your own actions and your own career, with which I wish you good health to enjoy. Just stop using my name as click-bait. I have not ever attacked your solo work or your solo life, and I have openly applauded your genius during the days of ‘Louder than bombs’ and ‘Strangeways, here we come’, yet you have positioned yourself ever ready as rent-a-quote whenever the press require an ugly slant on something I half-said during the last glacial period as the Colorado River began to carve out the Grand Canyon. Please stop. It is 2022, not 1982.https://www.morrisseycentral.com/messagesfrommorrissey/open-letter-to-johnny-marr
Marr replied on Twitter linking Morrissey to Donald Trump to reinforce the myth that Morrissey is right-wing.
Morrissey was against Trump.
But guilt by association doesn’t need you to actually associate – so there was a pile-on. Marr underlined it by changing his profile picture to his Simpsons character. Morrissey’s character had been depicted as a fat, gay, meat-eating racist.
With no stand out word or phrase in the letter to demonise him with, it was denouced wholesale as bitchy, moany, odious (Rock’s Back Pages emailed their subscribers the NME’s homophobic hit piece from 22 August 1992 to remind them that Morrissey is a racist) & untruthful – with journalists insisting that Marr has to be cajoled into talking about Morrissey as if Morrissey should know that esp as Marr is cajoled nearly every time.
It’s not quite clear what Johnny Marr said recently to piss off Morrissey, but it resulted in an extremely bitchy “open letter” from the former Smiths singer to his one-time guitarist and songwriting partner. (Rolling Stone, January 2022)
And they added in a selection of old scandals from words taken out of context and negatively editorialised.
The Guardian chose Hitler, Brexit, Rape Apologist, Immigration, Merseyrail, and For Britain. The Independent chose For Britain, Hitler, Own Race and Khan’s Accent. Consequence went for Con-Vid and For Britain.
Morrissey last mentioned For Britain – a party he didn’t vote for, join, or give money to – in May 2019.
Side Note 1: The NME kept it general with ‘controversial‘ Morrissey & ‘legendary‘ Marr. Which is the what they’d wanted since the Smiths split.
I must admit, pestered Marr. A relentless mixture of journo and fan… the true story of The Smiths has become a prisoner of Morrissey’s whimsical memory and busy tongue, and, worse, the loaded imaginings of hacks… Marr has steeled himself and agreed to do a once-and-for-all, no-holds-barred interview about the band that, more than any other, illuminated ’80sBritpop. He has chosen his moment with care. The imminent release of Electronic’s second single (‘Get The Message’); and the album that’ll quickly follow, will place Marr at the creative crux of his second great band.It will confirm him as one of the most gifted and influential musicians of the last decade. Maybe the most. 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. But 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) https://mycuttings.blogspot.com/2021/03/1991-04-20-johnny-marr-nme.html
Side Note2: if Morrissey mimicked a Black artist it would have been a scandal:
This is nervy, routine business-avoidance. We’re here to talk Smiths. Start at the start. “I was born a poor black chile …” he grins, in one last attempt at stalling. (Danny Kelly, Johnny Marr, NME, April 1991)
Side Note 3: more evidence that straight male rock stars can say anything.
The Guardian defends Neil Young’s right-wing homophobic phase:
Politically-speaking, its hard to exorcise the ghost of his 1980s pronouncements, when he swung hard-right behind the Reagan presidency and lashed out at gays (“you go to the supermarket and you see a faggot behind the fucking cash register, you don’t want him to handle your potatoes”) and welfare spongers. “Stop being supported by the government and get out and work,” Neil advised. “You have to make the weak stand up on one leg, or half a leg, whatever they’ve got.” Set against all this, however, is some of the finest music of the last 30 years; a body of work that’s at once earthy yet haunting. Marshalling the case for the defence I would direct the jury, in particular, to listen to Everybody Knows This is Nowhere, After the Goldrush, the wonderfully sepulchral Tonight’s the Night, choice portions of Harvest, Zuma and Rust Never Sleeps, and the whole of On the Beach (recently reissued and every bit as good as I remember it) (Xan Brooks, the Guardian, September 2003) https://www.theguardian.com/music/2003/sep/17/popandrock.neilyoung
And fabricates Morrissey into a right-winger because of a couple of out of context quotes. Morrissey had expressed support for left-winger Bernie Sanders in June 2016 and left-winger Jeremy Corbyn in September 2015 and had released a political manifesto that was all about animal welfare in March 2016 when he considered running for London mayor on behalf of the left-wing Animal Welfare Party.
Did he and Morrissey have similar politics? “Yeah, we did back then.” And now? “I wouldn’t expect so. Probably not.” In recent years, Morrissey has made headlines for suggesting that immigration is compromising British identity; he sued the NME (successfully) for defamation, releasing a statement that “racism has no place in our society”. In a 2010 interview with this magazine, he described the Chinese as a “subspecies” when it came to their treatment of animals. Marr prefers to talk about the days when Morrissey reserved his bile for Margaret Thatcher. (Simon Hattenstone, the Guardian, October 2016) https://amp.theguardian.com/music/2016/oct/29/johnny-marr-the-smiths-morrissey-simon-hattenstone
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’.
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 toBengali 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)
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 [Fascist… a 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)
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
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.