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.
Neil Gaiman took the opportunity to suck up to the television industry as if he’d be thrilled by an episode that condemned him for potentially murdering the people of Skye because he was too dim to read the Covid rules:
Not that they would target Neil with anything that would hurt or exclude him, because whatever his personal issues, he does marketing, networking, online engagement, works with a vast number of people & might be able to shaft your career. Things Morrissey can’t do, due to shyness, anxiety, depression, dysmorphia, and/or clear-eyed horror at its fakeness.
The show probably took its character arc from a hit piece in The LA Times, based on hit pieces in the British press. There’s an accumulating list of misquotes and misinterpretations and every article will pick at least three, along with UNCLEAN, UNCLEAN labels like xenophobe, racist, far right, right-wing, British nationalist, British nativist, controversial, reactionary, toxic, anti-immigrant, hard to love, dead to me, or HE WHO MUST NOT BE NAMED.
Nearly everything about him gets edited out & the rest is conflated, hyped & chanted.
For a start, he is an immigrant, not to the USA, but to England:
… 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. I mean, there I was, born, braised and bred in Manchester but I was still always called `Paddy’. And 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. (Morrissey, November 1999, Irish Times)
His current band, that no one ever talks about because they’re too busy pining for the all-white one, has immigrants:
I remember seeing you in a Chivas USA shirt. You have a strong association with Mexico. How do you think their people are treated in America? Oh, like kings! No, sorry, that was a joke. My guitarist Jesse, who’s been with me for 10 years, is Mexican. One night in Los Angeles the police approached us, spoke reasonably civilly to me, and then said to him “which restaurant do you work at?” I think that sums it up! One of the greatest guitarists of the modern age, but because his skin is brown it’s assumed he washes dishes for a living. He will one day, of course… (Morrissey, August 2014, Hot Press)
He’s mentioned immigration in general only a few times in his career, and he’s never attacked people, or demanded that immigration be lowered, stopped or reversed. What he frets about is the tensions inherent in identity. Who we are, why we are, can we kick against it, can we get along? Always on the side of the less powerful, although in his eagerness to attack government policy, he can forget the social norm of expressing pity for its victims while doing absolutely nothing genuinely helpful. He laments that culture is becoming generic esp in music. And he rails against tyranny and injustice; we need structure to make our lives function, but it can also oppress and brutalise us:
The infantile panic with which American immigration officials shout loudly and humiliate gleefully is designed to exert strength, yet it trumpets cowardice and it fouls notions of patriotism… The US government proudly boasted Zero Tolerance and implemented the scheme with zero intelligence. (Morrissey, 2013, Autobiography)
But his overwhelming concern is the meat industry:
The fact that the slaughterhouse or abattoir exists is the most obvious example of human evil. The slaughterhouse is the dead end for humanity, and as long as it exists we can’t possibly have any hope for the human race. If you’ve seen abattoir footage then you cannot possibly think that humans are anything other than evil pests…
He has always felt his opposition to the meat industry is opposed by power:
… If your views threaten any form of establishment interests, you are usually ignored or silenced or said to be ‘ranting, I have never ranted in my life. (Morrissey, June 2015, The Huffington Post)
And he clearly believed fringe crank, Anne Marie Waters, founder of For Britain, when she said she was being smeared as a racist and a fascist because she was talking about sensitive issues to do with veganism, secularism, animal rights, feminism, and gay rights. And that somehow she would stop the violence and polarization that was driving politics in the 2010s as social media funneled us into warring silos:
I despise racism.I despise fascism. I would do anything for my Muslim friends, and I know they would do anything for me. (Morrissey, April 2018, Central)
Yes, he could have been more savvy, she is entirely a product of polarisation, but she’s essentially an unelectable YouTuber. At the time of writing (April 2021) he last mentioned her two years ago in April 2019, and he first and last wore the badge of her ‘party’ (which he apparently didn’t join or vote for) in May 2019.
The timing of the show was cynical.
The Simpsons had been called out for using racial stereotypes and discriminatory casting.
And for some grotesque reason a high profile television show decided to improve its image by taking pains – stars, songs, extras – to punch down at a low profile Indie singer. Which would have made a better plot.
To cap it The Sunday Times editorial, 25th April 2021, made it clear we hate it when our stars don’t give exclusive interviews: