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)

Panic

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.

https://www.radiox.co.uk/artists/the-smiths/smiths-panic-chernobyl-distaster-inspiration-meaning/

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.

The Smiths on the same bill as a Disco, in 1983

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 )
 

Radio 1 Roadshow

But even if Disco meant the genre, Disco in the 1980s was primarily associated with it’s 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 was under fire for covering I Feel Love.

https://www.gayinthe80s.com/tag/donna-summer-anti-gay-remarks/

This was huge music news, but no music journalist thought to ask Morrissey if the line was a comment on the controversy?

Or a comment on the homophobic & racist Disco Sucks movement that was spearheaded by a DJ?

https://timeline.com/disco-sucks-movement-racist-homophobic-2d4e63b43a0e

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)

The Full Morrissey

In line with the comforting myth that all radicals become reactionary before they threaten your aga – media types started repeating the idea that if John Lennon hadn’t been murdered by a fan he would have gone ‘full Morrissey’.

Morrissey being the most terrible person in UK pop since he objected to having coins & piss thrown at him by men’s men heckling that he was a “poofy bastard” (Select, September 1992)

Does the poofy bastard understand what flag-waving means as he jacks off? Wonders the NME in August 1992.

Maybe casual anti-Irish bigotry puts them in a pair? They both had Irish parents and have been scathing about British rule in Ireland.

In a similar way, George Michael has become the anti-Morrissey- the good commercial gay, with eloquent opinions, and respectable associations.

The Tweet isn’t true – 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.

Bengali In Platforms

This needs to start with Morrissey’s experience of immigration. His family were all Irish, apart from Morrissey and his sister Jackie, who were born in Manchester, and he struggled with his sense of belonging.

Nannie remains of Moore Street, in Dublin, of astounding memory and continual disgust… from thereon self-deflationary battles with life’s important truths, plus the usual Irish companions of shame, guilt, persecution and accusation… We are stuck in the wettest park of England in a society where we are not needed, yet we are all washed and warm and well-fed…

Ernie was my true Uncle, my mother’s favourite… Throughout his short and angered life he ached, like most people, to find something of value to do, and he cursed Manchester, and he cursed England through mists of pain, and he cursed the Christian Brothers who had blackened his eyes once too often in the name of heavy-handed holiness. Ernie sank into the army for identity, but lost his, and returned home to Manchester unhappily…

Bustle and fluster pad out these Dublin days, but as each year passes my sister and I are less willing to leave Manchester. Ireland is our soaring past – ruddy and cheerful, yet somehow the past. My parents will never let go, and it is not difficult to understand why. All around us the Irish deputation mourn the loss of the land, and how British liberality hobbles in comparison to the hearty warmth of Dublin’s outstretched arms…

Sometimes Jackie and I are the refugees, as Rita flits in and out of her secretive social whirl. There is only ever a sense of change and of slipping away, but never a sense of security or stability. Tomorrow is already a jigsaw…

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)

It’s easy enough to accept or reject someone who arrives in a country – it’s not so easy to cope with being accepted and rejected, as well as everything that’s been left behind, and what this means for who you are now.

In the UK even arts hacks are in the pulpit & punditry business. They expect clear moral commentary & when faced with none, they assume it must be in code. If it’s in code it must be socially unacceptable, ipso facto, Bengali In Platforms, must be a racist song or a patronising song.

But the unease only crystalised into a direct accusation that Morrissey was personally telling South Asians that they didn’t belong in the country when the NME wrote a homophobic hit piece on him in 1992 and had to whip up some ‘faux-racist’ (in the words of the journalist) quotes.

Later in 2007, when Irish Blood, English Heart made it too obvious that he was an immigrant himself, the NME said he should be ashamed of himself.

But I don’t think the song is racist or patronising. It’s another tale of a chronic outsider from a chronic outsider.

The Guardian, 1983

There’s a gauche, eager innocent going somewhere new & trying to fit in.

Bengali, Bengali
Bengali, Bengali
No no no
He does not want to depress you
Oh no no no no no
He only wants to impress you
Oh…

Bengali in platforms
He only wants to embrace your culture
And to be your friend forever
Forever

Similar to Half A Person:

Call me morbid, call me pale
I’ve spent six years on your trail
Six full years of my life on your trail

And if you have five seconds to spare
Then I’ll tell you the story of my life
Sixteen, clumsy and shy
I went to London and I
I booked myself in at the why W.C.A.
I said I like it here, can I stay?
I like it here, can I stay?
Do you have a vacancy for a back-scrubber?

She was left behind, and sour
And she wrote to me equally dour
She said in the days when you were hopelessly poor
I just liked you more

Harsh reality in the form of someone telling him life is hard & his plans won’t work out.

Don’t blame me
Don’t hate me
Just because I’m the one to tell you

That life is hard enough when you belong here
That life is hard enough when you belong here
Oh…
Shelve your Western plans
Oh…
Shelve your Western plans
‘Cause life is hard enough when you belong
Life is hard enough when you belong here

Similar to You Just Haven’t Earned It Yet Baby:

If you’re wondering why
All the love that you long for eludes you
And people are rude and cruel to you
I’ll tell you why
I’ll tell you why
I’ll tell you why
I’ll tell you why

You just haven’t earned it yet, baby
You just haven’t earned it, son
You just haven’t earned it yet, baby
You must suffer and cry for a longer time
You just haven’t earned it yet, baby
And I’m telling you now

An siren object of desire – the platform boots

A silver-studded rim that glistens
And an ankle-star that…blinds me
A lemon sole so very high
Which only reminds me; to tell you
Break the news gently
Break the news to him gently
“Shelve your plans; shelve your plans, shelve them”

Like the platform boots dowdy Morrissey hadn’t dared to wear in 1970s Manchester:

Jon Daley walked along Great Stone Road towards the Hardrock wearing silver knee-length boots… So striking is he that a passing lorry slows down beside him and gruff voices call out in order to throw Jon off balance (well, this is the North) – a compliment of sorts, since it proves just how much you are getting at people, pinging their own self-doubts… my own slavishly dull school uniform is wretched compared to Jon’s intergalactic grace… Jon has no friends at all. (Morrissey, Autobiography, 2013)

And fame itself that pulls a Mancunian to London, to America, and makes them tour the world:

If you’re wondering why
When all I wanted from life was to be Famous
I have tried for so long, it’s all gone wrong
I’ll tell you why
I’ll tell you why
I’ll tell you why
I’ll tell you why
But you wouldn’t believe me

You just haven’t earned it yet, baby
You just haven’t earned it, son
You just haven’t earned it yet, baby
You must suffer and cry for a longer time
You just haven’t earned it yet, Baby
And I’m telling you now
I’ll tell you why
I’ll tell you why

Today I am remembering the time
When they pulled me back
And held me down
And looked me in the eyes and said
You just haven’t earned it yet, baby
You just haven’t earned it, my son
You just haven’t earned it yet, baby
You must stay on your own for slightly longer
You just haven’t earned it yet baby
And I’m telling you now

Time that binds:

Bengali, Bengali
It’s the touchy march of time that binds you

Morrissey’s attitude to time is bleak. It takes us from the safety of home, past early promise to failure & death. From My Hurling Days Are Done:

Time will mold you and craft you
But soon, when you’re looking away
It will slide up and shaft you
Oh, time
Oh, time
No friend of mine

Mama, mama and teddy bear
Were the first full firm spectrum of time
Now my hurling days are done
And there’s no one to tell and there’s nowhere to run

& what binds us? Family, friends, history, community, love. Morrissey is Northern English & Irish Catholic. His work struggles with the themes of attachment to people and places verses the want for autonomy & control. And with the relationship between the country of his birth & his old country.

In Back To The Old House:

I would rather not go
Back to the old house
I would rather not go
Back to the old house
There’s too many bad memories
Too many memories there

When you cycled by
Here began all my dreams
The saddest thing I’ve ever seen
And you never knew
How much I really liked you
Because I never even told you
Oh, and I meant to
Are you still there or have you moved away?
Or have you moved away?

In A Rush And A Push And The Land Is Ours (which is often added to his list of racist crimes):

A rush and a push and the land
That we stand on is ours
Your youth may be gone
But you’re still a young man
So phone me, phone me
So phone me, phone me, phone me

In The Queen Is Dead:

Oh! Take me back to dear old Blighty,
Put me on the train for London Town,
Take me anywhere,
Drop me anywhere,
Liverpool, Leeds or Birmingham
‘Cause I don’t care,
I should like to see my…By land, by sea.

Farewell… to this land’s cheerless marshes
Hemmed in like a boar between archers
Her very Lowness with her head in a sling
I’m truly sorry but it sounds like a wonderful thing

In Mountjoy (an Irish prison where the British who ruled Ireland executed Irish Nationalists):

What those in power do to you
Reminds us at a glance
How humans hate each other’s guts
And show it given a chance

We never say aloud the things
That we say in our prayers
Cause no one cares

Many executed here
By the awful lawfully good
But the only thing that makes me cry
Is when I see the sky

Brendan Behan’s laughter rings
For what he had or hadn’t done
For he knew then as I know now
That for each and every one of us
We all lose
Rich or poor, we all lose
Rich or poor, they all lose

In This Is Not Your Country (about the troubles in Northern Ireland & often added to his list of racist crimes):

We’re old news
All’s well
And thirty years could be a thousand
And this Peugeot ad
Spins round in my head
British soldier pointing a gun
And I’m only trying to post a letter
A short walk home becomes a run
And I’m scared, and I’m scared, I am scared

Old news
All’s well
BBC scum
You’ve got more than the dead, so zip up your mouth
Zip up your mouth

& in Irish Blood, English Heart (sometimes adapted to Racist Blood, English Heart in articles featuring his list of racist crimes. I’ve also seen it described as an ambiguous English nationalist rallying cry):

Irish blood, English heart, this I’m made of
There is no one on earth I’m afraid of
And no regime can buy or sell me

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

I’ve been dreaming of a time when
The English are sick to death of labour and Tories
And spit upon the name Oliver Cromwell
And denounce this royal line
That still salute him and will salute him forever

Only an Irish person would care about Oliver Cromwell, or be that angry at the Royals. They’re the villains of Irish history.

And it’s a sign of how complicated immigration can be that the English media singled out an Irish Catholic to demonise for holding a Union Jack (nicknamed the Butcher’s Apron by Irish Republicans) – leaving him more agonised about his background. The song’s right – life is hard enough when you belong here – because here won’t understand how you feel. And here won’t let you tell them.

As Sands starved to death in protest at being tagged a ‘criminal’ and not a ‘political prisoner’ by the Thatcher government, the Queen sat in her Palace and said nothing. If the Queen had any human feelings for the Sands family or other hunger strikers then she did not express them… The Queen also has the power to give back the six counties to the Irish people, allowing Ireland to be a nation once again. The fact that she has not done so is Fascism in full flow. What else could it be? Name one other European country that is controlled by its neighbour? (Morrissey, Hot Press, May 2011)

https://www.hotpress.com/opinion/the-existence-of-the-queen-is-against-any-notion-of-democracy-7901992

What these songs are doing is asking important questions without easy answers. What are we? How do we fit in? What’s allowed?

There’s really no doubt that Bengali In Platforms empathises with the man from Bengal. What it doesn’t do is put on a cod Indian accent & speak over him, or soothe him – & us – with nice slogans.

So why someone from Bengal & not Ireland?

He was a Loudon Wainwright fan, so could have taken a cue from East Indian Princess:

East Indian princess lives in a western dream
Happy like a child, her mother is a queen
You know she’s safe as a cow on a Calcutta street
This English way of life has got that other life beat

And reading magazines, she sits in straight backed chairs
She’s got a common welfare, she’s got a queen that cares
She’s got meat on her bones, she doesn’t starve at least
Not like the folks back home, not like the folks back east

Yeah, but this Indian is English, no matter how she tries
You know the sari and the sandals, it’s just a bad disguise
She got a mark on her forehead, she got a stud in her nose
Yeah, but this Indian is English and I’m afraid it shows’

Cause you can see her at Wimpey’s and on a movie queue line
Her river’s not the Ganges, it is the Serpentine
East Indian princess, she got the western pain
She got the western mind, that girl has gone insane

Or could have been inspired by film or tv. – A Passage To England (1972, 1975), My Beautiful Laundrette (1985) and countless others from the 60s to the 80s.

Or news, like the strike in Brick Lane:

Or he wanted someone who outwardly didn’t fit in, but inwardly was keen to join, to echo the dilemma in Dial A Cliche, also on the album Viva Hate, where the narrator could outwardly ‘be a man’, but he inwardly doesn’t feel it:

Further into the fog I fall
Well, I was just
Following you

When you said, “Do as I do and scrap your fey ways”
Dial-A-Cliché
“Grow up, be a man, and close your mealy-mouth”
Dial-A-Cliché
Dial-A-Cliché
Dial-A-Cliché

But the person underneath
Where does he go?
Does he slide by the wayside?
Or does he just die?

And you find that you’ve organized
Your feelings, for people
Who didn’t like you then
And do not like you now

But still you say, “Do as I do and scrap your fey ways”
Dial-A-Cliché
“Grow up, be a man, and close your mealy-mouth”
Dial-A-Cliché

“The safe way is the only way”
“There’s always time to change, son”
I’ve changed, but I’m in pain
Dial-A-Cliché

Which seems connected to Morrissey’s own search for evidence that men are attracted to other men, while trying to avoid being attacked or shunned for it. Another identity crisis:

Partial disclosures of male closeness fascinate me, because it’s something that is nowhere in the life around me. All males are adversaries in muggy Manchester…

I represent filth. I am forbidden to live – by religion.

(of a PE teacher) he is obsessed with homosexuality – that it should be traced and uncovered, named and shamed. This tirade goes on and on for more years than could be thought possible, and I am not surprised that I am regularly the butt of his bombast… (Morrissey, Autobiography, 2013)

Or if we’re taking a creative leap based on words – the British have been accused of two genocides via famine, in Bengal and in Ireland. A person from Bengal and a person from Ireland would both be trying to belong to a country that tried to starve them.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/british/victorians/famine_01.shtml

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-india-36339524

A racist would never write a song about a friendly man, who wants to embrace your culture, cruelly being told to shelve his plans by someone who knows this news would make him ‘hate’ him & ‘blame’ him.

A racist song wouldn’t frame the person telling the immigrant to shelve his plans as blameworthy and hateful, and the immigrant as friendly and embracing.

And part of the wincing reaction to the song is probably because it makes you feel sorry for the rejected immigrant, without giving you the moral solace of the narrator being told he’s wrong.

All you get is the pain.

Which is closer to life than a tagged on comeuppance.

Asian Rut

Asian Rut regularly turns up in the list of Moz crimes, though no one explains why.

Maybe they think the word Asian in the title is racist.

Or that Rut makes it racist. Rut can mean aggressive male sexual excitement, so could be connected to the idea that violence is a form of sexual rivalry. It might even make you wonder how very was the best friend. Or he’s stuck in a rut, a cycle of retribution that will lead to nothing but destruction.

The album it comes from, Kill Uncle, has an air of sardonic ennui, so as with Mute Witness, you could suspect that he was mocking the distress of the song’s protagonist, in this case the boy trying & failing to get revenge. But in context it’s more about the way fate mocks us.

The Asian boy is the hero so he gets the title.

& we don’t know if the narrator will get home, or if, having witnessed the crime, the English boys will get him next, or if he’s somewhere safe repeating a story he heard about that violent place that no one does anything about.

Another objection could be that the Asian boy is English too, but it’s a fight centred around group identity & it’s a drama, not a lecture.

Morrissey has described himself as both English & Irish Catholic, so he knows the way labels move around regardless of citizenship.

The family is young and amused and all Irish-born but for my sister and I… we Irish Catholics know very well how raucous happiness displeases God, so there is much evidence of guilt in all we say and do, but nonetheless it is said and done… The Irish banter is lyrical against the Manchester blank astonishment. (Morrissey, Autobiography, 2013)

Or they could demand that art should be morally clear and respectable when dealing with a sensitive subject – but Morrissey felt he was battling against the class system, and heteronormativity to become a writer and a singer. He had no reason to credit society with making the right things taboo.

I pin so much prestige on James Baldwin that to risk approach places my life on the line: I’d hang myself at any glimmer of a rejection. History books overlook James Baldwin because he presented an unvarnished view of the American essence – as blunt and rousing as print would allow… His liking for male flesh gave the world a perfect excuse to brush him aside as a social danger, and he was erased away as someone who used his blackness as an excuse for everything. In fact, his purity scared them off, and his honesty ignited irrational fear in an America where men were draped in medals for killing other men yet imprisoned for loving one another. (Morrissey, Autobiography, 2013)

The essence of… (Moz Art)… came from an idea I had to take images that were the opposite of glamour and to pump enough heart and desire into them to show ordinaryness as a instrument of power – or possibly, glamour… to present cheerless and cluttered bed-sitter art in a beautiful and proudly frank way… Rules in all things, are simply laid down so that someone might break them. I had learned to guard my secrets carefully…. it would be the ache of love sought, but not found; buttoning your overcoat as you stand before an ash-slag fire as you ponder years of wasted devotion amid the endless complaint of boredom. (Morrissey, Autobiography, 2013)

He was also a punk fan, with its ironic subversion of pop culture – The Ramones singing a teenage tragedy song about the KKK, exposing the bad taste behind the clean-cut beehives.

https://www.legacyrecordings.co.uk/news/death-disc-phenomenon

But then Morrissey tends to put more agony into a song, life is ridiculous AND painful.

I am shocked, but then I fold into convulsive laughter. Some terrible moments are funny. (Morrissey, Autobiography, 2013)

Lyrics:

Day oh so late
Strangely the sun still shone
Ooh Asian boy
What are you on?
Day oh so late
Strangely the sun still shone
Oh Asian boy
What are drugs are you on?Oh… strange
Tooled-up Asian boy
Has come to take revenge
For the cruel, cold killing
Of his very best friend
Tooled-up Asian boy
Has come to avenge
The cruel, cold killing
Of his only friend

There’s peace through our school
It’s so quiet in the hall
It’s a strange sign for one
Of what’s to come
Tough and cold and pale
Oh, they may just impale you on railings
Oh, English boys
It must be wrong
Three against one

Oh …
Brakes slammed and
His gun jammed
And as far as I could tell
Brave Asian boy
Was dealt a blow and fell
I’m just passing through here
On my way to somewhere civilized
And maybe I’ll even arrive
Maybe I’ll even arrive

Black Music Conspiracy

In 1986 The Smiths were interviewed by Frank Owen, an ex-musician from Manchester.

https://illnessasart.com/2020/03/03/melody-maker-27-september-1986/

Frank was interested in hip-hop and house music but couldn’t get any of the music press in England to cover it, ‘they’d say, “What do you want to write about all these grungy Negroes in there?”

https://daily.redbullmusicacademy.com/2013/05/frank-owen-interview

The main thrust of his article is an attempt to get Morrissey to talk about the punk-gay-disco scene they’d both been part of and to get him to come out as gay.

But he also frames questions around a theory that pop music is strictly divided into Indie, which is ‘intelligent’, and Black, which is ‘crude showbiz’, seemingly unaware that the theory taps into the racist trope that black people are mindlessly physical.

representing African-Americans as “shuffling and drawling, cracking and dancing, wisecracking and high stepping” buffoons… https://www.ferris.edu/HTMLS/news/jimcrow/links/essays/vcu.htm

And he uses it to claim that Panic, a song inspired by Radio 1 playing Wham after a news item about Chernobyl, was about ‘hanging black DJs’.

https://www.radiox.co.uk/artists/the-smiths/smiths-panic-chernobyl-distaster-inspiration-meaning/

It’s not clear if he explained the theory to Morrissey, in the article he asks: ‘so, is the music of The Smiths and their ilk racist, as Green claims?’ (Green Gartside was the lead singer of Scritti Politti.)

Morrissey replied:

“Reggae, for example, is to me the most racist music in the entire world. It’s an absolute total glorification of black supremacy… There is a line when defence of one’s race becomes an attack on another race and, because of black history and oppression, we realise quite clearly that there has to be a very strong defence. But I think it becomes very extreme sometimes. But, ultimately, I don’t have very cast iron opinions on black music other than black modern music which I detest. I detest Stevie Wonder. I think Diana Ross is awful. I hate all those records in the Top 40 – Janet Jackson, Whitney Houston. I think they’re vile in the extreme. In essence this music doesn’t say anything whatsoever.”

There does seem to have been some concerns about Rasta Reggae.

In 1978 the NME journalists Julie Burchill and Tony Parsons, in their book The Boy Looked At Johnny, wrote:

Next only to punk shot-by-both-sides political platitudes… the major omen of the genre’s hoodwinking was its espousal of Reggae… Not even pre-punk reggae music… no punk junked up any Rastafarian connection it could score, becoming so addicted to Rasta in toto that throughout 1977 and 1978 every “punk” show was preceded by interminable Rasta music… Hatred of women is the foundation of fascism, but for sheer vitriolic venomous malignancy, the misogyny of the Rastafarians surpasses even that of Hitler’s Nazis.

The 1979 sociology book Rastaman by Ernest Cashmore, explored elements of racial superiority, homophobia and sexism in Rasta youth culture:

Much of the Rastafarian movement’s success in galvanising the hearts and minds of West Indian youth in the 1970s was due to its effective definition of membership through its identity and exclusivity. It was able to amplify its distinctiveness and preserve its insularity. One of the outcomes of this was that others regarded the Rastas as adhering to a doctrine of racial superiority… ‘They’re nothing but a bunch of racists’ (middle-aged West Indian). ‘Racial lunatics’ (Jamaican in his 20s)… Homosexuality on the other hand was stringently decried as ‘unnatural’ and ‘ungodly’ as was birth control, a clever device of the Babylonian conspiracy to prevent the multiplication of black men… The Rastaman’s preservation of his male superiority was a way of insulating himself against the infectious forces of Babylon.

‘Vile’ is hyperbole and Morrissey was airily scathing about nearly everything.

Frank countered that Black music is more subtle because it works on the body via the dancefloor. Morrissey was unconvinced.

“I don’t think there’s any time anymore to be subtle about anything, you have to get straight to the point. Obviously to get on Top Of The Pops these days, one has to be, by law, black. I think something political has occurred among Michael Hurl and his friends and there has been a hefty pushing of all these black artists and all this discofied nonsense into the Top 40. I think, as a result, that very aware younger groups that speak for now are being gagged.”

‘By law’ is a joke. He’d previously used it about himself.

Well, I wouldn’t stand on a table and should, ‘I’m a feminist’ or put a red stamp across my forehead, but if one tends towards prevalent feminist views, by law, you immediately become one. Likewise, if you have great sympathy with gay culture you are immediately a transsexual. I did one interview where the gay issue was skirted over in three seconds and when the interview emerged in print, there I was emblazoned across the headlines as this great voice of the gay movement, as if I couldn’t possibly talk about anything else. I find that extremely harmful and I simply don’t trust anyone anymore. (Morrissey, The Face, July 1984)

And his ire was aimed at Top of The Pops producer Michael Hurl, who is not black.

Michael Hurl

It’s Frank who pins blame on black artists, ‘You seem to be saying that you believe that there is some sort of black pop conspiracy being organised to keep white indie groups down.’

Morrissey, not picking up on it, is focused on content and (white, male) producers:

“Yes, I really do. The charts have been constructed quite clearly as an absolute form of escapism rather than anything anyone can gain any knowledge by. I find that very disheartening because it wasn’t always that way. Isn’t it curious that practically none of these records reflect life as we live it? Isn’t it curious that 93 and a half percent of these records reflect life as it isn’t lived? That foxes me! If you compare the exposure that records by the likes of Janet Jackson and the stream of other anonymous Jacksons get to the level of daily airplay that The Smiths receive – The Smiths have had at least 10 consecutive chart hits and we still can’t get on Radio 1′s A list. Is that not a conspiracy? The last LP ended up at number two and we were still told by radio that nobody wanted to listen to The Smiths in the daytime. Is that not a conspiracy? I do get the scent of a conspiracy. And, anyway, the entire syndrome has one tune and surely that’s enough to condemn the entire thing.”

He wasn’t alone: I remember John Peel saying he believed that if they played the music he played on mainstream radio, people would like it. And I remember thinking, ‘Stupid twat.’ But he was kind of right, if you take a jerky, quirky group like the Arctic Monkeys – that’s what happened. https://recordcollectormag.com/articles/bit-chinstrokinghttps://www.ferris.edu/HTMLS/news/jimcrow/links/essays/vcu.htm

Jesus and Mary Chain, Smash Hits, July 1986

Frank asks him if he finds Black music macho (tapping into a racist and a homophobic trope; black men as hyper virile, gay men as effete). Moz says it isn’t his world, and adds:

I don’t want to feel in the dock because there are some things I dislike. Having said that, my favourite record of all time is “Third Finger, Left Hand” by Martha and the Vandellas which can lift me from the most doom-laden depression.

Frank accuses him of being a nostalgic luddite (later the NME will accuse him of not wanting black people to prosper in the present, as if 1960s music wasn’t still being played). Morrissey quips:

‘Hi-tech can’t be liberating. It’ll kill us all. You’ll be strangulated by the cords of your compact disc.’

Frank asks him about violence in Manchester and the lyrics of Never Had No One Ever. Morrissey explains they’re about feeling alienated because he’s Irish:

“It was the frustration that I felt at the age of 20 when I still didn’t feel easy walking around the streets on which I’d been born, where all my family had lived – they’re originally from Ireland but had been here since the Fifties. 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.”

And the article ends with Morrissey reminiscing about his time on the gay scene:

“If the Perry’s didn’t get you, then the beer monsters were waiting around the corner. I still remember studying the football results to see if City or United had lost, in order to judge the level of violence to be expected in the city centre that night. I can remember the worst night of my life with a friend of mine, James Maker, who is the lead singer in Raymonde now. We were heading for Devilles (a gay club). We began at the Thompson’s Arms (a gay pub), we left and walked around the corner where there was a car park, just past Chorlton Street Bus Station. Walking through the car park, I turned around and, suddenly, there was a gang of 30 beer monsters all in their late twenties, all creeping around us… The gay scene in Manchester was always atrocious. Do you remember Bernard’s Bar, now Stuffed Olives? If one wanted peace and to sit without being called a parade of names then that was the only hope... 1975 was the worst year in social history. I blame ‘Young Americans’ entirely. I hated that period – Disco Tex and the Sex-o-lettes, Limmy and Family Cooking. So when punk came along, I breathed a sigh of relief. I met people. I’d never done that before… I never liked The Ranch. I have a very early memory of it and it was very, very heavy. I never liked Dale Street. There was something about that area of Manchester that was too dangerous.”

Frank threw in some homophobic language:

‘You big jessy, you big girl’s blouse, Morrissey. But he’s right. It was dangerous and, with the increased media visibility of punk, the violence got worse. You see, punks were not only faggots, they were uppity faggots as well‘.

And an insinuation about cottaging that Morrissey found upsetting:

Because of the public-toilet disparagement, there are of course legal grounds to take action against Melody Maker, but Rough Trade are now making useful inroads with the press because of the Smiths, and they don’t want to cause a fuss, and I am still too green around the gills to ignore their reluctance. I could attempt to tackle Melody Maker myself, but without the label behind me, I am at sea. (Morrissey, Autobiography, 2013)

When it was published, Morrissey was accused of racism in a flurry of readers letters.

Johnny Marr was angry:

next time we come across that creep, he’s plastered. We’re not in the habit of issuing personal threats, but that was such a vicious slur-job that we’ll kick the shit out of him. Violence is disgusting but racism’s worse and we don’t deal with it.” (NMW, February 1987)

No one noticed the article’s racism or was outraged by the homophobia.

Tony Fletcher in The Smiths, A Light That Never Goes Out (2012) condemned Morrissey for his ‘no sex’ agenda:

[Frank Owen] dared suggest in writing that in years to come, Morrissey would be into “fisting and water sports”… “Morrissey is the biggest closet gay queen on the planet and he felt that I was trying to ‘out’ him by bringing this up…” If he wanted to play coy, that was his prerogative, although with Thatcherite policies coming down increasingly hard on homosexuality, many other artists had decided to “come out” in response. As Len Brown wrote, “It was a time when everyone – artists and journalists – seemed to be asking the question (politically and sexually) Whose Side Are You On?” To which Morrissey insisted on being individual … a card-carrying member of nothing but his own cult of personality’.

He took out Morrissey’s meandering qualifications to made it sound as if Panic was about a detestation of black modern music so strong that he couldn’t stop himself from harping on:

Not content to leave it there, Morrissey went on to express how much he detested the “black modern music” of Motown descendants Stevie Wonder, Janet Jackson, and Diana Ross, stating, per the lyrics to “Panic,” that “in essence this music doesn’t say anything whatsoever.” 

He ascribes Frank’s comments about readers to ‘Morrissey’s thinking’, accepts the racist assumption that Black music is about the body, pretends that British youth didn’t dance before Rave, took ‘by law’ literally and thinks it’s ridiculous to say that escapist music gets more airplay than morose Indie music – OF COURSE IT DOES!

Owen claimed to understand this thinking. “When NME and Melody Maker started putting black acts on the cover,” he recalled, “there was a huge backlash to it. I used to get letters all the time. And it wasn’t explicitly ‘We don’t want blacks on the cover,’ it was more like ‘This is our scene and what do blacks have to do with it?’ ” And so, in his Melody Maker feature, as a response to Morrissey’s own response, Owen tried to answer that question: “What it says can’t necessarily be verbalised easily,” he wrote. “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.” Within a year or two, as acid house exploded (the kindling lit on the Haçienda dance floor) and the rave movement emerged in its wake, a large section of British youth would come to share Owen’s sentiment, the Smiths’ Johnny Marr and New Order’s Bernard Sumner among them. In the summer of 1986, though, Morrissey was still the voice of his generation, which was perhaps why he then dared issue the most ludicrous comment yet of a continually outspoken career: “Obviously to get on Top of the Pops these days, one has to be, by law, black,” which he followed up with an equally ridiculous claim of personal persecution.

He also thought it was suspect that Morrissey liked a sexist song that was released when he was seven years old.

Even the singer’s attempt to restore proceedings mid-interview sounded suspect. “My favourite record of all time is ‘Third Finger, Left Hand’ by Martha and the Vandellas,” he said, citing a (black) Motown single from 1966, “which can lift me from the most doom-laden depression.” And yet this was as stereotypically romantic, conventionally sexist, and thereby nonfeminist a song as had ever been written. It would have said nothing about Morrissey’s life when it came out, and said even less about his life and that of his fans twenty years later. He was in essence employing a double standard, based on what Owen correctly referred to as a “nostalgia … that afflicts the whole indie scene.”

And thought that Morrissey’s comments were a defence of ‘Panic’ rather than in response to Frank’s questions about Indie.

Frank himself is still blind to the racist assumptions that shaped his division of pop into Black and Indie and thinks Morrissey caused the problem to ‘wind people up’.

As it turned out, Owen wasn’t particularly put out by Morrissey’s comments in defense of “Panic.” “I never thought Morrissey was a racist,” he said. “I always thought it was just a big put-on, that it was just a way to wind people up, the same way that punks wore swastikas.

In 2018 music journalist Pete Paphides, gutted the interview to claim that Morrissey had ‘always’ been repugnant.

And accused Morrissey of ‘trolling’ for using the Attack reggae label in 2004 – nearly 18 years after this interview (and 12 years after Morrissey was accused of racism for holding a Union Jack for less than 2 minutes in front of a crowd who heckled that he was a “poofy bastard“).

Having failed to see that Morrissey talked about his own experiences of being from an immigrant family, that Frank was mainly trying to get Morrissey to talk about his sexuality and that Morrissey had said that black people had a history of oppression, Pete claims to have always kept the door ajar in case Morrissey’s views about race and identity were more nuanced…

but he can’t listen to most of Morrissey’s work because of what he was and continues to be.

Considering that some journalists have been entirely blind to their own bigotry while scrutinizing every word Morrissey says for racism and repeating every perceived violation like a litany – the thing that Morrissey was and continues to be that bothers them so much, is probably – ‘humasexual’, asocial and sardonic.

Obama

In August 2015 Morrissey was interviewed by Alternative Nation & Larry King.

As well as talking about his depression and animals, he was concerned about police brutality against Black people & wondered why Obama wasn’t doing more to help.

“Obama has mystified me because he doesn’t appear to support black people when they need it most… Ferguson being an obvious example. If Michael Brown had instead been one of Obama’s daughters, I don’t think Obama would be insisting that the nation support the so-called security forces! How can they be called security forces if they make the people feel insecure? Obama seems to be white inside. There is an obvious racial division in America and it’s exploding and Obama doesn’t ever support the innocent black people who are murdered by white police officers who are never held accountable. You would expect him to be more understanding of what it means to be black. But so far, he hasn’t been.​ There’s no point in continually saying that we must support the police when it is obvious to the entire world that the police in America are out of control.”

This being Morrissey, the press ignored the bit about innocent black people being murdered & went for the bit about Obama being white inside.

The Daily Beast emailed to clarify.

And they decided he was dropping truth bombs:

Spin & other music outlets copy n pasted.

https://www.spin.com/2015/08/morrissey-daily-beast-interview-obama/?amp=1

“I can’t see [Obama] doing anything at all for the black community… “
“…except warning them that they must respect the security forces. This is ludicrous because the so-called security forces are the Ku Klux Klan to most black Americans. It seems evident to me that black males are being deliberately murdered throughout America as a closing message to Obama, telling him that his presidency has meant nothing and that the division of color is now bigger than ever. Obama doesn’t see this, but if a white cop shot one of his daughters I don’t imagine he’d be willing to accept the exoneration of that white cop.”

“I am wryly amused by all of these tough cop reality programs on American TV…”
“…because it’s always white cops arresting the black or Hispanic poor, yet you don’t ever see the cops frisking a crooked lawyer or chasing a middle-class accountant who’s robbed millions from clients. It’s always the extreme poor who are targeted by the cops because the poor have no influential friends and therefore can’t retaliate, and the cops know that they can play about with poor people.”

“[Obama] doesn’t look overly African black.”
“He’s as close to soft whiteness as someone who isn’t white could get, and I often wonder if he would have been elected if he had a stronger, more African-black face? It’s a point.”

Hillary Clinton “has no competition” in the Democratic race.
“I think she shows an earnest composure, whereas all of the Republican candidates are dangerously reactionary and occasionally insane. I don’t think Clinton has even begun to dig into the race yet, and when she does she will gain massive support. The world does not want to look at Donald Trump’s face for the years to come.”

“British politics will never again trust a woman because of [Margaret] Thatcher.”
“And, in actual fact, it hasn’t.”

Salon interpreted this as taking another swipe at Obama’s race…

The Guardian insinuated Moz was irate about Obama’s skin colour…
& despite eternally being able to cite:

Panic
Bengali In Platforms
Asian Rut
The National Front Disco
This Is Not Your Country
& Irish Blood, English Heart

as evidence of Moz’s chronic racism – no one could remember America Is Not The World:

In America
The land of the Free, they said
And of Opportunity
In a just and a truthful way
But where the President
Is never black, female or gay
And until that day
You’ve got nothing to say to me
To help me believe
In America

Zionist

On July 29th 2009, Morrissey played his first gig in Israel.

In July 2012, he told Israel’s channel 2 news that:

“There’s no point in punishing an entire nation for something its leader says or does.”

In his November 2017 interview with Der Spiegel he dismissed the idea of a cultural boycott, seemingly not previously aware of the BDS movement.

“It is narrow-minded. Being politically correct is incorrect. It means forbidding the freedom of speech. This is how the BDS movement sounds to me.”

and

“I love this city [Tel Aviv]. The rest of the world does not like Israel well. But the people there are very generous and friendly. You should never judge a people by their government. It is very rare for the government to reflect the wishes of the people.'”

https://www.jpost.com/israel-news/british-singer-morrissey-slams-bds-movement-as-absurd-514833

He’s very politely saying that the people are nice and the government isn’t. And in no way is he slamming, blasting or proclaiming.

His 2017 album, Low In High School, had 3 songs set in Israel.

The Girl From Tel Aviv Who Wouldn’t Kneel, which included a side-swipe at American intervention:

Of princes and kings and their costly parade
Blitz them all back to the Stone Age
The American way displayed proudly
Is to show lots of teeth and talk loudly
And the land weeps oil
The land weeps oil
What do you think all these armies are for?
Just because the land weeps oil

When You Open Your Legs, in which the song’s narrator forgets everything because of sex:

4am and once again
I am asked to leave this club in Tel Aviv
It’s 4am and once again
I am asked to leave this club in Tel Aviv, oh

Everything I know deserts me now
When you open your legs
Everything I know deserts me now
When you open

& Israel, which mixes sex with religion, envy and threat.

Realize if you’re happy
Jesus sends you straight to hell

Israel
Israel

And should you dare, enjoy your body
Here tolls Hades welcome bell
Israel
Israel

You’ve found a middle course existence
We’re all bones and flesh and shell
Israel
Israel

I can’t answer for what armies do
They are not you
They are not you
They are not you

In other climes they bitch and whine
Just because you’re not like them
Israel
Israel

The sky is dark
For many others
They want it dark
For you as well
Israel
Israel

Earth is just one big asylum
An explodes a prison cell
See us squirm in our own damaged spell
You were born
As guilty sinners
Before you stood up right, you fell
Put the fear of many gods
In Israel

Nature gave you
Every impulse
Who are virgin priests to tell
Who, how to love
How to live
Israel
And they who reign, abuse, upon you
Upon you
They are jealous of you as well
Love yourself
As you should
Israel

There is absolutely nothing to suggest that it has anything to do with the conflict between Israel & Palestine – it seems far more likely that it’s about sexual freedom. Tel Aviv is the kind of liberal, gay friendly, city that traditional moralists would consider a Sodom and Gomorrah.

But the UK left was outraged.

Red Pepper was appalled & saw it as part of his descent into right-wing reactionary racism:

Despite Morrissey mentioning Virgin Priests, many Gods & other climes, Pepper decided the threat had to be Islam:

And decided that this song about sex & religion had to be about Zionism & was telling the Palestinians they had no right to be aggrieved:

https://www.redpepper.org.uk/where-did-it-all-go-wrong-morrissey/

Other reviews took the same line – that 2 songs about sex & 1 about defying authority had to be about Zionism.

A summary appeared in The Jewish Chronicle:
https://www.thejc.com/news/uk/critics-attack-israel-in-morrissey-album-reviews-1.449077

It didn’t seem to occur to them that Moz has a fairly well documented admiration for Israeli actor Lior Ashkenazi & that it’s possible the songs were inspired by his films. They could at least ask.

https://morrissey-shot.livejournal.com/1140439.html

Their meeting:

Scene from a Lior film Moz wanted to recreate:

Also ironic (& depressing) that the UK left’s obsession with Israel, so acute that it sees Morrissey as a zealous Zionist, would mire it in racism.

They also didn’t fret about the ethics of being angry at an LGBT+ singer for not boycotting a country that doesn’t persecute him, when they’ve never demanded that he boycott a country that does.

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/jun/21/gay-lgbt-muslim-countries-middle-east

Nor have they ever condemned him for playing gigs in his favourite city of Istanbul, currently ruled over by Islamist hardliner Erdogan:

I had a timid childhood. My past is also full of repression. I still do not know what it means to have fun and to enjoy physically. Istanbul has a feature that dissipates this mood and crisis. When you return to the British land, you are left with the same despair, it’s separate. This is the secret of Istanbul, the people of Istanbul: It is very alive, very real. This is also something I admire. I don’t see myself as a ‘living person’ as much as you do. I’m an extra head in the crowd, that’s all.

https://www.hurriyet.com.tr/kelebek/hayat/morrissey-cinsel-hayatim-koca-bir-cahillikten-ibaret-27621773

Trump

Morrissey hates Trump, but that doesn’t stop people from assuming he supports or is like him.

On the 2nd September 2020, badly researched satire site, News Thump, took a cheap swipe.

Giving Moz this to say:


Despite him condemning Trump’s response to the Orlando Massacre, in June 2016, as anti-gay and pro-gun.

https://www.theguardian.com/music/2016/jun/14/morrissey-trump-response-orlando-attack-anti-gay-pro-gun

Having ‘Trump Will Kill America’ etched on to a Record Store Day release in April 2017.

https://www.theguardian.com/music/2017/apr/24/trump-will-kill-america-smiths-record-store-day-release-morrissey

And one of his scandals, in November 2017, being this: