Sexually Ambiguous

On July 29th 1992, Nicky Crane – National Front skinhead and Screwdriver roadie; who featured in the same Nick Knight photo essay as the V-flicker on a Morrissey t-shirt – came out as gay on the UK Channel 4 documentary, Out: The Skin Complex, that explored gay skinhead subculture.

On August 22nd 1992, the NME spent 5 pages denouncing Morrissey as a racist for playing 1 of 2 planned gigs with headliners Madness, at Finsbury Park, where he was heckled by a homophobic crowd while thrashing about a Union Jack flag in front of a Derek Ridgers art print of 2 skinhead girls.

https://illnessasart.com/2020/11/26/nme-22-august-1992/amp/

Despite lead singer, Suggs’s skinhead past and old Skrewdriver connections, Madness was deemed ‘unfortunate’ for attracting the racist crowd. Derek Ridgers worried that Morrissey had demeaned the girls in the art print, who WERE racist imagery. Flowered Up, another band on the bill, thought Morrissey had asked for trouble by ‘prancing around‘.

Most of the National Front supporters were outside Finsbury Park to oppose a march for a cause Morrissey supported, British troops out of Northern Ireland (he’s from an Irish Catholic family). The National Front’s most violent organiser, Johnny ‘Mad Dog’ Adair, was a fan of reggae band UB40, and his loyalist paramilitary gang killed Catholics while listening to rave.

https://edinburghfestival.list.co.uk/article/43221-madness-frontman-suggs-tells-life-story-at-2012-edinburgh-fringe/

https://www.irishtimes.com/news/ireland/irish-news/the-uda-killer-nicknamed-top-gun-behind-a-dozen-sectarian-murders-1.4628830

https://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/opinion/news-analysis/how-loyalists-got-out-of-step-with-fascism-28657619.html

https://ansionnachfionn.com/2011/09/16/fascists-neo-nazis-and-the-british-unionist-minority-in-ireland/amp/

But still the NME lied that Morrissey was a Little England British Nationalist, that his imagery was racist, that he was fanning the flames of race-hate, that Bengali in Platforms was a diatribe against assimilation, supportive of ex-Conservative Ulster Unionist MP Enoch Powell, inciting calls for immigrants to be deported, that he wanted a pre-immigration green and pleasant England, that he wanted an English ethno-state, that he was provoking genocide, and – in a technique that now dominates his coverage – cobbled together so many snippets of lyrics and interviews spuriously branded racist that to refute them all would look demented; no fire without all THAT smoke. Even his quiff was racist for being a 1950s style.

And, taking their cue from The Skin Complex, they speculated that he had a sexual fetish for racism, that he was getting vicarious skinhead thrills, that he was using real men, like skinheads, The Angelic Upstarts, as a cover; and noted that ‘Richard Allen’s skinhead chronicles are full of sickening accounts of violence against blacks. And for that matter, homosexuals’.

And for that matter, that was their real point.

Someone must have watched it, got excited, thought OH THAT’S WHAT HE’S UP TO and decided to disguise their usual prurient, repressed homophobic obsession with his sex life beneath a heap of lurid faux righteous anti-racism.

Dr Dinesh Bhugra, a psychologist at the Institute of Psychiatry, speaking on Skin Complex, the Channel 4 programme to be screened on Wednesday, argues that gay men adopting the skinhead image is not surprising. In a society that is producing a tremendous amount of homophobia, you have to try and protect yourself by whichever means you can and if, in order to do it, it means you are identifying with the oppressor then people will do that in order to survive. (Independent, 26th July 1992)

Let’s not forget that the adolescent Morrissey used to be chased through the streets of Manchester at night by leering beer-boys, some of whom may have held NF sympathies, simply for being ‘different’. And he definitely spent a lot of time in Whalley Range, a multi-racial area. Is he now identifying with his former oppressors? Has he changed from the persecuted to the persecutor? Or, is he fascinated by the idea of racism, by the look of violent skinheads, to the extent of being oppressed so much he falls in love with his oppressors? (NME, August 1992)

https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/reformed-fascist-ready-to-admit-homosexuality-martin-wroe-reports-on-the-conversion-of-a-right-winger-that-highlights-a-thriving-gay-fashion-1535856.html?amp

Maybe they wanted to kill his career.

Moz is history, and we’d all do well to learn it. (Andrew Collins, NME, April 1992)

Or ‘out’ him without risking a libel trial as catastrophic as The Face losing to Jason Donovan in May 1992 over their ‘Queer As Fuck’ issue.

https://gtmediawatch.org/1965/07/01/gay-times-may-1992/

Or both.

Sire had sidelined the Smiths in America after Rolling Stone labeled Morrissey gay.

A piece in Rolling Stone claimed Morrissey was gay, completely contradicting his stand against sexual roles and their divisive consequences. “That brought a lot of problems for me”, he recalls ruefully. “Of course I never made such a statement”, Immediately their American record company, Sire, recoiled from supporting The Smiths. “They were petrified”, he remembers with disgust. “I thought that kind of writing epitomised the mentality of the American music press. That sicking macho stuff. After it appeared in Rolling Stone it ran rife through the lesser known publications, which to me was profoundly dull”. (Melody Maker, November 1984)

https://illnessasart.com/2020/01/05/melody-maker-3-november-1984/

Saved by the success of Vauxhall and I, but battered by label, legal, personal and management issues; and excluded by the music press from Britpop, he moved to LA and built an audience of equally excluded Chicanos.

In 2002 the NME mournfully accused him of giving the illusion of intimacy while never discussing his sexuality, and of being ambiguous, unambiguous, brutally upfront and distastefully infatuated with racism.

In 2004, You Are The Quarry, gave him a brief respite.

… excised from the hearts of many, horrified by the messy “flirtation” with racist imagery. (VS, NME, November 1999)

… nevermind the shaky accusations of racism… all those years of being Mother Teresa for the clumsy and shy and suddenly he was being reviled for crimes he’d never committed. (VS, Mojo, May 2004)

But his shyness, difficulty with social norms and outsider art meant the press soon fell back on ridicule, demonisation, inflammatory headlines and witch-hunts.

For a spell his public image has fused with the forgotten Nicky Crane – a bad gay, toxic, shunned, unwholesome; his empathetic solo work unbelievably synonymous with Skrewdriver.

Nicky Crane on Psychic TV.

NAZI FARTSY : Earsay’s snippets (Channel 4) on Genesis P-Orridge et al featured an unexpected guest – a certain Nicola Crane. Crane, the neo-Nazi who by a series of errors made the front cover of ‘Strength Thru Oi’, turned out to be one of the ‘stars’ of a Psychic TV video film. Let’s hope the media are as quick to condemn this obviously deliberate airing for Crane as they were with that accidental airing three years ago. (Sounds, 22nd September 1984)

Side Note 1: Nicky was on the gay scene from 1984, made gay porn films, attacked a benefit gig that had the Smiths on the bill & drank in a gay pub, The Bell, in Kings Cross that Morrissey also frequented. The video for Our Frank, directed by gay filmmaker John Maybury, used skinhead extras & was shot around Kings Cross.

The Bell: https://www.gayinthe80s.com/2017/09/pub-bell-kings-cross-london/

The gig: https://pasttenseblog.wordpress.com/2016/06/10/today-in-londons-radical-history-striking-miners-anti-fascists-beat-off-nazi-attack-on-glc-festival-1984/amp/

Nicky: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-25142557

Brief clip of The Skin Complex in a news report about another gay NF ex-member. https://www.channel4.com/news/neo-nazi-national-front-organiser-quits-movement-comes-out-as-gay-kevin-wilshaw-jewish-heritage

Gay History: https://timalderman.com/2018/04/30/gay-history-a-contradiction-in-terms-nicky-crane-and-kevin-wilshaw-gay-neo-nazis-part-1/

Side Note 2: the NME’s claim they were just as hard on Eric Clapton, David Bowie & Elvis Costello is untrue. Eric sailed past the letter appealing to his better self into 1980s rock aristocracy while still supporting Enoch Powell. The worst it got for David Bowie was the NME faking the picture of a Nazi salute that became gossipy rocklore. And the NME refused to believe that Elvis Costello could mean it when he called James Brown a “jive-arsed n——” and Ray Charles a “blind, ignorant n——.”

Eric: https://genius.com/Red-saunders-letter-to-the-uk-music-press-regarding-eric-clapton-annotated

David: http://www.chalkiedavies.com/blog/b9wr8hr5mr79wkkbx83lf8cd7p54f7

Elvis: http://www.elviscostello.info/wiki/index.php/New_Musical_Express,_October_30,_1982

Side Note 3: The Union Jack is ubiquitous in UK culture – at no point in our history has it ever been a clear signal of fascism or has it needed to be reclaimed from the far right, nevermind from Morrissey. Some on the hard left hate it as a symbol of the British Empire and the British State, it’s a minority opinion. Skinheads were a working-class subculture that spanned the political spectrum and listened to Reggae, Punk and their variants. They had widespread coverage in the press, including in the NME.

Madness film: https://youtu.be/cwWvKnU9zCE

The Simpsons Do The Snuffs

On April 18th 2021, The Simpsons, aired an episode about Morrissey.

They set it up as an affectionate tribute made by fans:

https://variety.com/2021/tv/news/simpsons-morrissey-benedict-cumberbatch-1234953472/

Then they trashed him as a fat, ugly, old, nasty, meat-eating, gay, racist.

They were righteous about the bait and switch in their live tweets:

RT’d by Matt Selman

Morrissey’s manager made bewildered Facebook posts:

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-56806312

Morrissey published a statement that was his usual mix of jokes and wounds:

https://www.morrisseycentral.com/messagesfrommorrissey/hello-hell

Some tweeters gloated:

Some pundits called him humourless:

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:

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-highlands-islands-52697289

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.

It’s like he dumped them all by text message.

https://www.latimes.com/entertainment-arts/music/story/2019-10-24/morrissey-anti-immigrant-white-nationalist-hollywood-bowl

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)

https://www.irishtimes.com/news/paddy-english-man-part-1-1.252576

https://www.irishtimes.com/news/paddy-english-man-part-2-1.252578

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)

https://www.hotpress.com/music/a-piece-of-his-mind-morrissey-interview-12107062

Boz Boorer, Jesse Tobias, Morrissey, Mando Lopez, Matt Walker, Gustavo Manzur

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)

https://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/entry/morrissey-animals_n_7588034?ri18n=true

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)

https://www.morrisseycentral.com/messagesfrommorrissey/i-ve-been-dreaming-of-a-time-when-the-english-are-sick-to-death-of-labour-and-tories

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.

https://www.standard.co.uk/news/world/matt-groening-the-simpsons-white-actors-nonwhite-characters-exclude-b920972.html

https://eu.usatoday.com/story/entertainment/tv/2021/03/21/the-simpsons-creator-matt-groening-talks-700-episodes-future-apu/4754144001/

Hank Azaria had apologised for voicing Indian character, Apu… for 30 years.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/newsbeat-56731420

And they recast gay Cuban character, Julio, with a gay Cuban actor.

https://hypebeast.com/2021/4/the-simpsons-recasts-gay-cuban-character-julio-with-gay-actor-tony-rodriguez

Which does make their joy at (as far as we know) straight, Benedict Cumberbatch, making a homophobic ad-lib as the ‘Morrissey’ character bigoted peculiar.

‘The Batch’ **high fives everyone, we got this** has previous; using an outdated term to refer to black actors, moaning that it’s hard being posh and playing a trans character for laughs.

https://www.theguardian.com/culture/2015/jan/26/benedict-cumberbatch-apologises-after-calling-black-actors-coloured

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/tvandradio/8978114/Benedict-Cumberbatch-being-posh-can-ostracise-you.html

https://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/films/news/zoolander-2-benedict-cumberbatch-s-cartoonish-transgender-character-prompts-call-film-boycott-a6743891.html

But it doesn’t matter.

This is about clout.

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:

Demon of Britpop

Britpop was a 1990s musical style that favoured an ‘ironic’ or flattened version of working-class British life inspired by the 1960s – booze, birds and ‘having a good time’.

There is a myth that the movement had to save Union Jack iconography from Morrissey’s fascism.

To recap – in August 1992 Morrissey played 1 of 2 gigs at Finsbury Park, London with the band Madness, who allegedly had a strong skinhead following. While singing Glamorous Glue, Morrissey thrashed the Union Jack around the stage as the crowd reportedly yelled homophobic slurs at him and threw missiles. He refused to play the second gig. The NME interpreted this as Morrissey being racist.

In contrast, The Rolling Stones hired Hell’s Angels to be security at their gig in Altamont, San Francisco in 1969. While they were singing Sympathy For The Devil, a fight broke out and the Hell’s Angels stabbed to death an 18 year old black audience member, Meredith Hunter. This was interpreted by everyone as ‘the end of the 1960s’.

https://www.forbes.com/sites/davidchiu/2019/12/03/altamont-at-50-the-disastrous-concert-that-brought-the-60s-to-a-crashing-halt/?sh=3ddd92ab1941

The Union Jack had always been used extensively in UK pop promotion.

In 1990 New Order released a song for the World Cup with the English football team. Its chant ‘En-ger-land’! became popular without any agonising about it encouraging England’s underbelly of football hooliganism and racism.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-19596766

https://www.theguardian.com/football/2021/feb/08/english-football-is-consumed-by-racism-and-hatred-can-the-cycle-be-broken

The 90s would see two more hit football anthems, Three Lions (Football’s coming home) by Baddiel, Skinner and The Lightning Seeds, and Vindaloo by Fat Les (We’re England, We’re gonna score one more than you, England!).

Sentimental longing or arrogant bragging, both songs were celebrations of fandom.

Morrissey’s football song – from Your Arsenal, the same album as The National Front Disco – was ‘We’ll Let You Know’ – sinister, mournful, violent – it was anything but a celebration.

How sad are we?
And how sad have we been?
We’ll let you know
We’ll let you know
Oh, but only if you’re really interested

You wonder how
We’ve stayed alive ’til now
We’ll let you know
We’ll let you know
But only if you’re really interested

We’re all smiles
Then, honest, I swear, it’s the turnstiles
That make us hostile
Oh-wah, oh-wah, oh-wah, oh-wah, oh-wah

We will descend
On anyone unable to defend
Themselves
Oh-wah, oh-wah, oh-wah, oh-wah, oh-wah

And the songs we sing
They’re not supposed to mean a thing
La-la-la-la, la-la-la-la, la-la-la-la
La-la-la, la-la-la, la-la-la, la-la-la-la
La-la-la-la

We may seem cold
Or we may even be the most depressing people you’ve ever known
At heart, what’s left, we sadly know
That we are the last truly British people you’ve ever known
We are the last truly British people you will ever know
You’ll ever, never, want to know

Morrissey was excluded from Britpop not because he was the dark side, but because he reminded them that the dark side existed when they wanted to use the fig leaf of irony to enjoy the pride and thrill of being loutish, lustful and national.

I crave extremes. I want to be THAT famous, or THAT known. The only reason I’m in this is to make great rock’n’roll records, for the hell of it, and I’m concerned that everybody thinks I’m this politically correct, right-on woman. (Louise Wener, January 1995, Melody Maker)

We are intensely relaxed about people getting filthy rich as long as they pay their taxes. (Peter Mandelson, New Labour strategist, October 1998, Financial Times)

https://www.phrases.org.uk/meanings/cool-britannia.html

Bad Writer

Morrissey’s jokes can be cutting and unwise – but they’re nowhere near as spiteful or as unfunny, as The Quietus.

https://thequietus.com/articles/14213-morrissey-novel-extract

It reads as if their avowed anti-racism is sitting on a powder keg of repression because given half a chance to take a pot shot at the singer they’ve labeled a Nazi, they come out with horrors like this by David Stubbs, in January 2014:

However, these were the 1980s and an unspoken racism meant that it was hard for those whose skin was not disco-coloured to get booked on the programme. So, Norrissey hatched a plan. He and the band turned up at the BBC studios one Thursday evening in Afro wigs, their skins applied with burnt cork, minstrel-style. “Hi!” they said, jively, to the man at the door, waving their hands in the sort of way that makes some wonder if Britain is Britain any more. “The name of this here group of ours is The Blackfaces and we’re here to play our new single ‘Strut Your Superficial Stuff’.” Naturally, they were immediately allowed on the show.

To remind you – it was Simon Reynolds and Frank Owen, journalists at the Melody Maker, who divided pop music into white indie (which was intellectual) and black music (escapist, showbiz, works through the body on the dancefloor). Morrissey answered questions based on their escapist v. intelligent binary and (rightly) thought that escapist would get more airplay because it’s escapist.

“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… 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… What (black music) 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, Steptember, 1986)

Not content with racist jokes based on a faulty memory or no research, he went on to make homophobic jibes…

Stephan Partick Norrissey looked at himself longingly and bashfully in the bedroom mirror. He was 12, and in the throes of a shy infatuation with the boy who stared back at him… In the thrill of the moment, he wondered what his own genitals looked like – he averted his eyes when at the lavatory… He relished the warmth of his own backside…  In 2013, in a ceremony that broke down new barriers in terms of civil partnership, Norrissey married the one man who had kept faith in him, adored him quietly from afar, been his companion in times of loneliness, his only true friend – himself… some were sordid enough to wonder how they would manage to consummate the relationship. They need not have feared – for if anyone was able to insert himself up his own rectum, it was Norrissey.

He also jokes about fat women, because, satire…

An outsider, engulfed by modern superficiality yet destined to be adored by everyone except bitter, fat female journalists

And implies that if Morrissey wanted Jimmy Savile arrested, he should have gone to the police himself, as if it’s unreasonable to think that people who knew about Savile should have done something.

Now, rumours were rife about Jimmy Savile – the things he got up to – evil, disgusting things – but which no one dared to inform the authorities about. Norrissey, however, wasn’t intimidated by Jimmy Savile’s showbiz status – his image as a cigar-toting, yodelling big shot cut no ice with him. He would inform the police.

David Stubbs’ era of music journalism was racist, sexist, homophobic, and turned a blind eye to Savile – the fact that they tired to make it sound ‘positive’ and ‘fun’ doesn’t make it less bigoted.

Their excuse for the venom was Morrissey’s anticipated novel, List of The Lost.

When it arrived there was a glut of bad reviews and a bad sex award.

As soon as it was published last week, the internet erupted with the sound of a thousand contemptuous guffaws. (The Guardian, October 2015)

Even his autobiography, published in 2013, had been denounced, his memories questioned, and his left-wing crimes listed.

This kind of pretentiousness has been taken at face value for so long by the more credulous members of the pop media that it’s no surprise that Morrissey regards himself as an artist… Sixties Manchester was not heaven on earth. Nor was it the Dickensian dump Morrissey would have us believe. Whores did not tout for business in leafy Stretford and as for his memories of miserable schooldays, and teachers who liked to punish miscreants, these are overgrazed pastures. But this is the picture he wants people to see, of how the forces of repression turned him into the mardy little pup who never grew up, and there was nothing he could do about it… In three decades of unloading his misery on a world he finds too cold to take part in, few people have escaped his wrath. The royal family exists as a kind of dictatorship, judges are bent, patriotism is a joke, last year’s Olympic Games was barely a step away from a Nuremberg rally (didn’t you see those jackboots?), and the Krays, being working class, were misunderstood. And don’t forget, boys and girls: ‘meat is murder’... Shamefully Penguin fell for this ruse, and lent a spurious respectability to a mucky exercise. They must know they will never be allowed to forget it. (The Spectator, October 2013)

Not just a bad person, he was now a bad writer.

Bengali In Platforms

This needs to start with Morrissey’s experience of immigration – which is erased in media narratives about him. His family were all Irish, apart from Morrissey and his sister Jackie, who were born in Manchester.

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.

Especially as it violates the norms of polite society by using the words Bengalishelve your Western plans & when you belong here, routinely summarised as Morrissey saying that Asians don’t belong in the UK.

Further that it’s a terrible stereotype to say someone is friendly, might be wearing an unfashionable item, and might own a cornershop (with shelves) – because under the English class system what could be worse than being ordinary?

And if that fails to convince, even if it’s not racist, it’s patronising and condescending, as if a man who was mocked as a prat, as old-fashioned, as embarrassing, from the very beginning of his career could condescend to anyone.

The Guardian, 1983

So what’s in the song?

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 unsuitable 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):

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

We might find out if Morrissey’s notebooks ever become public – but it’s absurd to think that a racist would 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.

National Front Disco

In 1992, Morrissey’s album Your Arsenal, had a track called The National Front Disco.

The National Front was a fascist political party founded in the UK in 1967. In the 1970s they tried to appeal to youths via social events like football matches and discos, eventually becoming associated with punks, skinheads and hooligans.

In a 2015 essay by Frank Owen about the 1970s Manchester punk scene, Morrissey is described as a ‘wallflower’ and a ‘delicate bloom’. Many of the details were a rehash from the Melody Maker interview in 1986 where Frank calls him ‘camp’, a ‘big jessie’ and a ‘big girl’s shirt’.

https://medium.com/cuepoint/booze-blood-and-noise-the-violent-roots-of-manchester-punk-af8092bcaac3

https://fxowen.wordpress.com/golden-oldies/home-thoughts-from-abroad/

Giving the impression that Morrissey was girly and gay seemed important at the time, now he calls him a bigot and a racist.

The song had a variety of inspirations – Bill Buford’s Among The Thugs that described a homoerotic National Front Disco in Bury. Nick Knight’s Skinhead. Bands like Bradford, Angelic Upstarts, and Cockney Rejects. Photographs by Derek Ridgers. The pulp novels of Richard Allen.

In it family and friends tell a young man that they’ve lost him, they know why they’ve lost him, and they doubt he’ll get the revenge or the reward he’s seeking.

In August 1992 Morrissey played a gig with Madness at Finsbury Park. It was reported that the crowd threw missiles and yelled homophobic slurs like ‘poofy bastard’. Morrissey finished his set, but refused to return for the next date. This refusal was widely condemned in the music press culminating in the NME running an article accusing him of encouraging racism with his ‘fascist iconography’ – a union jack and a picture of two female skinheads – and citing The National Front Disco as the latest of a series of racist words in his interviews and lyrics ie Hang The DJ, Bengali In Platforms, When You Belong Here, Shelve Your Western Plans, Asian Rut, Reggae is vile and the fabricated Black Pop Conspiracy.

In The Observer, December 1992, Robert Chalmers, thought he was ‘perversely attracted to the iconography of the far right.’

Morrissey said: ‘I like the flag. I think it’s very attractive. When does a Union Jack become racist?… The National Front interests me, like it interests everyone. Just as all manner of sexuality interests everyone. That doesn’t mean you necessarily want to take part.’

Billy Bragg said ‘I don’t think Morrissey has ever quite got his politics worked out… The real problem with neo-fascist symbolism’ – that’s two girls and the UK’s official flag on a stage with a poofy bastard – ‘is that it is extremely difficult to retain an attitude which is neutral or ironic, which is what I think he is attempting to do.’

Except Morrissey’s politics were clear at the time. He hated Mrs Thatcher. He said he was a socialist. Much of the left shared his dislike of American hegemony and saw the European Union as a continuation of Imperialism. And while he was never keen on benefits and boycotts, he had dutifully turned up.

Beyond wanting to give him a kicking for not fulfilling professional engagements there seemed to be an underlying moral panic about his sexuality.

That he might be exploring violent male subcultures as a kink and the only way anyone could deal with it was to attack it for non-existent racism, or contain it by framing it as ironic or neutral.

Scruples from an industry that had no problem with the iconography of future Trump supporter John Lydon, or girlfriend murderer, Sid Vicious:

That’s happy to wax nostalgic about larky bad boys regardless of violence, homophobia and David Icke conspiracy theories:

Mark himself had once had his head banged repeatedly against a wall by Elvis Costello’s combative manager, Jake Riviera; one of his former NME colleagues was set on fire by Rat Scabies from The Damned, and another was left gaffer-taped to a tree in a desert by The Stranglers… Being “duffed up” (as Mark put it) by disgruntled rock stars was, I realised, a journalistic rite-of-passage. Still, he recommended I call (Ian) Brown’s record company and tell them that their “talent” was going around threatening critics… Within two weeks of our phone “chat” came the infamous air-rage incident, when he threatened to cut off the hands of a British Airways stewardess, then hammered on the cockpit door as the flight came into land… Brown was arrested. (He was eventually sentenced to four months in Strangeways, of which he served eight weeks.)… And, a few months later, Brown launched into a bizarre homophobic rant… ”I don’t trust the British fascination with homosexuals… Violence comes from Romans, Nazis, Greeks – they were all homosexuals.”... How did the lead singer of such an epoch-defining band become a swivel-eyed Covid-denier and online truth warrior? Well, one could plausibly point to a heady cocktail of toxic masculinity, over-inflated ego and drug use… A more sympathetic reading is that the 57-year-old divorced father-of-three might not be feeling quite himself in this new normal™, as is the case with many of us right now. Brown’s “me against the world” complex could be heightened by his counter-cultural leanings, instinctive anti-establishment beliefs and estrangement from his former bandmates. (Michael Hogan, October 2020, The Telegraph)

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/music/artists/gonna-give-proper-manchester-kicking-ian-browns-journey-violence/

That will collect together anti-Moz songs that include homophobic lyrics because paraphrases of his ‘inflammatory’ statements make him fair game:

All you do is hate life and tell me about it. You’re a homosexual, just keep me out of it. All your music sounds the same
I don’t even like your art fag name. Cause I hate The Smiths and Steven Morrissey
(I Hate The Smiths, Ween)

That crybaby son of bitch, no-talent motherfucker/Bastard-ass dickhead, ball-flapping dicksucker/Baggy-shirted depressed Dean-loving bonehead/Making lots of money with boring songs like Suedehead. (Morrissey Rides A Cockhorse, Warlock Pinchers)

Slap that fag with a toe tag , If you won’t do it then I will. (Morrissey Must Die, Meatmen)

Shaking hands with Morrissey, Sucking cock in East Africa, Ask a lesbian for a fuck, Take a shower in…Auschwitz (Deathtime, Turbonegro)

https://music.avclub.com/viva-hate-15-anti-morrissey-songs-1798222021

Where homophobic anecdotes can be repeated without fear of denting anyone’s career:

When Julian Casablancas (Strokes) has a drink” Jimi (Goodwin, Doves) warns “he goes nuts.” He launches into his favourite Strokes anecdote. Apparently the two bands were in LA having post-gig drinks in a British theme bar. None other than Morrissey was nearby, at a table with 3 girls. “It was fucking strange, man” Jimi laughs “He kept sending these girls over to say ‘Morrissey is sat in the corner if you’d like to talk to him’. He is dead shy, but it was like he was holding fucking court. We were like “We’re cool, tell him to come over and join us”. So he came over and sat down, and Julian started calling him a fucking faggot. I was like “just leave it out, Julian” and he was all “Jimi’s upset with me, man – what’s the problem?” and then he kept doing it! (NME, August, 2001)

Where rock stars can routinely demand everything from drugs to groupies, but Morrissey can’t get a towel:

‘He’s a woman in a man’s body… I remember a feeling of absolute revulsion standing at the side of the stage at the palace watching Stuart James, who’s a brilliant engineer, a good producer and a fine young man, scurrying across the stage with eight freshly cleaned towels for Morrissey.’ (Tony Wilson, The Severed Alliance by Johnny Rogan)

Where casual racism is just a snappy lead:

OK. So it’s not the same as having millions of Muslims baying for your blood, but being at the receiving end of a fatwah issued by Pop’s most vehement star is not an uninteresting circumstance in which to find oneself. (Hot Press, March 2001)

Captions can be in bad taste:

The Smiths, Johnny Rogan

And your friends get corrections:

“No, because your rabbi respects PIG ISLAM”. (Julie Burchill, Independent, September 2014).

Julie Burchill – the funniest, brightest writer I ever met. (David Quantick, Le Document, July 2020)

The National Front Disco

David, the wind blows,
The wind blows

Bits of your life away.
Your friends all say,
“Where is our boy?
Ah, we’ve lost our boy”.
But they should know,
Where you’ve gone,
Because again and again you’ve explained
That you’re going to . . .
Oh, oh, oh, going to . . .
Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah
“England for the English”,
“England for the English”.
David, the wind’s blown,
The wind’s blown
All of my dreams away.
And I still say,
“Where is our boy?
Ah, we’ve lost our boy”.
But I should know
Why you’ve gone,

Because again and again you’ve explained
You’re going to the National . . .
Ah, to the National . . .
There’s a country,
You don’t live there,
But one day you would like to.
And if you show them what you’re made of,
Ah, then you might do.
But David, we wonder,
We wonder if the thunder
Is ever really gonna begin,
Begin, begin
Your mum says,
“I’ve lost my boy”.
But she should know
Why you’ve gone,

Because again and again you’ve explained
You’re going to the National,
To the National,
To the National Front disco,
Because you want the day to come sooner,
You want the day to come sooner,
You want the day to come sooner,
When you’ve settled the score.
Oh, the National,
Oh, the National,
Oh, the National,
Oh, the National,
Oh, the National



Black Music Conspiracy

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

Frank was interested in hip-hop and house music by then 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 would be 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.

The music journalist Simon Reynolds had split pop into Indie and Black. Indie was ‘intelligent’ and Black was ‘crude showbiz’.

Frank seemed unaware that Simon was tapping into the racist trope that black people are all about the body.

Worse, he claimed, with absolutely no evidence and no sign of disapproval, that Morrissey was singing about ‘hanging black DJs’ in the song Panic, which was about Radio 1 playing a chirpy band like Wham after announcing the Chernobyl nuclear leak.

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

But the question he put to Morrissey was ‘so is the music of The Smiths and their ilk racist, as Green claims?’ (Green Gartside was the lead singer of Scritti Politti.)

Moz defended Indie by saying:

“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.”

He accepts that reggae has to be strong, just thinks it might be extreme sometimes.

And there does seem to have been some concern about it in the 70s, in the same way that Skins and Punks were a concern.

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

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

Morrissey’s use of the word ‘vile’ is a camp affectation but he had a habit of being airily scathing about nearly everything that wasn’t his fierce love of the moment.

Frank countered with, black music is more subtle because it works on the body via the dancefloor, Moz wasn’t convinced.

“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.”

The ‘by law’ was a joke /hyperbole. 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.

Frank put it in terms of black and white, ‘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.’

Moz, not picking up on it, kept it about escapism and real life, and is still blaming (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.”

Frank asks him if he finds Black music macho, 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 journalist Tony Fletcher will accuse him of not wanting black people to prosper in the present), Moz is unconvinced about technology.

‘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 the violence in Manchester and the lyrics of Never Had No One Ever and Morrissey explains they’re about how confused he felt about not feeling at home where he was born because his parents were from Ireland.

“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 would throw 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. In his 2013 autobiography he said,

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.

Most people – ignoring that Morrissey had more or less confirmed that he was openly gay, had said he didn’t feel at home because his family were immigrants, and was afraid of violence and the parade of insults he was subjected to – considered this article to be a major racism scandal – with Morrissey accused of thinking black people were conspiring against him, him disliking modern black music being equated with hating black people, and Frank’s wrong assertion that Panic was about hanging black Djs taken as fact.

Johnny Marr, who never strays from the safest of safe showbiz political opinions, was furious,

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)

Tony Fletcher, in his 2012 book about The Smiths, A Light That Never Goes Out, has nothing to say about the leading questions or the homophobia. In fact he seems to think Morrissey deserves the homophobia, putting Morrissey’s ‘no sex’ agenda in quotes, saying Frank dared suggest in writing that in years to come, Morrissey would be into “fisting and water sports”, accepting this explanation:

“Morrissey is the biggest closet gay queen on the planet and he felt that I was trying to ‘out’ him by bringing this up.

and adding,

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 and made it sound as if Panic was about a detestation of black modern music so strong that he wasn’t ‘content to leave it there’ even though he was only replying to Frank.

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 also ascribed Frank’s comments about NME and Melody Maker readers to ‘Morrissey’s thinking’, while accepting the racist assumption that Black music is about the body, pretending that British youth hadn’t danced before rave, took Morrissey’s joke about the law seriously and thought it was ridiculous 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 blind to the racist assumptions that shaped the division of pop into Black and Indie and thinks that it’s Morrissey who 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.

He accused Morrissey of ‘trolling’ for using the Attack reggae label in 2004 – nearly 18 years after this interview, and 12 years after the homophobic abuse Morrissey received at Finsbury Park was misrepresented as Morrissey waving the Union Jack in support of racist English nationalism.

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 prejudices while spending nearly 40 years scrutinizing every word Morrissey says for racism, crafting every distorted violation into a litany – the thing that Morrissey was and continues to be that bothers them so much is probably, ‘humasexual’, asocial and sardonic.

Finsbury Park

On August 8th 1992 Morrissey played at Finsbury Park with headliners Madness. He’d worked with band members, Suggs and Cathal Smyth, and also with their producers Clive Langer and Alan Winstanley.

During his set the crowd shouted homophobic insults & threw coins & bottles.

Increasing angry he thrashed a Union flag about the stage & was so incensed or distressed by the ‘loathsome yobbos’ that he refused to play the 2nd day of the two day booking.

Nowadays he could phone the police & they would investigate it as a hate crime.

Back then he was denounced as a drama queen, who had blown it with his imagery & let his fans down.

Select Magazine, October 1992
select Magazine, January 1993

The NME implied he was a racist & a fascist.

Cornershop burned his picture outside EMI.

The press dismissed violent homophobia to denounce Morrissey for his art & for refusing to explain himself to the press who had dismissed violent homophobia.

Morrissey has always said that he was attracted to men and women, and talked about transexuality and gender. In 1991 he’d toured with lesbian singer, Phranc. It’s likely that at least some of the audience had been targeting what they thought they knew about his sexuality.

Years later the NME plunged him into yet another race row because he thought Knightsbridge – the most expensive street in London – had lost its local character.

28 years later The Guardian asked if he was showing his true colours.


Love Music Hate Racism used it to say he has a long history of supporting Far Right organisations – his only other ‘support’ being a comment that The BNP should be allowed to speak. Morrissey is from an Irish Catholic family, he supported a United Ireland & between 1988 & 1994 Sinn Fein’s politicians had their voices banned on UK television.

http://imomus.com/index60.html

Former friends eager to cast him out as a tax exile (foreign now, nothing to do with them) have never said a word about the homophobia:

& if you read Morrissey’s press there are relentless examples of homophobic or transphobic digs eg. David Quantick’s ‘Mozz Flanders in a dank cellette’, ‘Dorrissey’ the Morrissey parody in the 1980s video game ‘Rock Star Ate My Hamster’, hand up bum business in Vic and Bob’s Morrissey the Consumer Monkey sketch etc etc…

Which might be why the homophobia has been entirely written out of the story.