It’s normal celebrity feud material, but the response has Folk Devil relevance.
With no stand out word or phrase in the letter to demonise him with, it was called bitchy, moany, odious (Rock’s Page Pages email – they have no issue with the homophobia in their back pages – in fact they highlighted the NME’s homophobic 1992 article, still lying that Morrissey had flirted with racism) and untruthful – with journalists insisting that Marr has to be cajoled into talking about Morrissey (how is Morrissey supposed to know that?)
It’s not quite clear what Johnny Marr said recently to piss off Morrissey, but it resulted in an extremely bitchy “open letter” from the former Smiths singer to his one-time guitarist and songwriting partner. (Rolling Stone, January 2022)
And it was linked to the far right racist narrative by jokes about free speech…
… a clunky association with Donald Trump…
… Marr changing his Twitter profile pic to his Simpsons character – the Morrissey character being a fat, meat-eating, gay racist (weirdly proving the racism allegations and homophobia go hand in glove the Simpsons violated their diversity casting policy by hiring a straight actor to play Morrissey and including a homophobic joke in Tim Long’s script.)…
… And choosing to RT a tweet that reinforces the idea he’s the the nice left-winger in contrast to Morrissey’s evil right-winger while giving the For Britain logo yet more reach…
Plus the return of the Lucky Dip from the List of Word Crimes – The Guardian chose Hitler, Brexit, Rape Apologist, Immigration, Merseyrail, and For Britain. The Independent chose For Britain, Hitler, Own Race and Khan’s Accent. Consequence went for Con-Vid and For Britain. That’s, For Britain, a far right party that Morrissey didn’t vote for, join, or give money to, that he didn’t believe was far right (he explicitly condemned racism and fascism) & that he hasn’t mentioned since May 2019 getting mainstream press nearly 3 years later just to hate on him.
Though many people can’t even remember which party & confuse it with either the real Britain First party (openly far right and violently homophobic. For Britain’s gay vegan leader fallaciously insists she’s on the centre right, and was forced there because the left won’t listen to her concerns about women’s/gay & animal rights) or with Trump’s America First slogan.
And think they’ve had to steer clear of his fascism for decades.
Which brings us back to the mirror that cracked – The NME.
They kept it general with ‘controversial‘ Morrissey & ‘legendary‘ Marr.
Which is fitting.
At some point after the Smiths’ breakup, they decided Marr was the star. (The violent homophobia and false racism allegations of 1992 were meant to have killed Morrissey’s career stone dead.)
I must admit, pestered Marr. A relentless mixture of journo and fan, I have nagged away at him to break the silence he has so studiously maintained about The Smiths these last four years. During those years (while Marr was doing his ‘have guitar, will travel’ routine) the true story of The Smiths has become a prisoner of Morrissey’s whimsical memory and busy tongue, and, worse, the loaded imaginings of hacks. But now – at long bleedin’ last and maybe just to shut me up – Marr has steeled himself and agreed to do a once-and-for-all, no-holds-barred interview about the band that, more than any other, illuminated ’80s Britpop. He has chosen his moment with care. The imminent release of Electronic’s second single (‘Get The Message’); and the album that’ll quickly follow, will place Marr at the creative crux of his second great band. It will confirm him as one of the most gifted and influential musicians of the last decade. Maybe the most. Before we start, one more thing needs making crystal clear; Johnny Marr is a Very Happy Man. And why not? At 27 years of age (27? Shocking, isn’t it?) he has it all, sorted. A career on the very brink of new pinnacles: a blessed marriage to Angie; a collection of guitars vast enough to satisfy even as voracious an axe-freak as he; a car too big for most of the streets of his native Manchester; a studio refuge in the depths of his home. Did I say ‘happy ? This, people, is the proverbial pig in shit. But best of all, though, is Johnny Marr’s healthy relationship with his past. He has refused to let it haunt or hinder him. Nor is he cramped, like some, by an undue reverence for Morrissey. Indeed, he (like all the Factory mafia) now refers to his former soulmate as ‘Dorissey’ and has re-christened the limpid lad’s last 45 (‘Our Frank’) as ‘Alf Wank’.(Danny Kelly, NME, April 1991)
Side Note: if Morrissey mimicked a Black artist it would have been in his List of Word Crimes:
This is nervy, routine business-avoidance. We’re here to talk Smiths. Start at the start. “I was born a poor black chile …” he grins, in one last attempt at stalling. (Danny Kelly, Johnny Marr, NME, April 1991)
Side Note 2: straight men in music truly can say what they like.
Defends Neil Young:
Politically-speaking, its hard to exorcise the ghost of his 1980s pronouncements, when he swung hard-right behind the Reagan presidency and lashed out at gays (“you go to the supermarket and you see a faggot behind the fucking cash register, you don’t want him to handle your potatoes”) and welfare spongers. “Stop being supported by the government and get out and work,” Neil advised. “You have to make the weak stand up on one leg, or half a leg, whatever they’ve got.” Set against all this, however, is some of the finest music of the last 30 years; a body of work that’s at once earthy yet haunting. Marshalling the case for the defence I would direct the jury, in particular, to listen to Everybody Knows This is Nowhere, After the Goldrush, the wonderfully sepulchral Tonight’s the Night, choice portions of Harvest, Zuma and Rust Never Sleeps, and the whole of On the Beach (recently reissued and every bit as good as I remember it) (Xan Brooks, the Guardian, September 2003)
Condemns Morrissey – who had expressed support for left-winger Bernie Sanders in June 2016 and left-winger Jeremy Corbyn in September 2015 and who released a political manifesto that was all about animal welfare in March 2016 when considering running for London mayor on behalf of the left-wing Animal Welfare Party. Yet the implication is he’s now right-wing for immigration comments that were wildly exaggerated in a rehash of the NME’s homophobic 1992 article, and one word in a statement that wasn’t about hating the Chinese, but about pointing out how inhumane animal cruelty footage looked.
Did he and Morrissey have similar politics? “Yeah, we did back then.” And now? “I wouldn’t expect so. Probably not.” In recent years, Morrissey has made headlines for suggesting that immigration is compromising British identity; he sued the NME (successfully) for defamation, releasing a statement that “racism has no place in our society”. In a 2010 interview with this magazine, he described the Chinese as a “subspecies” when it came to their treatment of animals. Marr prefers to talk about the days when Morrissey reserved his bile for Margaret Thatcher. (Simon Hattenstone, the Guardian, October 2016)
His comments were interpreted as anti-immigrant because that was the press angle, with Vice investigating conservative views in the East Asian community (before Covid gave a campaign against East Asian Hate some media currency).
Liu emigrated from China 15 years ago and is now running for Ward 31 councillor in Toronto. “Chinese social values and beliefs align almost 100 percent with the Conservatives, so it’s a natural fit,” she says. (Steven Zhou, Vice, September 2018)
But as Faith had recently exploited the murder of Marrisa in a failed bid to become Mayor of Toronto, and as Morrissey had recently come to believe that the press, police and governments were ignoring crimes committed by ethnic minorities (even when ethnic minorities were the victims) because it didn’t fit their ideological narrative that ethnic minorities can only be victims, and that they falsely accused anyone who wanted crimes fairly investigated of being a racist – it was very likely something to do with that.
London is second only to Bangladesh for acid attacks. All of the attacks are non-white, and so they cannot be truthfully addressed by the British government or the Met Police or the BBC because of political correctness. What this means is that the perpetrator is considered to be as much of a victim as the actual victim. We live in the Age of Atrocity. (Morrissey, Morrissey Central, April 2018)
We’re primed to interpret the above as a attack on Bangladeshis, because that’s the norm in media rhetoric – but it isn’t any different to Morrissey blaming American and British foreign policy for the 2005 London Terror attack:
All these dead Iraqi children and persecuted people, and every day in Iraq there are 40, 50, 60 dead in car bombs, etcetera. Yet, in Los Angeles they don’t even bother to mention it. They’re absolutely preoccupied with whether Brad and Jen will get back together… My view was, how would anyone be remotely surprised? It’s an obvious retaliation against Blair’s intentions… And you can’t refer to these things as being terrorist attacks and yet assume that the actions of Blair and Bush are not terrorism. They’re worse than terrorism, they’re the actions of egotistical monsters. (Morrissey, March 2008)
The invasion of Iraq having been justified by lies and excused by myths.
The news media appropriately caught a huge chunk of the blame. But a public that had been fooled once was not prepared for the multiple rounds of post-invasion deceptions that followed, issued by many of the same pols and press actors. These were designed to rewrite history in real time, creating new legends that have now lasted 16 years. These have allowed people like Bush spokesman Ari Fleischer — through whose mouth many of the chief lies of the era flowed — to come out this week and claim it was a “myth” that “Bush lied, people died.” The myths had enormous utility to the working press, whose gargantuan errors have been re-cast as honest mistakes of judgment. A lot of the people who made those mistakes are still occupying prominent positions, their credibility undamaged thanks to a new legend best articulated by New Yorker editor David Remnick, who later scoffed “Nobody got that story completely right.” (Matt Taibbi, Rolling Stone, March 2019)
And on the basis of one fleeting reference to Tommy Robinson, a far right grifter who had been jailed in 2018 for larping as a journalist during a child abuse trial, the UK press has retrofitted Morrissey into a supporter of the English Defence League, a violent far right protest group that Robinson belonged to between 2009-2013, that blamed Islamic terrorism on Muslims.
On Tuesday journalists who have, for the past decade, boycotted the shop-soiled former legend Morrissey because of his support of the right-wing English Defence League sprang back into print when he finally gave a quote that wasn’t about immigration or the Chinese being a nation of “cruel” people… (Caitlin Moran, the Times, June 2018)
So, the suspicion that the press would lie about an issue for political reasons, isn’t far fetched. In fact, it’s backed up by a review of the concert in which the reviewer lamented that Morrissey hadn’t highlighted a crime where immigrants were victims, even though they were murdered for being gay, and the perpetrator had been jailed, as if the point of talking about a crime isn’t to get justice, but to steer public opinion.
Later, Morrissey dedicated a song to Marrissa Shen, a 13-year-old girl from British Columbia whose accused murderer is a Canadian resident of Syrian descent. The homicide trial has become common fodder for anti-immigration sentiment in Canada. Instead of a seemingly random reference, it felt like a harsh reminder of so many of Morrissey’s troubling political statements. Why not take the opportunity, for instance, to acknowledge the Bruce McArthur case, wherein the victims were largely immigrants?
When he was denouncing Donald Trump for not comforting the gay community in the wake of the Orlando massacre, she was was disgusted by gay sex and blaming the gay community for being against guns and complaining about homophobia (Rebel News video, June 17th 2016)
By this stage in his North American tour, under pressure from relentless bad publicity, he seemed unwell, defiant, but confused, depressed, and disheveled.
Wherever he was getting his information about (gay, vegan, Irish, feminist, ex-leftie) Anne Marie Waters (who is the Far Right party he’s accused of knowingly supporting) he was also haphazardly picking up alt-right trojan memes about animal cruelty and child abuse (two of his long-term obsessions, since Suffer Little Children and Meat Is Murder) and was reworking them into his left-leaning opposition to institutional violence; while the press was taking everything he said and twisting it into the NME’s homophobic Finsbury Park myth, where he was accused of inciting violence against himself because he found racism sexy.
As with his one reference to Tommy Robinson that the press, as usual, endlessly regurgitates, Morrissey hadn’t mentioned Faith Goldy before, and hasn’t mentioned her since.
Neil Gaiman took the opportunity to suck up to the television industry as if he’d be thrilled by an episode that condemned him for potentially murdering the people of Skye because he was too dim to read the Covid rules:
Not that they would target Neil with anything that would hurt or exclude him, because whatever his personal issues, he does marketing, networking, online engagement, works with a vast number of people & might be able to shaft your career. Things Morrissey can’t do, due to shyness, anxiety, depression, dysmorphia, and/or clear-eyed horror at its fakeness.
The show probably took its character arc from a hit piece in The LA Times, based on hit pieces in the British press. There’s an accumulating list of misquotes and misinterpretations and every article will pick at least three, along with UNCLEAN, UNCLEAN labels like xenophobe, racist, far right, right-wing, British nationalist, British nativist, controversial, reactionary, toxic, anti-immigrant, hard to love, dead to me, or HE WHO MUST NOT BE NAMED.
Nearly everything about him gets edited out & the rest is conflated, hyped & chanted.
For a start, he is an immigrant, not to the USA, but to England:
… my sister and I growing up, never really felt we were Mancunians. My Irishness was never something I hid or camouflaged. I grew up in a strong Irish community. Of course, early on I’d be teased about it, I was called `Paddy’ from an early age. I mean, there I was, born, braised and bred in Manchester but I was still always called `Paddy’. And this was back in the 1960s when it was a bitter and malevolent slur. But that’s how Manchester people are – they’re extremely critical of everything and everybody. (Morrissey, November 1999, Irish Times)
His current band, that no one ever talks about because they’re too busy pining for the all-white one, has immigrants:
I remember seeing you in a Chivas USA shirt. You have a strong association with Mexico. How do you think their people are treated in America? Oh, like kings! No, sorry, that was a joke. My guitarist Jesse, who’s been with me for 10 years, is Mexican. One night in Los Angeles the police approached us, spoke reasonably civilly to me, and then said to him “which restaurant do you work at?” I think that sums it up! One of the greatest guitarists of the modern age, but because his skin is brown it’s assumed he washes dishes for a living. He will one day, of course… (Morrissey, August 2014, Hot Press)
He’s mentioned immigration in general only a few times in his career, and he’s never attacked people, or demanded that immigration be lowered, stopped or reversed. What he frets about is the tensions inherent in identity. Who we are, why we are, can we kick against it, can we get along? Always on the side of the less powerful, although in his eagerness to attack government policy, he can forget the social norm of expressing pity for its victims while doing absolutely nothing genuinely helpful. He laments that culture is becoming generic esp in music. And he rails against tyranny and injustice; we need structure to make our lives function, but it can also oppress and brutalise us:
The infantile panic with which American immigration officials shout loudly and humiliate gleefully is designed to exert strength, yet it trumpets cowardice and it fouls notions of patriotism… The US government proudly boasted Zero Tolerance and implemented the scheme with zero intelligence. (Morrissey, 2013, Autobiography)
But his overwhelming concern is the meat industry:
The fact that the slaughterhouse or abattoir exists is the most obvious example of human evil. The slaughterhouse is the dead end for humanity, and as long as it exists we can’t possibly have any hope for the human race. If you’ve seen abattoir footage then you cannot possibly think that humans are anything other than evil pests…
He has always felt his opposition to the meat industry is opposed by power:
… If your views threaten any form of establishment interests, you are usually ignored or silenced or said to be ‘ranting, I have never ranted in my life. (Morrissey, June 2015, The Huffington Post)
And he clearly believed fringe crank, Anne Marie Waters, founder of For Britain, when she said she was being smeared as a racist and a fascist because she was talking about sensitive issues to do with veganism, secularism, animal rights, feminism, and gay rights. And that somehow she would stop the violence and polarization that was driving politics in the 2010s as social media funneled us into warring silos:
I despise racism.I despise fascism. I would do anything for my Muslim friends, and I know they would do anything for me. (Morrissey, April 2018, Central)
Yes, he could have been more savvy, she is entirely a product of polarisation, but she’s essentially an unelectable YouTuber. At the time of writing (April 2021) he last mentioned her two years ago in April 2019, and he first and last wore the badge of her ‘party’ (which he apparently didn’t join or vote for) in May 2019.
The timing of the show was cynical.
The Simpsons had been called out for using racial stereotypes and discriminatory casting.
And for some grotesque reason a high profile television show decided to improve its image by taking pains – stars, songs, extras – to punch down at a low profile Indie singer. Which would have made a better plot.
To cap it The Sunday Times editorial, 25th April 2021, made it clear we hate it when our stars don’t give exclusive interviews:
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.
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)
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.
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.
He’s got issues with organised religion esp. when it comes to sexuality, but he doesn’t hate the faithful.
From his autobiography, 2013:
On the Orlando shooter, 2016:
His attitude to borders is left-wing.
In his autobiography, 2013, uses strength to mean confident & ordered, not draconian & racist:
In his disastrously pull-quoted Morrissey Central interview with his nephew in April, 2018, when he wondered why the press had decided he was an unacceptable racist, he was still emphasizing order:
“If borders are such terrible things then why did they ever exist in the first place? Borders bring order.”
As the son of immigrants, he’s acutely aware of the identity crisis that comes from having two cultures. It’s one of the reasons he has a strong Chicano fanbase. Like him, they left their Catholic country (Mexico/Ireland) to live in a Protestant/Secular country (America/England) that often doesn’t acknowledge, like or understand them.
“my family has myriad tales of living in a golden Mexico during the 1940s and 1950s. Those stories helped foster a deep-seated melancholy within me about where I truly belong. Not quite American; not wholly Latino, living in all the spaces in between. Growing up in rural Ohio, these duelling identities caused me an incredible amount of angst, as I tried to traverse the space between home and school. It’s easy to see where so many of Morrissey’s songs that deal with identity crisis, with a sense of alienation, of being an “other”, would appeal to people such as me. Feeling ostracised, not part of a homogeneous American culture – that’s enough to make anyone morose and woebegone.” (March, 2016)
“Morrissey’s ‘Irishness’ is partly contained in this idea of the ‘outsider’, a fascination with writers including Oscar Wilde, his black wit, and as he has says” – “Ireland has always been a very credible and very poetic place, with no-one under any illusions about themselves – we all end up in the same bucket etc.” (August, 2006)
Moz seems to have been silent on Hebdo, but in November 2015, 128 people were murdered, most of them in the Bataclan music venue, and the motivation of Islamic State seemed to be more about killing unbelievers than freedom-fighting.
In paying tribute to the victims at a gig on 11th November in Santiago, Morrissey reportedly said, “As you know, as you’ve heard, the war of religion is upon us, or the religion of war is upon us. And we say ‘no thank you, no, no, no, no, no, no, no’.”
At the same time there was a refugee crisis in Europe & no coherent policies to deal with it. Extremism was increasing in badly managed camps. Troll campaigns exaggerated or fabricated refugee related crime. And Erdogan was using refugees as leverage, deliberately sending high numbers over the border to cause resource breakdowns & local stress.
The left was struggling to cope with a fascist group from a non-Western background & with complex problems that couldn’t be papered over with a slogan.
& social media had turned us into witch hunt junkies.
So what did Moz actually say?
That he was angry. That words didn’t make up for broken bodies. That May (famous for a hostile environment policy that could deport your Grandmother but not a terrorist) had bad policies. And he takes pot-shots at politicians, the press, the Queen & Islamic State.
Comedian, Michael Legge, whose 2008 blog could easily be paraphrased to mean all Muslims are f**king nutters who are potential bombers who should be locked in asylums…
Talking about it, he said: “because I do look back in anger! I would have sang ‘World Peace Is None of Your Business’ or ‘Life is a Pigsty’ – or something truthful and meaningful. If my child had been killed at Manchester Arena I wouldn’t be lighting candles and swaying… I’d be in a complete rage.”
World Peace would likely have been seen as divisive.
And even though one thing we know Moz & Islam are in total agreement on is that eating pigs is a bad thing (for different reasons) – pig in a song title is likely to have been interpreted as a racist insult.
Once the torches are lit & the pitchforks are sharpened, it’s very hard to avoid being chased to the windmill.