England’s Quare Cancer – Morrissey and Nostalgia

Morrissey was born into an Irish Catholic family, grew up as part of the minority Irish Catholic community and lived between Dublin and Manchester. He talked about his struggles to belong and make sense of his Irish and English identity in light of Ireland’s colonisation by England/the British Empire. He comforted himself with the idea that even if he felt out of place, English people also had life hard. And he knew the pain of parting as family members moved abroad.

It was a constant confusion to me why I never really felt ‘This is my patch. This is my home. I know these people. I can do what I like, because this is mine.’ It never was. I could never walk easily. (Morrissey, Melody Maker, September 1986)

my sister and I growing up, never really felt we were Mancunians. My Irishness was never something I hid or camouflaged. I grew up in a strong Irish community. Of course, early on I’d be teased about it, I was called `Paddy’ from an early age… this was back in the 1960s when it was a bitter and malevolent slur. But that’s how Manchester people are – they’re extremely critical of everything and everybody… I used to come back to Dublin… the people seemed happier and more carefree and Crumlin seemed so open – certainly more so than the confines of Hulme. We were quite happy to ghettoise ourselves as the Irish community in Manchester, the Irish stuck rigidly together. (Morrissey, Irish Times, 20 November 1999) https://www.irishtimes.com/news/paddy-english-man-part-1-1.252576

Obviously the Irish feel resentment towards England because England has historically been so appalling to Ireland. So it was somewhat confusing for me growing up… England has been a bully and is a bully. (Morrissey, Mojo, June 2004)

We had waved goodbye to Mary at Manchester Airport, a US emigree in her nineteenth year, and to never again be a Manchester lass. We all cry uncontrollably as Mary’s flight is called – a much loved branch hacked away. (Morrissey, Autobiography, 2013)

In Viva Hate every protagonist is dislocated in some way, and they’re all harried. Bengali in Platforms is consistent with the album, his lived experience of not fitting in, & Ireland’s vein of wistful, bittersweet, cautionary songs about the ‘curse of emigration’.

There’s a graveyard in Tir Conaill,where the blossoms sadly grow, There’s a sorrow stricken mother,kneeling o’re that lonely grave. My Noreen,oh my Noreen its lonesome since you’ve gone, Twas the shame of emigration,laid you low my Noreen Bawn. (Neil McBride, folk song, from Donegal, Ireland, 1910) https://www.irishcentral.com/culture/entertainment/songs-of-irish-emigration-exile

The NME said it was a “convoluted diatribe against assimilation” (22 August 1992) and reprinted Q’s assessment from March 1988 that: In Morrissey’s mind, (‘Bengali In Platforms’) may be a profound statement about personal alienation, but unfortunately it would go down very well at a singalong after a National Front picnic.

David Stubbs, thought all black and Asian people were interchangeable, and hit on the Irish stereotype of the Thick Paddy.

The appalling Bengali In Platforms, quintessentially Morrissey, Morrissey the Diana Ross hating Morrissey… dumb… embarrassing… a caring call to the sartorially inept Asian… appallingly patronising… deals with an outmoded stereotype… [should be about] the snappily-dressed Punjabi…. [Morrissey is] our last idiot. (David Stubbs, Melody Maker, 19 March 1988)

Along with temper, aggressiveness, deceit and a natural penchant for alcohol, one of the oldest and most enduring putative characteristics of the Irishman was his atavistic ignorance or, at best, his inveterate illogicality. The Irishman’s intellectual deficit, characterised by bulls, blunders and malapropisms, made him a lamentable figure of fun. (James McCabe, Presses universitaires François-Rabelais, 2008) https://books.openedition.org/pufr/5076

A consensus formed that Morrissey was telling immigrants to get out of the country.

the lyrics to Bengali In Platforms (“It’s hard enough when you belong here” – implication: you don’t) had long rubbed liberals up the wrong way, even though he was simpy addressing what he’d seen around him in multicultural Manchester. (Andrew Collins, his blog, 28 November 2007)

And that he was nostalgic for “an enclosed world that ends in roughly 1964, at some sort of point just before large-scale migration from the cotton districts of south Asia into the cotton districts of the North West of England” (Owen Hatherley, Verso, 31 March 2020).

In fact, South Asians arrived in the 1950s, and lived in the same immigrant slums as the Irish. And it was those immigrant slums that Morrissey was nostalgic for, never recovering from the trauma of the slum clearances, as communities were ripped apart by nice, well-meaning, middle-class people for their own good, and exiled into “ugly new houses”.

In a way it was like having one’s childhood wiped away. In Queen’s Square, my grandmother occupied the fourth house. We occupied the fifth house. And the sixth house was occupied by my mother’s sister and her family. So it was a very strong community and it was very tight. Very solid. And it was also quite happy. Well there’s nothing at Queen’s Square now… everything has just vanished. It’s just like the whole thing has been completely erased from the face of the earth. I feel great anger. I feel massive sadness. It’s like a complete loss of childhood. Because although I’ve always lived in Manchester, and I’ve always lived relatively close to here, to this part of Manchester, now… it’s just so foreign to me. And that’s quite sad, I think. (Morrissey, Oxford Road Show, BBC 2, 22 March 1985)

Morrissey’s lost England

In the Smiths his nostalgia was part of his oddity – because he was camp (the gay antiques dealer being a common stereotype) or because he was a nerd obsessively collecting pictures of old dead film stars, or a congenital idiot.

We afford [Morrissey] the sort of license that’s normally extended to children and idiots; sensing the presence of an innocence and simplicity that’s been civilised out of the rest of us. (Paul Du Noyer, NME, 16 February 1985)

The accusation that he’s nostalgic for a Green and Pleasant, white, Nationalist, Little England comes from the NME’s 1992 homophobic hit piece.

There is nothing wrong with celebrating England or Britain… but… once you start cavorting with the Union Jack, with all its ambiguities, and surrounding yourself with the paraphernalia and imagery of the skinhead cult, then that celebration has moved… into… dangerous territory. And that territory is not the green and pleasant land of Morrissey’s dreams... “Take me back to dear old Blighty…” So sang Cicely Courtneidge in The L-Shaped Room, as grafted onto the evocative intro to ‘The Queen Is Dead”s opening title track. The ’60s kitchen sink movie is one of Morrissey’s pet favourites; the use of the patriotic pub singalong a mere atmosphere-setting quirk on an album littered with ambiguous pro/anti-nationalist signals. But, as ever with the controversy-courting bard of Whalley Range, it conjures images of Old England, Dunkirk spirit, British bulldog nostalgia and — stop us if you’ve heard this one before… (NME, 22 August 1992)

Morrissey advocates a cricket green England, an England where we tolerate immigration in small numbers, an England where it’s exotic to have a ‘brown’ neighbour… ‘Shelve your Western plans’ is a synonym for ‘England for the English’. It’s ‘go home P***’ in more poetic language with a prettier tune. (Martin Rossiter, the Quietus, 26 May 2017)

After that any reference to England in his work was heavily policed and maligned.

We are, this time round, spared any dubious songs about Bengalis who don’t belong here or visits to fascist discos. (“I didn’t invent the Union Jack” he sulked to a journalist recently, adding that he “didn’t understand the fascist implications of it”. Morrissey didn’t invent being an issue-fudging twat either.) There are no ballads. The twinkling insouciance of ‘Kill Uncle’ and the razor glam of ‘Your Arsenal’ are absent. Instead, Moz and the gang give RCA what they want, which is a loud mess to sell to America… In the end, there’s no reason why anyone who already owns a record made by Morrissey – or, more particularly, The Smiths – should even want to hear this record, let alone buy it. Its maker should call himself The Morrissey Formerly Known As Artiste. (David Quantick, NME, August 1995)

Certainly, the paper-thin caricature Englishness of much of Maladjusted is likely to go down much better with Americans, for whom the title-track’s mentions of the Fulham Road and “a Stevenage overspill” might yet retain a little declasse glamour. (Andy Gill, the Independent, August 1997)

In an era when every other UK artist was dripping in Union Jacks he was disparaged for writing a gay love song set in a part of London where he had lived.

Your leg came to rest against mine
Then you lounged with knees up and apart
And me and my heart, we knew
We just knew
For evermore
Where taxi drivers never stop talking
Under slate grey Victorian sky
Here you’ll find, my heart and I
And still we say come back
Come back to Camden
And I’ll be good, I’ll be good, I’ll be good, I’ll be good (Morrissey, lyrics Come Back to Camden, from the album You Are The Quarry, 2004)

The Smiths currently cast a longer shadow over British alt-rock than at any time since their 1987 split. You can hear their echoes in Franz Ferdinand and British Sea Power, while the Libertines appear to have been formed specifically to appeal to Morrissey: songs about a lost Albion and an on-stage penchant for gorblimey shirts-off male-bonding that frequently leaves them looking less like a rock band than something invented by Joe Orton… the lyrics seem trapped in the past: not the mythic pre-Beatles England that Morrissey’s songs usually evoke, but the less romantic environs of the mid-1990s… Irish Blood, English Heart makes a fuss about “standing by the flag not feeling shameful, racist or partial”, unaware that everyone else worked that one out around the time Geri Halliwell turned up at the Brits wearing a union flag miniskirt. Come Back to Camden offers a vision of Englishness so caricatured it would have caused the lowliest Britpopper to scoff: cockney cabbies, bad weather, tea. The urge to hit fast-forward before he mentions bowler hats, Yorkshire pudding or lovable chimney sweeps is quelled only by the song’s enrapturing melody. (Alex Petridis, the Guardian, May 2004)

A song about his clashing Irish-English identity had the Irish erased.

There’s a perfectly good anti-racist argument for allowing English ethnicity to speak its name, after all. The assumptions (expressed sotto voice, but unmistakably there) behind so much multi-culturalism weirdly duplicate those of imperialism: other people have ‘cultures’; we are normal. (Mark Fisher, K-Punk, July 2004) http://k-punk.org/slate-grey-victorian-sky/

This is the sort of ambiguous comment which seems to invite an assenting nod of the head but could easily have been uttered by Nigel Farage. Similarly, ‘Irish Blood, English Heart’, in which he sang, I’ve been dreaming of a time when/ To be English is not to be baneful /To be standing by the flag not feeling shameful/ Racist or partial/ Irish blood, English heart, this I’m made of /There is no one on earth I’m afraid of/ And I will die with both of my hands untied.” Ever since then, dog whistle by increasingly unsubtle dog whistle, living in splendid isolation from his home country and the consequences of his remarks, Morrissey has put himself beyond, and further beyond the pale. (David Stubbs, the Quietus, 4 July 2019)

Aptly the pale was a fence around English controlled areas of Ireland – beyond it was the savage Irish.

Morrissey was both cast out of & made to represent everything evil and wrong about England & the British Empire.

Morrissey is now, of course, almost a stateless person, although his seven years in Los Angeles don’t appear to have brought any great insight into either his new homeland or his old one. (Andy Gill, the Independent, 14 May 2004)

Morrissey has long since ceased to be worthy of cultural assessment; he no longer deserves to be part of that conversation. He has come to represent… something nasty, reactionary and dangerous in our culture, a poisonous voice at this critical point in Britain’s island history. Something has hardened like a tumour inside him over the years; what was once whimsical, amusing, pop-culturally apposite, is now the stuff of disease. (David Stubbs, the Quietus, 4 July 2019)

There followed the usual trawls through his cuttings file, where plenty of material awaited. From 1986: “To get on Top Of The Pops these days one has to be, by law, black.” Circa 1992: “I don’t really think … black people and white people will ever really get on or like each other.” And what about this peach, uttered three years ago? “The higher the influx into England, the more the British identity disappears.” As ugly as they seem – and to be more generous than he perhaps deserves – his views are not a matter of vicious, programmatic racism, but the same thinking that lies behind the more hard-bitten calls to Radio 4’s Any Answers: achingly conservative, terrified of difference, and in mourning for a lost country even the angriest white man might not actually like to live in...
Unlike plenty of other genres, its practitioners tend to pride themselves on an inclusive, liberal outlook, seen in an admirable campaign called Love Music Hate Racism (to which Morrissey made a donation in 2008, after the hoo-ha about his views on “British identity”). Indie’s home turf is urban bohemia, where diversity and difference are taken as read. But in his own gruesome way Morrissey embodies its contradictory collective id: a bundle of conservatism, parochialism and generic navel-gazing... In keeping with his catholic tastes, Albarn – a passionate fan of the music of west Africa – was performing alongside Bobby Womack, the rap trio De La Soul, and Snoop Dogg, but swarms of people soon departed the main arena in search of something more comforting. Presumably they were after some of the plodding, conservative fare that defines most of the rock aristocracy, and is an obligatory part of the outdoor ritual.
Morrissey, it’s fair to say, would have gone down a storm. (John Harris, the Guardian, Thu 9 Sep 2010)
https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2010/sep/09/morrissey-race-indie-back-yard

Morrissey is an extreme example of a common type [Fascista proudly racist Little-Englander… with] a nostalgia for misery, a longing for boredom… The ignorance. The pollution and the soot. The gay-bashing and the paki-bashing. The murders on the Moors… And who stands in the way of this self-aggrandisement through re-enactment? The Asians, especially the Muslims. The young. The left. The “woke”. And here, Morrissey is truly the voice of a generation. (Owen Hatherley, Verso, 31 March 2019)

And his work was stolen for the enrichment of the culture he was excluded from.

… you might have realised that our traditional national identity is crumbling around us. Any sense of imperialist superiority is disintegrating with every export barred or expat shipped home. Start a conversation with anyone with a Union Jack in their Twitter handle and you might be surprised at how little grace, discernment and gallantry ensues. Divided, exploited and at each other’s throats, we’ve so lost sight of who we are as a nation that we’re in danger of winning an international footballing semi-final on penalties. Which is why we should be protecting our prime cultural treasures at all costs. Exhibit one: The Smiths. Misery, isolation, melodic moaning, idolising American film stars and mainlining Coronation Street – could there be a more quintessentially British band? Yet over the years their legacy has been tainted by Morrissey’s support for far-right politics (among other pronouncements) and one of our greatest musical achievements has been at risk of being tipped into the ‘consequence culture’ canal. (Mark Beaumont, NME, April 2021) https://www.nme.com/features/opinion/the-smiths-morrissey-the-simpsons-2923272

Much of it driven by nostalgia. By branding Morrissey a racist they de-gay the Smiths, avoiding the discomfort of identifying with One Of Them, relegating him to an asexual ghost, rebounding on to the heterosexual axeman, replacing him with Brandon Flowers & Rick Astley.

The Smiths manifesto of vengeance on the world through disability, withdrawal and asexuality (it was impossible to imagine that Morrissey actually had a penis) was immensely attractive. (Simon Price, Melody Maker, 15 August 1992)

a lifetime of world-weary bitterness has soured the soul of Morrissey. This makes me sad, especially when one of his songs genuinely shook my self-centred 16-year-old self. In 1986 I was deeply affected by ‘I Know It’s Over’ from The Queen Is Dead and the lines “It’s so easy to laugh/ It’s so easy to hate/ It takes guts to be gentle and kind.” It would appear that, for Stephen Morrissey, hate will always be very much alive. (John Freeman, the Quietus, 13 March 2013)

… it’s time for an intervention. Johnny Marr, protector of all that is right and good about the Smiths, we need you like never before. If you can banish Cameron to the wastelands, forcing him to salvage whatever meagre delights he can from the Mighty Lemon Drops, surely you can do the same to Morrissey. Just one tweet, that’s all it would take. “I forbid Morrissey from liking the Smiths.” That’s it. Then we can band together, Samwell Tarly and all, and breathe a sigh of relief knowing that our enjoyment of a perfectly good band won’t once again be tainted by the lunk-headed ravings of a professional irritant like Morrissey. (Stuart Heritage, the Guardian, 3 October 2017)

Morrissey embodied a more sensitive form of masculinity for the young me – but was I just kidding myself?… The Smiths are okay, as they predate their singer’s consistent insensitivity, but solo Morrissey isn’t. (Jordan Bassett, NME, 7 August 2019)

yeah that’s the thing. ‘reggae is vile,’ panic, bengali…it was always right there. (J Edgar Noothgrush, ilxor, 24 January 2022)

The Full Morrissey

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

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

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

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

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

The Tweet isn’t true – Morrissey is talking about authenticity in art. George is concerned about the fame game. They’re both smart.

On a side note: while he was alive, George was hounded for his sexuality, fought to escape a stifling record contract and was mocked for his drug addiction, cottaging exposés and car accidents.

Sexually Ambiguous

On July 29th 1992, Nicky Crane – National Front skinhead and Skrewdriver 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 (Select reported hearing them shout ‘poofy bastard’) while whiplashing a Union Jack flag (for less than 2 minutes before throwing it away) 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 skinhead girls, who WERE racist imagery. And Flowered Up, another band on the bill, thought Morrissey had asked for trouble by ‘prancing around‘.

the ‘racist imagery’

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. Morrissey’s from an Irish Catholic family – it wouldn’t be impossible for him to join the National Front, but it’s unlikely given his obvious queerness and his mother’s keen interest in Irish history.

It just goes to show that nationalism and homosexuality do not fit in together, because Nationalism is a true cause and homosexuality is a perversion. Nicky Crane left, and I think that it was the best thing he could have done, but he should have left a hell of a lot earlier. He was living a lie for all of them years. I’ve got no respect for the bloke anymore. (Ian Stuart Donaldson, lead singer of Skrewdriver, 1992)

the BNP’s homophobia inspired terrorism
They exploited conflict in Northern Ireland

Even the idea that musical subcultures can be linked to fascism is dubious – The National Front’s most violent organiser, Johnny ‘Mad Dog’ Adair was a fan of reggae band UB40 and his paramilitary loyalist gang would kill Catholics while listening to rave.

Johnny Adair, on the right, at a National Front march

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 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, that it was supportive of (ex-Tory) Ulster Unionist MP, Enoch Powell, that it incited calls for immigrants to be deported, that he wanted a pre-immigration green and pleasant Little England, that he wanted an English ethno-state, that he was provoking genocide, and – in a technique that now dominates his coverage – they 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. The past being ipso facto racist as if black and Asian people only came into existence in 1987.

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)

Nicky Crane

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 F*ck’ 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/

In 2001, Andrew Collins thought Dele Fadele being their only black writer justified the homophobia. The publicity around the C4 documentary had mentioned some gay black men being angry that it was hard to tell a gay skinhead from a violent skinhead. Morrissey’s quiff & gold lame shirt – as well as the description of him as ‘prancing’ & the fact he was attacked by the homophobic crowd – wouldn’t cause that problem.

(Also the irony of Andrew denouncing an Irish Catholic 2nd generation Immigrant for being a cultural tourist by holding a Union Jack – the UK’s national flag – for less than 2 minutes after the NME accused him of bile for the line ‘life is hard enough when you belong here. Morrissey doesn’t belong here?)


‘The skinhead look is a dominant one in the gay scene at the moment,’ according to Harvey Gillis, fashion editor of Boyz magazine. ‘It’s a fashion statement not a political one.’ Some black gays oppose the trend because of the difficulty in separating violent fascists from the simply fashion-conscious. (Martin Wroe, the Independent, 26th July 1992) 

Sadly Dele died in 2018, and in a 2020 obit in the Guardian, the homophobia is written up as his greatest achievement.

[Dele summed up] the dark side of Morrissey... famously helped persuade the magazine’s staff to run its Flying the flag or flirting with disaster? cover story, which called out their most bankable star Morrissey’s dalliance with the far right for the first time. (The former Smiths man refused to talk to the paper for more than a decade after it was published; his reputation remains tarnished to this day.)… It was in 1992, though, that Dele played his most pivotal role. He had attended Madstock in Finsbury Park, the now-notorious gig in which support artist Morrissey draped himself in the union jack, a move some saw as a move pandering to the crowd’s skinhead element… Dele was appalled by what he’d witnessed… “It was Dele’s finest hour,” recalls Andrew Collins… “He wrote from the heart – and, uniquely among the staff – from an actual vantage point… It was a turning point for Moz’s provocations. Dele… gave urgency and weight to an otherwise hand-wringing situation” (Tim Jonze, the Guardian, September 2020)

https://www.theguardian.com/music/2020/sep/14/dele-fadele-remembered-nme

Morrissey was saved by the success of 1994’s, Vauxhall and I, but battered by record company, 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.

And (for a spell) his public image has fused with the forgotten Nicky Crane – a bad gay; toxic, shunned, unwholesome; his empathetic solo work unbelievably conflated with Skrewdriver.

Side Note: Nicky Crane’s Showbiz Career

Nicky Crane on Psychic TV.
Nicky Crane on a record cover

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 2: Before the NME’s false allegations, the issue at Finsbury Park was Morrissey’s masculinity.

Moz at Madstock

to the gold lame flounce of Morrissey, who, having replaced The Farm, was accorded the proverbial ‘mixed reaction’ for his trouble. But then, Morrissey has never been exactly the most blokeish of performers. (Andy Gill, 9th August 1992, The Independent)

https://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/rock-cracking-the-nutty-boys-beery-nostalgia-laddish-boisterousness-and-a-bunch-of-ordinary-blokes-andy-gill-on-madness-in-finsbury-park-1539470.html

Side Note 3: 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 4: the NME’s claim they were just as hard on Eric Clapton, David Bowie & Elvis Costello is untrue.

Eric sailed past an anti-racist 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 (although it might be significant that he dropped his gay alien persona for something more hetero). 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 5: 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 comrades on the hard left hate it as a symbol of the British Empire, but that’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.

The NME’s coverage of ‘the troubles’ in Northern Ireland:

https://journals.openedition.org/etudesirlandaises/10464?lang=fr

Irish Republican

In the Melody Maker, November 1984, Morrissey said:

The sorrow of the Brighton Bomb is that she (the Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher) escaped unscathed. The sorrow is that she’s still alive. But I feel relatively happy about it. I think that for once the IRA were accurate in selecting their targets… They want us to believe that such attacks can only work in the government’s favour but I believe that’s utter nonsense. Immediately after the event Maggie was on television attacking the use of bombs – the very person who absolutely believes in the power of bombs. She’s the one who insists that they’re the only method of communication in world politics. All the grand dame gestures about these awful terrorist bombs is absolute theatre.

He’s mostly annoyed that Thatcher was on television denouncing her own methods and the implication is that the IRA usually pick their targets badly, but the first sentence (usually the only one quoted) was enough to have him denounced as a terrorist sympathiser. The Smiths received death threats from Loyalist paramilitaries, the Irish Government insisted they play a scheduled Irish tour, and the IRA, not fussed about the ‘for once’, took it as a compliment.

https://www.independent.ie/lifestyle/the-smiths-were-ordered-to-play-the-north-by-irish-govt-26719453.html

https://lostinbelfast.wordpress.com/2018/12/16/13-barbarism-begins-at-home/

In May 2011 he was in trouble with conservatives in Ireland and the UK for saying the Queen should give the six counties back.

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

https://www.irishtimes.com/news/morrissey-tells-queen-to-hand-over-six-counties-1.573354

https://www.anphoblacht.com/contents/921

Even the UK left-wing press was sniffy – choosing to highlight his comparison of a constitutional Monarch with a dictator.

https://www.theguardian.com/music/2011/may/18/morrissey-compares-queen-muammar-gaddafi

In April 2013 he got flack for mocking Thatcher’s death and for using a crass picture of the Queen.

https://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/news/northern-ireland/morrissey-belfast-singer-under-fire-after-show-mocked-margaret-thatcher-and-the-queen-31094269.html

https://www.theguardian.com/music/2013/apr/10/morrissey-statement-margaret-thatcher

In a statement on True To You, 9th April 2013, he said:

The difficulty with giving a comment on Margaret Thatcher’s death to the British tabloids is that, no matter how calmly and measuredly you speak, the comment must be reported as an “outburst” or an “explosive attack” if your view is not pro-establishment. If you reference “the Malvinas”, it will be switched to “the Falklands”, and your “Thatcher” will be softened to a “Maggie.” This is generally how things are structured in a non-democratic society. Thatcher’s name must be protected not because of all the wrong that she had done, but because the people around her allowed her to do it, and therefore any criticism of Thatcher throws a dangerously absurd light on the entire machinery of British politics. Thatcher was not a strong or formidable leader. She simply did not give a shit about people, and this coarseness has been neatly transformed into bravery by the British press who are attempting to re-write history in order to protect patriotism. As a result, any opposing view is stifled or ridiculed, whereas we must all endure the obligatory praise for Thatcher from David Cameron without any suggestion from the BBC that his praise just might be an outburst of pro-Thatcher extremism from someone whose praise might possibly protect his own current interests. The fact that Thatcher ignited the British public into street-riots, violent demonstrations and a social disorder previously unseen in British history is completely ignored by David Cameron in 2013. In truth, of course, no British politician has ever been more despised by the British people than Margaret Thatcher. Thatcher’s funeral on Wednesday will be heavily policed for fear that the British tax-payer will want to finally express their view of Thatcher. They are certain to be tear-gassed out of sight by the police. United Kingdom? Syria? China? What’s the difference?

No one in the UK press has tried to explain why they believe he was an IRA supporter AND a supporter of their enemies, the UK far right.

Anecdotal evidence from Twitter
UK far right magazine, founded 1999
UK far right leader, has tried to win over Irish Catholics, but finds it hard to hide his anti-Irish sectarian racism.

On a side note – The Guardian had to apologise for employing an IRA supporter who used his platform to smear a rape survivor.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-northern-ireland-56292056

And on an even sider side note – in a weird quirk of fate – Scottish comedian Limmy, whose brother was jailed for anti-Irish Catholic sectarian racism, could drag Irish Catholic Morrissey for British Nationalism. It’s funnier if you’re Glaswegian.

https://www.dailyrecord.co.uk/news/scottish-news/tv-comic-limmys-brother-jailed-3006790

Tommy Robinson

In a June 2018 interview with Fiona Dodwell – mostly about animals and music – Morrissey said (of Anne Marie Waters):

she wants everyone in the UK to live under the same law. I find this compelling, now, because it’s very obvious that Labour or the Tories do not believe in free speech… I mean, look at the shocking treatment of Tommy Robinson… 

https://www.tremr.com/Fiona-Dodwell/this-is-morrissey-an-interview

This is his only mention of Robinson and it relates to freedom of speech and the law – Robinson had recently been jailed for larping as a journalist and live streaming outside a child abuse trial that had a court order banning reporting.

https://amp.theguardian.com/uk-news/2018/may/29/edl-founder-tommy-robinson-jailed-13-months

Sometime in the 2010s Morrissey’s obsession with animals had reached the point where his main ambition was the total abolition of the abattoir.

“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… 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.” (HuffPost, June 2015)

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

In August 2016 he gave an interview to an Australian news site – it was his usual mordant mix of politics, music, and animals. All meat-eaters get equal wistful ire – David Cameron, The Royals, Iceland… He’s asked about standing for London mayor, he doesn’t fancy his chances.

I could see the pointlessness of stepping in. The BBC now do not give you news, but they give you their opinion, and therefore they give anyone a very hard time if that person does not suit the convenience and prejudices of the established elite. Therefore liberal educators such as George Galloway and Nigel Farage are loathed by the BBC because both men respect equal freedom for all people, and they are not remotely intimidated by the BBC. The Mayor was eventually elected on very few votes, and of course he eats Halal butchered beings, and talks so quickly that people can’t understand him … and that suits the British media perfectly.

https://www.news.com.au/entertainment/music/tours/exclusive-morrissey-on-donald-trump-miley-cyrus-prince-harry-and-unreleased-smiths-material/news-story/2932f6891ea2abe238baef5a4edeee2e?from=public_rss

In The Guardian, Hadley Freeman, took this section and decided it made him a libertarian racist (Nigel Farage is a capitalist, George Galloway is a socialist, both wanted out of the neoliberal European Union) – weirdly she seems to have missed that he spent most of the 90s being called a racist for holding a Union Jack.

It’s the emphatic inclusion of “halal” that adds a spicy hint of racism to Morrissey’s animal rights campaigning, doesn’t it?

https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/lostinshowbiz/2016/aug/04/oh-god-morrissey-talks-about-galloway-farage-and-sadiq-khan

But Sadiq Khan had praised chicken shops at an awards ceremony, calling halal chicken a beautiful thing.

Chicken Cottage is a British product that is doing a fantastic amount in our country…over the last period Chicken Cottage has created 1,000 new jobs in our country, added £50m to the UK’s GDD and over the next five years will be creating 400 new jobs as well… And here’s the beautiful thing. This is a British product…selling Islamic products, selling halal products…that is niche and general but it’s gone mainstream… When Chicken Cottage started in 1994, the aim was to be as excellent, or as good as, the market leaders…now, the aim is to be the best in its own right, and now the market leaders are Chicken Cottage… long may you have a prosperous future! (Sadiq Khan, Chicken Cottage Award Ceremony, 2012)

http://littleatoms.com/sadiq-khans-confusion-over-chicken-shops

And had talked about halal meat in a 2014 radio programme.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p01y3vfx

It’s the meat eating that Morrissey is objecting to.

After the Guardian calls him racist he becomes preoccupied with the idea that religion and tradition can veto animal welfare. And anyone who objects is called a racist.

Animals rights (sic) must come before religion. Religion must cease to be the ONLY word. I am not interested in what people did ten thousand years ago. I am concerned about what is happening today. (Morrissey, Morrissey Central, April 2018)

I can’t see how opposing Halal slaughter makes me racist when I’ve objected to ALL forms of animal slaughter all of my life. (Morrissey Central, April 2019)

Hence his interest in Anne Marie Waters, a former left-wing activist, who had been recruited by far right grifter Tommy Robinson, who seems to have convinced her that the left would never put women’s rights (her particular angle) before Sharia Law, as administered by Sharia Courts, the first known one in Britain being established in 1982 in order to “solve the matrimonial problems of Muslims living in the United Kingdom in the light of Islamic family law”, for example marriages, divorce and inheritance issues”.

https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/religious-marriages-register-muslim-women-uk-abuse-a9663441.html

In August 2017, Anne Marie had gained a huge amount of publicity by entering the UKIP leadership election and by complaining that she’d been smeared as a racist to scupper her feminism.

https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/irish-lesbian-hides-her-roots-in-bid-to-be-ukip-leader-hqtlmtrgj

Ms Waters, 39, who has twice tried to stand for election as a Labour candidate, is focusing much of her campaign on Muslim grooming gangs who have been convicted of sexually abusing girls in several English cities.

Anne Marie is the director of Sharia Watch UK, a watchdog which says its “particularly concerned with the elements of sharia law which are discriminatory and violent towards women and girls, and which endanger and threaten the democratic principle of freedom of speech.

https://web.archive.org/web/20180526005218/http://www.annemariewaters.org:80/response-from-defamation-solicitors/

Recently, I sought help to fund a consultation with defamation solicitors to discuss the legal position regarding newspapers referring to people as “far-right”, “fascist” or “racist” simply because we speak negatively about Islam.  Those of us who do so are frequently subject to smears from the press, which portrays us as bigots and liars. 

At a book launch in June 2014, she said, Islam was an ideology that was being appeased by the state and ‘it is exactly the same appeasement that is allowing young girls to be raped in Britain, it’s got nothing to do with race, it’s got to do with the fact that we will not confront the misogyny at the very, very heart of this religion’.

There’s no evidence that Islam had anything to do with the grooming gang scandal, but it’s true that for 20 years the police and social workers turned a blind eye to groups of Muslim men sexually exploiting white girls, that some of the men were bigoted, and that a few people who raised concerns were labeled racists.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-tyne-40886658

Anne Marie seems genuinely tormented by the idea that religion gives men a licence to abuse, while Tommy cheerfully latches on to anything that causes racial strife – from ‘reporting’ Asian grooming gangs to ‘supporting’ Muslim parents protesting against LGBT+ teaching materials in primary schools.

And the left really is intensely bad at dealing with anything to do with race that isn’t white supremacy.

‘There’s a persistent taboo on the Left which demands that every incident of terror be attributed to American foreign policy… But Islamists aren’t killing cartoonists because the U.S. invaded Iraq. And ISIS isn’t exterminating the Yazidis because of America’s sordid relationship with Saudi Arabia.’

https://www.salon.com/2015/11/17/the_left_has_an_islam_problem_if_liberals_wont_come_to_terms_with_religious_extremism_the_xenophobic_right_will_carry_the_day/

Ex-fan Stewart Lee, in his Guardian column, decided that mentioning Tommy Robinson meant – there’s no longer any way to make the case that Morrissey ever meant anything other than what he says – that he was telling a Bengali that he didn’t belong in the UK in Bengali In Platforms, and that he was saying England should be for the English in National Front Disco. Which had nothing to do with what Morrissey was actually trying to say and everything to do with the homophobic Finsbury Park myth.

Morrissey dropped Anne Marie Waters in May 2019, and has never mentioned Robinson before or since. Though the media still relentlessly links him to both.

https://folk-devil.com/2021/09/05/sexually-ambiguous/

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/jul/08/how-to-treat-morrissey-stop-listening-to-him-stewart-lee?CMP=share_btn_tw

Side Note: In April 2018, via Morrissey Central, Morrissey recommended Douglas Murray’s The Strange Death of Europe, a conservative (at best) book that gathers so many true incidences of rights clashes between Islamic and liberal values that you could miss the conspiracy theory that underpins it – that Cultural Marxists hate the West so much they’re allowing Saudi Arabia to stealth colonise it.

This isn’t one of Morrissey’s scandals because Douglas is an old Etonian, published in mainstream newspapers and magazines and by Bloomsbury, who appears on mainstream television and has enough connections to dent a journalist’s career, unlike Morrissey, who has none.

https://www.bloomsbury.com/uk/the-strange-death-of-europe-9781472942241/

 

Black and White People Will Never Get On

In the September 1992 issue of Q Magazine, Morrissey was asked by Adrian Deevoy:

Do you think people are innately racist?

And he replied:

Yes. I don’t want to sound horrible or pessimistic but I don’t really think, for instance, black people and white people will ever really get on or like each other. I don’t really think they ever will. The French will never like the English. The English will never like the French. That tunnel will collapse.

This turned into a racism scandal, and is still cited in evidence against him.

But why would he be optimistic, even in a hyperbolic answer that ends in a joke, in 1992 when LA had experienced intense race riots in the wake of the acquittal of four police officers who were caught on camera beating up a black man for a traffic violation…

https://www.npr.org/2017/04/26/524744989/when-la-erupted-in-anger-a-look-back-at-the-rodney-king-riots?t=1612108445205

Catholics and Protestants were still fighting in Northern Ireland – 85 people would be murdered that year…

https://www.irishtimes.com/news/ireland/irish-news/1992-in-the-north-85-people-killed-in-the-troubles-1.3340596

And the former Yugoslavia had disintegrated into a vicious, and genocidal, civil war?

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-17632399

There was nothing in 1992 to indicate that groups would one day get on with each other.

In March 1993, in the NME, Steve Sutherland, discussed Morrissey with David Bowie and Brett Anderson.

NME: OK, so we all agree that Brett has the right to be ambivalent about his sexuality in his songs and we agree with David that a person has the right to be ambivalent with his or her own personal sexuality, but doesn’t that also apply across the board? For instance, David, you’ve covered Morrissey’s ‘I Know It’s Gonna Happen Someday‘ on your new album. I don’t know if you’re aware that he’s been ostracized recently for his ambivalent use of the Union Jack at his concerts. It has been decided that Morrissey does not have the right to be ambivalent about race and that he should make a statement regarding whether he is or is not a racist. Are we not beating him with the same stick?

Brett: “No. The difference is, the way I speak about things is in a positive way and I think the way he’s speaking about certain issues of racism is an intentionally negative way. Therefore, I think we need to know the reasons behind it.”

Bowie: “I have to be careful here because I’m not quite sure what he said. But what I believe he said is that blacks and whites will never get on. I think that’s the general tone of it. So I guess the adult approach is to say. OK, let’s take his question and figure out for ourselves our own answer to that. Will they get on? Won’t they get on? And why? He is just posing a question so there is an argument that it’s perfectly OK for him to just pose that question. “He’s not giving us facts either way or giving us his feelings on the matter. Surely it would only be really negative if he were to say blacks and whites will never get on because it’s obvious that one is superior to the other.”

NME: I think his silence is more sinister than that. I’m suspicious of his motives. He’s never, to my knowledge, committed one altruistic act in his life so I don’t know why he should start now.

Brett: “He’s said other things in the past about how reggae is vile and hang the DJ and other things with all these connotations but, the thing is, he might actually be one of the most generous people that’s ever lived. I don’t know if it’s true but, by making himself a target, he might actually be trying to mend some gaps and build some bridges. I mean, he must know that he’s making himself a target because he’s not stupid and, by having criticism directed towards him, he might actually be doing some good. It might just be possible that he’s thinking that.”

NME: Oh come on! He’s just luxuriating in playing the misunderstood, the martyr, and damn the consequences.

Bowie: “I mist say I found him charming the couple of times I met him. When he heard my version of ‘I Know It’s Gonna Happen’ (which, according to Brett, is “very 50s, very Johnny Ray”), it brought a tear to his eye and he said, ‘Oooh, it’s so-o-o grand!’ ”

NME: I’ve been suspicious of him from the start. All those bedsit anthems about wallowing in misery didn’t seem to be helping anybody achieve anything. He was just making himself an icon on the back of other people’s inadequacies and I don’t find that in any way admirable.

Bowie: “Tell that to Samuel Beckett. Or John Osbourne.”

So Steve and Brett decided Morrissey had no right to speak because he was negative, sinister and ambivalent – although Morrissey has never been ambivalent about racism, he’s made it clear he thinks it’s wrong, he’s ambivalent about human nature, and is from an Irish Catholic community that experienced colonial oppression and discrimination, while Ireland was still in the midst of a paramilitary civil war.

https://www.runnymedetrust.org/bgIrishCommunity.html

Also damaging/demeaning stereotypes can still be reinforced by ‘positive’ things – the charitable and cheerful ‘Do They Know It’s Christmas’, reduced the entire continent of Africa into a starving desert that only needed the West to bung it some cash.

http://america.aljazeera.com/opinions/2014/11/band-aid-30-bob-geldoffebolaafrica.html

And they were talking to David Bowie – an artist who went through a fascist phase, and an underage sex scandal – without ever becoming a pariah.