In Morrissey & Marr: the Severed Alliance (Omnibus Press, London, 1992) author Johnny Rogan paraphrased & commented on a 10 page letter written by Morrissey on the 5th of August 1977 when Morrissey was 18 years old.
Even when seriously denouncing racial prejudice, he was wont to admit that he disliked Pakistanis. “I don’t hate Pakistanis, but I dislike them immensely”, he wrote in one letter of the time. It was a flippantly blunt adolescent observation. The basis of his aversion (they give off odorous aroma) was crudely stereotypical and completely out of step with his general philosophy. Then again he may simply have been indulging himself in an ironic joke, expressed in his characteristically haughty tone.
The letter has never been published, so we only have Rogan’s version to go on. Racists in the 1970s were highly unlikely to use Pakistani over the four letter offensive short form & it’s structured as a joke.
It was only highlighted because of the “race row” in 1986 – when Frank Owen’s framing of Black pop as everything dumb & dancey went unchallenged while Morrissey was condemned for remarks about reggae & mid 1980s American soul.
In August 1992 the NME used it as part of their “evidence” that Morrissey was racist. A student protest, under a Union Jack on the outside of EMI’s offices, cited it as their biggest reason that Morrissey had a “case to answer”. To the NME. In an interview.
The NME also used Morrissey’s sarcastic joke about Rogan to suggest he was no longer “gentle & kind” & his career had taken a wrong turn.
Equally, his recent response to the publication of Johnny Rogan’s Smiths book The Severed Alliance, was at best distasteful, at worst illustrative of a severe lack of perspective. Rogan’s book, which Morrissey was asked, but declined, to co-operate with (as Johnny Marr already had), is a well researched if slightly worthy account of the greatest British group of the ’80s. There seemed precious little in it for Morrissey to get upset about; indeed, members of his family have written to Rogan congratulating him on the book. Yet in an NME news story, Morrissey, while admitting that he’d never even read it, condemned the book, and said that he hoped Rogan died in a car smash on the M3. Asked in a more recent interview if he’d really meant that, he said no, what he really meant was that he hoped the journalist would meet his end in a hotel fire! Is this the same man who, in The Smiths’ finest moment (‘I Know It’s Over’) wrote “It’s so easy to laugh, it’s so easy to hate, it takes guts to be gentle and kind”? Sadly, yes. The same man but now displaying a cruelty and lack of deftness that makes his golden days seem light years away. (NME, 22 August 1992)
Rogan either felt he couldn’t disagree with the NME (then the most powerful music publication in the UK) or he was influenced by the coverage, because in a letter to them he claimed he knew Morrissey was in trouble the moment he saw the Union Jack.
The moment Morrissey unfurled that Union Jack I knew he was in trouble. I assumed that the ‘Is Morrissey A Racist?’ debate was a discredited old chestnut, but now it’s back, bigger than ever… It’s the other trappings that I find irksome – particularly the Union Jack. Perhaps he regards the flag as a suitable prop to emphasise the sentiments of ‘Glamorous Glue’, but he well knows its other connotations. (Johnny Rogan, NME letters page, 29 August 1992)
Morrissey held the flag for less than 2 minutes, he scrunched it up & threw it away. There is absolutely no way a British Nationalist would interpret an effeminate Irish Catholic chucking away a Union Jack as a sign of support.
The people who threw missiles at him were calling him a “poof”. They started before he thrashed the flag about & they kept going long after. They weren’t interested in the flag at all.
Not to mention that any negative “connotations” were confined to squabbles on the hard left. To the vast majority of British people, it was just the flag.
Every year, including 1992, it was on prime time UK television at the Last Night of the Proms.
It was on bunting, and party hats & respectable people wore it while raising money for charity.
Some people are at pains to point out that Morrissey is a foreign racist, unentitled to opinions about Britain. He’s got Irish immigrant parents and he’s a ‘tax exile’.
For a long time now Morrissey has lived in self-imposed exile: hiding out in LA sneering at Britian for being a “dead” country; refusing to talk to the press because they dared to level criticism at him in the past; isolated from anything like musical progress and excised from the hearts of many, horrified by the messy “flirtation” with racist imagery. (Victoria Segal, NME, November 1999)
Culture is something that is ever evolving. There is no single ‘British culture’ that needs to be preserved. Whether or not Morrissey’s comments were taken out of context, or misquoted, I don’t know. However, if he did say what he was quoted as saying, he needs to be aware of how that will be interpreted. Apparently the Sun has come out in support of his comments, with a diatribe about immigrants coming over here, taking our jobs etc etc. It is also interesting that a tax exile who lives in Italy should feel qualified to comment on British culture. (Mark, Macclesfield, comment on BBC Radio 6 News website, November 2007)
“Forty-eight-year-old tax exile millionaire slams immigration” doesn’t make for much of a headline. Nor does “66-year-old millionairess businesswoman votes Conservative”. But if the millionaire is a pop star (Morrissey) and the millionairess a fashion designer (Vivienne Westwood) somehow these things are meant to be shocking. Actually, what Morrissey told the New Musical Express wasn’t at all shocking. The singer, who now lives in Rome, said he thought taxes had been raised too high under the guise of saving the planet, that politicians don’t listen to voters and that Britain has changed its identity enormously since his youth. He added that he had nothing against people from other countries; just that a country changes when it lets in lots of those people. (Henry Mount, the Telegraph, November 2007)
He has also weighed into the Brexit debate on numerous  occasions, despite not having lived in the UK for some time. (Simon Binns, Manchester Evening News, June 2018)
In 1995 he moved to Los Angeles. In 2005, talking to GQ, he agreed to the proposition that he had been “hounded out of England by the press”… this is the sort of nonsense that can take hold in a person increasingly insulated from contradiction… 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, July 2019)
Freudian choice of metaphor – the pale was a fence to keep the unacceptable Irish away from English settlers.
As always – Morrissey is bad no matter which way you cut it – so his attitude to tax is reactionary even without the exile:
This isn’t the first time Morrissey, who briefly worked for the Inland Revenue, has had a pop at the taxman. There’s always been a slightly reactionary, tabloid strain to his thinking… and he’s repeatedly attacked the whole apparatus of the apparently incompetent state: policemen, judges, and specifically the tax office on The World is Full of Crashing Bores. In doing so, Moz is following in a long line of “right on” rock stars who can’t understand the point of giving your money to a politician (hey, what would they know?) in the name of wealth distribution and social cohesion. (Tony Naylor, the Guardian, November 2007)
On a side note: Morrissey mentioned Brexit once, after the referendum, which he didn’t vote in. He then mentioned it twice in response to the negative reaction from the first. Despite this he’s routinely described as a “vocal supporter” and it’s been given as a reason why the Smiths (which Morrissey has no interest in reforming) will never reform – because Marr is the good Smith and Morrissey is filth.
The idea that Morrissey is the evil Smith comes from the NME. Frustrated at the lack of Morrissey interviews & news in the wake of the Smiths split they fabricated a homophobic story smearing him as a racist after he was violently attacked at a gig.
It’s since the advent of Morrissey’s solo career, however, that misgivings about some of his chosen subject matter, lyrics, imagery and associations have begun to accelerate. (NME, August 1992)
And had been trying to launch Marr as the real Smiths star via standard rock mythology – guitars! cars! got the the girl! – supposedly reversing a situation in which Marr had been cast as the devil and Morrissey the saint by highlighting Marr’s manly virtue and Morrissey’s effeminate vice.
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… 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)
But the vice-virtue polar opposites idea gains most of its momentum and malice after the NME rehashed their homophobic article in 2007, adding a smear that Morrissey is anti-immigrant while scolding him for being an immigrant.
Morrissey launched legal action, winning a case against Word magazine who had used the NME’s smears in a review in 2008, and winning against the NME in 2012.
The digs at Morrissey’s sexuality have stayed consistent – even gay journalist Simon Price likes to make sure you know Morrissey is a “poof”.
It’s the lie that he’s racist and right-wing that’s crystallized, with Marr now the left-wing saviour of the Smiths, the only vaguely acceptable part of Morrissey’s perverted career.
In a 2013 review Price deliberately misleads – Morrissey has never ‘implied Bengalis don’t belong here’, did not ‘complain there were too many blacks on Top of the Pops’ and has never ‘backed UKIP’.
None of this, of course, is Johnny Marr’s fault. Furthermore, Johnny Marr has never implied that Bengalis don’t “belong here”, complained that there are too many blacks on Top of the Pops, or backed Ukip, so, as ex-Smiths go, he’s still on the side of the angels… We’ve all seen what’s become of Morrissey, deprived of Marr. (Simon Price, the Independent, March 2013)
The Irish Times ascribes it to Morrissey’s indecent mouth in general.
Slowly and far more diligently, however, Marr has come to represent the polar opposite of Morrissey – less relentless barbed and tired wit, more common decency. (Tony Clayton-Lea, the Irish Times, Novovember 2016)
Price was also briefing other journalists against him – which came to light when Morrissey thought gay vegan, Anne Marie Waters, who set up For Britain, was being smeared as a racist in the way he was smeared as a racist for his sexuality.
The “outright party political broadcasts for actual fascists” is this:
I despise racism. I despise fascism. I would do anything for my Muslim friends and I knowthey would do anything for me… do not be influencedby the tyrannies of the MSM who will tell youthat For Britain are racist or fascist – please believe me, they are the very opposite… This is my last political strike. No wish to upset anyone! (Morrissey, Central, April 2018)
There’s acres of examples of Morrissey’s words and motivations being hyped, twisted, conflated, the repetition of misleading selective quotes, and guilt by association.
For instance, he has never mentioned or supported burqa bans, forced deportations, benefit cuts or anything except animal rights, ending violence, and equality before the law; ‘bulldog breed…” is singled out to pretend he’s a British nationalist.
All of it culminating in Smiths fans needing Marr’s permission get past Morrissey’s taint.
Morrissey’s recent political views have cast a shadow over the Smiths for me – reaching back into the past and tainting something that was very important to me. I’m so disappointed in him. Has it impacted how you feel about the Smiths or are you able to separate the past from the present, the band from the man? I find it very difficult to do so. Johnny Spence, Northern Ireland It hasn’t impacted how I feel about the Smiths. That’s all I can say about that. I’m certainly able to separate the past from the present. I don’t know whether you can separate the band from the man, but I can separate myself from the man and what I did, so when I do see how disappointed people are, it really does make me sad… I don’t have any answers. And I don’t want to have any answers.I was at Glastonbury in 2019 when you played There Is a Light That Never Goes Out at the end of your set. Without wanting to sound too gushy and obsessive, men and women in their 40s and 50s were openly crying, I guess because it felt like you were giving us permission to love these songs again. What is going through your head when you perform these songs? Do you feel any sadness or regret, or do you feel that you are claiming them fresh, as yours? Lindsay Wright, London I’ve been asked about claiming the Smiths songs quite a lot before and I’m not doing that… I don’t think I need to claim anything, because I wrote them. (Johnny Marr, Q & A, the Observer, February 2022)
On a side note: there’s an infinite list of things heterosexual male rock stars can say/write and get a generous interpretation, while Morrissey – an Irish Catholic 2nd generation immigrant – can’t even put the word ‘belong’ in a narrative song about fitting in.
Disturbingly, Now He’s a Poof gloried in juvenile homophobia: “Aids and herpes, he’s got ’em / The evidence is written all over his bottom.” It was more than outrageous enough to get them condemned in the court of liberal opinion, yet listen closely and the Macc Lads were always a subversive parody of such unreconstructed macho bigotry. (Ian Gittins, the Guardian, June 2015)
Get stuffed you arse bandit. One of me best mates, He come from Macc, And we used to go out pulling crack, Now we know it were just a farce, ’cause he’s got spunk dribbling out of his arse. He’s got scabs from stalking other men, We’re never going to talk to him again, He’s gone all nesh and he’s making us sick, We wouldn’t give him cheese off us dicks. Now he’s a poof, we can’t handle it. Now he’s a poof, he does spermy shits. Now he’s a poof, he leaves white stains wherever he sits. He’s gone to pot and he’s shaved his head, He’s got some black bloke sleeping in his bed, AIDS and herpes, he’s got ’em, The evidence is written all over his bottom. Now he’s never in the pub, now he’s no fun, He’s got sores and scabs all over his bum. We’ll have to pin him down on the deck And pour some Boddies down his fucking neck. Alright? ’cause he’s a poof, he drinks lemonade, Now he’s a poof, and he’s full of AIDS, Now he’s a poof, and he likes his buttocks splayed…. Now he’s a poof, he’s a fuckin’ slob, Now he’s a poof, he’s got a shitty nob, Now he’s a poof, he’s got spunk all over his gob…. Now he’s a poof, he’s a fucking queer, Now he’s a poof, he’s got gonarhea Now he’s a poof, he can’t hold his fucking beer. Now he’s a poof, he’s an arse bandit, Now he’s a poof, he does spermy shits, Now he’s a poof, and he doesn’t like to feel girl’s tits. Now he’s a poof, we can’t handle it, Now he’s a poof, he leaves white stains wherever he sits, He’s a poof, he’s a fucking queer arse bandit, He’s a fucking poof, he drinks lemonade, For Christ’s sake he’s a poof, he likes his buttocks splayed, He’s a poof, he’s fucking going to spread AIDS all over the world, Kill the bastard….
I can still be surprised by bigotry, inaccuracy and smearing in the press – it’s stunning that in 2022, Dan Cairns, in the Sunday Times, can use Morrissey’s sexuality and martial status to negatively contrast him to married heterosexual, Johnny Marr.
While Marr has built a reputation as a modest and fundamentally decent man, still married to his childhood sweetheart, Angie, with whom he has two children, and still living in the Manchester area, his former bandmate has steadily dismantled his own reputation. Morrissey in 2022 cuts a sorry figure: a cantankerous, Los Angeles-based king across the water, and a self-described “humasexual”, his increasingly truculent and often borderline racist comments and postings have quashed, surely for ever, any hopes of a Smiths reunion. (Dan Cairns, the Sunday Times, February 2022)
They also deliberately lied that he was aligned with the far right – it’s been 3 years, there’s no justification for guilt by association on this scale.
I despise racism. I despise fascism. I would do anything for my Muslim friends and I knowthey would do anything for me… do not be influencedby the tyrannies of the MSM who will tell youthat For Britain are racist or fascist – please believe me, they are the very opposite… This is my last political strike. No wish to upset anyone! – Morrissey, April 2018
.. she [AMW] 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… (Morrissey, June 2018)
for every shade and persuasion … we shall alwaysbe alongside each other – everyone’s culture of value;no more fashionable outrage; cows are friends tohumans – don’t kill them… (Morrissey, Central, May 2019)
I am not an activist, I have never voted for a political party, I do not belong to any political party… I do not believe the most important thing about a person is the colour of their skin. (Morrissey, Central, June 2019)
Even the basic facts are wrong. He hasn’t lived in LA for years. Or been celibate since the 1980s – when the press didn’t believe him anyway.
It’s also cruel and sick to relentlessly accuse Morrissey of “diatribes” and being “cantankerous”. He occasionally posts on his nephew’s website. He plays gigs. And he’s been seen in Manchester pubs. He hasn’t spoken to the press since 2017. And he has struggled with shyness and mental health issues his entire adult life.
Not to mention that Marr’s moral perfection has nothing to do with the Smiths getting back together. Morrissey has never wanted a reunion.
Side Note – the untrue racism allegations stem from a homophobic hit piece in the NME in 1992, after Morrissey was violently attacked by homophobes at a gig & they accused him of inciting it because of his sexuality.
Here is Marr playing beneath the NME’s idea of racist imagery – although perhaps the Union Jack needs to be held by a “poofy bastard” to be described as racist?
The men’s men in the crowd offer the opinion that Morrissey is a “poofy bastard” and elevate many a middle finger. (Select, October 1992. Review of the Finsbury Park gig that saw Morrissey branded as a racist by the NME for holding a Union Jack).
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)
In 2013, in an interview with Loaded, Morrissey said:
I nearly voted for UKIP. I like Nigel Farage a great deal. His views are quite logical – especially where Europe is concerned, although it was plain daft of him to applaud the lavish Royal Wedding at a time when working-class England were told to cut-back, shut-up and get stuffed.
In 2016, in an interview with news.com he said:
News.Com: The reports of you running for the Mayor of London with the Animal Welfare Party. Fact or fiction?
Morrissey:Fact, although 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.
In an interview on Morrissey Central, April 2018, he said:
UKIP is dead, and Nigel Farage aided their downfall by supporting Henry Bolton.
And in another interview on Morrissey Central, given in April 2019 but published in June 2019, he said:
Sam: Can we just sort out your political position because I’m sick of reading about how you’ve had a ‘controversial outburst’ when I know that you aren’t seen anywhere and you don’t ever speak to anyone. I’ve known you for 35 years and I’ve never heard you outburst. Are you actually a supporter of UKIP?
Morrissey: No. Never.
Sam: Of Nigel Farage?
Morrissey: No, no, no … but it’s obvious that he would make a good Prime Minister … if any of us can actually remember what a good Prime Minister is.
Despite carping about Nigel twice, mentioning him in the same sentence as hard left pro-Islam politician, George Galloway, and clearly stating that he was never a supporter of UKIP or Nigel Farage, every outlet decided to go with the ‘good Prime Minister’ comment, though coming from Morrissey that’s like being called a good serial killer.
The perception that Morrissey is a dedicated Nigel fan and Brexiteer (he didn’t vote or campaign) is so strong that his ex bandmate used it to kick him in the teeth and Cold War Steve included him in a collage with Tory politicians (he hates the Tories) who are (obviously) regularly in the media (Morrissey never speaks to the press, isn’t on social media, and outside of his own gigs is rarely at any public event).
Detractors will also cite:
Tommy Robinson (mentioned in one sentence)
Marine Le Pen (One Facebook post, and a follow up post trying to explain the first post)
A Far Right Party – his support of For Britain and Anne Marie Waters – however misguided, he did believe she was campaigning for animals, women, children and the law to be fairly applied.
and Britain First – who he has never supported or mentioned.
What tends to get memoryholed or deemed irrelevant is his dislike of Margaret Thatcher, George W. Bush, Tony Blair (over Iraq), Donald Trump, and Royalty.
Or his positive statements about left-wingers like Clare Short, Tony Benn, George Galloway, Barack Obama, and Bernie Sanders.
Or that he accused the Queen of white supremacy because Prince’s veganism didn’t get press coverage.
Or that he was a fan of vegan and civil rights activist Dick Gregory.
Or that – just before the 2017 General Election – he thought left-wing Jeremy Corbyn would be a better Prime Minister than right-wing Theresa May.
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:
The main thrust of his article is an attempt to get Morrissey to talk about the punk-gay-disco scene they’d both been part of and to get him to come out as gay.
But he also frames questions around a theory that pop music is strictly divided into Indie, which is ‘intelligent’, and Black, which is ‘crude showbiz’, seemingly unaware that the theory taps into the racist trope that black people are mindlessly physical.
It’s not clear if he explained the theory to Morrissey, in the article he asks: ‘so, is the music of The Smiths and their ilk racist, as Green claims?’ (Green Gartside was the lead singer of Scritti Politti.)
“Reggae, for example, is to me the most racist music in the entire world. It’s an absolute total glorification of black supremacy… There is a line when defence of one’s race becomes an attack on another race and, because of black history and oppression, we realise quite clearly that there has to be a very strong defence. But I think it becomes very extreme sometimes. But, ultimately, I don’t have very cast iron opinions on black music other than black modern music which I detest. I detest Stevie Wonder. I think Diana Ross is awful. I hate all those records in the Top 40 – Janet Jackson, Whitney Houston. I think they’re vile in the extreme. In essence this music doesn’t say anything whatsoever.”
There does seem to have been some concerns about Rasta Reggae.
In 1978 the NME journalists Julie Burchill and Tony Parsons, in their book The Boy Looked At Johnny, wrote:
Next only to punk shot-by-both-sides political platitudes… the major omen of the genre’s hoodwinking was its espousal of Reggae… Not even pre-punk reggae music… no punk junked up any Rastafarian connection it could score, becoming so addicted to Rasta in toto that throughout 1977 and 1978 every “punk” show was preceded by interminable Rasta music… Hatred of women is the foundation of fascism, but for sheer vitriolic venomous malignancy, the misogyny of the Rastafarians surpasses even that of Hitler’s Nazis.
The 1979 sociology book Rastaman by Ernest Cashmore, explored elements of racial superiority, homophobia and sexism in Rasta youth culture:
Much of the Rastafarian movement’s success in galvanising the hearts and minds of West Indian youth in the 1970s was due to its effective definition of membership through its identity and exclusivity. It was able to amplify its distinctiveness and preserve its insularity. One of the outcomes of this was that others regarded the Rastas as adhering to a doctrine of racial superiority… ‘They’re nothing but a bunch of racists’ (middle-aged West Indian). ‘Racial lunatics’ (Jamaican in his 20s)… Homosexuality on the other hand was stringently decried as ‘unnatural’ and ‘ungodly’ as was birth control, a clever device of the Babylonian conspiracy to prevent the multiplication of black men… The Rastaman’s preservation of his male superiority was a way of insulating himself against the infectious forces of Babylon.
‘Vile’ is hyperbole and Morrissey was airily scathing about nearly everything.
Frank countered that Black music is more subtle because it works on the body via the dancefloor. Morrissey was unconvinced.
“I don’t think there’s any time anymore to be subtle about anything, you have to get straight to the point. Obviously to get on Top Of The Pops these days, one has to be, by law, black. I think something political has occurred among Michael Hurl and his friends and there has been a hefty pushing of all these black artists and all this discofied nonsense into the Top 40. I think, as a result, that very aware younger groups that speak for now are being gagged.”
‘By law’ is a joke. He’d previously used it about himself.
Well, I wouldn’t stand on a table and should, ‘I’m a feminist’ or put a red stamp across my forehead, but if one tends towards prevalent feminist views, by law, you immediately become one. Likewise, if you have great sympathy with gay culture you are immediately a transsexual. I did one interview where the gay issue was skirted over in three seconds and when the interview emerged in print, there I was emblazonedacross 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.
It’s Frank who pins blame on black artists, ‘You seem to be saying that you believe that there is some sort of black pop conspiracy being organised to keep white indie groups down.’
Morrissey, not picking up on it, is focused on content and (white, male) producers:
“Yes, I really do.The charts have been constructed quite clearly as an absolute form of escapism rather than anything anyone can gain any knowledge by. I find that very disheartening because it wasn’t always that way. Isn’t it curious that practically none of these records reflect life as we live it? Isn’t it curious that 93 and a half percent of these records reflect life as it isn’t lived? That foxes me! If you compare the exposure that records by the likes of Janet Jackson and the stream of other anonymous Jacksons get to the level of daily airplay that The Smiths receive – The Smiths have had at least 10 consecutive chart hits and we still can’t get on Radio 1′s A list. Is that not a conspiracy? The last LP ended up at number two and we were still told by radio that nobody wanted to listen to The Smiths in the daytime. Is that not a conspiracy? I do get the scent of a conspiracy.And, anyway, the entire syndrome has one tune and surely that’s enough to condemn the entire thing.”
Frank asks him if he finds Black music macho (tapping into a racist and a homophobic trope; black men as hyper virile, gay men as effete). Moz says it isn’t his world, and adds:
I don’t want to feel in the dock because there are some things I dislike. Having said that, my favourite record of all time is “Third Finger, Left Hand” by Martha and the Vandellas which can lift me from the most doom-laden depression.
Frank accuses him of being a nostalgic luddite (later the NME will accuse him of not wanting black people to prosper in the present, as if 1960s music wasn’t still being played). Morrissey quips:
‘Hi-tech can’t be liberating. It’ll kill us all. You’ll be strangulated by the cords of your compact disc.’
Frank asks him about violence in Manchester and the lyrics of Never Had No One Ever. Morrissey explains they’re about feeling alienated because he’s Irish:
“It was the frustration that I felt at the age of 20 when I still didn’t feel easy walking around the streets on which I’d been born, where all my family had lived – they’re originally from Ireland but had been here since the Fifties. It was a constant confusion to me why I never really felt ‘This is my patch. This is my home. I know these people. I can do what I like, because this is mine.’ It never was. I could never walk easily.”
And the article ends with Morrissey reminiscing about his time on the gay scene:
“If the Perry’s didn’t get you, then the beer monsters were waiting around the corner. I still remember studying the football results to see if City or United had lost, in order to judge the level of violence to be expected in the city centre that night. I can remember the worst night of my life with a friend of mine, James Maker, who is the lead singer in Raymonde now. We were heading for Devilles (a gay club). We began at the Thompson’s Arms (a gay pub), we left and walked around the corner where there was a car park, just past Chorlton Street Bus Station. Walking through the car park, I turned around and, suddenly, there was a gang of 30 beer monsters all in their late twenties, all creeping around us… The gay scene in Manchester was always atrocious. Do you remember Bernard’s Bar, now Stuffed Olives? If one wanted peace and to sit without being called a parade of names then that was the only hope... 1975 was the worst year in social history. I blame ‘Young Americans’ entirely. I hated that period – Disco Tex and the Sex-o-lettes, Limmy and Family Cooking. So when punk came along, I breathed a sigh of relief. I met people. I’d never done that before… I never liked The Ranch. I have a very early memory of it and it was very, very heavy. I never liked Dale Street. There was something about that area of Manchester that was too dangerous.”
Frank threw in some homophobic language:
‘You big jessy, you big girl’s blouse, Morrissey. But he’s right. It was dangerous and, with the increased media visibility of punk, the violence got worse. You see, punks were not only faggots, they were uppity faggots as well‘.
And an insinuation about cottaging that Morrissey found upsetting:
Because of the public-toilet disparagement, there are of course legal grounds to take action against Melody Maker, but Rough Trade are now making useful inroads with the press because of the Smiths, and they don’t want to cause a fuss, and I am still too green around the gills to ignore their reluctance. I could attempt to tackle Melody Maker myself, but without the label behind me, I am at sea. (Morrissey, Autobiography, 2013)
When it was published, Morrissey was accused of racism in a flurry of readers letters.
Johnny Marr was angry:
“next time we come across that creep, he’s plastered. We’re not in the habit of issuing personal threats, but that was such a vicious slur-job that we’ll kick the shit out of him. Violence is disgusting but racism’s worse and we don’t deal with it.”(NMW, February 1987)
No one noticed the article’s racism or was outraged by the homophobia.
Tony Fletcher in The Smiths, A Light That Never Goes Out (2012) condemned Morrissey for his ‘no sex’ agenda:
[Frank Owen] dared suggest in writing that in years to come, Morrissey would be into “fisting and water sports”… “Morrissey is the biggest closet gay queen on the planet and he felt that I was trying to ‘out’ him by bringing this up…” If he wanted to play coy, that was his prerogative, although with Thatcherite policies coming down increasingly hard on homosexuality, many other artists had decided to “come out” in response. As Len Brown wrote, “It was a time when everyone – artists and journalists – seemed to be asking the question (politically and sexually) Whose Side Are You On?” To which Morrissey insisted on being individual … a card-carrying member of nothing but his own cult of personality’.
He took out Morrissey’s meandering qualifications to made it sound as if Panic was about a detestation of black modern music so strong that he couldn’t stop himself from harping on:
Not content to leave it there, Morrissey went on to express how much he detested the “black modern music” of Motown descendants Stevie Wonder, Janet Jackson, and Diana Ross, stating, per the lyrics to “Panic,” that “in essence this music doesn’t say anything whatsoever.”
He ascribes Frank’s comments about readers to ‘Morrissey’s thinking’, accepts the racist assumption that Black music is about the body, pretends that British youth didn’t dance before Rave, took ‘by law’ literally and thinks it’s ridiculous to say that escapist music gets more airplay than morose Indie music – OF COURSE IT DOES!
Owen claimed to understand this thinking. “When NME and Melody Maker started putting black acts on the cover,” he recalled, “there was a huge backlash to it. I used to get letters all the time. And it wasn’t explicitly ‘We don’t want blacks on the cover,’ it was more like ‘This is our scene and what do blacks have to do with it?’ ” And so, in his Melody Maker feature, as a response to Morrissey’s own response, Owen tried to answer that question: “What it says can’t necessarily be verbalised easily,” he wrote. “It doesn’t seek to change the world like rock music by speaking grand truths about politics, sex and the human condition. It works at a much more subtle level—at the level of the body and the shared abandon of the dancefloor. It won’t change the world, but it’s been said it may well change the way you walk through the world.” Within a year or two, as acid house exploded (the kindling lit on the Haçienda dance floor) and the rave movement emerged in its wake, a large section of British youth would come to share Owen’s sentiment, the Smiths’ Johnny Marr and New Order’s Bernard Sumner among them. In the summer of 1986, though, Morrissey was still the voice of his generation, which was perhaps why he then dared issue the most ludicrous comment yet of a continually outspoken career: “Obviously to get on Top of the Pops these days, one has to be, by law, black,” which he followed up with an equally ridiculous claim of personal persecution.
He also thought it was suspect that Morrissey liked a sexist song that was released when he was seven years old.
Even the singer’s attempt to restore proceedings mid-interview sounded suspect. “My favourite record of all time is ‘Third Finger, Left Hand’ by Martha and the Vandellas,” he said, citing a (black) Motown single from 1966, “which can lift me from the most doom-laden depression.” And yet this was as stereotypically romantic, conventionally sexist, and thereby nonfeminist a song as had ever been written. It would have said nothing about Morrissey’s life when it came out, and said even less about his life and that of his fans twenty years later. He was in essence employing a double standard, based on what Owen correctly referred to as a “nostalgia … that afflicts the whole indie scene.”
And thought that Morrissey’s comments were a defence of ‘Panic’ rather than in response to Frank’s questions about Indie.
Frank himself is still blind to the racist assumptions that shaped his division of pop into Black and Indie and thinks Morrissey caused the problem to ‘wind people up’.
As it turned out, Owen wasn’t particularly put out by Morrissey’s comments in defense of “Panic.” “I never thought Morrissey was a racist,” he said. “I always thought it was just a big put-on, that it was just a way to wind people up, the same way that punks wore swastikas.”
In 2018 music journalist Pete Paphides, gutted the interview to claim that Morrissey had ‘always’ been repugnant.
And accused Morrissey of ‘trolling’ for using the Attack reggae label in 2004 – nearly 18 years after this interview (and 12 years after Morrissey was accused of racism for holding a Union Jack for less than 2 minutes in front of a crowd who heckled that he was a “poofy bastard“).
Having failed to see that Morrissey talked about his own experiences of being from an immigrant family, that Frank was mainly trying to get Morrissey to talk about his sexuality and that Morrissey had said that black people had a history of oppression, Pete claims to have always kept the door ajar in case Morrissey’s views about race and identity were more nuanced…
but he can’t listen to most of Morrissey’s work because of what he was and continues to be.
Considering that some journalists have been entirely blind to their own bigotry while scrutinizing every word Morrissey says for racism and repeating every perceived violation like a litany – the thing that Morrissey was and continues to be that bothers them so much, is probably – ‘humasexual’, asocial and sardonic.