Black Music Conspiracy

In July 1986, in an interview on Canadian radio, Morrissey explained that he thought the Smiths were being excluded by the broadcasting establishment, and that the line ‘hang the DJ’, in the song, ‘Panic’, was about UK radio DJs.

I notice, and I’m sure it’s not an accident, that as the times that we live in become more serious and more critical, popular music, which is such a ferociously fierce and strong art form, goes further and further away from reality. And I almost feel, that it’s almost a political thing. That is, there’s a whitewash occuring, that the nonsensical and useless bland artists are being pushed forward and we’re being force fed. And any groups who dare to confront very real issues, in a very realistic way, are silenced, are gagged. So this is something that we constantly have to fight against. I mean, the Smiths, in England have had 10 consecutive hit singles, and we’ve had huge LPs, and yet, we still are never played on national daytime radio. They will not play the Smiths. I mean, even this week, today, we were the highest new entry in the top 100 with a new single called, Panic, came in at number 18, and they won’t play it. So what can you do? You have to suspect that there’s some, um, fierce political, um, canoodlings occurring… Hang the DJ is a recurring line in the new single, Panic, and once again, as ever, we’re finding problems. I can’t think why, but, um, as I say, this single, Panic, has entered really highly and they won’t play it, because of this line, ‘hang the DJ’. They say it’s offensive. I can’t really imagine why, because when we sing ‘hang the DJ’ live people are ecstatic. This is what they want, to get rid of all these old, boring, middle-aged non-entities, these mediocre people, who are all really controlling the airwaves, and, uh, 50% of the daytime disc jockeys in England are absolutely detested by the people in England. They hate them, and yet here they are controlling our, um, our earlobes, practically. So I’m all for hanging certain DJs. So, watch out. (Morrissey, CHRW London Canada, 29 July 1986)

Less than 2 months later, in September 1986, he was branded a racist for an interview in the Melody Maker, in which the interviewer, Frank Owen, framed his questions using a racist theory that music was divided into warring factions: Indie, which was ‘intelligent’, and made by white people. And Black Pop, which was ‘crude showbiz’, and associated with black people. He also cheerfully opined that ‘Panic’ was about hanging Black DJs. https://illnessasart.com/2020/03/03/melody-maker-27-september-1986/

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

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

It’s not clear if Morrissey understood the theory, or was taking it seriously, and most of the interview was puriently homophobic, and angled to push him into coming out as gay, which he later found distressing.

As written, it’s also not clear, what was asked or what order. It appears to start with, ‘so, is the music of The Smiths and their ilk racist, as Green claims?’ (Green Gartside was the lead singer of Scritti Politti.)

Morrissey replied:

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

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

And Top of The Pops producer Michael Hurl, is not black.

Michael Hurl, on the left.

It’s Frank who sums it up as a conspiracy by black artists to keep white people out of the charts, ‘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 might be trying to fold in Frank’s words, but his suspicion hasn’t changed since the Canadian interview – he still thinks escapist music is promoted by the (straight, white, male) broadcasting establishment:

“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.”

It wasn’t an outlandish idea:

I remember John Peel saying he believed that if they played the music he played on mainstream radio, people would like it. And I remember thinking, ‘Stupid twat.’ But he was kind of right, if you take a jerky, quirky group like the Arctic Monkeys – that’s what happened. (Johnny Cigarettes, Record Collector, 29 March 2018) https://recordcollectormag.com/articles/bit-chinstroking

“It’s not just us”, says William. “It’s also people like New Order, Echo and the Bunnymen and The Smiths. The Smiths have got a number two LP but you never hear The Smiths on the radio. Steve Wright said ‘people don’t want to listen to The Smiths in the afternoon’. That’s absolutely pathetic! How does he know? “The BBC is supposed to be a public company and we’re all supposed to have a share in it but it’s obviously a dictatorship and those people shouldn’t have that power”. (Jesus and Mary Chain, Smash Hits, July 1986)

Frank asks him if he finds Black music macho (tapping into a racist and a homophobic trope; black men as hyper virile, gay men as effete). Morrissey 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 jokes:

‘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.”

Despite this – the interview was the basis for accusations that ‘Bengali In Platforms’, was telling people from South Asia that they don’t belong in the UK. And it gave the NME its excuse for the 1992 homophobic hit piece.

The Frank Owen interview 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 editorialised with 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 denounced as a racist, then defended, in letters pages and comment pieces. 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, or was outraged, by Frank Owen’s racist framing or 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.

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. While, 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.”

28 years later it was the material for a grimly racist and homophobic ‘satire’ by David Stubbs in the Quietus:

…an unspoken racism meant that it was hard for those whose skin was not disco-coloured to get booked on the programme. So, Norrissey hatched a plan. He and the band turned up at the BBC studios one Thursday evening in Afro wigs, their skins applied with burnt cork, minstrel-style. “Hi!” they said, jively, to the man at the door, waving their hands in the sort of way that makes some wonder if Britain is Britain any more. “The name of this here group of ours is The Blackfaces and we’re here to play our new single ‘Strut Your Superficial Stuff’.” Naturally, they were immediately allowed on the show… Then came the moment of revelation, as the “Blackfaces” stopped playing, and rubbed away the dark cork on their faces… this had been the only way a white English group could be smuggled onto Top Of The Pops in the 1980s. They had paved the way so that other white English groups might follow, without wigs or make-up. A black day of the sort they weren’t used to for disco musicians but a breakthrough for England! (David Stubbs, the Quietus, 6 January 2014) 

David’s confirmation bias is so strong that he insinuates Morrissey is a racist for comparing Depeche Mode unfavourably to Barry White, and compared him to Donald Trump for using the words ‘no justice’, in a review written to champion his best friend, Linder Sterling’s unsuccessful band, Ludus.

In June 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 the Frank Owen interview, and 12 years after Morrissey was accused of racism for holding a Union Jack for less than 3 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.

David Quantick thinks that what Morrissey was and continues to be, is scum. And dates it from the Frank Owen interview.

Panic on the streets of London
Panic on the streets of Birmingham
I wonder to myself
Could life ever be sane again?
The Leeds side-streets that you slip down
I wonder to myself Hopes may rise on the Grasmere
But honey pie, you’re not safe here
So you run down to the safety of the town
But there’s panic on the streets of Carlisle
Dublin, Dundee, Humberside
I wonder to myself Burn down the disco
Hang the blessed DJ
Because the music that they constantly play
It says nothing to me about my life
Hang the blessed DJ
Because the music they constantly play On the Leeds side-streets that you slip down
Provincial towns you jog ’round Hang the DJ, hang the DJ, hang the DJ
Hang the DJ
….

Side Note: The manufactured and imposed division between Indie and Black music was dubbed the hip-hop wars and played out for most the 1980s and early 1990s.

Frank Owen was interested in hip-hop and house music, but couldn’t get any of the music press in England to cover it, ‘they’d say, “What do you want to write about all these grungy Negroes in there?”https://daily.redbullmusicacademy.com/2013/05/frank-owen-interview

The hip hop wars was just something internal to NME, it really had little relevance to the scene itself… At NME you had a camp of diehard indie supporters on the staff, editors and writers who wanted to put The Go Betweens and The Shop Assistants on the cover. And there was a very vociferous, ideologically determined camp of “soul boys”—also editors and writers–who thought that only black music was valid, relevant, and progressive. They were very scornful of indie music and regarded it as retrogressive, even crypto-racist in so far as it didn’t engage with black culture. But to me the irony was that your indie fans, tending to be college educated, were more likely to have anti-racist, left-wing, progressive beliefs and attitudes than many of the white fans of black pop. It’s just that rap and R&B didn’t speak to them, it didn’t describe their lives. Being middle class, bookish, shy types, they didn’t like the overt sexuality, the materialism, and in rap’s case, the sexism… The indie faction at NME were more in touch with the magazine’s readership, but they didn’t have the strong ideological drive and discipline of the black music faction, so the latter were able to dominate the paper for a while. But eventually they were all ousted, probably I suspect because the owners of NME could see that pushing hip hop through front covers would alienate the readership and lose sales. At Melody Maker we just loved the fact that NME was tearing itself apart. (Mario Lopes, Publico, 11 July 2014) http://reynoldsretro.blogspot.com/2014/11/c86-and-all-that.html

Side Note 2: In 1990, as reported in the Melody Maker, a group of Black American DJs were told how to do ‘dance music’ by Tony Wilson and Keith Allen. Despite the DJs walking out in disgust, neither suffered any career consequences.

Derrick May has had enough: ‘Ma-a-a-n,’ he says, ‘let me tell ya something. Dance music has been fucked up… I have to sit back and see some bullshit Adamski shit… that’s bullshit. On the charts! Number F-ing One! Okay?’ Tony Wilson rises to the challenge: ‘I’m sure The Rolling Stones and The Beatles sounded pretty shitty to the real R&B people but without The Rolling Stones and The Beatles, you’d never have even known you had R&B in America.’ ‘Well I don’t know about that,’ says Derrick… ‘They say it’s not a dictatorship, but it is. We can’t do anything unless you tell us to as much as we try… We – and when I say we, I mean blacks – we all do something and you’ll come behind us and turn it around and add somebody singing to it or some sort of little funky-ass or weak-ass chord line or whatever and get some stupid record company that doesn’t know jack shit about shit to put £50,000 behind it and you got a fucking hit because you stuffed it down motherfuckers throats. So, this group, y’know, has tremendous success and I don’t know what to say, man. I’ve just been busting my ass, it comes from the heart y’know… we as black people have always had to deal with the fact that we’ve had to be better because, since the beginning of time, we’ve had to walk into a white person’s house and clean a white motherfucker’s ass, okay? So don’t tell me.’ This is too much for Keith Allen. He says: ‘Listen Derrick, I might have white skin but I’m black for fuck’s sake! Look at me Derrick – look at me – I’m black.’ Nathan McGough joins in… ‘The whole Ecstasy and House culture from 1988 was like year zero, Pol Pot. The same way as ’76 with the Pistols and anarchy, year zero…’ Derrick May responds… ‘Our DJs are technically better than yours.’ ‘Bullshit. Let’s talk about DJs, right?’ says Wilson… ‘Your Detroit DJs didn’t have one record that was made in the last fucking six months and they wouldn’t play one thing under 130 bpm. They’re all stick-in-the-muds and they should get themselves fucked.’ The insults are starting to fly thick and fast… Egged on by Derrick May, another guy gets up and says white folks think too much about it all while blacks just do it. From where I’m sitting, this sounds a tad close to the ol’ natural riddim argument. But May’s well into it. ‘Yeah,’ he shouts, ‘that’s also the reason why white people can’t play basketball.’ Keith Allen responds in kind; ‘Yeah, but that’s the reason why black Americans don’t ride horses. You’ve got to remember the reason that white guys don’t play basketball is the same reason black guys don’t ride horses.’ Marshall Jefferson gets up and walks out in disgust.  (Steve Sutherland, Melody Maker, 4th August 1990) http://dewit.ca/archs/JD/New_York_Story.html

Islamophobe: Meat and the Manchester Bomb

On the 7th July 2005, 52 people in London were killed by Islamist terrorists. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-33253598

Morrissey blamed Tony Blair, the UK’s Prime Minister, and George W. Bush, the President of the United States of America.

If not for Tony Blair’s self-interests, the people who were blown to pieces on London’s transport system that July morning would more than likely still be amongst the living. Although Bush and Blair collectively made the world a more dangerous place, neither of them, then or now, leads an unprotected life and neither is susceptible to the dangers… (Morrissey, Autobiography, Penguin, 2013)

And claimed, to have been investigated by the intelligence services in the UK and the USA becuase he had denounced the war in Iraq, and wished that Bush had died instead of ex-President Reagan.

The former lead singer of the Smiths tells British music paper NME that he believed he had been interviewed by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and British intelligence agents because he was deemed a threat for speaking his mind. “They were trying to determine if I was a threat to the government, and similarly in England,” NME quotes the 46-year-old singer as saying. “But it didn’t take them very long to realize that I’m not.” In June 2004, Morrissey came under fire for interrupting a Dublin concert with news that former U.S. president Ronald Reagan had died, adding that he wished Bush had died instead. Months later, Morrissey urged U.S. voters to get rid of Bush, calling him a terrorist and adding that he “single-handedly turned the United States into the most neurotic and terror-obsessed country on the planet.” (Billboard, 26 February 2006) https://www.billboard.com/articles/news/59579/morrissey-claims-investigation-by-us-uk-intelligence/

In 2008, he wanted to tour Iran because he admired Arab pop star Kazem al-Sahir.

Heaven knows I’m Muslim now, Morrissey lines up Iran gig: Never mind the fundamentalists, here’s Morrissey. The rock singer is planning to play a concert in Iran as his contribution to the international healing process. The singer, whose songs include Bigmouth Strikes Again and Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now, is in talks with the Iranian government and the Foreign Office about staging a performance in Tehran later this year. (Maurice Chittenden, the Sunday Times, 3 February 2008) https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/heaven-knows-im-muslim-now-morrissey-lines-up-iran-gig-pw809hlmjjw

The former Smiths frontman hopes to appear onstage with acclaimed Arabian pop singer Kazem Al Sahir, one of the star’s professed heroes, and is currently in talks with the Iranian government to play a gig there later this year. (Irish Examiner, 8 January 2008) https://www.irishexaminer.com/lifestyle/arid-30343497.html

On the 7th January 2015, 12 people were killed by Islamists targeting the left-wing satire magazine, Charlie Hebdo, for blasphemy, and a Jewish supermarket, for Jewishness. Morrissey didn’t say anything. But later his Je Suis Morrissey t-shirts, circa 2004-09, were erroneously linked to the free speech debate that had been symbolised in the solidarity slogan Je suis Charlie. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-30708237

Charlie Hebdo’s former offices are located in a liberal neighbourhood of Paris, where nobody disputes the necessity to protect freedom of expression. But critics insist that one can be in favour of free speech without kowtowing to the “Je suis Charlie” mantra. (Mehdi Chebil, France 24, 4 January 2018)

Sporting a “Je Suis Morrissey” t-shirt, he deems himself a bastion for free speech while calling for a ban on Eid celebrations in the UK. (Darya Rustamova, Mangal Media, 25 May 2019)

New York, 2007, Pieter M. van Hattem

On the 13th November 2015, 130 people were murdered, most of them in the Bataclan music venue, by Islamic State. The motivation of Islamic State seemed to be more about killing unbelievers than freedom fighting. Their vision of an Islamic Caliphate was Imperial, supremacist and genocidal. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-34827497

In paying tribute to the victims at a gig on 14th November in Santiago, Morrissey reportedly said, “As you know, as you’ve heard, the war of religion is upon us, or the religion of war is upon us. And we say ‘no thank you, no, no, no, no, no, no, no’.” https://www.stourbridgenews.co.uk/leisure/showbiz/14033038.morrissey-pays-tribute-to-paris-massacre-victims-by-playing-im-throwing-my-arms-around-paris-in-front-of-a-french-flag/

But, he very quickly got involved in an unseemly row over re-releasing I’m Throwing My Arms Around Paris, with his record company Harvest. https://www.billboard.com/music/music-news/morrissey-universal-paris-tribute-single-6776961/

I couldn’t go through a Harvest Records situation again — they almost killed me, and probably regret that they didn’t. I find that if you are a genuine artist in 2016 you must look after yourself, but if you are trivial and fluffy then a label will hype you and help you and buy Paid Content space on online news pages to make you appear important. I paddle my own canoe. (Morrissey, News Com Au, 3 August 2016)

Fan made Twitter image @Stracy1675 posted on True To You, then posted on Morrissey Solo. David Joseph is the head of Harvest.

A year later, on the 12th June 2016, 49 people were killed at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, by Omar Mateen. In a call to the police just before the massacre, Mateen, had pledged allegiance to Islamic State. Morrissey was angry at Donald Trump, heterosexuality & guns. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-36511778

Hate-rosexuality: although the gunman who massacred 49 people at an Orlando gay club is said to have been ‘repulsed’ by homosexuality, he nonetheless left behind a slew of self-adoring ‘selfies’; a handsome man gazing enchantedly at his own face. It is therefore acceptable for him to lovingly admire his own maleness, but it is not OK for other men to like other men. Does Islamic scripture say it is fitting for a man to sit alone taking adoring photographs of himself? I doubt it.
Meanwhile, Donald Thump, probably America’s next President, reacts to the Orlando massacre by explaining how, if the people within the club were themselves armed with guns, then there would have been fewer casualties. This, of course, is his way of avoiding any words of support to the Orlando gay community (it is their own fault for going into a nightclub without hand grenades). Donald Thump would therefore probably claim that the massacred children of Sandy Hook would still be alive today if only they’d had the common sense to carry sawn-off shotguns to school. The Thump response to Orlando is therefore anti-gay and pro-gun possession. Ann Coulter will be waving her baseball cap and cheering. It’s all going so well for America!
Unfortunately, CNN obliged the gunman once again with a flashing flood of publicity – which is all he ever wanted, and which will encourage the next shooter to prepare for international fame. Why show the gunman’s face? Nobody needs to see it. (Morrissey, True To You, June 2016)

In August that year, Morrissey was denounced as a racist for mentioning Nigel Farage, leader of hard right UK independence party UKIP in the same sentence as hard left, pro-Islam, Iranian and Russian state media employee, and politician George Galloway, and for complaining that London mayor Sadiq Khan eats Halal butchered beings (he had spoken in favour of halal meat) and talks too fast (Khan is a Londoner, with a London accent, Morrissey has never said anything that would relate his voice to his religion or ethnic heritage).

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. (Morrissey, News Com Au, 3 April 2016)

https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2012/apr/29/george-galloway-interview-bradford-west

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, 22 May 2012)

It’s the emphatic inclusion of “halal” that adds a spicy hint of racism to Morrissey’s animal rights campaigning, doesn’t it? (Hadley Freeman, the Guardian, 4 August 2016) https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/lostinshowbiz/2016/aug/04/oh-god-morrissey-talks-about-galloway-farage-and-sadiq-khan

Nearly, everyone else gets to make spicy comments without being permanently branded a racist.

On the 22nd of May 2017, 22 people (many of them children) were killed at an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester Arena. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-manchester-40010124

Morrissey had a statement about it posted on Facebook in which he blames the authorities – politicians, the Queen, Islamic State – Theresa May’s immigration policy and complained about inexact language.

Theresa May’s immigration policy was the Hostile Environment. He’d previously complained about George Bush’s immigration policy being too harsh, and immigration officials in Australia being rude. And would go on to accuse May of turning the UK into an international target. So it’s likely that he thought the Hostile Environment was antagonising people into becoming terrorists. And he’d previously explained that he believed inexact language meant governments intended to do nothing about a situation.

With all my heart I urge people to vote against George Bush. Jon Stewart would be ideal, but John Kerry is the logical and sane move. It does not need to be said yet again, but Bush has single-handedly turned the United States into the most neurotic and terror-obsessed country on the planet. For non-Americans, the United States is suddenly not a very nice place to visit because US immigration officers – under the rules of Bush – now conduct themselves with all the charm and unanswerable indignation of Hitler’s SS. Please bring sanity and intelligence back to the United States. Don’t forget to vote. Vote for John Kerry and get rid of George Bush! (Morrissey, True to You, 28th? October 2004)

It doesn’t take much to be thrown into a cell at LAX! You will notice that the Immigration Officers are persistently ordering you to ‘stand there’, which is a test to see if you will bow to their orders… they can be as illegal as they wish. Incidentally, when I arrived in Sydney last year the officer at Passport Control did her best to insult me and to cause a scene when there was no need… They use the ISIS issue as an excuse to denigrate everyone, and they absolutely love it. (Morrissey, News Com Au, 3 August 2016)

I despise racism. I despise fascism. I would do anything for my Muslim friends and I know they would do anything for me… Theresa May’s policies have turned Britain into a international target… 
(Morrissey, Morrissey Central, April 2018)

But increasingly we see how civilian murders don’t actually matter at all with governments.  The recent Malaysian plane attack is a perfect example.  In the first few days the media referred to it as an attack, and then suddenly it became a disaster.  By ‘disaster’ they were telling us that nothing would be done about it, as if it were a flood or something.  We all see how civilian deaths do not register with world leaders unless a loss of oil or gas is involved… (Morrissey, Vegan Logic, 5 September 2014)

https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2018/aug/27/hostile-environment-anatomy-of-a-policy-disaster

It’s also, worth remembering that one of his closest friends, a woman he considered having a child with, Tina Dehghani, is from Iran.

Tina Dehghani, on the left

He was immediately accused of blaming all muslims and all non-white immigrants, and denounced as a racist.

Perhaps the final straw was his reaction to the terrorist murders at Manchester’s MEN Arena. Transparently Islamophobic, and published at a time of heightened community tensions, it was unforgivable. ‘In modern Britain everyone seems petrified to officially say what we all say in private,’ he dog-whistled. (Michael Calderbank, Red Pepper, 2 December 2017)

Northern Irish comedian, Michael Legge, who once wrote an article that could be paraphrased into “Muslims are fucking nutters who should be put in asylums before they bomb us” (and if Morrissey wrote it, that’s exactly how it would have been paraphrased) posted abuse on Facebook and then spent years calling Morrissey fans racists on Twitter.*

Just like Moses and Allah and Thor and Spock never existed. The very fact that in 2008 this STILL has to be pointed out to people is terrifying to me. We wait until unspeakable horror happens, like a bomb going off, before we arrest people who are doing things in the name of their god but why? Why wait. Anyone going to any church, synagogue, mosque or Games Workshop should be immediately arrested for living inside a daydream. At the very least put the fucking nutters in an asylum. (Michael Legge, his blog, 29 November 2008) http://michaelleggesblog.blogspot.com/2008/11/religion.html

*Maybe it’s the rawness of “the troubles” or embarrassment at his Irish background, but another Northern Irish arts/media worker, Guardian journalist, Eamonn Forde, has also been extensively using social media to “satirically” denounce him.

Although Morrissey’s negativity isn’t a natural fit for a sentimental tribute concert, the controversy likely led to him being excluded from One Love Manchester. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-40134567

Talking about it, he said: “because I do look back in anger! I would have sang ‘World Peace Is None of Your Business’ or ‘Life is a Pigsty’ – or something truthful and meaningful. If my child had been killed at Manchester Arena I wouldn’t be lighting candles and swaying… I’d be in a complete rage.” (Morrissey, Morrissey Central, 24 June 2019) https://www.morrisseycentral.com/messagesfrommorrissey/234417-the-interview

World Peace attacks governments:

World peace is none of your business
You must not tamper with arrangements
Work hard and sweetly pay your taxes
Never asking what for
Oh oh, you poor little fool, oh oh, you fool
World peace is none of your business
Police will stun you with their stun guns
Or they’ll disable you with tasers
That’s what Government’s for
Oh oh, you poor little fool, oh oh, you fool
World peace is none of your business
So would you, kindly keep your nose out
The rich must profit and get richer
And the poor must stay poor
Oh oh, you poor little fool, oh oh, you fool
Each time you vote, you support the process
Each time you vote, you support the process
Each time you vote, you support the process
Brazil, Bahrain, Egypt, Ukraine
So many people in pain No more you poor little fools
No more you fool

Life Is A Pigsty is about how disgusting life is, but we still fall in love.

It’s the same old S.O.S.
But with brand new
Broken fortunes,
And once again I turn
To you
Once again, I do
I turn to you It’s the same old S.O.S
But with brand new
Broken fortunes
I’m the same
Underneath
But this, you
You surely knew Life is a pigsty
Life is a pigsty
Life is a pigsty
Life, life is a pigsty
Life, life is a pigsty
Life, life is a pigsty
Life, life is a pigsty and if you don’t know this
Then what do you know?
Every second of my life
I only live for you
And you can shoot me
And you can throw me off a train
I still maintain
I still maintain
Life, life is a pigsty
Life is a pigsty and I’ve been shifting gears all of my life
But I’m still the same underneath
And this you surely knew I can’t reach you
I can’t reach you
I can’t reach you anymore Can you please stop time?
Can you stop the pain?
I feel too cold
And now I feel too warm again
Can you stop this pain?
Can you stop this pain?
Even now in the final hour
Of my life
I’m falling in love again
Again
Again

Both songs predate the Islamophobia accusations, but feelings were running so high against him, that even though, he was angry at the UK authorities who 3 years later would have significant failings revealed in a public inquiry: https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2020/sep/08/greater-manchester-force-had-no-plan-to-police-arena-on-night-of-bombing

& Islamic State, who styled itself as a government, & was brutal to the people who found themselves living in the territory it conquered: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-29052144

World Peace, would likely have been seen as divisive.

And despite, knowing that Morrissey & Islam are in total agreement that eating pigs is a bad thing (for different reasons) – pig in a song title is likely to have been interpreted as a racist insult.

In April 2018, Morrissey was denounced as an Islamophobe and a racist for saying that Eid al-Adhar wasn’t joyous because animals are sacrificed for it – Qurbani is the tradition of sacrificing an animal for God – and for saying that Halal slaughter is evil, and certified by ISIS supporters (I take it he means only hardliners would want an animal’s throat cut, he has never elaborated).

Theresa May was always a Prime Minister uninvited. She is incapable of leadership. She cannot say her own name unless it’s written down on a cue card in front of her. I recall her speech on Eid al-Adhar, and how she referred to it as a ”joyous celebration” … as millions of animals had their throats slit to mark the occasion. I wondered what kind of compassion she could possibly have. The answer is none... If you have any concern for animal welfare, for example, you cannot possibly vote for either Conservatives or Labour, because both parties support halal slaughter, which, as we all know, is evil. Furthermore, halal slaughter requires certification that can only be given by supporters of ISIS, and yet in England we have halal meat served in hospitals and schools! UK law is pointless! animals rights 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... I am not saying that stunned slaughter is acceptable, because it couldn’t ever be... I think the point is that we cease to put ourselves first. It is not about what we frivolously want. Every animal even during slaughter fights and kicks until its very last breath. It has one instinct and that is to survive. I stopped watching television because of animal death commercials. I couldn’t allow that into my living space for one more day. I feel liberated without it. They won’t show cigarette commercials but it’s OK to show butchered lambs? And  to laugh about it?  (Morrissey, Morrissey Central, April 2018)

In July-August 2018, he worked with Sameer Gadhia on California Son and went to see his band, Giant the Younger, in LA… just … just … magnificent. Catch them if you can. Sameer is the best singer in the world today. And yesterday. And tomorrow. (Morrissey, Morrissey Central, 10 August 2019)

In April 2019, he was bewildered about why he was denounced as a racist and was blaming the meat industry as a whole for the world’s problems.

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… successive governments receive support and cash and sponsorship from pharmaceutical companies and farmers associations, so therefore governments are obliged to repay them. The idea, I think, is to keep people unwell, sick, or dying, and the best way to do this is to convince them that fat slices of sheeps faces are good for you. (Morrissey, Morrissey Central, April 2019)

As ever, it made no difference – everything he says is chopped up into tiny snippets, sometimes one word, sometimes an imagined word, and added to the canard that he’s a dangerous racist.

Once the torches are lit & the pitchforks are sharpened, it’s very hard to avoid being chased to the windmill.

On a Side Note: As the son of immigrants, Morrissey’s acutely aware of the identity crisis that comes from having two cultures. It’s one of the reasons he has a strong Chicano fanbase. Like him, they left their Catholic country (Mexico/Ireland) to live in a Protestant/Secular country (America/England) that often doesn’t acknowledge, like or understand them.

“my family has myriad tales of living in a golden Mexico during the 1940s and 1950s. Those stories helped foster a deep-seated melancholy within me about where I truly belong. Not quite American; not wholly Latino, living in all the spaces in between. Growing up in rural Ohio, these duelling identities caused me an incredible amount of angst, as I tried to traverse the space between home and school. It’s easy to see where so many of Morrissey’s songs that deal with identity crisis, with a sense of alienation, of being an “other”, would appeal to people such as me. Feeling ostracised, not part of a homogeneous American culture – that’s enough to make anyone morose and woebegone.” (March, 2016) https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/mar/07/morrissey-popularity-mexicans-smiths-chicanos-california

“Morrissey’s ‘Irishness’ is partly contained in this idea of the ‘outsider’, a fascination with writers including Oscar Wilde, his black wit, and as he has says” – “Ireland has always been a very credible and very poetic place, with no-one under any illusions about themselves – we all end up in the same bucket etc.”  (Siobhan Kane, Event Guide, August, 2006 – transcription by David Tsang, on Morrissey Solo, 24 August 2006) https://www.morrissey-solo.com/article.pl?sid=06/08/24/1713247

He wrote a song, In Mexico, 2004, about the border.

I went for a walk to inhale
The tranquil, cool, lover’s air
But I could taste a trace
Of American chemical waste
And the small voice said
“What can we do?”In Mexico
I went for a walk to inhale
The tranquil, cool, lover’s air
But I could sense the hate
From the Lone Star state
And a small voice said
“What can we do?” It seems if you’re rich and you’re white
You’ll be alright
I just don’t see why
This should be so
If you’re rich and you’re white
You’ll be alright
I just don’t see why
This should be so In Mexico
I lay on the grass
And I cried my heart out
For want of my love
Oh, for want of my love
Oh, for want of my love It seems if you’re rich and you’re white
You think you’re so right
I just don’t see why
This should be so
If you’re rich and you’re white
Then you’ll be OK
I just don’t see why
This should be soIn Mexico
I lay on the grass
And I cried my heart out
For want of my love
For want of my love
For want of my love
For want of my love

The UK’s anti-Irishness and anti-Catholicism are near forgotten these days but were still prevalent well into Morrissey’s adulthood. https://www.independent.co.uk/news/irish-butt-english-racism-more-eight-centuries-1342976.html

Asian Rut

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lyrics:

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

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

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