Plays the Victim: Monster, Troll, Autistic, Nutter

From the beginning of Morrissey’s career he talked about his mental health issues and his problems with social interaction.

It is difficult to describe how really insular I was… I was entirely on my own… I found life unbearable at times… the fear and anguish… I seemed to be more depressed than anyone else. (Morrissey, Blitz, April 1988)

Before he was famous he was excluded and othered, after he was famous it continued.

One of the lads said, “you ought to hear the voice!” It was a very girlish, effeminate voice and his mannerisms were very effeminate – Noel Devaney on Morrissey’s first school day. (Johnny Rogan, the Smiths, Omnibus Press, 1994)

“Morrissey,” remembers Paul Morley, “was always laughed at in Manchester when we were kids. He was the village idiot. That’s the ironic thing – now he’s the poet of a generation. But in those days he was ‘that-one-in-the-corner, Steve the Nutter’.” (Jessica Berens, Spin, September, 1986)

[to Morrissey] I remember who and what you used to be. You were like the village idiot, the odd one out, the backward boy. (Paul Morley Blitz, April 1988)

When he was violently attacked by homophobes at Finsbury Park in 1992, the music press blamed him for it, labelling him a racist by twisting his words out of context, guilt by association, and falsely claiming that touching the Union Jack was fascist. It then became acceptable to gaslight him, monster him & be ableist.

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

To be a national treasure you have to be likable. Is Morrissey likable any more? I’m almost loth to say that he isn’t, because to do so would be to play into the persecution complex he has been nurturing for the best part of his solo career. Even when he makes pronouncements that, broadly speaking, I agree with, there’s something about the way he makes them that makes me recoil“I do feel as though I have been somewhat victimised,” he told Mojo a few years ago. But what has he been “victimised” for? The 1992 show where he sang “The National Front Disco” draped in a union flag seems to have been a turning point. At the time, I was one of the few people in the music press who felt that Morrissey should have been given the benefit of the doubt. Perhaps he was trying to make some arcane point about the nature of Britishness to a park full of Madness fans. In retrospect, though, it seems pretty clear that he was defying people to misunderstand him… (Peter Paphides, The Guardian, March, 2012)

The King of the Trolls title is hard to win. Between professional Russian tweeters and amateur armies of online haters doing battle with everything from CNN to Starbucks, there is no shortage of competition. But even in this crowded field, Morrissey shines like a true champion. (Jed Gottlieb, Boston Herald, 7 December 2017) 

Ultimately, you can’t help feeling that not only did Morrissey need Johnny Marr to achieve greatness, but the guitarist was also a restraining and civilising influence on his songwriting partner. (Mark Phillips, Medium, November 2019)

Morrissey isn’t senile, he’s always been a racist. (Mangal Media/Freedom Magazine, August 2019).

We interviewed Bid from The Monochrome Set whose view was that the creative part of Morrissey’s brain operated separately from the part that was prone to “spouting rubbish”. One of Svenja’s friends has been diagnosed with a mild form of Asperger Syndrome, a disorder characterised by difficulties with social interaction and repetitive behaviour. Her friend is adamant that they recognise aspects of their condition in his behaviour… Morrissey may well be socially awkward, like many creative people. But he’s not stupid. He has walked a thin line courting controversy and the uglier aspects of human sentiment. He knows exactly what he’s done and he’s made a very good living from it. His problem is that he has lost a lot of income and audience, and I’m sure he won’t enjoy being categorised under “racist cunt”. (Phil Ross, Louder Than War, March 19, 2020)

I feel that as a black man liking music made mainly by white people it means I will have to wince every now and then at lyrics… not to mention whatever Morrissey says… ever. (Gabriel Ebulue, the Quietus, 13 November 2019)

Then there’s their Irishness and the punk moment. Shane was immensely inspired by John Lydon. The Irish thing cannot be overlooked, as they were crucial to English pop music. John Lennon, Billy Fury, if we can still mention his name, Morrissey. There’s a great deal of Irish presence in English music. What’s different about MacGowan is that he made a real point of being Irish. (Julian Temple, Flood Magazine, December 2020)

Side Note: everyone else in rock gets forgiven.

Bryan Ferry, David Bowie, Joy Division, Lemmy, Banshees… bit of Nazi trouble. https://www.theguardian.com/music/2007/apr/16/news.joydivision

Eric Clapton had a bizarre racist period. https://www.irishtimes.com/culture/film/eric-clapton-opens-up-even-on-his-bizarre-racist-period-1.3327327

Elvis Costello was drunk… After 2AM he described James Brown as a “jive-arsed n——” and Ray Charles as a “blind, ignorant n——.” https://ultimateclassicrock.com/elvis-costello-racist-remarks/

The Cure’s killing an Arab is literature. https://www.robertchristgau.com/xg/music/censor-87.php

John Lydon racially assaulting a black singer, supporting Trump, Farage & Brexit, & hating left-wingers, is complex. https://theoutline.com/post/1315/johnny-rotten-would-hate-john-lydon

Worn Nazi imagery? Stabbed your girlfriend? Fragile and damaged. https://www.theguardian.com/music/2009/jan/18/sid-vicious-death-icon

It was right-wing to object to Marilyn Manson… ‘I have fantasies every day about smashing her skull in with a sledgehammer.’ (Spin, 2009) … nobody even batted an eyelash at these overt admissions of violence.… (Glamour, March 2018) https://www.glamour.com/story/why-is-nobody-talking-about-marilyn-mansons-fantasy-of-killing-evan-rachel-wood

Mark E Smith was ‘far too complex or intelligent to be a mere ogre‘. https://www.theguardian.com/music/2018/jan/24/mark-e-smith-the-fall

“From the opening, combative ‘The Classical’ the album seethes with rancour (the opening line “Where are the obligatory n—–s? Hey there, fuck face!” although not racist in the context of the song, is unpleasant to say the least and, unsurprisingly, cost them a record deal with Motown)”... the first thing that I failed to do when writing about ‘The Classical’ was to put the song in a solid contemporary context. Smith was far from the only musician dropping the n-word in this period and this usage exists right at the periphery of a much more well established continuum. (John Doran, the Quietus, 13 November 2019) https://thequietus.com/articles/27427-hex-enduction-hour-the-classical-the-fall-racist

… I’m fit and working again
And I feel like Alan Minter
I just ate eight sheets of blotting paper
And I chucked out the Alka Seltzer… (Fit and Working Again, The Fall, 1987)

England Is Not His

2017 saw the release of an unofficial Morrissey biopic, England Is Mine.

Morrissey’s family disliked it.

The Guardian used it to emphasise that England does not belong to queer 2nd generation immigrants from colonised countries, because –

He’s a serial killer:

The darker side to his personality is uneasily acknowledged by showing a book in his teenage room about the Moors murderers. His mate Anji (a nice performance from Katherine Pearce) picks this book up and asks Steven if he can imagine them “like that”. In the next moment she makes it clear she means imagine being the victims not the murderers, though it’s a microsecond of ambiguity that I think brings us closer to Morrissey’s troubled soul than anything else. (Peter Bradshaw, the Guardian, August 2017)

https://amp.theguardian.com/film/2017/aug/02/england-is-mine-review-morrissey-biopic-the-smiths

His depression is self-pity and he should be slapped:

Leaving aside the issues of dramatising a period in which the central character took to his bed for six weeks for an extended self-pitying mope-fest, this film is crippled by the lack of Smiths music. Without Johnny Marr’s melodic guitar to defang Morrissey’s acerbic observations on life, we are left with a vitriolic stream of consciousness, poured down from a self-appointed position of intellectual superiority. Jack Lowden does his best with a thankless role, but there is very little here to disabuse the growing belief that what the young Steven Patrick Morrissey most needs is a slap. (Wendy Ide, the Guardian, August 2017)

https://www.theguardian.com/film/2017/aug/06/england-is-mine-morrissey-review

It’s uniquely his fault that white males continue to dominate an industry they already dominated:

The widespread realisation that there is a problem – that not seeing yourself reflected in the culture is an actively damaging thing – is a ridiculously recent one, and increasingly hard to ignore… By definition, this argument could apply to the majority of music giants – but there’s something specific about Morrissey’s legacy that makes taking the time to honour him feel wilfully blinkered. Guitar music has never been particularly diverse, but in the early 80s the Smiths kickstarted a genre that would help ensure the white male would be lording it over the industry for decades to come (Rachel Aroesti, the Guardian, August 2017)

https://amp.theguardian.com/film/2017/jul/10/morrissey-england-is-mine-biopic

And he “increasingly” had views unacceptable to “progressives” who literally think a violent homophobic hate crime is less important than “belong here” in a lyric and an Irish Catholic touching a Union Jack:

Some of Morrissey’s solo work was similarly powerful, but his reputation wobbled in 1992 when his use of the Union flag during a concert drew attention to contentious lyrics in songs like The National Front Disco and Bengali in Platforms. Morrissey insisted the songs had been misinterpreted (“One can plainly hear that here is no hate at all”), but for Dunt, discussing Bengali in Platforms with his Indian girlfriend some years later, it was the last straw. “As I said the line, ‘Life is hard enough when you belong here,’ I felt so ashamed and embarrassed,” he says. “There’s a point where you have to say: fuck this.” (Dorian Lynskey, the Guardian, August 2017)

https://amp.theguardian.com/music/2017/jul/23/morrissey-when-did-charming-become-cranky-smiths-england-is-mine

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