Der Spiegel

“Most interviews I have been very displeased with because, obviously, you don’t have any control. You can be very merry in an interview and it can come across as being very dour. Or you can say something flippantly which will be written in blood in the music press and it sounds as though you’re deadly serious. You’re throwing yourself on the mercy of a journalist who can be friendly during the interview but can turn out to be something of a behemoth in print.” (Morrissey, 1983)

On the 15th of November 2017, Morrissey gave an interview in LA to Der Spiegel journalist, Juliane Liebert. https://www.spiegel.de/spiegel/morrissey-ueber-brexit-kevin-spacey-und-merkels-fluechtlingspolitik-a-1178545.html

The vast bulk of the interview (in the audio version, released later) is about animals & music. His main purpose is getting abattoirs banned – ‘I reserve my vote for the political party that will get rid of the abattoir’. He doesn’t like a generic sound – ‘When you hear the radio, because everybody sounds the same, and they use the same, uhh, uhh, counterfeit emotions and they don’t have a natural voice, you don’t know who you’re listening to’.

In the version of it published on the 18th November 2017, most of it is cut, and a social/media shitstorm accused him of threatening to kill Trump, being a rape apologist for Kevin Spacey and Harvey Weinstein, loving Brexit, and hating refugees.

The Trump comment was hypothetical.

JL – I was taught, like, I’m not supposed to ask about politics, but some songs I like because, I want to talk about a few songs… like if you actually stay in bed a lot and if you actually think people shouldn’t follow the news anymore?

Morrissey – I believe they must not. For their own mental health, they must not, they must stop watching the news, because it’s, social engineering to a degree, whereby it’s only about control. It’s not about information. It is not the news. It’s about control and people no longer watch.

JL – For me personally, as I work as a journalist, I’m really tired, like even in Germany, you read about Trump every day, like every fucking day, and I feel like that’s what made him big.

Morrissey – He received so much attention, so much attention, whereas other candidates like Bernie Sanders and so on, did not…. all people had in their minds was Trump, Trump, Trump, making America great again, which is absurd.

JL – if, a moral question, if there was a button and if you press it, he drops dead, would you press it or not?

Morrissey – I would for the safety of the human race. It’s nothing to do with my personal opinion of his face, or his life, or his family, but in the interests of the human race, if I would, yes. I think he’s a terrible, terrible scourge and as I say, he’s the biggest threat to national security in America, consequently to the rest of the world.

JL – Yeah, like in Germany cos there were two things like, watching the news, we saw it wouldn’t happen, like one was like Trump, and the other was like Brexit. But like you’re said to be pro-Brexit. Is it true?

Morrissey – Well, it isn’t true. I was fascinated by the Brexit result because it was such an incredible strike for Democracy. The people said yes, even though Westminster said no, and the political elite and the establishment said no, no, no, we will remain with the EU. The public ignored the media, ignored all the hypnosis, ignored all the fear- mongering, and they said we will decide for ourselves, and this is why Brexit is very, very important, because it’s the biggest strike in the history of British politics for many, many years, whether you agree with Brexit or not, is a separate issue, but I was very, very proud of the people of England for ignoring the BBC, ignoring Sky News who were fear-mongering and telling everybody if we leave the EU will will all die instantly. I’m not kidding. That’s what was happening. So I felt very proud of the people. I felt very proud.

JL – I read some reviews that said that Jackie, the song, is like pro-Brexit, this it is the Union Jack.

Morrissey – Well, this is the silliness that one has to put up with.

The conversation about rape was more complex – he didn’t talk about Harvey Weinstein at all – and he wasn’t defending Kevin Spacey, so much as saying the version of the story he’d heard, didn’t sound true (to him) – which, in fact, it wasn’t (he gets the details wrong).

JL: as we’re in Hollywood, did you follow the whole scandal that came now with, like, Weinstein and Me Too and all those things.

Morrissey: uhh, to a point I did, but then it became uhh theatre and suddenly everybody’s guilty. Suddenly anybody who has ever said to another person “I quite like you”, suddenly they’re being accused of sexual harassment. But you have to keep it in perspective, because if you can’t say to somebody that you like them, then how will they ever know? But of course there are extreme cases and rape is revolting and any kind of physical attack is revolting. But we must keep it in perspective otherwise everybody on the planet is guilty. And everything. And we can’t constantly have this superior attitude about what you should do and what you are not allowed to do. Because then we’re all trapped, we can’t relax. And some people are very clumsy when it comes to romance and if they meet somebody, they’re very awkward, and they don’t know how to do it really and how to let someone know. So it can sometimes seem aggressive.

JL: If I like someone I ignore them for like 5 years.

Morrissey: Typical, that’s a typical response. And it’s dangerous, because it’s a waste of five years. But that’s, many people do that or if they see somebody they like they look away. Ridiculous. Ridiculous.

JL: What do you think that they cut Kevin Spacey out of films now?

Morrissey: I think it’s absurd because uhh, as far as I understand the situation, he was in a hotel room with a 14 year old. Well, Kevin Spacey was 26, the boy was 14, you have to wonder where the boy’s parents were. You have to assume that the boy had an inkling of what might possibly happen. I mean I don’t know about you, but I’ve never been, in my youth, in situations like that. Never. And I was always aware of how, where things could go. And if you’re in somebody’s bedroom, you have to be aware, where it could lead to, and you have to say why, why are we here, why aren’t we downstairs in the lobby… so it doesn’t quite ring true to me and it seems that he has been unnecessarily attacked.

JL: yeah, I’m also thinking about this whole thing with actresses. [in the printed version they lie about the question – SPIEGEL: Should that also apply to the actresses who went to the hotel room with Weinstein? – and make his answer appear to be about Weinstein’s victims, when it’s a general comment].

Morrissey: And you also must wonder if, people know exactly what’s happening and they go along with it. But then when it’s happened they find that they’re either embarrassed or they didn’t like it, so they then reverse it, and say I was ambushed, I was taken by surprise, I was dragged into the room. But if the incident had gone very well and they had really enjoyed it and it led to an incredible career, they wouldn’t mention it. And I hate to be that cynical because I hate rape and I hate attack, and I hate any sexual  situation that is forced on a person against their will. But in many many situations you look at the circumstances and you think that the person who is called a victim is merely disappointed.

JL: Yeah, I think it’s important to, like keep justify up, that it’s still fair for everybody.

Morrissey: But also within the history of music and rock n roll, this entire history of groupies and people who throw, kids, that throw themselves at groups and stay in a hotel for the night, in the lobby, they want to be with those groups. And if you go through the history of music, everybody must be guilty of underage sex. So are you going to throw everybody in prison?

JL: Yeah, David Bowie, like, took the virginity of a 14 year old girl.

Morrissey: Yes, I think that was very common then.

JL: Did you ever have been in a situation like that?

Morrissey: No.

JL: Not even from your, older people?

Morrissey: No. Never. Never. Never.

And – he doesn’t attack refugees. He doesn’t say immigration should be stopped. Or that refugees are rapists. Or any of the ‘inflammatory’ things that the press and social media (for and against) attributed to him. He just thinks that countries should have an identity, Empires are bad and that policies shouldn’t cause chaos.

JL – Do you think that provocation is an important part of such, of your art?

Morrissey – Provocation? Well, uhh, what is provocation? Is it stimulation?

JL – Like, em, I might be wrong but I think that, like you, of course you give your opinion about things, but I think sometime, you also, like I get the feeling, if the society says like this is good, or is it like you know there’s said things, I think like sometimes there’s a feeling you, like not fight against that, but say things in a way to make them think again, you know what I mean?

Morrissey – Yes, because we must open debate, whether it’s religion, and this goes back to the point you made about boycotting Israel, and so forth, there’ no point being like that. You have to sit together and listen to people and exchange ideas about every problem on the planet. You can’t simply say everything is black and white, I don’t want to listen to you, you don’t agree with me, so therefore you’re wrong. And that is the problem with most of the British press, that they, they, they will happily speak to you, but when the interview is in print, they correct your moral outlook. Which is no good, because that’s my moral outlook. And you came to see me, and you asked me, and I told you. But you can’t simply say that you’re wrong because you don’t feel the way I do. So provocation is too strong a word, but I do like to put the issue on the table.

*

JL – I wanted to ask you what is the last lie somebody taught about you, do you remember that?

Morrissey – Well, yes, this issue about I’ve written a song about Brexit. And isn’t this appalling and you shouldn’t do this, it really bleugh. This is absurd. The British press are very much like that, you can’t meet them halfway, they’re, it’s the looney left really, who are so extreme, and they have become like the third reich. They will not be swayed. And you cannot have an open opinion or a different opinion and it’s very, very boring, and it’s quite dangerous. But to hear that I’ve written a song about Brexit, and I’m demanding that everybody support Brexit. It’s exhausting. It’s very exhausting.

JL – Do you know Owen Jones, he is like…

Morrissey – I know of him, yes, yes. But people have become obsessed with where they stand politically and it’s usually very closed, in their mind, very very closed. Whether it’s right-wing or left-wing. But I don’t consider myself to be political, I’m apolitical. But I am a human being, living in the world today, and everything we do has a connection to politics. But I have never voted for any political party. I think Theresa May is absurd. I think Donald Trump is absurd.

JL – But you just have to look at their faces. Like, no, no not, on a superficial, but like people like, what they look like and who they are, are connected. Not like that ugly people are bad and beautiful people, like – look at anyone for Trump. But, em, it looks like a cartoon. If you took the villains from a cartoon.

Morrissey – there’s no sense of leadership…

*

JL – Anything that’s important to mention or what you would like your German audience to know?

Morrissey – Well, ummm, every second I’ve ever spent in Germany, I, I, I, I feel very privileged. I really do. I think it’s so exciting. And it’s been a great friend to me. I mean, I might not be too excited about that European Union, but that doesn’t matter, that really doesn’t matter, that much. I don’t want to be a part of the German Empire. I don’t think England should be a part of the German Empire, which is essentially what the EU is.

JL – It’s a, do you think so? It’s a German Empire?

Morrissey – I think so. Yes. I think a lot of people feel that way. Perhaps that’s why people voted to leave the EU.

JL – But why do people think that?

Morrissey – Because England can’t make any decisions for itself unless it refers to Germany and that’s absurd. No country should be like that.

JL – Angela Merkel’s a Mum of Europe.

Morrissey – But she wisely doesn’t say that much, she keeps very quiet, and uhhh, which is interesting. But I, I feel sad that Germany had to become the rape capital of Europe, which I think is shocking.

JL – the what capital?

Morrissey – Rape capital.

JL – is it, right?

Morrissey – Yes, yes, statistically yes. And it coincides with the, the open borders and the free flow, which is very, very shocking. And a lot of people do think that was a mistake of Angela Merkel. That she initially said, ‘oh, yes, yes, come, everybody, come, wherever you are, whoever you are, come. And then she’s saying, ‘oh, well, whoops, whoops, maybe not’. But, em, so. [in the printed version they put Berlin instead of Germany – and because of open borders, instead of coincides]

JL – So you’re against taking refugees in or are you just saying this should be really controlled or…

Morrissey – Well, it’s a question of multiculturalism and I like Germany to be German, I like France to be French. And I think that when you try to have, um, introduced a multicultural aspect to everything you end up with no culture because you don’t share any language, you don’t share any laws, you don’t share the same sense of liberty. So multiculturalism fails. And all European countries fought for many many years for their identity. And now it suddenly seems to be, they’re saying so what, let’s just throw it away. Anybody can do what they like to Germany, anybody can do what they like to France, and I think that’s quite sad. Because it you travel, if you go on holidays, for example, to Turkey, you want a particular experience. But if you go to Turkey and everybody in the country is speaking, uhhh, Spanish, you think, well this is very strange. So this applies also to England, to Germany, to France. If you arrive in France and everybody is speaking a non-French language it’s very peculiar.

JL – But isn’t America a bit like that? Where it’s like, people coming from all over, or is it different because it’s newly… you know what I thought about , when I went through LA yesterday, for the first time, in a certain way, I felt that you can feel it’s stolen land. In certain way, because, you know, it’s like in Europe, it’s kind of like, things grew. You know, it’s like, and you feel it like, it almost looks like garages, like a lot of fancy garages, and I had this real idea of wonder at what would have happened if the native Americans had time to develop, like high culture. Just thought, another thinking about that. Maybe, it’s stupid.

Morrissey – Well, it felt stupid, but you must remember also that every single country has a, it’s own history of uhh, revolution, and liberation, and so forth. And other countries don’t have your history. So it’s, uhh, it’s not easy to blend, uhh, people together and just assume that they will get on, and understand the same things, it can’t happen. People might, uhh, travel and migrate, but they bring all of their, uhhh, they bring all of their religion, and all of their beliefs with them. And they try to establish it in the country they’ve gone to, and that’s when the confusion starts.

JL – So you’re just saying, like, everybody should stay where they are?

Morrissey – No! I don’t think that! You stay where you are? Stop it! No, but I think it’s important for every country to retain the identity that it has, because it didn’t come easy. Millions of people died for the German identity, millions of people died for the British identity. And if you respect all those people, the loss of their lives, then you must protect your own country to a great extent. You cannot say that the identity of your country is nothing. You cannot say that. And that seems to be happening throughout Europe.

JL – I’m very German, unfortunately.

Morrissey – Please be proud, please be proud, please be proud.

Rape capital sounds far worse than the point he went on to make – but there had been reports of increased sexual assaults in Germany – “Crimes committed by [asylum-seeking] immigrants saw a disproportionate increase last year — there’s nothing there we can gloss over,” said German Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière. He said when it came to violent crimes there were “about 90 per cent more immigrant suspects in 2016” than in the prior year. (Financial Times, April, 2017) https://www.ft.com/content/b5a8867e-28ea-11e7-bc4b-5528796fe35c And Merkel’s policy was so disastrous, in terms of resources, organisation and logistics, that in March 2016 the EU negotiated with Turkey to stop refugees from crossing into Europe. https://www.europarl.europa.eu/legislative-train/theme-towards-a-new-policy-on-migration/file-eu-turkey-statement-action-plan

On the 11th of December he posted a statement on Facebook, objecting to the way his words had been sensationalised and editorialised:

Der Spiegel released the audio, timestamping the most controversial passages, so that most people would miss the wider context. He had talked about Trump, migration and Spacey and that was enough for everyone to declare that he had been caught lying.

He released a video statement on his nephew’s YouTube account, on the 17th December 2017:

Suddenly, I was sympathizing with sexual harassment. I was apparently sympathizing with pedophilia, I was sympathizing with rape, I was sympathizing with everything that would persuade anybody on the planet to stop listening to me. Of course, none of those assumptions were true. I do not support anything like that. You can hear it even in the tone of my voice… However, this is the world we now live in with the print media. It seems to me that, in the first place, they get very angry or very excited if you stop to say something that people are listening to or that reflect the will of the people. They get very nervous. They won’t allow it. They shut it down and so forth… But also, it seems to me that, in England at the moment, the right wing has adopted a left wing stance, and the left wing has adopted a right wing stance, so everybody’s confused, and nobody seems to know what people mean. This shuts down free speech. This shuts down any open debate about anything. And consequently, we’re all in a mess, and we don’t know where we stand… So I fear that the campaign for Low in High School and for the surrounding singles was derailed and damaged purposely by the haters. They’re not listening to the music. They’re not listening to anything, really. They see my name, and they want to get rid of it as quickly as possible. And as I said, in many ways, they do succeed. There’s not really that much you can do about it.

It would only get worse as the old press homophobia that had seen him falsely accused of racism crashed into the online tribal ‘culture wars’ where everyone had to use the same words in the same way to express the same ideas or they were ‘THEM’.

Side Note: Almost all of Morrissey’s opinions are left-leaning – although he’s too much of a loner for organised politics. He should probably be used as a bellweather, since everything he picks up on turns into an urgent debate further down the line.

For example:

The destruction and abandonment of labor politics means that, at present, immigration issues can only play out within the framework of a culture war, fought entirely on moral grounds. In the heightened emotions of America’s public debate on migration, a simple moral and political dichotomy prevails. It is “right-wing” to be “against immigration” and “left-wing” to be “for immigration.” But the economics of migration tell a different story. (Angela Negle, American Affairs Journal, November 2018) https://americanaffairsjournal.org/2018/11/the-left-case-against-open-borders/

In parts of the left, there is an unattractive blind spot that misses the importance of collective attachment to an inherited landscape, both physical and emotional. That landscape is not immutable but it shapes a sense of belonging and context. For many Leave voters, particularly those who have traditionally voted Labour, the emotional landscape of “England” has offered a way to express communal values neglected during 30 years of excessive individualism, licensed by both left and right. (The Observer, January 2021) https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2021/jan/17/proud-to-be-english-how-we-can-shape-a-progressive-patriotism

One grandstands when one makes a contribution to public moral discourse that aims to convince others that one is “morally respectable.” By this we mean that grandstanding is a use of moral talk that attempts to get others to make certain desired judgments about oneself, namely, that one is worthy of respect or admiration because one has some particular moral quality—for example, an impressive commitment to justice, a highly tuned moral sensibility, or unparalleled powers of empathy. To grandstand is to turn one’s contribution to public discourse into a vanity project. (Justin Tosi, Brandon Warmke, Philosophy and Public Affairs, Summer 2016)

The internet… has encouraged us to hole ourselves up in ideological fortresses; to build moats around our value systems, to pull up our mental drawbridges; and to fire verbal arrows at anyone with a different perspective… with little room for uncertainty or nuance. The way we are pressured to “cancel” public figures we once admired is spiteful and reductive… It means many of us have a predetermined position on news stories even before they break. (Dani Garavelli, The Scotsman, October 2020)

While fluid­ity of iden­tity, plur­al­ity, and mul­ti­pli­city are al­ways claimed on be­half of the VC mem­bers — partly to cov­er up their own in­vari­ably wealthy, priv­ileged, or bour­geois-as­sim­il­a­tion­ist back­ground — the en­emy is al­ways to be es­sen­tial­ized. Since the de­sires an­im­at­ing the VC are in large part priests’ de­sires to ex­com­mu­nic­ate and con­demn, there has to be a strong dis­tinc­tion between Good and Evil, with the lat­ter es­sen­tial­ized. No­tice the tac­tics. X has made a re­mark/has be­haved in a par­tic­u­lar way — these re­marks/ this be­ha­vi­or might be con­strued as trans­phobic/sex­ist etc. So far, okay. But it’s the next move which is the kick­er. X then be­comes defined as a trans­phobe/sex­ist etc. Their whole iden­tity be­comes defined by one ill-judged re­mark or be­ha­vi­or­al slip. Once the VC has mustered its witch-hunt, the vic­tim (of­ten from a work­ing class back­ground, and not schooled in the pass­ive-ag­gress­ive etiquette of the bour­geois­ie) can re­li­ably be goaded in­to los­ing their tem­per, fur­ther se­cur­ing their po­s­i­tion as pari­ah/latest to be con­sumed in feed­ing frenzy. (Mark Fisher, Exiting The Vampire Castle, 2013)

The audio:

Marrgate: Attacked with an Open Letter

On the 25th of January 2022, Morrissey Central published an Open Letter from Morrissey to Johnny Marr requesting him to stop talking about him.

This is not a rant or an hysterical bombast.  It is a polite and calmly measured request:  Would you please stop mentioning my name in your interviews?
Would you please, instead, discuss your own career, your own unstoppable solo achievements and your own music?
If you can, would you please just leave me out of it?
The fact is: you don’t know me.  You know nothing of my life, my intentions, my thoughts, my feelings.  Yet you talk as if you were my personal psychiatrist with consistent and uninterrupted access to my instincts.  We haven’t known each other for 35 years – which is many lifetimes ago.  When we met you and I were not successful.  We both helped each other become whatever it is we are today.  Can you not just leave it at that?  Must you persistently, year after year, decade after decade, blame me for everything … from the 2007 Solomon Islands tsunami to the dribble on your grandma’s chin ? 
You found me inspirational enough to make music with me for 6 years.  If I was, as you claim, such an eyesore monster, where exactly did this leave you?  Kidnapped?  Mute?  Chained?  Abducted by cross-eyed extraterrestrials?  It was YOU who played guitar on ‘Golden Lights’ – not me.
Yes, we all know that the British press will print anything you say about me as long as it’s cruel and savage.  But you’ve done all that.  Move on.  It’s as if you can’t uncross your own legs without mentioning me.  Our period together was many lifetimes ago, and a lot of blood has streamed under the bridge since then.  There comes a time when you must take responsibility for your own actions and your own career, with which I wish you good health to enjoy.  Just stop using my name as click-bait.  I have not ever attacked your solo work or your solo life, and I have openly applauded your genius during the days of ‘Louder than bombs’ and ‘Strangeways, here we come’, yet you have positioned yourself ever ready as rent-a-quote whenever the press require an ugly slant on something I half-said during the last glacial period as  the Colorado River began to carve out  the Grand Canyon.  Please stop.  It is 2022, not 1982. https://www.morrisseycentral.com/messagesfrommorrissey/open-letter-to-johnny-marr

Marr replied on Twitter linking Morrissey to Donald Trump to reinforce the myth that Morrissey is right-wing.

He was against Trump.

But guilt by association doesn’t need you to actually associate – so there was a pile-on. Marr underlined it by changing his profile picture to his Simpsons character. Morrissey’s character had been depicted as a fat, gay, meat-eating racist. And showing how closely the homophobia is entwined with the racism allegations the Simpsons had violated their own diversity casting policy by hiring a straight actor, and had boasted about a homophobic ad-lib.

With no stand out word or phrase in the letter to demonise him with, it was denouced wholesale as bitchy, moany, odious (Rocks Back Pages emailed their subscribers the NME’s homophobic hit piece to remind them that Morrissey is a racist) & untruthful – with journalists insisting that Marr has to be cajoled into talking about Morrissey as if Morrissey should know that esp as Marr is cajoled nearly every time.

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)

Plus the return of the Lucky Dip from the List of Word Crimes – pioneered by Sounds to label Morrissey a paedophile for Reel Around the Fountain and perfected by the NME in their homophobic hit piece – he’s only committed two atrocities – touching a flag for two minutes and wearing a badge twice.

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.

He’d last mentioned For Britain – a party he didn’t vote for, join, or give money to – in May 2019.

Side Note 1: The NME kept it general with ‘controversial‘ Morrissey & ‘legendary‘ Marr. Which is fitting. By about 1988 Morrissey was too erratic to become an A-list star and they decided to invest in Marr.

I must admit, pestered Marr. A relentless mixture of journo and fan… 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… 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) https://mycuttings.blogspot.com/2021/03/1991-04-20-johnny-marr-nme.html

Side Note 2: 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 3: more evidence that straight male rock stars can say anything.

The Guardian defends Neil Young’s right-wing homophobic phase:

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) https://www.theguardian.com/music/2003/sep/17/popandrock.neilyoung

And fabricates Morrissey into a right-winger because of a couple of out of context quotes. Morrissey had expressed support for left-winger Bernie Sanders in June 2016 and left-winger Jeremy Corbyn in September 2015 and had released a political manifesto that was all about animal welfare in March 2016 when he considered running for London mayor on behalf of the left-wing Animal Welfare Party.

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) https://amp.theguardian.com/music/2016/oct/29/johnny-marr-the-smiths-morrissey-simon-hattenstone

https://www.theguardian.com/music/2016/mar/07/morrissey-considers-running-for-london-mayor-animal-welfare-party-boris-johnson

https://www.nme.com/news/music/morrissey-16-1200365

https://www.nme.com/news/music/morrissey-48-1224576

Pervert

On the 5th September 1983 the Sun ran a story with the headline, “Ban Child Porn Song Plea To Beeb” that accused Morrissey of writing songs that were pro paedophila.

The NME hyped the drama, but was on his side.

Following allegations made by overweight Tory MP Geoffrey Dickens (described by Private Eye as the “Lothario of the dancant”) that ‘Handsome Devil’ was a song explicitly about child-molesting, Mancunian four-piece The Smiths were reportedly under scrutiny by the BBC. However, the claim, reported in The Sun by Nick Ferrari, turns out to be totally unfounded. Asked to comment, Scott Piering at Rough Trade said that he viewed the allegations “seriously”: “Morrissey made it clear that none of the songs were about child-molesting, and Ferrari accepted this, and then he went and wrote it anyway.” Added Morrissey, “this piece makes me out to be a proud child-molester and I don’t even like children. ‘Handsome Devil’ is entirely directed towards adults”… (NME, September 10th, 1983)

Sounds wanted him banned.

Garry Bushell, Sounds, September 10th 1983

Singer Sandie Shaw worried that he’d harm her baby.

‘Morrissey would die to meet you’. At that point I was unaware of Morrissey’s penchant for melodrama and that Geoff was talking literally… The following day a hysterical story broke in ‘The Sun’ saying that the Smiths were releasing songs based on iffy subject matter: ‘Reel around the Fountain’ was supposed to be about child molesting or something, and another, ‘Suffer little children’, to be about the Moors Murders. I rang Geoff to cancel. ‘I can’t have a pervert in my home with my kids’… ‘Look, I’ll come with him to chaperone’… I uncancelled the appointment… I scrutinized Morrissey. He didn’t look like a child molester to me. Amie seemed to feel otherwise, and again I began to question my wisdom in meeting him. All my worst nightmares vied with the sweet angelic vision seated before me. As soon as he managed to mobilize his mouth and speak, all my fears subsided. He was the perfect gentleman… (Sandie Shaw, The World At My Feet, ‎HarperCollins, 9 May 1991)

The BBC removed Reel Around the Fountain from a show.

However fatuous and fantastic The Sun article was, it did succeed in its dirtying The Smiths name (for reasons unknown). It also ensured that the session, which wasn’t being “investigated,” was censored and that a six minute version of “Reel Around The Fountain” was removed. According to Mike Hawkes, the producer for David Jensen’s show, the specially commissioned track was removed purely as a precautionary measure. (David Dorrell, NME, September 24th 1983)

The scandal burned out, but left a lingering sense that there was something sinister and sick lurking in Morrissey’s lyrics.

Sandie Shaw & Morrissey

This was a era when gay or “sexually ambiguous” men were considered a threat to children. The gay age of consent was 21. And legislation was introduced to stop homosexuality being mentioned in schools.

It was also an era when underage girls were sexualised. Glamour model Sam Fox posed nude while still at school. The Police had a number one hit with a song about a male teacher having an affair with a female student. Bill Wyman of the Rolling Stones dated 13 year old “wild child” Mandy Smith.

Sam in the Sun, 1983

I wanted to write a song about sexuality in the classroom… I’d done teaching practice at secondary schools and been through the business of having 15-year-old girls fancying me – and me really fancying them! How I kept my hands off them I don’t know. (Sting, L’Historia Bandido, 1981)

Scottish Daily Mail, 4 May 2019

The prejudice resurfaced when a contingent and provisional conversation with Der Spiegel was reported as a robust defense of sex offenders.

Which stirred old stereotypes.

And slid unquestioned into the idea that parents had to protect their children from his music.