Sexually Ambiguous

On July 29th 1992, Nicky Crane – National Front skinhead and Screwdriver roadie; who featured in the same Nick Knight photo essay as the V-flicker on a Morrissey t-shirt – came out as gay on the UK Channel 4 documentary, Out: The Skin Complex, that explored gay skinhead subculture.

On August 22nd 1992, the NME spent 5 pages denouncing Morrissey as a racist for playing 1 of 2 planned gigs with headliners Madness, at Finsbury Park, where he was heckled by a homophobic crowd while thrashing about a Union Jack flag in front of a Derek Ridgers art print of 2 skinhead girls.

https://illnessasart.com/2020/11/26/nme-22-august-1992/amp/

Despite lead singer, Suggs’s skinhead past and old Skrewdriver connections, Madness was deemed ‘unfortunate’ for attracting the racist crowd. Derek Ridgers worried that Morrissey had demeaned the girls in the art print, who WERE racist imagery. Flowered Up, another band on the bill, thought Morrissey had asked for trouble by ‘prancing around‘.

Most of the National Front supporters were outside Finsbury Park to oppose a march for a cause Morrissey supported, British troops out of Northern Ireland (he’s from an Irish Catholic family). The National Front’s most violent organiser, Johnny ‘Mad Dog’ Adair, was a fan of reggae band UB40, and his loyalist paramilitary gang killed Catholics while listening to rave.

https://edinburghfestival.list.co.uk/article/43221-madness-frontman-suggs-tells-life-story-at-2012-edinburgh-fringe/

https://www.irishtimes.com/news/ireland/irish-news/the-uda-killer-nicknamed-top-gun-behind-a-dozen-sectarian-murders-1.4628830

https://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/opinion/news-analysis/how-loyalists-got-out-of-step-with-fascism-28657619.html

https://ansionnachfionn.com/2011/09/16/fascists-neo-nazis-and-the-british-unionist-minority-in-ireland/amp/

But still the NME lied that Morrissey was a Little England British Nationalist, that his imagery was racist, that he was fanning the flames of race-hate, that Bengali in Platforms was a diatribe against assimilation, supportive of ex-Conservative Ulster Unionist MP Enoch Powell, inciting calls for immigrants to be deported, that he wanted a pre-immigration green and pleasant England, that he wanted an English ethno-state, that he was provoking genocide, and – in a technique that now dominates his coverage – cobbled together so many snippets of lyrics and interviews spuriously branded racist that to refute them all would look demented; no fire without all THAT smoke. Even his quiff was racist for being a 1950s style.

And, taking their cue from The Skin Complex, they speculated that he had a sexual fetish for racism, that he was getting vicarious skinhead thrills, that he was using real men, like skinheads, The Angelic Upstarts, as a cover; and noted that ‘Richard Allen’s skinhead chronicles are full of sickening accounts of violence against blacks. And for that matter, homosexuals’.

And for that matter, that was their real point.

Someone must have watched it, got excited, thought OH THAT’S WHAT HE’S UP TO and decided to disguise their usual prurient, repressed homophobic obsession with his sex life beneath a heap of lurid faux righteous anti-racism.

Dr Dinesh Bhugra, a psychologist at the Institute of Psychiatry, speaking on Skin Complex, the Channel 4 programme to be screened on Wednesday, argues that gay men adopting the skinhead image is not surprising. In a society that is producing a tremendous amount of homophobia, you have to try and protect yourself by whichever means you can and if, in order to do it, it means you are identifying with the oppressor then people will do that in order to survive. (Independent, 26th July 1992)

Let’s not forget that the adolescent Morrissey used to be chased through the streets of Manchester at night by leering beer-boys, some of whom may have held NF sympathies, simply for being ‘different’. And he definitely spent a lot of time in Whalley Range, a multi-racial area. Is he now identifying with his former oppressors? Has he changed from the persecuted to the persecutor? Or, is he fascinated by the idea of racism, by the look of violent skinheads, to the extent of being oppressed so much he falls in love with his oppressors? (NME, August 1992)

https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/reformed-fascist-ready-to-admit-homosexuality-martin-wroe-reports-on-the-conversion-of-a-right-winger-that-highlights-a-thriving-gay-fashion-1535856.html?amp

Maybe they wanted to kill his career.

Moz is history, and we’d all do well to learn it. (Andrew Collins, NME, April 1992)

Or ‘out’ him without risking a libel trial as catastrophic as The Face losing to Jason Donovan in May 1992 over their ‘Queer As Fuck’ issue.

https://gtmediawatch.org/1965/07/01/gay-times-may-1992/

Or both.

Sire had sidelined the Smiths in America after Rolling Stone labeled Morrissey gay.

A piece in Rolling Stone claimed Morrissey was gay, completely contradicting his stand against sexual roles and their divisive consequences. “That brought a lot of problems for me”, he recalls ruefully. “Of course I never made such a statement”, Immediately their American record company, Sire, recoiled from supporting The Smiths. “They were petrified”, he remembers with disgust. “I thought that kind of writing epitomised the mentality of the American music press. That sicking macho stuff. After it appeared in Rolling Stone it ran rife through the lesser known publications, which to me was profoundly dull”. (Melody Maker, November 1984)

https://illnessasart.com/2020/01/05/melody-maker-3-november-1984/

Saved by the success of Vauxhall and I, but battered by label, legal, personal and management issues; and excluded by the music press from Britpop, he moved to LA and built an audience of equally excluded Chicanos.

In 2002 the NME mournfully accused him of giving the illusion of intimacy while never discussing his sexuality, and of being ambiguous, unambiguous, brutally upfront and distastefully infatuated with racism.

In 2004, You Are The Quarry, gave him a brief respite.

… excised from the hearts of many, horrified by the messy “flirtation” with racist imagery. (VS, NME, November 1999)

… nevermind the shaky accusations of racism… all those years of being Mother Teresa for the clumsy and shy and suddenly he was being reviled for crimes he’d never committed. (VS, Mojo, May 2004)

But his shyness, difficulty with social norms and outsider art meant the press soon fell back on ridicule, demonisation, inflammatory headlines and witch-hunts.

For a spell his public image has fused with the forgotten Nicky Crane – a bad gay, toxic, shunned, unwholesome; his empathetic solo work unbelievably synonymous with Skrewdriver.

Nicky Crane on Psychic TV.

NAZI FARTSY : Earsay’s snippets (Channel 4) on Genesis P-Orridge et al featured an unexpected guest – a certain Nicola Crane. Crane, the neo-Nazi who by a series of errors made the front cover of ‘Strength Thru Oi’, turned out to be one of the ‘stars’ of a Psychic TV video film. Let’s hope the media are as quick to condemn this obviously deliberate airing for Crane as they were with that accidental airing three years ago. (Sounds, 22nd September 1984)

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

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

Side Note 1: Nicky was on the gay scene from 1984, made gay porn films, attacked a benefit gig that had the Smiths on the bill & drank in a gay pub, The Bell, in Kings Cross that Morrissey also frequented. The video for Our Frank, directed by gay filmmaker John Maybury, used skinhead extras & was shot around Kings Cross.

The Bell: https://www.gayinthe80s.com/2017/09/pub-bell-kings-cross-london/

The gig: https://pasttenseblog.wordpress.com/2016/06/10/today-in-londons-radical-history-striking-miners-anti-fascists-beat-off-nazi-attack-on-glc-festival-1984/amp/

Nicky: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-25142557

Brief clip of The Skin Complex in a news report about another gay NF ex-member. https://www.channel4.com/news/neo-nazi-national-front-organiser-quits-movement-comes-out-as-gay-kevin-wilshaw-jewish-heritage

Gay History: https://timalderman.com/2018/04/30/gay-history-a-contradiction-in-terms-nicky-crane-and-kevin-wilshaw-gay-neo-nazis-part-1/

Side Note 2: the NME’s claim they were just as hard on Eric Clapton, David Bowie & Elvis Costello is untrue. Eric sailed past the letter appealing to his better self into 1980s rock aristocracy while still supporting Enoch Powell. The worst it got for David Bowie was the NME faking the picture of a Nazi salute that became gossipy rocklore. And the NME refused to believe that Elvis Costello could mean it when he called James Brown a “jive-arsed n——” and Ray Charles a “blind, ignorant n——.”

Eric: https://genius.com/Red-saunders-letter-to-the-uk-music-press-regarding-eric-clapton-annotated

David: http://www.chalkiedavies.com/blog/b9wr8hr5mr79wkkbx83lf8cd7p54f7

Elvis: http://www.elviscostello.info/wiki/index.php/New_Musical_Express,_October_30,_1982

Side Note 3: The Union Jack is ubiquitous in UK culture – at no point in our history has it ever been a clear signal of fascism or has it needed to be reclaimed from the far right, nevermind from Morrissey. Some on the hard left hate it as a symbol of the British Empire and the British State, it’s a minority opinion. Skinheads were a working-class subculture that spanned the political spectrum and listened to Reggae, Punk and their variants. They had widespread coverage in the press, including in the NME.

Madness film: https://youtu.be/cwWvKnU9zCE

Black Music Conspiracy

In 1986 The Smiths were interviewed by Frank Owen, an ex-musician from Manchester.

Frank was interested in hip-hop and house music by then 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 main thrust of his article would be an attempt to get Morrissey to talk about the punk-gay-disco scene they’d both been part of and to get him to come out as gay.

The music journalist Simon Reynolds had split pop into Indie and Black. Indie was ‘intelligent’ and Black was ‘crude showbiz’.

Frank seemed unaware that Simon was tapping into the racist trope that black people are all about the body.

Worse, he claimed, with absolutely no evidence and no sign of disapproval, that Morrissey was singing about ‘hanging black DJs’ in the song Panic, which was about Radio 1 playing a chirpy band like Wham after announcing the Chernobyl nuclear leak.

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

But the question he put to Morrissey was ‘so is the music of The Smiths and their ilk racist, as Green claims?’ (Green Gartside was the lead singer of Scritti Politti.)

Moz defended Indie by saying:

“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.”

He accepts that reggae has to be strong, just thinks it might be extreme sometimes.

And there does seem to have been some concern about it in the 70s, in the same way that Skins and Punks were a concern.

In 1978 the NME journalists Julie Burchill and Tony Parsons, in their book The Boy Looked At Johnny, had said about Reggae:

The 1979 sociology book Rastaman by Ernest Cashmore, explored elements of racial superiority, homophobia and sexism in Rasta youth culture.

Morrissey’s use of the word ‘vile’ is a camp affectation but he had a habit of being airily scathing about nearly everything that wasn’t his fierce love of the moment.

Frank countered with, black music is more subtle because it works on the body via the dancefloor, Moz wasn’t convinced.

“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.”

The ‘by law’ was a joke /hyperbole. He’d previously used it about himself.

Well, I wouldn’t stand on a table and should, ‘I’m a feminist’ or put a red stamp across my forehead, but if one tends towards prevalent feminist views, by law, you immediately become one. Likewise, if you have great sympathy with gay culture you are immediately a transsexual. I did one interview where the gay issue was skirted over in three seconds and when the interview emerged in print, there I was 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 his ire was aimed at Top of The Pops producer Michael Hurl, who is not black.

Frank put it in terms of black and white, ‘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.’

Moz, not picking up on it, kept it about escapism and real life, and is still blaming (white, male) producers:

“Yes, I really do. The charts have been constructed quite clearly as an absolute form of escapism rather than anything anyone can gain any knowledge by. I find that very disheartening because it wasn’t always that way. Isn’t it curious that practically none of these records reflect life as we live it? Isn’t it curious that 93 and a half percent of these records reflect life as it isn’t lived? That foxes me! If you compare the exposure that records by the likes of Janet Jackson and the stream of other anonymous Jacksons get to the level of daily airplay that The Smiths receive – The Smiths have had at least 10 consecutive chart hits and we still can’t get on Radio 1′s A list. Is that not a conspiracy? The last LP ended up at number two and we were still told by radio that nobody wanted to listen to The Smiths in the daytime. Is that not a conspiracy? I do get the scent of a conspiracy. And, anyway, the entire syndrome has one tune and surely that’s enough to condemn the entire thing.”

Frank asks him if he finds Black music macho, Moz says it isn’t his world, and adds:

I don’t want to feel in the dock because there are some things I dislike. Having said that, my favourite record of all time is “Third Finger, Left Hand” by Martha and the Vandellas which can lift me from the most doom-laden depression.

Frank accuses him of being a nostalgic luddite (later journalist Tony Fletcher will accuse him of not wanting black people to prosper in the present), Moz is unconvinced about technology.

‘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 the violence in Manchester and the lyrics of Never Had No One Ever and Morrissey explains they’re about how confused he felt about not feeling at home where he was born because his parents were from Ireland.

“It was the frustration that I felt at the age of 20 when I still didn’t feel easy walking around the streets on which I’d been born, where all my family had lived – they’re originally from Ireland but had been here since the Fifties. It was a constant confusion to me why I never really felt ‘This is my patch. This is my home. I know these people. I can do what I like, because this is mine.’ It never was. I could never walk easily.”

And the article ends with Morrissey reminiscing about his time on the gay scene.

“If the Perry’s didn’t get you, then the beer monsters were waiting around the corner. I still remember studying the football results to see if City or United had lost, in order to judge the level of violence to be expected in the city centre that night. I can remember the worst night of my life with a friend of mine, James Maker, who is the lead singer in Raymonde now. We were heading for Devilles (a gay club). We began at the Thompson’s Arms (a gay pub), we left and walked around the corner where there was a car park, just past Chorlton Street Bus Station. Walking through the car park, I turned around and, suddenly, there was a gang of 30 beer monsters all in their late twenties, all creeping around us… The gay scene in Manchester was always atrocious. Do you remember Bernard’s Bar, now Stuffed Olives? If one wanted peace and to sit without being called a parade of names then that was the only hope... 1975 was the worst year in social history. I blame ‘Young Americans’ entirely. I hated that period – Disco Tex and the Sex-o-lettes, Limmy and Family Cooking. So when punk came along, I breathed a sigh of relief. I met people. I’d never done that before… I never liked The Ranch. I have a very early memory of it and it was very, very heavy. I never liked Dale Street. There was something about that area of Manchester that was too dangerous.”

Frank would throw in some homophobic language, ‘You big jessy, you big girl’s blouse, Morrissey. But he’s right. It was dangerous and, with the increased media visibility of punk, the violence got worse. You see, punks were not only faggots, they were uppity faggots as well‘, and an insinuation about cottaging that Morrissey found upsetting. In his 2013 autobiography he said,

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.

Most people – ignoring that Morrissey had more or less confirmed that he was openly gay, had said he didn’t feel at home because his family were immigrants, and was afraid of violence and the parade of insults he was subjected to – considered this article to be a major racism scandal – with Morrissey accused of thinking black people were conspiring against him, him disliking modern black music being equated with hating black people, and Frank’s wrong assertion that Panic was about hanging black Djs taken as fact.

Johnny Marr, who never strays from the safest of safe showbiz political opinions, was furious,

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)

Tony Fletcher, in his 2012 book about The Smiths, A Light That Never Goes Out, has nothing to say about the leading questions or the homophobia. In fact he seems to think Morrissey deserves the homophobia, putting Morrissey’s ‘no sex’ agenda in quotes, saying Frank dared suggest in writing that in years to come, Morrissey would be into “fisting and water sports”, accepting this explanation:

“Morrissey is the biggest closet gay queen on the planet and he felt that I was trying to ‘out’ him by bringing this up.

and adding,

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 and made it sound as if Panic was about a detestation of black modern music so strong that he wasn’t ‘content to leave it there’ even though he was only replying to Frank.

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 also ascribed Frank’s comments about NME and Melody Maker readers to ‘Morrissey’s thinking’, while accepting the racist assumption that Black music is about the body, pretending that British youth hadn’t danced before rave, took Morrissey’s joke about the law seriously and thought it was ridiculous that escapist music gets more airplay than morose Indie music – OF COURSE IT DOES!

Owen claimed to understand this thinking. “When NME and Melody Maker started putting black acts on the cover,” he recalled, “there was a huge backlash to it. I used to get letters all the time. And it wasn’t explicitly ‘We don’t want blacks on the cover,’ it was more like ‘This is our scene and what do blacks have to do with it?’ ” And so, in his Melody Maker feature, as a response to Morrissey’s own response, Owen tried to answer that question: “What it says can’t necessarily be verbalised easily,” he wrote. “It doesn’t seek to change the world like rock music by speaking grand truths about politics, sex and the human condition. It works at a much more subtle level—at the level of the body and the shared abandon of the dancefloor. It won’t change the world, but it’s been said it may well change the way you walk through the world.” Within a year or two, as acid house exploded (the kindling lit on the Haçienda dance floor) and the rave movement emerged in its wake, a large section of British youth would come to share Owen’s sentiment, the Smiths’ Johnny Marr and New Order’s Bernard Sumner among them. In the summer of 1986, though, Morrissey was still the voice of his generation, which was perhaps why he then dared issue the most ludicrous comment yet of a continually outspoken career: “Obviously to get on Top of the Pops these days, one has to be, by law, black,” which he followed up with an equally ridiculous claim of personal persecution.

He also thought it was suspect that Morrissey liked a sexist song that was released when he was seven years old.

Even the singer’s attempt to restore proceedings mid-interview sounded suspect. “My favourite record of all time is ‘Third Finger, Left Hand’ by Martha and the Vandellas,” he said, citing a (black) Motown single from 1966, “which can lift me from the most doom-laden depression.” And yet this was as stereotypically romantic, conventionally sexist, and thereby nonfeminist a song as had ever been written. It would have said nothing about Morrissey’s life when it came out, and said even less about his life and that of his fans twenty years later. He was in essence employing a double standard, based on what Owen correctly referred to as a “nostalgia … that afflicts the whole indie scene.”

And thought that Morrissey’s comments were a defence of ‘Panic’ rather than in response to Frank’s questions about Indie. Frank himself is blind to the racist assumptions that shaped the division of pop into Black and Indie and thinks that it’s Morrissey who caused the problem to ‘wind people up’.

As it turned out, Owen wasn’t particularly put out by Morrissey’s comments in defense of “Panic.” “I never thought Morrissey was a racist,” he said. “I always thought it was just a big put-on, that it was just a way to wind people up, the same way that punks wore swastikas.

In 2018 music journalist Pete Paphides, gutted the interview to claim that Morrissey had ‘always’ been repugnant.

He accused Morrissey of ‘trolling’ for using the Attack reggae label in 2004 – nearly 18 years after this interview, and 12 years after the homophobic abuse Morrissey received at Finsbury Park was misrepresented as Morrissey waving the Union Jack in support of racist English nationalism.

Having failed to see that Morrissey talked about his own experiences of being from an immigrant family, that Frank was mainly trying to get Morrissey to talk about his sexuality and that Morrissey had said that black people had a history of oppression, Pete claims to have always kept the door ajar in case Morrissey’s views about race and identity were more nuanced.

but he can’t listen to most of Morrissey’s work because of what he was and continues to be.

Considering that some journalists have been entirely blind to their own prejudices while spending nearly 40 years scrutinizing every word Morrissey says for racism, crafting every distorted violation into a litany – the thing that Morrissey was and continues to be that bothers them so much is probably, ‘humasexual’, asocial and sardonic.

Failed Magic Weirdo

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

The monstering of Morrissey is driven by homophobia, ableism, and Irish Catholic erasure. He doesn’t behave in a normative way. His train of thought isn’t running down the usual tracks. And that’s intolerable.

They parse his words for violations, conflate them, and turn them into a narrative that paints him as a feral bigot who once tricked them into believing he was gentle and kind.

They pretend they liked his difference, while his press cuttings are littered with their angst about his ‘ambivalence’, the uncanny no man’s land he dwelled in between male and female, gay and straight, Irish and English, Catholic and atheist, sane and mad, provincial and national, public and private, frank and coy, animal and human, rich and poor, happy and sad, kind and scathing, alive and dead, innocent and guilty.

How horribly wrong we were. From the mid-1980s onwards, his utterances have been consistently rabid...  It’s always hard to admit you fell for the wrong fella, that his poetry blinded you to his prejudices, that you were well and truly suckered. And that’s what we’re having to do now... For so long we Morrissey fans gave him the benefit of the doubt – surely a man is entitled to not like reggae and soul music, we’d squirm. Even now, we like to believe it is simply Morrissey who has changed. And that is true to an extent. But the warning signs were always there. (The Guardian, June, 2018)

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. (The Guardian, March, 2012)

I’ve got vintage psychedelic vinyl by actual murderers, and books of poetry by antisemites and paedophiles, who are hard to write out of literary history. And the increasingly reactionary comments made by Mark E Smith in his latter years will not tempt me to part with even the most unnecessary Fall compilation. But somehow, illogically and sentimentally, I held Morrissey to different standards… Suddenly, I just didn’t want Morrissey in my home any more. And I couldn’t imagine any circumstances under which I would ever listen to him again. (Stewart Lee, The Guardian, July 2018)

He knows his diehards will continue to buy his records and sell out his shows, so he gleefully goes on — sorry, Morrissey has never done anything gleefully. He stodgily goes on, sowing discord and making deliberately inflammatory statements. (Boston Herald, December 2017)

The purity of The Smiths has to severed from the pollution of Morrissey.

‘The Smiths? There’s more blackness in the music than you might initially perceive. Read about it. Search it out. And then boycott Morrissey’s music because he’s turned into your horrible racist grandfather. Seriously, stop apologising for the guy and stop listening to his recent music. He’s an embarrassment. (Tony Fletcher, 2020)

I wish there was a way back for him. As a Smith’s fan and as an anti-racist activist, I wish. I worry that he may have burned too many bridges, though. I think he’s decided that he wants to betray everything he ever said in the Smiths, and he’s broken the hearts of a lot of people… I’ll listen to The Smiths, but I was never into [his solo stuff] anyway.” (Billy Bragg, NME, February, 2020)

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. (Medium, 2019)

The Mexican POC members of Morrissey’s current band and their Latin American sound are whitewashed, in an article that flags up that the writer is in a heterosexual relationship. His boss is casual about some slurs – ‘there would be some people back home who would call me a puff or whatever for stopping… Are you some kind of shirt lifter?” (John Doran, Drowned In Sound, June 2016)

My girlfriend however, well she’s a huge fan. A quick Google search later and there’s some sputtering…. how could the man who saved the lonely girl from Hull have become this... From its cheap-sounding production to the trebly, shallow musicianship (read: white-ish), to the basic structuring and the crowd samples that sound like fiendish Leave activists at Westminster, to the aesthetically stinking addition of those medieval trumpets of old Albion, this is the crappy Britain of old he conjures. (John Calvert, The Quietus, March 2020)

My guitarist Jesse, who’s been with me for 10 years, is Mexican. One night in Los Angeles the police approached us, spoke reasonably civilly to me, and then said to him, ‘which restaurant do you work at?’ I think that sums it up! One of the greatest guitarists of the modern age, but because his skin is brown, it’s assumed he washes dishes for a living.’ (Morrissey, 2014)

Once he was unpersoned, his looks, age, sexuality, gender identity, clothes, social isolation, & mental health struggles became fair game.

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

his allegiances can no longer be assumed to lie with the marginalised. Perhaps they never could, and the real shock is not one of Morrissey’s betrayal but of our own (my own) self-deception… One of us has to grow up, I suppose, but that still doesn’t mean I know what to do about monsters either. (Ben Brooker, Overland Review, November 2017)

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)

He’s worse than anyone.

Bryan Ferry, David Bowie, Joy Division, Lemmy, Siouxie Sioux… 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 killed an Arab – but literature.

https://www.robertchristgau.com/xg/music/censor-87.php

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

John Lydon racially assaulting a black singer, supporting Trump and Farage, and hating left-wingers, is complex.

https://theoutline.com/post/1315/johnny-rotten-would-hate-john-lydon

Only right-wingers objected 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

1997/98 Trent Reznor hates political correctness and didn’t have to deny that he sexually assaulted an unconscious woman.

https://www.theguardian.com/music/2021/feb/04/trent-reznor-sexual-assault-story-marilyn-manson-memoir-fabrication

But Morrissey:

John forgives everyone their real and imagined racist transgressions – except Morrissey.

https://thequietus.com/articles/27427-hex-enduction-hour-the-classical-the-fall-racist

The lyrics in The Classical – by The Fall – which are clearly not racist…

Where are the obligatory n*ggers?
Hey there fuckface!

POC writers who could or do work for The Quietus agreed with its boss that it would be mad to think it was racist – Gabriel Ebulue said: 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.

They’ve come up with a myth that goes (almost literally) like this:

Once Upon A Time in the 1970s he was a skinhead punk and he said he didn’t like Pakistanis. No ambiguity there, Sunshine. He joined The Smiths, stole his lyrics from Shelagh Delaney, demanded black people be hanged, sapped the will of reggae-loving Indie kids with miserable, reactionary, white nostalgia, and when Decent Bloke Johnny Marr could take no more, Moz joined Skrewdriver, and organised Combat 18 behind a veneer of irony and animal rights activism, until Emboldened by Brexit, he came out as a neo-nazi by showing his third nipple and saying Diane Abbott wouldn’t get a job in Tesco. He’s symbolic of everything evil in the English Working-Class that threatens to drag England back from Bright Thrusting Imperial Modernity to ethnic peasantry, like the poor people one signs petitions for.

as a child of immigrant parents, he should know better than to attack immigration. For his waving of the flag (for publicity too, it would seem), for his ingrained habit of paying lip service to anti-racism while talking like an old Tory immigration spokesman, and for his abandonment of everything that made The Smiths a band for outsiders, Morrissey should be ashamed of himself, but he won’t be” (David Quantick, The Word, 2007)