Britpop was a 1990s musical style that favoured an ‘ironic’ or flattened version of working-class British life inspired by the 1960s – booze, birds and ‘having a good time’.
There is a myth that the movement had to save Union Jack iconography from Morrissey’s fascism.
To recap – in August 1992 Morrissey played 1 of 2 gigs at Finsbury Park, London with the band Madness, who allegedly had a strong skinhead following. While singing Glamorous Glue, Morrissey thrashed the Union Jack around the stage as the crowd reportedly yelled homophobic slurs at him and threw missiles. He refused to play the second gig. The NME interpreted this as Morrissey being racist.
In contrast, The Rolling Stones hired Hell’s Angels to be security at their gig in Altamont, San Francisco in 1969. While they were singing Sympathy For The Devil, a fight broke out and the Hell’s Angels stabbed to death an 18 year old black audience member, Meredith Hunter. This was interpreted by everyone as ‘the end of the 1960s’.
The Union Jack had always been used extensively in UK pop promotion.
In 1990 New Order released a song for the World Cup with the English football team. Its chant ‘En-ger-land’! became popular without any agonising about it encouraging England’s underbelly of football hooliganism and racism.
The 90s would see two more hit football anthems, Three Lions (Football’s coming home) by Baddiel, Skinner and The Lightning Seeds, and Vindaloo by Fat Les (We’re England, We’re gonna score one more than you, England!).
Sentimental longing or arrogant bragging, both songs were celebrations of fandom.
Morrissey’s football song – from Your Arsenal, the same album as The National Front Disco – was ‘We’ll Let You Know’ – sinister, mournful, violent – it was anything but a celebration.
How sad are we? And how sad have we been? We’ll let you know We’ll let you know Oh, but only if you’re really interested
You wonder how We’ve stayed alive ’til now We’ll let you know We’ll let you know But only if you’re really interested
We’re all smiles Then, honest, I swear, it’s the turnstiles That make us hostile Oh-wah, oh-wah, oh-wah, oh-wah, oh-wah
We will descend On anyone unable to defend Themselves Oh-wah, oh-wah, oh-wah, oh-wah, oh-wah
And the songs we sing They’re not supposed to mean a thing La-la-la-la, la-la-la-la, la-la-la-la La-la-la, la-la-la, la-la-la, la-la-la-la La-la-la-la
We may seem cold Or we may even be the most depressing people you’ve ever known At heart, what’s left, we sadly know That we are the last truly British people you’ve ever known We are the last truly British people you will ever know You’ll ever, never, want to know
Morrissey was excluded from Britpop not because he was the dark side, but because he reminded them that the dark side existed when they wanted to use the fig leaf of irony to enjoy the pride and thrill of being loutish, lustful and national.
I crave extremes. I want to be THAT famous, or THAT known. The only reason I’m in this is to make great rock’n’roll records, for the hell of it, and I’m concerned that everybody thinks I’m this politically correct, right-onwoman. (Louise Wener, January 1995, Melody Maker)
We are intensely relaxed about people getting filthy rich as long as they pay their taxes. (Peter Mandelson, New Labour strategist, October 1998, Financial Times)
On the 4th of March 2012 Morrissey played a concert in Argentina in which his band wore ‘I hate William and Kate’ t-shirts and he said this about British colony, the Falkland Islands, then a source of renewed tension between Argentina and the UK (the nations had been to war over it in 1982):
You know of course the Malvinas Islands, everybody knows they belong to Argentina so please do not blame the British people, we know the islands belong to you… The government, the governments, never listen to the people, to their pain.
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’m not a royalist, but pictures of his band lined up either side of him on his recent Argentinian tour, wearing “We hate William and Kate” T-shirts, momentarily made me feel like becoming one. (Pete Paphides, music writer, The Guardian, March 2012)
Later that year he was appalled by the jingoism of the London Olympics, the winning bid being tendered by Boris Johnson, then London mayor, now (2021) the UK’s Prime Minister.
“I am unable to watch the Olympics due to the blustering jingoism that drenches the event. Has England ever been quite so foul with patriotism? The ‘dazzling royals’ have, quite naturally, hi-jacked the Olympics for their own empirical needs, and no oppositional voice is allowed in the free press. It is lethal to witness. As London is suddenly promoted as a super-wealth brand, the England outside London shivers beneath cutbacks, tight circumstances and economic disasters. Meanwhile the British media present 24-hour coverage of the ‘dazzling royals’, laughing as they lavishly spend, as if such coverage is certain to make British society feel fully whole. In 2012, the British public is evidently assumed to be undersized pygmies, scarcely able to formulate thought. As I recently drove through Greece I noticed repeated graffiti seemingly everywhere on every available wall. In large blue letters it said WAKE UP WAKE UP. It could almost have been written with the British public in mind, because although the spirit of 1939 Germany now pervades throughout media-brand Britain, the 2013 grotesque inevitability of Lord and Lady Beckham (with Sir Jamie Horrible close at heel) is, believe me, a fate worse than life. WAKE UP WAKE UP.” (Morrissey, August 2012, TrueToYou.Net).
Again it led to a wave of flack in the British press.
The Guardian wrote:
Far from providing a focus of national unity and good cheer, Morrissey, says the Olympics have created a situation in which “the spirit of 1939 Germany now pervades throughout media-brand Britain”.
As ever, he was also misquoted and paraphrased, this time to make him sound like a killjoy racist for NOT flag-waving.
Then in 2021 after Harry and Meghan gave an interview to Oprah Winfrey where they accused the UK press and the Royal Family of racism and after the Black Lives Matter protests had led to calls for a reckoning with the UK’s colonial past, some of the same people who took potshots at him in 2012 changed their tune – about royals and patriotism, not Morrissey, who they now believe is an unspeakable British Nationalist.
Here Piers Morgan is referring to his Olympic remarks:
A former colleague who did shifts on the newsdesk there in the 1990s recalls that there was a blacklist of people about whom the paper would not run stories, no matter how good the tale. Top of this list were foreigners and “lowlifes” – who included “anyone with a non-English name, Irish and the entire working class, unless a yuppie plumber”. There were no page leads about black people because page leads had to have an accompanying photograph and “photographers couldn’t take pictures of black people because you couldn’t see their features”.
Meanwhile, over at The Sun (and the News of the World) there was a dread of “poofs” and “queers”, from the “gay plague” and “despicable” gay kiss in “EastBenders” of the 1980s to the “gay mafia” running the country in the late 1990s – when it demanded that all homosexual MPs be outed, explaining: “Their sexuality is not the problem. The worry is their membership of a closed world of men with a mutual self-interest.” (Liz Gerard, March 2021, Press Gazette)
It reads as if their avowed anti-racism is sitting on a powder keg of repression because given half a chance to take a pot shot at the singer they’ve labeled a Nazi, they come out with horrors like this by David Stubbs, in January 2014:
However, these were the 1980s and 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.
To remind you – it was Simon Reynolds and Frank Owen, journalists at the Melody Maker, who divided pop music into white indie (which was intellectual) and black music (escapist, showbiz, works through the body on the dancefloor). Morrissey answered questions based on their escapist v. intelligent binary and (rightly) thought that escapist would get more airplay because it’s escapist.
“Pop has never been this divided,” wrote Simon Reynolds in his much-lauded, recent piece on the indie scene, referring to the chasm that now exists between indie-pop and black pop… It’s a bit like the late Sixties all over again with a burgeoning Head culture insisting that theirs’ is the “real” radical music, an intelligent and subversive music that provides an alternative to the crude showbiz values of black pop… What (black music) says can’t necessarily be verbalised easily. 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. (Frank Owen, Melody Maker, Steptember, 1986)
Not content with racist jokes based on a faulty memory or no research, he went on to make homophobic jibes…
Stephan Partick Norrissey looked at himself longingly and bashfully in the bedroom mirror. He was 12, and in the throes of a shy infatuation with the boy who stared back at him… In the thrill of the moment, he wondered what his own genitals looked like – he averted his eyes when at the lavatory… He relished the warmth of his own backside… In 2013, in a ceremony that broke down new barriers in terms of civil partnership, Norrissey married the one man who had kept faith in him, adored him quietly from afar, been his companion in times of loneliness, his only true friend – himself… some were sordid enough to wonder how they would manage to consummate the relationship. They need not have feared – for if anyone was able to insert himself up his own rectum, it was Norrissey.
He also jokes about fat women, because, satire…
An outsider, engulfed by modern superficiality yet destined to be adored by everyone except bitter, fat female journalists…
And implies that if Morrissey wanted Jimmy Savile arrested, he should have gone to the police himself, as if it’s unreasonable to think that people who knew about Savile should have done something.
Now, rumours were rife about Jimmy Savile – the things he got up to – evil, disgusting things – but which no one dared to inform the authorities about. Norrissey, however, wasn’t intimidated by Jimmy Savile’s showbiz status – his image as a cigar-toting, yodelling big shot cut no ice with him. He would inform the police.
David Stubbs’ era of music journalism was racist, sexist, homophobic, and turned a blind eye to Savile – the fact that they tired to make it sound ‘positive’ and ‘fun’ doesn’t make it less bigoted.
Their excuse for the venom was Morrissey’s anticipated novel, List of The Lost.
When it arrived there was a glut of bad reviews and a bad sex award.
As soon as it was published last week, the internet erupted with the sound of a thousand contemptuous guffaws. (The Guardian, October 2015)
Even his autobiography, published in 2013, had been denounced, his memories questioned, and his left-wing crimes listed.
This kind of pretentiousness has been taken at face value for so long by the more credulous members of the pop media that it’s no surprise that Morrissey regards himself as an artist… Sixties Manchester was not heaven on earth. Nor was it the Dickensian dump Morrissey would have us believe. Whores did not tout for business in leafy Stretford and as for his memories of miserable schooldays, and teachers who liked to punish miscreants, these are overgrazed pastures. But this is the picture he wants people to see, of how the forces of repression turned him into the mardy little pup who never grew up, and there was nothing he could do about it… In three decades of unloading his misery on a world he finds too cold to take part in, few people have escaped his wrath. The royal family exists as a kind of dictatorship, judges are bent, patriotism is a joke, last year’s Olympic Games was barely a step away from a Nuremberg rally (didn’t you see those jackboots?), and the Krays, being working class, were misunderstood. And don’t forget, boys and girls: ‘meat is murder’... Shamefully Penguin fell for this ruse, and lent a spurious respectability to a mucky exercise. They must know they will never be allowed to forget it. (The Spectator, October 2013)
In a June 2018 interview with Fiona Dodwell, Morrissey said (of Anne Marie Waters)
she wants everyone in the UK to live under the same law. I find this compelling, now, because it’s very obvious that Labour or the Tories do not believe in free speech… I mean, look at the shocking treatment of Tommy Robinson…
This is his only mention of Robinson and it relates to the law.
Sometime in the 2010s Morrissey’s obsession with animals had reached the point where his main ambition was the total abolition of the abattoir.
“The slaughterhouse is the dead end for humanity, and as long as it exists we can’t possibly have any hope for the human race… If you’ve seen abattoir footage then you cannot possibly think that humans are anything other than evil pests… If your views threaten any form of establishment interests, you are usually ignored or silenced or said to be ‘ranting’. I have never ranted in my life.” (HuffPost, June 2015)
In August 2016 he gave an interview to an Australian news site – it was his usual mordant mix of politics, music, and animals. All meat-eaters get equal wistful ire – David Cameron, The Royals, Iceland… He’s asked about standing for London mayor, he doesn’t fancy his chances.
I could see the pointlessness of stepping in. The BBC now do not give you news, but they give you their opinion, and therefore they give anyone a very hard time if that person does not suit the convenience and prejudices of the established elite. Therefore liberal educators such as George Galloway and Nigel Farage are loathed by the BBC because both men respect equal freedom for all people, and they are not remotely intimidated by the BBC. 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.
In The Guardian, Hadley Freeman, took this section and decided it made him a libertarian racist, weirdly she seems to have missed that he spent most of the 90s being called a racist for holding a Union Jack.
It’s the emphatic inclusion of “halal” that adds a spicy hint of racism to Morrissey’s animal rights campaigning, doesn’t it?
And while it’s perverse to approve of two politicians from opposite ends of the spectrum, probably because they’re never likely to become Prime Ministers, it wasn’t worth the snark.
Morrissey seems to have taken it as a sign that he wasn’t allowed to talk about animal suffering if it involved religion, even though welfare organisations, including the RSPCA call for an end to unstunned religious slaughter.
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. (Morrissey Central, April 2019)
Hence his interest in Anne Marie Waters, a former left-wing activist, who had been recruited by far right grifter Tommy Robinson, who seems to have convinced her that the left would never put women’s rights (her particular angle) before Sharia Law, as administered by Sharia Courts, the first known one in Britain being established in 1982 in order to “solve the matrimonial problems of Muslims living in the United Kingdom in the light of Islamic family law”, for example marriages, divorce and inheritance issues”.
Ms Waters, 39, who has twice tried to stand for election as a Labour candidate, is focusing much of her campaign on Muslim grooming gangs who have been convicted of sexually abusing girls in several English cities.
Anne Marie is the director of Sharia Watch UK, a watchdog which says its “particularly concerned with the elements of sharia law which are discriminatory and violent towards women and girls, and which endanger and threaten the democratic principle of freedom of speech.
Recently, I sought help to fund a consultation with defamation solicitors to discuss the legal position regarding newspapers referring to people as “far-right”, “fascist” or “racist” simply because we speak negatively about Islam. Those of us who do so are frequently subject to smears from the press, which portrays us bigots and liars.
At a book launch in June 2014, she said, Islam was an ideology that was being appeased by the state and ‘it is exactly the same appeasement that is allowing young girls to be raped in Britain, it’s got nothing to do with race, it’s got to do with the fact that we will not confront the misogyny at the very, very heart of this religion’.
There’s no evidence that Islam had anything to do with the grooming gang scandal but it’s true that for 20 years the police and social workers turned a blind eye to groups of mainly Muslim men sexually exploiting white girls, and a few people who raised concerns were labeled racists.
Anne Marie seems genuinely tormented by the idea that religion gives men a licence to abuse, Tommy cheerfully latches on to anything that causes racial strife – from ‘reporting’ Asian grooming gangs in 2018 (online misinformation made it sound as if the courts were protecting the accused, rather than trying to avoid prejudicing the trial), to supporting Muslim parents who wanted LGBT+ teaching materials removed from primary schools, in 2020.
And the left really is intensely bad at dealing with anything to do with race that isn’t white supremacy.
‘There’s a persistent taboo on the Left which demands that every incident of terror be attributed to American foreign policy… But Islamists aren’t killing cartoonists because the U.S. invaded Iraq. And ISIS isn’t exterminating the Yazidis because of America’s sordid relationship with Saudi Arabia.’
In April 2018, on Central, Morrissey recommended Douglas Murray’s The Strange Death of Europe, a conservative (at best) book that gathers so many true incidences of rights clashes between Islam and liberal values that you could miss the conspiracy theory that underpins it – that Cultural Marxists hate the West so much they’re allowing Saudi Arabia to stealth colonise it.
Morrissey repeated a couple of talking points about crime cover-ups – but not enough to be deeply into the alt-right, and he’s never walked back on his hatred for their hero, Trump.
“Trump has received so much attention, especially when compared to other candidates – Bernie Sanders, for example. Although the media said he would not win, every day, all the headlines: Trump, Trump, Trump, Trump!.. The American media helped Trump, yes, they first created it. Whether they criticise him or laugh at him, he does not care, he just wants to see his picture and his name. The American media have shot themselves in the leg… Since he has been in power, he has exhausted the world… He grabs after everything like a little child. He is not a leader. He is a pest… I never expected him to be elected. Maybe, I have no faith in the political elite anymore.” (Der Spiegel, November 2017)
Even in Fiona’s interview he mostly focuses on animals, music, and escaping England.
…they assume you’ve adopted the moral high ground by refusing to eat a dead animal. And they’re right! But you only take the stand on behalf of the butchered animal – you don’t make money from your point of view. You become the voice of the animal …. who kicked and struggled to hang on to life, but who was chopped up because some fat oaf in Woking fancied some commercial-break nibbles. The truth is, vegans are actually superior beings. A television documentary recently covered a duck farm somewhere in England, and as all the chicks emerged from their incubator chirping away, the TV presenter said “Ooh they’re so cute, they’re so beautiful, oh look, look at their little faces,” and then she turned to the camera with a straight face and said matter-of-factly “the chicks will be allowed to live for 8 weeks and will then be slaughtered” and I thought, wow, people really ARE utterly stupid, aren’t they? This is what you’re up against – recognition that the chicks were beautiful, yet not ALLOWED to live longer than 8 weeks because someone wants to suck on their innards. It’s barbaric. Do people realize how deadly they sound?
There are a lot of singers who just want to get on the TV and be looked at. I know I do. Sorry, that was a joke.
I love to travel now, and I feel very excited to be in Turkey, Poland, Finland, Israel, and so on. Whether they actually want me there is entirely another matter. But, of course, it’s always great to get away from Channel 4 News. In fact, that really is the main reason to travel …
Ex-fan Stewart Lee however decided that mentioning Tommy Robinson’s name meant that there’s no longer any way to make the case that Morrissey ever meant anything other than what he says – that he was telling a Bengali that he didn’t belong in the UK (Bengali In Platforms), that he was saying England should be for the English (National Front Disco), even though Morrissey is an Irish Catholic who didn’t feel he belonged in England and was called a ‘Paddy’ at school, not because of his middle-name, but because he was Irish.
“I don’t think I’ve ever really had a Manchester accent. The accent is really quite broad, whereas I’ve always had a very flat accent – there’s a soft lilt in there somewhere. But then you have to remember my background. My parents are from Dublin, they met and married there… My mother’s family grew up in Pearse Street but later moved to Crumlin where my father’s from. Going back even further my mother’s father was from Cashel. Their name was McInnerny and they used to own half of Cashel, they were wealthy land owners – there’s still a few of them down there. So with so much Irishness around us, my sister and I growing up, never really felt we were Mancunians…My Irishness was never something I hid or camouflaged. I grew up in a strong Irish community. Of course, early on I’d be teased about it, I was called `Paddy’ from an early age. I mean, there I was, born, braised and bred in Manchester but I was still always called `Paddy’. And this was back in the 1960s when it was a bitter and malevolent slur. But that’s how Manchester people are – they’re extremely critical of everything and everybody.”
“I’ve always been independent in the true sense of the word and I shall remain so. I’ve never been part of anything. I’ve never belonged to anything. Even when The Smiths were doing Top Of The Pops we felt like outsiders. It doesn’t matter that I’ve been on EMI, Mercury or RCA, I’ve always maintained the true spirit that I feel. (Irish Times, November, 1999)
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.
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)
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 Quietusagreed 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)
On August 8th 1992 Morrissey played at Finsbury Park with headliners Madness. He’d worked with band members, Suggs and Cathal Smyth, and also with their producers Clive Langer and Alan Winstanley.
During his set the crowd shouted homophobic insults & threw coins & bottles.
Increasing angry he thrashed a Union Jack about the stage & was so incensed or distressed by the ‘loathsome yobbos’ that he refused to play the 2nd day of the two day booking.
Nowadays he could phone the police & they would investigate it as a hate crime.
Back then he was denounced as a drama queen, who had blown it with his imagery & let his fans down.
The NME implied he was a racist & a fascist.
Cornershop burned his picture outside EMI.
The press dismissed violent homophobia to denounce Morrissey for his art & for refusing to explain himself to the press who had dismissed violent homophobia.
Morrissey has always said that he was attracted to men and women, and talked about transexuality and gender. In 1991 he’d toured with lesbian singer, Phranc. It’s likely that at least some of the audience had been targeting what they thought they knew about his sexuality.
Years later the NME plunged him into yet another race row because he thought Knightsbridge – the most expensive street in London – had lost its local character.
28 years later The Guardian asked if he was showing his true colours.
Love Music Hate Racism used it to say he has a long history of supporting Far Right organisations – his only other ‘support’ being a comment that The BNP should be allowed to speak (Morrissey is from an Irish Catholic family, he supported a United Ireland & between 1988 & 1994 Sinn Fein’s politicians had their voices banned on UK television) – which also turned into a race row.
Former friends eager to cast him out as a tax exile (foreign now, nothing to do with them) have never said a word about it:
& if you read Morrissey’s press there are numerous examples of low key homophobic or transphobic jokes.
For example, David Quantick, who created 2019’s #Moztits Twitter hashtag (attacking him for having a feminine/fat body), described him in 1997 as ‘Mozz Flanders in a dank cellette’. Or ‘Dorrissey’ the Morrissey parody in the 1980s video game ‘Rock Star Ate My Hamster’.
Which might be why the homophobia has been entirely written out of the story.
In July 2011 Morrissey was playing a gig in Warsaw and introduced Meat Is Murder by saying:
“Despite the love, we do live on a murderous planet, as you will have seen over the last few days in Norway, murder, murder, murder. Really every single day worse things happen in Kentucky Fried Chicken & McDonald’s, murder, murder, murder, murder, murder, murder.”
Animal liberationists believe that animal and human life are equal.
He wasn’t saying that the murders in Norway are less important – he was saying that we’re not seeing that animals are slaughtered in great numbers everyday as he was about to show a gruesome film of animals dying in extreme pain and fear.
He’s consistently linked his suicidal depression to a documentary on abattoirs that he saw when he was a child.
“When I was young I saw a documentary accidentally about the abattoir and I fell into an almost lifelong depression. I couldn’t believe I lived in a society that allowed this.” (The Times, November 2017)
He’s hyper-aware of the treatment of animals – things like:
Very few people are animal liberationists but to misrepresent his philosophical position & ignore his mental health to create a drama that would hurt the parents of murder victims is pretty poor even by the standards of the news industry.
The Daily Mirror broke the ‘story’ paraphrasing it to make it sound worse. There was a storm on social media, other papers picked up the clickbait.
“The comment I made on stage at Warsaw could be further explained this way: Millions of beings are routinely murdered every single day in order to fund profits for McDonalds and KFCruelty, but because these murders are protected by laws, we are asked to feel indifferent about the killings, and to not even question them. If you quite rightly feel horrified at the Norway killings, then it surely naturally follows that you feel horror at the murder of ANY innocent being. You cannot ignore animal suffering simply because animals ‘are not us.” (True To You, July 2011)
It made no difference.
It’s returned in numerous lists of his word crimes.
It returned in a Guardian ‘comedy’ article that crassly ignored his history of mental illness to lump it in with some comments he made about the suicide of a nurse who gave confidential information about The Duchess of Cambridge to Australian radio DJs.
“a man who could once rightly claim to be a genius reduced to being rock music’s answer to an internet troll, flaming away then whining on about free speech and how there’s a vast conspiracy against him when anyone picks him up on it. It points to the way he brilliantly put the 2011 Norway terrorist attacks into perspective as “nothing compared to what happens in McDonald’s every day” – a rightwing Islamophobe extremist murdering 77 people because he hated multiculturalism being entirely analogous to eating a sweet chilli crispy chicken wrap – and asks: does that even remotely resemble the kind of thing a moron would write in the comments section of a website?”
On a side note – it’s The Guardian turning into the internet troll. And using a massacre in a wisecrack aimed at a ‘moron’ Indie singer is less edifying than mentioning it before a song against cruelty.
It’s esp. unedifying when there’s always been an indication that Morrissey’s melancholy is linked to the media. Becoming obsessive about things that are given a huge amount of coverage, like the Royals. On The Queen Is Dead:
“I didn’t want to attack the Monarchy in any beer monster way. But I find as time goes by this happiness we had slowly slips away and is replaced by something that is wholly grey and wholly saddening. The very idea of the Monarchy and the Queen of England is being reinforced and made to seem more useful than it is…But I do feel in an absolute way I’ve been sleepwalking for 26 years. On the bleak moments when I come to consciousness I was reading The New Statesman. You see I never did all those trivial pursuits. I did read all those music magazines.” (NME, June, 1986)
And his remarks about the Dutchess were not a conspiracy theory… it was just gossip that had been flying around combined with his belief that the Royals use PR to stay popular – which is true.
“It wasn’t because of two DJs in Australia that this woman took her own life, it was the pressure around her… [Kate Middleton] she was in the hospital, as far as I could see, for absolutely no reason… she’s saying nothing about the death of this poor woman. The arrogance of the British royals is absolutely staggering.” (December, 2012)
He also resents that the Royals are born or marry into publicity while he feels art is neglected. In April 2011, after an awkward interview on Radio 2 he said:
“I’m sorry I made the O’Leary radio interview so difficult but I was in a foul mood, having spent a full week surrounded by the royal dreading. England may very well be a Windsor dictatorship, but – PR Weddings aside, it is usually quite bearable… During the week of the royal dreading, Poly Styrene died. Having made an enormous contribution to British art and sound – at a desperate time when so many of us needed her – Poly Styrene’s death was all but ignored by the British television news media, who instead rained hours and hours of blubbering praise onto Kate Middleton – a woman about whom nothing is known on a personal level. The message is clear: What you achieve in life means nothing compared to what you are born into. Is this Syria?”
& it returned when he was sang at The Nobel Peace Prize Concert in December 2013:
“Do you write when you’re happy/sad/drunk/sober or a combination of all four? I don’t say this for affect, but I’m never not sad… which is lovely grammar, I know… How did appearing alongside the likes of Jake Bugg, Mary J. Blige, James Blunt and Claire Danes at the Nobel Peace Prize Concert rate in terms of surreal gigs? I didn’t know it would be so stately and ceremonious. They were very courteous, but the local mayor fought to have me taken off the bill because he didn’t like my views on mass-murderers. There’s always something, I suppose.” (Hot Press, August 2014)
On another side note – this is why there’s conformity around death. Why everyone was a lovely person who made everyone happy. Why we send thoughts and prayers. Why no one can express their awkward or abject feelings. Because it’s easy to take shock, grief or fear and turn it into mob rage at someone who has said the socially unacceptable thing.
& Morrissey’s work is all about exploring unacceptable and unwanted feelings.
On July 29th 2009, Morrissey played his first gig in Israel.
In July 2012, he told Israel’s channel 2 news that:
“There’s no point in punishing an entire nation for something its leader says or does.”
In his November 2017 interview with Der Spiegel he dismissed the idea of a cultural boycott, seemingly not previously aware of the BDS movement.
“It is narrow-minded. Being politically correct is incorrect. It means forbidding the freedom of speech. This is how the BDS movement sounds to me.”
“I love this city [Tel Aviv]. The rest of the world does not like Israel well. But the people there are very generous and friendly. You should never judge a people by their government. It is very rare for the government to reflect the wishes of the people.'”
He’s very politely saying that the people are nice and the government isn’t. And in no way is he slamming, blasting or proclaiming.
His 2017 album, Low In High School, had 3 songs set in Israel.
The Girl From Tel Aviv Who Wouldn’t Kneel, which included a side-swipe at American intervention:
Of princes and kings and their costly parade Blitz them all back to the Stone Age The American way displayed proudly Is to show lots of teeth and talk loudly And the land weeps oil The land weeps oil What do you think all these armies are for? Just because the land weeps oil
When You Open Your Legs, in which the song’s narrator forgets everything because of sex:
4am and once again I am asked to leave this club in Tel Aviv It’s 4am and once again I am asked to leave this club in Tel Aviv, oh
Everything I know deserts me now When you open your legs Everything I know deserts me now When you open…
& Israel, which mixes sex with religion, envy and threat.
Realize if you’re happy Jesus sends you straight to hell
And should you dare, enjoy your body Here tolls Hades welcome bell Israel Israel
You’ve found a middle course existence We’re all bones and flesh and shell Israel Israel
I can’t answer for what armies do They are not you They are not you They are not you
In other climes they bitch and whine Just because you’re not like them Israel Israel
The sky is dark For many others They want it dark For you as well Israel Israel
Earth is just one big asylum An explodes a prison cell See us squirm in our own damaged spell You were born As guilty sinners Before you stood up right, you fell Put the fear of many gods In Israel
Nature gave you Every impulse Who are virgin priests to tell Who, how to love How to live Israel And they who reign, abuse, upon you Upon you They are jealous of you as well Love yourself As you should Israel
There is absolutely nothing to suggest that it has anything to do with the conflict between Israel & Palestine – it seems far more likely that it’s about sexual freedom. Tel Aviv is the kind of liberal, gay friendly, city that traditional moralists would consider a Sodom and Gomorrah.
But the UK left was outraged.
Red Pepper was appalled & saw it as part of his descent into right-wing reactionary racism:
And decided that this song about sex & religion had to be about Zionism & was telling the Palestinians they had no right to be aggrieved:
It didn’t seem to occur to them that Moz has a fairly well documented admiration for Israeli actor Lior Ashkenazi & that it’s possible the songs were inspired by his films. They could at least ask.
Nor have they ever condemned him for playing gigs in his favourite city of Istanbul, currently ruled over by Islamist hardliner Erdogan:
“I had a timid childhood. My past is also full of repression. I still do not know what it means to have fun and to enjoy physically. Istanbul has a feature that dissipates this mood and crisis. When you return to the British land, you are left with the same despair, it’s separate. This is the secret of Istanbul, the people of Istanbul: It is very alive, very real. This is also something I admire. I don’t see myself as a ‘living person’ as much as you do. I’m an extra head in the crowd, that’s all.“