Suffer Little Children

The Sun, 1984

Between 1963 and their arrest in 1965, Manchester serial killers, Ian Brady and Myra Hindley, kidnapped and murdered at least five children – Pauline Reade, John Kilbride, Keith Bennett, Lesley Ann Downey and Edward Evans – and buried them on Saddleworth Moor.

In 1984 the Smiths released Suffer Little Children, a song about the murders, as a b-side to Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now, creating outrage in the press, which was defused by Morrissey meeting the mothers of the victims to reassure them that he wasn’t mocking or glorifying their deaths.

Some of the reports in newspapers in Portsmouth and Hartlepool – all the places that really count – some of the reports were so full of hate, it was like I was one of the Moors Murderers, that I’d gone out and murdered these children. Some of them were so full of hate that one just had to do something, but not read them. It was incredible.” (Morrissey, Melody Maker, March 1985 )

Pools winner, Viv Nicholson, on the cover of single, Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now. Viv was mistaken for Myra Hindley by the Manchester Evening News.

An interesting thing to note is the level of tone policing that Morrissey is subject to. There is huge anxiety about whether he’s ironic or sincere. His peer group can write ghoulish songs about crime – he has to be sincere. Any pop star can enthusiastically hold a Union Jack – he has to be ironic.

The Smiths would appear to be degenerating into an effete, mincing version of The Pretenders on this evidence, and I reckon M should take another tip from Chrissie and do the decent thing by Sandie soon. Anything to at least partially halt the collapse of the band into the annoying, silly, blubbering, infantile mess on display tonight… The common-or-garden Smiths – lots of flim-flam, lots of skullduggery, no great shakes. (Adrian Maddox, Melody Maker, May, 1984)

Top left: The Smiths, Myra’s sister Maureen and her husband David Smith. Top Right: Myra and Ian. Bottom: Steve Strange and Chrissie Hynde in 70s band The Moors Murderers

https://dangerousminds.net/comments/steve_strange_chrissie_hynde_offend_all_of_england_as_punk_band_the_moors_m

Ann West, mother of Lesley Ann Downey, pictured at a fairground on July 17, 1965, searching for clues to her daughter’s disappearance. Lesley, 10, was abducted by Brady and Hindley at a fair in Ancoats on Boxing Day, 1964. 
Melody Maker, September 15th 1984

https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2017/may/16/ian-brady-cast-dark-shadow-popular-culture-smiths-marcus-harvey

England Is Not His

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

Morrissey’s family disliked it.

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

He’s a serial killer:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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