Finsbury Twice: Immigration

During a support gig for Madness, at Finsbury Park, on the 8th August 1992, Morrissey was “bottled off-stage” by a crowd shouting homophobic slurs.

The men’s men in the crowd offer the opinion that Morrissey is a poofy bastard and elevate many a middle finger. A coin or two flies. (Select, October 1992)

Melody Maker, 15 August 1992

Morrissey was upset by the crowd’s reaction and refused to play a second gig. His press office ‘cited projectiles and a 50p thrown by a National Front skinhead’ (NME, 22 August 1992) as the reason for the cancellation. The National Front was in London that day to attack an Irish Republican march. Morrissey is an Irish Catholic and had expressed support for Irish Republicanism in 1983. In the 1990s it was still a controversial subject. And there was still a strong strain of anti-Irish racism in the UK.

Sinead O’Connor and her murdering IRA friends should rot in hell after what they’ve done… Hopefully Miss O’Connor will get blown up by an IRA bomb one day. (MDN, NME letters page, 3 March 1990)

Feckless, stupid, drunken, combative and relentlessly talkative, the Irishmen of Victorian Punch cartoons merge together into a stereotype that has proved enduring. (Brian Cathcart, the Independent, 11 June 1994) https://www.independent.co.uk/voices/rear-window-punch-lines-that-kept-the-irish-in-their-place-taking-the-mick-1422052.html?amp

The scale of the violence in Dublin that night, and the wicked glee of the perpetrators as they ripped up the upper west stand came as a shock to most people. But the warning dots were there; it was just that nobody connected them. There had long been a hard core of England fans who viewed football as war by proxy and Ireland as the enemy. (Sean Ingle, the Guardian, 25 May 2013) https://www.theguardian.com/football/2013/may/25/england-ireland-1995-rioting-international

This was also a time when far right violence against gay people (& people perceived to be gay) was extreme. The BNP was formed after a row about suspected homosexuality in the leadership of the National Front. Both the National Front and the BNP, ‘queer-bashed’, murdering and beating up gay people, attacking gay events and bombing gay pubs. If elected, The BNP pledged to make homosexuality illegal. In 1990, a gay man was murdered and pressure group Outrage was created to tackle both violence against gay people and indifference and persecution from the police and the media. The press and authorities believed that the “gay lifestyle” was “asking for” violence.

Outrage, in the 1990s

“A person born with any sort of colour doesn’t have a choice in the matter. I would suggest that sexual preferences, however, are a matter of individual choice.” (Chief Superintendent Shoemake, Pink Paper, 21 July 1990) https://www.petertatchellfoundation.org/the-murder-of-gay-actor-michael-boothe-30-years-on/

Twenty years ago yesterday, a nail bomb exploded in the Admiral Duncan pub in Soho, killing three people and injuring dozens more. It marked the conclusion of a campaign by David Copeland, a neo-Nazi intent on igniting a race war… At Copeland’s trial, the prosecution distinguished between the ‘political’ bombings in Brixton and Brick Lane, and the ‘personal’ bombing in Soho: ‘The defendant told police that he was very homophobic. He hated gay men and he said his hatred stemmed from the way his parents had treated him as a child.’ Suggestions of Copeland’s sexual and psychological aberrance – denial, closetedness, sadism – recur in the journalism around the case, though with little supporting evidence… Copeland’s violent homophobia was commonplace in the neo-Nazi circles he moved in, from the British National Party to the National Socialist Movement. It was as much a part of their politics as racism was: they all declared their intention to outlaw or kill homosexuals. The BNP took pains to distance itself from the perceived tolerance of homosexuality among the directorate of the National Front; the BNP saw queers everywhere, intimately linked to tolerance and cultural degeneracy. Writing in the BNP’s Spearhead magazine in 1999, a few months before he became leader, Nick Griffin decried gay demonstrators against the Admiral Duncan bombing as ‘flaunting their perversion’, showing ‘just why so many ordinary people find those creatures so repulsive’. (James Butler, London Review of Books, 1 May 2019) https://www.theguardian.com/theobserver/2002/sep/01/features.magazine37

A former leading light in the National Front, no friend of homosexuals, is accusing the prospective leader of the British National party, also no lover of homosexuals, of the unthinkable – having an affair with another man. Quite apart from the embarrassing fact that the BNP has an official policy of wanting homosexuality outlawed, the tiff reveals the supposed hard men of the right as curiously sensitive… “There is a great deal of narcissism among the fascist leadership based on the macho image and elaborate uniforms.” (Tom Robbins, Sunday Times, 5 September 1999)

Homosexuality was a problematic topic in the music magazines:

Gays are not perceived as normal by the general public… being gay is nothing to be proud of… ‘proud to be gay’ does not ring out with the same force as ‘proud to be Black’ and that is where the minority angst comparison ends. (Alex, NME letters page, 28 April 1990)

It’s terrible shite… I’m sure Morrissey would have preferred to have inspired screaming fag glam rock types… (Barbara Ellen, NME, 24 March 1990)

Phrases like ‘pig-ugly American lesbians’, ‘I didn’t get it because I didn’t feel part of their community’, and ‘nothing more than a cabaret act playing to a minority’, tend to illustrate the old blind spot when it comes to musicians who, against all odds, make gay pop. (Richard Scholey, NME letters page, 19 May 1990) He was just speaking his mind and not trying to cover things up with that smarmy liberal sheen so often affected by media pundits… (in reply, Dele Fadele, NME, 19 May 1990)

Young gay people were banned from placing personal ads:

NME, 13 January 1990

And Morrissey was being warned that his “sexual ambiguity” wasn’t going to be tolerated for much longer:

For too long, a faction around here feels, the fey, blithe, Morrissey has been allowed to saunter through pop history unchecked, fawned upon even, and it was about time some of the chaps got together to administer a tarring, a feathering, and deposit him in the nearest ditch. (David Stubbs, Melody Maker, 19 March 1988)

If Morrissey has sinned in his rise to self-styled King of the Western World then it must surely have been indulging in his only weakness, which he himself credited as being a ‘listed crime’… it is Morrissey’s own ambiguity which has led to what many people insist on hinting at as being a somewhat spectacular cover-up… apart from a very early interview with our own Cath Carroll where Morrissey spoke directly about the eroticism of the male body (and an interview in a lesser rag that was littered with tawdry references to public toilets), Morrissey has rarely been questioned about the highly sexual nature of his lyrics… As it is, without wishing to undermine his aggressive challenge to the staid institution of compulsory heterosexuality and monogamy, I find it hard to believe that it is a Crown Prince Of Celibacy who is responsible for such knowing or flirtatious songs as ‘Late Night, Maudlin Street’, ‘Reel Around The Fountain’, ‘Hand In Glove’ and ‘Alsatian Cousin’. Or for the specifically sexual visual control of his image, from the topless NME front cover to the particularly lustful dancing of the young tearaway hoodlum on the new video… Maybe it is this over-enthusiastic curiosity from fans that forewarns him of a more offensive and dangerous threat to the often remarkable relationship with his art and his audience that he has developed – ie from the blood-hungry tabloids. If this is the case, then Morrissey should be wary of the fate that killed off both his heroes Wilde and Dean… (James Brown, NME, February 1989)

While Freddie Mercury’s death from AIDS was getting viciously bigoted coverage.

“Freddie’s life was consumed with sodomy. He died from it,” opined Peter McKay of the London Evening Standard (28 Nov), while Joe Haines in The Daily Mirror wrote: “He was sheer poison, a man bent”… John Junor  (Mail on Sunday, 1 Dec): “If you treat as a hero a man who died because of his own sordid sexual perversions aren’t you infinitely more likely to persuade some of the gullible young to follow in his example?”
(Media Watch, Gay Times, January 1992)

The Last of the International Playboys video

Even socialists sympathetic to gay people have a blind spot – failing to recognise that homophobic violence and ideology, was and is, on a par with racism. The Socialist Worker admired Morrissey writing a song about gay sex – Dear God Please Help Me – but didn’t know that the far right murdered gay people.

Today the pop industry can easily cope with artists who are openly gay, but can it cope with artists singing about men having sex with men? : On the Isle of Dogs in east London, the Nazi BNP won its first council seat in decades. Three young black men were stabbed to death in south east London. What was Morrissey’s response? He draped himself in the Union Jack at a Madness concert in Finsbury Park and released an album called Your Arsenal, which contained the song “National Front Disco” – a glorification of fascism. (Martin Smith, Socialist Worker, 1st May 2006)
https://socialistworker.co.uk/socialist-review-archive/morrissey-and-love-dare-not-sing-its-name/

The NME insinuated that the heckling and violence at Finsbury was incited by Morrissey because he was attracted to racism as part of his sexuality and alluded to the gay skinhead scene. A month before Finsbury, channel 4 had shown a documentary about gay skinheads – in which Nicky Crane, ex-Skrewdriver roadie and ex-National Front/British Movement member, had come out as gay – and a few years previously there had been a row about a gay skinhead disco on GLC property.

I think he was asking for a bit of trouble. Maybe he thought he could win over the skinhead contingent but you’re going to put backs up prancing around like that. (Tim Dourney, NME, 22 August 1992)

Gay skinheads kissing, late 80s. In the 90s gay PDAs were still an arrestable offence.

https://thatchercrisisyears.com/2013/01/14/gay-skinhead-lesbian/amp/

The NME probably took their cue from a review in The Melody Maker – it blatantly lied about the situation – seemingly to protect the reputation of headliners, Madness.

Morrissey is, despite all hopes, despicable… Look, Steven, if you’ve just run 100 metres in 9.98, you can have some sort of vague, if dubious, claims to wearing a Union Jack around your shoulders. If you’re singing the National Front Disco and getting too scared/weary to put inverted commas around the England for the English bit, while Sieg Heils butter you up down the front, don’t expect much sympathy… short of burning the flag, there’s little Morrissey can do to convince that his is anything but a bleary, parochial fool, the Peregrine Worsthorne of pop. (Paul Mathur, Melody Maker, 15 August 1992)

Peregrine Worsthorne was the homophobic editor of the The Sunday Telegraph.

Peregrine Worsthorne in The SUNDAY TELEGRAPH wrote: “The public’s first reaction to this new danger will be to look for a scapegoat… In the case of Aids, male homosexuals undoubtedly are responsible.
(Media Watch, Gay Times, March 1985) https://gtmediawatch.org/ https://www.buzzfeed.com/amphtml/patrickstrudwick/this-man-spent-25-years-fighting-newspapers-over-their

The NME would go on to conflate Morrissey with anti-immigrant, former Tory, Ulster Unionist MP, Enoch Powell, and blame him for racist attacks and genocide; pretending that the Union Jack that he’d held for less than 3 minutes (using it as a whip, a cape and a skirt, before throwing it away) was ‘racist imagery’. The NME had used the Union Jack on their front cover 6 months before Finsbury, held by the heterosexual (as far as we know), Damon Albarn.

NME, 28 March 1992

1992 was also a year in which there was fierce debate about lowering the gay age of consent from 21 to 16. The concerns about boys being corrupted by older homosexuals are echoed in the NME’s concerns about Morrissey’s ‘gullible fans, following their leader” And their fixation on his masculinity and sexuality. If you swap out ‘racism’ for ‘gayness’ – the 1992 article makes more sense.

How far has his infatuation with the skins and their paraphernalia gone? (NME, 22 August 1992)

“And where does this leave gullible Morrissey acolytes and fans who hang on his every word and applaud his every image-move… It’ll be a scary prospect if some think it’s hip to follow their leader on this one (NME, August 1992)

And so, the Government is, after all, going to allow a vote on the gay age of consent. “Mouthy Edwina Currie has set herself up as a sage,” ranted a Daily Star  editorial. (26 May): “She’s now campaigning for the homosexual age of consent to be lowered to 16… How can she possibly support such a hideously revolting idea which will contribute to the corruption of so many sick and weak-minded young kids?”  The Sun said (2 Jun): “… We can be sure that even if the age were brought down to 16, the gay lobby would not be satisfied. They would want to follow the Danes and the Dutch down to 12 or 13.” … The Sunday Express (31 May) [said]: “If MPs place heterosexuals and homosexuals on the same legal basis they will imply that there is no moral difference between the two.” The point about “protecting the young” was made over and over again. Lynette Burrows in The Sunday Telegraph (7 Jun) based her objections to any change on the idea that adolescent boys are easily persuaded to give up their heterosexuality by “predatory homosexuals who would gain most if they were allowed to recruit from among them… One must conclude that the basis for the relentless self-advertisement of many homosexuals is related to this desire to recruit new partners. Many are dedicated to the untrammelled appetite for sex that… often results in degradation and disease. It is… a life-style that can easily be portrayed to a vulnerable teenager as the answer to all his problems of identity and sexual longing.”
(Media Watch, Gay Times, July 1992)

The NME’s follow up comments increased the victim-blaming and the hints about homosexuality. Lavender has long been a colour associated with gay people.

Let’s examine why Morrissey might have cuddled the Union flag. One, he might have wanted to show his national pride. Possible, but if I was a BNP yob I’d think he was taking the piss and would throw something, and if I wasn’t, I might throw something anyway because nationalism stinks – keep those ‘Ethnic Cleansing’ concentration camps in your mind. Two, he might have been reclaiming the flag for non-racists. Great, but cue missiles. Three, he might have been taking the piss, provoking the crowd. Here come those coins. Maybe he just likes the pattern on the flag, I dunno. But don’t kid yourself. Morrissey is no idiot. He must have suspected that a Madness gig would attract a football crowd. Even if he wasn’t, he must have been aware that there were some yobs there. To go onstage in the flag is to be a 50p magnet, no matter what it might mean in an ideal world. Don’t go feeling sorry for him: he has more power than you’ll ever have. He probably relishes this controversy. You’ll have your own battle to fight: let Morrissey fight his. He’s hardly a bloody martyr for being hit by a carton of juice, is he? He’s a pop singer, not Jesus – IM (Ian McCann, NME, 29 August 1992) https://mycuttings.blogspot.com/2021/04/1992-08-29-morrissey-nme.html

In the past, Morrissey’s interesting and ambiguous foibles were of a personal nature; his new fascinations have taken him into an altogether more public domain. Morrissey’s sexuality, for instance, subject to so much speculation and teasing over the years, is, at the end of the day, his own affair. His flirtation with skinhead/nationalist/racist imagery and ideas is a whole other thing… It’s pathetic that so many of Morrissey’s fans feel driven to fight Morrissey’s battles for him (painting themselves, voluntarily or otherwise, into all sorts of disgusting corners) while the man himself hides behind the lavender handkerchief of Artistry. WHY? (Danny Kelly, NME, 5 September 1992) 
https://mycuttings.blogspot.com/2021/04/1992-09-05-morrissey-nme.html

The footage of the gig has been on YouTube since at least 2008 – confirming that the crowd heckled things like ‘bloody poof’ and their aggression had everything to do with his ‘prancing’ and nothing to do with the flag. And it’s backed up with eye witness accounts from the day disputing the NME version.

In his book, Cider with Roadies, Maconie recounts his near-guilt at his then-employers, the NME, trying to finish off his hero by daubing him as a racist. Maconie tells the tale of Morrissey’s doomed gig at Finsbury Park, supporting Madness in 1992 and gets it as wrong wrong wrong as everyone else has down the years. I was there, near the front, so let me explain. Morrissey was on the same bill as Ian Dury, Flowered Up, Gallon Drunk and, of course, Madness. What kind of audience do you think those bands had? Maconie’s account (and the usual old cobblers recorded in music press annals) is that Mozzer was bottled off by a liberal crowd who disapproved of him waving the Union Jack and singing a song about the National Front. In this version, the Finsbury Park crowd turn their back on our hero because he is ‘flirting’ with ‘racism’ etc etc. Actually, Madness’ crowd – who knew? – had a very rough and tumble skinhead element who despised Morrissey for his perceived gayness. There he was in his gold lame shirt, prancing around playing his B-sides, when the first 50 rows of the crowd would have preferred someone more suitable to slot into the none-more-geezerish bill. Chas and Dave, maybe. There were chants and heckles that these days would be called homophobic and eventually he was bottled off. I got a punch in the face too. There were loads of fights all over the place and no security. The summer of love it wasn’t. Mozzer was NOT bottled off for being too right wing. He was bottled off for not being right wing enough. For being too gay. Of course you could blame Mozzer himself for his still-ongoing attempts to ally and ingratiate himself with the Big-Lads-With-Tattoos-Who-Don’t-Like-Poetry faction. You might say he was asking for it, starting the set with a load of B-sides. But I am sure if any of the other acts on that stage that Saturday had waved the flag, much of the crowd would have been only too happy to fall in line and prepare to invade France. (The Pastel Collision, WordPress, March 19th 2009) https://pastelcollision.wordpress.com/2009/03/19/117/

A few months later the Union Jack was everywhere – a key symbol of Britpop – which started with the ersatz queer Suede before de-queering Indie completely.

Select, April 1993

In 1997, NME editor, Steve Sutherland – who had written a homophobic review of Morrissey’s Hulmerist VHS, and who thought that Billy MacKenzie had been made gay, possibly by Morrissey – repeated lies from his former paper, the Melody Maker, to argue in Vox, that Morrissey was the only artist (in the entire history of showbiz) too sinister to touch a Union Jack.

[Morrissey] had appeared at Finsbury Park the previous weekend on a bill with Madness and draped himself in the Union Jack, inciting a flurry of Sieg Heils in the crowd and a shower of coins and cans. Morrissey had already been flirting with skin and suedehead imagery in his recent solo work… five years on and Geri Spice appears at the Brits in a Union Jack dress… Morrissey flaunting the flag in a field full of nascent racists is a tad closer to the Nuremberg Rally than Geri Spice wearing the flag on telly. The symbolism is far heavier and the intent quite conceivably more sinister. (Steve Sutherland, Vox, June 1997)

“His sexual orientation seemed to change after Sulk [1982] ” says Steve Sutherland. “When I first met him, he had a girlfriend. After that, there was no question that he was homosexual.”… mid-eighties gossip suggested Morrissey and Mackenzie were having an affair. (Paul Lester, Uncut, June 1997)   
http://www.billymackenzie.com/articles/uncut0697.htm

Vox Caption: Jack off! Morrissey prompted universal outrage in 1992 when he appeared at Finsbury Park draped in the flag. Skinheads seig-heiled and Moz was accused of, at best, irresponsibility, at worst, racism. His career never recovered.

Vox, 1997

Things didn’t improve until 2004 & they fell apart again in 2007 when he was interviewed in the NME, by Tim Jonze.

By the 2000s, London, and other major cities had gentrified and corportised. Morrissey was ambivalent about it. But he had clearly been against draconian (antagonistic, racist) immigration policies.

All the awful cliches about Los Angeles are, of course true. But I feel less affected by them than most, because I happen to think that ALL PEOPLE EVERYWHERE are mad. (Morrissey, Rolling Stone, September 1999)

Two compelling reasons emerge as to why he has stayed put in LA. The first is that he has become inexplicably popular with Mexicans… The other big draw for him in LA is his house. “It’s quite decayed, but all the more interesting for that. It remains in the condition it was in when I stepped into it. The paint is peeling, and I’ve had a few floods.” It is, in fact, a place redolent with Hollywood legends and decades of partying, known to movie historians as “the gayest house in Hollywood”…  One of the reasons he was not unhappy to leave Camden, he says, was because of the way it became trendy around the time of Britpop. Bands such as Blur began talking up the local bars, “which was disturbing, because the pubs in the area, which had a flavour of the past, were suddenly full of trendy foreign students. It was shocking”. (Robert Sandall, Sunday Times, 9 May 2004)

My mother still lives [in Manchester], I can’t recognize the town. Everything has been restored. It’s an incredible town, where people are stylish, sexy. When I was younger, it was a depressive, dark town, showing scars from war. And then, suddenly, the elders are gone: where did they put them? Are they all dead? I just see now young people up with fashion, with tan skin due to the sun. But, well, I don’t imagine myself like that, so no regret. (Morrissey, Les Inrockuptibles, 19 May 2004, translation by Guillaume Deleurence)

With all my heart I urge people to vote against George Bush. Jon Stewart would be ideal, but John Kerry is the logical and sane move. It does not need to be said yet again, but Bush has single-handedly turned the United States into the most neurotic and terror-obsessed country on the planet. For non-Americans, the United States is suddenly not a very nice place to visit because US immigration officers – under the rules of Bush – now conduct themselves with all the charm and unanswerable indignation of Hitler’s SS. Please bring sanity and intelligence back to the United States. Don’t forget to vote. Vote for John Kerry and get rid of George Bush! (Morrissey, True to You, 28 October 2004)

The Smiths, a visual documentary, Johnny Rogan, Omnibus Press, 1994. The UK left was against American global hegemony – seeing it as a form of cultural imperialism.

The first signs of trouble played out on fan websites and newspaper blogs.

I was in the vicinity when Tim from the NME sat down with Morrissey and raised the issue of immigration and the influx of immigrants to the UK. Morrissey agreed that it was a problem and Timothy continued with some leading questions. (Anonymous, Morrissey Solo, 19 November 2007)

Hi Merck [Morrissey’s then manager], Hope you’re well. I should mention that for reasons I’ll probably never understand, NME have rewritten the Moz piece. I had a read and virtually none of it is my words or beliefs so I’ve asked for my name to be taken off it. Just so you know when you read it. Best, Tim (email from Tim Jonze, posted on True To You, 27 November 2007)

Hi Merck. I need to drop you a line about the Morrissey piece running in NME this week. It’s going to be much stronger than we’d originally discussed. Having lived with Morrissey’s comments from the second interview and discussed [them] with the editorial team we’re running a piece where the comments aren’t ducked and NME’s position is made very clear… given that his views are not those that we’d normally expect to come from someone in the very liberal world of rock’n’roll, we’re not able to either support them or print them without comment. (email from NME editor, Conor McNicholas, posted on True To You, 27 November 2007)

When reading it we request that you think for yourself and consider what is question and answer and what is inflammatory editorial on the part of the NME… (Merek Mercuriadis, True To You, 27 November 2007) https://web.archive.org/web/20080702201247/http://luckylisp.com/

The Guardian wrote in his defense:

To further muddy the issue, unlike Powell’s largely venomous, racially-slanted speech, Morrissey’s follow-up interview comments consist pretty much of what you’d expect of any reader of this newspaper. Explicitly denying that immigration is the reason he doesn’t want to live in Britain, he damns this country over the cost of living and the shooting of Jean Charles de Menezes, admits that managed immigration “enriches” the country, says his favourite actor and singer are from Israel and Iraq, says he finds racism “very silly” and supports the Love Music Hate Racism campaign. Indeed, he wanted the slogan on the (now withdrawn by NME) free single. Although the use of language like “the gates are flooded, anybody can have access to England” is perhaps unfortunate when taken out of context, in the context of the interview his position is remarkably similar to that adopted by all three mainstream political parties in this country – that immigration is beneficial but shouldn’t be a free for all, nor should it be contrary to the retention of a firm and recognisably British national and cultural identity. Without wishing to sound like his hero Kenneth Williams, the latter is the central thrust of Morrissey’s position… I agree with NME that in the current climate Morrissey’s comments – and certainly, the way they have been sensationalised – are “unhelpful”, so why are they a) prompted in interview and b) splashed across the cover of the paper? (Dave Simpson, 28 November 2007) https://www.theguardian.com/music/musicblog/2007/nov/28/mozgate

But also condemned him – mostly based on the Finsbury Park article from 1992 – though adding in the detail that he’s an Irish immigrant. His ‘comeback’ hit, ‘Irish Blood English Heart’, had made his ethnic and religious background hard to ignore. Rather than making them rethink the allegation that he was a racist for holding a Union Jack, it just added to their disgust with him.

the son of Irish immigrants should have known better. I suppose I just blanked out his appearance draped in the union flag at Finsbury Park. I dealt with it by not listening to Morrissey any more, confining myself to the Smiths records I had loved in more innocent times. But the latest gaffe is probably one too many. The complaint that Britain is losing itself is the classic whinge of an expat – no more serious than that – but there comes a time when you can’t listen to music made by someone whose views you find repugnant.  (Jeevan Vasgar, the Guardian, 29 November 2007) https://www.theguardian.com/music/musicblog/2007/nov/29/whythisbritishasiandoesnt

Then Jonze wrote a Guardian blog in which he blamed Morrissey for a British Empire which had laws against Irish Catholics, compared him to a BNP which would have murdered him for his sexuality, blamed him for fear-mongering press coverage which Jonze was about to add to, and told him to apologise and educate himself about race issues when Jonze knew absolutely nothing about Irish Catholic or LGBT+ issues.

I wrote a piece saying that Morrissey – although liberal in many of his views – was using the language of the BNP and Enoch Powell when it came to immigration. In the piece I mentioned that his comments likening the UK to that of “going to Zagreb and hearing nothing but Irish accents” were offensive as they compared British ethnic minorities to tourists. I also said he was being overly nostalgic for a Britain built partly on empire and imperialism and that someone as well travelled as Morrissey had no excuses for such comments…. Were Morrissey’s comments ill-informed and likely to provoke anger inside those of us who are tired of hearing the right wing press and the BNP whip up fear with the same factually distorted statements? Undoubtedly…. If Morrissey holds these opinions he should either be sticking to his guns and standing by them or – more honorably – educating himself on race issues, realising why his comments were both offensive and inflammatory, and apologising for them as quickly as is humanly possible. (Tim Jonze, the Guardian, 30 November 2007) https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2007/nov/30/timjonze

Now, if I’d come screaming out of the interview shouting “HE’S USING THE LANGUAGE OF THE BNP, I’M GOING TO TELL THE WORLD” then I’d never have got to see the gigs (essential part of my brief) and I’d have had pressure from management to swing the piece in their favour which, although it wouldn’t have made a difference, I’d sooner not have to put up with. There’s no obligation to tell management that you don’t like their artist’s comments. It’s his own stupid fault for spouting all that drivel. By now, Morrissey should really know how interviews work. He doesn’t deserve warnings and copy approval. (Tim Jonze, below the line comment, the Guardian, 2 December 2007)

The interview was published in the NME on 1 December 2007. Morrissey said nothing bad. The shock-horror value rested on hyping up a few dramatic words – this is a man who writes love songs about being killed by a ten-ton truck – linking it to the Finsbury Park story – and lying about his ‘immigration stance’.

NME Editorial: there comes a jarring moment towards the end when he steers the conversation on to a topic we never thought we’d find ourselves discussing with him again: immigration. Suddenly the natural biligerance we’ve come to expect from him over the years takes him into dangerous territory.

Are you annoyed by the state of the world?

Can we help but be annoyed? Certainly in England, everyone is taxed for everything under the guise of saving the planet. Which is pathetic because unless cutbacks happen on an industrial level then the world will always be a mess.

Is there hope for the future?

I don’t see why because to be a politician you have to be corrupt. There’s no democracy in England because they pay no attention to the people who elected them. If anything, they quite despise them.

You live in Italy now? Would you ever consider moving back to Britain?

Britain’s a terribly negative place. And it hammers people down and it pulls you back and it prevents you. Also, with the issue of immigration. It’s very difficult because, although I don’t have anything against people from other countries, the higher the influx into England the more the British identity disappears. So, the price is enormous. If you travel to Germany, it’s still absolutely Germany. If you travel to Sweden, it still has a Swedish identity. But travel to England and you have no idea where you are.

Why does it bother you?

It matters because the British identity is very attractive. I grew up with it, and I find it quaint and very amusing. But England is a memory now. Other countries have held onto their identity, yet it seems to me, England was thrown away.

Isn’t immigration enriching the British identity, rather than diluting it?

It does in a way, and it’s nice in a way. But you have to say goodbye to the Britain you once knew.

That’s just the world changing.

But the change in England is so rapid compared to the change in any other country. If you walk through Knightsbridge on any bland day of the week you won’t hear an English accent. You’ll hear every accent under the sun apart from the British accent.

It’s worth pointing out here that Knightsbridge is the most expensive street in London and it’s mostly owned by absentee billionaires whose contribution to British culture amounts to a couple of weeks a year. And that since the invasion of Ukraine on the 24th February 2022, there’s been an effort to get rid of the Russians. https://news.sky.com/story/shameful-inaction-from-ministers-still-allows-russian-dirty-money-to-flow-through-uk-says-report-12642870

For two decades, Russian cash surged into the capital – Transparency International has estimated that between 2015 and 2022 alone, £1.5bn of property was bought by Russians accused of corruption or having links to the Kremlin: by the end, London was so popular with Russia’s richest, it became known as “Londongrad”. “You didn’t actually think at the time that a lot of people had been crushed, or whatever happened to them in Russia… You look back on… the nine unsolved murders. And of course, what’s happening today, with this ghastly Putin. And you’ve got to realise that they have no respect for human life. They have no respect for anything.” (Emma Haslett, the New Statesman, 11 May 2022) https://www.newstatesman.com/the-business-interview/2022/05/they-have-no-respect-for-anything-the-quiet-remorse-of-the-man-who-sold-london-to-putins-oligarchs

That’s not true, you sound like a Tory.

Mmmmmm. I understand, because I would like the freedom to go around the world and be anywhere. So you have to allow others the same freedom, really. So I’m not sitting here saying it’s a terrible thing. I’m saying it’s a reality and to many people it’s shocking.

After the infamous race row [the 1992 Finsbury Park story], do you not worry about talking about this?

Not really, because the more I travel the more I love the world as a whole.

There are people who are still very offended by some of your songs.

If you consider yourself to be a social writer then you have to stretch yourself and put certain topics on the table for discussion. And I think it’s quite interesting to push people slightly and see how far they’ll go before they put their hands up and say, hang on. But I can’t understand why anybody would be offended.

The line that a lot of people find hardest is from Bengali In Platforms [written in 1988, nearly 20 years previously], ‘life is hard enough when you belong here’.

Yes, but those people don’t know the protagonist in the song, who didn’t belong here. I wasn’t writing about those people. It was someone else.

So why don’t they belong here?

Because they didn’t. Some people just don’t.

Again – it’s worth pointing out that Morrissey had direct experience of growing up between two cultures (Dublin and Manchester) and that he’d talked about the confusion it caused, the discrimination he’d faced, and the way he often felt he didn’t belong.

I’m wondering if you’ve ever felt completely at home. Do you mean on this planet? Yeah. Not at all. That’s what I fret about all the time. There’s a place in my mind, obviously a little fantasy setting, as there is in all our minds—but no. And what’s that fantasy? It’s self-control, and it’s learning to be still and be quiet and sit still and not be concerned about the revolving world. But it’s just a place of peace. Feeling settled with oneself. (Morrissey, GQ, April 2004) https://www.gq.com/story/morrissey-interview-jim-nelson/amp

NME Editorial: This is not the first time that Morrissey has trod clumsily around the area of immigration. At the start of the 90s there was a huge fallout between Morrissey and this magazine. On August 22nd 1992 NME’s cover featured an image of Morrissey prancing around on stage at Finsbury Park with a Union Jack flag and the coverline “Flying the flag or flirting with disaster?” Inside the piece accused Morrissey of experimenting with racist imagery, not just at the Finsbury Park show where he was supporting Madness (whose audience at that time included a vocal contingent of far right National Front supporters), but also in the lyrics of some of his songs. 1998‘s Bengali In Platforms from his 1st solo album, Viva Hate, contained the couplet: “oh, shelve your Western plans/ And understand that life is hard enough when you belong here”. Meanwhile the brazenly titled National Front Disco, ostensibly the tale of a mother grieving for a son lost to right-wing extremism, was widely criticised for its lyrical ambiguity in lines such as “you’ve gone to the National Front disco/ Because you want the day to come sooner. As is the case today, the early 90s were agitated times when a new influx of immigration [there was no influx of immigration] coincided with the rise of far right activity and the BNP recruiting at an alarming rate.

I gather you were unhappy with how some of your comments came across.

That’s not entirely true. I just think it could be construed that the reason I wouldn’t wish to live in England is the immigration explosion. And that’s not true at all. I am actually extremely worldly and there are other reasons why I would find England very difficult., such as the expense and the pressure. And certain things do worry me. In my view the face of Britain is not Gordon Brown or David Cameron, but Jean Charles de Menezes. His story, I find shocking, absolutely. It was termed an accident, but you don’t shoot someone seven times in the head, by accident. The people who control these investigations are always in on the game, and everybody associated with the murder was exonerated or promoted, which is shocking.

Ok, but did you think back over anything you said and think, ‘I don’t mean that’?

I feel that… the racism slur is dead wood, isn’t it? And in my life my favourite actor is an Israeli, Lior Ashkenazi, and my favourite singer was born in Iraq and now lives in Egypt. So, I’m not part of Little Britain. And by that I don’t mean the show, obviously.

Here, Morrissey is reminded – yet again – that he doesn’t belong in England – and he isn’t entitled to a full range of opinions.

Immigration allowed your parents into Britain and that’s how you got to make your very British music.

Yes, but once again, it’s different now. Because the gates are flooded. And anybody can have access to England and join in.

If you were in charge would you close the gates?

You have to be sensible about everything in life. You can’t say ‘everybody come into my house, sit on the bed, have what you like, do what you like. It wouldn’t work.

This gets related to Asians – despite the increase in immigration in 2007 being due to freedom of movement within the European Union – and Morrissey not mentioning Asians – or expressing any hostility to any immigrants.*

If you were an Asian Morrissey fan and you read that, would you not feel like you were being blamed for something?

No, I wouldn’t at all. I don’t blame anybody. Millions of people leave the country every year because they don’t recognise the place, so I’m not saying anything unusual. If you travelled to Croatia tomorrow, for instance, and walked around Zagreb hearing nothing but Dublin accents, you’d find it shocking.

Do you think these comments are at the very least badly worded?

No, not at all. I don’t think they’re inflammatory, they’re a statement of fact. Whatever England is now, it’s not what it was, and it’s lamentable that we’ve lost so much.

Did you see the Love Music Hate Racism issue of NME?

Yes.

Would you like to support that campaign?

Yes. Although I find racism very silly. Almost too silly to discuss. It’s beyond reason, and makes no sense and is ludicrous. I’ve never heard a good argument in favour of racism. I gather this is going to be a sensational scathing piece and I’m going to be pilloried?

This isn’t a stitch up. There is obviously a need for debate around taboo issues like immigration.

Well, I agree with you. So what you’ve just said in the final seconds of this conversation is my point entirely.

But some people could find your comments very offensive.

I can’t imagine anyone being offended by it. Why would I want to offend anyone? I think people want to be offended and there really is nothing we can do about that.

NME Editorial: so there we leave it, shocked that 15 years on, we’re once again locking horns with Morrissey over the issue of cultural identity in Britain. Morrissey, the son of immigrants, who has lived for most of the past decade in either LA or Rome wants others to have the freedom to travel the world like him, but implies that he would shut the gates to people coming to live in the UK [he didn’t] At the very least it smacks of naive hypocrisy, but mostly sounds like the ravings of a rogue Tory MP. And at the very worst? Well, we’re certain that Morrissey would absolutely seek to distance himself from racist organisations, what he won’t realise is that the language he’s using about a ‘traditional’ England lost under a ‘flood’ of immigration dangerously echoes that used by the crypto-fascist BNP. Here at NME fresh from the support we’ve given the recent Love Music Hate Racism campaign, we’re not in the mood to play in grey areas. He might once have been the voice of a generation, but given his comments in these two interviews, he’s certainly not speaking for us now. https://illnessasart.com/2021/12/16/nme-1-december-2007/amp/

The hard/far right hates immigrants. They don’t just miss old things. They don’t just use words in ways that ‘liberal’ magazines disapprove of. Although that ‘liberal’ magazine had no issue with homophobic language or homophobic violence. And in ripping out ‘England is flooded’ etc – that ‘liberal’ magazine was giving tabloids and the far right an excuse to spread more hate.

So that The Sun could claim that Morrissey supported their aggressive demonisation of immigrants. http://news.bbc.co.uk/newswatch/ifs/hi/newsid_4110000/newsid_4112500/4112513.stm

10 years later, white supremacists, Generation Identity England, could use it in their memes.

And The New European would think it was ‘ironic’ that Morrissey didn’t support the Tories or Trump (not twigging that Morrissey thought May’s immigration policy was antagonistic, not too lax) – while reminding him that he’s from a nastier immigrant group – and fretting about a distinctive cultural identity – a thing immigrant, sexually ambiguous, Morrissey – isn’t allowed to do.

In May 2017, Morrissey took to Facebook to tell his followers what to blame for the bomb that killed young music lovers in the native city of Manchester: “Theresa May says such attacks ‘will not break us’, (meaning) that the tragedy will not break her, or her policies on immigration.” A fandom turns its back and gags… It is worth noting that the bomber was born in Manchester to Libyan parents. Like most extremists, he was a second generation migrant, and it didn’t escape me that Morrissey was born to Irish immigrants and grew up at a time when the IRA were creating more pain and misery on the British mainland than the Islamic State are capable of today. Should Elizabeth and Peter Morrissey have been denied the right to settle in Manchester? Should Morrissey’s romantic Manchurian childhood have been precluded by the minuscule possibility that he would grow up and plan a mass murder instead of merely sing about one? Ironically, Morrissey ought to be a fan of the Conservative government, who have used thick layers of bureaucracy and restrictions to create conditions that barely fall short of President Trump’s infamous travel ban by making it almost impossible for anybody from African and the Arab world to settle in the UK… In 2016, as Morrissey and John Lydon celebrated Brexit from the Hollywood hills, I created a new rule and decided to delete every song I had that hadn’t been realised in the previous two years… unless we make an effort to rally around new voices, our generation will sink into history without a distinctive sound to call its own. (Nicholas Barrett, the New European, 25 June 2018)

Morrissey was upset by the NME’s hit piece.

My heart sank as Tim Jonze let slip the tell-all editorial directive behind this interview: “it’s Conor’s view that Morrissey thinks black people are OK … but he wouldn’t want one living next door to him.” It was then that I realized the full extent of the setup… (Morrissey, the Guardian, 4 December 2007)
https://amp.theguardian.com/music/musicblog/2007/dec/04/morrisseyresponds

The NME claimed he singled out immigration.

There is no doubt Britishness is changing… [but]… To single out immigration as the key is, we believe, inaccurate and inappropriate. This matters because it’s the kind of victimisation, of ‘us’ and ‘them’, and we’re not into that, not one bit. (Connor McNicholas, NME, 8 December 2007)

And denied making the article inflammatory.

A spokeswoman for the NME said it stood by its story and awaited a writ. “We haven’t done anything to make the interview read in a more inflammatory way,” she said. (Oliver Duff, the Independent, 29th November 2007) https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/morrissey-blames-immigration-for-disappearance-of-british-identity-760825.html?amp

Ex-NME hack, Steve Wells, wrote a hit piece – misinterpreting his lyrics, taking quotes out of context – telling him he doesn’t belong here and doesn’t understand the English – entirely oblivious to far right homophobia.

I’ve never liked Morrissey. His band the Smiths all but wrecked Brit alt-music in the 1980s. And then there was his penchant for dodgy statements about race and ethnicity. “Reggae is vile,” he sniffed. “Obviously, to get on Top of the Pops these days one has to be, by law, black,” he whined. He flirted with skinhead imagery. He draped himself in the flag. And there was “Bengali in Platforms”—a song the NME called “a convoluted diatribe against assimilation”—featuring the line: “Life is hard enough when you belong here.” And “We’ll Let You Know,” in which Moz serenaded soccer hooligans as “the last truly British people you’ll ever know.”… then, a couple weeks ago, Moz gave an interview to the NME during which he vomited up the sort of ill-informed stupidity about immigration that one often hears from embittered and pig-ignorant old idiots, usually prefaced with: “I’m not racist but … ” “These days you won’t hear an English accent in Knightsbridge,” said Moz—a bit rich, coming from a son of Irish immigrants who now lives in Rome. “The gates of England are flooded. The country’s been thrown away,” he moaned, sounding horribly like some vote-grubbing anti-immigrant politician.The English have always been good at hybridity. We’re a hybrid people. Total mongrels. It’s our greatest strength. It’s what makes us English. It’s astounding Morrissey has never grasped this. (Steven Wells, Philadelphia Weekly, 12 December 2007)

Ex-NME hack, David Quantick, would use a review to associate Morrissey with Enoch Powell, the National Front, Tories, Eric Clapton (who had made white supremacist comments at a gig in the 1970s, and supported Enoch Powell, without it harming his career – it’s Morrissey who gets the punishment for Eric’s politics) He also used it to claim that Morrissey’s – homoerotic – solo music excluded minorities, and to state that he should be ashamed of himself because he’s an immigrant.

But what I find intolerable is the sheer, deep-dyed, everyone-loathing self-obsession of the man. And even that… would be less unpleasant if it hadn’t manifested itself in what is surely the least attractive trait in any popular musician since Eric Clapton sided with Enoch Powell… I can accept his all-too-frequent songs about British culture (let’s have them: Asian Rut, Bengali In Platforms, The National Front Disco, Irish Blood English Heart) are sincere attempts to address thorny topics. I’m sure his love for skinheads and the Union Jack is rooted in… eroticism and patriotism. Fine.What vexes me is that once Morrissey made music that talked about the underdog, the victim, those in the minority. Now he makes music that excludes those people. The odd song about a Mexican gang member and a lonely lesbian doesn’t disguise the fact that he’s quite happy to dismiss a whole chunk of the population as people who, to use the nasty phrase from Bengali In Platforms, don’t belong here… as the child of an immigrant parent, he really should know better than to attack immigration (which is, you ignorant quiffy rock exile, what keeps this country from being a Royal Family-led NF tourist park). 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. Sadly, he never will be” (David Quantick, The Word, March 2008)

Finsbury was the keystone for every narrative denouncing Morrissey as a bigot. And just as his suspected homosexuality was the reason for his racism – his Irishness became a reason for his (English) racism.

The two decades in between show a pattern of questionable behaviour from Morrissey. ‘Reggae is vile’, Bengali in Platforms, Asian Rut, National Front Disco, We’ll Let You Know: none of it decisively damning, of course… The divorce came in 1992. The NME, which had overindulged on Moz for years, ran a piece questioning a particular kind of flag worship in front of an audience of skinheads… Irish Blood, English Heart is an ambiguous call to arms wishing the English could rally round the flag without being called racists… Morrissey brought up the issue of immigration effectively unprompted… So it appears to be something he genuinely wants to talk about, and always has… the words of this ageing English-speaking Rome-resident economic migrant are dull and distasteful, and say nothing to me about my life. (Rob Morgan, MSN Music, December 2007)

Morrissey sued The Word, and won, in 2008. He would also sue the NME and win an apology in 2012. Which only made (some of) the UK press hate him more. https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/nme-finally-gives-morrissey-what-he-wants-vfrpc80c0n8

Guardian Media Group, the parent company of the publisher of the Guardian and MediaGuardian, owns a 29.5% stake in Development Hell, the company that publishes the Word. (Ben Cardew, the Guardian, 29th June 2012)
https://amp.theguardian.com/media/2012/jun/29/magazine-word-to-close

A couple of anonymous homophobic articles mentioning Jonze were published in The Quietus – calling him a truculent fruit & wheeling out the ‘gay men can’t be trusted with children’ trope.

Morrissey To Tell All In Autobiography… Tim Jonze to get own chapter?.. Asked if he was referring to the ongoing Moz is a bit of fascist NME hoo-hah, the truculent fruit replied… (The Quietus , October 22nd, 2008) https://thequietus.com/articles/00589-morrissey-to-tell-all-in-autobiography

Morrissey In Satanic Baby Record Sleeve Shocker… Morrissey has been painted as a few unpleasant things in his time – Nazi, control freak, skinhead-appeaser, reggae-hater, sanctimonious vegetarian… Now he’s really gone potty, if the cover for his new album Years Of Refusal is to believed. What, pray, is that on Morrissey’s arm? The result of a chip pan accident? A vicious assault from Tim Jonze’s biro or Andy Rourke’s voodoo doll? A cheap, ill-conceived tattoo done in Camden after one of Moz’ nights out in the Edinburgh Castle? More disturbing, though, is the baby that he’s holding. Whose is it, for a start? Ponder that, and look at the baby’s forehead… We’ve only got a Photoshop-defying low-res version to examine, but what on earth are those lumps and bumps, arranged in a suspicious pattern? Might not they be a pentagram carved into the poor mite’s perplexed noggin? People should be told. (The Quietus , December 2nd, 2008) https://thequietus.com/articles/00822-morrissey-in-satanic-baby-record-sleeve-shocker

But they also reported that the NME wanted to use Finsbury Park as evidence against him.

…the NME’s lawyers argued that it would be unreasonable to expect them to remember the events of 2007, yet they went on to stress that if the case went to trial, they would wish to cross-examine Morrissey on events leading back not 3, but 19, years, to 1992, when the NME aggressively ran a “is Morrissey racist?” campaign. (The Quietus, November 7th, 2011) https://thequietus.com/articles/07345-morrissey-issues-nme-statement

In 2010, Jonze joined the Guardian and used its clout and credibility to “prove” Morrissey was a racist, shaming charities, roping in colleagues and lobbying for the music industry to shun him.

It was the NME row that led to the word ‘subspecies’ being lifted from a Morrissey interview (in the Guardian, in 2010) – and continuously repeated to condemn him. If they worried about the effects of ‘inflammatory’ language then endlessly repeating it to destroy an Indie singer, who mostly refused to give interviews, and who clarified that he was only condemning China’s welfare laws, was a strange way of improving race relations.

Wilful testing of race-related taboos really ought to stop. He’s caused enough upset on race in the past to know perfectly well that he ought to take care with his public remarks. But he hasn’t. So if the charge is causing racial offence, the only feasible judgment is guilty. (Tom Clark, 3rd September 2010) https://www.theguardian.com/global/2010/sep/03/morrissey-race-taboos-tom-clark

Guardian’s Culture editor

Morrissey stayed his contrary self.

If you’re asking me if I miss Wilfred Pickles, the answer is no. I don’t miss the old Manchester of my youth because it was too violent. You’d walk through city centre Piccadilly on a Saturday afternoon and it would be a constant test of nerve. As soon as someone met your gaze you knew you were in trouble. (Morrissey, Loaded, February 2013)

It doesn’t take much to be thrown into a cell at LAX! You will notice that the Immigration Officers are persistently ordering you to ‘stand there’, which is a test to see if you will bow to their orders… they can​ ​be as illegal as they wish. Incidentally, when I arrived in Sydney last year the officer at Passport Control did her best to insult me and to cause a scene when there was no need… They use the ISIS issue as an excuse to denigrate everyone, and they absolutely love it. ​(Morrissey, News Com Au, 3 August 2016)

But the stress of being relentlessly attacked by supposedly progressive Guardian journalists – who were repeating lies and misinterpretations that were decades old, while trying to twist everything he said into a new public outrage – took its toll.

Regular Guardian freelance contributor

Between 2009 and 2014 his mental and physical health significantly declined. https://edition.cnn.com/2014/06/13/showbiz/music/morrissey-cancels-concerts/index.html

In 2017, his new album, Low In High School, was derailed by social media’s amplification of every out of context quote or false claim every made about him.

In a 2010 interview with the Guardian, he referred to the Chinese as a subspecies. In 2014, he told fans there was no difference between eating animals and pedophilia. Before and after these comments, Morrissey repeatedly, consistently made nasty remarks about immigrants… we need to stop giving Morrissey a platform to be so awful. This means newspapers need to stop interviewing him and people need to stop going to his shows and buying his albums… and anyway, his new album “Low in High School” and its flirting-with-fascism lyrics is no “The Queen is Dead.” (Jed Gottlieb, Boston Herald, 7 December 2017)

Looking for an explanation for the Guardian’s implacable disfavour, his nephew seems to have picked up on alt/far-right memes that were aimed at left-wing wedge issues. Vegans, feminists and LGBTQ+ people were particularly targeted. Which is why Morrissey believed that, Anne Marie Waters, who went from the Labour Party, to UKIP, to her own movement, For Britain, was being lied about.

I despise racism. I despise fascism. I would do anything for my Muslim friends, and I know they would do anything for me. In view of this, there is only one British political party that can safeguard our security. That party is For Britain. Please give them a chance. Listen to them. Do not be influenced by the tyrannies of the MSM who will tell you that For Britain are racist or fascist – please believe me, they are the very opposite!!! (Morrissey, Morrissey Central, 20 April 2018)

The Guardian want to destroy you because you said you were not a member of the ‘Loony Left’. At this stage, anything you say they will turn into a global threat to humanity. (Sam Esty Rayner, Morrissey Central, April 2019, published on 24 June 2019)

Mentioning Anne Marie Waters (3 times), For Britain (3 times, he wore their badge twice), and Tommy Robinson (once, in one sentence; Robinson being the far right grifter who recruited Anne Marie to what she believes is the centre right, who is now co-opting** the ‘gender critical movement’, which is supported by several Guardian journalists, sitcom writer Graham Linehan and J K Rowling), was the killer blow.

The For Britain Badge joined the Union Jack as a visual symbol of his unique evil.

Finally, his career seemed to be dead, and in the obit, Tim Jonze wrote that it was Morrissey who was aggressive at Madstock. The victim of a hate crime, had been made into the perpetrator of a hate crime: https://www.theguardian.com/music/2019/may/30/bigmouth-strikes-again-morrissey-songs-loneliness-shyness-misfits-far-right-party-tonight-show-jimmy-fallon

Waving the union jack during his show at Madness’s Madstock festival in Finsbury Park, London, in 1992, felt like a more aggressive move (this was before Britpop’s Cool Britannia-era reclamation of the flag, and its association with the far right was still strong). And it was done in the knowledge that the Madness crowd contained a significant fascist/skinhead element. When – according to Pat Long’s book The History of the NME – the paper’s sole black writer Dele Fadele persuaded NME’s editors to publish a critical cover story about it, Morrissey refused to speak to the magazine for 12 years. Tjinder Singh from Cornershop says his band were admirers of the Smiths, but began to feel wary of Morrissey in the late 80s, thanks to the tone of his solo songs such as Bengali in Platforms (“Shelve your western plans / And understand / That life is hard enough when you belong here”). In fact, by 1992, Singh was so incensed by the singer’s behaviour, Cornershop burned a picture of the singer outside the central London offices of EMI, Morrissey’s label. “We took action because we needed to. We expected other people to take action, but it never happened.” It is hard not to agree that proper, forceful criticism of Morrissey is overdue. (Tim Jonze, the Guardian, 30 May 2019)

This homophobic lie remains on the Guardian website – and the article is one of the first things to come up if you Google Morrissey. Which might be ironic:

Where an older generation of music writers succumbed to something akin to homosexual panic in the face of Turner and Kane’s swinging sixties idyll, Jonze used it as the spur for a bold acknowledgement of the homo-erotic foundations of the UK’s rock ‘n’ roll heritage, blithely asserting that ‘a firm friendship between two consenting males has been the overriding story through five decades of British guitar music’. Perhaps there’s hope for the old paper after all. (Inky Fingers, the Guardian, 16 May 2008)  https://www.theguardian.com/music/musicblog/2008/may/16/inkyfingersmaggotylambpick5?CMP=gu_com

In three interviews with his nephew on Morrissey Central, spread over three years (2018-2020), he tried to explain why he was being accused of racism, which only gave them more material to falsely accuse him of racism.

… the blustering 80s idol is in irreversible decline… since 1992, when he supported Madness in north London’s Finsbury Park wrapped in a union jack, the singer’s pronouncements have tended towards the controversial… The word “bell-end” tends to appear in the comments section under reports of his antics on this organisation’s website. (Kitty Empire, the Guardian, 4 March 2018)

He’s not party political – but his views are left-leaning. https://www.dazeddigital.com/music/article/36165/1/morrissey-blasts-theresa-may-praises-intelligent-corbyn

He dropped For Britain in May 2019.

But he’s still labeled ‘right-wing’ or ‘reactionary’ and is still a pariah.

In the modern-day culture wars, Morrissey’s emergence as, first, a critic of immigration, then a supporter of Nigel Farage, and finally an endorser of the proscribed far-right organisation Britain First put him on the wrong side of history – far beyond the pale. It’s so sad to see the once scourge of The Daily Mail’s middle England readership become such an espouser of its core values.
(Sean Smith, the Independent, 14 May 2022)

The Smiths’ song cast as long a shadow as the Sex Pistols’, and it is a peculiar irony that both bands’ singers soured into nostalgic reactionaries. (Dorian Lynskey, the Guardian, 1 June 2022)

While Tim Jonze found that John Lydon’s heterosexual relationship mitigated his – genuine, in context – pro-Trump, pro-Brexit, anti-woke, anti-BLM political opinions.

Lydon has been misunderstood for most of his life… So, yes, Lydon still backs Trump. But he dismisses our own Trumpian prime minister as a “Humpty Dumpty teddy bear” who can’t get anything done. Then he does another about-turn by hitting a rather Johnsonesque note about loving flag waving and his issues with “BLM and the woke and all of that – making problems that really were almost semi-non-existent”… It seems pointless to get into an argument about any of it. Instead, I think about how this follow-up call was made possible in the first place: Lydon is speaking from his bedroom, where he has set up a video monitor so he can keep an eye on [his wife] Nora… This, I suspect, is where the real John Lydon resides. The rest, as they say, is just noise. (Tim Jonze, the Guardian, 13 June 2022) https://www.theguardian.com/music/2022/jun/13/john-lydon-sex-pistols-johnny-rotten-danny-boyle-the-queen

Side Note: one argument is that there was no homophobia against Morrissey because the 1980s had successful gay and bisexual pop stars. But they made dance music with a huge female fanbase, like the Pet Shop Boys, or they camped it up, like Elton John, or they were jammed in the closet, like George Michael. Morrissey was one of the few non-heterosexual men in Indie, he was the ‘voice of a generation’ – not One Of Them being Exotic – and he had a fanbase of teenage boys who wanted to touch him.

What about that story that you were “sick over a blonde” at the club?
I’m suing over that. Which is why The Sun have never been after me recently and are still after me. That story was a total fabrication — I was never even there, I never saw this girl. Next everyone’s telling me they’re going to run a big gay story on me. I’m prepared. As far as I’m concerned my life is on course now. I feel great now and I have to believe that the relationship I’ve built up with the public over the last 5 years strong enough to withstand any crap the papers throw at me. People have been saying that I was gay for years anyway; people have been questioning my sexuality from the start.
But you’ve always enjoyed playing with it, teasing people, haven’t you?
I did, yeah.
And you’ve deliberately never denied being gay?
Yeah, but that’s for three reasons. One, because I was playing with it. Secondly, I think it’s extremely distasteful that once you get in a position of public renown you’re supposed to prove your sexuality one way or another. Thirdly, what’s the point of denying it? It doesn’t make any difference if people want to believe it they will. I have no doubts about my sexuality. Anyway, if I had thought about sleeping with men and if I was going to do it I wouldn’t sit here and say it to Smash Hits. Sexuality is a totally private thing and it should always stay that way.
So what about someone like Morrissey who claims to be celibate?
I don’t believe Morrissey’s asexual. I believe he’s totally winding everybody up. I really do.
What if he’s not?
I think it’s a shame. Sex is one of the most important experiences in life and I think it’s a shame if it’s denied to anybody. I’m not advising 13 year olds to go and do it though.
(George Michael, Smash Hits, 3 June 1987)
https://gmforever.com/1987-smash-hits-magazine-interview-with-george-michael/

Before they became absorbed by multimedia Muzak, ‘Two Tribes’ and ‘Relax’ seemingly offered a ticket to amorality with their sado-masochistic lyrics and commercial dance rhythms. Disco (dance), hitherto the province of underground gay clubs, became publicly acceptable… without FGTH, “hetero” teen acts like Take That wouldn’t get away with their peculiar brand of homo-erotica… “We took questionable advice at the onset and perhaps the spotlight put on us by the media contributed to our falling apart. It was very thrilling but also disturbing and it definitely backfired on us. There was potential controversy the whole time. The imagery of bondage and sadomasochism I introduced was simply to attract attention because I believed people wanted sex and spectacle rather than serious musicianship.” For 18 heady months, the Frankie story had everything: sex, whores, controversy and ruined hotel rooms, with the classic sub-text of hard drugs, discarded teenyboppers, loose women, loose men, violence and vegetable oil.  (Max Bell, Vox, December 1993)
https://www.zttaat.com/article.php?title=209

In public homosexuals have to conform to certain unwritten rules of behaviour, which of course, do not apply to heterosexuals. If they don’t, they face intolerable heckling and in many cases physical assault. Queer-bashing still seems to be quite a popular sport in urban areas. (Salford University Students’ Union Gazette, 1 June 1978)

The past year has seen an increase in the number of attacks on gay people, the successful prosecution of Gay News and its subsequent banning by WH Smith, the vicious assaults on lesbians by the Evening News and the Daily Express, and the attack on the Royal Vauxhall Tavern by members of the National Front. Yet again gay people have been sacked, beaten up, and murdered and the police harassment of gay people has been stepped up. (Gay Pride, 1978, leaflet)

Remembering the day defiant activists clashed with the National Front over an iconic Huddersfield gay bar: Scott-Presland and other activists marched through Huddersfield towards the town’s polytechnic, where they had planned a day of entertainment for queer revellers. Needless to say, the march didn’t go off without a hitch, thanks to the ominous presence of the National Front. “We had tremendous excitement getting from the park to the thing because this is where all the National Front people came out of the woodwork,” (Patrick Kelleher, Pink News, 21 June 2021) https://www.pinknews.co.uk/2021/06/21/london-pride-huddersfield-west-yorkshire-police-the-gemini-gay-bar/

Gay Pride, 1981

A group of affluent teen-age ″skinheads″ suspected in attacks on up to two dozen homosexual men boasted to police after their arrest in a park, authorities said… The loose-knit group calls itself the Buffalo Rochester Aryan Skinheads, or B.R.A.S.H., and its 10 members live in affluent neighborhoods in the Rochester area… In his statement to police, one of the group’s leaders, 16-year-old Timothy Waite, of Rochester, said, ″Basically, what we believe is that we do not like blacks or homosexuals.″ Rickard said it appears the attacks were only against homosexuals. (Randolph Picht, AP News, 17 May 1989)

Garard and Hyder condemned hatred spawned by neo-Nazism and white supremacy. But they see no contradiction in advocating violence against gays as an act of morality, patriotism and self-defense. “I’ve fag-bashed before,” said Garard, acknowledging that his former apartment served as a base for skinheads, including some who told him they beat up Rod Johnson and others in September. Garard said he is aware of other groups of skinheads in the Washington area who have beaten gays. Many of the attacks have been in a part of Rock Creek Park, called the P Street Beach, that serves as a sexual rendezvous for gay men. Hyder and Garard said skinheads who beat gay men do so because they are offended by public expressions of homosexuality, such as gay men holding hands or kissing. Defending his attacks on homosexuals, Hyder said, “If they flaunt it in my face, that’s disrespectful.” Hyder said that gay men meeting for furtive sex at night in little-used parkland were not necessarily “flaunting” their homosexuality, but said he sought to beat them anyway because “it’s hard to do it in broad daylight. We’d get arrested.” Garard and Hyder said they feel threatened by homosexuality in society. (James Rupert,  Washington Post, 19 December 1988)

Three alleged neo-Nazi skinheads from Huntington Beach were found guilty Thursday of beating a Laguna Beach man in a gay-bashing incident but were acquitted of charges that they were trying to kill their victim. It was the first conviction in the state under a 1987 civil rights statute that outlaws crimes of hatred against a specific group, such as homosexuals, prosecutors said. The jury in Superior Court in Santa Ana also convicted each of the three men of felony assault. Gay community leaders said the misdemeanor civil rights conviction represents an important social statement of opposition to crimes aimed specifically at gays and other minority groups. (Eric Lichtblau, Los Angeles Times, 2 December 1988)

Guardian music contributor

The Secret Gay Life of Star Frankie” (Sunday Mirror, 9 Aug)… of course, as they tell it, the comedian’s gay nature was part of his “dark side”… Being gay can never… be a simple fact of life, it has to be “sordid”.
(Media Watch, Gay Times, September 1992)

Richard Ingrams in The Observer (3 June) had no doubt what was going on. “It is all part of the campaign by militant homosexuals to dictate the vocabulary… the expression ‘homosexual community’, suggesting a persecuted racial minority, helps lend respectability to the cause.”
(Media Watch, Gay Times, July 1990)

Side Note 2: more context/commentary on the Morrissey Question.

The allegation is dangerous and insulting… especially when you consider that he has never publicly espoused racist views… However, the NME is right to stress the alarming cumulative effects of Morrissey’s flirtation with right-wing imagery… Yes, he was fascinated by Suedehead and its lurid tale of violence against blacks and homosexuals, but… he wrote the wonderfully moving ‘Suffer Little Children’ and… his most romantic song (‘There Is A Light That Never Goes Out’) eulogised violent death… (Johnny Rogan, open letter in the NME, 29 August 1992)

Andrew Collins has changed his story a few times over the years:

Morrissey was “branded a racist” according to popular lore, which, although untrue, stuck. He declined to speak to the NME after this… He is a drama queen… (Andrew Collins, his blog, 28 November 2007) https://wp.me/pRMkU-7E

I maintain that the important bit was Dele’s editorial, and I will continue to maintain that. The ideal cover story would always have been an interview with Morrissey, perhaps conducted by Dele Fadele, or Danny Kelly… in 1992 we ran a piece that should have contained an interview, but didn’t, and had to rest upon editorial and speculation, and no rebuttal ever came… The NME had its own new spat with Morrissey and, ironically, this was much more similar to the Richard Herring story, in that it was based upon an interview, and came down to misrepresentation. And it went to court… It remains one of the very few NME covers that people remember from the 90s, and do you know why? Because 99% of NME covers were, and are, nice photos of bands, advertising their latest record or tour. Like it or loathe it, the August 1992 cover was an attempt at news; an instant reaction to events. I say an attempt, because a decent news story has input from the protagonists of the story – at the very least a statement. Ours had nothing of the sort… I will always wish Morrissey had spoken to us that week, even though what’s done is done and dwelling on the past causes tumours. This is not deflection of blame. We wrote what we wrote. But it could have been different, and it would have been better. However, since he is enjoying a purple patch of creativity and critical respect in middle age and seems (how can any of us ever know, even those of us who’ve met him) happy and looks terrific, I don’t feel guilty. (Andrew Collins, Morrissey Solo, August 1st 2009)

His writing partner, Richard Herring, had a similar experience – but is media savvy – so it didn’t last long. Morrissey is more emotional and gets upset with the editors.

In an attempt to prove the debatable point that there is a “new offensiveness” in comedy, Logan quoted that one off-colour line and nothing else. He then included contentious statements from two more of my routines (about hating Pakistanis and supporting the BNP), providing little indication of how or why they might have been said. Is it possible he interviewed me with an argument already in mind, cherry-picking the lines that supported his hypothesis? (Richard Herring, the Guardian, July 2009) https://amp.theguardian.com/stage/2009/jul/31/richard-herring-standup-comedian-brian-logan

Billy Bragg, the singer-songwriter and author of The Progressive Patriot, said yesterday: “I think what he said is inflammatory. He just doesn’t realise he’s playing with fire. I can’t help feeling there’s a certain wilfulness in talking to the NME and bringing these things up. (Ciar Byrne, the Independent, 5th December 2007)
https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/this-britain/musical-differences-bigmouth-strikes-again-762871.html?amp

I wanted to read the new Morrissey interview. I was on the staff in 1992 when we ritually turned on the man, concerned that his thoughts on race and immigration were rather ambiguous. It was a defining moment, a chance to consider the Union Jack, the revival of Fascists in Britain and the wisdom of getting patriotic at a Madness gig in Finsbury Park… The new interview has been painted up as some titanic battle between the mag and the Moz. Certainly, they won’t be on speaking terms for another decade or two. Even the journalist Tim Jonze is unhappy, claiming that the paper has editorialised around his transcript. Morrissey’s management has threatened to sue. The gist of the debate is that the singer believes that the English character has been “flooded” by immigrants. He still yearns for the days of Nobby Stiles, Rita Tushingham and tetchy ruffians. He thinks this era was “quaint”, and essentially over. He’s surely correct. Which is rich coming from the son of a Dublin blow-in. Who lives in Italy, California, or wherever. But reading the piece, it seems that Moz bears no malice to the newcomers. Back in 1992, we might have welcomed this distinction. The new debate is half-cooked, loosely argued and out of character with the paper’s thin agenda. You know, it’s really nothing. (Stu Bailie, BBC Blogs, 1 December 2007) https://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/stuartbailie/2007/12

John Harris has a faulty memory:

During the Thatcher years and beyond, Union Jacks, RAF targets and the merest whiff of patriotism were enough to prompt instant exclusion from “indie” circles. When Morrissey danced around with a Union Jack on stage in 1992, the NME’s headline was: “Flying the flag or flirting with disaster?” A year later, Blur heralded the release of Modern Life Is Rubbish with a promotional picture titled British Image 1, featuring the group clad in skinhead-style attire and posing with a threatening-looking dog, and some writers on the same paper, where I worked before I became the editor of Select, were equally irate. But then, almost without warning, there was a sea change. By 1995 the very word “Britpop” crystallised the sense of newly acceptable – albeit camped-up – patriotism. (John Harris, the New Statesman, 1 May 2017)

2 June 1990 – football and racial stereotypes in the Melody Maker

The Pat Long version is riddled with untruths and errors.

Forget acid house and baggy, Morrissey was the NME, something which made what happened in August 1992 all the more strange. On a sunny weekend in North London’s Finsbury Park, Madness re-formed to play their first gigs since they’d split acrimoniously in 1986. Only one act performing wasn’t a Londoner: Morrissey, who was due to go on stage immediately prior to the Nutty Boys. The paper’s sole black writer, [any gay writers?] Dele Fadele, arrived at the office, fuming. “Dele was an amazing guy,” says Collins, “a fabled African prince who lived in a squat. He came in to work absolutely impassioned and offended by what he’d seen at Finsbury Park.” As Fadele described it to the rest of the staff, Morrissey had waved a Union Jack thrown on to the stage in front of a huge picture of two skinhead girls taken by NME photographer Derek Ridgers in 1980. It was a provocative move in front of Madness’ crowd, which had always been dogged by an unaccountable association with the Far Right. [Suggs was a skinhead, and was friends with the lead singer of neo-Nazi band Skrewdriver] But the fact that Morrissey’s set also included the songs Bengali in Platforms (“Bengali, Bengali/ Oh, shelve your Western plans/ And understand/ That life is hard enough when you belong here”) [his set did not include Bengali In Platforms] and a new track, The National Front Disco, seemed calculated to inflame both the right-wing and liberal members of the crowd, for entirely different reasons. In retrospect Morrissey’s dalliance with skinhead imagery was just another manifestation of the singer’s fascination for rough boys rather than any evidence of fascist tendencies. But that year there was nothing cute about messing about with such imagery. 1992 was the year that Combat 18, the white supremacist group implicated in the deaths of several non-white Britons, was formed. [they also attacked and killed gay people and Irish Catholics] When the NME’s staff heard about what Morrissey was up to, they were aghast. An emergency summit meeting was held at King’s Reach Tower. “It was like a Cobra meeting for the government,” says Collins, “like being on a real newspaper” The following week’s NME featured a five-page examination of his lyrics and interviews, scouring all for clues to racism, as well as an impassioned piece by Fadele. The conclusion? While crediting Morrissey with the ability to employ irony, the NME staff had to conclude reluctantly that their hero was, at best, a misguided Little Englander. (Pat Long, excerpt of the NME Story, The Times, 9th March 2012)

Morrissey intends to remain undefinable. He’s a conversational escapologist, eluding any attempt to pin him down. Take his sexuality. It’s 20 years since Rolling Stone magazine described him as gay, much to his annoyance, and he still refuses to specify. Often he denies any kind of sex life at all. That’s his business, but it’s a long time to maintain ambiguity… He feels the press victimised him, too. On his new single, Irish Blood, English Heart, he sings of “standing by the flag not feeling shameful, racist or partial”. He’s referring to his notorious performance at Madness’s Madstock weekender, in 1992, when he wrapped himself in a Union Jack and was branded a racist by the music press, casting a long shadow over his solo career. Four years later Noel Gallagher emblazoned the flag on his guitar without censure, an irony that did not escape Morrissey. Could he not have simply explained his intentions? “Well, you know, I haven’t just arrived from the village,” he snaps. “I did think of all these things. I knew the people I was dealing with, and there was no point in reaching out to them. . . . I think it was a couple of journalists who couldn’t stand the sight of me and wanted to topple me. And they tried. And now they’re gone. And I’m sitting here in the Dorchester talking to you.” He smirks triumphantly. (Dorian Lynskey, the Guardian, 8 April 2004)

He is… driven by revenge. He wants the last word. “I do feel as though I have been somewhat victimised,” he told Mojo a few years ago. But what has he been “victimised” for? The 1992 show where he sang “The National Front Disco” draped in a union flag seems to have been a turning point. At the time, I was one of the few people in the music press who felt that Morrissey should have been given the benefit of the doubt. Perhaps he was trying to make some arcane point about the nature of Britishness to a park full of Madness fans. In retrospect, though, it seems pretty clear that he was defying people to misunderstand him, fattening his persecution complex. (Peter Paphides, the Guardian, 10 March 2012) https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2012/mar/10/debate-morrissey-national-treasure

Morrissey is, if anything, an easy artist to leave behind: his politics seem so fundamentally antithetical to his original appeal that it’s hard to find a reason to continue supporting him, his famous laments now stinging with resentment and anger. Then again, as The Guardian point out, Morrissey’s anti-immigration views may be bolder than before but can be traced across his career, having spoken out against a “black pop conspiracy” against The Smiths during the band’s last years, and flirting with nationalist imagery and lyrics in the ’90s. (Jared Richards, Junkee, 8 November 2019)

Although Morrissey only spoke out explicitly about his reprehensible views in the two thousands, he had been courting the attention of racists since the early ’90s… From 1992 onwards, the performer emerged onstage draped in the Union Jack; around the same time, he welcomed the “skinheads” that had become part of his fanbase. (Joseph Earp, Junkee, 20 April 2021)

Side Note 3: Some Irishness and Catholicism

The singer Morrissey grew up in the Stretford area of Manchester. His mother was a librarian. (‘I was born in Manchester Central Library,’ he later said. ‘The crime section.’) His father is the usual mystery: he liked football and appears not to have been close to his football-ignoring son. He got divorced from Morrissey’s mother when the singer was 17 and was later rumoured to ring radio stations insisting on his estranged son’s Irishness.

Andrew O’Hagan, London Review of Books, 4 March 2004

cartoon with a joke about the Irish being lower than monkeys. Life Magazine, 11 May 1893

Here is a second-generation Irishman, and sometime Dublin resident, who has infamously flirted with right-wing British nationalism…  For an Irish audience, perhaps, the most interesting thing about Morrissey has been his willingness to wrap himself in the Union Jack in a fashion that has left him open to the accusations of associating with Britain’s Far Right… It strikes us as strange that an artist whose Irishness bleeds through in so many ways — his tireless cheerleading of bands from the old country, his love of Oscar Wilde, his stint in Dublin — should be connected with extreme British nationalism. It is in the context of his Irishness that Morrissey’s worship and championing of Oscar Wilde makes particular sense, suggests Campbell. “Wilde is interesting and not only because of his sexuality, which I think Morrissey obviously identified with,” he says. “Wilde is situated between Ireland and England. There are lots of English people who aren’t necessarily aware of Wilde’s Irishness. (Ed Power, Irish Independent, 29 July 2011)

A lot of Morrissey’s problems come from his indirectness of speech – which may have its roots in his Irishness.

the “post-colonial personality” revolves around various types of constriction, which are in response to domination by the colonizer. Constriction takes the form of social and personal withdrawal. The former embraces “elaboration of secret worlds, superficial compliance, indirect communication and lack of self-revelation” (Moane 1994: 259), generating behaviours such as “passive aggression, evasiveness, understatement, backbiting and avoidance of competition or self exhibition” (Moane 1994: 259). Indirectness, Kenny (1985: 73) asserts, is a “survival technique which had a strong survival value in the face of oppression where it was important to learn to be evasive, to develop a mental dexterity and a sharpness of intellect which answered a question with a question, and was effective in deceit and manipulation”. Linked with this is a tendency to find it difficult to “be confronting of others”, even if the complaint is justified. This results in a tendency to complain to one another about a third party rather than directly confronting the third party (Martin, Gillian. “Indirectness in Irish-English business negotiation: A legacy of colonialism?”. The Pragmatics of Irish English, edited by Anne Barron and Klaus P. Schneider, Berlin, New York: De Gruyter Mouton, 2011, pp. 235-268. https://doi.org/10.1515/9783110898934.235 )

Englishness is all too often a codeword for home counties. (Sukhdev Sandhu, the Guardian, 10 March 2012)

The English philosopher John Locke is seen, not just by Anglosphere advocates, as a founder of liberalism and of notions of tolerance. He was also a shareholder in the Royal African Company, which supplied African slaves to the English colonies. His Two Treatises on Government argued that “all men by nature are equal” while also making a case for the legitimacy of slavery. Locke’s view that Catholics should be denied rights shaped English law for two centuries. (Kenan Malik, the Guardian, 26 September 2021) https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2021/sep/25/the-anglosphere-is-just-a-cover-for-the-old-idea-of-white-superiority

Irish butt of English racism for more than eight centuries (the Independent, 20 March 1996)
https://www.independent.co.uk/news/irish-butt-of-english-racism-for-more-than-eight-centuries-1342976.html

The first is the staggering racism involved in invoking the drunken Irish stereotype on any pretext. Secondly, the DUP’s evangelical bent means many party big-wigs are entirely teetotal. Furthermore, even those DUP diehards who don’t ascribe to abstinence would sooner drink holy water than Guinness. Despite its solid Protestant, unionist heritage, it is synonymous with Dublin, and therefore not a big hit with the east Belfast set. (Seamas O’Reilly, the Irish Times, 11 June 2017) https://www.irishtimes.com/culture/art-and-design/apes-psychos-alcos-how-british-cartoonists-depict-the-irish-1.3149409

Anti-Irish behavior was a part of British life from the Middle Ages and it was helpful to have a stereotype to justify it. The mid-Victorian years – between the Famine and the emergence of the Home Rule movement – witnessed by far the most intense examples. (Padraig Colman, Irish Central, 11 April 2022) https://www.irishcentral.com/opinion/others/the-origins-of-anti-irish-jokes-and-how-they-impacted-irish-worldwide.amp

* Two news stories might have contributed to the NME’s sensationalist stance. In December 2006, ENB ballerina, Simone Clarke, was outed as a member of the BNP. And In January 2007, Bollywood actress, Shilpa Shetty, was bullied on reality TV show, Big Brother (UK).

Clarke attracted a high-profile supporter to the performance in the shape of Richard Barnbrook, BNP councillor for Barking and Dagenham. “I don’t normally go to the ballet but I’m going to support Simone Clarke. I’m supporting her freedom of expression.”… Mr Barnbrook claimed to have no objection to Clarke’s relationship with Cuban-Chinese partner Yat-Sen Chang. “He works, he pays his taxes, he pays his dues, he has as much right to be here as anyone else,” he said. However, he hoped the couple would not have children.”I’m not opposed to mixed marriages but their children are washing out the identity of this country’s indigenous people,” he explained, quickly adding: “That’s my view, it’s not the party’s view.” (Press Association, the Guardian, 12 January 2007)
https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2007/jan/12/thefarright.dance

I was fuming watching Dispatches about the preachers of hate that New Labour have allowed to infest some mosques in this country and who seem to be free to spread their hatred and religious intolerance among young British Muslims. I am not saying all Muslims are fanatics, but clearly there are some who must now be regarded as the real enemy within. However, rather than condemning these religious, fascist nutters and calling for the Government to boot them out, the usual suspects on the Left have been busy getting their knickers in a twist about ONE ballerina, Simone Clarke, who’s joined the BNP. (Jon Gaunt, the Sun, 16 January 2007)
https://www.islamophobiawatch.co.uk/hands-off-bnp-ballerina-gaunt-demands/

I guess the other thing Barnbrook demonstrates is how close artistic subcultures, including queer subcultures, have come to fascism over the years. If you want to play six degrees of separation from Jarman to Griffin, he’s probably the winning move but hardly the only one. You could go via Psychic TV to Coil to Current 93 to Tony Wakeford, who used to be in the Front. Or via Marc Almond, who was apparently initiated into the Church of Satan by Boyd Rice, who also worked with Current 93. Or straight from Psychic TV to Nicky Crane, who appears in their ‘Unclean’ video. Or use Stevo Pearce, whose brother ran the Front alongside Griffin in the ’80s. Or Richard Moult, or … well, you get the picture. (Max Schaefer, 3am Magazine, 26 July 2010) https://www.3ammagazine.com/3am/children-of-the-sun-max-schaefer/

The controversy over alleged racism towards Shilpa Shetty by fellow contestants of a British reality TV show escalated on Wednesday with Prime Minister Tony Blair and the Indian government weighing in… [Goan-origin Labour MP, Keith Vaz] pointedly asked Blair to remind broadcasters such as C4 of their duty not to “publish any such prejudices” to millions. (Rashimee Roshan Lall, Times of India, 17 January 2007)
https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/rest-of-world/shilpa-shetty-racism-row-escalates/articleshow/1257374.cms  https://www.theguardian.com/media/2007/may/24/broadcasting.channel4

**Tommy Robinson co-opting…

https://hopenothate.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2022/03/state-of-hate-2022-v1_17-March-update.pdf

https://transsafety.network/posts/gcs-and-the-right/

Black Music Conspiracy

In July 1986, in an interview on Canadian radio, Morrissey explained that he thought the Smiths were being excluded by the broadcasting establishment, and that the line ‘hang the DJ’, in the song, ‘Panic’, was about UK radio DJs.

I notice, and I’m sure it’s not an accident, that as the times that we live in become more serious and more critical, popular music, which is such a ferociously fierce and strong art form, goes further and further away from reality. And I almost feel, that it’s almost a political thing. That is, there’s a whitewash occuring, that the nonsensical and useless bland artists are being pushed forward and we’re being force fed. And any groups who dare to confront very real issues, in a very realistic way, are silenced, are gagged. So this is something that we constantly have to fight against. I mean, the Smiths, in England have had 10 consecutive hit singles, and we’ve had huge LPs, and yet, we still are never played on national daytime radio. They will not play the Smiths. I mean, even this week, today, we were the highest new entry in the top 100 with a new single called, Panic, came in at number 18, and they won’t play it. So what can you do? You have to suspect that there’s some, um, fierce political, um, canoodlings occurring… Hang the DJ is a recurring line in the new single, Panic, and once again, as ever, we’re finding problems. I can’t think why, but, um, as I say, this single, Panic, has entered really highly and they won’t play it, because of this line, ‘hang the DJ’. They say it’s offensive. I can’t really imagine why, because when we sing ‘hang the DJ’ live people are ecstatic. This is what they want, to get rid of all these old, boring, middle-aged non-entities, these mediocre people, who are all really controlling the airwaves, and, uh, 50% of the daytime disc jockeys in England are absolutely detested by the people in England. They hate them, and yet here they are controlling our, um, our earlobes, practically. So I’m all for hanging certain DJs. So, watch out. (Morrissey, CHRW London Canada, 29 July 1986)

Less than 2 months later, in September 1986, he was branded a racist for an interview in the Melody Maker, in which the interviewer, Frank Owen, framed his questions using a racist theory that music was divided into warring factions: Indie, which was ‘intelligent’, and made by white people. And Black Pop, which was ‘crude showbiz’, and associated with black people. He also cheerfully opined that ‘Panic’ was about hanging Black DJs. https://illnessasart.com/2020/03/03/melody-maker-27-september-1986/

representing African-Americans as “shuffling and drawling, cracking and dancing, wisecracking and high stepping” buffoons… https://www.ferris.edu/HTMLS/news/jimcrow/links/essays/vcu.htm

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

It’s not clear if Morrissey understood the theory, or was taking it seriously, and most of the interview was puriently homophobic, and angled to push him into coming out as gay, which he later found distressing.

As written, it’s also not clear, what was asked or what order. It appears to start with, ‘so, is the music of The Smiths and their ilk racist, as Green claims?’ (Green Gartside was the lead singer of Scritti Politti.)

Morrissey replied:

“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.”

‘Vile’ is hyperbole and Morrissey was airily scathing about nearly everything.

Frank countered that Black music is more subtle because it works on the body via the dancefloor. Morrissey was unconvinced.

“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.”

‘By law’ is a joke. He’d previously used it about himself.

Well, I wouldn’t stand on a table and shout, ‘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 Top of The Pops producer Michael Hurl, is not black.

Michael Hurl, on the left.

It’s Frank who sums it up as a conspiracy by black artists to keep white people out of the charts, ‘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.’

Morrissey might be trying to fold in Frank’s words, but his suspicion hasn’t changed since the Canadian interview – he still thinks escapist music is promoted by the (straight, white, male) broadcasting establishment:

“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.”

It wasn’t an outlandish idea:

I remember John Peel saying he believed that if they played the music he played on mainstream radio, people would like it. And I remember thinking, ‘Stupid twat.’ But he was kind of right, if you take a jerky, quirky group like the Arctic Monkeys – that’s what happened. (Johnny Cigarettes, Record Collector, 29 March 2018) https://recordcollectormag.com/articles/bit-chinstroking

“It’s not just us”, says William. “It’s also people like New Order, Echo and the Bunnymen and The Smiths. The Smiths have got a number two LP but you never hear The Smiths on the radio. Steve Wright said ‘people don’t want to listen to The Smiths in the afternoon’. That’s absolutely pathetic! How does he know? “The BBC is supposed to be a public company and we’re all supposed to have a share in it but it’s obviously a dictatorship and those people shouldn’t have that power”. (Jesus and Mary Chain, Smash Hits, July 1986)

Frank asks him if he finds Black music macho (tapping into a racist and a homophobic trope; black men as hyper virile, gay men as effete). Morrissey 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 the NME will accuse him of not wanting black people to prosper in the present, as if 1960s music wasn’t still being played). Morrissey jokes:

‘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 violence in Manchester and the lyrics of Never Had No One Ever. Morrissey explains they’re about feeling alienated because he’s Irish:

“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.”

Despite this – the interview was the basis for accusations that ‘Bengali In Platforms’, was telling people from South Asia that they don’t belong in the UK. And it gave the NME its excuse for the 1992 homophobic hit piece.

The Frank Owen interview 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 editorialised with 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:

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. (Morrissey, Autobiography, 2013)

When it was published, Morrissey was denounced as a racist, then defended, in letters pages and comment pieces. Johnny Marr was angry:

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)

No one noticed, or was outraged, by Frank Owen’s racist framing or the homophobia.

Tony Fletcher in The Smiths, A Light That Never Goes Out (2012) condemned Morrissey for his ‘no sex’ agenda:

[Frank Owen] dared suggest in writing that in years to come, Morrissey would be into “fisting and water sports”… “Morrissey is the biggest closet gay queen on the planet and he felt that I was trying to ‘out’ him by bringing this up…” 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 to made it sound as if Panic was about a detestation of black modern music so strong that he couldn’t stop himself from harping on:

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 ascribes Frank’s comments about readers to ‘Morrissey’s thinking’, accepts the racist assumption that Black music is about the body, pretends that British youth didn’t dance before Rave, took ‘by law’ literally and thinks it’s ridiculous to say that escapist music gets more airplay than morose Indie music.

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. While, Frank himself is still blind to the racist assumptions that shaped his division of pop into Black and Indie and thinks Morrissey 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.”

28 years later it was the material for a grimly racist and homophobic ‘satire’ by David Stubbs in the Quietus:

…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… Then came the moment of revelation, as the “Blackfaces” stopped playing, and rubbed away the dark cork on their faces… this had been the only way a white English group could be smuggled onto Top Of The Pops in the 1980s. They had paved the way so that other white English groups might follow, without wigs or make-up. A black day of the sort they weren’t used to for disco musicians but a breakthrough for England! (David Stubbs, the Quietus, 6 January 2014) 

David’s confirmation bias is so strong that he insinuates Morrissey is a racist for comparing Depeche Mode unfavourably to Barry White, and compared him to Donald Trump for using the words ‘no justice’, in a review written to champion his best friend, Linder Sterling’s unsuccessful band, Ludus.

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

And accused Morrissey of ‘trolling’ for using the Attack reggae label in 2004 – nearly 18 years after the Frank Owen interview, and 12 years after Morrissey was accused of racism for holding a Union Jack for less than 3 minutes in front of a crowd who heckled that he was a “poofy bastard“.

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.

David Quantick thinks that what Morrissey was and continues to be, is scum. And dates it from the Frank Owen interview.

Panic on the streets of London
Panic on the streets of Birmingham
I wonder to myself
Could life ever be sane again?
The Leeds side-streets that you slip down
I wonder to myself Hopes may rise on the Grasmere
But honey pie, you’re not safe here
So you run down to the safety of the town
But there’s panic on the streets of Carlisle
Dublin, Dundee, Humberside
I wonder to myself Burn down the disco
Hang the blessed DJ
Because the music that they constantly play
It says nothing to me about my life
Hang the blessed DJ
Because the music they constantly play On the Leeds side-streets that you slip down
Provincial towns you jog ’round Hang the DJ, hang the DJ, hang the DJ
Hang the DJ
….

Side Note: The manufactured and imposed division between Indie and Black music was dubbed the hip-hop wars and played out for most the 1980s and early 1990s.

Frank Owen was interested in hip-hop and house music, 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 hip hop wars was just something internal to NME, it really had little relevance to the scene itself… At NME you had a camp of diehard indie supporters on the staff, editors and writers who wanted to put The Go Betweens and The Shop Assistants on the cover. And there was a very vociferous, ideologically determined camp of “soul boys”—also editors and writers–who thought that only black music was valid, relevant, and progressive. They were very scornful of indie music and regarded it as retrogressive, even crypto-racist in so far as it didn’t engage with black culture. But to me the irony was that your indie fans, tending to be college educated, were more likely to have anti-racist, left-wing, progressive beliefs and attitudes than many of the white fans of black pop. It’s just that rap and R&B didn’t speak to them, it didn’t describe their lives. Being middle class, bookish, shy types, they didn’t like the overt sexuality, the materialism, and in rap’s case, the sexism… The indie faction at NME were more in touch with the magazine’s readership, but they didn’t have the strong ideological drive and discipline of the black music faction, so the latter were able to dominate the paper for a while. But eventually they were all ousted, probably I suspect because the owners of NME could see that pushing hip hop through front covers would alienate the readership and lose sales. At Melody Maker we just loved the fact that NME was tearing itself apart. (Mario Lopes, Publico, 11 July 2014) http://reynoldsretro.blogspot.com/2014/11/c86-and-all-that.html

Side Note 2: In 1990, as reported in the Melody Maker, a group of Black American DJs were told how to do ‘dance music’ by Tony Wilson and Keith Allen. Despite the DJs walking out in disgust, neither suffered any career consequences.

Derrick May has had enough: ‘Ma-a-a-n,’ he says, ‘let me tell ya something. Dance music has been fucked up… I have to sit back and see some bullshit Adamski shit… that’s bullshit. On the charts! Number F-ing One! Okay?’ Tony Wilson rises to the challenge: ‘I’m sure The Rolling Stones and The Beatles sounded pretty shitty to the real R&B people but without The Rolling Stones and The Beatles, you’d never have even known you had R&B in America.’ ‘Well I don’t know about that,’ says Derrick… ‘They say it’s not a dictatorship, but it is. We can’t do anything unless you tell us to as much as we try… We – and when I say we, I mean blacks – we all do something and you’ll come behind us and turn it around and add somebody singing to it or some sort of little funky-ass or weak-ass chord line or whatever and get some stupid record company that doesn’t know jack shit about shit to put £50,000 behind it and you got a fucking hit because you stuffed it down motherfuckers throats. So, this group, y’know, has tremendous success and I don’t know what to say, man. I’ve just been busting my ass, it comes from the heart y’know… we as black people have always had to deal with the fact that we’ve had to be better because, since the beginning of time, we’ve had to walk into a white person’s house and clean a white motherfucker’s ass, okay? So don’t tell me.’ This is too much for Keith Allen. He says: ‘Listen Derrick, I might have white skin but I’m black for fuck’s sake! Look at me Derrick – look at me – I’m black.’ Nathan McGough joins in… ‘The whole Ecstasy and House culture from 1988 was like year zero, Pol Pot. The same way as ’76 with the Pistols and anarchy, year zero…’ Derrick May responds… ‘Our DJs are technically better than yours.’ ‘Bullshit. Let’s talk about DJs, right?’ says Wilson… ‘Your Detroit DJs didn’t have one record that was made in the last fucking six months and they wouldn’t play one thing under 130 bpm. They’re all stick-in-the-muds and they should get themselves fucked.’ The insults are starting to fly thick and fast… Egged on by Derrick May, another guy gets up and says white folks think too much about it all while blacks just do it. From where I’m sitting, this sounds a tad close to the ol’ natural riddim argument. But May’s well into it. ‘Yeah,’ he shouts, ‘that’s also the reason why white people can’t play basketball.’ Keith Allen responds in kind; ‘Yeah, but that’s the reason why black Americans don’t ride horses. You’ve got to remember the reason that white guys don’t play basketball is the same reason black guys don’t ride horses.’ Marshall Jefferson gets up and walks out in disgust.  (Steve Sutherland, Melody Maker, 4th August 1990) http://dewit.ca/archs/JD/New_York_Story.html

Panic

In 1986 Frank Owen accused the Smiths song, Panic, of being an attack on black music.

“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. The detestation that your average indie fan feels for black music can be gauged by the countless letters they write to the music press whenever a black act is featured on the front page. 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. Morrissey has further widened this divide with the recent single, Panic – where “Metal Guru” meets the most explicit denunciation yet of black pop. “Hang the DJ” urges Morrissey. (Frank Owen, Melody Maker, September 1986)

Owen had a theory that “white” music was intelligent and “black” music was physical.

[Black music:] What it 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, September 1986)

But the general assumption was that Owen meant the lines “burn down the disco” and “hang the DJ” were literally about burning down a nightclub playing disco music and hanging a black DJ.

In reality it was inspired by the juxtaposition of cheery pop and a news report about the Chernobyl nuclear disaster on BBC Radio 1.

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

A disco was any gathering where recorded music was played. Discos were regularly held in schools, village halls, universities and nightclubs all over the UK. Radio 1 had a live road show every Summer and their DJs played at live events throughout the year.

The Smiths on the same bill as a Disco, in 1983

Miner’s Gala, Cannock Chase, 2nd June 1983:

When The Smiths came on it was quite obvious that there was going to be a bit of trouble. There had been numerous speeches by various mining union officials and Labour Party politicians, plus a rousing speech by Colin Welland which more than fired up the passions of the mainly male, largely drunk, audience. The Smiths were on stage for a couple of numbers before the verbal abuse started, most of it homophobic and directed at Morrissey. It was no surprise that the bottles and glasses started flying soon after and the band called it a night. (Nick Knibb, Passions Just Like Mine, http://www.passionsjustlikemine.com/live/smiths-g830602.htm )
 

Radio 1 Roadshow

But even if Disco meant the genre, Disco in the 1980s was primarily associated with its most ardent fanbase, gay men.

Between 1983 & 1985 born-again Christian Donna Summer caused intense outrage with an alleged series of homophobic remarks, including that AIDS is God’s judgement on homosexuals. Fans & some nightclubs boycotted her, the gay press condemned her, and Bronski Beat came under fire for covering I Feel Love.

https://www.gayinthe80s.com/tag/donna-summer-anti-gay-remarks/

This was huge music news, but no music journalist thought to ask Morrissey if the line was a comment on the controversy?

Or a comment on the homophobic & racist Disco Sucks movement that was spearheaded by a DJ?

https://timeline.com/disco-sucks-movement-racist-homophobic-2d4e63b43a0e

Or just a play on Disco Inferno? (Burn baby burn) burn that mother down, (Burn baby burn) disco inferno, (Burn baby burn) burn that mother down.

Some journalists had their suspicions, but few seemed to twig that Frank Owen’s assertion was absurd.

The holier-than-thou aspect of Morrissey’s public profile has naturally enough tempted numerous journalists to try and bring him down, though none have met with any great success. Some have unsuccessfully tried to brand him as a racist, picking up on his ‘burn down the disco’ sentiments on black music… The other line has been to probe for a story on the man’s sexuality, taking their cue from the camp artwork on Smiths record sleeves and from lyrics like ‘I’m the eighteenth descendant of some old queen or another’. Perhaps the most “creative” of these investigations involved putting Morrissey together with his friend Pete Burns and “documenting” the outcome. (Stuart Bailie, Record Mirror, February 1987)

England Is Not His

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

Morrissey’s family disliked it.

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

He’s a serial killer:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dog Whistles: Sadiq Khan, Diane Abbott

Morrissey is often accused of singling-out Sadiq Khan and Diane Abbott because of their skin colour, by people who have singled out Sadiq Khan and Diane Abbott because of their skin colour.

His jokes and complaints are framed as ‘dog whistles‘ – although it’s never explained why someone who is denounced as a racist ‘Bigmouth‘ on a regular basis would need to secretly signal to racist voters.

He made his comments about Khan and Abbott in an interview on Central published on April 16th 2018 in which he was also scathing about:

The press, journalists, The Guardian, Spin Magazine, the EU, the British Political Elite, politics, himself, The Smiths, Viva Hate, Kill Uncle, The Times, the music industry, the Laughing Gnome, the NME, the loony left, Hitler, UKIP, Nigel Farage, Henry Bolton, Theresa May, Eid Al-Adar festive slaughter, the Conservatives, Labour, FGM, Halal slaughter, child marriage, ISIS, UK law, milk, eggs, religion, Kosher slaughter, stunned slaughter, humane slaughter, slaughter, television, animal death commercials, the BBC, Channel 4 News, people who hate him, his voice in the Smiths, the tabloids, his career, his health, iPhone pictures, Der Spiegel, the cover artwork for Low In High School, Kill Uncle, Southpaw Grammar & Maladjusted, the house of Windsor, Princess Anne, meat-eating, bullfighting, Spain, murder, London, civilisation, acid attacks, the British Government, the Met Police, political correctness, our age of atrocity, interviews, Jo Coburn, Cathy Newman and England.

Diane had been in the news over a math gaffe.

https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2017/may/02/diane-abbott-has-several-numbers-on-police-costs-sadly-they-are-all-wrong

And he was dismissing the whole of politics while explaining why he didn’t vote for Brexit:

JOHN: Did you actually vote to leave? 

MORRISSEY: No, I haven’t ever voted. I don’t have sufficient faith in the circus of politics … and … you can see why! It is a moral disaster on every level. Even Tesco wouldn’t employ Diane Abbott. 

Later, in response to a question about violence in London, Morrissey took a swipe at the Mayor of London’s diction. As he went on to starkly mention crimes being ignored by the state because they were committed by non-white people, it’s ludicrous to suggest he was using code or that his problem with Khan was about his heritage:

JOHN: London has become a murder capital recently. 

MORRISSEY: London is debased. The Mayor of London tells us about ”Neighborhood policin ” – what is ‘policin’? He tells us London is an ”amazin ” city. What is ‘amazin’? This is the Mayor of London! And he cannot talk properly! I saw an interview where he was discussing mental health, and he repeatedly said ”men’el ” … he could not say the words ‘mental health’. The Mayor of London! Civilisation is over! 

JOHN: But why do you think so many people are being killed in London? 

MORRISSEY: London is second only to Bangladesh for acid attacks. All of the attacks are non-white, and so they cannot be truthfully addressed by the British government or the Met Police or the BBC because of political correctness. What this means is that the perpetrator is considered to be as much of a victim as the actual victim. We live in the Age of Atrocity. 

Morrissey may be hyperbolic and insensitive to social mores around speech, but his underlying point is valid and has been made more soberly by other left-wing voices. Very often the state will enable injustice because of ideology or because the issue isn’t fashionable.

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2021/aug/01/when-moral-pieties-get-in-the-way-of-doing-the-right-thing-children-suffer

He’d used the phrase the age of atrocity before – to signal his distress at the amount of violent imagery in the media/social media.

It’s very difficult for me, I think, to live now, in this electronic age of atrocity. We are fed nothing but carnage and ruin, and we must digest these images and thoughts every single day … so is it any wonder we all look slightly terrorised … this stupid civilization of advertising, advertising, advertising … things that nobody wants. It’s hard to maintain indifference and to not respond. Finally, nothing connects with anything. Even to have imagination suddenly seems hopeless because pop music has become so impoverished and obsessed only with very, very stupid people. It’s fascinating to consider how Radio One once interviewed William Burroughs! These days the program planners at Radio One would pass on William Burroughs in favor of Little Boots. So it’s a bit like trying to deal with people who have nothing but actually want even less than they have. Therefore I look at Richard Davalos and James Dean not as faces from a more simplistic time, but as faces of a beautiful and secret society. You cannot say that about anyone in 2016. (Morrissey, True To You, 18th March 2016)

It’s very likely that his ‘outbursts‘ since 2017 have been his way of coping with that distress – and the rush to obliterate him for racism – when he clearly blames powerful people (the media, politicians, Royals) for the violence that’s tormenting him – will look intensely cruel.

https://www.morrisseycentral.com/messagesfrommorrissey/there-is-a-light-that-must-be-switched-on

Side Note: Morrissey has a hang up about accents – possibly because he was made to feel lesser because he was working-class, provincial and 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… 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. (Morrissey, The Irish Times, November 1999)

Television still emits only the King’s English, which Manchester naturally dismembers by dropping any G that might be at the end of a word. (Morrissey, Autobiography, 2013)

And people who assumed Morrissey was saying Sadiq Khan’s accent was foreign because Khan has Pakistani heritage, slagged off Morrissey’s foreign accent:

However, it was at the end of his interview that Morrissey really went up a gear, claiming that the mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, “cannot talk properly”… Here, Morrissey is on shaky ground, given he has one of the most peculiar cadences of any public figure… As they age, some people mature, some atrophy and others just . . . start emitting a bad smell. (Caitlin Moran, The Times, April 2018)

Side Note 2: There was a spate of London gang related acid attacks reported in the news where the victims and perpetrators were mostly non-white, which – it was alleged – the police didn’t investigate properly out of prejudice and/or political correctness.

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/opinion/2017/07/16/changing-crimes/

Because we are working-class and the majority of delivery drivers are from immigrant backgrounds … I feel that probably there is a negligence from law enforcement and on the government sides,” he said. “They don’t tend to care about us.”

https://www.arabnews.com/node/1236521/amp

Demon of Britpop

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 for less than 2 minutes before throwing it away. 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’.

https://www.forbes.com/sites/davidchiu/2019/12/03/altamont-at-50-the-disastrous-concert-that-brought-the-60s-to-a-crashing-halt/?sh=3ddd92ab1941

The Union Jack had always been used extensively in UK pop promotion.

In 1990 New Order (a band that had used Nazi iconography and slogans in their previous incarnation, Joy Division) 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.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-19596766

https://www.theguardian.com/football/2021/feb/08/english-football-is-consumed-by-racism-and-hatred-can-the-cycle-be-broken

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 National 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 patriotic.

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-on woman. (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)

https://www.phrases.org.uk/meanings/cool-britannia.html

Asian Rut

Asian Rut regularly turns up in the list of Moz crimes, though no one explains why.

Maybe they think the word Asian in the title is racist.

Or that Rut makes it racist. Rut can mean aggressive male sexual excitement, so could be connected to the idea that violence is a form of sexual rivalry. It might even make you wonder how very was the best friend. Or he’s stuck in a rut, a cycle of retribution that will lead to nothing but destruction.

The album it comes from, Kill Uncle, has an air of sardonic ennui, so as with Mute Witness, you could suspect that he was mocking the distress of the song’s protagonist, in this case the boy trying & failing to get revenge. But in context it’s more about the way fate mocks us.

The Asian boy is the hero so he gets the title.

& we don’t know if the narrator will get home, or if, having witnessed the crime, the English boys will get him next, or if he’s somewhere safe repeating a story he heard about that violent place that no one does anything about.

Another objection could be that the Asian boy is English too, but it’s a fight centred around group identity & it’s a drama, not a lecture.

Morrissey has described himself as both English & Irish Catholic, so he knows the way labels move around regardless of citizenship.

The family is young and amused and all Irish-born but for my sister and I… we Irish Catholics know very well how raucous happiness displeases God, so there is much evidence of guilt in all we say and do, but nonetheless it is said and done… The Irish banter is lyrical against the Manchester blank astonishment. (Morrissey, Autobiography, 2013)

Or they could demand that art should be morally clear and respectable when dealing with a sensitive subject – but Morrissey felt he was battling against the class system, and heteronormativity to become a writer and a singer. He had no reason to credit society with making the right things taboo.

I pin so much prestige on James Baldwin that to risk approach places my life on the line: I’d hang myself at any glimmer of a rejection. History books overlook James Baldwin because he presented an unvarnished view of the American essence – as blunt and rousing as print would allow… His liking for male flesh gave the world a perfect excuse to brush him aside as a social danger, and he was erased away as someone who used his blackness as an excuse for everything. In fact, his purity scared them off, and his honesty ignited irrational fear in an America where men were draped in medals for killing other men yet imprisoned for loving one another. (Morrissey, Autobiography, 2013)

The essence of… (Moz Art)… came from an idea I had to take images that were the opposite of glamour and to pump enough heart and desire into them to show ordinaryness as a instrument of power – or possibly, glamour… to present cheerless and cluttered bed-sitter art in a beautiful and proudly frank way… Rules in all things, are simply laid down so that someone might break them. I had learned to guard my secrets carefully…. it would be the ache of love sought, but not found; buttoning your overcoat as you stand before an ash-slag fire as you ponder years of wasted devotion amid the endless complaint of boredom. (Morrissey, Autobiography, 2013)

He was also a punk fan, with its ironic subversion of pop culture – The Ramones singing a teenage tragedy song about the KKK, exposing the bad taste behind the clean-cut beehives.

https://www.legacyrecordings.co.uk/news/death-disc-phenomenon

But then Morrissey tends to put more agony into a song, life is ridiculous AND painful.

I am shocked, but then I fold into convulsive laughter. Some terrible moments are funny. (Morrissey, Autobiography, 2013)

Lyrics:

Day oh so late
Strangely the sun still shone
Ooh Asian boy
What are you on?
Day oh so late
Strangely the sun still shone
Oh Asian boy
What are drugs are you on?Oh… strange
Tooled-up Asian boy
Has come to take revenge
For the cruel, cold killing
Of his very best friend
Tooled-up Asian boy
Has come to avenge
The cruel, cold killing
Of his only friend

There’s peace through our school
It’s so quiet in the hall
It’s a strange sign for one
Of what’s to come
Tough and cold and pale
Oh, they may just impale you on railings
Oh, English boys
It must be wrong
Three against one

Oh …
Brakes slammed and
His gun jammed
And as far as I could tell
Brave Asian boy
Was dealt a blow and fell
I’m just passing through here
On my way to somewhere civilized
And maybe I’ll even arrive
Maybe I’ll even arrive