Black Music

Morrissey’s September 1986 interview with Frank Owen in the Melody Maker created four scandals –

  1. Reggae is vile – conflated with a joke answer to a questionnaire in the NME in February 1985.

2. Reggae is racist – he’s racist for saying that reggae can be racist, despite it being influenced by Rastafarianism whose principles were defined (1977, Leonard Barrett) as including: the White person is inferior to the Black person, Jamaica is hell; Ethiopia is heaven, in the near future Blacks shall rule the world.

3. That he thinks there’s a ‘black pop music conspiracy’ to stop white Indie bands getting on Top of the Pops – actually all he was saying is that television and radio producers (almost none of whom were black in those days – or even now) prefer escapist music.

And – 4. that Morrissey hates black music.

vis-à-vis:

Frank wrote: 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. (There is no evidence for Frank’s assertion that’s it’s about hanging black DJs, and he’s being cavalier if thinks hanging imagery would only be widening a musical divide.) “Hang the DJ” urges Morrissey. So is the music of The Smiths and their ilk racist, as Green claims?

Morrissey said: 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.”

Frank wrote: But it does, it does. 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.

It was music journalists who framed it as an Indie v. Black issue, as if no black person could ever make Indie music, and as if they (or any artist) can have total control over the direction of their art at every stage of their career.

80s Whitney Houston wasn’t happy with her music:

“Sometimes it gets down to ‘You’re not black enough for them. You’re not R&B enough. You’re very pop. The white audience has taken you away from them.’” This was Whitney Houston, reflecting on the first significant setback of her career, when she was booed at the 1989 Soul Train Awards.

https://www.theguardian.com/music/2018/jul/07/not-black-enough-the-identity-crisis-that-haunted-whitney-houston

Mariah Carey wanted to break free:

I always resisted their push to make me fit in a neat adult contemporary category… I created an alter-ego artist… I was playing with the style of the breezy-grunge, punk-light white female singers who were popular at the time. You know the ones who seemed to be so carefree with their feelings and their image. They could be angry, angsty and messy, with old shoes, wrinkled slips, and unruly eyebrows, while every move I made was so calculated and manicured… I wanted to express my misery – and I also wanted to laugh. (The Meaning of Mariah, Mariah Carey, 2020)

Prince thought Morrissey had a point:

I like what Morrissey said about how, isn’t it funny how all the acts go to number one? They go on the cover of Rolling Stone after one release. It took me four albums. The record companies, they have become like carjackers. (Prince, The Independent, June 2011)

And while Morrissey could be sniffy about Prince’s music in the past, when he thought Prince’s veganism was being censored, he wrote a robust defense of his life and work:

Despite his over-the-top fury at the Queen’s press – his main point has always been – that the culture is curated and he doesn’t like the process:

There are no bands or singers who become successful without overwhelming marketing. There are no surprise success stories. Everything is stringently controlled, obvious and predictable and has exactly the same content. We are now in the era of marketed pop stars, which means that the labels control the charts, and consequently the public have lost interest. It’s rare that a record label does something for the good of music. We are force-fed acts such as Ed Sheeran and Sam Smith, which at least means that things can’t possibly get any worse. It is sad, though. There’s no spontaneity and it all seems to be unsalvageable. (Morrissey, Thrasher, July 2015)

It wasn’t about black music v. indie – it was about art v. commerce.

He was treating 80s black pop stars as peers, loving/hating their work the way he did with everyone’s work.

It’s often insulting, but there’s no racist pattern:

You were chosen to compile a new Ramones compilation. But didn’t you write a letter to Melody Maker in 1976 where you said they didn’t have much talent?
Morrissey: No, I didn’t say that! I said they had NO talent! Once I had posted the letter I went home and played the album again and it hit me like lightning. It’s great to be wrong occasionally. When Melody Maker printed the letter I felt so disgusting. I should have been killed in a canoe accident. So ashamed! I deserved a spike in the forehead». (Morrissey, La Repubblica, October 2014)

Do you like jazz?
“It’s boring. I like something spirited.”
Something like gospel?
“‘Oh Happy Day’ sung by hundreds of people who are living in dire poverty in Birmingham, Alabama? No thank you.”
Heavy metal?
Even soft metal I find repulsive, because it completely bypasses the cranium for the loins. The loincloths. I don’t like anything that insults the intelligence.”
Have you ever been to a rave?
“Rave is the refuge of the mentally deficient. It’s made by dull people for dull people.”
Classical?
“I have a lot, but I don’t understand a great deal of it. I don’t understand the musical terms, but I’m learning. I think it’s something I’ll manage to perfect over the next thirty years. Right now I like Jaqueline Dupré – she’s a cellist. But I like anything that’s basically sad.” (laughs) “I don’t like marches.” (Details, December 1992)

“It is actually fraudulent, and the exact opposite of erotic. Edith Piaf was seven inches high, always wore a modest black dress, and sang without stage sets or lights, and her voice roared above the wind, with the most incredible powers of communication. I’d like to see McDonna (Madonna) attempt that.” (Billboard, July 2011)

The Face: “If I put you in a room with Robert Smith, Mark E. Smith and a loaded Smith and Wesson, who would bite the bullet first?”
Morrissey: “I’d line them up so that one bullet penetrated both simultaneously (chuckle). Mark E. Smith despises me and has said hateful things about me, all untrue. Robert Smith is a whingebag. It’s rather curious that he began wearing beads at the emergence of The Smiths and (eyes narrowing) has been photographed with flowers. I expect he’s quite supportive of what we do, but I’ve never liked The Cure… not even ‘The Caterpillar’.” (The Face, July 1984)

“Fire in the belly is essential, otherwise you become like Michael Bublé – famous and meaningless.” (Billboard, July 2011)

Alternative Nation: You’ve talked about American politics quite a bit before, but your music focuses on politics in the UK and that region. Do any politically-charged songs made in America really connect with you and bring your spirit into this country? Morrissey: Of course there has been a great deal of rousing political songs about the American condition … most famously Buffy Sainte-Marie singing “Moratorium”, Bob Dylan’s “The Time’s they Are A-Changin’”, Edwin Starr singing “War”, Joni Mitchell singing “here in good ol’ God Save America / the home of the brave and the free / we are all hopelessly oppressed cowards “… bits of Melanie Safka I thought were very cutting, ​Phil Ochs, Billie Holiday singing Strange Fruit … and of course I’m not inspired by rap but I can see how ‘Fear Of a Black Planet’ or ‘Mamma, Don’t You Think They Know?’ jumps ahead with everything Nina Simone was doing with ‘To Be Young, Gifted And Black’… I think rap has scared the American white establishment to death, mainly because it’s true. James Brown once sang “Say It Loud, I’m Black And I’m Proud”. No pop artist would ever be allowed to say that today … they’d be instantly dropped from the label. If Billie Holiday approached Capitol Records in 2015 they wouldn’t entertain her for a second. Also, yes, I feel that I bring my spirit to America, and I feel very much a part of it and I’ve played in most cities big or small. America has been so important to my musical life, and the audiences have always been incredible. I’ve always felt privileged even though I know I’ve been locked out of mainstream considerations. That’s life! Me and Billie Holiday, good company, at least. (Morrissey, Alternative Nation, June 2015)

The Frank Owen interview is still selectively quoted, conflated paraphrased, and used to attack him.

One complaint is that he never apologizes – but most of these scandals are slow-burners, by the time they’ve reached their final tagline, it’s years later and they’re wildly out of context.

It’s peculiar to keep harking back to insinuations from 1986 esp. if an apology is enough to make a person acceptable even for using direct slurs.

For a while it was believed Morrissey had dissed Stormzy via a video on Central (July 2919) – nothing came of it; we don’t even know if he knows about it – but while Twitter was anticipating a feud and taking Stormzy’s side, no one felt the need to mention the 3 years Stormzy spent using homophobic language.

Later, when British Somali feminist and social activist, Nimco Ali, tried to use him as an example of excused bigotry, while she was being condemned as a homophobe for accepting a job as a government adviser on violence against women, she was dismissed:


It would seem more performative and tribal than anything else.

As if Morrissey’s real crime is not chatting to journalists down the pub.

On a side note – Stormzy’s effective PR distressed fellow Grime artist, Wiley, so much that he accused his own manager of being part of a Jewish plot to replace black artists in their 40s with black artists in their 20s. This mid-life crisis – and actual conspiracy theory – received support from newspaper The Voice.

https://www.thejc.com/news/uk/the-voice-publishes-inflammatory-interview-with-wiley-1.502053

https://www.theguardian.com/music/2020/jul/24/wiley-accused-of-antisemitism-after-likening-jews-to-ku-klux-klan

Love Music Hate Racism

After Moz decided For Britain was the best hope for Vegan Feminism & his reputation was eviscerated by journalists/Twitter, Love Music Hate Racism, put out a statement that’s so bigoted & inaccurate that they should probably try overcoming themselves.

Everything about it is dubious – so I’ll put the loaded words & objections in notes:

Gutter. Sewer.

Outburst.

Moz doesn’t single out Muslims, Jews, & Black & Asian politicians – he’s against all animal slaughter, but worries about religious & traditional exemptions – he mentions Spain, supermarkets, Nicola Sturgeon, Nigel Farage, Henry Bolton, The Queen, Prince Charles, Princess Anne, Dick Gregory, & David Cameron.

He wants all abattoirs banned.

Yeah – he’s getting his facts from marginal sources but that’s mainly because the people who should be helping him fact check are too busy calling him a racist.

Just because you think you can hear an echo doesn’t mean there is one – smearing & guilt by association are forms of prejudice.

Moz has been slagging off London & diction at least since the 80s, if not from birth – Johnny Marr, Cilla Black, David Beckham – have all failed his standards. It’s camp.

Other people being racist towards Diane doesn’t make her above criticism. But again, it’s camp.

Hitler put the word socialism in his party name – so blame him.

Anne Marie Waters was in The Labour Party for 10 years getting called a racist for trying to highlight sexism in Sharia Law. Yes, she’s cracked up – but if the left wasn’t so blind to sexism & homophobia she would probably still be on our side.

Hitler lovers.

Yes, it is accidental. A pull-quote can mislead without being a misquote.

Vile views.

He’s right not to trust the media – look at the state of this statement.

He has never backed down in the face of outrage – it burns itself out because it’s fuelled by nothing but hot air.

He’s been emboldened again – at any moment he may commit genocide by singing Golden Lights.

His views aka Veganism (which is a protected belief) have no place in music or society & they condemn them. Not keeping up with legislation & being unable to separate Morrissey’s views from people they’ve associated with him isn’t a good sign in an anti-racism charity.

He’s more dangerous & extremist than Clapton??????? In what universe is whinging about Sharia Law & Islamic State (when you’re a queer vegan) more dangerous than telling foreigners in your audience to get out of England because it’s a white country???

Shut up bigots like Morrissey & his racist friends – labeling, harassment.

Clapton’s less dangerous words:

Moz’s more dangerous words:

“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.” 

“UKIP is dead, and Nigel Farage aided their downfall by supporting Henry Bolton. Theresa May was always a Prime Minister uninvited. She is incapable of leadership. She cannot say her own name unless it’s written down on a cue card in front of her. I recall her speech on Eid al-Adhar, and how she referred to it as a ”joyous celebration” … as millions of animals had their throats slit to mark the occasion. I wondered what kind of compassion she could possibly have. The answer is none. However, the Conservatives conserve nothing in modern Britain. In fact, they are the prime destructors of British heritage. Labour are no different from the Conservatives in that they do not object to FGM, halal slaughter, child marriage, and so on. There is no moral clarity with these people, and you shouldn’t vote in a certain way simply because you always have. Do you have the nerve to vote differently? If you have any concern for animal welfare, for example, you cannot possibly vote for either Conservatives or Labour, because both parties support halal slaughter, which, as we all know, is evil. Furthermore, halal slaughter requires certification that can only be given by supporters of ISIS, and yet in England we have halal meat served in hospitals and schools! UK law is pointless!” 

JOHN: But halal is done in the name of religion. 

MORRISSEY: Most murder is! But animals rights must come before  religion. Religion must cease to be the ONLY word. I am not interested in what people did ten thousand years ago. I am concerned about what is happening today. 

JOHN: Kosher is also very cruel. 

MORRISSEY: Very. It, too, must be banned. I am not saying that stunned slaughter is acceptable, because it couldn’t ever be. If you use the term ‘humane slaughter’ then you might as well talk in terms of ‘humane rape’. People sound very stupid when they mention ‘humane slaughter’. 

JOHN: A lot of people can’t afford a vegan diet. 

MORRISSEY: I think the point is that we cease to put ourselves first. It is not about what we frivolously want. Every animal even during slaughter fights and kicks until its very last breath. It has one instinct and that is to survive. I stopped watching television because of animal death commercials. I couldn’t allow that into my living space for one more day. I feel liberated without it. They won’t show cigarette commercials but it’s OK to show butchered lambs? And  to laugh about it? 

“There is a new party called For Britain. They have the best approach to animal welfare, whereas no other party even bothers to mention animal welfare. The EU will not protect animals from halal or kosher practice. For Britain seem to say what many British people are currently thinking, which is why the BBC or Channel 4 News will not acknowledge them, because, well, For Britain would change British politics forever … and we can’t have that! If you love animals, you really cannot vote Labour or Conservative. Give animals a break. They’ve done enough for you. Let them live. 

“animals have no voice. If animals spoke English then no one would eat them. You see, racism is at its most abhorrent in relation to eating animals. If you eat animals, isn’t it a display of hatred for a certain species? And what gives you the right to eat another species or race? Would you eat people from Sri Lanka?” 

“From every angle the torture of the bull is staged. The bullfighter is a spectacular failure who cannot actually fight the bull without a mass of weapons and a host of helpers, whereas the bull stands alone. No one can possibly believe that this is sport. They say ’oh, but it is tradition’, well, yes, but murder has a long tradition in Spain, should we celebrate that, also? A Murder Festival?” 

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. 

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

“British mainstream media is now so politically correct that basic truth is actually impossible, and although it is obsessed with promoting social diversity they will not accept diverse opinion. Most British newspapers can only offer secrecy. When news is offered as opinion, it can only therefore be biased. Last year I completed a questionnaire for The Daily Mail in which one of their questions was ‘Whom do you most dislike?’. I replied ‘Theresa May, because of her support for killing foxes and badgers.’ The questionnaire appeared in print, but the Theresa May reply was missing because it obviously didn’t fit with the Mail’s political position as Theresa May’s personal notice-board.”

“When the print media are lost for a reply, they simply change the subject by naming their opponent as ‘racist’, which is the perfect ploy because most people are naturally appalled to be called racist, and they step back in silence, and the debate collapses unresolvedI am neither Loony Left nor Far Right. I am a humanitarian. I have not ever once voted in a British election because I have not ever discovered a party that represents my views. My main social concern is the abolition of the abattoir, the continued existence of which in modern times is beyond sane belief.

https://www.morrisseycentral.com/messagesfrommorrissey/why-the-independent-hates-independence

Moz could do himself a favour by using boring phrases, never joking whenever he mentions something associated with race or religion & not getting his ‘facts’ from internet websites, but nothing he’s said is hate-filled.

And I can’t find a similar statement about anyone else, not even after Wiley’s 48 hour Twitter rant against Jewish people in August 2020.

https://www.theguardian.com/business/2020/aug/02/rita-ora-and-labrinth-join-musics-protest-after-wileys-antisemitic-rant