Steven Patrick Morrissey (born 22 May 1959), known primarily as Morrissey, is a British singer-songwriter. After a short stint in the punk rock band The Nosebleeds in the late 1970s, he rose to prominence in the 1980s as the lyricist and vocalist of the alternative rock band The Smiths. After the band's breakup in 1987, Morrissey began a solo career, in which he continued the jangle pop sound of The Smiths. Morrissey's solo albums have garnered ten Top 10 singles in the United Kingdom. Widely regarded as an important innovator in indie music, Morrissey has been described by music magazine NME as "one of the most influential artists ever," and The Independent has stated that "most pop stars have to be dead before they reach the iconic status that he has reached in his lifetime." Pitchfork Media has called him "one of the most singular figures in Western popular culture from the last 20 years."
Morrissey's sardonic, literate lyrics tend to be "dramatic...bleak, funny vignettes about doomed relationships, lonely nightclubs, the burden of the past and the prison of the home." He is also noted for his unique vocal style. His forthright, often contrarian opinions have led to a number of media controversies, and he has also attracted media attention from his advocacy of vegetarianism and animal rights.
Steven Patrick Morrissey was born at Park Hospital (now known as Trafford General Hospital) in Davyhulme, Urmston, Lancashire, on 22 May 1959 to Irish Catholic immigrants. His father, Peter Morrissey, was a hospital porter, and his mother, Elizabeth Dwyer, was a librarian. His parents had emigrated to England just before Morrissey's birth and, along with his only sibling (elder sister Jackie), Morrissey was raised in Harper Street in Hulme, Manchester. In 1965, the family moved to Queens Square in Hulme near Moss Side. The family moved to 384 Kings Road in the suburb of Stretford in 1969, when many of the old terraced streets were being demolished. He has maintained a strong attachment to his mother throughout his life. His relationship with his father, however, suffered much strain over the years.
As a child, Morrissey developed a number of interests and role models that marked him out among his peers, including '60s girl groups, and female singers such as Dusty Springfield, Sandie Shaw, Marianne Faithfull and Timi Yuro. He was also interested in the "kitchen sink"-style social realism of late 1950s and early 1960s television plays, Coronation Street's Elsie Tanner, actor James Dean, as well as authors Oscar Wilde and Shelagh Delaney. The Moors Murders of the early 1960s, in which a couple raped and killed a number of Manchester-area children and teens, had a large impact on him as a child.
In adolescence, Morrissey's athletic ability saved him to a large degree from bullying. Nevertheless, he has described this period as a time when he was often lonely and depressed. As a teenager, he began taking prescription drugs to help combat the depression that would later follow him throughout his life. He attended St Mary's Secondary Modern School and Stretford Technical School, where he passed three O levels, including English Literature. He then worked briefly for the Inland Revenue, but ultimately decided to "go on the dole".
Of his youth, Morrissey said, "Pop music was all I ever had, and it was completely entwined with the image of the pop star. I remember feeling that the person singing was actually with me and understood me and my predicament." As of 1974, he regularly wrote letters to music magazines such as Melody Maker and the NME, giving his forthright opinions on various bands. Morrissey would sometimes venture out to see bands at local Manchester venues; the first such occasion being T.Rex at Belle Vue in 1972. He was taken there by his father, fearing for his safety in the notoriously rough district. Morrissey has described the occasion as "messianic and complete chaos".
Early bands and published books
Throughout the 1970s, a teenage Morrissey acted as president of the UK branch of the New York Dolls fan club. He articulated his love for the group in the documentary New York Doll: "Some bands grab you and they never let you go and, no matter what they do, they can never let you down... the Dolls were that for me." This New York Dolls influence made Morrissey an early convert to punk rock. Morrissey, then still with forename, briefly fronted The Nosebleeds in 1978, who by that time included Billy Duffy on guitar (Duffy went on to form the post-punk band The Cult). They played a number of concerts, including one supporting Magazine, which resulted in a New Musical Express review by Paul Morley. Morrissey also founded The Cramps fan club, the Legion of The Cramped, with another enthusiast for their music, Lindsay Hutton, although he progressively scaled down his involvement in the club over time, due to the increasing amount of time he was devoting to his own musical career.
Morrissey wrote several songs with Duffy, such as "Peppermint Heaven", "I Get Nervous" and "(I Think) I'm Ready for the Electric Chair", but none were recorded during the band's short lifespan, which ended the same year. After the Nosebleeds' split, Morrissey followed Duffy to join Slaughter & The Dogs, briefly replacing original singer Wayne Barrett. He recorded four songs with the band and they auditioned for a record deal in London. After the audition fell through, Slaughter & the Dogs became The Studio Sweethearts without Morrissey.
The singer interrupted his music career at around this time, focusing instead on writing on popular culture. He published two works with Babylon Books: The New York Dolls (1981), about his favourite band; and James Dean Is Not Dead (1983), about actor James Dean's brief career. A third book, Exit Smiling, which was actually written first (in 1980) and which dealt with obscure B movie actors, was initially rejected and remained unpublished until 1983.
Main article: The Smiths
In early 1982, Morrissey met Johnny Marr, a guitarist and songwriter. The two began a songwriting partnership. Marr, whose real name is John Maher, changed his name to avoid confusion with the Buzzcocks drummer, and Morrissey performed solely under his surname. After recording several demo tapes with future Fall drummer Simon Wolstencroft, they recruited drummer Mike Joyce in the autumn of 1982. As well, they added bass player Dale Hibbert, who also provided the group with demo recording facilities at the studio where he worked as a factotum. However, after two gigs, Marr's friend Andy Rourke replaced Hibbert on bass, because neither Hibbert's bass playing or personality fit in with the group. Signing to independent record label Rough Trade Records, they released their first single, "Hand in Glove", in May 1983. The record was championed by DJ John Peel, as were all of their later singles, but failed to chart. The follow-up singles "This Charming Man" and "What Difference Does It Make?" fared better when they reached numbers 25 and 12 respectively on the UK Singles Chart. Aided by praise from the music press and a series of studio sessions for Peel and David Jensen at BBC Radio 1, The Smiths began to acquire a dedicated fan base. In February 1984, the group released their debut album The Smiths, which reached number two on the UK Albums Chart.
In 1984, the band released two non-album singles: "Heaven Knows I'm Miserable Now" (the band's first UK top-ten hit) and "William, It Was Really Nothing". The year ended with the compilation album Hatful of Hollow. This collected singles, B-sides and the versions of songs that had been recorded throughout the previous year for the Peel and Jensen shows. Early in 1985 the band released their second album, Meat Is Murder. Meat Is Murder was the band's only studio album to reach the top of the UK charts. The single-only release "Shakespeare's Sister" reached number 26 on the UK Singles Chart, although the only single taken from the album, "That Joke Isn't Funny Anymore", was less successful, barely making the top 50.
During 1985, the band completed lengthy tours of the UK and the US while recording the next studio record, The Queen Is Dead. The album was released in June 1986, shortly after the single "Bigmouth Strikes Again". The record reached number two in the UK charts. However, all was not well within the group. A legal dispute with Rough Trade had delayed the album by almost seven months (it had been completed in November 1985), and Marr was beginning to feel the stress of the band's exhausting touring and recording schedule. Meanwhile, Rourke was fired from the band in early 1986 due to his use of heroin. Rourke was temporarily replaced on bass by Craig Gannon, but he was reinstated after only a fortnight. Gannon stayed in the band, switching to rhythm guitar. This five-piece recorded the singles "Panic" and "Ask" (with Kirsty MacColl on backing vocals) which reached numbers 11 and 14 respectively on the UK Singles Chart, and toured the UK. After the tour ended in October 1986, Gannon left the band. The group had become frustrated with Rough Trade and sought a record deal with a major label. The band ultimately signed with EMI, which drew criticism from the band's fanbase.
In early 1987, the single "Shoplifters of the World Unite" was released and reached number 12 on the UK Singles Chart. It was followed by a second compilation, The World Won't Listen, which reached number two in the charts ? and the single "Sheila Take a Bow", the band's second (and last during the band's lifetime) UK top-10 hit. Despite their continued success, personal differences within the band ? including the increasingly strained relationship between Morrissey and Marr ? saw them on the verge of splitting. In July 1987, Marr left the group, and auditions to find a replacement for him proved fruitless.
By the time the group's fourth album Strangeways, Here We Come was released in September, the band had split up. The breakdown in the relationship has been primarily attributed to Morrissey's annoyance with Marr's work with other artists and to Marr's growing frustration with Morrissey's musical inflexibility. Strangeways peaked at number two in the UK but was only a minor US hit, although it was more successful there than the band's previous albums.
Solo career, 1988 to 1997
In March 1988, a mere six months after The Smiths' final album, Morrissey's released his first solo album, Viva Hate. To create the album, Morrissey teamed up with former Smiths producer Stephen Street, Vini Reilly of Durutti Column (and formerly of The Nosebleeds), and drummer Andrew Paresi. Viva Hate reached number one upon release, supported by the singles "Suedehead" and "Everyday Is Like Sunday." Viva Hate was certified Gold by the RIAA on 16 November 1993.
Everyday Is Like Sunday
"Everyday Is Like Sunday" taken from Morrissey debut album Viva Hate.
Morrissey initially planned to release a follow-up album entitled Bona Drag after releasing a few holdover singles from the Viva Hate sessions. As such, he released "The Last of the Famous International Playboys", "Interesting Drug", and "Ouija Board, Ouija Board" over the course of 1989. The first two of these became top ten hits. However, by the end of 1989 it became apparent that he would not be able to put out an album of new material soon enough. Morrissey decided to scrap the idea of a full-length LP and release Bona Drag (1990) as a compilation of singles and B-sides instead. The album collected these early singles along with further non-album cuts such as "November Spawned a Monster", "Piccadilly Palare" , Disappointed and the B-side "Hairdresser on Fire".
After a falling out with Stephen Street, Morrissey recruited the production aid of Clive Langer and songwriting services of Mark E. Nevin, of Fairground Attraction, for the studio follow-up to Viva Hate, entitled Kill Uncle. The album peaked at number eight on the UK charts. The two singles released in promotion of the album, "Our Frank" and "Sing Your Life", failed to break the Top 20 on the singles charts reaching number 26 and number 33 respectively. Morrissey released two non-album singles, "Pregnant for the Last Time" and "My Love Life". The band Morrissey assembled in 1991 for his Kill Uncle tour went on to record 1992's hit album Your Arsenal. Composition duties were split between guitarists Boz Boorer and Alain Whyte, who have been the core of Morrissey's band ever since. Your Arsenal was produced by former David Bowie guitarist Mick Ronson, and earned a Grammy Award nomination for Best Alternative Album. The album peaked at number four on the UK charts, with two of its three singles, "We Hate It When Our Friends Become Successful" and "You're the One for Me, Fatty", both debuting in the Top 20 in the UK.
By 1994, Morrissey had suffered the loss of three people close to him: Mick Ronson, Tim Broad, and Nigel Thomas. Channeling his grief, Morrissey wrote and recorded his second number one album in the UK, Vauxhall and I. Years after the release, Morrissey acknowledged that he felt at the time that it was going to be his last album, and that not only was it the best album he'd ever made but that he would never be able to top it in the future. One of the album's songs, "The More You Ignore Me, the Closer I Get," reached number eight in the UK and number 46 in the US. That year, he also released a single "Interlude" in duet with Siouxsie Sioux of Siouxsie & the Banshees. Following the success of Vauxhall and I Morrissey began work on Southpaw Grammar in early 1995. When released in August, the album was a hit, reaching number four in the UK. However, both of its singles failed to chart in the Top 20. The nature of the album was different to past Morrissey releases. Musically, the inclusion of two tracks which surpass the ten minute mark, the near two and half minute drum solo courtesy of Spencer Cobrin which opens the track "The Operation" and the sampling of a Shostakovich symphony have led some to dub the album as 'Morrissey's flirtation with prog-rock.' Some critics were impressed by this apparent attempt at progression, while others dismissed the longer tracks as mere self-indulgence. With the exception of the single "Sunny" in that December it would be another year before Morrissey released a new album or single.
In 1996, Joyce took Morrissey and Marr to court, claiming that he had not received his fair share of recording and performance royalties. Morrissey and Marr had claimed 40% each of The Smiths' recording and performance royalties and allowed ten percent each to Joyce and Rourke. Composition royalties were not an issue, as Rourke and Joyce had never been credited as composers for the band. Morrissey and Marr claimed that the other two members of the band had always agreed to that split of the royalties as they had consented to an account of the royalties sent to Joyce during the band's existence, but initially the High Court and then the Court of Appeal found in favour of Joyce and ordered that he be paid over ?1 million in back pay and receive twenty-five percent henceforth. As Smiths' royalties had been frozen for two years, Rourke settled for a smaller lump sum to pay off his debts and continued to receive ten percent. While the judge in the case described Morrissey as "devious, truculent and unreliable", he did not state that the singer had been dishonest. Morrissey claimed that he was "...under the scorching spotlight in the dock, being drilled..." with questions such as " 'How dare you be successful?' 'How dare you move on?'". He stated that "The Smiths were a beautiful thing and Johnny left it, and Mike has destroyed it." Morrissey appealed against the verdict, but was not successful.
Morrissey returned on a new record label in 1997 with the single "Alma Matters" in promotion of his album Maladjusted. Though the album was hailed as a return to form for Morrissey the album only reached number eight and its further two singles, "Roy's Keen" and "Satan Rejected My Soul" peaked outside the UK Top 30.
In June 2003, Sanctuary Records group gave Morrissey the one-time reggae label Attack Records to record new material and to sign new artists. You Are the Quarry was released in 2004. The album peaked at number two on the UK album chart and number 11 on the U.S. Billboard album chart. Guitarist Alain Whyte described the work as a mix between Your Arsenal and Vauxhall and I, and the album received strong reviews. The first single, "Irish Blood, English Heart", reached number three in its first week of sales in the UK singles chart. This was the highest placing chart position for Morrissey in his entire career at that point. Also, it has sold over a million copies, making the album his most successful one, solo or with The Smiths. Three other hit singles followed - "First of the Gang to Die", "Let Me Kiss You", and "I Have Forgiven Jesus". With the release of "I Have Forgiven Jesus", Morrissey along with McFly became the only artists to score four top-10 hits in the UK singles chart that year. In August 2004, Morrissey was slated to headline a week-long set of shows on Craig Kilborn's The Late Late Show. Morrissey did not perform every night of the weeklong series due to a throat illness. He did, however, perform the following week.
In The Future When All's Well
"In The Future When All's Well" taken from Morrissey's 2006 album Ringleader of the Tormentors.
Morrissey's next album, Ringleader of the Tormentors, debuted at number one in the UK album charts and number 27 in the US. Recorded in Rome, it was released in 2006. The album yielded four hit singles: "You Have Killed Me", "The Youngest Was the Most Loved", "In the Future When All's Well", and "I Just Want to See the Boy Happy". Originally Morrissey was to record the album with producer Jeff Saltzman, however he could not undertake the project. Producer Tony Visconti, of T.Rex and David Bowie fame, took over the production role and Morrissey announced that the album was "the most beautiful?perhaps the most gentle, so far." Billboard magazine described the album as showcasing "a thicker, more rock-driven sound"; Morrissey attributes this change in sound to new guitarist Jesse Tobias. The subsequent 2006 international tour included more than two dozen gigs in the UK, including concerts at the London Palladium. Morrissey was scheduled to appear at the 2005 Benicassim festival in Spain but pulled out at the last minute. In January 2007, the BBC confirmed that it was in talks with Morrissey for him to write a song for the 2007 Eurovision Song Contest. If an agreement could be made, Morrissey would be writing the song for someone else, rather than performing it himself, a BBC spokesperson claimed. The following month, the BBC ruled this out, and stated Morrissey would not be part of Britain's Eurovision entry.
In early 2007, Morrissey left Sanctuary Records and embarked on a Greatest Hits tour. The tour ran from 1 February 2007 to 29 July 2008 and spanned 106 concerts over 8 different countries. Morrissey cancelled 11 of these dates, including a planned six consecutive shows at The Roundhouse in London, due to "throat problems". The tour consisted of three legs, the first two encompassing the U.S. and Mexico were supported by Kristeen Young from Feb to October while the remainder featured Girl in a Coma. The final leg was a small scale European tour that saw Morrissey headlining the O2 Wireless Festival in Hyde Park on 4 July and culminated in Morrissey playing at the Heatwave Festival in Tel Aviv, Israel on 29 July.
After a show in Houston, Texas, on the first leg of the tour Morrissey rented out the Sunrise Sound Studio to record "That's How People Grow Up". The song was recorded with producer Jerry Finn rather than previous producer Tony Visconti for a future single and inclusion on an upcoming album. In an interview on BBC Radio 5 Live with Visconti, the producer stated that his new project would be Morrissey's next album, though that this would not be forthcoming for at least a year. However, in an interview with the BBC News website in October 2007, Morrissey said that the album was already written and ready for a possible September 2008 release and confirmed that his deal with Sanctuary Records had come to an end. In December he signed a new deal with Decca Records, which included a Greatest Hits album and a newly-recorded album to follow in autumn 2008. In a reaction to the NME story, Morrissey pointed out that he would rather not be signed to a label. Upon signing with Decca, Morrissey released "That's How People Grow Up" as the first single off of his new Greatest Hits album. Despite lukewarm reviews, especially in the NME, the lack of airplay on British radio (except on XFM), and even the incredulity of fan sites, "That's How People Grow Up" reached the Top 15, reaching number 14 on the British charts. Reviews for the compilation were very mixed; reviewers noted that the album only includes songs which reached the Top 15 in the charts, putting the emphasis on new songs, making the CD more suitable for new listeners than for old fans. The album charted fifth in the British album chart on its week of release. A limited edition of the Greatest Hits album also featured an eight-track live CD which was recorded at the Hollywood Bowl in 2007. A second single from the Greatest Hits, "All You Need Is Me", was released in March. In May 2008, Morrissey parted ways with his manager of five years, Merck Mercuriadis, in favour of a new contract with IE Music, however by September Morrissey left the group and has now acquired the services of Irving Azoff.
Morrissey at SXSW, 2006.
On 30 May 2008, true-to-you.net stated that Morrissey's new studio album, Years of Refusal would have 12 tracks and be produced by Jerry Finn. On 5 August 2008 it was reported that, although originally due in September, Years of Refusal had been postponed until 16 February 2009, as a result of Finn's death and the lack of an American label to distribute the album.
On 15 August 2008, Warner Music Entertainment announced the upcoming release of Morrissey: Live at the Hollywood Bowl, a DVD documenting the live performance that took place at the historic Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles, California, on 8 June 2007 on the first leg of Morrissey's 2007/2008 Greatest Hits tour. Morrissey greeted news of the DVD's release by imploring fans not to buy it. Originally due to be released 6 October 2008, the DVD has subsequently been delayed until 1 March 2009 by Warner Music according to HMV. Further Morrissey-related items to released in 2009 preceding Years of Refusal included a remastered version of 1995's Southpaw Grammar which features three previously unreleased bonus tracks and a remastered version of 1997's Maladjusted. Both items were released on 2 March 2009. As part of the extensive Tour of Refusal, Morrissey followed a lengthy US tour with concerts booked in Ireland, Scotland, England, Russia. He had never before performed in Russia.
In November 2008, Rolling Stone magazine named Morrissey one of "The 100 Greatest Singers of All Time". The list was compiled from ballots cast by a panel of 179 "music experts", such as Bruce Springsteen, Alicia Keys and Bono, who were asked to name their 20 favourite vocalists. Morrissey was ranked 92.
In February 2009, following persistent rumours over preceding months of an imminent Smiths reunion, Morrissey was once again forced to deny that any such reunion would take place. In an interview with BBC Radio 2, he remarked that "people always ask me about reunions, and I can't imagine why... the past seems like a distant place, and I'm pleased about that." In a separate interview, with London radio station Xfm, Morrissey also stated that "chances were slim" that he himself would continue performing past the age of 55.
Morrissey?s ninth studio album, Years of Refusal, was released worldwide in February, 2009 by the Universal Music Group. It reached third place in the UK Albums Chart and 11 in the US Billboard 200. The record was widely acclaimed by critics, with comparisons made to Your Arsenal and Vauxhall and I. A review from Pitchfork Media noted that with Years of Refusal, Morrissey "has rediscovered himself, finding new potency in his familiar arsenal. Morrissey's rejuvenation is most obvious in the renewed strength of his vocals" and called it his "most venomous, score-settling album, and in a perverse way that makes it his most engaging." "I'm Throwing My Arms Around Paris" and "Something Is Squeezing My Skull" were released as the record's singles.
On 24 October 2009, Morrissey collapsed with breathing difficulties upon finishing the opening song of his set, "This Charming Man," at The Oasis Centre, Swindon. He was discharged from the hospital the following day.
Legacy and influence
Morrissey is routinely referred to as an influential artist, both in his solo career and with the Smiths. The BBC has referred to him as "one of the most influential figures in the history of British pop", and the NME named The Smiths the "most influential artist ever" in a 2002 poll, topping The Beatles. Rolling Stone, naming him one of the greatest singers of all time in a recent poll, noted that his "rejection of convention" in his vocal style and lyrics is the reason "why he redefined the sound of British rock for the past quarter-century". Morrissey's enduring influence has been ascribed to his wit, the "infinite capacity for interpretation" in his lyrics, and his appeal to the "constant navel gazing, reflection, solipsism" of generations of "disenfranchised youth," offering unusually intimate "companionship" to broad demographics. Journalist Mark Simpson calls Morrissey "one of the greatest pop lyricists -- and probably the greatest-ever lyricist of desire -- that has ever moaned" and observes that "he is fully present in his songs as few other artists are, in a way that fans of most other performers...wouldn't tolerate for a moment. Simpson also argues that "After Morrissey there could be no more pop stars. His was an impossible act to follow... unrivalled knowledge of the pop canon, his unequaled imagination of what it might mean to be a pop star, and his breathtakingly perverse ambition to turn it into great art, could only exhaust the form forever." In 2006, he was voted the second greatest living British icon in a poll held by the BBC's Culture Show. The All Music Guide to Rock asserts that Morrissey's "lyrical preoccupations," particularly themes dealing with English identity, proved extremely influential on subsequent artists.
Cultural historian Julian Stringer notes that the Smiths and Morrissey were a product of and a reaction against Thatcherism, and that their rise to fame "can be seen as the only sustained response that white, English pop/rock music was able to make against the Conservative Government's appropriation of white, English national identity; and that being the case, it is not really surprising that the response is utterly riddled with contradiction". Other scholars have responded favorably to Morrissey's work, including academic symposia at various universities including Limerick University and Manchester Metropolitan University. Gavin Hopps, a research fellow and literary scholar at the University of St. Andrews, wrote a full-length academic study of Morrissey's work, calling him comparable to Oscar Wilde, John Betjeman, and Philip Larkin, and noting similarities between Morrissey and Samuel Beckett. The British Food Journal featured an article in 2008 that applied Morrissey's lyrics to building positive business relationships.
A Los Angeles Times critic wrote that Morrissey "patented the template for modern indie rock" and that many bands playing at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival "would not be there -- or at least, would not sound the same -- were it not for him." Similarly, the critic Steven Wells called Morrissey "the man who more or less invented indie" and an artist "who more than anybody else personifies" indie culture. Stephen Thomas Erlewine of Allmusic writes that the Smiths and Morrissey "inspired every band of note" in the Britpop era, including Suede, Blur, Oasis and Pulp. Other major artists including Jeff Buckley and Radiohead have also been influenced by Morrissey. Colin Meloy of The Decemberists, who recorded a 2005 EP of Morrissey covers titled Colin Meloy Sings Morrissey, acknowledged Morrissey's influence on his songwriting: "You could either bask in that glow of fatalistic narcissism, or you could think it was funny. I always thought that was an interesting dynamic in his songwriting, and I can only aspire to have that kind of dynamic in my songs."
Image and politics
Music industry feuds
Morrissey has criticised singers such as Madonna, Elton John, and George Michael, generally claiming that their lyrics are pointless and are more interested in being celebrities than in their music. He has also had disagreements with The Cure's Robert Smith, who stated "If Morrissey says not to eat meat, then I'll eat meat; that's how much I hate Morrissey". Lol Tolhurst, another founding member of The Cure, has claimed that he likes Morrissey's music; however, he also said that Smith was justified in his ire as their feud began when Morrissey allegedly made "a very uncalled for remark concerning Robert in the English press." Morrissey also once openly wished that Morrissey & Marr: The Severed Alliance author Johnny Rogan "ends his days very soon in an M3 pile-up". Neil Tennant of the Pet Shop Boys co-wrote two songs inspired by Morrissey's public stereotyping as miserable and unloveable ("Getting Away with It" and "Miserablism").
In 1994, Morrissey was criticised by Manic Street Preachers' bassist and lyricist Nicky Wire, in regards to comments that Morrissey had made about immigration and national identity in NME. Other targets of his disapproval have been Band Aid, rap, reggae (a criticism he later retracted, stating that he was being facetious and that he grew up partly on the classic singles released by the British reggae label Trojan in the early to mid-1970s), rave and teenage pop stars.
Attitude towards political leaders
Morrissey has always been politically outspoken, and the figures he has criticised include Oliver Cromwell, the British Royal Family, former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom Margaret Thatcher, former Prime Minister Tony Blair, and former President of the United States George W. Bush. He has criticised both the two main political parties of the United Kingdom, the Labour Party and the Conservative Party.
In a 1984 interview, Morrissey criticised the then Conservative Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, stating that "She is only one person. She can be destroyed. It is the only remedy for this country at the moment." Morrissey's first solo album, Viva Hate, included a track entitled "Margaret on the Guillotine", a tongue-in-cheek jab at Thatcher, which referred to her being executed on a guillotine. British police responded by searching Morrissey's home and carrying out an official investigation, while Simon Reynolds, who had interviewed Morrissey for Melody Maker, was questioned about the tone in which Morrissey had made certain remarks about Thatcher. It has been said that many of the officers were embarrassed about the absurdity of the situation, some even asking for Morrissey's autograph.
At a Dublin concert in June 2004, Morrissey caused controversy by announcing the death of former US President, Ronald Reagan and stating that he would have preferred it if the then current President, George W. Bush, had died. In October 2004, Morrissey released a statement urging American voters to vote for Democratic Party candidate John Kerry for President, calling this vote a "logical and sane move" and a way to get rid of President Bush. Morrissey argued that "Bush has single-handedly turned the United States into the most neurotic and terror-obsessed country on the planet."
In February 2006, Morrissey said he had been interviewed by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and by British intelligence after having spoken out against the American and British governments. Morrissey said "the FBI and the Special Branch have investigated me and I've been interviewed and taped and so forth. They were trying to determine if I was a threat to the government, it didn't take them long to realise that I am not." During a January 2008 concert Morrissey remarked "God Bless Barack Obama" and ranted against Hillary Clinton after a performance of "The World Is Full of Crashing Bores."
Accusations of racism
Morrissey was accused of racism during part of the 1980s and much of 1990s, in part due to the ambiguous lyrics in songs such as "Bengali in Platforms", "Asian Rut" and "National Front Disco". They also stemmed from Johnny Rogan's biography of the singer, which claimed that in his late teens, the singer wrote "I don't hate Pakistanis, but I dislike them immensely"; Rogan does not provide a substantiating source. In 2006, Liz Hoggard from The Independent argued that "Morrissey didn't help his case with an uneasy flirtation with gangster imagery: he took up boxing and was accompanied everywhere by a skinhead, named Jake." She claimed that the "man who abhorred violence became strangely fascinated by it." Encyclopaedia Britannica argues that Morrissey's 1990s albums, including Your Arsenal (1992), Vauxhall and I (1994), Southpaw Grammar (1995) and Maladjusted (1997) "testified to a growing homoerotic obsession with criminals, skinheads, and boxers, a change paralleled by a shift in the singer?s image from wilting wallflower to would-be thug sporting sideburns and gold bracelets."
A trigger for much of the criticism was Morrissey's performance at the first Madness Madstock! reunion concert at Finsbury Park, London, in 1992, in which he appeared on stage draped in the Union Flag, often associated with nationalism and hence, by some, with far right groups in Britain. As a backdrop for this performance, he chose a photograph of two female skinheads. The British music magazine NME responded to this performance with a lengthy examination of Morrissey's attitudes to race, claiming that the singer had "left himself in a position where accusations that he's toying with far-right/fascist imagery, and even of racism itself, can no longer just be laughed off with a knowing quip".
In the early days of The Smiths, Morrissey stated that "all reggae is vile", leading to the first reports of his alleged racism. He later explained that this was a tongue-in-cheek answer to "wind up the right-on 1980s NME" and that he grew up partly on the classic singles released by the British reggae label Trojan in the early to mid-1970s. The Smiths' "Panic", released in July 1986, fades out with the refrain "hang the DJ, hang the DJ, hang the DJ..." Rogan's biography reports that initial critical response to this content was interpreted as distaste for the increasing influence of rap and R&B over popular music at the time.
Morrissey has refuted claims he is racist, saying "If I am racist then the Pope is female. Which he isn't," and "If the National Front were to hate anyone, it would be me. I would be top of the list." He qualified that by saying that far-right rage "is simply their anger at being ignored in what is supposed to be a democratic society." In the 2002 documentary, "The Importance of Being Morrissey", he posits the question, "Why on earth would I be racist? What would I be trying to achieve?" In the film, he also takes issue with those who fail to discern the subtlety of his supposedly racist lyrics, stating that "Not everybody is absolutely stupid."
In 1999, Morrissey commented on the rise of Austrian far-right politician J?rg Haider, stating "This is sad. Sometimes I don't believe we live in an intelligent world." In 2004 he signed the explicitly anti-fascist Unite Against Fascism statement, and in 2008 he made a personal donation of ?75,000 to the organisers of the Love Music Hate Racism concert in Victoria Park, London, after the withdrawal of the NME's sponsorship left the event facing a financial shortfall.
In 2007, NME printed an interview with Morrissey where he was quoted as saying, "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." In the same article, he called racism "silly" and "beyond reason", and said he would be "pilloried" for his comments. The interview was conducted by Tim Jonze. Jonze asked to have his name removed from the article, saying he was unhappy with how it had been "rewritten" by the NME, but also stating he had found Morrissey's comments "offensive" and disapproved of them.
Morrissey's lawyers are now pressing legal action against NME for defamation, with the magazine declining to print a retraction or apology. Within days of issuing the writ against NME, Morrissey also released a detailed explanation of his side of the story via an online fanzine. The statement included a firmly worded rebuttal against the accusations of racism, a condemnation of racism itself and an exposition on his belief that NME's editor had deliberately staged and scandalised the outcome of the interview in an orchestrated attempt to boost the paper's "dwindling circulation". In 2008, Word magazine was forced to apologise in court for an article by David Quantick that accused Morrissey of being a racist and a hypocrite.
Animal rights activism
Morrissey has been vegetarian since he was 11 years old. Morrissey explained his vegetarianism by saying "If you love animals, obviously it doesn't make sense to hurt them." Morrissey is an advocate for animal rights and a supporter of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). In recognition of his support, PETA honoured him with the Linda McCartney Memorial Award at their 25th Anniversary Gala on 10 September 2005. Morrissey named one of his songs "Meat is Murder", which shared its name with the album it was featured on. It was the second studio album (and third overall album) of The Smiths.
In January 2006, Morrissey attracted criticism after stating he accepts the motives behind the militant tactics of the Animal Rights Militia, saying "I understand why fur-farmers and so-called laboratory scientists are repaid with violence - it is because they deal in violence themselves and it's the only language they understand."
Morrissey has criticized people who are involved in the promotion of eating meat, specifically Jamie Oliver and Clarissa Dickson Wright ? the latter already targeted by some animal rights activists for her stance on fox hunting. In response, Dickson-Wright stated ?Morrissey is encouraging people to commit acts of violence and I am constantly aware that something might very well happen to me.? The Conservative MP David Davis criticised these comments, though his party leader David Cameron has claimed to be a Smiths fan. On 27 March 2006, Morrissey released a statement that he would not include any concert dates in Canada on his world tour that year ? and that he supported a boycott of all Canadian goods ? in protest against the country's annual seal hunt, which he described as a "barbaric and cruel slaughter". The comedian Russell Brand, who is also a vegetarian, regularly stated on his BBC Radio 2 show that Morrissey was his hero and often played his music and read out emails Morrissey had sent him.
Morrissey's sexuality has been a matter of debate, and this has been fuelled by many conflicting statements from the singer, in none of which he has explicitly stated his sexual orientation. Encyclopedia Britannica argues that he created a "compellingly conflicted persona (loudly proclaimed celibacy offset by coy hints of closeted homosexuality)" which "made him a peculiar heartthrob". "Morrissey has always taken great pains to maintain the ?undecidable? nature of his sexuality." In 1983 he claimed to be "a kind of prophet for the fourth sex", on the grounds that he was "bored with men and ...bored with women." In 1984, he stated that he refused "to recognise the terms hetero-, bi-, and homo-sexual" because "everybody has exactly the same sexual needs." A 1984 Smiths article in Rolling Stone stated that Morrissey "admits he's gay", but Morrissey replied that it was news to him and the article used the term "fourth-gender" in its title.
The speculation was further fuelled by the references to gay subculture and slang in his lyrics. In 2006, Liz Hoggard from The Independent noted that "nly 15 years after homosexuality had been decriminalised, his lyrics flirted with every kind of gay subculture"; for example, she claims that "This Charming Man" "is about age-gap, gay sex". Reviewer Stephen Thomas Erlewine claims that lyrics to The Smiths single "Hand in Glove" contain "veiled references to homosexuality". In addition, many of Morrissey's aesthetic influences, such as Oscar Wilde, James Dean, Klaus Nomi and New York Dolls, were remembered for their sexual orientation or gender identity quandaries.
Throughout much of his career, he maintained in interviews that he was asexual and celibate. Johnny Marr stated in a 1984 interview that "Morrissey doesn't participate in sex at the moment and hasn't done so for a while, he's had a lot of girlfriends in the past and quite a few men friends". In 1986, Morrissey claimed that he was "dramatically, supernaturally, non-sexual." In a 1994 interview, he claimed that "sex is actually never in my life", and as such, he argued that "I have no sexuality." In 1995, he claimed "I?d like to have a sex life, if possible." In a 1997 interview, he revealed he had been in a relationship with someone for two years but that it had ended and the person in question had just stopped loving him. He did not reveal the gender of his partner or whether it was a sexual relationship. However, he did admit to caring deeply and he stated that he had hoped that they had shared similar feelings. In a 2006 NME interview, he stated that he was no longer celibate, but he did not give any additional details. A 2006 article in UK paper The Independent stated that the singer "...has even hinted at a late-blooming sex life." Some have speculated that the lyrics to Morrissey's 2006 song You Have Killed Me even gives reference to a sexual encounter he had.
Morrissey frequently tells interviewers who ask him about his sexuality that the question is irrelevant to his music, or he gives an evasive or ambiguous response. While the debate over Morrissey's sexuality has become widespread on fan websites, including attempts to analyse the meaning of his ambiguous song lyrics, their attempts are often stymied, because, as The Times critic Tom Gatti puts it, "Morrissey?s music offers infinite capacity for interpretation" because "they are too flexible, too rich, too textured.?
Main article: Morrissey discography
See also: The Smiths discography
Viva Hate (1988)
Kill Uncle (1991)
Your Arsenal (1992)
Vauxhall and I (1994)
Southpaw Grammar (1995)
You Are the Quarry (2004)
Ringleader of the Tormentors (2006)
Years of Refusal (2009)
Notes and references
^ a b Anderman, Joan. "This charming man". The Boston Globe. 3 October 2004. Retrieved on 23 August 2009.
^ Sturges, Fiona. "This Charming Man: Making It As Morrissey". The Independent. 18 February 2007. Retrieved on 23 August 2009.
^ DiCrescenzo, Brent. "You Are the Quarry album review". Pitchfork Media. 19 May 2004. Retrieved on 23 August 2009.
^ a b c Gatti, Tom. "Morrissey: the musical". The Times. 25 June 2005. Retrieved on 23 August 2009.
^ a b c d "The 100 Greatest Singers of All Time - 92: Morrissey". Rolling Stone. Retrieved on 23 August 2009.
^ Holden, Stephen. "The Pop Life: Out of the Mainstream". The New York Times. 17 July 1991. Retrieved on 18 November 2008.
^ 4 of the letters
^ first gig - T. Rex (Q January 1995)
^ T. Rex date
^ purple satin jacket
^ New York Doll (2006): Arthur Kane, David Johansen, Barbara Kane, Morrissey - PopMatters Film Review
^ LOTC - Legion Of The Cramped
^ a b
^ MOJO Classic Magazine, Volume 1 Issue 13, Page 22
^ a b c d e f g h i
^ a b Kelly, Danny. "Exile on Mainstream". NME. 14 February 1987.
^ a b c d e f g h i j k
^ Nine, Jennifer. "The Importance of Being Morrissey". Melody Maker. 9 August 1997.
^ a b c .
^ a b c .
^ Morrissey in talks for Eurovision
^ No Morrissey entry for Eurovision, BBC News, 23 February 2007
^ No eurovision for Morrissey
^ Morrissey plans new album in 2008
^ BBC NEWS | Entertainment | Morrissey switches record labels
^ Morrissey hates having signed to a new label
^ Mark Beaumont, Reviews: Morrissey, Greatest Hits, NME, 7 February 2008
^ Show Biz Spy, Morrissey Parts with Manager 29 May 2008
^ Julianna Korenteng, "Morrissey Splits With Managament", Billboard.biz, 1 September 2008
^ True-To-You, "Morrissey now managed by Irving Azoff; Southpaw Grammar: Album re-issue release date and other information", 1 October 2008
^ New album information
^ Morrissey-solo: Tour
^ Metacritic: Morrissey: Years of Refusal (2009)
^ Keith Phillips, AV Club, Morrissey: Years of Refusal, 17 February 2009
^ a b Tom Ewing, Pitchfork: Years of Refusal, 3 February 2009
^ Morrissey in hospital after on stage collapse, Guardian.com
^ Morrissey out of hospital after collapsing on stage in Swindon Guardian.com
^ "The 'Pope of Mope' turns 50". BBC News. 22 May 2009. Retrieved on 23 August 2009.
^ Morrissey-Solo, "The Smiths: most influential artist ever - NME". 15 April 2002
^ Simpson, Mark. Saint Morrissey. Touchstone. 2003. p. 5.
^ http:motorcycleaupairboy.com/interviews/1999/murdered.htm The man who murdered pop
^ BBC - Culture Show - Living Icons
^ Vladimir Bogdanov, Chris Woodstra, Stephen Thomas Erlewine, All Music Guide to Rock: The Definitive Guide to Rock, Pop, and Soul, via Google Books, pg. 1346.
^ Stringer, Julian. "The Smiths: Repressed (But Remarkably Dressed)". Popular Music, Vol. 11, No. 1 (via JSOTR. January 1992. p. 15-26 Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 21. Also cited at "Phil Collins", Shotgun Review, Marc LeBlanc.
^ Morrissey-solo: Morrissey symposium in Limerick, Ireland, 4 March 2009
^ Taylor, Paul. "Morrissey under the microscope". Manchester Evening News. 8 April 2005. Retrieved on 23 August 2009.
^ Wade, Mike. "Morrissey: 50 today and a first-rank Romantic hero". The Times. 21 May 2009. Retrieved on 23 August 2009.
^ "Heaven knows I'm teaching now". MSN UK Entertainment. 29 April 2008. Retrieved on 23 August 2009.
^ Timberg, Scott. "Coachella: Morrissey and the Smiths? influence is apparent". LA Times. 13 April 2009
^ Wells, Steven. "Big Mouth Strikes Again". Philadelphia Weekly. 12 December 2007. Retrieved on 23 August 2009.
^ Erlewine, Stephen Thomas. "You Are the Quarry review". Allmusic. Retrieved on 23 August 2009.
^ "Jeff Buckley revealed as massive Smiths fan". NME. 25 May 2007. Retrieved on 23 August 2009.
^ Robinson, Tasha. "The Decemberists? Colin Meloy". The A.V. Club. 31 March 2009. Retrieved on 23 August 2009.
^ "Interviews - Behaviour - Miserablism" Absolutely Pet Shop Boys. Retrieved on 30 August 2007.
^ LASID - He Knows I'd Love To See Him, accessed 13 July 2007archive
^ Morrissey comments spark Bush fire
^ understandish: OMG!!!!!
^ Interviewed by the FBI
^ Heaven knows he's flexible now by Kitty Empire The Guardian Unlimited 27 January 2008
^ a b c Morrissey: The Alan Bennett of pop: Viciously vegetarian, aloofly sensual, the troublesome singer is both national treasure and scourge. By Liz Hoggard. Sunday, 4 June 2006 http:www.independent.co.uk/news/people/morrissey-the-alan-bennett-of-pop-480979.html
^ Simon C.W. Reynolds. the Smiths, Encyclopedia Britannica.
^ New Musical Express, 22 August 1992
^ Morrissey saves anti-racism gig, BBC News, 25 April 2008
^ BBC - Newsbeat - Music - 90,000 fans Love Music Hate Racism
^ Morrissey: Interview row - News - Manchester Evening News
^ a b BBC NEWS | Entertainment | Morrissey to sue NME over story
^ Morrissey condemns racism | True To You
^ BBC NEWS | Entertainment | Magazine says sorry to Morrissey
^ "Cut class, not frogs" - Salon.com
^ PETA25.com > PETA 25th Anniversary Gala > Send Morrissey a Personal ?Congrats!?
^ View questions and answers | True To You
^ Morrissey supports animal rights violence - Times Online
^ Statement from Morrissey | True To You
^ the Smiths - Britannica Online Encyclopedia
^ a b 'On Suffering Morrissey and the Romantic Hero' - article with comprehensive analysis of Morrissey's life and work
^ Oscar! Oscar!
^ allmusic ((( The Smiths > Biography )))
^ Record Mirror: 9 June 1984
^ Interview - Suzie Mackenzie, The Guardian, 2/8/97
^ You Have Killed Me lyrics
^ You Have Killed Me review
^ You Have Killed Me fan review
Further reading and Morrissey bibliography
Bret, David, Morrissey: Scandal and Passion, Anova, 2007.
Brown, Len, Meetings with Morrissey, Omnibus, 2008.
Goddard, Simon, Mozipedia: The Encyclopedia of Morrissey and The Smiths, Ebury Press, 2009.
Goddard, Simon, The Smiths: Songs That Saved Your Life, Reynolds & Hearn, 2006.
Hingley, Martin; Leek, Sheena; Lindgreen, Adam, "Business relationships the Morrissey way", British Food Journal, Vol. 110, No. 1, pp. 128?143, 2008.
Hopps, Gavin, Morrissey: The Pageant of His Bleeding Heart, Continuum, 2009.
Morrissey, Steven Patrick, James Dean is Not Dead, Babylon Books, 1983.
Morrissey, Steven Patrick, Exit Smiling, Babylon Books, 1998 (reprint).
Morrissey, Steven Patrick, The New York Dolls, Babylon Books, 1981.
Rogan, Johnny, Morrissey, self-published, 2007.
Rogan, Johnny, Morrissey & Marr: The Severed Alliance, Omnibus, 1993.
Simpson, Mark, Saint Morrissey, Touchstone, 2006.
Sterling, Linda, "We Are Your Thoughts", Linda Works: 1976-2006, JRP Editions, 2006.
Stringer, Julian, "The Smiths: repressed (but remarkably dressed)", JSTOR, Popular Music, Vol. 11, No. 1, pp. 15?26, January 1992.
S?rensen, Jesper, Alle dage er som s?ndag, Rosenkilde, 2009.
Turner, Jeff; Bushell, Gary; Morrissey, Steven Patrick (introduction), Cockney Reject, John Black Publishing, 2005.
Visconti, Tony; Morrissey, Steven Patrick (introduction), The Autobiography, Harper Collins Entertainment, 2007.
Willians, John; Thomas, Caron; Morrissey, Steven Patrick (introduction), Marc Bolan: Wilderness of the Mind, Xanadu, 1992.
Woods, Paul A., ed., Morrissey in Conversation: The Essential Interviews, Plexus, 2007.
Woronzoff, Elizabeth, "'Because the Music That They Constantly Play, It Says Nothing to Me About My Life:' An Analysis of Youth's Appropriation of Morrissey?s Sexuality, Gender, and Identity", monograph, Simmons College of Arts and Sciences Graduate Studies, February 2009.