posted by davidt on Tuesday November 25 2003, @10:00AM
An anonymous person sends the text. Note this excerpt near the end:
"We might even get a new record from him soon, although rumours circulate that he is already suspicious of his recent deal with Sanctuary, now the backer of the Rough Trade label he was once identified with."
November 24, 2003
Moz, in his own write
By Steve Jelbert
A new book defines Morrissey by his influence on other writers
HE MIGHT BE only a librarian’s son from Manchester who has not released a new record in years, but Steven Patrick Morrissey has yet to disappear from public consciousness. Mark Simpson’s entertaining and perceptive tome, Saint Morrissey, seeks to uncover the mysteries of the man by the not unreasonable method of studying carefully his very public pronouncements.
This is hardly an original insight. The Moober’s chum, the cultural commentator Michael Bracewell, explained years ago that the man “is everything his writing and his music suggest he is”. But Simpson, best known for his excoriating insider critiques of gay culture, states his case with real flair, reminding the reader that Morrissey is now effectively part of the cultural scenery, and never falls for the trap which bedevils Dylanogists (Christopher Ricks being the latest example), who, faced with the dilemma of unravelling a man whose pronouncements are limited to his songs, tend to ignore the musical context of his words.
Authors as diverse as Douglas Coupland (Girlfriend in a Coma, Reagan Books) and Ian Pattison (Sweet and Tender Hooligan, Picador) have borrowed his titles, the second a gangster’s tale quite possibly based on said Smiths song. The playwright Willy Russell tied himself in knots using a series of letters written to Morrissey as a key plot device in his debut novel, The Wrong Boy, a tragi-comic tale of an obsessive, possibly psychotic, youth.
This work has been much praised by child psychologists, if the reviews on Amazon are to be trusted. Even Dave Eggers, the wonder boy of American letters, matter-of-factly places a Smiths song in the head of a young voyeur on puberty’s cusp convinced that “Mr Morrissey” is a “great poet in the tradition of Keats and Yeats and possibly even Roddy Frame”. We certainly now know what music Mr Eggers grew up listening to.
In the Smiths heyday, fey young types in cardigans were inspired to express themselves. In 1987 Shaun Duggan, an acolyte who penned a play called William, after the Smiths single William, it was Really Nothing, exploited his superfan status to interview Moz on The Tube in possibly the most embarrassing encounter yet broadcast on British television. And Duggan’s chum Jo O’Keefe inveigled herself on to a South Bank Show devoted to the band.
The pair later became writers on Brookside (Duggan) and Coronation Street (O’Keefe), and Morrissey appeared, playing himself badly, in Damon and Debbie, the long-forgotten spinoff of the now similarly deceased Liverpool soap. (The teenage runaways ran into him in the lobby at London’s Capital Radio, one of the many stations which has generally ignored his music.)
Never less than quotable, as you’d expect from an admirer of Oscar Wilde, Morrissey is a natural object of fascination for biographers. Simon Goddard’s The Smiths: Songs that Saved Your Life (Reynolds & Hearn), a clumsy if sincere tribute modelled on the late Ian McDonald’s influential Beatles book, Revolution in the Head, reminded us of their impact. The dogged Johnny Rogan has long promised a follow-up to his impressively tedious, I mean detailed, 1992 Smiths history Morrissey and Marr: The Severed Alliance (Omnibus) — calm down, man, you’re not talking about Churchill and Stalin — covering Morrissey’s solo escapades. Judging by Moz’s attitude to his first work (he hoped Rogan would die in a hotel fire), the title My Cold War might be apposite.
Writers should take something back. Morrissey has always stolen shamelessly, most frequently from the Salford playwright Shelagh Delaney (“I went a bit too far with A Taste of Honey,” he later confessed) and Elizabeth Smart. Simpson gives 11 primary literary sources in his book, admitting it is incomplete, although even this truncated list mentions Joe Orton, the 1970s pulp novelist Richard Allen and Dorothy Parker.
There are all those lines lifted from old movies too, often originating in the mouth of Bette Davis (Now Voyager being a particular favourite). Never forget that the notebook by the sofa was once a staple of a now defunct dole lifestyle. Sadly the “autodidact in a bedsit” tradition so crucial to British pop seems to have disappeared along with Richey Edwards of the Manic Street Preachers.
Yet he wasn’t born with tastes fully formed. The Mancunian critic Paul Morley described Morrissey (to his face) as “the village idiot of the city scene”, once telling another hack that “while everyone else was carrying copies of Nietszche very prominently, you’d see Morrissey at a bus stop somewhere looking hopeless and reading the supposed SS soldier, according to some Sven Hassel instead ”.
Thankfully he found his own voice. Mozferatu’s best lyrics demonstrate an acute ability to articulate what many feel — Simpson sharply points out that his gloomy eloquence was such that many putative suicides were likely awed into choosing life. A man who once claimed “I don’t have sex much . . . I can almost count the number of times” and that he was happiest on May 21, 1959 (the day before his birth), clearly possesses a talent for gallows humour.
We might even get a new record from him soon, although rumours circulate that he is already suspicious of his recent deal with Sanctuary, now the backer of the Rough Trade label he was once identified with.
Still, Sussex’s Ordinary Boys, a hotly tipped gaggle of lads about as old as his first releases, share their name with one of his songs. Their expected success should keep his name around a bit longer.
Saint Morrissey is published by SAF
Is Morrissey Britain’s greatest songwriter? Send your e-mails to [email protected]
“PERHAPS I’m unique because people are so dull. I'm not very good at being dull”
“Whatever makes people happy they should just do it . . . ’cos time is a mere scratch, and life is nothing”
“Eric Clapton is admired, but who could love him? His own mother, perhaps”
“The sorrow of the Brighton bombing is that Thatcher escaped unhurt”
“I don’t feel anti-American, just reasonably intelligent”
“I wish that Prince Charles had been shot. I think it would have made the world a more interesting place”
“The Smiths happened because I had walked home in the rain once too often”
“I don’t think black people and white people will ever really get on”
“Sex is a waste of batteries”
“I always thought my genitals were the result of some practical joke”
“Life would be so colourful if only I had a drink problem”
“Rave is the refuge for the mentally deficient. It’s made by dull people for dull people”
“Admiring me, shall we say, is quite a task. Because if you say you like Morrissey you have to explain why”