New Musical Express, August 22, 1992
"A child in a curious phase..."? Once he wore outsized blouses, hearing aids and gladioli, now MORRISSEY's accoutrements are the Union Jack, skinhead imagery and a series of questionable public pronouncements. Following the debacle at Finsbury Park, NME examines the latest controversy surrounding this most provocative of all modern pop icons. Opposite DELE FADELE, in a personal reminiscence about the Finsbury Park gig, asks: Is he actually a racist? Over the following pages, DANNY KELLY, GAVIN MARTIN and ANDREW COLLINS assess recent worrying developments. Has Morrissey gone too far this time?
"Is Morrissey fascinated by the idea of racism, by the look of violent skinheads, to the extent of being oppressed so much he falls in love with his oppressors?"
Pop stars are especially strange creatures when it comes to giving that all-important 'image' an overhaul.
At one extreme, Kylie Minogue miraculously transforms herself from the jovial girl-next-door to a strutting nymphet who cavorts lustily with black 'dancers' to suggest risky sexuality. And, at the other extreme, Steven Patrick Morrissey undergoes a gradual metamorphosis from a miserable, loveless outsider with a sense of humour to a miserable, loveless outsider who flirts with racist imagery.
In agitated times when the twin spectres of fascism and 'Ethnic Cleansing' are sweeping across Europe, and when there's been a return in England to the horrifying incidence of burning immigrants out of their homes, we must wonder why Morrissey has chosen this precise moment to fuel the fires of racism by parading onstage with a Union Jack and writing such ambiguous dodgy lyrics as 'The National Front Disco' and 'We'll Let You Know' on his recent album. Is he so starved of lyrical ideas that a touch of controversy is the best way to cover-up 'writer's block'? Is he completely fed-up with the liberal consensus in the more compassionate side of the media that he's resorted to baiting the right-on crowd? Is there a sizeable degree of irony at work?
Firstly, Morrissey has held, and continues to hold, sway over the minds of a generation who take tips from his every utterance, try to model themselves on his sense of fashion and live their lives at least partly according to codes he's laid down with a flourish (just try imagining the number of people who converted to vegetarianism upon hearing The Smiths' 'Meat Is Murder').
Secondly, on a personal level, I remember falling under the glorious spell weaved by 'The Hand That Rocks The Cradle' (from 'The Smiths') and to this day would still prefer to be shipwrecked with it and a handful of other Smiths songs rather than, say, Hole's 'Teenage Whore'. With a timeless melancholia that warmly invited you to revel and a perfectly described setting that held emotional resonance, 'The Hand...' is the work of someone who's lived life in a bedroom but would dearly love to lose his/her self outside. And the frail, faintly jangling background is almost rich enough in itself.
So, could the same writer harbour such seemingly ignorant thoughts as "'England for the English'" (his inverted commas) considering his beloved England's past colonial adventures?
Let's not forget that the adolescent Morrissey used to be chased through the streets of Manchester at night by leering beer-boys, some of whom may have held NF sympathies, simply for being 'different'. And he definitely spent a lot of time in Whalley Range, a multi-racial area. Is he now identifying with his former oppressors? Has he changed from the persecuted to the persecutor? Or, is he fascinated by the idea of racism, by the look of violent skinheads, to the extent of being oppressed so much he falls in love with his oppressors?
1992 isn't the first time Morrissey has been accused of fanning the flames of race-hate. When The Smiths released 'Panic' in 1986, at the height of what's now known with NME as 'the hip-hop wars', certain writers at this paper branded Moz a 'racist' because of the sentiments 'Burn down the disco... Hang the DJ" expressed therein, seeing the song as an all-out attack on dance music and therefore black people.
In reality, and with hindsight, 'Panic' was simply an attack on the all-powerful Radio 1 and its ilk: "the music they constantly play says nothing to me about my life": a lone howl from the edge of nowhere against songs with heads in the clouds, songs lacking in Smithsian gritty reality. Of course, Morrissey proclaiming that "reggae is vile" in his usual flamboyant way in interviews didn't help. Hating reggae doesn't make you racist; it just means you're unwilling to experiment and decidedly close-minded.
Morrissey's flirtation with racism didn't really begin until The Smiths split and he became a law unto himself, gleefully wearing his own T-shirts, aspiring to be the consummate egotist. 'Viva Hate', his first 'solo' LP, contained the charmingly titled 'Bengali In Platforms', a convoluted diatribe against assimilation: "He only wants to impress you/Bengali in platforms/He only wants to embrace your culture/And to be your friend forever/ ... Oh shelve your Western plans/ ... life is hard enough when you belong here."
And where does this somewhat gentle ridicule leave the Bengalis who were born in England? On the next boat captained by Enoch Powell? In the lurch? The main complaint Little Englanders have about immigrants is their seeming abhorrence of the host culture and feisty determination to cling to what they know and understand. But here we have someone who won't let them do the opposite either...
As if that gaffe wasn't enough, 'Kill Uncle' brought the dubious 'Asian Rut' along with it. Once again the title caused concern, even though the actual tale of racial violence was swamped in melodrama. As usual, His Master's Voice was playing games, gently stoking the fires, dodging behind words, trying to get up noses.
Which brings us bang up to date. Morrissey's currently decided to elucidate for those who missed the point in the past, flirtatiously of course.... The third solo LP, 'Your Arsenal', sports not one but two nationalistically pointed songs.
'We'll Let You Know' is ostensibly a love song to football hooligans, casting them as "the last truly British people you'll ever know", which wouldn't be that irritating if you didn't realise that a significant percentage of them are also NF or BNP affiliated.
But the crowning glory is 'The National Front Disco' whose title bothered me personally for weeks before I heard it. It's a sad tale of a bootboy who's lost his friends and whose mother has given up on him because he's gone to the National Front disco (he's joined the NF?). Still, the last three lines have an ominous ring to them: "You want the day/To come sooner/When you've settled a score" (By 'day', he possibly means that one when England will be for the English again).
All this is sad, but not as sad as the day Morrissey appeared on the Madness bill at Finsbury Park, and danced around with a Union Jack draped around his glittering shirt during 'Glamorous Glue'. For his pains, he was attacked with various minor missiles by an unruly element in the audience, but anyone could have told him that there was a small but vocal contingent of Seig Heiling skins in the audience.
Of course, one realises that The Jam used the flag to optimum effect when they were in existence, but they explained themselves by claiming they were reclaiming the flag from The Far Right. In the '60s The Who were also notorious flag-wavers, but those were markedly different times and both the NF and the BNP didn't exist in the same form (a vocal micro-minority) then. Morrissey, however, must be aware of what flag-waving means in the Euro-90s...
In an interview with Q magazine (September issue) he is quoted as answering the question, 'Do you think people are innately racist?: "Yes. I don't want to sound horrible or pessimistic but I don't really think, for instance, black people and white people will ever really get on or like each other. I don't really think they ever will. The French will never like the English. That tunnel will collapse."
Worse still, an edited version of that quote has been used to advertise Q in Sunday supplements. My gripe is that that ignorant statement is just one microscopic way of seeing the world, and if it was true surely the world would've erupted into unsolveable non-stop racial strife for decades now. And where does this leave gullible Morrissey acolytes and fans who hang on his every word and applaud his every image-move (only a percentage; I'd wager some think for themselves)? It'll be a scary prospect if some think it's hip to follow their leader on this one.
Ironically, the roots of the glam-rock bequiffed-rockabilly backing that churns through most of 'Your Arsenal''s songs, if you trace them back, lie deeply in black music, in the howling early blues. But then, along with being an English eccentric who wishes he was a teenager in the '50s, Morrissey has often been attracted to surface gloss, to style-over-content. Is he satisfied, this way? Would he like to be a laughing stock?
For what it's worth, I don't think Morrissey is a racist. He just likes the trappings and the culture that surround the outsider element. He has some racist friends. And if he carries on this way, he'll have thousands more
It was like a strange and global mirror image of a career in turmoil.
Last weekend in California, Morrissey took just 23 minutes to sell out the legendary 17,000-seat Hollywood Bowl, breaking a long-standing record of The Beatles'; at the same moment, half a world away beneath the glowering grey skies of Finsbury Park, the man himself was being forced to abandon his show (and cancel the one planned for the next day) beneath a hail of hurled objects.
At a time when the devotion of American fans seems to offer him a place in the sun, his position in Britaindespite the warm reviews of 'Your Arsenal'has never been more precarious. And it's more than possible that one of the major reasons for his huge success in Americahis particularly English manner and his continuing and apparently deepening fascination with certain ideas about Britain and Britishnessis also the cause of an increasing ambivalence about him over here...
Some eye witnesses at Finsbury Park, for instance, felt that Morrissey was at least partially to blame for the trouble that engulfed him, that his set (featuring a huge backdrop of skinhead faces and ostentatious show of affection for the Union Jack) was provocative and ill-suited to a crowd that included a large contingent of the right wing skinheads that Madness unfortunately continue to attract. That Saturday, they felt, Morrissey was caught in a shitstorm of his own creation.
And the cancellation of the gig the following day only made matters worse. For reasons that shall be explained later, Saturday's crowd had been primarily composed of fans of The Farm and Madness, while Sunday's had a higher proportion of people there specifically to see Morrissey. The latter day was entirely peaceful, going off without any of the problems that the singer may have anticipated; the only sour note was his non-appearance.
Thus ended another chapter of a saga that has seen Morrissey fall from fanatically admired performer, darling of the press and all-round candidate for canonisation to a state where he's alienated huge chunks of his support in both the public and the press. Furthermore, and more damagingly, he has 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. He may not be guilty, but there's certainly a case to answer...
The question is 'how?'. How has Morrissey come to this none-too-pretty pass? The answer comes in the convergence of two trends that have intensified as his post-Smiths career has developed. The first is his penchant for clever but equivocal lyrics (and, in fact, interview statements) about 'Englishness', 'Britain', insiders, outsiders and belonging. Wittingly or otherwise, he has continued to pick away at the scab of race relations in this country. The second is a lack of grace and control that seems to have become endemic in dealings with him; a career that once looked effortless, touched by the hand of God almost, has now become characterised by a series of feuds, upsets, no-shows and general tetchiness.
Let's deal with the first, and infinitely more difficult of these charges, the whole ugly grab-bag of nationalism, right-wingery, violence and racism. The charge of racism (or, more realistically, skating on the thin ice of racist sensibilities) is nothing new to Morrissey. In 1986, the NME made a fool of itself by suggesting that the famous "Hang the DJ" line in The Smiths' 'Panic' could be construed as an attack on black music and therefore, by extension, black people. But the unease predates even that. One Mancunian music journalist has voiced disquiet that the 'Ruffians' on 'Meat Is Murder' who duff up the Moz at a funfair should be from 'Rusholme', the only part of Manchester that might be identified as 'Asian'.
It's since the advent of Morrissey's solo career, however, that misgivings about some of his chosen subject matter, lyrics, imagery and associations have begun to accelerate. His very first solo single, 'Suedehead', was named after the black-hating, gay-bashing post-skinhead gangs glamourised by Richard Allen's notorious 1971 novel of the same name. Since then there's been 'Bengali In Platforms' (from 'Viva Hate'), 'Asian Rut' ('Kill Uncle') and, most recently, 'We'll Let You Know' (with its line about "we are the last truly British people you will ever know") and 'The National Front Disco' (from 'Your Arsenal').
Nobody is denying Morrissey's right to write about what the hell he likes and nor are any of these songs intrinsically problematic, but not all of his audience are as smart as him and the constant, unfocused, reference to these delicate matters, allied to Morrissey's steadfast ambiguity in interviews (see quotes, below) does have a cumulative effect. Add to this his constant carping about reggae, disco and any other music that's usually prefaced with the word 'black' (and the 'Panic' provision, that hating black music doesn't mean to hate black people, still applies) and you can see how the gullible or suggestible fan, or the suspicious critic, might start to build up a pretty unwholesome portrait of the artist.
Which brings us to Morrissey's continuing, and seemingly expanding, fascination and flirtation with the world of the skinhead. In some ways this predilection is no surprise; Morrissey has always had a backward-looking and somewhat rose-tinted view of England/Britain and has often chosen to express that view through assocation with various youth cults. His famous and influential quiff, for instance, is as much a (literal) hangover from the Rockers of '50s/'60s Britain as it is a tribute to Elvis. We have seen Morrissey's yearning nostalgia for a mythical lost Britain move forward from the Ealing comedy and bomb site chic of the '50s through to the kitchen sink drama and it-were-all-Dusty-Springfields-round-'ere-when-I-were-a-lad' infatutation with the '60s. It was no shock, then, when he recently moved his nostalgia-telescope focus forward and lighted on the '70s.
Thus we have the confirmation of his already-known interest in glam (covering Bolan's 'Cosmic Dancer', getting Ronno to produce his album). But it's his choice of youth cult, rather than music, from the early '70s that has really poured oil on to the flickering flame of suspicion. At the cusp of the '60s and the '70s, skinheads occupied a very strange place in British society, one that makes it easy to see why Morrissey is attracted to them, but one that should have had the red warning lights flashing in his brain as well.
The original skins were about working class (primarily male) solidarity and an alternative to the stultifying mandanity and bullshit of everyday life, recurring themes in Morrissey's writing. But they were also, despte their taste in ska and early reggae, generally racist, nationalistic, chauvinistic British bulldogs, proud wavers of the Union Jack and standard bearers (at a time when Enoch Powell was talking about the race 'problem' turning Britain's streets into "rivers of blood") of the Keep Britain White fanatics. Richard Allen's Skinhead chronicles are full of sickening accounts of violence against blacks. And, for that matter, homosexuals.
As the '70s progressed, the skinhead faction began to shrink, boiling down to the hardcore rump of the 'Oi' movement, overtly racist nutters served musically by groups like The 4-Skins and Screwdriver and responsible for the Southall riots when an Asian pub was fire-bombed. And although the cultural signals of shaving your head and wearing boots have remained confusing (no-one's calling Sinead a fascist!) it's undoubtedly true that in recent times, the skinhead has enjoyed a new lease of life in France, Italy, Scandinavia and especially Germany, as the vanguard of the post-Wall revival in Nazism. Are their flag-waving certainties and xenophobic imagery fit icons for him to be playing with, however cleverly?
How far has his infatuation with the skins and their paraphernalia gone? He's still got the rockabilly quiff, sure, but recently, as the pictures scattered around these five pages show, he's taken to presenting himself with the iconography of the shadowy nationalistic right. Union Jack badges ... Union Jack flags ... cross of Saint George T-shirts ... Oi T-shirts ... suedehead backdrops; all innocent enough in their own right (or at least safely ambiguous) but, again, collected together they present a sorry and worrying spectacle. He's also spent time recently with Mensi from right-on skins the Angelic Upstarts who, as a decidedly good guy, perhaps provides the Moz with a safe route to vicarious skinhead thrills. And finally, given Madness' sad and unwanted link with the National Front skin faction, why did he choose to make his only UK appearance so far this year at the Finsbury Park bash? Precisely to address his desired new congregation of 'skinheads in nail varnish'?
What about the second contributory strand to Morrissey's current problems, his apparent decline from blessed and effortless surfer on the golden wave of pop fortune, to unreliable, grudge-bearing seige-mentality curmudgeon? From a distance (and Morrissey doesn't allow journalists any nearer), it all looks like one of two things: either he's just lost all sense of judgement and subsequently effective control over his career, or he's got it all perfectly under control and is actively seeking a new and less-pleasant-than-the-last image.
In either event, the results look the same. Take the cancelling of gigs. In the spring of this year, he opted out of half his sold-out American tour saying he was exhausted. Later, after massive publicity trumpeting his appearance (not least in these very pages) he pulled out of Gastonbury at short notice due to a problem with a member of his band. And recently, of course, we've had the no-show at the Sunday of Finsbury Park. A pattern emerges here: a voracious appetite for Morrissey gigs, huge ticket demand when performances are announced; late cancellation, always accompanied by a perfectly reasonable explanation. But no matter how understandable the reason, it's the fans who get hurt. At Glastonbury, where this paper was one of the sponsors, kids came to the NME tent and literally wept about Morrissey's absence.
Equally, his recent response to the publication of Johnny Rogan's Smiths book The Severed Alliance, was at best distasteful, at worst illustrative of a severe lack of perspective. Rogan's book, which Morrissey was asked, but declined, to co-operate with (as Johnny Marr already had), is a well researched if slightly worthy account of the greatest British group of the '80s. There seemed precious little in it for Morrissey to get upset about; indeed, members of his family have written to Rogan congratulating him on the book. Yet in an NME news story, Morrissey, while admitting that he'd never even read it, condemned the book, and said that he hoped Rogan died in a car smash on the M3. Asked in a more recent interview if he'd really meant that, he said no, what he really meant was that he hoped the journalist would meet his end in a hotel fire!
Is this the same man who, in The Smiths' finest moment ('I Know It's Over') wrote "It's so easy to laugh, it's so easy to hate, it takes guts to be gentle and kind"? Sadly, yes. The same man but now displaying a cruelty and lack of deftness that makes his golden days seem light years away.
And it was at Finsbury Park that Morrissey's new-found baggage a flirtation with the whole nasty rag-bag of the violent right and his bizarre lack of judgement came crashing together with such dramatic results. It almost doesn't matter who pelted him offstage (NF skins who don't want his glitter-shirted type diluting the 'movement', Farm fans disgruntled at his alleged part in getting them chucked off the bill, ordinary Joes and Jos disgusted by his toying with nationalist imagery, people who just never liked The Polecats!); the fact remains: given all the above, it was almost inevitable.
But then, maybe Finsbury Park was always going to be a disaster...
From the moment he was announced as a special guest there was controversy and talk of Machiavellian behind-the-scenes manoeuvres.
Morrissey was approached by Madness when tickets for the North Londoners' August 8 comeback show sold so fast that promoter Vince Power suggested they could do two performances. Madness felt they needed another 'name act', aside from the already announced support of Ian Dury, Flowered Up and The Farm, to ensure second day ticket sales. Morrissey, on record as a fan of Madness' "quintessential Englishness", readily accepted. However, shortly after he was announced, The Farm were bumped from both the gigs while Gallon Drunk, mates of Morrissey's current band and his support act on the forthcoming US tour, were added to the bill.
The Farm's Peter Hooton, angered at being dismissed from the bill, remains convinced that Madness allowed Morrissey to sign a contract giving him veto over other supporting acts:
"The pre-gig stuff is very sensitive. The official reason Chas Smash gave us was that Morrissey felt that The Farm were 'not manly enough' to be on the same bill as Madness himself. That was the important word, 'manly'. The first day had already sold out before Morrissey was added to the bill. 27,000 out of 30,000 tickets had already been sold with Madness and The Farm on the bill."
Meanwhile, Morrissey had written to NME photographer Derek Ridgers on February 5. The note simply said "Can you send me a print, I'll explain why". Attached was a photostat from Skins Magazine Number Four with some shots of skinheads Ridgers had taken during the '70s. Ridgers, unaware that the shots had been used in Skins magazine until he received Morrissey's letter, never received the explanation it promised. Later Ridgers was told by Morrissey's press office that they were to be "used in France" for a backdrop and T-shirts. Ridgers readily consented.
"I just thought it was an anachronistic image for him. Being a Morrissey fan I thought he'd use them in a tasteful way. My main concern was that it wasn't going to be demeaning to people in the picture."
Meanwhile The Farm had contemplated sueing Madness for loss of earnings.
Hooton: "Chas Smash said 'I didn't realise that you'd be so upset about not playing with a load of boring old farts called Madness'. He thought we'd only agreed to do it out of a sense of loyalty to Madness but really we knocked back festivals to do it Glastonbury and Reading."
The Farm's payback eventually came when Morrissey took the stage. Morrissey's affection for the skinhead and nationlist imagery was given its most public display ever at Finsbury Park. With Derek Ridgers' skinhead photos used as a backdrop, he waved and wrapped a Union Jack flag around his torso. Meanwhile, outside the park's perimeter, Union Jacks were also brandished by National Front and British Movement supporters congregating to confront a Troops Out march. Promoter Vince Power denies reports that there were NF or BM newspapers sold in the park although some of their supporters were undoubtedly in the audience.
Hooton, who wasn't at the gig, believes there was a large contingent pissed off, not just at Morrissey's flag-waving and skinhead backdrop.
"Our payback really is the crowd's reaction to him. The people decided. He'd probably seen The Farm live and he wouldn't want to go on before us and he wouldn't want to go on after us."
Flowered Up had heard there were likely to be right wing exremists in or around Finsbury Park on the Saturday. Keyboard player Tim Dourney says: "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. He's looking for trouble."
In a terse statement issued after Morrissey withdrew from the second day of the Madness performance, the singer's press office cited projectiles and a 50p thrown by a "National Front skinhead" as reasons for his cancellation. Vince Power watched from the side of the stage.
"I was just a bit confused myself. He was complaining on one hand that there's some skinheads that he didn't want there but I just didn't understand why the skinhead backdrop was there. The British flag was wrapped around him but then he complained that the National Front were in the audience. In a way he got the audience he was looking for. I didn't think he was inciting anything, but obviously a few people there weren't his fans."
"He's still maintaining that it was dangerous for him... that our security wasn't enough, which is ridiculous. How can you stop people from throwing things at him from a distance? I did mention what did he expect if he's wrapping the British flag around him and having the backdrop of skinheads and singing the songs he does, but I didn't get any response to that."
Hooton: "I was amazed at the Morrissey camp's reaction. He's dealing with contentious stuff, flirting with right wing views in front of a Madness crowd. In the '70s Madness publicly went against right wing views and always have. He might think that putting on Doctor Martens and wearing a Union Jack is how 'the lads' behave. It's just an example of how out of touch he is.
"It reminds me of Ceausescu, that classic image where he had the helicopter waiting and he was trying to silence the crowd. Totally out of touch with public opinion.
"It was a classic case of trying to blame something else or some other force, it couldn't be normal people acting against me like that, it had to be a loathsome minority. A loathsome minority that he actually quite admires when talks about them in Q magazine. He's filled with admiration for England fans who tend to be right wingers running round Sweden kicking people's windows in. I think he's a very very sad and mixed-up man."
Stop this shit now, Morrissey!
So why, at the end of all this, is NME bothering? Why are our knickers in such a twist? Well, there's nothing new in this. In the past, when the likes of Eric Clapton, David Bowie and even Elvis Costello have dipped their unthinking toes into these murky waters, the music press have been equally quick on the case.
And Morrissey, unlike, say, a bigoted idiot like Ice Cube, holds tremendous sway over thousands of fans in Britain and is generally regarded as one of our most intelligent rock performers. Therefore when he sends out signals on subjects as sensitve as those discussed above there seems little room for playfulness, never mind ambiguity.
In Europe in 1992, with 'Ethnic Cleansing' a reality and the new Nazis on the rise across the continent, the need for clear thinking and clear statements is more acute than ever.
There is nothing wrong with celebrating England or Britain, its landscape, its cities, its people, its music and its culture. Shakespeare has done it, so has Alan Bennett, Victoria Wood, Mark E Smith, Elgar, Wordsworth, the Ealing Studios, Vic Reeves, John Constable and a host of others, including, to be fair, Morrissey himself.
But Morrissey, the bright lad we know he is, must know that once you start cavorting with the Union Jack, with all its ambiguities, and surrounding yourself with the paraphernalia and imagery of the skinhead cult, then that celebration has moved, whether he likes it or not, into entirely different and altogether more dangerous territory. And that territory is not the green and pleasant land of Morrissey's dreams.
This report was compiled by Danny Kelly, Gavin Martin and Stuart Maconie.
Morrissey was told of both the general gist and some particulars of this piece and asked for his comments and if he was prepared to do a full scale interview. He responded, through the press office, with the following statement: 'My lawyers are poised. NME have been trying to end my career for four years and year after year they fail. This year they will also fail."
"He does not want to depress you,
"Take me back to dear old Blighty..."
So sang Cicely Courneidge in The L-Shaped Room, as grafted onto the evocative intro to 'The Queen Is Dead''s opening title track.
The '60s kitchen sink movie is one of Morrissey's pet favourites; the use of the patriotic pub singalong a mere atmosphere-setting quirk on an album littered with ambiguous pro/anti-nationalist signals. But, as ever with the controversy-courting bard of Whalley Range, it conjures images of Old England, Dunkirk spirit, British bulldog nostalgia and stop us if you've heard this one before.
Throughout The Smiths' dazzling, media-friendly career, and on into Morrissey's own, provocative soundbites have been Steven Patrick's stock-in-trade.
Here, ANDREW COLLINS presents a catalogue of quotes that may, or may not, add to the overall case for his 'prosecution'. You are the jury. But don't qote us on that.
"I'm really chained to those iron bridges. I'm really chained to the pier. I'm persistently on some disused clearing in Wigan. I shall be buried there, I'm sure, and I shall be glad to go at that point." (Morrissey, Feb 1984)
"I think the main blemish on this country is absolute segregation which seems to appear on every level, with everything and everybody. There is no unity." (Morrissey, Feb 1984)
"I'm not totally averse to violence. I think it's quite attractively necessary in some extremes. Violence on behalf of CND is absolutely necessary... obviously CND care about the people and that's why they do what they do. That's patriotism." (Morrissey, December 1984)
"The common sense for the future is to try and preserve as much as we can from the past." (Morrissey, December 1984)
"Reggae is vile." (Morrissey, NME questionnaire, February 1985)
"Personally, I'm an incurably peaceable character. But where does it get you? Nowhere. You have to be violent." (Morrissey, March 1985)
"Happiness is eating an ice cream, happiness can be Bernard Manning..." (Morrissey, April 1985)
"The memories I have of being trapped in Piccadilly bus station while waiting for the all-night bus, or being chased across Piccadily Gardens by some 13-year-old Perry from Collyhurst wielding a Stanley knife." (Morrissey, September 1986)
"Reggae to me is the most racist music in the entire world. It's an absolute glorification of black supremacy." (Morrissey, September 1986)
"I detest Stevie Wonder." (Morrissey, September 1986)
"I think Diana Ross is awful." (Morrissey, September 1986)
"Janet Jackson, Whitney Houston, I think they're all vile in the extreme." (Morrissey, September 1986)
"Obviously to get on Top Of The Pops these days one had to be, by law, black. I think something political has happened and there has been a hefty pushing of all these black artists and all this discofied nonsense into the Top 40... In essence, this music doesn't say anything whatsoever." (Morrissey, September 1986)
"To those who took offence at ('Panic''s) 'Burn down the disco' line I'd say please show me the black members of New Order! For me, personally, New Order make great disco music, but there's no black people in the group. You can't just interchange the words 'black' and 'disco'." (Johnny Marr, February 1987)
"On the racism charge, then, any judge would declare Morrissey the hapless victim of a lynch mob. Mind you, with people who put their heads into nooses for fun remember 'all reggae is file', M? the occasional fatality gets filed as an industrial accident." (Danny Kelly, NME February 1987)
"I believe that everything went downhill from the moment the McDonalds chain was given license to invade England don't laugh, I'm serious. To me it was like the outbreak of war and I can't understand why English troops weren't retaliating. The Americanisation of England is such a terminal illness I think England should be English, and Americans should go home and spoil their own country." (Morrissey, September 1987)
"In Morrissey's mind, ('Bengali In Platforms') may be a profound statement about personal alienation, but unfortunately it would go down very well at a singalong after a National Front picnic." (Review, Q magazine, March 1988)
"Even the English language,
I find, has been hoplessly mucked about with and everything is American
or Australian. It's astonishing but it's so rife. But because Margaret
Thatcher is such a weak Prime Minister any influence American business
wishes to have on England, it has. They've completely taken over Newcastle."
"I rarely watch TV, I never read a newspaper. I feel separate from the political world. I just find it harder and harder to care. I despair of politics and, interestingly, the 'murder' of Margaret Thatcher was the last point of my interest. I'm not interested in John Major, The Gulf War I didn't care about or want to know about, so I'm certainly less political than I was." (Morrissey, May 1991)
"I'm incapable of racism,
even though I wear this T-shirt and even though I'm delighted that an
increasing number of my audience are skinheads in nail varnish. And
I'm not trying to be funny, that really is the perfect audience for
me. But I am incapable of racism, and the people who say I am racist
are basically just the people who can't stand the sight of my physical
frame. I don't think we should flatter them with our attention. ...
The sight of streams of skinheads in nail varnish, it somehow represents
the Britain I love. Wouldn't it be awful to find yourself 'followed'
by people you didn't want? Correct me if I'm wrong, but I thought the
skinhead was an entirely British invention."
"I don't want to sound horrible or pessimistic, but I really don't think, for instance, black people and white people will ever really get on or like each other. The French will never like the English. The English will never like the French. The tunnel will collapse." (Morrissey, August 1992)
"I'm not a football hooligan... but I just undertand the character." (Morrissey, August 1992)
"When I see reports on the television about football hooliganism in Sweden or Denmark or somewhere, I'm actually amused. Is that a horrible thing to say?" (Morrissey, August 1992)
"I don't want to be European. I want England to remain an island. I think part of the greatness of the past has been the fact that England has been an island." (Morrissey, August 1992)
"Even while denouncing racial prejudice in stirring fashion, he was wont to admit that he disliked Pakistanis. 'I don't hate Pakistanis, but I dislike them immensely' was his flippantly blunt adolescent observation (1977)." (Johnny Rogan, The Severed Alliance)
"I would go out tonight/But I haven't got a stitch to wear..."
Being a Morrissey fan in 1992 is a pricey business. Never mind the cost of his album and two singles so far at least you are actually getting something for your cash what about the expense of seeing him live, or NOT seeing him live, to be more exact.
We calculated what an average Moz fan living, for argument's sake, in Manchester, could've conceivably forked out this year just to NOT see the Great Man twice at his two notorious high-profile shows, Glastonbury and Finsbury Park, events to which any serious follower might have travelled to attend.
A weekend ticket for Glastonbury was £49; this included camping facilities, but we estimate at least £15 per day for a couple of burgers, a bottle of water and some much-needed liquid refreshment (this estimate does not cover the price of a T-shirt). The return train fair from Manchester to Bristol is £39 (free buses were laid on to the site).
A return to London for the Madness gig by rail is £30. Add to this £1.50 in tube fares, and, again, a rough estimate of £5 for refreshments during the day (T-shirt cost once again excluded). Admission to the gig was a round £20. Since the last train back to Manchester on a Sunday leaves at 8.30, it is unikely that our punter would've travelled home on the same day, but, for the sake of argument, we shall imagine that he/she kipped over at a mate's, rather than pay for a B&B.
All in all, then, this is a pretty conservative estimate, but it adds up to an astonishing £189.60. For nothing but disappointment. As Morrissey once said, 'Money Changes Everything'... providing you've got any left, that is.
This article was originally published
in the August 22, 1992 issue of New Musical Express magazine.
Reprinted without permission for personal use only.