Interview by Adrian Deevoy
Q, September, 1992
The lighter side of football violence. The death of pop music. Getting the urge for sex. Being racist. The TV star who is "a pig in a man's body". The loathsome comedian. The author who ought "to die in a hotel fire". Morrissey's views may seem a couple of bus-stops short of reason. "But that doesn't mean I'm some great twit who lives in a hut and eats straw," he reassures Adrian Deevoy.
"Monsieur Morrissey?" puzzles the well-preserved concierge. "Eez a pop group, non?" Upstairs in his room on the third floor of this cloyingly plush Parisien hotel, Monsieur Morrissey, pop group, has just taken delivery of the finished artwork for his new long player, Your Arsenal. Its cover is a live photograph of the singer, tongue out, shirt asunder (stomach scar courtesy Davyhulme Hospital) suggestively waggling his microphone at fly-height.
Morrissey studies the sleeve intently, then holds it at arm's length and squints inscrutably - or could it be myopically? - at its cover star.
"What do you think?" he asks eventually.
Can we use the word "homo-erotic"?
"Is that how it appeals to you?" he enquires, arching an amused eyebrow. "You're the first person who's said that and it's nice that somebody has." He frowns pensively, "But what are you really asking me?"
Well, you were once the thinnest man in pop and suddenly you developed this muscular physique. What did you do?
"I did nothing," he shrugs coyly. "It just suddenly and miraculously happened. I didn't go out and do a course of cybergenetics. It was just nature, for once, being reasonably generous."
Judging by the title, you're still a student of innuendo.
"I'm sure I don't know what you're talking about."
Your Arsenal, indeed.
"Surely you're not going to ask me what it means?" he says sniffily, then concedes. "In a small way, there's something about innuendo that's entertaining. I like to think it's sometimes done fairly cleverly. It's by no means stupid."
And is widespread sexual arousal the sole aim of the album cover?
"Really," he sighs, summoning a typically Morrithetic punchline. "What would be the point?"
Morrissey is en France and on form. He's now been a solo artist for fractionally longer than he was a Smith. Sometimes, he says, it feels like all he's done for the last 10 years is write, record and perform songs. But in doing this he has become one of Britain's most lauded songwriters and surely our finest lyricist.
His past life - which has served as a seemingly bottomless well of inspiration (although he would theatrically claim it was more like desperation) for his songs - has recently been subjected to a thorough rummage for an unendorsed biography-of-sorts, the grandly titled Morrissey & Marr The Severed Alliance: The Definitive Story Of The Smiths. Prior to its publication, Morrissey issued a characteristically two-bus-stops-from-reason pronouncement demanding the immediate death of the book's author, Johnny Rogan, in a motorway pile-up.
Today, as the sun shines upon the city by the Seine, Morrissey is in a forgiving mood. Just as long as Rogan dies slowly and painfully, he smiles, he'll be happy.
Q: It's been a long time since you've granted an interview.
Q: Do you think this new record will broaden your appeal?
Q: You seem to have a very shrewd sense of who your market
Q: But you're aware of your size?
Q: Do you feel over-protected? You're very hard to get
Q: To fend people off?
Q: Morrissey & Marr: The Severed Alliance. Have you
Q: Were you shocked?
Q: Presumably you were approached to participate in the
Q: Did he approach your mother? The book isn't too flattering
Q: Did your mother read it?
Q: The book was similar, in a curious way, to the Princess
Q: Lyrically, you seem less neurotically self-conscious
on Your Arsenal. Is that due to changes within the author?
Q: How do you go about making a more physical record?
Q: Are you more at ease with yourself?
Q: You've always been obsessed by the onward march of
time, haven't you?
Q: How has your attitude towards death changed? You've
been accused of being flippant about the past.
Q: Once again, as with Bengali In Platforms and Asian
Rut, you have flirted with racism on the new song The National Front Disco.
Q: Do you think people are innately racist?
Q: The song We'll Let You Know seems to sympathise with
football hooligans. Is this the case?
Q: Are you suggesting you've had first hand experience
Q: Is this not just Morrissey picking up on another controversial
Q: It could be construed as such.
Q: You're still mourning the death of Englishness on
Q: What exactly do you think has died?
Q: Do we need a war to re-establish our identity?
Q: As a long-term fan of pop music, what do you think
about its current state?
Q: Do you no longer watch Top Of The Pops?
Q: There's a theory that enough music has been made.
Q: Did dance music do for pop music?
Q: Is there not an argument that simply says you're getting
Q: One would think that you'd have sorted out your love
life by now.
Q: Have you come close?
Q: Do you understand that people find this hard to believe?
Q: Do you get desperate?
Q: But you seem an affable, warm person...
Promising?! What did you think we were going to do? Become a Millican And Nesbitt? But, yes. The temperament is the same, the sense of rationale is the same.
Q: Do you think you'll "make music" with him?
Q: How did you actually meet?
Q: Michael and Morrissey invite us into their lovely
Q: Do you have any thoughts on Vic Reeves's creation,
Morrissey The Consumer Monkey?
Q: He called you "a cunt".
Q: Have you severed your connections with Manchester?
Q: Let's go back in time to 1983 and The Smiths.
Q: When you look back on The Smiths now, does it make
Q: Billy Bragg said that it must be hard being Morrissey,
this fabulously witty, Wildean character, 24 hours a day.
Q: But the implication is that Morrissey is a slightly
Q: Full time?
Q: Why do you think you provoke such extreme reactions?
Some people really hate you.
Q: Have you taken Ecstasy?
Q: As someone who is periodically celibate, what do you
do with the urge you must get to have sex?
Q: So what happened when you were 28?
Q: Other than that, do you have anything to declare?
"Awright, Moz! Wanna beer?" It's hardly the way you would expect Britain's only Olympic-standard shrinking violet to be addressed. And as guitarist Boz Boorer prepares to order a round in unpolished Franglais, how does his employer respond? "No ta, you Brylcreemed brute, but I'd love a cup of Red Label and a fondant fancy"?
No, he doesn't. Standing on the pavement, with his quiff dramatically silhouetted against the neon-lit Moulin Rouge, Morrissey nods thirstily and heads towards the bar.
Boz and Morrissey are Marc Bolan fanatics for whom no Boppin' Elf minutiae is too minute ("Did you know he wore size five women's shoes?"). Earlier, Morrissey was hopelessly defending Certain People I Know, a track from Your Arsenal which is all but a cover version of Ride A White Swan.
"I don't know if you know anything about Marc Bolan," he says haughtily, "but he took a lot of inspiration from rock'n'roll. If, for example, you listen to early Carl Perkins you'll probably hear," and this is where his argument began to falter, "Marc Bolan playing Ride A White Swan in the background... although I doubt it."
Morrissey suggests we take a taxi to Pigalle to have his
photograph taken outside the explicitly-illustrated sex shops. The "one-handed"
literature and out-sized rubber appendages, he enthuses (fully aware of
how thoroughly un-Morrissey the setting is), will provide a stimulatingly
Throughout the session, he maintains a sitcom vicarish innocence, putting it on hold occasionally to scrutinise an especially gymnastic video cover or savour a fruitily punsome magazine title.
And it is here, in the condom of Paris, that we leave Monsieur Morrissey to saunter between the live lesbian sex shows (Sex-o!) and the "specialist" hardcore backrooms (Porno Shop!). Saying his au revoirs he extends his hand, and, as you reach out to shake, he withdraws it and - in the hilarious music hall tradition - thumbs his nose. How very tres.
"When you reach this age," he sighs, "you have to accept that you are what you are, whatever that may be. Because of the position I have in life people tend to always treat me in exactly the same manner." He exhales dejectedly. "Nobody ever grabs hold of me and says, Let's go down to the red light district, there's something I want to show you."
This article was originally published in the September,
1992 issue of Q magazine.
Reprinted without permission for personal use only.