Article by Dave Simpson
Uncut, August, 1998


The phone rings at the Sunset Marquis Hotel, Los Angeles.
"Hello, is Morrissey there?"
"I'm sorry, sir, we don't give out that kind of information."
They don't give out that kind of information. This is becoming a mantra for all enquiries concerning Steven Patrick Morrissey. Supposing I told you this: that in 1998 the pop icon known simply as Morrissey apparently has no record contract, no publishing deal, no manager and no band and is seen by some as being on the verge of retirement.
None of this may be as far-fetched as it sounds.
Morrissey's last British album, Maladjusted, was released last year on Island Records and sold poorly. In a phone call to Island, they're uniquely cagey and seem unsure whether he's even still on the label. It finally becomes clear that Morrissey was never actually signed to Island and that Maladjusted was licensed from US label Mercury. Despite repeated requests, nobody at Mercury will confirm whether Morrissey is or is not on the label. His name has been removed from their web site list of artists. Rumours persist he's been dropped. But some friends insist *he* dropped the label. Others suggest he is about to sign a new two-album deal with an unspecified label.
Earlier this year, Morrissey sacked his manager, Vicky Wickham, who also looks after Dusty Springfield. His previous manager, James Todd, is dead. At the moment, Morrissey is apparently not managed by anybody. His song publishing deal with Warner Chappell has expired and hasn't been renewed. Warner Chappell refused to comment, and put me on to Russell's, a firm of solicitors they tell me now represent Morrissey, except Russell's no longer handle Morrissey. It emerges that Morrissey as since been looked after by Harbart & Lewis, who handled his affairs when he was successfully sued by former Smiths drummer Mike Joyce in 1996, except Moz no longer uses them.
The intrigue deepens. Simple enquiries to RCA Records as to why (prior to Island) he only recorded one album for them are met with silence. Even Island (who are basically unsure whether Morrissey will ever record for them again) communicate with the singer through faxes, and get scant replies. According to one of them, Morrissey's band of the last few years (featuring Alain Whyte, Boz Boorer, Spencer Cobrin and Johnny Bridgwood) is "definitely still together", although sources close to the band gingerly refute this. Whatever the truth of that one, guitarist Whyte and drummer Cobrin are playing in a new band, Lorca.
Why the web of intrigue?
Morrissey is an icon - like Brando or Garbo - whose influence dwarves his actuality, whose importance, at least until recently, was matched by his record sales. And, like many icons, he now appears to have much to hide.
Right now - as usual - Morrissey is invisible, reclusive. He's back in Manchester after having spent much of the year idling in Los Angeles. In June, he appeared in London at the Ivor Novello Awards, where he was presented with an award for an Outstanding Contribution to British Music, which he dedicated to "John Maher of Whythenshawe". His sole other public words on the occasion were to say, "He [Johnny Marr] brought me where I am today. Which begs the question, "Where am I?""
He won't be interviewed. He has "no plans".
Morrissey has always been unpredictable. When his first solo album, Viva Hate, went to Number One, he disappeared for a month, uncontactable even from his manager. Even close confidants go ages without seeing him. They assume the friendship is over, then suddenly a fax will arrive. One of his closest friends is described by another as "a complete c***. The sort of person who thrives on making trouble."
If the record companies are one thing (at one point it seemed that to ask "Can you confirm that Morrissey was in The Smiths?" would result in a firm "No comment"), Morrissey's friends and associated are another thing entirely. Getting them to talk is an ordeal. Even the many excommunicated by the singer exhibit a strange loyalty. Or is it just loyalty?
"Morrissey can be very vindictive," said one.
"I don't really want to put him down," said another.
"He's evil in a way damaged people are," said a recently cast aside insider.
Is this really that same man who brought us flowers and The Smiths?

Another insider spoke of an "intimate" friendship: "It was really close and then the phone calls stopped." Some people close to Morrissey agreed to talk on principle and then suddenly went to ground. Sometimes, the people you'd expect to have little to lose from talking about him were most steadfast in their refusal to talk about the singer's pathologically guarded life. But, equally, some of the people who it seemed certain would not talk did talk... and word got back.
After 10 days of shenanigans, stonewalls, brick walls and private investigations, I received a return call from Michael Bracewell, author of the superb book, England Is Mine, which includes several insightful sections on Morrissey. More to the point, Bracewell is one of the few who remain in Mozzer's inner circle - he lives in Manchester with Linder, the former Ludus singer who is virtually unique in remaining Morrissey's friend since his pre-fame days and is perhaps his ultimate, closest confidante. A call from Bracewell was a direct line from the Morrissey nerve centre, and it became obvious that it had been made with the knowledge (if not under the instructions) of His Master's Voice when Bracewell tried to ascertain just what story we had, what revelations we'd uncovered.
"I'm being very coy, aren't I?" he admitted, as he aimed and dodged bluff and counter-bluff in an enjoyable investigation game. "The thing with Morrissey is that he is everything his writing and his music suggest he is," said Michael at one point.
And of his closely guarded personal life?
"There's really nothing there," Michael told me. "I think the closest comparison is with Warhol. His power stems from a concentrated emptiness."
This was a particularly pointed comparison - anyone familiar with Warhol would know that his own secret life contained more skeletons than a 1918 graveyard.
This, then, is the untold story of Morrissey and The Smiths... 15 years of bitterness and brilliance.

You wonder is they had any idea what was ahead of them when they blazed out of Manchester in 1983 with the Rough Trade single, "Hand In Glove", a soaring, immediate anthem in a sleeve bedecked with a nude filched from gay pornography. "The sun shines out of our behinds," sang Morrissey, cheekily, unforgettably, and a movement was born.
Proudly Mancunian and with an almost Olde English traditionalism allied to frequently radical philosophies, The Smiths were always much more than a band. There was Marr, the Roger McGuinn-fringed chiming tunesmith who seemed to drop instantly classic songs like normal people crap; there was Morrissey, the bequiffed, overcoated, Oscar Wilde, Sixties pop and New York Dolls - obsessed wit who sang with primeval emotionalism rarely heard since early Elvis Presley.
Morrissey was instantly a celebrity because pop had never seen anything like him. He sang about repressed desire and yet professed to be celibate. He loathed the sex and drugs and no-intelligence culture of rock'n'roll. He espoused literature, feminism, vegetarianism and left-wing politics, and wrote songs equally at ease with sensitivity and brutality, brimming with darkly humorous abject misery. He was the unearthly amalgam of Marc Bolan, James Dean and Charles Hawtrey. He was shockingly handsome yet sang (only half self-mockingly), "I am sick and I am dull and I am plain", and "16, clumsy and shy, that's the story of my life." He was not unathletic and yet had endured a dark adolescence of schoolday regimentalism, isolation, bedroom fantasising and romanticised depression.
"Morrissey set himself up as the ultimate patient and, because of that, the one sympathetic analyst a person can have," says Michael Bracewell. "That's why there was a mass transference with the whole fucking audience. They fell in love, and he was playing with it. "I am sick and I am dull and I am plain." That just made them want him even more."
"Manchester's answer to the H-Bomb" is how Morrissey claimed he would like to be remembered and this seemed entirely reasonable. With Marr and Morrissey ably backed up by Andy Rourke ("the bass guitar") and Mike Joyce ("the drums"), for the first two years - if not their entire career - virtually everything The Smiths did was a seminal moment in pop.
"I remember us discussing doing "Top of the Pops" from the very start, but it wasn't like a dream," remembers Mike Joyce. "It was if we knew we were going to be doing it."
If their florally-festooned appearance for "This Charming Man" on TOTP provided one of the enduring images of the Eighties, it was not alone. From the off, Smiths gigs were about wonderment and revenge and beauty and ugliness and ... theatre!
"Morrissey just started throwing confetti everywhere," says Joyce. "That was fantastic. Y'know, everyone always had this thing about "Dour Mancunians". But there was so much humour with us, at the gigs everybody was laughing. People hugging each other, and this was without E."
At the Hacienda, the group ordered 20 boxes of gladioli. Another defining moment was provided when Morrissey hurled the colourful flowers into the greyness of the Factory club and Manchester's then industrial culture. The Smiths broke rules almost daily. Early in their career, they even tore down the backstage "no access" culture to provide access to hundreds of fans.
"We were running around kissing each other, kissing ourselves," recalls Grant Showbiz, Smiths' soundman. "What, we're doing this?"
Although the band presented a united image, Morrissey had assumed to role of bandleader early on. Joyce remembers a turning-point at an interview with I-D.
"It was a total shambles," he says. "Mozzer kept pretty quiet. I think he was a bit shocked at some of the things we were saying. After that, it was deemed that he, or he and Johnny, would do the interviews."
The Smiths were four different people, the connection was the music. Andy, Mike and Johnny clicked like mates. Morrissey was more solitary.
"When the sticks went down and the microphone went off, Mozzer kept himself to himself," says Joyce. "Maybe we should have dragged him out a bit more. He did have some friends, but nobody else would know them. Very arty. I felt very inadequate, as if they couldn't wait to get away and talk about great authors! Andy felt that way too. Johnny maybe less so. But Morrissey could be very funny, a very witty guy."
"The thing that was unusual about him right from the start was that he had a very strong sense of this was how he was going to be," says Andy Catlin, who photographed Morrissey for many years. "The way he dressed and presented himself, the way he talked. He wasn't egocentric in the way some rock stars are. he was one step detached from the rest of the world."
As Morrissey's witty repartee and controversial opinions lit up the music press in a way they never would be again, his acute perfectionism and ambition showed - to some - a distinctly darker side.
Early Smiths producer Troy Tate was edged out by Morrissey, who, according to some, felt that the former Teardrop was becoming too close to Johnny (the official reason was that his sessions - for the eponymous first album - weren't good enough, although many now maintain they can't tell the difference). A stunned Tate left the music business shortly afterwards, never to recover. The cracks widened when original manager Joe Moss (who again was close to Johnny) announced his withdrawal from the group's affairs, an unexpected hammer blow that would have extreme consequences later.
"I think he had a nervous breakdown," says Grant Showbiz. "That or Geoff Travis [Rough Trade boss] cynically edges him out. He was in Manchester. The record business in London could see The Smiths could be really, really massive. Joe had depressive problems. I think he was probably rocking slightly and somebody gave him the final push."
Like Tate, Moss left the business.

One of the Morrisseyean traits that has endured to this day is the differing opinions of Morrissey between those who have worked with him or encountered him casually, and those who managed the almost unachievable feat of becoming a friend.
Ben Marshall worked as a translator for Morrissey in Italy during the 1985 Meat Is Murder tour, and paints a critical picture of Morrissey at this time that hints at xenophobia on the singer's part.
"I didn't like him very much as a person," Marshall admits, "I found him very remote, very distant. He had a horribly lofty attitude. In Rome, we went to a lot of shops together, and my job was to translate so he could buy stuff. But he had this snooty attitude...
"You know that awful expression, 'The Wogs start at the Channel?' We'd be walking around and people would be dead nice. They'd be happy to have him in the store. He wouldn't even speak to them, he would not even look at them. He'd say, 'I want the RayBans, Ben.' And they'd have to be handed to me."
Marr, Joyce and Rourke, on the other hand, were happy to sit around smoking dope.
"Lovely guys," says Marshall. "Mike Joyce and Johnny Marr were interested in Rome. I remember somebody else remarking, 'Christ, Morrissey in a Roman fairground!' But he was totally disinterested in Rome. He reduced The Smiths' PR girl to tears within about 12 seconds because she'd booked a hotel - a really nice place - but Morrissey and Mike Joyce thought it was too downmarket. Marr - given his dope all day - probably didn't even notice."
Marshall's fairly damning portrayal is countered by Jo Slee, who worked in the Rough Trade production office before becoming The Smiths' sleeve designer and eventually Morrissey's personal assistant and one of his closest confidantes.
"Morrissey?" she asks, "I thought he was a natural." Unnatural? "Probably that as well! He was instantly a celebrity. I thought he was very funny. I think the first time I spoke to him was when they first did TOTP. They were pretty terrified and Morrissey asked me in a whisper if I could cross the road to get him a can of hairspray. He was very shy.
"In the early days, I was just one of many Rough Trade minions. When I started having more personal contact with him, I found him incredibly responsive and decisive, very clear. Very easy to deal with. He was acutely perfectionist. He cared about every detail."

At this point, press and public alike became interested in the more minute details of Morrissey's sexuality. Declaring himself celibate had been a masterstroke. He had simultaneously laid down a (real or imaginary) gauntlet to the fans, while making all his (male or female) relationships at least appear platonic and still being able to sing hilariously dangerous lyrics like "A boy in the bush is worth two in the hand / I think I can help you get through your exams."
"Did he get propositions?" ponders Mike Joyce, "I'm sure he did. But he'd set out his stall. I mean, you could ask him. But he wouldn't tell you. There was no reason for us to think he was putting it on."
Jo Slee insists that as late as '92 Morrissey's relationships were "few and far between, virtually non-existent. His sexuality? I couldn't possibly comment."
Strong rumours suggest an "intimate friendship" with a journalist around 1984-5, and that this person was the subject of "That Joke Isn't Funny Anymore." Nowadays, that person steadfastedly refuses to talk about Morrissey. Other talk suggests the 1985 single, "William, It Was Really Nothing", was a paean to Associate Billy Mackenzie. Mackenzie's colleague, Alan Rankine, later penned a song entitled, "Steven, It Was Really Something". Unsurprisingly, he is now unavailable for comment.
"Morrissey seems to have this effect even after he's rejected people," says one insider. "They still hold some kind of loyalty towards him, even though they've been shat upon from a great height."
Another observer points to similarities with the English comedian Kenneth Williams, veteran star of the Carry On... movies, who always insisted he wasn't interested in sex yet wrote about "well-oiled builders" in his diaries. In a famous incident, the young Williams was given a pair of boxing gloves by his father and told they'd "make a man of him." His reaction was to say, "Oh no, father, I don't think so." Morrissey sang, "Will nature make a man of me yet?", and in interviews even more self-mockingly quipped: "Before I joined The Smiths, I had a medical problem."
In the mid-Eighties, journalists like Kris Kirk and Richard Smith both penned articles attacking Morrissey for adopting "gay icons" on his record sleeves while refusing to come out. Was Morrissey gay? Or - as he liked to suggest - almost asexual? At the time, his only public cohorts were celebrity friends such as Lloyd Cole, Pete Burns and pools winner Viv Nicholson, cover star of "Heaven Knows I'm Miserable Now".
"I refuse to recognise the terms hetero-, bi- and homo- sexual," Mozzer has said "Everybody has the same sexual needs. People are just sexual, the prefix is immaterial." In one provocative, distasteful incident, Antonella Black interviewed Morrissey for Sounds, and kept on asking the "gay" question. Exasperated by the man's denials, she finally said, "So what if a tall, dark man walked up to you, gripped you by the back of the neck, bent you over...." Morrissey shrieked: "Don't!!! Stop, stop now! Stop now!" (A misquote. If you'd like to read what Morrissey really said, please visit Sorrow's Native Son.)

The "vexed question of Morrissey's sexuality" as one journalist later put it ("Who does it vex? It doesn't vex me," replied Moz) would stalk Morrissey later on in life. In the meantime, tensions within The Smiths were starting to approach boiling point. Following the stressful departure of Joe Moss and the band's move to London, Johnny Marr almost burnt himself out during the sessions for what would become 1986's classic, The Queen Is Dead.
This is former Pretenders drummer and close friend of Marr, Fred Hood: "I'd never seen anyone so under pressure as Johnny was when they were doing The Queen Is Dead. Johnny was writing all the songs, then arranging for Morrissey to get to the studio when nobody else was there, such were Morrissey's stipulations. And Johnny was beginning to have a good time outside of that, doing sessions with Bryan Ferry and Billy Bragg, for example. He was beginning to enjoy being in more normal musicianly surroundings. The Smiths were abnormal because they were hermetically sealed. I suspect it's possibly how Geri from The Spice Girls felt towards the end. They had this whole thing of "us against the world", and I suspect she, like he, probably felt it would be nice to communicate with a few people."
Morrissey was barely able to conceal his jealously at Marr's extra-curricular activities, but if a crisis with Marr was looming at that point, nobody saw it. Instead, the eyes of The Smiths and the world focused on the bass player. Andy Rourke had dabbled in drugs since childhood, but was now fully in the grip of a heroin addiction that was affecting his playing. Out of concern for Andy more than their own careers, the band sacked him and offered Craig Gannon (ex-Aztec Camera) the bass slot. When, a week later, Rourke was busted for possession, the band sympathetically invited him back to clean up, keeping Gannon on as a second guitarist. To the fans, the shock that a Smith was involved in hard drugs came as a body-blow to the group's puritanical image and the first public inkling that anything was wrong.
In the meantime, the cracks were getting wider. The Smiths were extraordinarily prolific (the collosal "How Soon Is Now?" was originally an extra track). But they were having problems from their record company. The Smiths wished to leave Rough Trade, unhappy at what they saw as shoddy treatment and a lack of promotion. Eventually, a deal would be set up with EMI which would commence after the band had completed their commitments to the independent label. The situation wasn't helped by the lack of a manager, as a succession of caretakers were briskly dispensed with.
Mike Joyce: "Johnny and Morrissey didn't want to relinquish control - which was good in a way because who knows best?"
It says much about Joyce's naivete at this time that he thought the darkly sexual and even possibly homo-erotic "Hand In Glove" was about the closeness between the band. As was now becoming the norm, people had differing views on Morrissey's true motives.
Andy Catlin: "I think Morrissey started to change quite substantially. I think he became a bit ... not power-mad, but a control freak. I think it was a difficult time for everyone. That period was a turning-point."
Jo Slee: "The whole thing was fraught, from the word go. I think they were unmanageable. The group was Morrissey and Marr. Morrissey was the management, Johnny was more concerned with the music. Rough Trade felt they both needed separate managers."
When the company and the group finally split, both parties would accuse each other of "greed".
"I think there was greed in the group," says Jo Slee. "But it wasn't coming from Morrissey. In the end, I felt Morrissey was the protagonist in just getting the record out, irrespective of who was gonna sign to who."
After six months in a lawyer's vault, The Queen Is Dead confirmed the Smiths' position at the pinnacle of rock. It was a masterful collection, packed with humour and brutality, repressed emotion, unquenchable and unfulfillable sexual yearning. Brilliantly, The Queen... confronted the times while dripping with rose-tinted images of a quasi-mythical "dear old Blighty" that offered romantic escapes from the problems of the present.
But things had changed.
"There were a lot of mind games... communication through non-communication remembers Mike Joyce. Around this time, Joyce was beginning to discover that not only were Morrissey and Marr the sole names of the Rough Trade contract, but that non-songwriting money (Morrissey and Marr wrote all the songs) was not split equally four ways. On the other hand, Morrissey and Marr were crippling themselves running the group.
"The momentum of the first year carried us through when things started to break down," reflects Grant Showbiz. "At first it was that classic thing of the manager, the band and the road crew in the same van, everyone knowing each other and finding each other's jokes funny. It was like that and then it suddenly leapt. The original road crew evaporated and we lost Joe, and then suddenly we went to America and it was never the same again."


Johnny Marr's mental and physical condition on what had proved to be the fatal American tour of 1986 has always been put down to "alcoholism".
Grant Showbiz: "There was cocaine about, and limitless amounts of booze... you're wondering how far you can go. I don't think you become an alcoholic over six weeks, buy yeah, you're drinking every day, and you're drinking to excess, and you've never done that. Again, you want to see what it is like, 'Wow, I can still think straight and I've been up for three days. Whoops I've just fallen over.' It's a learning curve, and I think all of us said 'OK, let's bloody do it. Let's have the hotel with the swimming pool on the roof, let's go down the bloody Whiskey-A-Go-Go and 15 more clubs, and get arrested for trying to beat up a policeman.' It was insane! I was definitely going to the mixing desk the worse for wear. But I can't remember Johnny ever being unable to play because of abuse. I can remember Johnny being very out of it, and Morrissey being very hard to get hold of. The amount of time it took to get Morrissey onstage was getting longer and longer. There was this great game he'd play of wanting to be asked 15 times, if it'd been 14 the night before. Johnny was like 'Let's Rock!' and Mozzer'd be 'Well, somebody's gotta ask me another seven times.'"
Mike Joyce: "Bar Morrissey, we were certainly burning it at both ends. And in the middle."
Andy Catlin: "Mike in particular started to get into drugs and stuff a lot. There seemed to be more of a separation between all the members of the band, not just Johnny and Morrissey. There was a very different pressure on Andy and Mike... the pressure of not having any control and getting out of it a lot in response to that.
"Mike and Andy were out a lot. I'd bump into them at clubs. They definitely headed for the underbelly of rock'n'roll. They'd gone into the darkness."

Morrissey began to feel excluded from and annoyed by the debauchery, his concern illustrated in an incident with Joyce when the drummer had performed an encore while drunk.
"We did make attempts to bring him in," insists Showbiz. "I think there's a sort of Kenneth Williams element to Morrissey, where he wants it, he wants it, but no he can't have it.
"I have seen Morrissey drunk and I have seen Morrissey out of it, but not at the same time as we were."
Marr's friends on tour included Fred Hood and Guy Pratt, a Mancunian bass player who was at one point talked of as a replacement for Andy. Morrissey was increasingly isolated.
Grant: "Was Morrissey comfortable not being comfortable? I think he sorta liked it like that."
Central to the slow collapse of The Smiths was the complex and intriguing relationship between Morrissey and Marr.
"I think Johnny understood Morrissey more than anyone else in the world," says Showbiz. "I think they were still intimate throughout that whole tour, although it wasn't a public intimacy. During the day, they were having conversations on the phone, and certainly Angie [Marr's wife] and Morrissey were spending time together. It's complicated. I mean, in certain respects every songwriting relationship is like love affair, and it does have these pushes and pulls. It was almost illogical, the gulf that was coming between Johnny and Morrissey, and you couldn't put it down to any one thing. Again, it was almost like Morrissey living out his doomed fantasies. I think at some point one of them thought, "I can't do this. You're saying you want to be on in this stuff but when I move towards you, you move away. Or vice versa. There's no rhythm between us." Whereas before, they were finishing each other's sentences.
"At first, it was a very public togetherness. I think their togetherness went into a much more private thing, and then just seemed to dissolve."

With the Marr-Morrissey relationship buckling, that September's Queen... tour cut a determined swathe across the UK. A public diversion occurred when Melody Maker journalist Frank Owen penned a highly critical but bizarre article condemning that month's "Panic" single ("Burn down the disco...") as "an attack on black pop". Morrissey was sufficiently provoked to claim that reggae was the "most racist music in the entire world" and "a glorification of black supremacy". Even less wisely, he suggested a pro-black conspiracy at TOTP. Nevertheless, the Queen... tour was largely triumphant, less fraught than America. There was considerable humour. Morrissey often held a banner proclaiming "The Queen Is Dead". On the back it said "Two light ales!"
But there were problems involving violence. Shortly after Morrissey - ever the provocateur - announced regret that Thatcher hadn't died in the 1984 Brighton bombing, the band were confronted by skinheads in Preston. "There was an air of violence, of danger," remembers Mike Joyce. Morrissey was hit by flying objects, the gig was aborted, and the road crew ended up fighting with the audience. After the final night, in Manchester, Craig Gannon was sacked via a friend, Marr calling him "a lazy bastard". Soon afterwards, Johnny piled his car into a brick wall in Bowdon and was lucky not to be killed. The year ended with what would prove the be The Smiths' last British gig, at Brixton Academy on December 12, 1986.

In 1987, things were further complicated by the recruitment of Ken Friedman, an American manager.
"He wasn't at all straightforward," says Jo Slee. "I suspect he was playing off one against the other."
Grant: "The big problem was nobody took an overview. Nobody said, 'Why don't you take a holiday, guys, because you look knackered and you're arguing all the time?' It was a heady rush, but nobody realised that The Smiths wasn't Morrissey or Johnny, but Morrissey and Johnny. Maybe if someone had done and given them space, The Smiths would still be going."
The band were still going, but only just. 1987 saw just one - last - Smiths performance at San Remo in Italy. A split with long-time producer John Porter was instigated when Morrissey brought in Stephen Street to remix the April single, "Sheila Take A Bow", with it's tantalising hints of transvestitism. However, with Street now on board, the Strangeways sessions were unusually stress-free for most of the group.
Mike: "There was no darkness in the and as far as I was concerned. The darkness was coming from the music. Maybe we were growing apart. Maybe it was there in front of me and I didn't want to see it."
On the other hand, the pressure was becoming intolerable for Marr. What were to be the final Smiths sessions took place in May at Grant Showbiz's Streatham home studio.
Grant Showbiz: "It was an incredible fuck up. They were all exhausted, especially Johnny. Rough Trade had this stupid thing that they needed some B-sides, but the vibes were so bad. It was a heavy scene. I remember being frightened of Morrissey, which I'd never ever been. He was in quite a scary state, and everyone seemed to be there at different times. Johnny'd turn up and the rhythm section'd be down the pub, then they'd turn up. 'Where's Johnny?' 'Oh, he's gone down the pub.' 'Oh fuck this we're going home.'
"It was even harder when they were together. I can remember Morrissey saying 'Let's do it, let's go record the songs,' and Johnny going, 'We haven't got any fucking songs!'"
They ended up doing a Cilla Black song. Marr was mortified. With Rough Trade hassling them, no manager and the core of the band barely talking to each other, it was a situation tailored to collapse.
"Morrissey had this song, "I Keep Mine Hidden" which was basically Morrissey saying, 'I'm sorry Johnny, I'm a complete fuck up but please forgive me,'" reveals Grant Showbiz. "With lots of specific references, it was a very direct song.
"Things were crazy. Johnny had been playing with Bryan Ferry and he had a holiday booked up in Los Angeles or somewhere. Morrissey had specifically booked this session so it began to drag into this period. So Johnny was like, 'Fuck this, I'm gone.' Morrissey just went into nosedive."
What was Morrissey sorry for?
"Well, Morrissey knows that he's a perverse person and he turns people away from him by not showing caring emotions at times that are appropriate."
This dangerous tendency would overshadow Morrissey's career. Marr's decision to leave The Smiths was rubber-stamped by a premature and slightly fabricated NME story that suggested just that. Paranoid and vulnerable, Marr suspected - wrongly - that Morrissey had planted the story to force a climb-down. After an initial, typically humorous denial ("Anyone who says The Smiths have split shall be severely spanked by me with a wet plimsoll"), Morrissey would never talk to NME again. (Obviously untrue. Just see the Morrissey solo interview archive... His last interview with the NME was circa 1991.)
"He was just under so much stress I think he thought that all he had to do to get rid of the stress was to get out of the band," says Fred Hood of Marr's exit, "and to an extent he was right. He was just so unhappy. I think he felt he could write songs for anybody, and yet he was having to write songs with this reclusive, manic depressive.
"And why does everyone see that particular combination as being the only one which means anything? I think he was worried that people would only be interested in the songs he wrote with Morrissey."
Johnny Marr would never write songs with Morrissey again, and Morrissey's own career would arguably never recover.

It was 1988, and following some short-lived sessions with Rourke, Gannon and Joyce ("We tried to carry on. I know Johnny wasn't too happy about that," says Mike), Morrissey plunged into the unknown.
Signed to EMI as a solo artist, he spent the winter of 1987-88 holed up at The Wool Hall studios in Bath, with Stephen Street, producing a solo album. Street had constructed some basic chord sequences, but realised a "muso" was needed to turn the sketches into songs. To this end, the duo recruited Vini Reilly, virtuoso guitarist with Manchester's Durutti Column.
"I think Morrissey was still trying to come to terms with what had happened," says Vini now. "But the three of us gelled. We had a very happy friendship which was based on Moz's gift for mockery. He basically just laughed at me.
"But it progressed from there to exchanged confidences, a lot of trust. We were physically wrestling with each other and having food fights, then discussing anxieties or worries."
Despite Morrissey's fragile state of mind and "reputation for being difficult", Vini Reilly paints a fairly idyllic picture of their time recording together. The residential studio was very luxurious, and the pair would kill time playing charades and discussing the films they'd just watched. They'd even enjoy shopping trips into Bath and nights out at Bristol Bierkeller, when the near-anorexic Reilly took on the implausible role as bodyguard to the beleaguered star.
Vini: "I used to put my pinstripe suit on, and wear shades, and pretend I was a bouncer. Which astonishingly enough people actually believed, and would treat me with great respect, which was hilarious!"
Nevertheless, it wasn't always easy to escape the enormous numbers of people who - as Julie Burchill once memorably put it - wanted to "touch the hem of Morrissey's cloth".
"Did Morrissey get recognised? Oh God, yeah," exclaims Reilly. "Everywhere we went. It was quite scary because we'd have one or two lads who'd approach, and within seconds it was like sharks, 20, 30. So we had to pre-empt it; at the first sign of approach be very heavy, and go 'Back off'. It didn't always work, so then we had to hasten to a car which was always waiting. It was the height of Mozmania. I do think it got him down because it was totally impossible for him to chill out."
Despite the light-hearted nature of much of Reilly/Morrissey's friendship, the sessions themselves were often acutely intense. Reilly particularly recalls recording "Late Night Maudlin Street", a harrowing confessional which drew subtle parallels between the dark times of Morrissey's youth and his uncertain present.
"Going into the night, Mozzer was putting down his vocal, and the whole studio was affected by the atmosphere. It was absolutely for real, everyone felt it and just went very quiet and went to bed very subdued. We didn't play charades that night, I can tell you."
In February, "Suedehead", a single from the sessions, was released and astonished many by soaring to Number Five, outstripping The Smiths' successes. A wonderful, flowing single, "Suedehead" (the title inspired by Richard Allen's Skinhead novels) boded well for Morrissey's career as a solo artist and was followed by an arguably superior Top Tenner in the swirling, "Everyday Is Like Sunday". Soon afterwards, Morrissey's solo triumph appeared complete when the Viva Hate album went to Number One. Morrissey marked his finest moment with a display of his increasing penchant for bizarre, extreme behaviour.
"He disappeared on me," recalls Gail Colson, who managed Morrissey at the time. "He vanished for a month from the day I told him that the album had gone in at Number One."
Unbeknown to anyone, Morrissey was back in Manchester. According to Reilly, Morrissey had just had enough of the business for a while.
"EMI had been breathing down his neck all through making that album, but he's arrive at my flat here clutching some eco-friendly cleaning fluid."
Shortly afterwards, Morrissey discovered that Rourke, Gannon and Joyce were preparing to sue him (and Marr) for monies relating to The Smiths (the case would eventually come to court in 1996). Morrissey's response to this was even more unpredictable...
Exactly 365 days after he'd last worked with them, Morrissey (or rather his lawyer) phoned the trio and suggested a gig. The result was a triumphant experience for all concerned, with feverish members of the audience gaining admission with a Smiths or Morrissey T-Shirt. The band played the material they'd recorded with Morrissey a year earlier (such as "The Last Of The Famous International Playboys") and a handful of Smiths songs never played live. However, the backstage environment brought the curious occasion of a group whose entire membership was suing the singer. According to Joyce, "It wasn't mentioned".
Morrissey would never play with either Joyce, Rourke or Gannon again, dumbfounding the ex-Smiths to this day. Morrissey was still playing mind games, and getting rather good at them.

Morrissey was in another state of flux. He'd fired everybody: Gail Colson, his manager, as well as his accountants and lawyers.
Yet another run-in (with Stephen Street, which mystifies Vini Reilly to this day) had ensured that the successful Viva Hate duo, or trio, would never work together again. Collaborations with producers Langer & Winstanley, and Fairground Attraction songwriter Mark Nevin had proved unrewarding, the latter spawning 1991's belated and critically pilloried "Kill Uncle" ("So Morrissey's over..." declared Steve Sutherland in the Melody Maker), while Marr was enjoying a productive career as member of both The The and Electronic.
Morrissey was increasingly hermetic, refusing to tour, and still steadfastedly refusing to talk to the music press. The music press, in return, was determined to get to him. A succession of provocative articles took the ambiguous lyrics of songs like "Bengali In Platforms" to suggest that Morrissey was a racist (Morrissey has performed for "Artists Against Apartheid"). To his credit, Morrissey refused to respond. However, this made the music press equally determined to press for blood. His relationship with the media began an increasing downward spiral.
Andy Catlin provides an insight into what would become Morrissey's rampant paranoia as a solo artist.
"The thing with rock photography is, the only time the average person gets to look at Morrissey in the eye is in a photograph. So the pictures that people see of you become more of a reality than who you actually are. I think he became more conscious of that. But that made it much harder for him to be photographed as time went on. Harder to be exposed."
Morrissey was still doing interviews, laced with wit and humour ("I'm actually at the height of my powers... as a window cleaner," he howled to Q), but was giving little away. For many, it was impossible to distinguish between the mask and the man.
"It goes back [again] to Kenneth Williams," says one insider. "When did he turn off? Did he sit in front of his friends and do that fucking stupid voice? You put on the mask and the mask becomes the person. There's nothing left except the persona. Morrissey had become a c***. Perhaps he'd always been a c***. But maybe if he wasn't such a c*** he wouldn't have made the brilliant records he did."

More persecuted than ever, Morrissey continued an ongoing process of disposing of his associates and friends. There were 10 people personally thanked on the sleeve of The Smiths' debut album; all were now utterly excommunicated.
Grant Showbiz (himself by this point persona non grata) recalls a typical fate, that of sleeve layout person Caryn Gough.
"She just happened to say to somebody, "Oh those covers used to take me no time at all. I used to slap 'em up." That was it. Literally about a week later she was excommunicated by Morrissey."
Vini Reilly points out that to some Morrissey may appear to have a huge ego, but that it hides a desperately vulnerable person.
"He's been betrayed very often by people who should know better," he declares. "I've actually seen that happen - and it's very painful to watch."
And hard to be on the end of. Vini Reilly got particularly close to Morrissey - until the phone calls stopped.
"A lot of people think, "I'm going to be the one to get through to Morrissey," and they all end up like all the others," says unofficial biographer Johnny Rogan. "Because they perhaps expect too much going in. He's very much in control of his life, but that can be a plus or a minus. Basically, I think a lot of people want to love Morrissey, but he thinks everybody hates him!"
Grant Showbiz puts Morrissey's fondness for excommunications as down to a "Power thing. To say 'Fuck you, fuck off. I don't need you any more.'"
Why does he have so many fall-outs?
"Well, I could give you a very cheap answer - he's insane!" laughs Jo Slee. "But no, I think he has very high expectations of people, and he's very quick to take umbrage, or to feel let down, and you don't often get a second chance. That's childlike. He's very extreme in his emotional reactions to people. He's always been intensely suspicious, actually finding it intensely difficult to trust people. I actually feel like he's been indoctrinated against trusting people at some stage in his life."
Revealingly, Morrissey once said he grew up without seeing his parents hug or kiss. Equally illuminatingly, Slee (one of the few people to be "re-admitted" to the circle after a falling-out with Morrissey) paints an intriguing picture of a consummate performer with a crippling lack of self-esteem.
"He finds it difficult to receive friendship," she says. "If you don't learn self-esteem when you're a child, for whatever reason, you have to work really hard when you're older. And you've got to have a reason for doing that. He's the type of person who, if people want to keep in touch with him, they probably need to do it. I don't think he really believes that people want to be his friend.
The self-esteem problem is interesting because of the connection between low self-esteem and grandiosity. You could say that Morrissey has plenty of grandiosity, and he has extraordinarily low self-esteem. And yet he's a very passionate person. Work that one out!"


As the nineties opened up, the familiar patterns of Morrissey's life began to re-establish themselves. His childhood had been marked by dysfunction (the eventual separation of his parents) and upheaval (the family had removed from a fairly idyllic existence in Dublin to Manchester, and the painful Mozzer schooldays immortalised in songs like "The Headmaster Ritual").
Morrissey is uniquely complex. As a free thinker, he is a radical. As someone for whom change (childhood relocations, the end of The Smiths) has generally been for the worst, he's an inherent conservative who often clings to the sanctity of the past and what he knows.
By 1991 Morrissey was again touring (with a four-piece band), and again delving comfort from the succour of celebrity friendships. As well as the enduring Linder Sterling, Morrissey's friends at this point included Tim Booth of James (who'd toured with The Smiths back in '85) and Pretender Chrissie Hynde, who'd - intriguingly - worked with Johnny Marr.
Morrissey's penchant for celebrities resurfaced during an unbelievably triumphant first US tour, which then-bassist Gary Day describes now as "Mozmania. Famous people were always turning up. Sandie Shaw came to a lot of gigs. Sylvester Stallone."
"Celebrities came up all the time," adds Jo Slee. "But, unless he admired their work, he wouldn't want to meet them."
Jo cites a mildly embarrassing incident with Moz fanatic Tom Hanks. She has a particularly insightful view on Morrissey's celebrity fetishism.
"He can walk up to any kind of celebrity - someone who has a public persona he admires - without fear or shyness," she says. "He can go into an in-depth conversation as if he's known them for years. But if he's confronted by someone about whom he doesn't have an image, a sense of who they are, he's completely lost. He needs to observe people, probably for several years, before he can open a conversation. When you see children together, they're entirely contained in their bubble and they don't speak. When you look at them again, they've stepped out and they're playing together. I don't think Morrissey can do that. He never developed that."

Morrissey struck up a particularly intense friendship with Michael Stipe, another icon of unconfirmed sexuality, which led to wild industry rumour.
"Michael was great on that first tour," says Jo, carefully. "They met a lot and used to correspond."
Gary Day: "Michael Stipe? Yeah, he was around. Was Morrissey going out with anybody? Not that I knew. Anything that may or may not have happened on that front I don't know about at all. That side of his life is very private, and that's his prerogative. The less he reveals, the more people ponder. I was just the bass player. I wouldn't want the pressure he's got."
Like many of his famous friendships, the Stipe-Morrissey bonding "drifted". Another of Morrissey's long-term friends on the 1991-2 world tour was someone called Peter Hogg.
Day: "I detested him. He was a real troublemaker, always sticking the knife into other people's backs."
But who was Pete Hogg?
"Please don't ask me," pleads Jo Slee. "Let me just refer you to the '91 tour programme. Peter Hogg was down as "rent-a-chap", and that's all I can say."

By 1992, Morrissey's life was increasingly schizophrenic, torn between the bustle of the road and the sanctity of his hermetic life in Bowdon, near Manchester, where he often spent time living with his mother. Geographically restless, Morrissey moved to London, and there was much to be positive about in Steven Patrick's life. 1992 brought return-to-form album, Your Arsenal, produced by Mick Ronson, even a clutch of outstanding B-sides (notably "Jack The Ripper") and perhaps the ultimate compliment was paid when Moz's adolescent hero, David Bowie, covered one of his songs, "I Know It's Gonna Happen Someday". [Although Bowie has subsequently declared "It's me doing Morrissey doing me."] American success was burgeoning. In fact Morrissey - the old Englander - was increasingly growing to love Uncle Sam. He was well-loved (one of the few "English eccentrics" to achieve this Stateside feat) yet could be anonymous. America also brought welcome light relief.
In England, all was unwell, however. In July, Morrissey was canned off at Finsbury Park after he supported Madness swathed in a Union Jack. Subsequently, NME ran a four-page assault entitled, "This Alarming Man", which attempted to revive the racist controversy. Morrissey again remained silent.
But as his worldwide stardom was growing, the man himself was increasingly isolated and lonely. The gulf between his public and private self was widening alarmingly.
He had his band (the core of which would stay with him throughout the Nineties), but where The Smiths' vaunted "gang mentality" may have been misleading but not entirely inaccurate, the new outfit was more of a working, business-based unit. Relations with Morrissey were amicable, but little more.
"It was the lack of communication," says Gary Day. "If you're going to be told something, you like to be told by that person - and it was never done that way. If someone you know asks you to do something, you might not think it's outrageous or terrible, but if it comes from someone else it might upset you.
"A lot of things change when you're in that camp; like, you can be expecting to go on tour, and then the day before you hear that you're not going on tour. You can be in the middle of a tour, then suddenly you're going home. But it's his show, and he runs it. I admire that; if he upset me a couple of times, that's just my personal feelings."
Again, "strange loyalty" to this not always charming man. Morrissey's management situation was similarly confused. He asked Gail Colson back; she refused. Just as Morrissey was growing fond of another manager, Nigel Thomas (who annoyed the band by cutting their money), Thomas died of a heart attack. Gary Day was sacked. He heard the news from a roadie, much as Andy Rourke had apparently been dismissed from The Smiths by finding a sticker on his car.
"He's a total coward in that respect," admits Jo Slee. "Appalling. I mean, his favourite way of stopping working with someone is to stop speaking to them. They don't understand why he's suddenly stopped answering their faxes and stopped answering his phone, and has changed his phone number. And then they hear from his lawyer or his accountant that he's no longer working with them..."
Does he realise how harmful that can be?
"I don't think he's able to feel it. Because if he were, he wouldn't do it. I don't think he's in touch with that sort of emotion. He's not in touch with the consequences of his actions."

Back in London, Mozzer tried manfully to rid himself of the reclusive habits that had often threatened to consume him. He became almost a regular at certain pubs in Camden, Vauxhall and Whitechapel, where he could be seen cradling a pint in darkened corners. In interviews, he'd even started alluding to finally understanding the need for physical relationships.
"That time was very good for him," says Jo Slee. Much of the time, Mozzer's companion was Jake Walters, a diminutive skinhead former boxer with what insiders describe as a "checquered past". Although Walters is loathe to speak about Morrissey, he will confirm that they shared a house and were "best mates".
"The most interesting and fascinating character I've ever met," confesses Walters, understandably. Jake was never on the payroll, but became Morrissey's personal assistant as soon as a stressed-out Jo resigned. Morrissey was also particularly friendly with Murray Chalmers, his press officer at EMI.
Around this time, Morrissey became publically infatuated with the imagery of the boxer. He attended fights. Bizarre, unconfirmed rumours spoke of a procession of "hard-looking" characters beating a pathway to his door, while Morrissey began to utilise the imagery of the fighter in his performances, including backdrops featuring skinhead girls. He appeared in one magazine covered in (fake) bruises. For someone who had retained a bequiffed, slightly Fifties look since 1983 and was still publically thought of as something of a "Jessie", this was a major development.
Although she was no longer working with him, Jo Slee understood the process perfectly.
"It was a projection of a part of himself that's inaccessible to him," she says. "I think he perceives that as a masculinity which he has always craved and was never given. If we're not given these things then we tend to go seeking them in some form. I mean, when you meet him he might seem very male, very charming, very camp or whatever - but it's not about how you come across, it's how you are inside. For instance, someone might come across as a very sexual person, but they might be terrified of sexuality."
Unsurprisingly, many commentators were quick to seize on the supposed "homo-erotic" possibilities in Morrissey's new aesthetic.
"He said something in an interview which stuck in my mind about his fascination with skinheads," says Slee. "He said that what he envied about these people - in a boyish, laddish way - was that they were natural and un-self-conscious, which I thought was very revealing."
So he's not attracted to violence?
"I wouldn't say that's the over-riding thing there. I remember once in Australia he was ill,. This is the illest man ever! But he was terribly ill in bed and eventually struggled out onto the roof of the hotel. Morrissey was sitting there, swathed in scarves, drinking hot chocolate, and he suddenly said in a really plaintive voice, 'There's a wasp drowning in the swimming-pool.' And I swear to God he made me fish it out! And it sat there cleaning its wings off. Then he was happy."

Morrissey was often happy in 1994. He was justifiably proud of that year's superbly-received Vauxhall & I album, his favourite solo album, and possible his best. Morrissey's new contentment was typified in delighted public exclamations of a renewal of aquaintance with Johnny Marr.
By 1995, things were changing on all fronts. Now a muscular thirty-something, Morrissey completed his deal with EMI/HMV and decided on a new company, RCA, whose famous orange label had adorned his favourite childhood Lou Reed and David Bowie records. However, the resulting Southpaw Grammar album (the apex of his boxing obsession) was disappointing and, as with Kill Uncle, Morrissey found himself touring a substandard album. His American success (though still impressive) was waning and the British leg of the Boxers tour was one of the most bizarre in living memory. Flanked by images of bruisers, Morrissey and the band played through gritted teeth as hordes of fans trooped ritually onstage to hug the hero, before filing off politely again. Even Morrissey himself seemed to be going through the motions: the once master of apparent spontaneity reduced to grim ritual.
Around this time, the ever-present Jake Walters seemed to fade from view as Morrissey's sideman (although he insists that - despite rumours - they never fell out and are still in touch), with Jo Slee again looking after the singer's personal affairs. Morrissey was given a new challenge as support (or "co-headline") on David Bowie's Outsiders tour. However, what should have been a great honour turned into a near disaster, with Morrissey going on early to half-empty halls and deafening bemusement.
Few were surprised when Morrissey soon pulled out of the tour (citing "illness"), but accusations that Morrissey found the experience of supporting Bowie too humiliating were cruelly wide of the mark.
"He was very ill with depression," says Jo Slee. "He wasn't really fit to go on the road, although I didn't know how ill he was until he really began to come apart at the seams."
Jo won't say what Mozzer was depressed about.
"I really couldn't say," she insists. "Morrissey's suffered from depression all his life, more than anyone else I know. It's about repressed feelings, repressed emotions, repressed pain. It needs treatment. He was taking anti-depressants at the time because he was desperate to get out on the road, he really wanted to do the dates. But it was just too much for him."
Around this time, Morrissey was confessing to having dabbled with both Ecstasy and Prozac. Those unprompted revelations aside, no one has ever asked him about prescription drugs.

Poor, beleaguered, fighting Morrissey. He was never one to shirk from a challenge, and must have faced the prospect of finally facing his former colleague Joyce in court (Rourke and Gannon had long since accepted relatively small settlements) with relish, if some small amount of fear.
When the singer finally took the stand in 1996, he performed well at first, then became progressively more irritated. Famously, the judge described him as "devious, truculent and unreliable".
Grant Showbiz: "He completely fucked it up. Johnny said, 'Why don't I just cut up a million pounds now?' The judge was saying, 'Have you got another name?' And Moz's going, 'Do I have to tell you?' Every question, he was like a spoilt little boy, as if he was above it all. Literally, he must have lost himself and Johnny a million quid in half an hour."
Morrissey insisted he was the wronged party.
"Really, I'll never forgive Mike [Joyce], and to a lesser extent Andy [Rourke], because it was horrific," he explained to Melody Maker a year later. "It was shocking, and if I was a weaker person or less intelligent, it would make me despise The Smiths and everything they stood for."
Describing the judge as "horrendous", Moz went on to say, "The court case was a potted history of the life of The Smiths. Mike, talking constantly and saying nothing. Andy, unable to remember his own name. Johnny, trying to please everyone and consequently pleasing no one. And Morrissey under the scorching spotlight in the dock, being drilled..."
Joyce was awarded �1.25 million from Morrissey and Marr.
"'Devious, truculent and unreliable'? We half expected that to be the title of the next LP," chuckles Slee.
Instead, 1997 brought Maladjusted, a title which, like most of Morrissey's art, told it's own story. Associates were shocked by the news that Morrissey (as opposed to Marr) was determined to appeal against the court decision (the appeal is heard on July 22).
Fred Hood: "Morrissey's appealing. What an idiot! I think Johnny would have settled out of court. They say that Morrissey's got the first pound he ever earned, whereas Johnny's a generous guy, not at all miserly - and I'm not sure if you can say that about Morrissey."
Grant Showbiz: "I can imagine Morrissey bankrupting himself one day. He loves tragedy. He thinks the world's against him."
But wasn't it always that way?

Which brings us back to the present day. Strangely, several major players in the Smiths/Morrissey saga are seeing each other again. Rourke and Joyce are working together again in Pete Wylie's band. Johnny Marr and Joe Moss used the trial as a means of renewing old acquaintances, with Marr now producing Moss' new (and not un-Smithsy) charges, Marion. The odd one out, as ever, is Morrissey.
1997's critically well-received Maladjusted album spent just two weeks in the UK Top 40 and performed relatively poorly in the USA. If proof were needed, Maladjusted rammed home the point that Morrissey would finally have to change.
His affairs are in crisis. In 1998, Morrissey is once again at a crossroads, a colossal talent in need of a new foil, which may necessitate a new life.
"Morrissey," says Fred Hood. "He's just doing pale imitations of The Smiths."
The era of candid memoirs and public confessionals could do much for him as he approaches 40. Just as the initial "scandals" involving Hugh Grant and George Michael made their iconic facades seem immediately more human and welcoming, maybe Moz would do well to shine his own purging light in his darkest secrets.
"He's becoming more remote from the world and it's such a shame," rues Grant Showbiz. "When your great skill is writing about the world, how can you write about it when you keep shutting yourself away from it?"
Everyone has so much love for Morrissey, yet he has retreated further and further from that love.
"His big problem is this thing about not being able to receive love from people," sighs Slee. "It's about not ever having been taught to give it yourself. This is no reflection on either of his parents, but it's about what the child needs rather than what the child actually gets, and if it's not what the child needs, the child learns that it has no value. That means that when people focus their love and affection on that person, they don't know how to receive it. He can see that someone really cares for him, in some detached way, but he can't feel it."
This is perhaps the most damning and yet curiously endearing thing anyone's ever said about Morrissey.
He has tried therapy, finding it impossible to make himself "vulnerable" to a psychoanalyst's probing. He's "thought about death a lot", says Slee, but she doubts if this notorious self-preserver would seriously consider suicide. His staunchest allies (Slee and Reilly) concur that Morrissey an be incalculably vindictive but, says Reilly, "It hurts him more than anyone else."
Perhaps the great tragedy of Steven Patrick Morrissey is that however nasty or bitter he can appear, he is perennially more victim than victor. He is himself the fly caught in the tantalising web of dysfunction that has given us his wonderful talent. The question now is whether Morrissey can rekindle that talent while somehow leading an easier existence.
Whatever will happen to Morrissey?
"I wish he'd end up a chubby with a significant other watching Carry On movies with a bottle of brandy in his hand," says Grant Showbiz. "But I suspect it's going to be in a lonely garage with the poison, cos that's the way he wants to go out. He wants to go over the cliff in a pink Cadillac."
In the absence of any word from the great man, the final words should go to Michael Bracewell, his friend and confidant. "I really think he'll be like the heroine in Far From The Madding Crowd" he insists, "where she says, "I shall be up before dawn and astonish you all."
Lord knows, it would not be the first time.

THE MANAGER
Gail Colson was sacked by Morrissey.
"I managed Morrissey during the Viva Hate period, for about a year. I met him and I found him fantastic. We didn't talk about anything to do with The Smiths. We talked about the Sixties, Coronation Street, nothing to do with music.
"But working with him was very difficult. He's hard to contact. I sued to have to rely on him calling me, cos he doesn't really answer his phone. There'd be periods of months on end when I never heard from him. He disappeared on me for about a month from the day I told him the album had gone in at Number One. That was very frustrating, because everyone wanted to do interviews, and so on. He's very, very difficult to manage, but on the other hand he can be very charming, good fun.
"At that time, he never toured and didn't have a band. I didn't try to get him to tour because I'd seen what happened with The Smiths. He cancelled enough tours, didn't he?!
"Why did I stop managing him? He sacked me! He sacked me, his accountant and his lawyer on the same day. No idea why. It was bizarre, but then again nothing's bizarre with Morrissey. That's why I'm being a bit guarded. It's so sad. He's his own worst enemy. He's cut everybody out and is back where he was before fame, only stuck in a hotel room, not a bedroom.
"And he's still got his Mum running everything. Ooh, there's lots more I could tell you!"
Gail Colson now manages Stephen Street, whom Morrissey avoids.

THE BETE NOIRE
Johnny Rogan penned the unauthorised Smiths biography, Morrissey and Marr: The Severed Alliance, following which Morrissey issued the fatwa, "I hope Johnny Rogan dies in a multiple pile-up on the M3." (He later upgraded this to "a hotel fire").
"Despite what Morrissey may think, I wrote the book because I love The Smiths. He said it was '75 per cent lies' before he's even seen it! It's funny, because when Morrissey was in court over Mike Joyce's contribution to The Smiths he picked up a copy and said, 'Have you seen the title of this book? There are only two names on it: Morrissey and Marr.' He also turned up at one of my bookstore signings in a Cadillac. There were some great headlines in America - 'Is Morrissey a prowler?' He's very paradoxical. He's got this beatific serenity about him - he never shouts and screams - and yet there's this tremendous violence in his writing and comments.
"During the court case I found myself next to him. He just looked across at me and said, 'So, this is where it all ends.' Was he talking about his life, or The Smiths, or in a Wildean sense that the thing that he loved was now threatening to destroy him? But he was non-confrontational. I mean, there's somebody here who wants me to die in a motorway crash! But he doesn't come up to me swinging his bag. I said, 'Do you still want me to die?' and he was quite reasonable about it. He's incredibly complex. I don't buy it that he doesn't know how painful it feels when somebody is rejected by him. Nobody walks away from Morrissey, but the one that has is Johnny Marr. And Morrissey's not stopped going on about it since!
"In a PR-driven world, Morrissey is an authentic figure. He's always had the guts to take on the world. As he nears 40 he's increasingly seen as a sort of Godfather figure, like Lou Reed was for a previous generation. Stylistically, he no longer seems radical, and in the era of Jarvis, Brett and the tabloid excesses of Oasis, Morrissey's outrages no longer compel attention in the way they did. But he's always had the ability to surprise and knows the pop game so well. Perhaps it's time he tried something different. It's quite within his nature to do something completely dramatic."
Johnny Rogan is currently working on a Morrissey sequel, avoids the M3 and stays only in bed & breakfasts.

THE COVER STAR
Sixties pools-winner Viv Nicholson adorned the sleeve of "Heaven Knows I'm Miserable Now"...
"Morrissey phoned me up and asked to use my image on the sleeve. I agreed, for a fee, which is usual. The first time we met, we walked along Blackpool seafront. He said he always read about what I was doing and read my book, Spend! Spend! Spend' every day and it was like a Bible to him. I said to him, 'If I was younger, would you marry me?' And he said, 'Yes.' I was amazed. We talked about lots of nice, strange things. He was very strange, like me when I was younger. He was a bit lost, so much to give and no one to take it. He said, 'We're too much for this world at the moment. They're not ready for us, Viv.'
"We met several times. I'd like to have been a lasting friend of his, and I'd have liked him to be a friend of mine. Why didn't we stay in touch? Because he's a moody prat! He does know my phone number. I don't know his phone number. I have written to him, but he never answers. Why leave your address if you can't be bothered to answer? Also, someone told me lots of things he was doing about me. I went to a solicitor, and as it turns out it was the wrong guy! So we kinda fell out, and that was awful
"He does excommunicate people, yeah, and that's wrong, but you've got to learn to be forgiving, and I don't think he wants to. It's a shame because I like him, and I don't want him to end up a sad old man in a lonely flat."
A stage version of Spend! Spend! Spend! is currently touring the UK.

BIGMOUTH STRIKES AGAIN
The wit and genius of STEVEN MORRISSEY

"I sometimes wonder if The Smiths are the last dying breath of that Sixties working-class grim thing... that one solitary clog left in the Arndale Centre" (1984)
"I get terribly embarrassed when I meet Smiths apostles. They see me as some sort of religious character who can solve all their problems with a wave of a syllable" (1985)
"My genitals were the result of some crude practical joke" (1986)
"Talk about the album? Why, for Heaven's sake?" (to interviewer, 1986)
"I'm just an arcane old wardrobe, really" (1987)
"The Roses and the Mondays? The revenge of the daft" (1990)
"I don't want to turn into a 52-year-old lad, but equally I am no longer strapped to the Women's Studies section of Waterstone's on Kensington High Street night and day" ( 1994)
"It's not as if I've sat around in a rocking chair since Strangeways Here We Come. I have actually kept moving." (1994)
"My past? When you meet David Bowie, do you spend your time talking with him about the Seventies? Well, yes, I would!" (1995)
"My most unpleasant characteristic? Unlimited self-sabotage, morbid self-revelation, deadly accurate intuition, barriers of reserve" (1995)
"Artists aren't real people. I am 40 per cent papier mache" (1997)

This article was originally published in the August, 1998 issue of Uncut magazine.
Reprinted without permission for personal use only.
Extra special thanks to naomi for transcribing this immense article.