is sick. By his own estimation, he is sick of the sound of his own
voice. In a suite at the Dorchester Hotel on London's Park Lane, he
apologises to MOJO for what we are about to receive, as it were.
"I warn you, I'm at the gab gab gab stage - I just sit here
and my lips are moving and I can hear the sound of words coming from
somewhere and I realise that I'm actually forming them. I'd love to
be able to stand back or from the side and shout back at myself! The
unfortunate thing is that simply because you happen to hobble together
an album that you're terribly proud of, people assume you have the
answers to everything, and you can explain everything with fantastic
lazy sunbathers: Morrissey and friends, the Beverly Hills Hotel,
April 15, 2004.
a little bronchial chuckle, avuncular, self-deprecating and, to MOJO's
ears, strangely reminiscent of the crumbly tones of John Arlott, the
legendary cricket commentator and poet; a protégé of
Betjeman, a connoisseur of wine and words, and notably, given the
conservative milieu he inhabited, an early anti-apartheid campaigner.
A man regarded as quintessentially English, who also betrayed a profound
anti-Establishment streak. Arlott grew up of humble stock in a Basingstoke
cemetery superintendent's lodge. Perhaps the resemblance isn't so
strange after all.
Two months shy of his 45th birthday, age and the concomitant slight
thickening of the girth become Steven Patrick Morrissey. He looks
in terrific nick, if a little wearied by the rigours of his promotional
campaign. It's been seven long years since his last "hobbled
together" album, the underwhelming Maladjusted, slipped
out and past the gaze of most, around which time he left England and
relocated permanently, via Dublin, to Los Angeles, where he still
resides, a status that from a British perspective increasingly seemed
like exile. Without a record contract after his relationship with
Mercury disintegrated in 1998, he worked his way through various managers
(including Elliot Roberts, who has ministered to Neil Young for most
of the last 35 years), and communed with his public via world tours
during 1999-2000 and 2002. The extent of these demonstrated that Morrissey
still enjoyed a considerable fan-base - particularly in the US and
Latin America, where his personality cult borders on religious idolatry
- spanning a whole range of demographics, be it gender, age or nationality.
Yet still the music industry shunned him. In September 2002, with
no pre-publicity, he sold out two nights at the Royal Albert Hall.
How was it possible that the man who had sung the songs of The Smiths,
the band which more than any other after the Beatles and the Sex Pistols
had infected the vocabulary of British pop culture, couldn't make
records? This simply didn't make sense, This was Morrissey, the voice
that proclaimed The Charming Man, William, It Was Really Nothing,
How Soon Is Now, That Joke Isn't Funny Any More, Meat Is Murder, The
Queen Is Dead, Bigmouth Strikes Again, Panic, Shoplifters Of The World
Unite, Last Night I Dreamt Somebody Loved Me, Everyday Is Like Sunday,
November Spawned A Monster, The More You Ignore Me The Closer I Get,
The Teachers Are Afraid Of The Pupils, Satan Rejected My Soul
It must have been something he's said.
to be sweet boys: The Smiths, University of Leicester, February
the half-hearted release of Maladjusted, aside from a very
occasional press or radio interview, to the casual UK observer Morrissey's
was a merely spectral presence in the entertainment ether, sustained
by the ongoing repackaging of The Smiths' back catalogue and the attendant
retrospective celebration of that most definitive of groups. In April
2001, MOJO ran a Smiths cover story, bolstered by a couple of articles
examining three of the defining aspects of Morrissey's solo career:
his vilification by elements of the press over allegedly racist undertones
to some of his work, the 1996 High Court case in which a judge found
against Morrissey and his fellow songwriting Smith, Johnny Marr, in
a dispute over performing royalties brought by Smiths drummer Mike
Joyce; and his incredible popularity in the US, where in 1992 he sold
out two nights at the Hollywood Bowl in less time than it takes to
make a pot of tea. In the same issue there was a new interview with
Morrissey, where he pondered his ostracism by the music industry ("What
is it about Morrissey that nobody wants to touch?") and explained
his decision to walk away from the media accusations of racism ("absolute
crap") as a means of retaining his dignity. When asked by
writer Jaan Uhelszki, "Can we talk about what you're doing now
in terms of your career?", Morrissey replied: "That will
be a very brief conversation. I'm looking for a deal. I don't have
I have an album which I'm aching to record if anybody
on the planet will let me."
than two years later, somebody finally did. On May 20, 2003, Morrissey
signed to the Sanctuary Records Group, the west London-based management
and label agglomerate, under whose aegis Morrissey's original patron,
Geoff Travis, currently runs the revamped Rough Trade Records. In
return for signing, Morrissey requested and was given the Attack imprint
as his own personal domain - a ripely knowing gesture on his part,
given that Attack was formerly the home of Gregory Isaacs and The
Upsetters and that those "racist" accusation rested heavily
on Morrissey's one-time protest to NME that "reggae is vile".
Two weeks after the Sanctuary deal was signed, Channel 4 broadcast
The Importance Of Being Morrissey, a 60-minute documentary that followed
the main attraction around LA and London, watched him meeting his
Hollywood neighbour Nancy Sinatra ("He's a great hugger"),
and rolled out a quaint assortment of celebrity talking heads (Alan
Bennett, Bono, Kathy Burke, Noel Gallagher, Will Self) to make good
on the premise of the title. The subtext was clear: Morrissey is a
national treasure and we renounced him, ignored him - and ultimately
drove him away. In the last words in the programme, he proclaimed:
"I'm my own person, and that's good enough. And I stand my ground
- that's good enough."
first solo concert, Wolverhampton Civic Hall, December 22, 1988,
Mike Joyce on drums.
he's back, with a new album, combatively titled You Are The Quarry
- the sleeve depicts Morrissey with a tommy gun, contemplating the
weapon rather too fondly for the comfort of some - and holding court
at The Dorchester with regal poise, having his photograph taken in
the tea room and on the outside balcony of the suite where President
Eisenhower used to stay. The procession of interviews confirms his
willingness to engage fully with the soul-sucking processes of the
music business, a reflection of his opinion that his new record is
"absolutely the definitive Morrissey album". But
it's also the result of the fact that people are interested in him
once again: a collective realization that he's been sorely missed,
and that he should never have been allowed to go in the first place.
Typically for Morrissey, it's all something of a mixed blessing.
"I've been asked to do an excessive amount of talking, shall
we say, and unfortunately interviews, for me, are always pretty intense
cross-examinations and they become intensely personal, and they really
drain me. I'm actually an intensely private person, so juggling
that with revealing interviews is very, very difficult for me. Because
to be honest, I'd rather say nothing. I'd rather absolutely let the
music speak for itself and do what it can do. But I've tried that
so many times and nothing happened. It actually simply disappears.
But the label at the moment do want me to do a hell of a lot more,
and I just don't think I can. I mean, Britney I'm not."
So why is he here? Why is he doing this?
"It's 100 per cent a calling, it really is. Because, unfortunately,
I don't really exist anywhere else in life."
kicks off his world tour, Hard Rock Joint, Las Vegas, April
weeks later, Morrissey really is sick. On April 8, MOJO arrives in
Los Angeles for part two of our interview, only to learn that Morrissey
has been diagnosed with meningitis, and won't be seeing anyone, far
less speaking to anyone, until he's recovered. Uncharitable as it
may be, but one's instinct is to feel skeptical. Pinning Morrissey
down to a schedule hasn't been easy thus far, and he does have a history
of dealing with inconvenient engagements by simply making himself
unavailable. Just as his interviews are sparring matches, with this
some-time boxing aficionado a master of the feint and the parry and
the surprise counter - not to mention the sly dig below the belt -
so Morrissey delights in leading the world outside his window a merry
dance. For him, the importance of being Morrissey is ensuring no one
knows who Morrissey really is or what he does (and with whom). Which
is, of course, one of the reasons for his enduring fascination. On
The Smiths' debut album, he averred, "I'm not the man you think
I am" - and 20 years on, the obfuscatory intent behind those
words still holds true.
On April 15, MOJO speaks to him on the telephone. A little croaky
but otherwise seeming fine, he explains how he caught a virus on the
flight back from London to LA and subsequently developed a five-day
migraine, throwing his plans into disarray, most notably the rehearsals
for his US tour.
"It's annoying, because in 48 hours I'll be standing on a
stage in Las Vegas, hopefully singing," he says. "So
I'm a bit nervous. [Meningitis] was only part of it. I had two brain
scans in two days. And then, in the final analysis, last Tuesday,
when they were about to take some spinal fluid, I just stood up and
said, No more, this is silly. Absolutely silly. Because American medicine,
they absolutely don't know anything. They'll saw your leg off just
to prevent you getting gangrene in the future. I'm not kidding. I
ended up in hospital on a drip, which was hugely humiliating and embarrassing.
And at one point I went for a brain scan and they left me in the room
for 15 minutes with this really loud hip hop music playing. But I
was strapped to the bed and I was on a drip so I couldn't do anything
about it. So here I am, with this intense migraine, listening to hip
hop. It could only be America."
And I'd come all that way to see you, too.
"Well I thought you'd be cursing me and generally putting
my windows in."
Oh I'd never do anything like that. Although the more cynical side
of me did wonder whether you were indeed really ill.
"Ooh, tut-tut-tut. So what did you do while you were
Not much. Walked around, felt like an alien, then decided to come
"Well, you probably made the right choice. Otherwise you'd
still be here, just wandering around."
What the game-plan for your return to the live arena?
"(Laughs) You mean the 'stage presentation', shall
we say? There's never been anything like that. I could never be part
of anything that remotely resembles a performance. And when people
say to me that I'm a 'good performer' I'm absolutely horrified, because
it's such a dreadful expression. For better or worse, I just stumble
on and stumble off. I also find it's 50 per cent reliant on the audience
and how they respond. If they're enflamed, the night takes very interesting
twists and turns, but if they're not the
Brain scans, eh? Serious stuff.
"A day in the life, believe me. (Surprised) You've
never had one yourself?"
Morrissey's muse Oscar Wilde who reputedly opined: "Consistency
is the last refuge of the unimaginative." It's worth bearing
those words in mind when you hear - as you assuredly shall - that
You Are The Quarry is a "triumphant return to form",
or such-like. For sure, it's auspicious. Morrissey hasn't made a album
anywhere near as good since 1994's Vauxhall And I. The instrumental
texture and arrangements are rich and varied, the production - by
Jerry Finn, noted for his work with Blink 182 and other young(ish)
brats of repute - tough yet sympathetic, while Morrissey's voice is
simply magnificent, its tawny baritone never so perfectly pitched
and phrased. But stylistically and in many of the specific lyrical
concerns and thematic obsession, it resembles no massive departure
from Maladjusted or that album's predecessor, 1995's Southpaw
Grammar, which was similarly disdained by critics and received
with reservation by all but the most diehard fan. Far from the artistic
catastrophes received wisdom would maintain, these two albums are
fascinating, inasmuch as they document a mid-'90s mid-life crisis
for their author: flitting from one new label to another (RCA then
Mercury/Island), dejected at his treatment by the press, his defeat
in the Smiths court case and heaven knows what deeper personal traumas.
In places, both Morrissey and the music sound muzzled, uncertain.
For someone who wears his heart on his record sleeves, there were
clues in the artwork: discounting the World Of Morrissey compilation,
Southpaw Grammar was the only Morrissey solo album not to feature
his own face on the cover - in a retreat to the iconic nostalgia of
The Smiths, the honour went to a fuzzy snap of '60s boxer Kenny Lane
- while Maladjusted was perfunctory beyond belief, an unflattering
black-and-white cut-out Moz slapped on a silver background. Significantly
or not, Morrissey gave relatively few interviews around the time of
"I was presented [by RCA] with lots of media hoops,"
he says. "And I couldn't do it, I couldn't jump through
them. I didn't want to be exposed and I didn't want people to know
too much about me. And they took the view that if that's your attitude
then we too will back off. So overnight it sort of deflated itself.
I'm very, very proud of Southpaw Grammar. The sleeve was terrible
and that's my fault. All the artwork was atrocious, and unfortunately
there's no one else I can blame."
Why was the artwork bad?
Maladjusted sleeve, Tony Blair hairline and all.
I liked the artwork for about three days. Unfortunately they were
the three days when everything was going to press. But then a few
weeks later I looked at it and went, What the hell have you done?
And I still don't know, but it certainly was not Tate quality. I made
such a holy mess of Southpaw Grammar that I left Maladjusted
to be pieced together by the record company - and it was even worse
than Southpaw Grammar. I've got Tony Blair's hairline and I
look as if I'm sat on the lavatory crying my eyes out. Nothing new
So a mere glance at the opulent sleeve to You Are The Quarry
is enough to suggest that the force is with him once more. It could
be argued - and quite reasonably, too - that if Morrissey didn't return
with something approaching his very best after a seven-year hiatus
then he really wasn't the man he's said we thought he was after all.
But he's really outdone himself. While veteran Morrisseyan scholars
will enjoy a clutch of vivid case studies to dissect in their endless
futile quest to ascertain what s/he's really like (viz, I'm
Not Sorry, where Moz admits, "The woman of my dreams, well, there
never was one"; or All The Lazy Dykes, a genuinely affecting
plea to an unhappily married woman to "free yourself"
"and join the girls"), what makes his seventh solo album
such a treat is it has the musical flair to match his lyrical blunderbuss.
With regard to the latter, not a bullet is wasted. It it's gung-ho,
that's because he clearly feels wronged. There's wit and passion and
pathos in every meticulously measured line. The single Irish Blood,
English Heart is an impressively cogent declaration of his patriotic
self ("I've been dreaming of a time when/To be English is not
to be baneful/To be standing by the flag not feeling shameful/Racist
or partial). How Can Anybody Possibly Know How I Feel states, "I've
had my face dragged in 15 miles of shit/And I do not/And I do not/And
I do not like it". And the staunch closer, You Know I Couldn't
Last, is the sound of a seriously conflicted man entering the last
chance saloon and leaving with all guns blazing. He takes out his
fans, the critics, the business suits, former bandmates ("the
Northern leeches go on removing") and is ultimately left staring
at what's left of his own reflection, beseeching: "Your royalties
bring you luxuries/But oh - the squalor of the mind". In its
florid grandiosity - that, and the use of the word "gelignite"
in a pop lyric - it recalls no one else but Queen. In addition to
"definitive", to the pre-meningitis Morrissey sipping tea
at the Dorchester, "it's so perfect and resolute that my work
on this planet is over".
was time to change the furniture, change the landscape."
Morrissey in LA (left) and London (right).
see lots of unsettled scores out there?
"I do, because I have been quarry for so many years. And people
have taken so many repeated pot shots at me. So yes, I feel heavily
bruised. But this time around I feel that the album represents something
which is actually deeper than mere revenge and manages to rise above
settling all those old scores. I do feel as if I have been somewhat
victimized. Which really isn't amusing."
have any conception as to why that happened?
"The base of it is nothing more sinister than jealousy, really.
And I do have a lot of enemies. And I seem to stir within people a
reaction. There's nobody on the planet who thinks I'm OK. They're
either extremely for or extremely against. I'm not the kind of person
who tends to pass through unnoticed."
that's no necessarily a bad thing?
"It is when you're passing through a crowd of people who don't
care that much for you - you would rather slip by unnoticed."
you have so many enemies?
"I think it's because I'm a strong person, and I don't rely
on other people. And I don't ask for help. So therefore I'm not pitied."
like to be, in a way?
"No, not at all. And it's an industry of massive egos. If
you turn away from people they seek revenge for the rest of their
lives against you. And I've been through so many managers and so many
record companies and so many musicians - and they never let go, even
though they may walk away of their own accord, they never let go.
And they will do all in their power to stop you from fulfilling your
dreams. I have a lot of enemies. But let it be. So be it."
the music industry, would that be fair to say?
you still conjoin with it.
you? Why continue to do it if you dislike the apparatus so much?
"It's throbbing through the veins, and there's nothing I can
do about it. I am one of those born-in-a-trunk people, one of those
I mean, I simply do love to sing. All the entrapments,
some of them are necessary. And if you do make a good album you do
want as many people to hear it as possible, because you do want people
like it, really. So it is very, very difficult, because a
lot of things that I'm called upon to do, a lot of the things on the
sidelines, I approach with abject horror - but what can you do?"
have to release records in the conventional sense at all.
"Mmm. Bu then you end up like Robert Wyatt, don't you?"
wrong with that?!
"Well I don't know. I mean, his hair isn't too fantastic,
is it?! (laughs)"
does release records in the conventional sense!
"Well he does, yes, but he sort of potters about in his potting
shed, recording. Maybe that will happen to me eventually, I don't
know, but there's a streak of intolerable glamour within me as well."
the bright lights
"Well, I can't see the bright lights, but
I like the
scream of the greasepaint."
years ago, Paul Weller, expressing similar distaste for the machinations
of the music industry, said he was seriously thinking of giving up
dealing with it, and just playing once a week in his local pub
"It's interesting. Because he's probably gone as far as he
can go - I would say. And the trouble with all the machinations of
the music industry is that if you don't have a bubbly personality,
as I don't as the world knows Weller doesn't (laughs),
then you can't really get on with the machinery, and therefore if
you're not prepared to try to get on with it the record company are
not really gonna bother trying to shove your CD around. It's all a
hideously delicate balance."
the "Northern leeches" you refer to?
"You know exactly who they are."
Joyce must be one of them.
"Mmm. He would certainly fit the bill, wouldn't he?"
the subject of the Joyce and the court case is raised, Morrissey's
demeanor changes quite palpably. Gone are the playful jousts and waspish
asides, replaced by long, lucid soliloquies on the perceived injustice
of what occurred in the High Court under the jurisdiction of Judge
John Weeks at the end of 1996. "Devious, truculent and unreliable,"
was Weeks' assessment of Morrissey in his summation to the court.
As one of Morrissey's old Smiths lyrics would have it, this story
is old, but it goes on - because, he claims, Weeks made a flawed judgment,
awarding Joyce £1.25 million, having decided that Joyce was
a 25 per cent partner, but making no provision for how Joyce should
receive the money. "And because Joyce was never on any Smiths
contract of any kind then none of the sources will pay him money because
he's not entitled to any under the contract." Thus, says
Morrissey, every time he plays in England, Joyce issues legal orders
to try and extract money. "He will go on for the rest of his
life, a pest to everybody that's in my life. That defines him now,
that's what his life is. And it allows him to continue and be a part
of my story. It has become a complete farce and there is only one
victim and the victim is me."
you account for this? Just because the judge didn't like you? He said
"He did say that much, which is fair enough. I mean, a judge
has a right not to like me, but a judge doesn't have a right to dismiss
the facts and dismiss what is obvious. The judge should not pass personal
judgment. Because I may very well be a dislikeable person, but that
doesn't mean that I'm not reliable in court Obviously the judge was
repaying me for all the things I'd ever said about Thatcher or the
Queen or fox-hunting, because this judge is obviously a lord of the
hunt and there is obviously a private file on people that gets passed
destruction of Morrissey? Morrissey at court, December 1996.
a good conspiracy theory, and I'd like to believe you in that regard,
"You must, you must, it really is that simple and devious.
If you examine the court papers it's glaringly evident that this Morrissey
character must be pulled down. Why did the entire case become about
Morrissey? Not about Morrissey and Marr, who were partners, but it
just became about Morrissey and the destruction of Morrissey. So,
it's really obvious to anybody of any basic intelligence that it was
you cope with this at the time?
"I coped by believing I would have enough resolve to pull
myself out of the situation. And get away from it. Kick it away. And
I always believed that this wasn't it, and even though I was with
dreary useless record labels I always believed there would be a better
time ahead. And there was and there is."
think the work you did for those labels was your strongest?
Nnooo, I don't. But I don't hang my head with shame.
These are happier days. And I don't have any of those old forgotten
people, those old left-over people to thank. It's a situation which
I think Frank Sinatra went through twice in his life, when he was
in a lofty position musically and then he plummeted, and he seemed
not to have a friend in the world. And all the people that he had
worked with and had associated with him turned against him, and joined
in the trend of debasing him. So I think that's what ultimately made
him quite a hard character. Because he had been down. And he knew
what it had been like to have been kicked aside and people that he
had helped criticised him. And to a lesser degree I felt there were
direct parallels. (Long pause) And that's my tatty explanation.
I just heard you snoring. Either that or you have kidney failure."
may be rumbling, it's true.
"Last night's tandoori special. But on a brighter note
think The Smiths had to die? Was it inevitable that it would stop?
"Erm, it wasn't to me."
was the choice of other people that the band stopped?
"Yes it was. I though that we'd be at least as big
as Queen. (Pause) You're laughing."
That's a noble aspiration
"I mean, people often say to me, 'Well, R.E.M
I think, No, not at all, I think we were heading in Queen directions
- capital 'q' of course."
were genuinely disappointed when it finished?
"I was horrified. I was absolutely horrified. But I'm over
it now! (laughs) I've had the time to get over it, and I've
had excessive counseling and I've picked up the pieces of my life
and I'm marching on into
the abyss. But lots of people won't
let The Smiths die. I hear Q magazine are doing a Smiths magazine,
rounding up all those little left-over people who met me on the stairs
in 1986 for an hour, for those in-depth valuable observation. So boring.
With all these retrospectives, whether it's television or magazines,
they always interview the same ring of people, the same faint claims,
and there's a whole glut of people who were involved who are never
approached. Absolutely the same cast, all the time, of the same, shall
should be approached?
"Oh, well that's another story. I don't want to give them
anything you could have done to persuade Johnny Marr to stay?
"Well, we did never have a conversation about it. He did just
tear away, and I think he immediately went into session with Talking
Heads and Bryan Ferry. Which is fine. But, I think he had it
in his mind that he would elevate himself immediately out of the situation,
which did not happen. And that's when the bitchiness set in."
still speak to Johnny?
"We spoke last summer for a while. In very friendly terms.
But it's very, very difficult with the court case, because it's such
a monster and it just goes on and it's very detailed. But The Smiths'
legacy is dreadful. I mean, I think it's the worst legacy of any group
in the history of music. The whole story is so black and twisted,
I'm convinced the story will only end with
a murder. And you're
talking to the potential corpse (laughs)! I am quite serious.
It's reaching that stage. I men, who was it that said 'Viva Hate'?"
presume you're proud of the musical legacy?
"Yeah, I'm extremely proud of the music, but people don't
really talk about that. And when Marr, [bassist Andy] Rourke and Joyce
go on television they never talk about the music, they just talk about
the overall dreadful experience of being in The Smiths. And
I find that very sad. (Breezily) Nothing we can do about it
in a perverse sense, Morrissey rather relishes his experience of rough
justice in the courts. Here is justification for all the vitriol and
spleen he's vented at the British establishment, and of a rather more
intense measure than merely having a rotten time at school. The eternal
outsider, victimized by the country he's eulogized and castigated
from the very outset, as in The Smiths' Still Ill, "England is
mine - and it owes me a living". In this context, Irish Blood,
English Heart is a most personal cri de coeur, clarifying the
ambivalent attitude towards nationality far more succinctly, and less
contentiously, than past efforts such as Bengali In Platforms ("Life
is hard enough when you belong here"). Raised in working-class
Manchester in the '60s, the son of two Irish immigrants, Morrissey
was made very aware of Britain's mongrel pedigree.
"Obviously the Irish feel resentment towards England because
England has historically been so appalling to Ireland," he
says. "So it was somewhat confusing for me growing up."
Did you experience prejudice because of your background?
"Not particularly. At school I would be called 'Paddy', and
it was considered not to be friendly to say that. I can't think why,
'cos it's a nice word and a nice thing to be. But of course, the English
laugh at everybody and ridicule everybody. Which is often quite funny.
But do you, being Scottish, come across any racism here?"
Only in the trivial sense.
"So not really? Nothing hurtful
I've not been physically attacked. Maybe if I were a black Scot I
might not have been so lucky.
A lot of Scottish nationalism is the politics of resentment.
Yes. In the '70s it was perceived that certain resources were being
siphoned off, in the case of the oil, quite literally. You could just
as logically despise the American-based multinational companies for
"Which we do
but also England has been a bully, and is
So why do people still cling to nationality, if it's so problematic?
Why do people want to feel proud of being whatever nationality they
"Because here is the spot where you are born and where you
live and where you continue to live. Where you build your life. And
it's inconvenient to feel shame toward that. I mean, we all like to
feel as if we're living in a fairly decent place. And we all like
to feel pride, if we can. But then, unfortunately, there is the monarchy.
But perhaps not for much longer."
Ever the optimist.
"Ever the dreamer (laughs)."
way now? Morrissey outside the Beverly Hills Hotel.
By Kevin Westenberg.
where Morrissey lives, of course, is not England, or Ireland, but
Los Angeles, the city Michael Stipe once describe as a lemming colony
at the precipice of a continent, just waiting for an earthquake to
sever it from the rest of the world altogether. Where better to embalm
idealized notions of dear old Blighty? Morrissey says, "I
honestly being every single day only with the intention of avoiding
people," and to that end LA is certainly the place to be.
He likes the architecture, the landscape, the weather ("The
sun makes you expand and makes you walk taller - which is a relief").
And this accomplished voyeur finds Americans endlessly fascinating
- though he does miss the "simplicity" of British TV.
"I could quite easily have stayed," he says, staring
at what's left of his Dorchester tea. "But it was simply time
to change the furniture and change the landscape. It had to be somewhere,
and I had stayed in Dublin for a long time, and enjoyable as it was
it wasn't an extreme enough change. I had to go somewhere reasonably
far flung. To meet my undiscovered nature. Which I did. (Smiles
broadly) And what a shock that was! That's truly the best explanation
I can give."
Though he loves returning to England and being able to walk down the
street and bump into people, he doesn't envisage a time when might
come back for good.
"I'll leave that decision to fate, really. I'll simply follow
fate wherever it drags me. There is a saying - I'm 92 per cent certain
it was the writer Thomas Mass - that you can never go home again.
Every second of life is about timing, and the atmosphere of the present.
And you think the past is a place you can return to but it isn't.
Even though, they do say, don't they, also that it's never too late
to have a happy childhood. But I suppose you could have that without
returning to anywhere. You can have your childhood in a different
place. It's never too late to rectify those nightmares in your mind."
What's it all about, Morrissey? What keeps you going?
"Well, I'm possibly no different to anybody else!" he
laughs. "(Sighs) Wish I hadn't laughed when I said
that. But life, this strange life, is simply something we have to
go through on our way to somewhere else. It's just something you have
to sit through. And we just hope that somewhere along the line something
exciting will happen to us. Most people hope for romance, and that
really all that keeps most people going."
And you're not looking for romance?
"Mmm. Err, well it's not the thing that keeps me going, the
hope of it. No. I'm no that silly. And I find romance in inanimate
objects (laughs)! Like carpets, standard lamps
He gets up. "Do you mind?" There's a phone call for
him next door. It's Chrissie Hynde. As the curator of this year's
Meltdown Festival on London's South Bank, Morrissey is reassembling
the surviving members of his original pop epiphany, the New York Dolls,
and is looking to recruit people to take the place of those Dolls
who have passed away. He wants Hynde to be 'Chrissie Thunders'. "She
just needs to be tickled, but I think she'll do it. 'Cos she is yet
another person who loves the Dolls. Did you ever care for them
So, you're actually going to fly to Los Angeles
and ask me questions about England? There must be an easier way to
MOJO and Moz shake hands, and we take our leave, fully expecting to
meet again on his home turf in a few weeks. But it isn't to be. Instead,
his last words are cackled down the phone line at the news that he's
on of the famous Mancunians in the frame for the proposed re-branding
of Manchester Airport.
"Wow. That's just absurd, isn't it? Fantastically absurd.
Life is out of control, really. I mean, what's going to happen next,
do you think? So, is Irish Blood, English Heart being played in England?
It is, really? The single is receiving blanket American airplay, which
has never happened to me before. And it's astonishing, absolutely
astonishing. It's quite a time for me."
Do you ultimately just want to be loved?
"Well, I'd like to be liked as well. But I'll settle for loved,
it that's all that's on offer. Do you have any advice for me?"
Be yourself. Free yourself
He chuckles. "I'll give it a go."
penny for them: "This strange life... it's just something
we have to sit through."