Saturday, 2 November 2013

Morrissey - The Nation's Favourite Grandson.

Today, I finished reading 'Morrissey: Autobiography'.  Having finished the book, which has caused some rumblings in the world owing to the decision made by the publishers, Penguin, to release it under their 'Classics' imprint, I am left with the same feeling I had when I started, his life is in his songs.  The revelations begin and end within the bridge/verse/chorus structure, which occupy his creative mind.  In the Acknowledgements, Morrissey tellingly emphasises this point:

Whatever is sung is the case.
(Page 470 - 'Autobiography')
The Autobiography reads like a dissection of his current life, using the past to explain how he is where he is today.  What is most fruitfully revealed is a man who wants something that he only seems to get on stage.  The audience are his fuel, his meaning for being.  Everything else that matters to him is only hinted at.  Just his love of the audience, music, unwavering veganism and his love/support of animals/birds/fish shines from the pages of this tome.
In many respects, he remains the blank canvas onto which his listeners and audience members project their own needs and aspirations.
Having briefly expressed my view of the 'Autobiography', I feel it worthwhile to expand upon Morrissey's significance to me, as everyone has an opinion of Morrissey whether they like him or not.
I got into Morrissey in a quite haphazard way.  I remember taping a radio recording of Morrissey's Drury Lane concert in 1995 for a friend's brother and being intrigued by his vocal style and lyrics.  I remember being particularly struck by the song 'Jack the Ripper', with its moody intensity.  I remember being told that Morrissey had been the lead singer in a band called The Smiths when I stupidly heard my first Smiths' song in the Student Union bar of Greenwich University and had stated 'that guy sounds like Morrissey'. 
Through my growing interest in Morrissey, I purchased a fanzine called 'A Chance To Shine', where I made contact with a friend I am still in touch with today (Louise had placed an advert in the Contacts section).  I was pleased to discover that mutual tastes in music often mirror other mutual interests.  Through our friendship, she has introduced me to other types of music, particularly the band Love and Scott Walker. 
I finally saw Morrissey live in 1999 at the Forum in London, his set was just under eighty minutes and I seem to remember at least a couple of stage invasions.  The phenomenon of stage invasions is curiously only really apparent at Morrissey gigs.  The sight of predominantly men clambering over the security to grab, hug and touch Morrissey's hands is still a potent sight.  He regularly condones the act and only seems to edge away when the advances seem too aggressive.  I have seen other Morrissey gigs since and I was unlucky enough to have a ticket for one of the London Roundhouse gigs he didn't perform owing to illness. Indeed, one of the frustrations of being a Morrissey fan is the realisation that the chances of his cancelling a gig go up exponentially the longer the tour.  But I guess this is to be expected, as your body can only take so much.
The fanaticism surrounding Morrissey is scary.  There are monthly nights dedicated to Morrissey and The Smiths at The Star and Garter pub in Manchester, where only Smiths' and Morrissey music is played.  Seeing so many men dressed elegantly with freshly groomed quiffs is a surprisingly engaging sight.  Oddly enough, I have never felt the need to try consciously to look like Morrissey, although occasionally by accident, I do!  (I was once told this at a Morrissey night).
As I have grown up with Morrissey, I have witnessed him change from someone inspiring and possibly, an Everyman figure to someone who seems filled with hate and vengeance.  His views range from intelligent and funny to vindictive and deliberately controversial.  His musical output obviously seems to reflect this progression in some respects, although his lyrics still retain a sense of humanity when they are not steeped in a veil of self-pity.  Don't get me wrong, I believe he is entitled to explore his feelings in any form he chooses, yet if you are feeling down, certain songs will make you feel even worse.  Also there are times when I just want to hug him.
Reading the 'Autobiography' has left me with the same view of Morrissey, he is a great singer/songwriter, a pervasive performer on stage and possibly the most insular person off-stage.  He stated once in an interview with Jonathan Ross (if I recall correctly) that he could count his friends on one hand and he wasn't joking.  His sexuality as it always should have been is his concern.  The 'Autobiography' hints at relationships with both men and women.  The only sensation I feel upon reflecting upon this 'Autobiography' is his deep need for a child, but his own child not an adopted child as a P.R. stunt, someone he can care for unconditionally.
Morrissey will always be the man who got away.  I just wonder what he is escaping from.
                                                                          Barry Watt - 27th October 2013
'Morrissey: Autobiography' is out now and is published by Penguin Classics.  My one quote was borrowed from the 'Acknowledgements' page on page 470.
'Jack The Ripper' appears on various Morrissey albums and on the single 'Certain People I Know'.  It is on the live album, 'Beethoven Was Deaf' (HMV).

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