Posts Tagged ‘Morrissey’

bookish

Tomorrow – allegedly – Morrissey’s autobiography, all 480 pages of it, will be published by illustrious outfit Penguin Classics. In the Indy a few days ago a rather waspish Boyd Tonkin criticised this turn of events.  His main objection was that Morrissey was being given special privileges in the publishing world as the grande dame of Literary Pop. He wrote:

‘Penguin will next week publish the first edition of Morrissey’s Autobiography – which almost no one outside the company has yet read, let alone formed a fashion-proof judgment about – as a Penguin Classic in the familiar black livery. Well. “The Queen is dead,” sang the quixotic melancholiac of Davyhulme, so long ago. Penguin Classics, as a noble idea of affordable, accessible enlightenment, has certainly died this month. The verdict has to be suicide.’

I tend to agree with him:

I think Moz demanding to be a ‘Penguin Classic’ highlights some of the contradictions in the star: he likes to drop his trousers to the queen on some days, on others he is clamouring to be accepted by and honoured by the establishment. His fans just thought the hoo-ha was  a storm in a fine china tea cup and were amused to see the ‘literati’ were feeling Rick-rolled by their hero. But my favourite commentary so far on the forthcoming book, and on  Moz as just a tad self-important, is this suggestion for the front cover by a Guardian reader (click to enlarge the ego):

Morrissey autobiography design by TiberiusGracchus

Barbs aside, Moz showed his more cuddly, democratic side recently when he saved a brilliant  tumblr from the ‘copyright bullies’ at UniversalThis Charming Charlie mashes up Smiths/Moz lyrics with Peanuts cartoons to wonderful effect. But has the ‘tumblr generation’ overtaken the 50 something popster in creativity, wit and verve?

charlietumblr_mubm0zmFU61seji43o1_r1_500

I am pretty sure I am not the only Moz fan worrying that could indeed be the case. For, Moz didn’t wait a while after the demise (or triumphant close? – we wish) of his musical career before pondering on life, love and of course hate in an autobiography . Instead he has careered straight from almost collapsing on stage and cancelling all his gigs, with no more  new material in sight, to producing  what he seems to be presenting as a stately, magesterial, definitive memoir. I think Gore Vidal played it a bit more stylishly.

Morrissey has deliberately caused some hype around his forthcoming book – or if not hype, then at least plenty of whispered, and shouted, catty gossip. I want it to live up to all expectations and be a Vauxhall and I of a tour de force. But I’m not holding my breath. (well I am, but don’t tell anyone!)

music-morrissey-25-live-blue

I wasn’t planning to see Morrissey 25 Live the film of a recent, ‘intimate’ (1800 seat venue) gig at a US school, Hollywood High. But Sara Annwyl invited me  so that was that. The event celebrates Moz’s 25 year solo career, but he still slipped some Smiths songs into the set list . I have never been to a Moz gig. I wondered if watching this, I’d be left kicking myself for not getting it together, in the 30 years I’ve known his music, to see the great man live. But to be honest, much as I enjoyed the experience of having huge close ups of Moz’s sneering eyes and mouth shoved in my face for 90 minutes, I’m now relieved to have kept my love at a safe distance. Why? Well, for all the reasons I loved him in the first place.

As has been well-documented already, Morrissey is pretty intense. And, it’s not necessarily his introspective, caustic lyrics that produce that intensity. Though they add to the mix. No it’s his performance, his body, and the response he provokes in his adoring fans that make Moz explosive. Scary. Weird. From his first appearances on Top Of The Pops in 1983, when we witnessed opened mouthed, as he waved his gladioli-adorned tush, and wailed that distinctive wail, it was clear that this man wanted our attention. And boy he got it. But even knowing what I know, even being the ‘crazy’, ‘obsessive’ fan I am (not just of Moz), I was pretty taken aback by what I saw on screen in the Curzon Soho last night.
morrissey25liveathollywoodhighflowers

The plain fact is; Morrissey demands to be worshipped, and quite literally. As Morrissey put his hand to his heart, or reached it out in a plaintive plea (to God?) so did the fans. Any ‘extreme’ or ‘religious’ symbolism taken up by the screaming audience was started and exacerbated by Moz himself. It was he after all, who grabbed a very young boy from the crowd in the closing moments of the gig, and held him in his arms, beatific, Christ-like. Earlier, when Stephen gave the mike to a few lucky members of his loyal flock, he was met with utter, complete devotion. As the Evening Standard put it:

‘The inanity of the fans makes a nonsense of the 54-year-old singer’s self-deprecating wit (“I’ll always hold my head up high…in a psychiatric unit”). “Thank you for living,” says a woman and Morrissey, instead of retching, smiles.’

It was that coy smile that got me. Suddenly all ‘irony’ and detached commentary was gone from the 50 something’s expression. He was the cat that got the cream. Morrissey LOVES Morrissey-love. And that love of the love he receives, but only pretends to reciprocate is probably what got Moz through that gig at Hollywood High. As @louderthanwar  explained in some detail, the show was meant to be at the start of an American tour this year, turned out to be one of the last as he fell ill and ran out of funding for the rest of the planned shows. It’s hardly surprising that the way Morrissey performs, body and soul splayed before us, takes more out of him in his 50s than it did in his 20s. Maybe the show is over for good. If so, this film will become more iconic than it seems at the moment. More poignant. We’ll see.

But, I for one can’t finish on the topic of Morrissey without mentioning his tits. And how he has to get them out at any given opportunity. What began as a young slip of a man tearing his shirt off unexpectedly and aggressively at Smiths concerts infront  of flustered teenage boys has evolved into something a bit more mannered. A bit more of a strip-tease. @THEAGENTAPSLEY pointed out rather astutely that towards the end of the gig:

‘ Morrissey ripped open a shirt that he must have intended to sacrifice (unlike the first two [see above-QRG], which he had worn to go offstage and change, and which looked much nicer) at crucial words about those whose physical appearance one despises’.

It just wasn’t like the old days anymore. When Morrissey didn’t care about the state of his (now designer) clothes, and ripped them off spontaneously. Now it’s a carefully choreographed part of the stage show. But with his pretty body still in bloody good nick for his age, nobody was complaining and certainly not me.

moz25live_pink

In our little darkened corner of central London Morrissey 25 Live became a sing-along. It might have been The Sound Of Music or Rocky Horror for the sense of joyous camaraderie (especially the young(ish)man two seats down from me who was in fine voice) and our enthusiastic going for the top notes. I sang Speedway with particular gusto. And I said my goodbyes.

And when you slam
Down the hammer
Can you see it in your heart ?
All of the rumours
Keeping me grounded
I never said, I never said that they were
Completely unfounded

So when you slam
Down the hammer
Can you see it in your heart ?                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               Can you delve so low ?
And when you’re standing
On my fingers
Can you see it in your heart ? … ah …
And when you try
To break my spirit
It won’t work
Because there’s nothing left to break
Anymore
All of the rumours
Keeping me grounded
I never said, I never said that they were
Completely unfounded

You won’t sleep
Until the earth that wants me
Finally has me
Oh you’ve done it now
You won’t rest
Until the hearse that becomes me
Finally takes me
Oh you’ve done it now
And you won’t smile
Until my loving mouth
Is shut good and proper
FOREVER

All of the rumours
Keeping me grounded
I never said, I never said that they were
Completely unfounded
And all those lies
Written lies, twisted lies
Well, they weren’t lies
They weren’t lies
They weren’t lies

I never said
I never said
I could have mentioned your name
I could have dragged you in
Guilt by implication
By association
I’ve always been true to you
In my own strange way
I’ve always been true to you
In my own sick way
I’ll always stay true to you

I was delighted to be asked to contribute to the Words On Music blog, part of a project to investigate the state of rock journalism, which is currently  ‘missing, presumed dead’. Words on Music is the brainchild of Simon Spence, whose new biography of The Stone Roses, The Stone Roses – War And Peace looks well worth a read. My piece argues that ‘pop music journalism’ has been engulfed by the digital world, and that this is no bad thing.

————————————————

I am a writer. Sometimes I write about music. At one point in history, I was even some kind of ‘music journalist’; I used to write for The North’s independent muso rag Sandman Magazine.

So why am I here to defend a remark I made recently on twitter that was pretty damning about music journalism? During the Words On Music live discussion event I tweeted:

#wordsonmusic it is time for music journalists to STFU and to let the music, and the technology, and the young people speak for themselves

Apparently my comment was picked up and retweeted by quite a few people, maybe in agreement, maybe in disgust. But it certainly, excuse my metaphor, struck a chord.

I stand by the sentiments expressed in my tweet because I think music journalism is spectacularly slow to cotton onto the social media revolution that is happening around it. And that has been happening for quite a long time! Whilst musicians and fans have been eagerly taking up the opportunities for sharing, promoting, discussing and making music provided by platforms such as Myspace, spotify, garageband, youtube, and bandcamp, writers have seemed to resist change. Maybe they resent the ‘democratisation’ that comes with new media, because anyone can be heard writing and talking about pop music now. This reduces the status of journalist ‘experts’ and completely removes their role as ‘opinion leaders’.

The last time I remember buying an album due to a review in a newspaper was when I read about The Decline of British Sea Power in The Guardian in 2003. Nine years on, I rely solely on word of mouth recommendations, online chats with twitter muso pals, random youtube discoveries, friends’ spotify playlists and, viral music videos to switch me on to new bands and artists.

For me, any arguments about loss in ‘quality’ or ‘depth of knowledge’ of trained, experienced pop journalists are overshadowed by the sheer breadth and variety of voices, styles and perspectives that come with twenty first century music discourse. In a piece in which admittedly I did protest too much about my annoyance with Manchester’s Master of Miserablism, I wrote: ‘I hate Morrissey because listening to middle class white men analysing pop music was already boring enough’.

For example the list of people involved in the Words On Music live stream discussion event this year seems to include about twenty men, two women, most (or all?) of whom are white.

But, having spent some years completing a Phd on gender inequality in the creative sector, and then running a social enterprise training women in the music industry, and having grown weary of feminist rhetoric, I am not going to sit around asking where are the women? Or where are the ethnic minorities? Or indeed where are the young people? In pop music and journalism.

Because I know where they are. They are online, in their studios, at gigs, on Logic and Ableton, on the ball, on form, in tune, on time, in synch, out there, at work, outperforming the old guard.

The future is already here, and we may as well join wise cats like Tom RobinsonCornershopand – yes – Lady Gaga, and get with the programme. There is still a place for words on music, but those words have to take into account the changing culture, technology and times we make music in. This is no country for out of touch hacks.

 

In a previous post of mine about ‘subjectivity’ ‘objectification’ and narcissism, a frighteningly astute commenter likened me to Morrissey. He quoted me:

“He [Roland Barthes] positioned himself as the ‘amorous subject’ and that seemed to me like the font of his creativity and knowledge and writing and work. If you are always the ‘object’ of someone else’s affections, it is a very passive role. What do you actually do?”

And then said, damningly:

‘This is Morrissey in a nutshell. A continually fascinating aspect of his work is how melancholic longing is always a form of activity, even attack. Always pursuing, its unimaginable that the “amorous subject” of a Morrissey lyric could ever be the pursued. You are the quarry.

His work is constantly recriminating the loved object for its passivity. And here there is a secret collusion between lovers and enemies: “And what do you do? You just sit there”.’

 

Mark Simpson’s 1996 book, Its A Queer World, begins with an enigmatic dedication:

‘For M – (whether he wants it or not)’.

The line, ‘whether he wants it or not’, reminds me of the 1994 Morrissey track – The More You Ignore Me, The Closer I Get. The particularly resonant part of the song is: I am now /A central part /Of your mind’s landscape /Whether you care /Or do not . Could the ‘M’ in Simpson’s dedication stand for Morrissey himself? Or is it the initial of an unnamed lover maybe? I expect I will never know.

But the fact I am asking the question, gives me away. As what? A fan? A person who has taken a scalpel to Simpson’s words in a way nobody else has to date? An unwanted visitor? A pain in the arse?
Biographers (and critics) are all these things and more. The dedication in It’s A Queer World, and my interaction with Simpson and his work overall, have also reminded me of Janet Malcolm’s extraordinary work: The Silent Woman. The book tells the story of the ‘afterlife’ of Sylvia Plath, and in particular her biographies. Malcolm considers whether or not the biographies were accurate or compassionate  portrayals of the poet’s life. In a review at the time of publication in 1994 a journalist wrote:

‘Malcolm is right, though, when she says that there is a difference between an interview and a biography. The interviewee has at least agreed to the interview, whereas biographical subjects – and, in the case of Ted Hughes, their estranged husbands – are written about whether they want it or not. In the battle between Ted and Olwyn and the biographers, Malcolm has decided to take the Hugheses side. She tries to imagine how it must feel for Hughes to be ‘buried alive’ each time Plath’s remains are disinterred in a new book, and she shrewdly suggests that what he finds most unbearable is being treated as though he too were dead and on the anatomist’s table. Yet even here, there is a nagging paradox. For she is doing exactly what Hughes can’t stand: ‘reading’ his mind on a speculative basis.

Significantly, Malcolm never gets to meet Hughes. In a book full of interviews he is conspicuously the Silent Man, though he looms large in her imagination and haunts the narrative like a hulking ghost. People keep telling her about his enormous sex appeal, and Malcolm reports how this affects her response to his letters, which become hugely attractive in her eyes. Drawn by his magnetism, she hangs around sheepishly in the road outside his house like an unrequited lover. If this attitude seems less than dispassionate, Malcolm would argue that it just goes to illustrate her belief in the ‘psychological impossibility of not taking sides’. She not only tells us, but shows us, how our sympathies and antipathies – even, or perhaps especially, those of biographers and journalists – boil down in the end not to logic but to prejudice and emotion.’

http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/books/book-review–in-the-biographers-laboratory-the-silent-woman–janet-malcolm-picador-1499-pounds-1444339.html

‘biographical subjects – and, in the case of Ted Hughes, their estranged husbands – are written about whether they want it or not.’

If you care or do not. Whether he wants it or not.

I am not writing a biography of Mark Simpson, but I am writing criticism, which, when concerned with the work of a living author, mirrors or collides with biography at times.  I don’t have the subject’s consent for my project. But Simpson is no stranger to the quagmire or the wonder of biography – for his most well known book Saint Morrissey is a ‘psycho bio’ of the singer. So he of all people, will understand, if not quite endorse my plight.

And the more he ignores me, the closer I get.

‘Hilary went to her death because she couldn’t think of anything to say
Everybody thought that she was boring, so they never listened anyway
Nobody was really saying anything of interest, she fell asleep
She was into S&M and bible studies
Not everyone’s cup of tea she would admit to me
Her cup of tea, she would admit to no one’

- Belle and Sebastian

 

I love this song (see above) by Belle and Sebastian ‘If you’re feeling sinister’, because it satirises that self-absorbed, ‘gothic’ attitude that characterises Morrissey and his fans. Why don’t you just get over yourself it seems to be asking. Well, because then we wouldn’t have such gems as Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now or I Am Hated For Loving.

 

 

I hate Morrissey because 1984. Because he gave us no choice. He took all the boys I knew and turned them into versions of him.

I hate Morrissey because you can’t be a girl and a bona fide Smiths Fan. Don’t tell me I’m wrong. I read it in NME, and in Saint Morrissey

I hate Morrissey because he made hating Thatcher trendy. And I hate to be part of the in-crowd.

I hate Morrissey because he killed poetry. He was the ‘sociopath who annihilated Plath’ and he can’t even write poems .

I hate Morrissey because Manchester was already self-important enough.

I hate Morrissey because 1993. He tricked us into thinking we had something in common apart from him, and our suicide friend.

I hate Morrissey because Vauxhall and I was a warning sign. Because I didn’t listen, even though I knew it off by heart.

I hate Morrissey because my England never has been white.

I hate Morrissey because ‘John Major sings Morrissey sings Girlfriend In A Coma’ is only funny the first 10 times.

I hate Morrissey because listening to middle class white men analysing pop music was already boring enough

I hate Morrissey because I had to know a real Bengali in Platforms. And I hated him too.

I hate Morrissey because 2011.  Because he makes the heterosexual, bearded Jarvis look like a sissy.

I hate Morrissey because Mark Simpson. I hate Mark Simpson because Morrissey. I hate both of them because I can’t tell the difference.

I hate Morrissey because

‘Sweetness, sweetness I was only joking when I said, by rights you should be bludgeoned in your bed’  - Morrissey ‘Bigmouth Strikes Again’

I woke up this morning, in half a mind to storm down to the Guardian HQ with a match and some petrol, as I would quite like to set fire to the house of the Liberal Moralistic Intelligentsia and watch it burn to the ground. ONLY JOKING!

Or am I?

The Grauniad seems to be a bit confused about what constitutes a joke, and how jokes are employed within discourse, and who are the jokers and who are the Kings and Queens of our language.

Last week, Morrissey received a veritable telling off from the school ma’ams of St Trinians, for saying the Chinese are a ‘sub-species’ for how they treat animals. He made this remark in a Guardian  interview with the poet Simon Armitage, ‘wittily’ entitled ‘Bigmouth Strikes Again’. It was immediately followed up with two more articles in the paper, explaining why Moz was yet again being unacceptably racist and should really grow up and shut up. I expect the irony was not lost on the chief captain of SS irony, as they were the ones that interviewed the controversial singer. They were the ones desperate for some juicy, offensive copy for their readers to drool over as they tutted their way through their M and S finest croissants on a Saturday.

Morrissey did not respond to his dressing down by apologising, or saying ‘sweetness, I was only joking’. He has already told us, as clearly as any man can, that he uses humour to express the violence and frustration we all feel in life. Or, that he uses violent  language in a humourous way*. ‘And if a ten ton truck, killed the both of us….’

So where was the humour in his comment about the Chinese? Where was the irony? One way of interpreting it could be to suggest that Morrissey values the lives of animals. He may believe that most people do not, and that we treat them as a ‘sub-species’, inferior to humans. In using the term ‘sub-species’ to describe a culture where some particularly barbaric treatment of animals takes place, he drew attention to our own superior and barbaric attitude to the animal kingdom as a whole. I think, my friends, he may have been using the ‘Chinese’ as a way of talking about all humans, and our hypocritical attitudes to animal welfare. But he knew it would piss off (and therefore satisfy) the Guardian editors more if he gave them a chance to call him a racist.  Again. He’d already kindly written the moralistic headmistress headline for their response: ‘That Joke Isn’t Funny Anymore’….

Bigmouth has a big brain and he knows how to use language to its full effect.

Bidisha on the other hand could do with a few lessons from Morrissey on how humour works. In an absolutely mind-blowingly stupid Guardian diatribe this week, she told us  that basically, every time a man opens his Bigmouth, or even doesn’t but just looks in a certain way at a woman, he is being a misogynist bastard. She provided us with a handy tool for documenting this misogyny, called, snappily and accessibly, The Pyramid Of Egregiousness.

Apart from ignoring  global complexities and cultural context when it comes to violence against women, Bidisha conflated structural gender inequality in our society,  with sexist language, gender and sexuality cultures, and actual gendered violence.  In an article packed full of stupid, this was the stupidest remark I could find:

‘The cleverest, most belittling insult I ever heard against a woman was a posh man at the Tate Modern, talking about Rachel Whiteread’s Turbine Hall installation: “Yeah,” he said. “She’s fun.” Delivered with an infuriating, mocking grin.’

It sent a shiver down my spine. But not for the reasons Bidisha intended.

So far, so bilious. Men are misogynists if they even speak to or about women; everyone is  a misogynist if they challenge this idiotic position.

At the end of the article Bidisha makes what could be called ‘a joke’:

‘I want a 3D glow-in-the-dark dodecahedron, a planet-sized Matrix of Misogyny, a Trillion-Faceted Dynamo of Jet Black Turbo Hate. Then I’d heave it aloft and hurl it into the sun, where it would set off a massive chain reaction and shoot out sky-scraping beams of feminist rage which kill anyone, male or female, who’s ever used those words, wiping out (I’d say) 90% of human society, but leaving the non-woman-haters behind.’

Haha.

But the failure of this joke is also its twisted ‘success’. It is not funny. It is not short. It is not quotable. It is not clever. It does not contain irony.  It is not made by a famous  whipping boy of the liberal elite. It cannot be interpreted any way other than: Bidisha is full of hate and she wants to live in a separatist ghetto of ‘non-woman-haters’ as defined by her.

So there was no furore in the liberal press,  no wittily-titled retort articles in The Guardian, challenging her misanthropy and ‘hate-speak’. But then the girlfriend is on the payroll. And there is one thing we know about The Guardian; it stands guard over its Jacks, Kings and Queens, and defends them against the culturally unacceptable enemies at its gates.

Here I am, standing on the other side of the moat. Here is my molotov cocktail. Here is my machete. Here is my nail-bomb. Here is my pistol.

You have your arsenal, and I have mine.

 

Welcome to Quiet Riot Girl’s Book Group: Reader, Meet Author.

The first book to be discussed  is St Morrissey by Mark Simpson.

I am a rubbish fan of both Morrissey and Mark Simpson. Although I love them both, and feel they have touched my life in quite profound ways, I have never been to a Morrissey gig and I have never bought or read in its entirety a book by Mr Simpson.  So I decided to rectify one of these failings, when I told a writer friend of mine about St Morrissey, Simpson’s ‘psycho-biography’ of that Icon of English pop, Mozzer.

My friend, who I shall call here ‘Mr Canada’, exclaimed ‘Holy Crap!’ when he heard about this book, as he is a Morrissey fan, and probably a much less rubbish one than me. He is also more postmodern than I am, so whilst he read the e-version of  St Morrissey on his I-pad, I ordered the hardcover (second-hand, again, a rubbish fan) from Amazon and away we went.

Here is our conversation on having read St Morrissey:

Quiet Riot Girl:  I have finished the book. I won’t tell you how it ends, as you already know! Was nice to read it at the same time as you. I know for sure that some of the things that pissed me off about it you won’t have noticed as they are very British and parochial to do with pop music culture in the UK. But the good bits were excellent.

Mr. Canada: I finished the book last night. And then spent a bunch of time on YouTube watching a Moz show from 2004, live in Manchester. And now his words have a different meaning. They have the meaning I first imprinted on them but I know more about his life now. I agree – there were things that made me roll my eyes but the good bits far outweighed the rest and overall the book was quite excellent. I gave it 4 stars over on GoodReads. Mark is a lovely writer.

QRG: Well hopefully when Games Perverts Play is released he will get to read you as well. Though he might not find out as much about you from your writing as you have about him from his! He is a lovely writer. I will try not to be too hard on him for his MASSIVE UNFORGIVEABLE misrepresentation of my other favourite band, PULP!

Mr Canada: Well, he doesn’t really like anyone else. He’s a bit harsh on everyone post-Smiths, really. At least everyone English and post-Smiths.

QRG: yes but PULP were PRE-Smiths. They started in 1979. I bet you Morrissey listened to Pulp he just would not admit to being influenced by his contemporary pop musicians!

Mr Canada: That’s true. I always forget how long they’ve been around. Morrissey would never admit to contemporary influences, you’re right. That would besmirch the legend.

QRG: Besmirch? Lovely. Actually I went to a Pulp gig in Manchester in about 2001 and Jarvis was very ironic about being in the home of the God Morrissey, surrounded by Mozzer fans. Someone threw a pack of women’s tights onto the stage and Jarvis pretended to read something scrawled on the back: ‘Punctured bicycle on a hillside, desolate’ he ‘read’. I think Jarvis knows full well that he was part of what made The Smiths possible. Musically and in gender-bending terms.

Mr Canada:Well, he has that satisfaction at least.

QRG: Oh I think Jarvis is ok with not being St Morrissey. He also resisted the ‘star’ role and hated being a teenage fan’s wet dream. Probably hated it more than Morrissey in fact.

Here is Babies.

I might put this convo on my blog- I was going to write something about St Morrissey and this is nicer than me writing some poncy critique! I will make you anonymous for dramatic effect…

Mr Canada: I love drama.

QRG: what was your favourite part of the book then? I won’t just moan about Pulp when the book was actually about Morrissey.

Mr Canada: I had a few. One is the child Morrissey. The upbringing. The absent father. The loving mother. I knew the basic outlines but Mark filled them in for me. Two is learning how long the affectation of being “Morrissey” has been going on. He has played this role for a long time, since puberty essentially so I then buy Mark’s assertion of Morrissey’s “honesty” and how he has given himself totally to his fans. Though each time Mark said “to the world” I had to laugh. There are entire continents that do not know or care about Morrissey, I’m sure. And then, toward the end, Mark does kind of call Morrissey out for his act, his attitutude, and I thought, well, finally. I wished there had been more about his relationship with LA and with Hispanic Americans in particular. This is a fascinating and incredible evolution in Mozworld and deserved far, far more attention. I’m guessing Mark didn’t travel to write this book. And that fact kind of weakens it in the end.

QRG: I think Mark wanted us to believe that he wrote the book from his bedsit in Manchester!

I don’t know about Mozzer’s relationship with HIspanic Americans. Was that within the timeframe of the book? eg before 2003?

Mr Canada: He alludes to it in the end, in the slight LA section. He’s huge among California’s Hispanic population. I think Rolling Stone or Spin did a story on it last year. It’s quite an incredible development. Just enormous among young Hispanics. East LA, etc. Huge.

QRG: Wow I didn’t know. I will look into that myself! I’d like to see some Spanish translations of Morrissey lyrics!

I found the book a bit ‘fatalistic’ about being a fan. As if you are stuck in this monogamous relationship with a single artist whereas in fact, most fans are flighty bastards, myself included. They can declare undying love one day, and then have a new love the next. I have been in love with The Smiths, Bronski Beat, The Beat, The Eurythmics, Billy Bragg, Lloyd Cole and the commotions, Joni, Tom Waits, Pulp, PJ Harvey, Nirvana, Patti Smith, Low, etc etc etc… it doesn’t make my adoration any less, the fact it was spread between so many bands over time. I don’t want to make any parallels between that ‘fatalism’ and how Mr Simpson may approach actual relationships. Then I’d be going all Freudian on his ass.

But my favourite line in the whole book, the only one that made me laugh out loud was when he said that Freud could have written ‘Wilhelm It Was Really Nothing’ for his ‘friend’  Wilhelm Fleiss.

Mr Canada: Yes, that was a good line. The Smiths were one side of me. Really. Because my other side fell head over heels for The Pixies. They were my musical yin and yang in those days (yes, I realize the timelines don’t necessarily work out perfectly) and any sort of evolution in tastes I may have result from these dual obsessions, so that I like loud, interesting guitar rock type music and also a different kind of music, a more introspective sort of lyric and a softer sound that always just threatens to implode. This duality in my tastes probably goes back even further. I’m sure Roxy Music led me into The Smiths (and something as awful as Yes led me into Roxy Music!). And Morrissey always did seem kind of a “how to be a lead singer” type to me. I bought into all of it for a long, long time. Until I grew up at least.

QRG: The Pixies are talented and a very complex band, musically. But I never got really into them.  Debaser is a fucking amazing track though.

‘I bought into all of it for a long, long time. Until I grew up at least’.

I expect Mark would be the first to admit that his story is the story of a teenage Morrissey fan that never grew up. In that it has a pathos. And a kind of defiance that Morrissey himself shares.

But the thing is they have both probably grown up really. They seem like ‘men’ to me, not boys. Just maybe they haven’t grown up in their romantic perception of themselves, which will include their CD collections.

Mr Canada: If you stay in character long enough, you stay in character. Morrissey has definitely grown up and that may be one of the reasons his last few have been so weak (in my opinion).

Morrissey and Frank Black (Pixies) have almost remarkably similar trajectories except Morrissey explores himself and his relationship to a place and time and Frank Black explores himself and then projects his insecurities into a kind of 60s pop culture grab bag including aliens and sci-fi, surfer music, horror movies, etc. But he’s talking about himself, really. He grew up relatively wealthy in the suburbs of America and Morrissey didn’t. Makes all the difference in the world.

But Frank Black reconciled himself to his old band and they toured (I saw them two nights in a row when they came here). So perhaps there is hope for some kind of Mozzer-Marr collaboration in the future. Though Marr has really shit the pants since the Smiths break-up. This Modest Mouse stuff he’s doing is too awful for words.

QRG: Shit the pants? haha.

They will never get back together in my opinion. Far too proud. But yes, I agree, ‘if you stay in character long enough, you stay in character’.

I don’t think I ever had a ‘character’ to stay in. I am just developing one now, a little too late, a kind of bawdy, old school,  pervert and intellectual misfit. Great. That will be commercially marketable!

Mr Canada: It will. It’s a good mix. You’ll see.

QRG: At least it is a fun ‘character’ to play! I almost believe she is real.

Thank-you Mister Canada, I think we have given St Morrissey and St Mark a little food for thought there. I look forward to our next book group session! You can choose our next read.

Mr Canada: I’m hardly Mister Canada. I’m not even Mister Montreal. Or Mister Mile End (my neighbourhood). Frankly, I might not even be the man of the house….

QRG:  Did you know there is a Pulp song called Mile End? It’s a rough area in East London.

You are Mr. Canada to me. You and Don Mckellar.

Post Script:

My favourite section of the book was the part that talked about the influence of  A Taste of Honey on Morrissey. I didn’t know all those lyrics were lifted so mercilessly from the film. I liked this part because it brought Morrissey into the context of his cultural and physical history in the North West. And because it added a ‘femininity’ to the narrative with those amazing women characters like Jo, Shelagh, and Elsie Tanner. I think it was the best-written part as well.  And then of course there was Sandie Shaw, another ballsy woman in Morrissey’s life…

Hand in Glove sums up the relationship between, not just Steven and his Mum, Steven and Oscar, Morrissey and Marr, or Mark and Morrissey, but with all fans and their favourite writers, artists and bands. ‘It’s not like any other love. This one’s different, because it’s us’.  Except, and I am not sure if Mark would agree here, really, it is exactly the same.