Archive for the ‘Morrissey’ Category

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.

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.

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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”.’

 

‘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.

 

 

Echoes of 1994

Posted: August 14, 2011 in Morrissey

 

‘Don’t rake up my mistakes. I know exactly what they are…’

Vauxhall and I. Made Morrissey make sense, entirely, for the first time, for me, separately from The Smiths (because The Smiths only made sense as Morrissey/Marr).

Briefly. Gloriously. Complete.

And now I hear echoes of 1994, and the way hope is contained in sadness, and loss  is contained within joy, and endings are contained within beginnings, and the way the music and the words of that album  summed up that feeling precisely.

And then they catch ‘im, and they say ‘e’s mental…

(I saw some great live vids of this song being performed but the fans jumping on stage to grab a bit of Moz  got on my nerves, and the sound quality wasn’t great so I went for the album version instead. It was the album and its purity I fell in love with/to, after all…)

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

The problem with writing is it never finishes. Foucault’s Daughter was supposed to mark the ‘end’ of something but it has failed in that.

I started talking about fandom, and Pulp and (Saint) Morrissey, and the Great Men of Pop Mythology.  Of  ‘fagiography’ .

And then I remembered The Uses of Literacy.

The artist Jeremy Deller curated an exhibition of fan art by Manic Street Preachers fans. Yes, there are other fans apart from Morrissey fans. It was also made into a booklet which I own, a shiny silver cover with the set list for one of the Manics’ gigs on the front. Or is it a list of album tracks? I don’t know. I am not a Manics fan. I am a fan of fans.

This is the Deller/Manics book made as a record of the art instillation. I’d forgotten it was called The Uses of Literacy after Richard Hoggart’s book. Hoggart is part of my own, personal childhood hagiography. I cannot escape the Great Men of History.

Deller’s art is all about real and  ‘imagined communities’. The cultural studies analysis versus Simpson’s Freudian one. Both are compelling but I think the cultural studies version is more democratic and less hopeless.  I think Simpson  embraces the community of fandom to an extent, but in order to do that convincingly in Saint Moz he would have needed to have been more ‘democratic’ in citing a variety of sources and bringing to life more voices. He could have cited Deller and the Manics fans if he had have wanted to, as The Uses of Literacy was made in 2000, three years before Saint Morrissey was published…

Being a fan is what joins us together not what sets us apart from each other.

YOU LOVE ‘US’

And in this neo-liberal individual alienated, mediated consumer culture, ‘US‘ is a very powerful word.

http://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/QuietRiotGirl

‘QRG is a good example of someone I want to respect because she’s smart and sometimes says interesting things — but her constant grandstanding and insistence on trying to dominate discussions that have nothing to do with what SHE wants to talk about*, always piss me off. She doesn’t listen to moderators, she dismisses attempts at facilitating a calmer discussion, she demands that everyone focus on her at all times, and she refuses to acknowledge that she might ever be at fault when discussions go explodey.

It’s a shame, because I think that if she were more willing to have a real conversation, she might actually be able to do some of what she claims to want to do. I am leaving this comment because there are always tons of lurkers reading these threads, and I want to make it really clear why I think her behavior is bad, because if someone else has the same level of intelligent disagreement she does, she’s a really good example of how NOT to communicate about it.’

-Lady Madame Princess Clarisse Thorn

http://www.feministe.us/blog/archives/2011/04/26/i-know-i-can-fight-rape-culture-by/#comments

*This comment was made on a discussion about ‘rape culture’ in which I made comments about ‘rape culture’. It was not ‘nothing to do with’ what I wanted to talk about, it was just that I disagreed with the majority view on the subject.

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.