These gems that I write of are NOT my words, and they can be found hidden away on the MorrisseysWorld blog (which I am NOT the author of...God, I wish!), in three separate articles. I have decided to put them all together here, A) because I don't believe they are getting a wide enough audience, B) because it is nice to have them in one place, C) there is NO C, and therefore, NO D either.
It is interesting to note that whilst describing the "surgical mishap" during the birth, Our Mozzer writes, "it only took me about thirty five years to come to terms with her little accident", and in the published Autobiography, Morrissey writes about his first relationship at the age of... thirty five. A coincidence? Yes, of course. I hope you enjoy, I have added some pictures for good measure:
From Chapter 1:
Manchester's grey overcast skies, and its grey overcast people. 22nd May 1959. Post-war austerity, black and white television, a simpler era. 'Irony? Is that a new brand of washing up liquid, Mildred?' 'No, I think it's foreign though.' 'Oh well we don't want any of that stuff around here, then.' And thence, as though from another world entirely, emerges... Steven Patrick Morrissey.
"BLACK CLOUD, BLACK CLOUD, BLACK CLOU,OU,OU,OUD"
His jaw wouldn't quite slide out, of course, necessitating a forceps delivery; he had a headache for at least a week; popped out with a thud as his head crashed against the polished floor; start as one means to go on... and then perhaps the defining moment of his early life. The snip. By a student midwife. Who didn't know how to distinguish the umbilical cord from the...arguably the worst day of his life, with Finsbury Park a close second.
FINSBURY PARK - EVERYTHING TO ANSWER FOR
But being bottled off stage by some dull north Londoners and becoming a figure of ridicule throughout England; even that doesn't stand comparison to losing one's... in a surgical mishap. We'll return to that later, of course... Oh don't worry, it only took me about thirty five years to come to terms with her little accident. The midwife? Oh, yes, forgotten about me, I'm sure. Your first mistake. Or was I the second? Oh, no need to apologise. I mean, there's hardly anything to apologise for... It's a mistake anyone could have made... The fickle finger of fate strikes again. This happens to little old me, and Paul O'Grady goes on to live a full life with his notoriously prodigious pole. Hardly seems fair, does it? But that's a lesson learned. Life isn't fair...
PAUL O'GRADY - HOLDING HIS PRODIGIOUS POLE
The first three weeks of life were, needless to say, crucifying for me. Utter torment. How do people manage? What? You're filled with existential distress at the impending possibility of nuclear annihilation, and the failure of the Hegelian dialectic to resolve the present international military stand-off? Here, have a squirt of milk. What? You are dismayed at the standard of documentaries on tele these days? Here, have some milk, go on. What? Life appears to have absolutely no meaning, and the entire world seems to be united in animosity towards you, pointing and laughing at you continuously? Open wide, here comes the milky wilky super spaceship...
Honestly, those first three weeks were a ruddy bloody living Hell for me. One mind-numbing nightmare after the next. It made not having a mobile phone seem like a walk in the park... one still cannot quite fathom how one survived it, actually... still, in some regards, at least, it was good specific learning for one's later years as a globally respected international literary figure, singer, and icon of pop culture. Replace the word 'milk' with 'wads of cash' and that's one's entire career in a nutshell. Mind, it could have been worse. I could have been Elton John.
ELTON JOHN - WORSE THAN LIVING HELL
Being a very advanced infant, I did learn to smile when I was just three weeks old. And by four weeks, I realised a sullen frown suited my face like hand in glove. Spent a lot of time wailing and crying during those first three weeks but - looking back now - things were not so bad. At least I had not met old Wossy back then. Even his parents hadn't met him back then. I'm older than him, you know, not that you would guess... And the human race had yet to welcome to its ranks the vertically stunted miracle of special education that is Alexis Petridis.
PETRIDIS - STUNTED MIRACLE OF SPECIAL EDUCATION
One of the worst things, though, was the lack of variety in one's early diet. It's a common problem, I know, but no less depressing as a consequence of its frequency. Absolute starvation is pretty common too, you know; there are millions afflicted around the world, but does anyone tell them to 'stop whinging - it's a common problem, you know?' Of course they don't. Had I been cognisant then, of course, of what was in store (pork and apple paste, animal flesh, Farley's rusks...) I might have been a little more grateful of what I had... a vegetarian diet, no lactose intolerance to struggle with, and remarkably few financial worries... happy days. Well, I say happy...
It was during the seventh week that I first heard the mesmerisingwords of Wilde, and life would never quite be the same again. One's intellectual innocence was lost... mother read the words listlessly to me as I snoozed in front of the tele. 'Extraordinary...' I thought to myself, possetting with the sheer air-gulping excitement of it all. 'The Picture of Dorian Gray.' Magical. The elegance of the prose, the verbose dialogue, peppered with dazzling wit and hubris... one began to understand irony and aestheticism.
WILDE ON MINE
Then on Wednesday, of course -it's always Wednesdays - she put it back on the shelf and, laughing softly to herself, began reading to me 'Wind in the Willows.' Wind in the sodding Willows. Wednesday, condescension - strikes again. One listened patiently, attentively even. At least at first. One tried, one really did. One tried to absorb the sixth form prose, the dreary mindless message of a literary simpleton... 'Mum, put this crap away, it's clearly written for a low-brow audience!' I screamed at last, filling with tears. As usual it all just came spilling forth as a lot of gargling noises and vague tormented cries. A little like the speech of Vic Reeves, actually, now you mention it...
VIC REEVES - GARGLING TWAT
Honestly, Kenneth Graham has no idea what he's responsible for. The quality of life I endured during those days... so bleak, one barely wishes to recall it. The book seemed to last forever. It must only have been a few days, but it seemed to me back then to be almost a lifetime of suffering. I wrote a song about it a few years later, actually. It's a beautiful song. When I listen to it, I can almost hear those stifling opening paragraphs and the endless tedium of 'The Wind in the Willows,' tormenting my innocent soul with its unending idiocy. I can barely listen to
that song these days... But, as Alan Bennett once said,"Philip Larkin says "They fuck you up your mum and dad". And if your parents do fuck you up, and you're going to write, that's fine because then you've got something to write about. But if they don't fuck you up, then you've got nothing to write about. So then they've fucked you up good and proper."
LARKIN - FUCKED UP...EVEN BEFORE HE LOST HIS HAIR
Speaking of which,'Well I Wonder' with its original lyrics (Working title was 'Wind in the fucking Willows Again')
Wind in the Willows,
Do you hear me when you sleep ?
I hoarsely cry
Wind in the Willows
Do you see me when we pass ?
I half die ...
Please keep me in mind
Please keep me in mind
Gasping - but somehow still alive
This is the fierce last stand of all I am
Gasping - dying - but somehow still alive
This is the final stand of all I am
Please keep me in mind
Wind in the Willows
Wind in the Willows
Please keep me in mind
Keep me in mind
Keep me in mind
I can almost taste the torment... Still, it could have been worse. She could have read me Elton John's lyric sheet. Was he even a pop star back then? Well, probably. Probably...
ELTON JOHN - BACK THEN... NO,NO,NO...IT'S LARKIN. ONE GAINED HAIR, ONE LOST IT, I ALWAYS GET THOSE TWO MIXED UP
I tried every trick in the book to stop her reading that drivel to me. I pissed myself. I crapped in my nappy. I even used the odd expletive... all no no avail. Of course, one didn't have the option of cancelling a gig or firing a member of one's backing band back then... one's recourse was, shall we say - rather limited? Mother's lucky I'm a forgiving creature, frankly. It's easy enough for her, of course, she wasn't the one force-fed low-brow literature in her pre-verbal days. Mind you, we're on speaking terms again now. We weren't for a few years, but there's no point holding grudges...
If she had persevered with reading me old Oscar's brilliant prose during those formative weeks, or even TS Eliot (sic?), one wonders how differently one's life might have unravelled. I could have been anything. Happy, well-adjusted. With GCSEs and A-levels. A university education, like Alan Bennett. Real business acumen, like old David Showie. Unacquainted with Judge Weeks. A Millionaire by twenty-eight. I could have been... I could have been... Radiohead? Well, on second thoughts, perhaps things aren't so bad after all.
HIM OUT OF RADIOHEAD
Mind you, one thing about Radiohead, you wouldn't see Thom Yorke and Johnny Bridgewood putting up with the kind of nonsense pedalled by the former drummer of the Smiths... would they pay back £1 million they never owed him in the first place? Certainly not. And, frankly, with Radiohead's money, Joyce's ambulance chasers would not have got anywhere near the High Court in the first place. It's not easy, you know. Being famous and poor. Not easy at all.
SIR NIGEL DAVIS QC - NOT FAMOUS OR POOR
Anyway back to those early days. One of the hardest things about those first three weeks of life was the lack of facial control one had. It was quite peculiar. There were only three expressions to choose from: smile, sullen frown, crying torment. I possessed no distinct facial expressions with which to convey my fatigue, boredom and intellectual superiority back then, which was a bleeding nightmare, mitigated slightly by the complete absence of interviews with music publications in my first three weeks of life. I couldn't even smile for the first two-and-a-half weeks, no matter how hard I tried. My face just would not do it... which was admittedly not a major problem for me, but still merits mention; not least because that same little problem recurred when I formed a small band called the Smiths... These days, of course, one has precisely the opposite problem: one has plenty of facial expressions, thousands of them, in fact. One just never quite seems able to select the right one for the right moment. It's funny how life goes in circles, isn't it?
IN CASE YOU'RE WONDERING... ON THE FAR RIGHT
PART TWO OF THE MISSING GEMS:
The nineteen eighties were passing me by. Snarling androgyny, the dullish glamour of those sickly pale-thin creatures in scarlet lippy and girlish belts juxtaposed with crunching guitars - T Rex, The Dolls and Ziggy Stardust - had faded gracelessly into handfuls of black earth, rock 'n’roll retirement, and tie-wearing early 80s chic respectively. The cheaply-assembled but eagerly-deployed scud missile that was British punk seemed to detonate unexpectedly in mid-air, causing chaos, panic and the odd ill-advised trip to the barber’s, but surprisingly little lasting structural damage.
As the ash clouds of punk spilled over and fell, gathering like anti-snowflakes on Manchester’s light-absorbing grey paving stones, bringing down as they fell over weeks and then months our studiedly vague aspirations for a slightly different world, the two-up two-downs remained indignant. They seemed to
peer up over the brutal urban wasteland – all ersatz municipal parkland, stubborn decaying semis and that mild, nauseating smog that was the Manchester air - wondering what might come next. What would come next? Nothing at all.
Winter 1982. Manchester seemed glassier than ever, all pale angries, and pale sads, and pale cruelties. The death of punk had informed me of the true power of music – which is that it means absolutely nothing. Aestheticism as pure as any Wildean short story, utterly devoid of a moral; music is about beauty and - Being a Pop Star-? Being a pop star is about being fascinating. If you cannot be fascinating, then be handsome. If you cannot be handsome, may I suggest The X Factor Auditions?
In 1982, intention was all that I had. Wintriness breeds wintriness, as a writer once wrote. When the soul lives in a glum rock box and the air is frostier than any half-remembered June day-excursion to Scarborough, the beauty of the freezing cold is all that one possesses. Sycamore tree leafless and crippled leans, like stag antlers bored into frozen top soil; green frog-eye Wellington boots scurry for grip on un-gritted roads; small bluish hand enshrined in fuliginous fingers, glinting under raw sodium lights; the Arndale centre like some oafish soul-cemetery, sucking in the human spirit like coke through a straw, and twisting it into a walking, breathing, cacophonous death. Snow fell that winter. And I made my plans.
The room was probably not as small as I remember. It had that lived-in smell which is inevitable when one never leaves: this I did my best to disguise with scattered rose petals – roses were an undeserved gift from one to oneself, or otherwise nicked from innumerable tiny-but-prim front gardens on the estate. Of course in winter the gardens were as barren as the singer who filled my ears and tugged at my tear ducts like lovelessness itself: Nico. In the absence of red rose petals or white rose petals, orange peel – always in good supply in our house – would adorn the radiator for days, even when, as was more often than not the case, they were switched off.
384 KINGS ROAD
Me? I stayed in and wrote furiously. The New York Dolls thing; the James Dean thing: they passed effortlessly by and yet without any real sense of destiny. Milky, embattled, frozen prose followed. It drifted imperceptibly from
the pen, just like one of the many snowstorms that murky Thatcherite November-December, until it no longer resembled prose at all. The first songs were born entirely by accident. This I have always put down to fate.
As I wrote, I would gaze up at the Marc Bolan poster over my bed, pore over the horribly cream-coloured wood chip and wish it would simply disappear; I would crank up the volume on my plasticky record player; it cost £11.30 from a second hand shop in Moss Side called Andy’s (I still have the receipt). And as the stylus hopped over the worn groove, I would sink into Diana Dors, Johnny Rotten, Ziggy Stardust and The Sparks. The natural ageing process of those scratchy records implored me to listen in a way that no horse-throated geography teacher ever could.
The joy of music is that it allows one to dream, which in turn allows one to find that grain of hope. Hope is not a moral; it is a life-force. A good song is as abstract as a dream or nightmare, tethered to reality by frayed threads, liable to snap at any given moment. The song drags one out of bed, it pushes one back into bed and it fills the short period in between. The song – to the true lover of music – is birth, death, and that other part we bravely call ‘life.’ Most people cannot live. They are immobilized: by the fear of rejection, by the self-loathing they endure, by a slim conviction that they are unable to love another; and more than anything else by a crippling sense of devaluation imposed by this world on all of us, unless we fit the idealized notion of what a human being should – these days, must - be. These poor souls shuffle, mumble and crumble through the years like shadows. I knew very, very early on that I was one of those souls.
Well, what could I do? I could spend my life with the shadows, pretending to live: a man with a life-sentence to serve, which never quite materializes. Or I could transform myself into a symbol and give up entirely on real life, as they call it. The song becomes the living; the singing becomes the life; the haircut becomes the material body – fading over the years but never quite leaving. And I began just then to write about life the way it really is. I began to write songs for those who cannot live – which is almost everybody. At least in England it is. While the rest of the world at least attempts to live life, we English apologise and queue politely. This – girls and boys – is why we’re so good at the old art thing. Art is nothing but a survival instinct for the English.
When one is desperate and cold, the hardest thing to feel is hope; and yet precisely – and only - when one is desperate and cold, hope is utterly life-transforming. To have absolutely nothing except hope was what sustained me through those nights. When you’re young, tears are precious. They seem to contain the very essence of life. As my tears landed on that newish pine desk, slipping into the cracks in the useless veneer, in that bland, desolate box room, the Manchester rain pattered on the windows and the roof tiles. The flowing motion of water, of rain, of tears is something that can be found in those early songs, as real to me as blood itself. And just as essential.
By Christmas 1982 I was a jobless waif in my mid-20s possessed of the frankly ludicrous hope of becoming a singer. In the grimness of day, of course, I had no real prospect of becoming one. My hair was all wrong, my clothes were all wrong, my skin, and - my face? As I set about willing into existence the pop star whose name I did not yet know, I gathered up every mossy pebble of a death-wish, each vocal hook I had ever murmured, fewer than five literary influences, and my eternally shattered faith in love. I would sing-whisper in those days, which I pretended was in honour of my beloved Nico but in truth was probably to avoid being overheard by Mam in the room downstairs. I did not breathe a breath of fresh air for more than two months. The windows rarely opened and the curtains never twitched. I had lost weight; my family members were worried for my wellbeing; over my shoulders hung the clothes of an anorexic teenage girl. And then finally out of that bedroom wobbled, and then stumbled, and then fell a singer called Morrissey without a record deal, without a band and without a decent pair of shoes.
Taken from chapter 38:
The So-low place part I
1997. Not a vintage year. New Labour win the election. The nation goes quite, quite mad over the tragic death of a dim aristocrat - without quite noticing it was murder in the first degree, despite the obvious warning signs - mutating thence into a pallid, self-loathing version of California before one's very eyes, minus the excellent personal hygiene and porcelain dentition. Fights erupt in newsagents throughout Slough as manly men with corned beef skin and over-ripe tomato noses mutter, "I couldn' give a monkey's 'bout Diana," before being thumped by their jeans-and-t-shirt-clad wives with their dewy eyes, running mascara and copies of The Sun. And, of course, Old Mozza is hung out to dry by the music press, just for a change.
'What's the excuse this time? What possible motive could they have?' I hear you ask. Well, it couldn't have been the music, could it? 1997 was a fine year
in that regard; 'Maladjusted' was simply overflowing with melodic hit singles and bitterly humorous asides; there were three bona fide top 40s in the form of 'Alma Matters,' 'Satan Rejected My Soul' and 'Roy's Keen' (well, almost...); and the odd hip-swivellingappearance on TOTP and TFI Friday.
No, no. It wasn't the music. So then what was it? Perhaps it had something to do with the fact a working class boy from Stretford stood up to the bullying and harassment of a high court Judge and a man who beats up dead animal skin stretched over metal for a living? Yes, yes, yes - that's more like it. More persecution for Old Mozza - well the old goat deserves it. Go on, southpaw him in the jaw. Meanwhile Dame Elton re-releases 'Candle in the Wind' with minor lyrical alterations to render them even more fawning and yes - even less dignified. And while he earns himself a global number one hit and knighthood, of course, Old Mozza disappears from view entirely. Morrissey? Isn't he dead yet? Salt in the wounds? This was industrial-strength alkali. And it burned straight through the bones like a hostile QC through Old Mozza's defence.
JUSTICE WEEKS QC OR IS IT ELTON JOHN? IS THERE A DIFFERENCE? DOES ANYBODY CARE?
On a more positive note, 1997 is also the year a certain Morrissey fansite known as Morrissey Solo came to one's attention. It was the beginning of those seven long years in the wilderness. Jesus only managed forty days. And those months (all eighty-four of them, well over two and a half thousand days) were bleak, I can tell you. Long strolls through urban Los Angeles in which I went invariably unnoticed. Even by the odd Mexican with a Mozza tattoo. I glanced at them with a Geisha-like captivation in my eyes; my gaze would linger, the Mexican would do a quick double-take and then simply continue with the cell phone conversation. Probably thought I was that dreadful Morrissey impersonator from www.morrissey-solo.com, I expect. Some middle aged bore trying to look a bit like Mozza. Surely they did not recognise me? The thought still torments me - what if they did, and they simply didn't care?
'MIDDLE AGED BORE"
Lunch at vegetarian Mexican diners was always fascinating - 'Hurry up and finish, will you, man? We're expecting a pop star called Morrissey soon,' they would yell at me, ushering me out of the place ASAP via the back door to free up the table he had booked. Didn't have the heart to tell them. It would have been nice to have been allowed to finish chewing my tortilla chip with guacamole prior to being shown the door.
I spent many languid afternoons gazing up at tropically green leaves guarding a flawless deep blue sky and pale sun. Admittedly it was a mistake to snooze horizontally after Mexican food. That was the beginning of the old reflux problem, of course, which has blighted me ever since. I know that now; didn't know it then. In the evenings a simple routine - check email, check fax, listen to 'Papa Jack,' check Morrissey solo. Like clockwork. At one point I didn't receive an email or fax for seventy-four days. Remember, this is the man who dragged pop music kicking and screaming into the postmodern age. And here I am - watching Radiohead getting all the plaudits - while I drive around LA almost hoping to bump into an autograph hunter, just to remind myself I'm still actually alive.
LA - 2002
Polishing my Ivor Novello. Listening to the old Smiths records. No deal, no emails, no faxes and nothing but snide remarks in the music press and Jarvis Cocker's smug little face peering up at me over breakfast from the cover of some gutter publication... Then when finally one is asked by some handsome olive-skinned American for an autograph? 'Oh, jeez,' he murmurs without making eye contact. 'What does that say? Morrissey? I'm sorry, I thought you were someone else, dude...' Who? Tony Blair with a gum shield? Marlon Brando from the Godfather transported forwards in time and given a softly teasing Mancunian accent? No, I didn't bother to ask...
In those days the Morrissey solo concert reviews were written by real human beings. Lars from Denmark. Ally from Ohio. Paul from Preston. The comments on that site kept me going through those lightless days (curtains closed) and electrically-aided nights. One can scarcely convey what it meant to a sensitive boy from Manchester who had been bullied his whole life long to read such words of kindness and anticipation. The messages about how great/sexy/stylish/poetic I am really helped soothed the distress caused by those faxless days and nights in my incredibly empty Spanishy house.
When that burbling bass riff from 'Do Your Best and Don't Worry,' began there were cheers and frenzied excitement in the mosh pit (in those days, even Old Mozza had a mosh pit at his gigs), as though it was Elvis playing Blue Suede Shoes, rather than Old Mozza trotting out a b-side quality album track from his
worst record. And that inexplicable excitement found itself on to Morrissey solo and into Old Mozza's old threadbare heart. People actually smiled during my shows and showed other emotions, such as despair, joy and excitement. They pretended to like Southpaw Grammar. They didn't do crack cocaine during the warm-up band, or speak in neologisms to me in the aftershow party. Nor did they have conversations in the seating areas during my shows. Ah, those were the days. Russell Brand was safely locked up in some government bedsit in south-east London, a million miles away from the tele. Drug dealers went to prison (Michael Howard - there's a man who knows) rather than performing pop-rap crossover ditties with Justin Timberlake.
In short, it was a more innocent age. More civilised? Yes, that too.The spontaneity of the web somehow intensified the umbilical connection between artiste and audience. The wild excitement at minor news (a Morrissey/Smiths convention in LA, or yet another compilation album featuring re-released Vauxhall b-sides) seemed to rumble on for days, with desperate pleas from lifelong Morrissey fans who were at the Hacienda in 1983 (I had no idea the Hacidenda was so large) for one final single - for old times' sake, or otherwise a small Q&A published in some online music site, or even just a re-release of something terribly overlooked from Vauxhall and I as a single. They were hanging on every syllable, playing 'Satan Rejected My Soul' backwards looking for hidden meanings (and I mean SRMS didn't even have any real meaning when played forwards...), and buying any old nonsense by the Smoking Popes on the basis that 'Mozzer likes them.'
They weren't demanding epoch-defining poetic pop music with Smithsian irony updated for the early noughties back then. Any old dross would have done, as long as it was my dross. The internet in those days - from Morrissey's perspective - consisted of a fawning fansite or two, endless photographs of myself lookingabsolutely sensational, and the Diana-Morrissey phenomenon, which scared a few ailing relatives and made them think I might be the antichrist. Lovely stuff.
It's all changed now, of course. My fawning online fans have been replaced with an army of coke-snorting, NME-reading, alcohol-addled (now I enjoy a drink as much as the next man but...) teenagers demanding breakbeats in my music, or at the very least lyrics about vomiting in a night club and Radiohead-esque guitars... Morrissey solo is infested with them. And, of course, when I do give them breakbeats ('I Like You') what do they do? 'Oh it's rather dated, isn't it? Mozza should stick to what he knows. He's much better at the old pub rock stuff, you know - those trusty AOR moves.' Naturally when I do the AOR pub rock stuff, they move the goalposts again. 'Mozzer needs a decent guitarist. There's only so much you can do with a pub rock band composed of session musicians...' So I hire Jesse - a man who has, among other things during a long and distinguished pop/rock career - toured with Alanis Morrissette and played with the Chili Peppers. Impeccable record, you might think. Ideal for a few feminist/funk crossover brownie points from the music press? Oh no. No, no, no. No sooner have I hired Jesse, than the fans are demanding someone who can actually play the guitar competently...
If I hired Jimmy Page, they'd complain that his hair's all wrong and old Mozza's desperately trying to fashion himself into a blues rock act - or worse, forming a supergroup. 'Mozza should try to be more like Radiohead with more avant-garde song structure and better use of guitar effects and atmospherics,' they moaned after Quarry. So what did I do? I gave them 'Pigsty,' which is the closest thing you'll hear to a competent Radiohead imitation. Their response? Oh you guessed it. 'Old Mozza tries to replicate Radiohead's sound and falls flat. Why doesn't he stick to what he knows?' I even tried to appease the old vomiting in a nightclub brigade with lyrics about pop stars 'thicker than pig shit' and 'explosive kegs between my legs.' Their response? You guessed it. 'Mozzer is so short of ideas, he thinks swearing on record and discussing his bits is a good way to fill dead time.'
As I always say, one rule for Mozza and another for everybody else. I can joke about it now but...
Still, even those days look rosey compared to the unbridled electronic stalking, harassment and libel of today's Morrissey solo... that man has a lot to answer for. But needless to say, I had the last laugh...