Morrissey: The Man, The Myth.
Music as therapy
Music is therapeutic for some and in the case of a polarising figure like Morrissey, he certainly can provide both a comfort blanket and a middle finger to daily struggles and strife.
Born in Lancashire, in the North West of England, Steven Patrick Morrissey grew up in Manchester, a city whose music scene would become synonymous with defining an era.
Living in council property in the area of Hulme in Manchester as a child, he would find himself deeply affected by the Moors murders (read more true crime here). A number of local children had been murdered and this came to have a bearing on Moz in his musical writings in later life.
Seen as somewhat of an outsider who struggled to fit in, as is the case with most tortured musical geniuses, Morrissey did not gain a single qualification upon leaving school. Shortly after he tried and failed to get his music career off the ground. From there he would turn to Music journalism and writing and it was at this point he came to admire the writings of Oscar Wilde as well as sending multiple script writing attempts to the producer of Coronation Street. All writings were rejected.
Music still burned inside him, a few failed attempts at getting bands off the ground would follow before everything would change for the better.
Morrissey meets Marr
A chance meeting a few years prior at a local concert between Morrissey and a then 14 year old Johnny Marr would ignite the spark of both men.
In 1982, a few years after their initial meeting, Marr tracked down Morrissey at his own with the intention of asking him to form a band. Marr and Morrissey believed they both had similar interests in the world and the ever changing landscape around them.
And so, The Smiths were formed. Morrissey informing everyone that the name of the band was chosen due it sounding ordinary, with Moz and Marr feeling it was about time the ordinary people showed themselves to the world.
The rest is history. Multiple albums both as a band and solo would follow, but what exactly is the allure of Morrissey to this day? Some fans find it difficult to separate his personal and musical lives, indeed Morrissey himself has almost morphed into the complete opposite of what he initially stood for.
Me (Simon) and The Smiths
Personally, I was late to The Smiths but as soon as you hear the first chord of a Marr led piece which fed into the sound of the anguished, haunted words spoken in song by Morrissey, you are hooked. I was hooked. The lyrics spoke to me, I was never one of the what you would deem popular ones growing up, I had my fair share of girls who I liked and such but at times just couldn’t find the words to take things to a meaningful level.
Some will ask, why would you take inspiration from lyrics such as “if a ten tonne truck kills the both of us, to die by your side is such a heavenly way to die” but for me that song in itself is a tragic yet uplifting love story of a man who would find complete happiness in dying if it were indeed with the one he loved.
In Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want, Morrissey pains at his bad luck and for once getting the ending he feels he deserves. A position many would identify with, and that’s the allure of the man. The ability to verbally annunciate what you sometimes feel inside and are unable to evoke.
How Soon is Now is another personal favourite, the lyrics can be taken however you interpret:
“There’s a club if you’d like to go
You could meet somebody who really loves you
So you go and you stand on your own
And you leave on your own
And you go home and you cry
And you want to die”
Basically me after a night out in the early 2000s after another failed attempt at wooing a lady. Onwards and upwards they say and that it the power of the man. He can make you feel happy, sad, despondent and make you burst out with laughter within a few seconds in the same song.
The Smiths (sadly) split-up
The Smiths would split in 1987, but their legacy lives on to this day as one of, if not the best indie band out of England ever.
Morrissey would instead move on to a solo career, pretty much a mixed bag of various albums over the last 25-30 years. There have been some tremendous ones in there, none more so than You are the Quarry. This was a return to form for Morrissey after a few disappointing previous efforts. He was back at the fore front of British music, his songs were being featured in various places, such as EA Sports popular Fifa series.
Irish Blood, English Heart and First of the Gang to Die being two particular highlights, he followed this up with another very good, yet under appreciated effort in Ringleader of the Tormentors.
The highlight of that album for me being the longest track on the record and a return to the sort of uplifting sadistic tone we come to expect from him in Life is a Pigsty.
I could go on all day about songs and albums that have helped shape and influence me but the truth is there is just so much to choose from.
But what of his infamous and somewhat controversial outbursts? From slating the British Monarchy, his poorly worded piece on the Norwegian shootings in 2011 to his sometimes outrageous rants comparing eating meat to being a sex offender.
To me, the songs and the past outweighs what those deem to be controversial. In some ways, it smacks of someone trying to remain relevant to a society he feels has shunned him. If only he knew how much he is still loved and adored by his fans.
In summary, Morrissey remains one of Britain’s true musical treasures who would do well to listen to his own advice:
I decree today that life
Is simply taking and not giving
England is mine, it owes me a living
But ask me why, and I’ll spit in your eye
Oh, ask me why, and I’ll spit in your eye
But we cannot cling to the old dreams anymore
No, we cannot cling to those dreams
Does the body rule the mind
Or does the mind rule the body?
I don’t know