Morrissey Puts Pen to Paper
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE
Because after 25 long years, fans can’t wait to read the true (or not-so-true) story of this Charming man.
By Barbara Fletcher
Here’s a fun fact that might make you realize just how long ago the ’80s were: The song ”Every Day Is Like Sunday” is now more than 25 years old. It’s been two and half decades since legendary band The Smiths parted ways forever, a move that forced frontman Morrissey into a solo career.
The Smiths have been hailed as “the one truly vital voice of the ’80s,” inspiring bands like The Stone Roses, Oasis, Suede and Blur. Their influence on modern music has even drawn comparisons to the Beatles. The undeniable star of the band is Morrissey, who after reluctantly leaving the group behind, forged ahead to become even more successful, and along the way, more intriguing.
If there’s one word that comes to mind when we hear the name Morrissey, it’s “enigmatic.” Beyond his perceived openness – flesh-bearing shirts, emotive and dramatic stage presence, and very public opinions on animals and government – the Man of Mope with the signature quiff eludes us. Despite being in the limelight for more than three decades, crafting songs that connect so deeply with fans, we really know don’t know much about Morrissey the man .
All of the rumors keeping me grounded, I never said, I never said, that they were completely unfounded.
– “Speedway” (1994)
This week, that might change. Or not. On October 17, Morrissey is releasing his much-anticipated autobiography (cheekily entitled Autobiography ), a book that the singer has been penning for years. It was announced in 2011, but has since been fraught with publication woes. As early as last month, Morrissey stopped the presses over a “last-minute content disagreement.” It was just a few weeks ago that Penguin, the publisher that Morrissey insisted upon and which faced flack for putting him on its Classics imprint – committed to a date in a curious press release. The delays served only to further pique curiosity; The Guardian has likened the hype to ”Harry Potter level hysteria.” Because from Moz fans to Moz haters, everyone is hoping for answers to some key questions.
But first, here’s what we do know. Steven Patrick Morrissey, named after American actor Steve Cochran, was born to Irish Catholic parents in 1959 and raised in Manchester, England. A music lover from childhood, he met guitarist Johnny Marr in 1982 and everything changed: the two made a musical connection that led to the creation of the Smiths, a band NME in 2002 called the “most influential artist ever.” The band with an everyday name that gave voice to everyday people released four studio albums and developed a cult following with now-classics like “This Charming Man,” “How Soon Is Now” and “There Is a Light That Never Goes Out.” Surprisingly, only one of their singles ever charted in the Top Ten.
A mere six months after the bust-up of The Smiths, Morrissey released his first solo album, Viva Hate. The record spawned two singles, ”Suedehead” – which reached higher on the charts than any Smiths song, and the aforementioned ’80s anthem “Everyday Is Like Sunday,” both of which helped to reassure distraught Smiths fans that Morrissey’s music would indeed live on. Eight more studio albums followed, each of them charting in the UK Top Ten.
Throughout his career Morrissey spoke openly about issues close to his heart: championing animal rights, and viciously criticizing the British monarchy and government, especially Margaret Thatcher. But the singer who writes of being “son and heir to a shyness that is criminally vulgar” has been decidedly coy when it comes to revealing anything about his private life, one that he now spends far away from Manchester in sunny Los Angeles. Morrissey is notorious for both avoiding the press and being frustratingly evasive in interviews, using his wit and charm to dodge questions about everything from his much-obsessed-about sexuality (gay, straight, asexual, “fourth gender”?) to what really broke up The Smiths.
So why now, at 54 years old, has Mozzer finally decided to give us that coveted glimpse into his personal life? And what will lie within the covers? Will we learn more about the man with the “Irish Blood, English Heart”?
Alan Cross, long-time music journalist and radio broadcaster, is skeptical about how much we’ll get to see beneath the mask. ”Morrissey has always had a reputation of having his own reality distortion field. Will he tell the truth? Or just his version of it?”
But whatever the book reveals – truths told or rumors re-worded – fans of the man who “pretty much helped invent the notion of the modern indie band” will hold it close and cherish it simply as the words from a singer who has meant so much for over a quarter of a century.
Watch “The Last of the Famous International Playboys” from Morrissey’s first solo album and just remember.