News Archive : December 1996 (Court case/test)

Dec. 29 96
(Thanks again to Rachel Mckeon for the updates)

Final reports on the court case (edited by Rachel)

* Manchester Evening News 11/12/96 (went to press before verdict was announced):

 ...Stretford-born Stephen Morrissey, 36, [sic, sic, sic!] now of Bowdon Road, Bowdon, near Altrincham, and Mr Marr said that both men knew their share was to be 10 per cent each and that they had accepted it by not leaving the group...

 ...The judge criticised the long delay in resolving the dispute, which began when final accounts were produced two years after The Smiths dissolved in 1987.

"It is amazing that we have only got here after seven years," he said.

The four band members barely acknowledged each others' presence throughout the court hearing.

Even Morrissey's own counsel, Ian Mill, admitted that his client's attitude had on occasion "betrayed a degree of arrogance."

Earlier, the judge said he was astonished that Morrissey could not remember the night he starred on Top of the Pops. "The Smiths' first time on Top of the Pops and your client cannot remember that evening?" Judge Weeks asked Mr Mill.

The appearance, in January 1984, was significant because on that day Mr Marr phoned Morrissey to say that Mr Joyce would not accept a suggested 10 per cent share of the group's profits.

Mr Mill said:"To Morrissey the success of The Smiths was inevitable.

"He had an inherent belief that his partnership with Johnny Marr would succeed and that an appearance on Top of the Pops was an inevitable and automatic step along the way."

 * * * *

* The Independent 12/12/96 (under the headline 'Devious, truculent and unreliable')

...They [Morrissey and Marr] claimed there was an agreement that they would get all the profits from publishing and 40 per cent each from other royalties. But Joyce claimed he was never told he was going to be paid only 10 per cent of record and performing royalties...

...Judge Weeks said that when Joyce applied for a mortgage, his accountant wrote to the building society stating his share of the annual income of the band was in excess of 20,000, which the accounts showed was a 25 per cent share of the profits from 1984 and 1985.

When Joyce was sent a copy of the group's accounts in July 1986, he put it in a drawer without studying it. Judge Weeks said he was satisfied that even if he had looked at the figures, he would not have realised the implications and that he was receiving a 10 per cent share.

It was only when the group dissolved in 1987 that Joyce realised what had been happening. He showed the accounts to a friend who had accountancy knowledge and he began his legal battle for an equal share.

In 1989, Andy Rourke, the group's bass guitarist who had fought a battle with heroin addiction, was "desperately short of money" and settled with Marr and Morrissey for 83,000 and 10 per cent of royalties, giving up all further claims.

When Marr and Morrissey eventually admitted there had been a partnership agreement in November last year, they paid over 273,000 to Joyce as settlement of 10 per cent of The Smiths' profits.

Judge Weeks said all four had no business experience, having left school between the ages of 15 and 16 with few qualifications, but that Morrissey took all the decisions. At 23, he was four years older than the other members and more assertive and although he controlled the group's finances, he "lacked the will" to tell Rourke and Joyce of his decisions over profit sharing.

"He left it to Mr Marr to give the unpalatable news to the other two," the judge said.

Joyce said after the hearing:"I still have the highest regard for Morrissey but always knew 10 years ago when I started this action that I would win. This was never about money. It will not change my lifestyle but it will secure the future for my wife and children."

Morrissey, who was not in court for yesterday's judgment, in a statement issued through his solicitors, said:"I am disappointed and surprised at the judge's decision, particularly given the weight of evidence against Mike Joyce's claim. I will be considering the terms of judgment with my solicitors to assess possible grounds for appeal." Marr refused to comment and left the court building immediately.

 * * * *

* The Times 12/12/96 (the story actually made it onto the front page, with a longer article and recent pictures of Morrissey and Mike appearing on page three)

...Morrissey was not in court to hear the judgment go against him. Marr, flanked by his lawyers, left looking shocked, pale and refusing to comment.

Joyce, 33, who is hoping for chart success with his new, two-man band Wah Now, said he brought the case because he was concerned about the future of his daughters Fay, 8, and Olivia, 3. He said:"I am delighted but, at the moment, I just feel a bit shocked. I want to go home and see my wife and my children whom I have missed over the past couple of weeks. I did not bring this action for the money. No lifestyles are going to change here."

After a seven-day hearing, Judge Weeks said he preferred the evidence of Joyce and Rourke, who had dropped out of the action after accepting 83,000. Describing the "credibility" of the four partners, the judge said Joyce and Rourke impressed him as "straightforward and honest", although without great intellectual ability.

"Morrissey was more complicated and didn't find giving evidence easy or a happy experience. He was devious, truculent and unreliable when his own interests were at stake." The judge said Marr was "a more engaging personality" and "a more reasonable character" and the most intelligent of the four "but seemed to me to be willing to embroider his evidence to a point where he became less credible".

The judge said there was no evidence of a 40-40, 10-10 agreement for splitting the profits and there never was an assumption by Joyce and Rourke that that was what they would get...

...[Morrissey] was the dominant character who kept a tight grip on the purse strings. He treated the lesser known members of the band merely as session musicians, it was claimed. After the group split up Joyce discovered, for the first time, that the profits had not been shared equally. He began a legal action to recover royalties for the recordings and profits from the concerts by the group, paid to a company called Smithdom Ltd...

 * * * *

 * Daily Star 12/12/96 (not much of interest in the article but includes new pictures of Mike and Moz - the one of Moz is really nice but I'm afraid I haven't got a scanner)

...Talented Morrissey - sometimes branded a "control freak" and "arrogant" - was once asked if Rourke and Joyce had had a bad deal. He replied:"They were lucky. "If they'd had another singer they'd never have got further than Salford shopping centre." Outside the High Court yesterday Joyce said:"The decision will secure my family's future."

 * * * *

* Daily Telegraph 12/12/96 (the article is accompanied by a potted history of the Smiths, an amusing picture of Andy with long hair and pictures of Mike and Moz - all taken outside the High Court)

...Judge Weeks said that shortly after Joyce and Rourke joined the other two in 1982, Marr and Morrissey signed a "curious document" that claimed they had contractual rights over other members of the band. It was never shown to Joyce and Rourke.

The court heard earlier how Morrissey and Marr had an inflated opinion of their own importance in the band. Morrissey had regarded Joyce and Rourke as "mere session musicians, as readily replaceable as the parts in a lawnmower".

The singer told the court he kept back nearly 500,000 in royalties because other band members "weren't interested in business". Five years after the group split, Mike Joyce was eventually paid back 270,000...

 * * * *

 * The Express 12/12/96 (includes a lovely picture of Mike arriving at court in a suit)

...Judge Weeks said:"Joyce and Rourke impressed me as straightforward and honest, unintellectual and certainly not financially sophisticated."...

...The judge described Marr as "a more engaging character. He was probably the more intelligent of the four, but seemed prepared to embroider his evidence."...

 * * * *

 * Daily Mail 12/12/96 (includes a picture of Moz arriving at court the previous week - I think it's the same picture the NME used)

...The judge said, however, that Joyce and Rourke impressed him as "straightforward and honest" although they were "not intellectuals and certainly not financially sophisticated or aware"...

...After a seven-day hearing, Judge Weeks said he preferred Rourke and Joyce's evidence that they were never told they would receive only one-tenth of the group's earnings. He said no formal contract was signed or verbal agreement made about profit share.

Morrissey, the oldest and most assertive band member, held the purse strings. He and Marr signed the accounts on behalf of the Smiths...

 * * * *

 * Daily Mirror 12/12/96 (no new information in this article - although Marr is amusingly described as Morrissey's "ex-sidekick" - the article also includes a new picture of Moz)


Dec. 14 96
(Thanks to Rachel Mckeon for sending this along)

Morrissey may face new claim for 1m (from Manchester Evening News 12/10/96)

Rock star Morrissey faced a new blow today as the former bass guitarist with the Smiths threatened to sue for 1m.

Andy Rourke, 33, delivered his warning after the group's former drummer Michael Joyce won 1m in his High Court action against Morrissey and lead guitarist Johnny Marr.

Mr Rourke, of Acorn Close, Burnage, told the Manchester Evening News that he would now seek legal advice as to whether he too could mount a court action on similar lines.

The legal position in Mr Rourke's case is more complex because he reluctantly accepted an 83,000 pay-off from Morrissey two years after the band dissolved in 1987.

"It's really good news for Michael," he said. "I will now consult solicitors to see whether I can make the same claim because I too feel I am owed 1m from the partnership."


Dec. 11 96
The Vibe: Cybersleaze (Dec. 11, 1996) :

Ex-SMITHS frontman MORRISSEY was blasted today as "devious and unreliable" by a High Court judge in London. And heaven knows he's miserable now - he and former songwriting partner JOHNNY MARR have just lost more than $1.7 million. Morrissey and Smiths guitarist Marr had given evidence in the week-long case centering on the financial arrangements of the 1980's British group. Smiths drummer MIKE JOYCE was suing Morrissey and Marr for a 25 percent split of all the group's earnings except from songwriting. He claimed he was entitled to an equal share of the millions of dollars made by the Manchester rockers, who split in 1987. He was contesting the arrangements which saw Morrissey and Marr getting a 40 per cent cut and Joyce and bassist ANDY ROURKE 10 per cent each. Rourke dropped out of the case after agreeing to an out-of- court settlement of $133,000. The judge found in Joyce's favor and in his summing up described Morrissey as "devious, truculent and unreliable," saying he was "overly concerned" with his own interests. He said that Joyce and Rourke seemed honest "but without great intellectual ability." Morrissey and Marr must now pay Joyce the difference between the 10 and 25 per cent - estimated at $1.7 million - from the profits of The Smiths and must also pay legal costs, estimated at $400,000. Morrissey was not in court for the final day, but issued a statement saying, "I am disappointed and surprised. I will be considering the terms of the judgment with my solicitors to assess possible grounds for appeal." Marr was in the courtroom, but left immediately without comment. A victorious Joyce says, "I still have the highest regard for Morrissey but knew 10 years ago when I started this action that I would win. This was never about money. It will not change my lifestyle but it will secure the future for my wife and children." After the case, Joyce's wife TINA said from their home in Manchester, "We were confident of victory so we're not that surprised by the verdict as we knew were telling the truth."

NME.COM news also has a detailed account of the ruling.


Dec. 10 96
(Source: the ASK mailing list, submitted by Rachel Mckeon)

Smiths' cash split 'never equal' (from Manchester Evening News 12/10/96)

Rock star Morrissey and lead guitarist Johnny Marr never thought for one moment that they would share The Smiths massive earnings equally with the two other band members, the High Court heard.

"Some 13 years on it is extremely difficult to pinpoint the moment when the 40:40:10:10 profit split came into being," said Robert Englehart, QC, in his closing speech.

"But Morrissey and Marr acted throughout on the basis that they would be getting 40 per cent each of the net profits from The Smiths earnings."

Mr Englehart, who is acting for Johnny Marr, said his client "came over in his evidence as a very decent, honest person - scrupulously fair - who was not going to cheat his friends."

Morrissey and Marr are being sued by former drummer Michael Joyce for a quarter share in the millions made by The Smiths before they broke up.

"But the court has heard that both Michael Joyce and Andy Rourke accepted from an early stage that both Morrissey and Marr would get more than them."

Mr Joyce, of Springfield Road, Altrincham, was demanding equal partnership rights with the others.

Bass guitarist Andy Rourke, of Acorn Close, Burnage - also told he was only entitled to 10 per cent - has given evidence in support of Mr Joyce.

Ranged against them are defendants Morrissey, 36 [sic], of Bowdon Road, Altrincham, and Mr Marr.

Dec. 10 96
(Source: the ASK mailing list, submitted by Ian Nelson)

FEUDS CORNER (from Sunday Times 12/8/96)

Mike Joyce vs Morrissey

WANNABE pop stars, take note. In his how-to guide, Making Money Making Music, James Dearing recommends that when aspiring Liams and Damons audition new recruits for their bands, they get them to fill out a Musician Personality Test. Among the suggested questions: Were they naturally friendly? Who was the most positive person?

If everyone used this test, it seems unlikely that Pink Floyd, Nirvana and Oasis would have hired Syd Barrett, Kurt Cobain and Noel Gallagher, respectively. Or that the guitarist Johnny Marr, looking for a lyricist partner, would have formed the Smiths with insecure miserabilist Morrissey.

However, Mike Joyce, the drummer Morrissey and Marr brought in, would have passed with flying colours. An innocent who apparently idolised the songwriting duo, he had the great attraction of doormat-like docility. Until last week, that is, when Joyce took the senior Smiths to court to challenge the group's 1983 deal with Rough Trade. Heaven knows, he's miserable now. Time for a quick reel around the courtroom.

In Marr's words: "The Smiths was me and Morrissey." So only they signed the contract, making a verbal agreement with Joyce and the bassist Andy Rourke for a share of live/recording royalties - 10% was specified, Morrissey and Marr say, but the others assumed they were getting 25%.

After the band's 1987 split, Rourke accepted the 10%. Joyce, adamant he "never agreed" to this figure, has argued via his QC that the dominant duo treated him and Rourke as "mere session musicians, as replaceable as the parts of a lawnmower".

Morrissey and Marr have pointed to the rhythm section's "less pressurised lives" to justify the disparity: they had to "deal with s***" from managers or record companies, Marr says, but "Mike and Andy... could skedaddly when their work was done".

It's a case with many oddities and ironies. Instead of the classic scenario of naive young performers duped by record companies, the alleged exploiters were one half of a band. A band which epitomised indie radicalism.

Also ironic is the was the case has reunited the parties in one of rock's most bitter creative divorces. Nine years after Morrissey vowed: "I will never see [Marr] again", the Mancunian Leiber and Stoller have teamed up again, not to resume their musical collaboration, but to defend in court what appeared to be a less than democratic set-up. It would be nice to think they at least got together in the Gents for an a cappella version of I Don't Owe You Anything.

John Dugdale


Dec. 7 96
The Vibe: Cybersleaze (Dec. 5, 1996) mentions the Court case:

Eccentric British singer MORRISSEY took to the witness box at London's High Court today in the case centered around the financial arrangements in his former group THE SMITHS. Drummer MIKE JOYCE claims he is entitled to an equal share of the millions of pounds made by the Manchester rockers, who split in 1987. He is suing Morrissey and guitarist JOHNNY MARR for a 25 per cent split of all the group's earnings except from songwriting. Morrissey alleged today that Joyce was not interested in the business side of the group. The court was told songwriter Morrissey and Marr, the musical composer in The Smiths, took all the money from the publishing royalties of the songs. But they also took 40 per cent each of the royalties for the recordings and profits from performances, offering their bass player ANDY ROURKE and Joyce a 10 per cent cut. When the group was formed in Manchester in 1982. Morrissey, then 23, had no grasp of financial dealings, the court was told. He didn't even have a bank account, having been unemployed since leaving school with no qualifications at the age of 16. Morrissey has described Joyce and Rourke as nothing more than, "session musicians who could be replaced like parts of a lawnmower." Rourke, who had also sued Morrissey and Marr, has agreed to an out-of-court settlement of $135,000 plus 10 per cent of future royalties, because he, "desperately needed the money." But asked why Joyce was not paid a similar amount at the time, Morrissey said, "He didn't want it. He wanted more. I thought that the fact he was trying to sue me was extremely unfair." Meanwhile, the case continues…

Dec. 7 96
(Source: the ASK mailing list, submitted by Rachel Mckeon)

Anger of rock star quizzed by QC (from Manchester Evening News 12/5/96)

Rock star Morrissey exploded with anger in the High Court when he was cross-examined about the "hierarchy" of group members within The Smiths.

The Stretford-born singer lost patience after being asked by Nigel Davis, QC, about an alleged secret plan to replace drummer Michael Joyce.

Pointing to a court copy of the definitive biography of The Smiths, entitled The Severed Alliance, Morrissey told Mr Davis: "There are only two names on the cover - Morrissey and Johnny Marr."

"Did you notice that? Two names only, not Michael Joyce or Andy Rourke." Mr Davis, for Mr Joyce who is claiming a 25 per cent share of the group's massive profits, warned Morrissey: "I'll ask the questions."

He claimed the singer's memory was at fault because Mr Joyce had performed with The Smiths throughout their Scottish tour in autumn 1985.

But this was when, according to Morrissey, he and lead guitarist Johnny Marr were supposed to be trying out a possible replacement drummer. "Johnny wouldn't have wanted Mike to go, nor would I, but we could live with it," said Morrissey.

A firm of accountants was "reluctantly" consulted by Morrissey and Johnny Marr.

The accountants sent a letter to them confirming that the two stars felt they were each entitled to a 40 per cent share of the group's profits.

Mr Davis read out part of the letter which said:"Unfortunately, this has never been formally agreed. We should take steps to draw up some form of agreement with Mike Joyce and Andy Rourke."


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