||Manchester's Answer To The
How it all blew up for Morrissey and The Smiths
by Dave Simpson
part 2 of 2
from "Uncut" magazine (August, 1998)
Submitted by Naomi
(to part 1)
IT was 1988, and following some short-lived sessions with Rourke, Gannon
and Joyce ("We tried to carry on. I know Johnny wasn't too happy about that,"
says Mike), Morrissey plunged into the unknown.
Signed to EMI as a solo artist, he spent the winter of 1987-88 holed up at The Wool Hall
studios in Bath, with Stephen Street, producing a solo album. Street had constructed some
basic chord sequences, but realised a "muso" was needed to turn the sketches
into songs. To this end, the duo recruited Vini Reilly, virtuoso guitarist with
Manchester's Durutti Column.
"I think Morrissey was still trying to come to terms with what had happened,"
says Vini now. "But the three of us gelled. We had a very happy friendship which was
based on Moz's gift for mockery. He basically just laughed at me.
"But it progressed from there to exchanged confidences, a lot of trust. We were
physically wrestling with each other and having food fights, then discussing anxieties or
Despite Morrissey's fragile state of mind and "reputation for being difficult",
Vini Reilly paints a fairly idyllic picture of their time recording together. The
residential studio was very luxurious, and the pair would kill time playing charades and
discussing the films they'd just watched. They'd even enjoy shopping trips into Bath and
nights out at Bristol Bierkeller, when the near-anorexic Reilly took on the implausible
role as bodyguard to the beleaguered star.
Vini: "I used to put my pinstripe suit on, and wear shades, and pretend I was a
bouncer. Which astonishingly enough people actually believed, and would treat me with
great respect, which was hilarious!"
Nevertheless, it wasn't always easy to escape the enormous numbers of people who - as
Julie Burchill once memorably put it - wanted to "touch the hem of Morrissey's
"Did Morrissey get recognised? Oh God, yeah," exclaims Reilly. "Everywhere
we went. It was quite scary because we'd have one or two lads who'd approach, and within
seconds it was like sharks, 20, 30. So we had to pre-empt it; at the first sign of
approach be very heavy, and go "Back off". It didn't always work, so then we had
to hasten to a car which was always waiting. It was the height of Mozmania. I do think it
got him down because it was totally impossible for him to chill out."
Despite the light-hearted nature of much of Reilly/Morrissey's friendship, the sessions
themselves were often acutely intense. Reilly particularly recalls recording "Late
Night Maudlin Street", a harrowing confessional which drew subtle parallels between
the dark times of Morrissey's youth and his uncertain present.
"Going into the night, Mozzer was putting down his vocal, and the whole studio was
affected by the atmosphere. It was absolutely for real, everyone felt it and just went
very quiet and went to bed very subdued. We didn't play charades that night, I can tell
In February, "Suedehead", a single from the sessions, was released and
astonished many by soaring to Number Five, outstripping The Smiths' successes. A
wonderful, flowing single, "Suedehead" (the title inspired by Richard Allen's
"Skinhead" novels) boded well for Morrissey's career as a solo artist and was
followed by an arguably superior Top Tenner in the swirling, "Everyday Is Like
Sunday". Soon afterwards, Morrissey's solo triumph appeared complete when the
"Viva Hate" album went to Number One. Morrissey marked his finest moment with a
display of his increasing penchant for bizarre, extreme behaviour.
"He disappeared on me," recalls Gail Colson, who managed Morrissey at the time.
He vanished for a month from the day I told him that the album had gone in at Number
Unbeknown to anyone, Morrissey was back in Manchester. According to Reilly, Morrissey had
just had enough of the business for a while.
"EMI had been breathing down his neck all through making that album, but he'd arrive
at my flat here clutching some eco-friendly cleaning fluid."
Shortly afterwards, Morrissey discovered that Rourke, Gannon and Joyce were preparing to
sue him (and Marr) for monies relating to The Smiths (the case would eventually come to
court in 1996). Morrissey's response to this was even more unpredictable...
Exactly 365 days after he'd last worked with them, Morrissey (or rather his lawyer) phoned
the trio and suggested a gig. The result was a triumphant experience for all concerned,
with feverish members of the audience gaining admission with a Smiths or Morrissey
T-Shirt. The band played the material they'd recorded with Morrissey a year earlier (such
as "The Last Of The Famous International Playboys") and a handful of Smiths
songs never played live. However, the backstage environment brought the curious occasion
of a group whose entire membership was suing the singer. According to Joyce, "It
Morrissey would never play with either Joyce, Rourke or Gannon again, dumbfounding the
ex-Smiths to this day. Morrissey was still playing mind games, and getting rather good at
MORRISSEY was in another state of flux. He'd fired everybody: Gail
Colson, his manager, as well as his accountants and lawyers.
Yet another run-in (with Stephen Street, which mystifies Vini Reilly to this day) had
ensured that the successful "Viva Hate" duo, or trio, would never work together
again. Collaborations with producers Langer & Winstanley, and Fairground Attraction
songwriter Mark Nevin had proved unrewarding, the latter spawning 1991's belated and
critically pilloried "Kill Uncle" ("So Morrissey's over..." declared
Steve Sutherland in the NME), while Marr was enjoying a productive career as member of
both The The and Electronic.
Morrissey was increasingly hermetic, refusing to tour, and still steadfastedly refusing to
talk to the music press. The music press, in return, was determined to get to him. A
succession of provocative articles took the ambiguous lyrics of songs like "Bengali
In Platforms" to suggest that Morrissey was a racist (Morrissey has performed for
"Artists Against Apartheid"). To his credit, Morrissey refused to respond.
However, this made the music press equally determined to press for blood. His relationship
with the media began an increasing downward spiral.
Andy Catlin provides an insight into what would become Morrissey's rampant paranoia as a
"The thing with rock photography is, the only time the average person gets to look at
Morrissey in the eye is in a photograph. So the pictures that people see of you become
more of a reality than who you actually are. I think he became more conscious of that. But
that made it much harder for him to be photographed as time went on. Harder to be
Morrissey was still doing interviews, laced with wit and humour ("I'm actually at the
height of my powers... as a window cleaner," he howled to Q), but was giving little
away. For many, it was impossible to distinguish between the mask and the man.
"It goes back [again] to Kenneth Williams," says one insider. "When did he
turn off? Did he sit in front of his friends and do that fucking stupid voice? You put on
the mask and the mask becomes the person. There's nothing left except the persona.
Morrissey had become a c***. Perhaps he'd always been a c***. But maybe if he wasn't such
a c*** he wouldn't have made the brilliant records he did."
MORE persecuted than ever, Morrissey continued an ongoing process of
disposing of his associates and friends. There were 10 people personally thanked on the
sleeve of The Smiths' debut album; all were now utterly excommunicated.
Grant Showbiz (himself by this point persona non grata) recalls a typical fate,
that of sleeve layout person Caryn Gough.
"She just happened to say to somebody, "Oh those covers used to take me no time
at all. I used to slap 'em up." That was it. Literally about a week later she was
excommunicated by Morrissey."
Vini Reilly points out that to some Morrissey may appear to have a huge ego, but that it
hides a desperately vulnerable person.
"He's been betrayed very often by people who should know better," he declares.
"I've actually seen that happen - and it's very painful to watch."
And hard to be on the end of. Vini Reilly got particularly close to Morrissey - until the
phone calls stopped.
"A lot of people think, "I'm going to be the one to get through to
Morrissey," and they all end up like all the others," says unofficial biographer
Johnny Rogan. "Because they perhaps expect too much going in. He's very much in
control of his life, but that can be a plus or a minus. Basically, I think a lot of people
want to love Morrissey, but he thinks everybody hates him!"
Grant Showbiz puts Morrissey's fondness for excommunications as down to a "Power
thing. To say 'Fuck you, fuck off. I don't need you any more.'"
Why does he have so many fall-outs?
"Well, I could give you a very cheap answer - he's insane!" laughs Jo Slee.
"But no, I think he has very high expectations of people, and he's very quick to take
umbrage, or to feel let down, and you don't often get a second chance. That's childlike.
He's very extreme in his emotional reactions to people. He's always been intensely
suspicious, actually finding it intensely difficult to trust people. I actually feel like
he's been indoctrinated against trusting people at some stage in his life."
Revealingly, Morrissey once said he grew up without seeing his parents hug or kiss.
Equally illuminatingly, Slee (one of the few people to be "re-admitted" to the
circle after a falling-out with Morrissey) paints an intriguing picture of a consummate
performer with a crippling lack of self-esteem.
"He finds it difficult to receive friendship," she says. "If you don't
learn self-esteem when you're a child, for whatever reason, you have to work really hard
when you're older. And you've got to have a reason for doing that. He's the type of person
who, if people want to keep in touch with him, they probably need to do it. I don't think
he really believes that people want to be his friend.
The self-esteem problem is interesting because of the connection between low self-esteem
and grandiosity. You could say that Morrissey has plenty of grandiosity, and he has
extraordinarily low self-esteem. And yet he's a very passionate person. Work that one
AS the nineties opened up, the familiar patterns of Morrissey's life
began to re-establish themselves. His childhood had been marked by dysfunction (the
eventual separation of his parents) and upheaval (the family had removed from a fairly
idyllic existence in Dublin to Manchester, and the painful Mozzer schooldays immortalised
in songs like "The Headmaster Ritual").
Morrissey is uniquely complex. As a free thinker, he is a radical. As someone for whom
change (childhood relocations, the end of The Smiths) has generally been for the worst,
he's an inherent conservative who often clings to the sanctity of the past and what he
By 1991 Morrissey was again touring (with a four-piece band), and again delving comfort
from the succour of celebrity friendships. As well as the enduring Linder Sterling,
Morrissey's friends at this point included Tim Booth of James (who'd toured with The
Smiths back in '85) and Pretender Chrissie Hynde, who'd - intriguingly - worked with
Morrissey's penchant for celebrities resurfaced during an unbelievably triumphant first US
tour, which then-bassist Gary Day describes now as "Mozmania. Famous people were
always turning up. Sandie Shaw came to a lot of gigs. Sylvester Stallone."
"Celebrities came up all the time," adds Jo Slee. "But, unless he admired
their work, he wouldn't want to meet them."
Jo cites a mildly embarrassing incident with Moz fanatic Tom Hanks. She has a particularly
insightful view on Morrissey's celebrity fetishism.
"He can walk up to any kind of celebrity - someone who has a public persona he
admires - without fear or shyness," she says. "He can go into an in-depth
conversation as if he's known them for years. But if he's confronted by someone about whom
he doesn't have an image, a sense of who they are, he's completely lost. He needs to
observe people, probably for several years, before he can open a conversation. When you
see children together, they're entirely contained in their bubble and they don't speak.
When you look at them again, they've stepped out and they're playing together. I don't
think Morrissey can do that. He never developed that."
MORRISSEY struck up a particularly intense friendship with Michael
Stipe, another icon of unconfirmed sexuality, which led to wild industry rumour.
"Michael was great on that first tour," says Jo, carefully. "They met a lot
and used to correspond."
Gary Day: "Michael Stipe? Yeah, he was around. Was Morrissey going out with anybody?
Not that I knew. Anything that may or may not have happened on that front I don't know
about at all. That side of his life is very private, and that's his prerogative. The less
he reveals, the more people ponder. I was just the bass player. I wouldn't want the
pressure he's got."
Like many of his famous friendships, the Stipe-Morrissey bonding "drifted".
Another of Morrissey's long-term friends on the 1991-2 world tour was someone called Peter
Day: "I detested him. He was a real troublemaker, always sticking the knife into
other people's backs."
But who was Pete Hogg?
"Please don't ask me," pleads Jo Slee. "Let me just refer you to the '91
tour programme. Peter Hogg was down as 'rent-a-chap', and that's all I can say."
BY 1992, Morrissey's life was increasingly schizophrenic, torn between
the bustle of the road and the sanctity of his hermetic life in Bowdon, near Manchester,
where he often spent time living with his mother. Geographically restless, Morrissey moved
to London, and there was much to be positive about in Steven Patrick's life. 1992 brought
return-to-form album, "Your Arsenal", produced by Mick Ronson, even a clutch of
outstanding B-sides (notably "Jack The Ripper") and perhaps the ultimate
compliment was paid when Moz's adolescent hero, David Bowie, covered one of his songs,
"I Know It's Gonna Happen Someday". [Although Bowie has subsequently declared
"It's me doing Morrissey doing me."] American success was burgeoning. In fact
Morrissey - the old Englander - was increasingly growing to love Uncle Sam. He was
well-loved (one of the few "English eccentrics" to achieve this Stateside feat)
yet could be anonymous. America also brought welcome light relief.
In England, all was unwell, however. In July, Morrissey was canned off at Finsbury Park
after he supported Madness swathed in a Union Jack. Subsequently, NME ran a four-page
assault entitled, "This Alarming Man", which attempted to revive the racist
controversy. Morrissey again remained silent.
But as his worldwide stardom was growing, the man himself was increasingly isolated and
lonely. The gulf between his public and private self was widening alarmingly.
He had his band (the core of which would stay with him throughout the Nineties), but where
The Smiths' vaunted "gang mentality" may have been misleading but not entirely
inaccurate, the new outfit was more of a working, business-based unit. Relations with
Morrissey were amicable, but little more.
"It was the lack of communication," says Gary Day. "If you're going to be
told something, you like to be told by that person - and it was never done that way. If
someone you know asks you to do something, you might not think it's outrageous or
terrible, but if it comes from someone else it might upset you.
"A lot of things change when you're in that camp; like, you can be expecting to go on
tour, and then the day before you hear that you're not going on tour. You can be in the
middle of a tour, then suddenly you're going home. But it's his show, and he runs it. I
admire that; if he upset me a couple of times, that's just my personal feelings."
Again, "strange loyalty" to this not always charming man. Morrissey's management
situation was similarly confused. He asked Gail Colson back; she refused. Just as
Morrissey was growing fond of another manager, Nigel Thomas (who annoyed the band by
cutting their money), Thomas died of a heart attack. Gary Day was sacked. He heard the
news from a roadie, much as Andy Rourke had apparently been dismissed from The Smiths by
finding a sticker on his car.
"He's a total coward in that respect," admits Jo Slee. "Appalling. I mean,
his favourite way of stopping working with someone is to stop speaking to them. They don't
understand why he's suddenly stopped answering their faxes and stopped answering his
phone, and has changed his phone number. And then they hear from his lawyer or his
accountant that he's no longer working with them..."
Does he realise how harmful that can be?
"I don't think he's able to feel it. Because if he were, he wouldn't do it. I don't
think he's in touch with that sort of emotion. He's not in touch with the consequences of
BACK in London, Mozzer tried manfully to rid himself of the reclusive
habits that had often threatened to consume him. He became almost a regular at certain
pubs in Camden, Vauxhall and Whitechapel, where he could be seen cradling a pint in
darkened corners. In interviews, he'd even started alluding to finally understanding the
need for physical relationships.
"That time was very good for him," says Jo Slee. Much of the time, Mozzer's
companion was Jake Walters, a diminutive skinhead former boxer with what insiders describe
as a "checquered past". Although Walters is loathe to speak about Morrissey, he
will confirm that they shared a house and were "best mates".
"The most interesting and fascinating character I've ever met," confesses
Walters, understandably. Jake was never on the payroll, but became Morrissey's personal
assistant as soon as a stressed-out Jo resigned. Morrissey was also particularly friendly
with Murray Chalmers, his press officer at EMI.
Around this time, Morrissey became publically infatuated with the imagery of the boxer. He
attended fights. Bizarre, unconfirmed rumours spoke of a procession of
"hard-looking" characters beating a pathway to his door, while Morrissey began
to utilise the imagery of the fighter in his performances, including backdrops featuring
skinhead girls. He appeared in one magazine covered in (fake) bruises. For someone who had
retained a bequiffed, slightly Fifties look since 1983 and was still publically thought of
as something of a "Jessie", this was a major development.
Although she was no longer working with him, Jo Slee understood the process perfectly.
"It was a projection of a part of himself that's inaccessible to him," she says.
"I think he perceives that as a masculinity which he has always craved and was never
given. If we're not given these things then we tend to go seeking them in some form. I
mean, when you meet him he might seem very male, very charming, very camp or whatever -
but it's not about how you come across, it's how you are inside. For instance, someone
might come across as a very sexual person, but they might be terrified of sexuality."
Unsurprisingly, many commentators were quick to seize on the supposed
"homo-erotic" possibilities in Morrissey's new aesthetic.
"He said something in an interview which stuck in my mind about his fascination with
skinheads," says Slee. "He said that what he envied about these people - in a
boyish, laddish way - was that they were natural and un-self-conscious, which I thought
was very revealing."
So he's not attracted to violence?
"I wouldn't say that's the over-riding thing there. I remember once in Australia he
was ill. This is the illest man ever! But he was terribly ill in bed and eventually
struggled out onto the roof of the hotel. Morrissey was sitting there, swathed in scarves,
drinking hot chocolate, and he suddenly said in a really plaintive voice, "There's a
wasp drowning in the swimming-pool." And I swear to God he made me fish it out! And
it sat there cleaning its wings off. Then he was happy.
MORRISSEY was often happy in 1994. He was justifiably proud of that
year's superbly-received "Vauxhall & I" album, his favourite solo album, and
possible his best. Morrissey's new contentment was typified in delighted public
exclamations of a renewal of acquaintance with Johnny Marr.
By 1995, things were changing on all fronts. Now a muscular thirty-something, Morrissey
completed his deal with EMI/HMV and decided on a new company, RCA, whose famous orange
label had adorned his favourite childhood Lou Reed and David Bowie records. However, the
resulting "Southpaw Grammar" album (the apex of his boxing obsession) was
disappointing and, as with "Kill Uncle", Morrissey found himself touring a
substandard album. His American success (though still impressive) was waning and the
British leg of the "Boxers" tour was one of the most bizarre in living memory.
Flanked by images of bruisers, Morrissey and the band played through gritted teeth as
hordes of fans trooped ritually onstage to hug the hero, before filing off politely again.
Even Morrissey himself seemed to be going through the motions: the once master of apparent
spontaneity reduced to grim ritual.
Around this time, the ever-present Jake Walters seemed to fade from view as Morrissey's
sideman (although he insists that - despite rumours - they never fell out and are still in
touch), with Jo Slee again looking after the singer's personal affairs. Morrissey was
given a new challenge as support (or "co-headline") on David Bowie's
"Outsiders" tour. However, what should have been a great honour turned into a
near disaster, with Morrissey going on early to half-empty halls and deafening bemusement.
Few were surprised when Morrissey soon pulled out of the tour (citing
"illness"), but accusations that Morrissey found the experience of supporting
Bowie too humiliating were cruelly wide of the mark.
"He was very ill with depression," says Jo Slee. "He wasn't really fit to
go on the road, although I didn't know how ill he was until he really began to come apart
at the seams."
Jo won't say what Mozzer was depressed about.
"I really couldn't say," she insists. "Morrissey's suffered from depression
all his life, more than anyone else I know. It's about repressed feelings, repressed
emotions, repressed pain. It needs treatment. He was taking anti-depressants at the time
because he was desperate to get out on the road, he really wanted to do the dates. But it
was just too much for him."
Around this time, Morrissey was confessing to having dabbled with both Ecstasy and Prozac.
Those unprompted revelations aside, no one has ever asked him about prescription drugs.
POOR, beleaguered, fighting Morrissey. He was never one to shirk from a
challenge, and must have faced the prospect of finally facing his former colleague Joyce
in court (Rourke and Gannon had long since accepted relatively small settlements) with
relish, if some small amount of fear.
When the singer finally took the stand in 1996, he performed well at first, then became
progressively more irritated. Famously, the judge described him as "devious,
truculent and unreliable".
Grant Showbiz: "He completely fucked it up. Johnny said, "Why don't I just cut
up a million pounds now?" The judge was saying, "Have you got another
name?" And Moz's going, "Do I have to tell you?" Every question, he was
like a spoilt little boy, as if he was above it all. Literally, he must have lost himself
and Johnny a million quid in half an hour."
Morrissey insisted he was the wronged party.
"Really, I'll never forgive Mike [Joyce], and to a lesser extent Andy [Rourke],
because it was horrific," he explained to Melody Maker a year later. "It was
shocking, and if I was a weaker person or less intelligent, it would make me despise The
Smiths and everything they stood for."
Describing the judge as "horrendous", Moz went on to say, "The court case
was a potted history of the life of The Smiths. Mike, talking constantly and saying
nothing. Andy, unable to remember his own name. Johnny, trying to please everyone and
consequently pleasing no one. And Morrissey under the scorching spotlight in the dock,
Joyce was awarded £1.25 million from Morrissey and Marr.
"'Devious, truculent and unreliable'? We half expected that to be the title of the
next LP," chuckles Slee.
Instead, 1997 brought "Maladjusted", a title which, like most of Morrissey's
art, told it's own story. Associates were shocked by the news that Morrissey (as opposed
to Marr) was determined to appeal against the court decision (the appeal is heard on July
Fred Hood: "Morrissey's appealing. What an idiot! I think Johnny would have settled
out of court. They say that Morrissey's got the first pound he ever earned, whereas
Johnny's a generous guy, not at all miserly - and I'm not sure if you can say that about
Grant Showbiz: "I can imagine Morrissey bankrupting himself one day. He loves
tragedy. He thinks the world's against him."
But wasn't it always that way?
WHICH brings us back to the present day. Strangely, several major
players in the Smiths/Morrissey saga are seeing each other again. Rourke and Joyce are
working together again in Pete Wylie's band. Johnny Marr and Joe Moss used the trial as a
means of renewing old acquaintances, with Marr now producing Moss' new (and not
un-Smithsy) charges, Marion. The odd one out, as ever, is Morrissey.
1997's critically well-received "Maladjusted" album spent just two weeks in the
UK Top 40 and performed relatively poorly in the USA. If proof were needed,
"Maladjusted" rammed home the point that Morrissey would finally have to change.
His affairs are in crisis. In 1998, Morrissey is once again at a crossroads, a colossal
talent in need of a new foil, which may necessitate a new life.
"Morrissey," says Fred Hood. "He's just doing pale imitations of The
The era of candid memoirs and public confessionals could do much for him as he approaches
40. Just as the initial "scandals" involving Hugh Grant and George Michael made
their iconic facades seem immediately more human and welcoming, maybe Moz would do well to
shine his own purging light in his darkest secrets.
"He's becoming more remote from the world and it's such a shame," rues Grant
Showbiz. "When your great skill is writing about the world, how can you write about
it when you keep shutting yourself away from it?"
Everyone has so much love for Morrissey, yet he has retreated further and further from
"His big problem is this thing about not being able to receive love from
people," sighs Slee. "It's about not ever having been taught to give it
yourself. This is no reflection on either of his parents, but it's about what the child
needs rather than what the child actually gets, and if it's not what the child needs, the
child learns that it has no value. That means that when people focus their love and
affection on that person, they don't know how to receive it. He can see that someone
really cares for him, in some detached way, but he can't feel it."
This is perhaps the most damning and yet curiously endearing thing anyone's ever said
He has tried therapy, finding it impossible to make himself "vulnerable" to a
psychoanalyst's probing. He's "thought about death a lot", says Slee, but she
doubts if this notorious self-preserver would seriously consider suicide. His staunchest
allies (Slee and Reilly) concur that Morrissey an be incalculably vindictive but, says
Reilly, "It hurts him more than anyone else."
Perhaps the great tragedy of Steven Patrick Morrissey is that however nasty or bitter he
can appear, he is perennially more victim than victor. He is himself the fly caught in the
tantalising web of dysfunction that has given us his wonderful talent. The question now is
whether Morrissey can rekindle that talent while somehow leading an easier existence.
Whatever will happen to Morrissey?
"I wish he'd end up a chubby with a significant other watching "Carry On"
movies with a bottle of brandy in his hand," says Grant Showbiz. "But I suspect
it's going to be in a lonely garage with the poison, cos that's the way he wants to go
out. He wants to go over the cliff in a pink Cadillac."
In the absence of any word from the great man, the final words should go to Michael
Bracewell, his friend and confidant. "I really think he'll be like the heroine in
"Far From The Madding Crowd" he insists, "where she says, "I shall be
up before dawn and astonish you all."
Lord knows, it would not be the first time.
Gail Colson was sacked by Morrissey
"I managed Morrissey during the "Viva Hate" period, for about a year. I met
him and I found him fantastic. We didn't talk about anything to do with The Smiths. We
talked about the Sixties, "Coronation Street", nothing to do with music.
"But working with him was very difficult. He's hard to contact. I used to have to
rely on him calling me, cos he doesn't really answer his phone. There'd be periods of
months on end when I never heard from him. He disappeared on me for about a month from the
day I told him the album had gone in at Number One. That was very frustrating, because
everyone wanted to do interviews, and so on. He's very, very difficult to manage, but on
the other hand he can be very charming, good fun.
"At that time, he never toured and didn't have a band. I didn't try to get him to
tour because I'd seen what happened with The Smiths. He cancelled enough tours, didn't
"Why did I stop managing him? He sacked me! He sacked me, his accountant and his
lawyer on the same day. No idea why. It was bizarre, but then again nothing's bizarre with
Morrissey. That's why I'm being a bit guarded. It's so sad. He's his own worst enemy. He's
cut everybody out and is back where he was before fame, only stuck in a hotel room, not a
"And he's still got his Mum running everything. Ooh, there's lots more I could tell
Gail Colson now manages Stephen Street, whom Morrissey avoids.
THE BETE NOIRE
Johnny Rogan penned the unauthorised Smiths biography, "Morrissey and Marr: The
Severed Alliance", following which Morrissey issued the fatwa, "I hope Johnny
Rogan dies in a multiple pile-up on the M3." (He later upgraded this to "a hotel
"Despite what Morrissey may think, I wrote the book because I love The Smiths. He
said it was "75 per cent lies" before he's even seen it! It's funny, because
when Morrissey was in court over Mike Joyce's contribution to The Smiths he picked up a
copy and said, "Have you seen the title of this book? There are only two names on it:
Morrissey and Marr." He also turned up at one of my bookstore signings in a Cadillac.
There were some great headlines in America - "Is Morrissey a prowler?" He's very
paradoxical. He's got this beatific serenity about him - he never shouts and screams - and
yet there's this tremendous violence in his writing and comments.
"During the court case I found myself next to him. He just looked across at me and
said, "So, this is where it all ends." Was he talking about his life, or The
Smiths, or in a Wildean sense that the thing that he loved was now threatening to destroy
him? But he was non-confrontational. I mean, there's somebody here who wants me to die in
a motorway crash! But he doesn't come up to me swinging his bag. I said, "Do you
still want me to die?" and he was quite reasonable about it. He's incredibly complex.
I don't buy it that he doesn't know how painful it feels when somebody is rejected by him.
Nobody walks away from Morrissey, but the one that has is Johnny Marr. And Morrissey's not
stopped going on about it since!
"In a PR-driven world, Morrissey is an authentic figure. He's always had the guts to
take on the world. As he nears 40 he's increasingly seen as a sort of Godfather figure,
like Lou Reed was for a previous generation. Stylistically, he no longer seems radical,
and in the era of Jarvis, Brett and the tabloid excesses of Oasis, Morrissey's outrages no
longer compel attention in the way they did. But he's always had the ability to surprise
and knows the pop game so well. Perhaps it's time he tried something different. It's quite
within his nature to do something completely dramatic."
Johnny Rogan is currently working on a Morrissey sequel, avoids the M3 and stays only in
bed & breakfasts.
THE COVER STAR
Sixties pools-winner Viv Nicholson adorned the sleeve of "Heaven Knows I'm Miserable
"Morrissey phoned me up and asked to use my image on the sleeve. I agreed, for a fee,
which is usual. The first time we met, we walked along Blackpool seafront. He said he
always read about what I was doing and read my book, 'Spend! Spend! Spend!' every day and
it was like a Bible to him. I said to him, 'If I was younger, would you marry me?' And he
said, 'Yes.' I was amazed. We talked about lots of nice, strange things. He was very
strange, like me when I was younger. He was a bit lost, so much to give and no one to take
it. He said, 'We're too much for this world at the moment. They're not ready for us, Viv.'
"We met several times. I'd like to have been a lasting friend of his, and I'd have
liked him to be a friend of mine. Why didn't we stay in touch? Because he's a moody prat!
He does know my phone number. I don't know his phone number. I have written to him, but he
never answers. Why leave your address if you can't be bothered to answer? Also, someone
told me lots of things he was doing about me. I went to a solicitor, and as it turns out
it was the wrong guy! So we kinda fell out, and that was awful.
"He does excommunicate people, yeah, and that's wrong, but you've got to learn to be
forgiving, and I don't think he wants to. It's a shame because I like him, and I don't
want him to end up a sad old man in a lonely flat."
A stage version of "Spend! Spend! Spend!" is currently touring the UK.
return to Morrissey-solo