Controversial??

Forza Mozza

New Member
I do believe, Morrissey, is aware that he says things that are classed as controversial. For example, in the Impotence of being Morrissey, Alain Whyte says he remembers him, Moz, saying he wouldn't like the next title of the song Re:NFD.

Morrissey himself acknowledges that he himself is an immigrant, living abroad, and that there are benefits of immigration, but there are also bad points, whether they be economical / cultural etc. And that the price you pay for it, is a loss of a past, and for Morrissey, that past is comforting, a constant. We all need a place called home, and when you go back to that place and don't recognise anything, it is very sad. Immigration plays a part of that, as does the influx of cultural globalisation or the reshaping of the architectual landscape - There is a video of Morrissey visiting his old home in Manchester, but has completely ripped up and replaced by a block of flats, and he comments on this loss.

welllll, of course that song hasn't really been controversial for a long time, I don't think. I do think that there is some middle ground though. Some people in the press tend to take Morrissey's words and make them have a different meaning than he probably intended, and other people, mostly fans, tend to turn a blind eye to some of the things he has said repeatedly that actually are slightly controversial.

Obviously Morrissey does not support the British National Front but when he coincidentally arrives at some of the same conclusions they do, a casual observer might wonder.

So let's say that in National Front Disco the line "England for the English" is spoken by a character, or represents a character's thoughts.
"there's a country / you don't live there / but one day you would like to / and if you show them what you're made of /"
in my opinion, has two meanings. One, it's talking to all the people from somewhere else that would like to come to England, who, if they have what it takes, "show them what you're made of", may successfully join the society.
The other meaning is that it reflects the thoughts of the same character who believes in "England for the English". This person would also like to live in a country, England, where they are from, but a transformed England, one that has been reclaimed from the waves of immigration, which is one interpretation of "but one day you would like to". And in this case, "show them what you're made of" could be taken to mean something much different.

Morrissey has been talking about the loss of England for a long time. That NME article didn't come out of nowhere. He says his words were cut up and re-ordered and that his meaning was destroyed. I do think that is quite possibly true. What we have seen on this very site of the NME has shown that they are full of shit, frankly. Asking fans what they think about Morrissey retiring and then running it as a story about his retirement was bargain basement "journalism". I wouldn't buy a copy of the magazine for 2 cents.

But, unless they totally fabricated quotes, and he didn't say that immigration is changing the character of England, then it's not too hard to paint his views as being only a few shades away from "England for the English".

Has he ever actually discussed this song?

Don't get me wrong. I love the song, and I believe it means that the character, David is lost, searching for identity, and has taken up with a group of dangerous fools. Maybe his motivation is not wrong, but his actions are certainly misguided. I mean, loving England, in my opinion, is not a bad thing. Nationalism is, though, especially when it is manipulated to turn misguided youth into violent and hateful racists.

I actually feel that quite a bit of what Morrissey says and sings, without a lot of explanation, is not as simple as we sometimes make it out to be. Sometimes he is his own worst enemy, and I think there are other people that would agree with me on that.

I'm not writing this to make an excuse for the NME, who I would like to see quickly fail and disappear, despite what they once represented, and I'm certainly not trying to make any sort of negative comment about Morrissey, or to add to the ammunition used against him. I'm just saying that it really isn't that simple in my opinion, to say that the song is not in any way controversial, especially with the NME "bloodbath" so fresh in memory.

Morrissey doesn't need or care for my vote of confidence, but I'm happy that he will continue to make controversial statements, and to sing songs that are not so basic as to be immediately understood by all. After listening to this song many times, and enjoying it as a live favorite, I still think that the meaning is open for discussion.

I guess I have to repeat that I am not attacking Morrissey. I don't think that he is racist. I believe what he says about this topic, and I don't trust the NME. I just don't think that this song is that simple. I think Morrissey occasionally courts controversy. To think otherwise is to think that he is stupid, as he surely knows that his words will be repeated, analyzed, misinterpreted and "anything you say can and will be used against you". By the time he wrote that song he was no stranger to controversy and having his lyrics taken out of context in the press. So when he does say something controversial, or when he does write songs with lines like "England for the English" he isn't a fool. He knows it won't go unnoticed.

Is the song, at this late date, "controversial"? Probably not. Can the lyrics still be taken out of context and used against him? Yes, always. It isn't likely to stop now. Should anyone care what the NME chooses to write about Morrissey? No, never again.
 

Jones

Senior Member
I think anyone expecting Morrissey to make unambiguous statements in his songs just to shut up people who might accuse him of being racist is missing the whole point of his work.

He writes for people who are prepared to think about the issues he brings up, not those who just want comforting slogans to make themselves feel they are on the right side.

To paraphrase what he said at SXSW "We should ignore the people that aren't listening, because they are ruining everything".
 

laughing_anne

New Member
I do believe, Morrissey, is aware that he says things that are classed as controversial. For example, in the Impotence of being Morrissey, Alain Whyte says he remembers him, Moz, saying he wouldn't like the next title of the song Re:NFD.

Morrissey himself acknowledges that he himself is an immigrant, living abroad, and that there are benefits of immigration, but there are also bad points, whether they be economical / cultural etc. And that the price you pay for it, is a loss of a past, and for Morrissey, that past is comforting, a constant. We all need a place called home, and when you go back to that place and don't recognise anything, it is very sad. Immigration plays a part of that, as does the influx of cultural globalisation or the reshaping of the architectual landscape - There is a video of Morrissey visiting his old home in Manchester, but has completely ripped up and replaced by a block of flats, and he comments on this loss.

Wasn't Alain's reaction to that "oh my god, you're gonna get us killed!"..?
Moz knows some of his lyrics and titles are controversial. He also believes that pop music should not be anti-intellectual. That is, he thinks people should be able to listen to the lyrics (in full) and then form their own opinions.
I think that everyone is entitled to an opinion but that opinion has to be well founded. Sadly, too many people only listen to the chorus and dismiss the rest of the lyrics.
 

Paulc

On holiday by mistake
Are you going every night Paulc? I hope it comes back to. But i wouldn't walk down the street singing it!

I am going tonight and Friday. Am currently in negotiations with MrsC about Saturday but at last round of talks it didnt look good.

I am trying to persuade her to come with me. To this she said - you dont want me to come you just want to see Him and think by asking me along you get to see Him without feeling guilty about not spending time with your wife the WHOLE WEEK.

She hates Morrissey - she thinks i love Him more than i love her.

I said in a small voice but i get to see you every week babe- she told me to f off.:confused:

By the way, i wouldnt walk down the street singing NFD either but if there is one place i can sing it at the top of my voice its at a Morrissey concert :guitar:
 

2-J

Member
The song is controversial chiefly because it doesn't overtly condemn racism. It shows a degree of sympathy with (the presumably young lad) David if only in not offering any direct condemnation of his action. It's like, 'how can you sing a song about that kind of thing and not include some condemnation of racism'. I forget the article or the review... there was a great comment by some journo that maybe for every song sympathising with a facist there should be 10 condemning them, (maybe I could agree with that) but that doesn't make NFD any less worthy. It's a very, very powerful song - one of Morrissey's most powerful, through the combination of lyrics and music.

It does pretty unambiguously imply that David's dream is unlikely, for one thing. For another, it doesn't show any support for David's views. There's this vacuum. The song is about the appeal of fascism, sympathy for the youth and his situation, rather than making a statement about fascism. Arguably, had a more overt statement on fascism been included, this would have diluted the focus on David.
 

Viva Tom

Wall of Arms
I don't support the National Front, but I support national pride.
I just think NME are very narrow minded, they are just out to make friends with all the new bright popular bands now days. I liked the days when they axed down everyone (not morrissey)
 

laughing_anne

New Member
The song is controversial chiefly because it doesn't overtly condemn racism. It shows a degree of sympathy with (the presumably young lad) David if only in not offering any direct condemnation of his action. It's like, 'how can you sing a song about that kind of thing and not include some condemnation of racism'. I forget the article or the review... there was a great comment by some journo that maybe for every song sympathising with a facist there should be 10 condemning them, (maybe I could agree with that) but that doesn't make NFD any less worthy. It's a very, very powerful song - one of Morrissey's most powerful, through the combination of lyrics and music.

It does pretty unambiguously imply that David's dream is unlikely, for one thing. For another, it doesn't show any support for David's views. There's this vacuum. The song is about the appeal of fascism, sympathy for the youth and his situation, rather than making a statement about fascism. Arguably, had a more overt statement on fascism been included, this would have diluted the focus on David.

NFD is yet another Morrissey song that deals with the topic of being an outsider. The song raises the question of why do these right-wing groups attract so many teenagers who feel alienated from the society. Morrissey is a great social commentator and he should not be forced to comment only on the positive and acceptable aspects of contemporary society.
 

TLOTFamousIP

At Last, I Am Born
NFD is yet another Morrissey song that deals with the topic of being an outsider. The song raises the question of why do these right-wing groups attract so many teenagers who feel alienated from the society. Morrissey is a great social commentator and he should not be forced to comment only on the positive and acceptable aspects of contemporary society.

Nail on the head! Problem is, too many journalists are either too ignorant to realise or just prefer to twist it for a sensationalist storyline.
 

Anaesthesine

Angel of Distemper
There are a few bands I'm fond of who have been labeled "fascist" or "racist" although, in reality, they were lambasting prejudice and nationalistic jingoism.

Laibach were constantly accused of being "neo-fascists," "right-wing extremists" and "Nazis" because they played with suggestive imagery, and refused to tone things down. They had a very serious anti-totalitarian agenda, however, since they lived under a repressive Communist regime. They did a great job of reimagining the Beatles "Let It Be" as a totalitarian/nationalist statement. There's noting funnier than "I Dig a Pony" interpreted as a fascist anthem.

The song is about the appeal of fascism, sympathy for the youth and his situation, rather than making a statement about fascism. Arguably, had a more overt statement on fascism been included, this would have diluted the focus on David.

Exactly. Morrissey is sometimes too subtle for the casual listener, and refuses to pander to those who will not listen carefully. "Ganlord" was another such song - sympathy for an outsider's feelings of helplessness, but not for their actions.

Sometimes explaining the appeal of an idea takes away some of it's mystery and power.
 

Worm

Taste the diffidence
Nice post, Dave.

It's good to see most people agreeing it's a genuinely provocative, ambiguous song that doesn't give any easy answers. I agree that there's no explaining it away. All the stuff about "characters" and this wayward youth "David" certainly mitigates the song's alarming content but it's just as easy to point out that the speaker of the song could very well be a staunch anti-immigrant nationalist who also just happens to think the National Front is silly. I imagine such people exist. And if we proudly claim that Morrissey is a subtle, clever lyricist then we must also accept the possibility that he found a way to sing-- prominently, clearly, almost anthemically-- "England for the English" in a mainstream pop song and get away with it.

No, Morrissey is not a racist, but he was reckless with that track.
 

AllYouNeedIsMoz

Queen Bee
Nice post, Dave.

It's good to see most people agreeing it's a genuinely provocative, ambiguous song that doesn't give any easy answers.


...and I think that's why we like his songs so much! Any songwriter who can put out fantastic music AND make people talk and think and argue through his lyrics - that's a fantastic talent. Really.
 

Theo

Active Member
Why doesn't Morrissey ever perform "Bengali In Platforms"?
 

Worm

Taste the diffidence
Why doesn't Morrissey ever perform "Bengali In Platforms"?

My guess? For the same reason he doesn't play about 70-80% of The Smiths' back catalogue. His current guitarists can't play the tune properly.

What other reason could there be?
 
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2-J

Member
it's just as easy to point out that the speaker of the song could very well be a staunch anti-immigrant nationalist who also just happens to think the National Front is silly. I imagine such people exist. And if we proudly claim that Morrissey is a subtle, clever lyricist then we must also accept the possibility that he found a way to sing-- prominently, clearly, almost anthemically-- "England for the English" in a mainstream pop song and get away with it.

No, Morrissey is not a racist, but he was reckless with that track.

You might as well say, 'For all we know, the speaker in How Soon Is Now? may hate black people' or 'Hector in the FOTGTD may actually be a pedophile'.

The point is that you have to go on what you are told in the song, to conjecture further without evidence is pointless. The interesting thing about National Front Disco is that the narrator doesn't give an opinion on fascism, neither is an opinion about the rightness / wrongness of fascism expressed in the song overall. That is what some people find so maddening. But, whilst you can't find evidence of anti-fascism in it, neither can you find evidence of pro-fascism in it. The fact that "England for the English", as it occurs in the song, is intended to be in quotes (something David might say) is not only the most immediate and obvious reading of the song, it's also been confirmed by Morrissey that that was his intent.
 

Mel_Torment

Dismember
Nail on the head! Problem is, too many journalists are either too ignorant to realise or just prefer to twist it for a sensationalist storyline.

Yes, it is so pathetic that this non-"controversy" is being pumped up by a crap, irrelevant publication.

Right now, I can't get out of my head the wonderful "Young, Gifted, and Black", a song Morrissey has loved since his yoof. It's on the current pre-show music. I loved it when Morrissey said he only jokingly slagged off reggae music just to f*** off the nme.
 

Worm

Taste the diffidence
You might as well say, 'For all we know, the speaker in How Soon Is Now? may hate black people' or 'Hector in the FOTGTD may actually be a pedophile'.

The point is that you have to go on what you are told in the song, to conjecture further without evidence is pointless. The interesting thing about National Front Disco is that the narrator doesn't give an opinion on fascism, neither is an opinion about the rightness / wrongness of fascism expressed in the song overall. That is what some people find so maddening. But, whilst you can't find evidence of anti-fascism in it, neither can you find evidence of pro-fascism in it. The fact that "England for the English", as it occurs in the song, is intended to be in quotes (something David might say) is not only the most immediate and obvious reading of the song, it's also been confirmed by Morrissey that that was his intent.

I thought what you said here was very fair-minded and I agree with most of it in principle. Had a couple of follow-up comments.

It's interesting to me that you regard Morrissey's non-judgmental presentation of his "characters" as not expressing a real position, i.e. that to write a song bringing up an organization as hateful and vile as the National Front without openly condemning them is merely an artistic choice. Perhaps you'd be right if we listened to the song as it were an object that floated down from the moon one morning and landed in our CD changer, but coming from an artist who, on the one hand, acidly disparaged black music in the Eighties and, on the other, was openly flirting with nationalist imagery (skinheads, flags), "National Front Disco" must be seen, in its "neutrality", as a reckless song-- and reckless is what I called it.

Also interesting is that you point out how the song doesn’t come down on one side of the question or the other-- neither pro- nor anti-fascist-- yet believe the meaning is basically stable and not open to wider interpretations (or “pointless”—see below). I am also saying he doesn't come down on either side but in not doing so he opens the song to many interpretations, some of which, I think we must admit, are worrying.

Lest you think I misunderstood a basic point in your post, let me add that I don't think the argument that "conjecture is pointless" really floats. To me that statement means that because we can't pin him down on the question of racism, the matter automatically becomes inert.

First of all I disagree on the grounds that the grey areas of meaning in Morrissey's work are often the most interesting-- and I think it’s fair to say that’s by Morrissey's design. His music is brilliant precisely because he uses ambiguity to point to many different implied meanings. To say it's pointless to conjecture without solid evidence is to miss a lot of the fun of his songs. This is clear if we change the subject from racism to sexuality, for instance.

Secondly, the idea that questions about racism are moot because "NFD" doesn't take sides is troubling because to a lot of people-- namely the victims of racism-- words and imagery don't exist in a vacuum. The one good point the NME made in their otherwise terrifically stupid take-down of Morrissey is that whatever the artist's intentions may be, once the artist’s songs or interview remarks are let out into the world, words which seem merely "clever and ambiguous" to some can be ugly and evil to others, and in some cases even lead to real-world consequences that go well beyond hurt feelings.

I am not arguing Morrissey is a racist. He is the opposite of a racist. But he has written some reckless songs and "NFD" is one of them. Just speaking as a fan I think it's a great song and one of the best on "Your Arsenal" but, as with "Bengali In Platforms", another great song, I will never be completely at peace with the lyrics' darker implications.

Sorry for the long post.
 
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Jones

Senior Member
I think he makes it very explicit what he thinks of the rhetoric of the NF in the song. He basically allows them to condemn themselves out of their own mouths. Quotes like wanting the day to come sooner, settling scores, showing what you're made of are all poking fun at the ridiculous machismo of such organisations. Anyone who thinks Morrissey is being neutral when they hear those lines doesn't know much about Morrissey's aesthetic or his general views on gender politics.
 
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