Morrissey's 'Viva Hate' Turns 30: How His Solo Debut Predicted His Post-Smiths Career - Billboard

Morrissey's 'Viva Hate' Turns 30: How His Solo Debut Predicted His Post-Smiths Career - Billboard
by Kenneth Partridge 14th March, 2018.


"In his days as the headstrong, enigmatic lead singer of The Smiths, the most important U.K. guitar band of the ‘80s, Morrissey wasn't itching to go solo. Why would he? The band was defined by his peculiar psychology—narcissism tempered by self-effacement topped with a wicked sense of humor—and driven by a genius guitarist, Johnny Marr, with no desire for the spotlight. It was a nice arrangement.

When Marr left The Smiths in 1987, ending the group’s run after four brilliant albums, Morrissey felt bewildered and betrayed. “The split is our final loss of innocence,” Moz writes in Autobiography, the 2013 memoir that reveals little about what actually what actually broke up indie’s Leiber and Stoller. To make matter worse, Morrissey soon learned he was contractually obligated to give EMI another album. Such was the impetus for his debut solo, Viva Hate, released 30 years ago today (March 14, 1988)."

I was thinking about this earlier and... along comes an article!
An album most of us hold dear for innumerable reasons.
Happy birthday Viva Hate.
(Happy 24th birthday Vauxhall And I too - no article, but not forgotten).

Shoplifterromo also sends the link:

Viva Morrissey: Our June 1988 Cover Story - SPIN
Morrissey appeared on the June 1988 cover of SPIN. In honor of the 30th anniversary of his debut solo album Viva Hate, we've digitized the feature here.

Post in the MORRISSEY Facebook group:

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Famous when dead


No 'official' comment on a day 2 wonderful albums were let loose on us all, but the above is a selection of the type of thing on social media today.
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Well-Known Member
Another in-depth piece here. Although it wss seemingly written 5 years ago. Link includes videos of Suedehead and EDILS

Steven, Steven, down we go together. As a teenager my walk to school would take me past the childhood home of the lead singer of my favourite band at the time, The Smiths. Every morning, as I schlepped past the nondescript semi-detached house on Kings Road in the grey Manchester suburb of Stretford, I'd glance at the windows, hoping to catch a glimpse of a bequiffed silhouette. I never got lucky. In 1986, Steven Patrick Morrissey didn't seem to spend any time gazing out of his parents' abode at 8.30 on a weekday morning.

I loved The Smiths – when the best band in the world comes from your town it would've been daft not to – but stopped short of rabid fanaticism. I never chained myself to the railings of the 'Cemetery Gates' on Barlow Moor Road in Chorlton and my only pilgrimage to the Salford Lad's Club was a recent trip to escort tourist friends. And while I cannot ever remember locking myself in my bedroom surrounded by the work of Oscar Wilde or Joe Orton, I was hugely moved by the tenderness of Morrissey's words and became captivated by their scorchingly magnificent canon of three-minute pop songs. If I met someone who thought The Smiths were 'miserable' I immediately dismissed them as an idiot (and subconsciously still do, deep down in the most judgemental and obnoxious area of my soul).

And while Morrissey himself was an indirect life guru during my gangly teenage years, I knew people who really worshipped him. A close pal of mine formed a friendship with Mozzer to the extent that he would send her beautiful and thoughtful postcards while The Smiths were on tour – a level of connection that made me feel as if I was missing something, and therefore rendered me unable to make that last leap into super-fandom. This detachment meant that in 1987 I was (uncharacteristically) savvy enough to be not overly upset at the demise of The Smiths. I liked the idea of them stopping while they were still brilliant.

It also meant that in the spring of 1988 I approached Morrissey's debut solo album, Viva Hate, with a relatively objective mind. I wanted it to be good, but wouldn't have drowned myself in a sea of gladioli if it had been a steaming pile of cat sick. In fact Viva Hateturned out to be, in parts, a very decent album and was perhaps better than us Smiths fans could have hoped for. It contained four or five genuinely fabulous tracks and suggested a rosy future for the Stretty crooner.

But in the intervening quarter of a century since the hope proffered by Viva Hate, being a card-carrying Morrissey fan has become an increasingly arduous task. Musically, I don't think he's produced anything since Viva Hate that could quite touch the heights of 'Everyday Is Like Sunday' or 'Late Night, Maudlin Street'. That in itself is not a cataclysmic crime - I've never expected a musician to be constantly brilliant over a 30-year period. However, set against a number of well-documented controversies that (at worst) raised the spectre of xenophobia, coupled with an almost over-bearing cantankerousness, it's hard not to conclude that Morrissey is less relevant in 2013 than he was when embarking on his solo career. And, with hindsight as a tunnel-visioned tool, the problems were already apparent on the much loved Viva Hate.

It was Stephen Street, the co-producer of a number of The Smiths' records, who played a central role in kick-starting Morrissey's solo career. As the split played out, Street sent the singer a tape of demo recordings intended as potential B-sides for the band's last singles. In August 1987, Morrissey wrote a letter to Street (a copy of which can still be viewed at the producer's official website) in which the Mozfather concluded that The Smiths should be "laid to rest" while expressing a desire to record under his own name.

Thereafter, the project moved quickly. Viva Hate was recorded during the final months of 1987 at the same Wool Hall studios in Bath that, only six months earlier, The Smiths had recorded their last studio album Strangeways, Here We Come. Street played bass and also had the nous to recruit The Durutti Column's guitar virtuoso, Vini Reilly. A session drummer, Andrew Paresi, completed the line-up.

The recording sessions were an odd mix of artistic tension (Morrissey was under considerable pressure to deliver a batch of songs to his new record label EMI, while Reilly and Street would constantly squabble over technical aspects) and puritanical pursuits. The stereotypical take on rock star debauchery was replaced with regular gym and sauna sessions and healthy eating courtesy of Mozzer's vegetarianism.

However, as the title suggests, Morrissey's debut album was fuelled by negative emotion as he grieved for the loss of his beloved band. At the time he would describe hate as being "omnipresent", and suggested in one interview that "hate makes the world go round". It must have been an exhausting way to live – viva hate indeed.

If Morrissey would subsequently conclude that Viva Hate felt "rushed", it still managed to harbour several of his greatest ever solo songs. Lead single 'Suedehead' was a gem - an instant dose of salvation for distraught fans of The Smiths. Featuring a classic Mozzer vocal delivery, Reilly's iridescent guitar (however, an obstinate Vini would refuse to play the middle section solo, citing it to be "too easy") and Street's libidinous bassline, 'Suedehead' was a joyride of simmering sexual tension. The song may also have been in part about Johnny Marr. A 'suedehead' was a grown-out skinhead favoured by bovver boys in Richard Allen's 1971 novel Suedehead, and for a period during The Smiths' latter years, Marr apparently pined for a "motorbike and a suedehead" coiffure.

In fact it was easy – and slightly over-romantic – to pick apart much of the words on Viva Hate as being inspired by the spilt of The Smiths, with 'I Don't Mind If You Forget Me' and 'Break Up The Family' being the easiest to (mis)interpret. I quite liked the notion of Morrissey bouncing between love and hate for his former bandmates, as he carved out the album's lyrics through an almost overwhelming anger. However, on 25 years of reflection, there is also a large wedge of compassion and nostalgia on Viva Hate - I still swoon at the utterly beautiful 100 seconds of chamber pop perfection that is 'Angel, Angel, Down We Go Together' and love the sepia-tinted 'Little Man, What Now?'

And aside from 'Suedehead', greatness was close at hand. 'Everyday Is Like Sunday' was a wonderfully evocative classic pop song, on which Morrissey picked through the bones of a "silent and grey" "seaside town / they forgot to bomb," which must have gone down like horse DNA in a veggie burger with the English Tourist Board.

Even better was the expansive grandeur of 'Late Night, Maudlin Street', the album's astonishing centrepiece and a track that mourned a lost and desperate youth over seven gorgeous minutes. I also loved the horny opener 'Alsatian Cousin', on which our spurned hero asked "Were you and he lovers?/ And if you were, then say that you were/ On a groundsheet under canvas / With your tent-flaps open wide," thus sexing up any experience I had of camping, which always seem to include a leaking tent and a dead-of-night stagger across a field to find a toilet. The song contained a bassline modelled on 23 Skidoo's 'Coup' (possibly via 'White Lines (Don't Do It)') and the instrumentally diverse album painted a notably different sonic picture to much of The Smiths' work.

Frustratingly, but perhaps understandably given the circumstances in which it was created, Viva Hate was notable for huge swings in quality. Much of the second side was instantly forgettable. While I liked the weary contempt on the closing 'Margaret On The Guillotine' with its "When will you die?" refrain focusing Morrissey's anti-Thatcher venom, the spite-soaked song only worked because of a general contempt for its tyrannical subject matter.

However, the lowest moment on Viva Hate was the risible 'Bengali In Platforms'. First up, it was a truly terrible song from a musical standpoint. On first listen it almost produced a cattle prod of shock for those who had become used to The Smiths' relentless brilliance. But it was the controversial lyric – the song is about the said Bengali's attempt to integrate into a new culture – that centred around the line "life is hard enough when you belong here" that caused such a stir.

Personally, I believe 'Bengali In Platforms' to be more about the struggle of the outsider (a recurrent theme in Morrissey's lyric writing) rather than an explicit comment about race. However, by choosing to use that particular line Morrissey invited the possibility for misinterpretation. This did him no favours - I felt the same about the 1990 single 'November Spawned A Monster' and the use of the word 'monster' on a song that sought to articulate the plight of people living with disabilities. I get that Morrissey wants to challenge his audience, and cherish and respect him for that, but 'Bengali In Platforms' spectacularly missed the mark. And, unfortunately, it is now virtually impossible to judge the song in isolation in light of Morrissey's later - and very well documented - xenophobic statements.

Twenty-five years on, my take on Viva Hate is that while it contained some fantastic songs, they were undoubtedly the cream of the initial batch of demos that Stephen Street first presented to Morrissey, and that a mixture of the singer's desire to throw himself into the project and Vini Reilly's stellar musicianship created several nuggets of greatness. I often wonder what might have happened if the Morrissey-Street-Reilly axis had continued to make music (sadly, Morrissey and Street quickly became embroiled in a legal dispute about production fees).

After Viva Hate Morrissey stumbled and fumbled his way towards 1991's poor Kill Uncle. He's since released a number of good albums – I'd pick 1992's Your Arsenal and 2006's Ringleader Of The Tormentorsas high points – but the truly great songs of his solo career require a degree of forensic excavation. Compared to The Smiths – and I was 12 when their first single was released – Morrissey's solo career is as disappointing as it is perplexing.

There is still part of me that still loves Stephen Morrissey. Even as a non-vegetarian I was enthralled by his recent refusal to appear on an American TV show because his fellow guests were self-confessed duck killers. I admire his passion and honesty and his disdain for many aspects of the modern world. But, a lifetime of world-weary bitterness has soured the soul of Morrissey. This makes me sad, especially when one of his songs genuinely shook my self-centred 16-year-old self. In 1986 I was deeply affected by 'I Know It's Over' from The Queen Is Dead and the lines "It's so easy to laugh/ It's so easy to hate/ It takes guts to be gentle and kind."

It would appear that, for Stephen Morrissey, hate will always be very much alive.

Orson Swells

Well-Known Member
Funny to think, in hindsight, that it got such mixed reviews at the time from the press. I remember some that didn’t mention Everyday Is Like Sunday. I even recall standing in the queue at Wolvehampton listening to Smiths fans slating the album. It seems to have taken many years for it to be viewed retrospectively as a “classic”. The more things change...


God, 30 years ago - I remember well racing home from town, clutching the vinyl copy of this under my arm. We had already had the orgasmic thrill of 'Suedehead' a few weeks earlier, and now the first solo album. 'Viva Hate' had such a great cover, a slight air of disdain perhaps on the face and those eyes hidden in enigmatic shadow. I placed the stylus on the groove - then that first slightly disturbing and unsettling and very un-Smithslike intro to 'Alsatian Cousin' and...I was transfixed. 'Leather elbows on a tweed coat, oh, is that the best you can do?' Have better pop lyrics ever been written?

Ketamine Sun


smiths is dead.




It seems to have taken many years for it to be viewed retrospectively as a “classic”. The more things change...
Even Morrissey at the time wasn't hugely enthusiastic in interviews, downplaying it next to the Smiths catalogue. I think the more wobbles he's had afterwards (and there were plenty of those during the years immediately after Viva Hate), the more everyone has looked back and said "actually - it's pretty good". Obviously, at the time, no-one had anything to compare it to, except that near-flawless run of Smiths records.

I think the real tragedy of this period, is that having lucked out on falling onto the talents of Stephen Street, Moz let him go so easily over a silly money dispute. Imagine what they could have done given more time and a few LPs together.

Charlie Cheswick

Well-Known Member
Funny to think, in hindsight, that it got such mixed reviews at the time from the press. I remember some that didn’t mention Everyday Is Like Sunday. I even recall standing in the queue at Wolvehampton listening to Smiths fans slating the album. It seems to have taken many years for it to be viewed retrospectively as a “classic”. The more things change...

I loved it upon its release but then I never mixed in Smiths fan circles, I was always the one foisting a Smiths tape and later CD on people I knew. I don't know anyone personally who didn't take to it.


That album was the start of music for me as I hadn't really bothered before and this was genuine music with lyrics coming from someone that lived it. The album is perfection from start to finish and beats any classic book or film out there.
Never in the history of music have songs like on this album had so much in common with one another and the order of the tracks must carry the code of GOD.
Thank you, Morrissey!

Famous when dead

At the time:
Number one album.
Q Magazine 5*s
NME 8/10
4/5*s Rolling Stone '88:

NME ranked it #2 of his best albums in 2014 (second only to Vauxhall).

Info poached from PJLM (I'd be lost without it) as totally pertinent:

In February 1988, Morrissey answered journalist Len Brown's question "Given the effect that the break-up of The Smiths has obviously had on you, have you tried to deal with your feelings in any of the tracks on Viva Hate?" with the answer "No I haven't because that would be the next expected thing to do. I don't really want to do that. I suppose, whatever way you look at Viva Hate it quite elegantly expresses the way I felt instantly post-split because as soon as The Smiths broke up I was practically wheeled into a studio to make that record. Whichever way you examine it that is post-Smiths Morrissey. But there are no bitter references to the past." This was printed in Brown's biography "Meetings With Morrissey".

Morrissey, Melody Maker, March 1988: "Times are different and my life has moved on since The Smiths in very specific ways, and 'Viva Hate' is in no way the follow-up to 'Strangeways'. So in a sense I do feel that it is the first record."

Morrissey, Melody Maker, March 1988, about the title: "It simply suggested itself and had to be. It was absolutely how I felt post-Smiths and the way I continue to feel. That's just the way the world is. I find hate omnipresent and love very difficult to find. Hate makes the world go round."

Morrissey, Sounds magazine, June 1988: "Lyrically, it wasn't the best, I'm well aware of that. It was a very peculiar time for me, making that record so suddenly, so unexpectedly, and I wanted to try something different. Because of the particular status I have, where many people concentrate quite scientifically over every comma, I reached a stage where I wanted to be entirely spontaneous without physically writing the words down and memorising them. Rather, just step into the vocal booth and sing it as it comes. But I don't think I'll try that again... back to the typewriter."

In an interview given to Nick Kent and published in March 1990 in The Face, Morrissey said of the release of "Viva Hate": "I feel it was more of an event than an achievement. I think the audience was simply relieved that I was still going on with living. That in itself was the celebration of Viva Hate! I've always been fiercely self-critical and... it wasn't perfect. And it wasn't better than Strangeways Here We Come! There's at least six tracks on it that I'd now willingly bury in the nearest patch of soil. And place a large stone on top."


Johnny Barleycorn

Well-Known Member
I didn’t realise it wasn’t regarded as a great record at the time. How did we manage before Internet forums and Twitter? (All together now: “Just fine...”)

I remember taping Suedehead off the radio on its first play and nearly wearing the tape out in the weeks ahead of the album’s release. I know I waited outside for the record shop to open to buy the album. After that was blur. A mixture of relief and joy. The realisation that it was good.

After that came...

... and his transition to being a solo artist appeared almost seamless.

I’m listening to Bengali In Platforms as I write this. It’s so tiresome when the SJWs seek to portray it as Tomorrow Belongs To Me. It’s a great song from a classic album. It’s not as good a tune as Tomorrow Belongs To Me though. Obviously.


Well-Known Member
Bengali in Platforms is without doubt the most beautiful song on Viva Hate. Music, lyrics, production, everything. Those who perceive its message as somehow offensive are mistaken - it's actually quite empathetic to the immigrant experience of alienation.


Active Member
Even Morrissey at the time wasn't hugely enthusiastic in interviews, downplaying it next to the Smiths catalogue. I think the more wobbles he's had afterwards (and there were plenty of those during the years immediately after Viva Hate), the more everyone has looked back and said "actually - it's pretty good". Obviously, at the time, no-one had anything to compare it to, except that near-flawless run of Smiths records.

I am reading through a book of his interviews at school atm (during free periods) and it is very interesting to see he really does downplay it, he talks about how he was experimenting with his lyrical methods and is going to go back and generally is not too happy with it... Then he is suddenly a lot more positive about Kill Uncle.

How things change...


What times, eh?

I had a big quiff and worked at Volvo wearing Morrissey and Smiths t-shirts while shipping equipment to Saddam in Iraq. Peter with the old classic american car who unlike most other people owning one was still driving it at winter time. Nervous about the big bend being slippery when going home as we worked the evening shift which suited me who loved to get up late.

Then Rolf burst onto the scene and got a job there as well and I heckled him at his work station all night long. I gave him a New Order album on vinyl for one of his solo booze nights at home.

I had a finnish girl stalking me all over the workplace who moved to her own home and we used to bicycle to work together and she was afraid to stay in her new apartment on her own. Then I tried to off myself and came back like a ghost and she was trying even more to lay her hands on me but I found girls scary and did not know what to do with them.

Oh how she hated me years later and in a store she made signs at me but still smiled.

Then we had a guy that was a genius and hated music so much he used a scissor on the power chord to shut the radio up despite it being on and he could have got the shock of his life. He invented new things to save money for Volvo and make the place more effective and the more you throw something to a dog the more it will wag its tail.

He ended up in a shrink unit and all he did was cycle for miles and make his own buns. last I know he was with some woman who could have been his mother. Håkan was his name, oh my God.

I refused to work with him which lead to me getting the sack. Before that they wanted to send me to the states to work with someone but it never came off and they soon shut down that unit anyway.

Viva Hate is a backdrop to my two suicide attempts and coming back home from hospital the first thing I did was putting it on.

Viva Nineteen Eighty Hate

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