NME: What might have been...


Taste the diffidence
What might have been, NME...

*wavy lines, pixie dust, harp strings*

The time was right to hear Morrissey’s take on the modern age.

NME: Do you feel like an elder statesman of indie?

Morrissey: Absolutely. It’s something I bear with staggering grace.

. . . [continues as published] . . .

Morrissey: ...I’m saying it’s a reality and to many people it’s shocking.

For all Morrissey’s foppish good humor during the evening, this was a more somber note on which to end our first interview. Although he lives in Italy now, Morrissey had clearly been paying attention to the latest news at home as the country debates the recent forecasts on the immigration boom in the UK.

Still, the natural inclination for hyperbole we’ve come to expect from him over the years had taken us into risky territory. These are agitated times. The new influx of immigration is coinciding with a rise of far-right activity and the BNP is recruiting supporters at an alarming rate. Wishing to avoid confusion, we called a week later to see if he wanted to clarify his earlier comments. The NME was unwilling to revist the unpleasantness of 1992 and thought he might agree. Indeed, Morrissey proved eager to elaborate.

NME: Would you like to clarify your earlier statements?

Morrissey: I stand by them mostly. I just think it could be construed that the reason I wouldn’t wish to live in England is the immigration explosion. And that’s not true at all. I am actually very worldly and there are other reasons why I would find England very difficult, such as the expense and the pressure.

NME: Did you think back over anything you said and think, ‘I don’t mean that’?

Morrissey: I feel that the whole link with the NME and the racism slur is dead wood, isn’t it? And in my life, my favourite actor is Israeli, Lior Ashkenazi, and my favourite singer was born in Iraq and now lives in Egypt. So I’m not a part of Little Britain. And by that I mean the show, obviously.

NME: Immigration allowed your parents into Britain and that’s how you got to make your very English music...

Morrissey: Yes. But once again, it’s different now. Because the gates are flooded. And anybody can have access to England and join in.

"I find racism very silly. Almost too silly to discuss. It’s beyond reason. And makes no sense and is ludicrous." Morrissey​
Earlier Morrissey had told us that, as a son of Irish immigrants, and as a migrant himself (famously self-imposing pseudo-exile first in Los Angeles and then Rome) he believed others should have the same right. Like many observers concerned with current immigration policy in the UK, his real concern is regulation. He seems to favor tighter laws, although he was frustratingly vague in his response.

Morrissey: You have to be sensible about everything in life. You can’t say, ‘Everybody come into my house, sit on the bed, have what you like, do what you like.’ It wouldn’t work.

Hard to argue. But the political climate is turbulent. Controversy clouds the subject and in our soundbite-obsessed media many observers, including the NME, are deeply concerned with the language in which opinions are expressed.

NME: Do you think your comments are worded carefully? They might be taken as inflammatory.

Morrissey: [Laughs] No, not at all. I don’t think they’re inflammatory, they’re a statement of fact. Whatever England is now, it’s not what it was and it’s lamentable that we’ve lost so much.

“It’s not what it was”: here Morrissey was merely being Morrissey, reiterating his twenty-year old lament for the vanished England of his youth that has made for so many excellent songs from The Smiths (“The Queen Is Dead”) to his solo work (“Late Night, Maudlin Street”). The England he has mythologized so brilliantly throughout his career may not resemble the one the rest of us live in, but Morrissey is as unapologetic as ever in preferring his to ours.

So we thought that would be that, but Morrissey surprised us by playing nice. Through his manager he offered support for the Love Music Hate Racism campaign which the NME has recently championed.

NME: You reached out to us about supporting the Love Music Hate Racism campaign (See Sidebar – Ed.).

Morrissey: Yes. Although I find racism very silly. Almost too silly to discuss. It’s beyond reason. And makes no sense and is ludicrous. I’ve never heard a good argument in favour of racism.

NME: Well, despite this, we should warn you that some readers might still find your comments very offensive.

Morrissey: I can’t imagine anyone being offended by it. Why would I want to offend anyone? I think people want to be offended and there really is nothing we can do about it. I rest my case.

There’s the stubborn old Morrissey we know and love. At age 48, he’s more relaxed and convivial than ever, but don’t be fooled. The Mozfather hasn’t lost his taste for the pugilistic stand-off. He’ll have to answer for some of the roundhouses he threw in our interview—and maybe a few kicks to the groin—but he wouldn’t want it any other way. And neither would we. Maybe, just maybe, the gentle bleating of sheep that is the current pop scene could use the occasional roar from a lion in winter.


We are proud to print an interview with a pop icon like Morrissey. However, although he and the NME see eye to eye in condemning racism, his comments do not fit the tone and scope of the Love Music Hate Racism campaign. As such, although Morrissey graciously offered his support for the cause by lending a song for a LMHR 7” single to be released by the NME, we have declined his support because of disagreements with him over his opinions on immigration.

Specifically, the editors and I at the NME believe that his anecdote about “English accents in Knightsbridge” is unfair and unrepresentative of life in London, and we question the validity of his observations considering he has not lived in the UK for ten years; we do not think the immigration situation is different today than it was for his parents; the identity of our country is always changing and the England of 2007 is just as “true and authentic” as the England of 1967; and above all these are sensitive times that do not, we feel, allow for the kind of verbal grey areas that Morrissey’s songs and remarks to the public often inhabit.

The editors and I have chosen to print the interview because we hope that Morrissey’s comments, which we believe he offered in good faith, will encourage intelligent dialogue about one of the most important issues facing the UK today. We look forward to responses from our readers.

Finally, we are working with Morrissey’s management to find a suitable opportunity to release the aforementioned special single in a future issue of the NME.

I don't really agree with that article, that Uncle Skinny posted, because it's saying that a person's politics shouldn't matter. It's implying that Morrissey is a racist, but that this shouldn't bother anyone. I think it misses the point, that his views are more complicated than that. I know, that sounds like an excuse. I actually think his views of some England of the past are very romanticized. At which year would he have wanted to stop the clock? Generally when people talk about "the good old days" they are being very selective in what they remember. The point is that many people have always been exploited by England. It's traditionally been a very racist country. Any country that believes in some mythology about royalty is going to have a hard time putting forth an argument about how they believe in equality.

So, in that way, I agree with the article. Of course Morrissey has always been against the royals, but he has picked and chosen the cultural elements that he is proud of, and I don't have any problem with people being proud of being English. I'm proud of the ideals that my own country stands for. I understand that if I say I am proud to be a citizen of the US, people can say that is a racist statement. "So you're proud of what your country did to the natives, and the African slave trade, the Japanese-Americans placed in detention during World War II, the fact that women were not allowed to vote?" (etc etc etc)

I guess any Nationalist sentiment is difficult in that way. In the end I find Morrissey's views confusing. I love the song Irish Blood, English Heart, but in that song he seems to be looking towards the future, "dreaming of a time"... Or is he looking to the past?
Sorry Worm, that I responded to the other article. Your point that it wasn't what he said, but the way it was framed was well done. It points out very well how he was used.
Worm i hope this gets read widely rather than just by a few of us 'already converted' souls on here.

I also hope you write for a living, that was excellent. Thanks
Thanks Dave, thanks Paul. Too much time on my hands today.


Better yet, why not print up a t-shirt that says: "I find Morrissey-solo very silly. Almost too silly to discuss. It’s beyond reason. And makes no sense and is ludicrous." -- Morrissey
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Thanks Dave, thanks Paul. Too much time on my hands today.


Better yet, why not print up a t-shirt that says: "I find Morrissey-solo very silly. Almost too silly to discuss. It’s beyond reason. And makes no sense and is ludicrous." -- Morrissey

First time I read that as:

"I find Morrissey very silly. Almost too silly to discuss. It's beyond reason. And makes no sense and is ludicrous" --Morrissey
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