Rock's Backpages podcast discuss Morrissey and Marr (February 7, 2022)

From there we turn to Lou's fellow contrarian Morrissey and the "severed alliance" between him and former Smiths bandmate Johnny Marr. With the latter releasing a new album this month, Kate and the RBP crew reflect on the very different personalities (and values) of the two Mancunians.


 

Famous when dead

Vulgarian
Moderator
Pieces discussed:
Jazz fusion, Carey Raditz, Lou Reed, Lou Reed audio, Johnny Marr, the Smiths, Morrissey, Norma Waterson, Sam Cooke, Scott Walker, Steve Paul, Nona Hendryx, Vicki Wickham, Black Sabbath, Todd Rundgren, Janice Long, Laura Barton's heckler's guide, Glass Animals and Adele.
 

Redacted

I think I must be, absolutely, a total sex object.
Panic is a racist song? These self absorbed twits are the opposite of interesting.
 

Catholic

English Blood, Irish Heart
These people strike me as shallow and insincere pseuds, like many people, I imagine, in mainstream shows (but wouldn't know as I never see/hear them).
 

Redacted

I think I must be, absolutely, a total sex object.
O

Ooh Matron!

Guest
"LOCAL LAND FOR LOCAL PEOPLE"

Nah, it wasn't the isle of dogs thing, it was the general use of the term dj and disco, which was really stretching things from what i can vaguely remember, i don't think Morrissey helped things with some of his interviews at the time, Marr going ballistic was kinda funny though.
 

Redacted

I think I must be, absolutely, a total sex object.

Redacted

I think I must be, absolutely, a total sex object.
What's interesting to me is that if Johnny wrote the songs, then Johnny is the racist? Yes?
 

Redacted

I think I must be, absolutely, a total sex object.

Sister I'm a Poet

If the body were not the soul, what is the soul?

Here's the full text of the 1992 article that they refer to in the podcast. Geez, I can't believe we've been having this conversation for 30+ years!

Morrissey: Caucasian Rut​

Dele Fadele, New Musical Express, 22 August 1992

POP STARS are especially strange creatures when it comes to giving that all-important 'image' an overhaul.
At one extreme, Kylie Minogue miraculously transforms herself from the jovial girl-next-door to a strutting nymphet who cavorts lustily with black 'dancers' to suggest risky sexuality. And, at the other extreme, Steven Patrick Morrissey undergoes gradual metamorphosis from a miserable, loveless outsider with a sense of humour to a miserable, loveless outsider who flirts with racist imagery.
In agitated times when the twin spectres of fascism and "Ethnic Cleansing" are sweeping across Europe, and when there's been a return in England to the horrifying incidence of burning immigrants out of their homes, we must wonder why Morrissey has chosen this precise moment to fuel the fires of racism by parading onstage with a Union Jack and writing such ambiguous dodgy lyrics as 'The National Front Disco' and 'We'll Let You Know' on his recent album. Is he so starved of lyrical ideas that a touch of controversy is the best way to cover-up "writer's block"? Is he completely fed-up with the liberal consensus in the more compassionate side of the media that he's resorted to baiting the right-on crowd? Is there a sizeable degree of irony at work?
Firstly, Morrissey has held, and continues to hold, sway over the minds of a generation who take tips from his every utterance, try to model themselves on his sense of fashion and live their lives at least partly according to codes he's laid down with a flourish (just try imagining the number of people who converted to vegetarianism upon hearing The Smiths' 'Meat Is Murder').
Secondly, on a personal level, I remember falling under the glorious spell weaved by 'The Hand That Rocks The Cradle' (from The Smiths) and to this day would still prefer to be shipwrecked with it and a handful of other Smiths songs rather than, say, Hole's 'Teenage Whore'. With a timeless melancholia that warmly invited you to revel and a perfectly described setting that held emotional resonance, 'The Hand... ' is the work of someone who's lived life in a bedroom but would dearly love to lose his/herself outside. And the frail, faintly jangling background is almost rich enough in itself.
So, could the same writer harbour such seemingly ignorant thoughts as ''England for the English'' (his inverted commas) considering his beloved England's past colonial adventures?
Let's not forget that the adolescent Morrissey used to be chased through the streets of Manchester at night by leering beer-boys, some of whom may have held NF sympathies, simply for being "different". And he definitely spent a lot of time in Whalley Range, a multi-racial area. Is he now identifying with his former oppressors? Has he changed from the persecuted to the persecutor? Or, is he fascinated by the idea of racism, by the look of violent skinheads, to the extent of being oppressed so much he falls in love with his oppressors?

1992 ISN'T the first time Morrissey has been accused of fanning the flames of race-hate. When The Smiths released 'Panic' in 1986, at the height of what's now known within NME as "the hip-hop wars", certain writers at this paper branded Moz 'a racist' because of the sentiments "Burn down the disco... Hang the DJ" expressed therein, seeing the song as an all-out attack on dance music and therefore black people.
In reality, and with hindsight, 'Panic' was simply an attack on the all-powerful Radio 1 and its ilk: "the music they constantly play says nothing to me about my life": a lone howl from the edge of nowhere against songs with heads in the clouds, songs lacking in Smithsian gritty reality. Of course, Morrissey proclaiming that "reggae is vile" in his usual flamboyant way in interviews didn't help. Hating reggae doesn't make you racist in the same way that hating dance music doesn't make you racist; it just means you're unwilling to experiment and decidedly close-minded.
Morrissey's flirtation with racism didn't really begin until The Smiths split and he became a law unto himself, gleefully wearing his own T-shirts, aspiring to be the consummate egotist. Viva Hate, his first "solo" LP, contained the charmingly titled 'Bengali In Platforms', a convoluted diatribe against assimilation: "He only wants to impress you/Bengali in platforms/He only wants to embrace your culture/And to be your friend forever/...Oh shelve your Western plans/...life is hard enough when you belong here."
And where does this somewhat gentle ridicule leave the Bengalis who were born in England? On the next boat captained by Enoch Powell? In the lurch? The main complaint Little Englanders have about immigrants is their seeming abhorrence of the host culture and feisty determination to cling to what they know and understand. But here we have someone who won't let them do the opposite either...
As if that gaffe wasn't enough, Kill Uncle brought the dubious 'Asian Rut' along with it. Once again the title caused concern, even though the actual tale of racial violence was swamped in melodrama. As usual, His Master's Voice was playing games, gently stoking the fires, dodging behind words, trying to get up noses.
Which brings us bang up to date. Morrissey's currently decided to elucidate for those who missed the point in the past, flirtatiously of course... The third solo LP, Your Arsenal, sports not one but two nationalistically pointed songs.
'We'll Let You Know' is ostensibly a love song to football hooligans, casting them as "the last truly British people you'll ever know", which wouldn't be that irritating if you didn't realise that a significant percentage of them are also NF or BNP affiliated.
But the crowning glory is 'The National Front Disco' whose title bothered me personally for weeks before I heard it. It's a sad tale of a bootboy who's lost his friends and whose mother has given up on him because he's gone to the National Front disco (he's joined the NF?). Still, the last three lines have an ominous ring to them: "You want the day/To come sooner/When you've settled a score" (By 'day', he possibly means that one when England will be for the English again).

ALL THIS is sad, but not as sad as the day Morrissey appeared on the Madness bill at Finsbury Park, and danced around with a Union Jack draped around his glittering shirt during 'Glamorous Glue'.
For his pains, he was attacked with various minor missiles by an unruly element in the audience, but anyone could have told him that there was a small but vocal contingent of Sieg Heiling skins in the audience.
Of course, one realises that The Jam used the flag to optimum effect when they were in existence, but they explained themselves by claiming they were reclaiming the flag from The Far Right. In the '60s The Who were also notorious flag-wavers, but those were markedly different times and both the NF and the BNP didn't exist in the same form (a vocal micro-minority) then. Morrissey, however, must be aware of what flag-waving means in the Euro-'90s
In an interview with Q magazine (September issue) he is quoted as answering the question, 'Do you think people are innately racist?': "Yes. I don't want to sound horrible or pessimistic but I don't really think, for instance, black people and white people will ever really get on or like each other. I don't really think they ever will. The French will never like the English. That tunnel will collapse."
Worse still, an edited version of that quote has been used to advertise Q in Sunday supplements. My gripe is that that ignorant statement is just one microscopic way of seeing the world, and if it was true surely the world would've erupted into unsolveable non-stop racial strife for decades now. And where does this leave gullible Morrissey acolytes and fans who hang on his every word and applaud his every image-move (only a percentage; I'd wager some think for themselves)? It'll be a scary prospect if some think it's hip to follow their leader on this one.
Ironically, the roots of the glam-rock bequiffed-rockabilly backing that churns through most of Your Arsenal's songs, if you trace them back, lie deeply in black music, in the howling early blues. But then, along with being an English eccentric who wishes he was a teenager in the '50s, Morrissey has often been attracted to superficial things, to surface gloss, to style-over-content. Is he satisfied, this way? Would he like to be a laughing stock?
For what it's worth, I don't think Morrissey is a racist. He just likes the trappings and the culture that surround the outsider element. He has some racist friends. And if he carries on this way, he'll have thousands more.
 

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