Suffer Little Children: the story of Morrissey's obsession with the Moors murderers

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by Famous when dead, May 17, 2017.

By Famous when dead on May 17, 2017 at 10:07 AM
  1. Famous when dead

    Famous when dead Vulgarian

    Dec 7, 2000
    Birmingham, U.K.
    "Suffer Little Children: the story of Morrissey's obsession with the Moors murderers" - The Telegraph
    By Alice Vincent
    16th, May, 2017

    A very long, interesting article - worth a read.
    The full article requires free registration or paying a subscription so it is here in full minus the pictures and videos used.
    (See in thread).

    Further to this article is a similar one in The Guardian (with Moz references):

    "Suffer little children: how Ian Brady cast a dark shadow over popular culture" - The Guardian
    by Dorian Lynskey
    16th, May, 2017

    "In Autobiography, Morrissey remembers the long shadow that the Moors murders cast over his northern childhood. “A swarm of misery grips mid-60s Manchester as Hindley and Brady raise their faces to the camera and become known to us all,” he writes. Then later: “Everyone appears to know someone who knew Myra Hindley, and we are forced to accept a new truth; that a woman can be just as cruel and dehumanised as a man, and that all safety is an illusion.”

    All credit to The Telegraph & Alice Vincent.

    "Suffer Little Children: the story of Morrissey's obsession with the Moors murderers" - The Telegraph
    By Alice Vincent
    16th, May, 2017

    "The nation awoke to front pages filled with Ian Brady’s mugshot on Tuesday morning, following the news of his death. The notorious serial killer of five children, with his accomplice Myra Hindley, Brady has remained in the public consciousness since being found guilty of three counts of murder (he would later write to the BBC, confessing to five further killings, while Hindley confessed of their involvement in the murder of two other missing children) in 1966.

    The murders, named after the Yorkshire Moors where the victims’ bodies were buried, stuck fast to the public consciousness. But for those growing up in 1960s Manchester, where the grisly crimes were committed, the actions of Brady and Hindley bore a very real threat. For Steven Patrick Morrissey, who was seven when the criminals were jailed for life, he later compared growing up in the area to “living in a soap opera”.

    The Moors murders continued to fascinate Morrissey, who, as a teen, was considered eccentric by his peers. Brady and Hindley’s actions would become peppered through his career as a front man of The Smiths. They inspired a song that caused such controversy it was raised in interviews with Morrissey for the next 20 years. He was lambasted in the press for his lyrics, offended and upset the victims’ families and then, bizarrely, befriended them.

    Even decades later, when The Smiths had broken up and Morrissey became one of pop’s lone provocateurs, he would continue to be haunted by the Moors – in more ways than one.

    News of the crimes totally dominated all attempts at conversation for quite a few years’

    Morrissey’s parents, Elizabeth and Peter, had moved into 17 Harper Street, a council house, in Hulme, an industrial neighbourhood south of Manchester’s city centre, in the late Fifties. Gorton and Longsight, where 16-year-old Pauline Reade and Keith Bennett, 12, disappeared respectively within a year of each other in 1963 and 1964, were a bus ride away.

    Morrissey was born in the early summer of 1959, and was on the brink of attending school when Brady and Hindley’s first victim was abducted.

    “I happened to live on the streets where, close by, some of the victims had been picked up,” Morrissey, then 28, told The Face about his childhood. “Within that community, news of the crimes totally dominated all attempts at conversation for quite a few years.

    “It was like the worst thing that had ever happened, and I was very, very aware of everything that occurred. Aware as a child who could have been a victim. All the details... You see it was all so evil; it was, if you can understand this, ungraspably evil. When something reaches that level it becomes almost... almost absurd really. I remember it at times like I was living in a soap opera.”

    When their son was 10, the Morrisseys moved to Stretford, a suburb a few miles west of Hulme. It was here that Morrissey embarked upon a depressed adolescence which saw him using literature and pop music as an escape from other teenagers who considered him as odd.

    The Moors murders hung heavy, especially after he read Beyond Belief: The Story of Ian Brady and Myra Hindley, Emlyn Williams’ 1967 book that portrayed the details of the pair, their relationship, and their crimes in morbid detail. Ed Glinert, author of The Manchester Compendium, argues that Williams’ account “provided Morrissey with ideas, titles and lyrics”.

    He points to Hindley’s claim that “society owes me a living”, uttered in 1977 when she was moved to Durham jail and also a lyric in 1984 song, Still Ill. “Even the seemingly innocent I Don’t Owe You Anything… is little more than a well-concealed account of the murderer’s early romance”, Gilnert attests. The author also believes that Morrissey named his band after Hindley’s brother-in-law, David Smith, who, with his wife, called the police on the crimes - although Morrissey has said that he chose the band name as a tribute to everyday people.

    But there was one Smiths song that wore the Moors murders muse more heavily than others in The Smiths’ back catalogue. Suffer Little Children, reportedly named after the cries of fellow Holloway prisoners as Hindley was jailed, was an unabashed depiction of the Hindley and Brady’s killings. The song named the victims and quoted Hindley’s testimony, even going so far as to sample recordings of children playing and a woman darkly laughing.

    The song was the second ever written – and completed – by Morrissey and Smiths co-founder Johnny Marr, who, aged 14, approached Morrissey and asked to form a band. Suffer Little Children was stitched together from macabre lyrics Morrissey had written earlier, and a few chords Marr had been working on before the pair met.
    By August, a seven-minute-long version, complete with the children’s voices and the sound of a music box, was recorded in Manchester’s decibel studios, but it would take another year for the shorter, definitive version to be laid on track.

    Suffer Little Children’s lyrics portrays the grim events of the mid-Sixties from both the perspectives of the victims (“Over the moor, take me to the moor Dig a shallow grave And I'll lay me down”) and an observer, who details the ill fates of Lesie Ann Downey, Edward Evans and John Kilbride, as well as Hindley’s appearance in court.

    While Hindley had been imprisoned for 15 years when the song was written, she was yet to confess to the murders. But Suffer Little Children cast an ominous shadow on her suffering, depicting the ghosts of her victims “haunt[ing] you when you laugh”. The laughter on record, according to Marr, belonged to a friend of Morrissey’s called Anna.

    Speaking to Spin magazine in 1986, Morrissey insisted that the song was well-intentioned. “Veiling the Moors Murders is wrong. We must bring it to the fore. If we don't overstate things, they'll continue to happen. We don't forget the atrocities of Hitler, do we?”

    But for all its resonance - and subsequent controversy - the song was never a favourite of its creators. Chucked on as the final track of The Smiths’ eponymous 1984 album, it was only performed live once, five months after it was demoed, at the band’s first ever concert. “Maybe we had a doubt about it at the time”, Marr recalled in 1992. “We were writing better stuff. It was always considered an album track”.

    Instead, Suffer Little Children was released two years later, as a B-side to top 10 single Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now. The press and public were still sensitive to the crimes, which had been used, somewhat tokenistically, by the punk scene in the late Seventies. Malcom McLaren and Viviennne Westwood had put Hindley’s mugshot on a T-shirt with the words God Save Myra Hindley, a slogan that was echoed in the lyrics of No One Is Innocent (A Punk Prayer) in 1978 by Ronald Biggs.

    When Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now appeared on high street shelves with a Hindley-esque portrait of Viv Nicholson on the cover, only to reveal lyrics about “the solid stench of death” within, there was understandable outrage.

    The Manchester Evening News reported that the victims’ families were upset by the lyrics, which mentioned their lost children poignantly by name (“Lesley Ann, with your pretty white beads / Oh John, you'll never be a man”). The Sun went a step further, comparing Morrissey’s moral compass to those of Hindley and Brady themselves. Boots and Woolworths refused to stock the single.

    “Some of the reports in newspapers in Portsmouth and Hartlepool – all the places that really count – some of the reports were so full of hate, it was like I was one of the Moors Murderers, that I'd gone out and murdered these children,” Morrissey told Melody Maker. “Some of them were so full of hate that one just had to do something, but not read them. It was incredible.”

    Ann West, mother of victim Lesley Ann Downey, was a staunch campaigner for the rights of her daughter and the other children killed in the murders. She had successfully quashed the ill-judged punk song Free Myra Hindley, released by Chrissie Hynde as part of short-lived band The Moors Murderers, in 1977. Upon hearing about Suffer Little Children, West contacted The Smiths’ label, Rough Trade.

    Ultimately, it was The Smiths’ publicist, Scot Piering, who picked up the phone and learnt of West’s years of suffering. He was reportedly reduced to tears. She was sent Smiths records, photographs and a letter from Morrissey. She agreed to meet the frontman, who explained that he had been burdened by the Moors murders since childhood, and thought that Hindley should hang.

    “Mrs West sent us a letter' Piering explained, “saying she believed Morrissey was a good boy and was serious about the song and she thought it was very touching. She was strongly on our side and really helped us.”

    With West on side, attitudes towards Suffer Little Children began to change – although the mainstream press were still keen to demonise Morrissey.

    “Nobody would actually let me comment on it,” he complained in 1985. “It appeared in national newspapers the length and breadth of the country – Morrissey does this and Morrissey says that and Morrissey believes... and nobody asked me a thing. Nobody knew what I believed or why the lyrics were there. So that was the only distressing element. But I'm glad the record got attention, ultimately."

    Morrisey and West nurtured an unlikely friendship. She would visit him, with Winifred Johnson, mother of Keith Bennett, in his Kensington apartment. He would give her money. While he had grown up under the shadow of Brady and Hindley’s crimes, Morrissey also championed her cause as a working class mother, and fellow victim of the media’s prejudices. “She was dismissed by the establishment because she was very working-class Manchester,” he told Hot Press magazine in 2007.

    “The murder of working-class kids isn’t considered as lamentable as the murder of middle or upper-class kids. You only need to look at the Madeline McCann saga. I think Ann West lived her entire life in the midst of all this media rubbish and injustice. The murderer becomes the star and the victims aren’t even named.”

    West died in 1999, after a lifelong battle to ensure Hindley and Brady were dealt justice. But for Morrissey, the Moors obsession continued.

    At the beginning of 2007 he gave another interview, to LA Weekly, in which he spoke about an encounter with a ghost on Saddleworth Moor, where four of the five bodies were found. Morrissey had driven up to Saddleworth at 6pm on a January evening with some friends, in 1989.

    It was when they were returning that they encountered “a boy of maybe 18 years, and he was totally gray, and he had long hair in a sort of 1970s style, one of those strange feather cuts, and he wore a very small anorak and nothing else; he was completely naked. He just emerged from the heather and pleaded to the lights, and we drove past because we all instinctively knew that this was a spirit.”

    Little was made of the story at the time - it was one of a few vaguely bizarre interviews Morrissey was giving to support his Ringleader of the Tormentors album. But it achieved more recognition two years later, when the singer wrote a florid short story about the encounter, The Bleak Moor Lies, in an anthology, The Dark Monarch: Magic & Modernity In British Art. While Hindley and Brady aren’t mentioned by name, their crimes feature in the text: “Here, the bleak moor lies, and has seen them all out [...] the child killers who murder and smile,” reads the introduction.

    Later, the narrator ponders: “Do the wails of the gales drown out the pitiful sobs of children coming from underground? Might a sack by the roadside contain the remains of the sister of the murdered boy?” The text returned in Morrissey’s memoir, Autobiography, in 2013.

    Much as Manchester is part of Morrissey’s being, the nearby Moors cling to his music. Perhaps Brady’s death will encourage a new post on True To You, the Morrissey fanzine which often features anonymous posts from the man himself. Maybe there will be another song."
    Last edited: May 17, 2017
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Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by Famous when dead, May 17, 2017.

    1. vegan.cro
      "The song was the second ever written – and completed – by Morrissey and Smiths co-founder Johnny Marr, who, aged 14, approached Morrissey and asked to form a band."
      Marr was not 14. He was 19ish.
      Last edited: May 17, 2017
      • Like Like x 1
    2. Irish blood Irish heart
      Irish blood Irish heart
      Thanks for posting, I thought it was a very interesting article
    3. RobLand
      Thanks for posting. Also: “the solid stench of death” ... It should be 'stolid', right?
    4. markem41
      "The murders, named after the Yorkshire Moors where the victims’ bodies were buried"

      Does no one bother to do the slightest bit of research when they write these articles?
    5. Anonymous
      In terms of traditional counties, Saddleworth Moor is in Yorkshire, and Keith Bennett is thought to have been buried on Wessenden Moor, in Kirklees, also in Yorkshire. So, the "Moors" in "Moors Murders" does refer to the Yorkshire Moors.
    6. Anonymous
      Saddleworth was in Yorkshire until the 1974 boundary changes and a minority in the area still campaign to re-join Yorkshire.
    7. Anonymous
      I know the history but the article is from after 1974. If a body was found tomorrow would it be reported to have been found in Yorkshire?
    8. Anonymous
      1) But the term "Moors Murders" doesn't date from yesterday, it dates from the 1960s.

      2) People continue to talk in terms of traditional counties, so it's not wrong as such to say that Saddleworth is in Yorkshire, in the same way that it is not wrong to say that Dagenham is in Essex, or Stockport is in Cheshire, or Lancaster is in Lancashire.

      3) When people talk in that area refer to "The Moors", they are talking about an area made up of various individual areas of moorland. I'm not sure exactly how many it would be, but maybe 10 or something, and Saddleworth Moor is the only one not in Yorkshire.
    9. Ketamine Sun
      Ketamine Sun

      Even the seemingly innocent I Don’t Owe You Anything… is little more than a well-concealed account of the murderer’s early romance”, Gilnert attests'

      a bit chilling if one is to listen to the song in that way, but is it true?

      'Morrissey does this and Morrissey says that and Morrissey believes... and nobody asked me a thing. Nobody knew what I believed ..'
      - Morrissey

      :lbf: he could just as well be talking about the comments on this site.

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    10. Lilac Time
      Lilac Time
      The 'Beyond Belief' book by Emlyn Williams refers throughout to David Smith & Maureen Hindley as
      'The Smiths' ....... this most certainly is where the band name came from in my opinion, given SM's interest in the subject.

      Admitting your band is named after such dark subject matter would necessarily have been a wise move in 82/83, so suggesting it was 'the most ordinary name' was perhaps more apt, yet it could also be argued that both David Smith & Maureen Hindley were 'ordinary' in context with Ian Brady & Myra Hindley, who were most certainly not........
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    11. Anonymous
      Pretty distasteful that Mr Morrissey would make up a ghost story about one of the many Moors just to add a bit of sensationalism

      - Sami P.
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    12. Ben Budd
      Ben Budd
      there were a few incorrect details in the article, but still an interesting read. Thank you for sharing.

      Seeing as Brady recently passed away, I listened to the Australian podcast Casefile True Crime's three part detailing of the Moor Murders. As someone who knew the basics of the case, I found the six hour series fascinating with its depth and detail. I would recommend to anyone else who find the case interesting.

      I've not been able to stop thinking about those five lost souls, and the body of Keith that remains lost on the Moor. I try to be as bleeding heart liberal leftie as they come, but even I must take a deep breath and gather my thoughts and remember my stance when hearing about Brady and Hindley's words and attitudes during their respective prison sentences. Narcissitic, egocentric, vulgar creatures.

      RIP to the victims of the Moors Murderers.
      • Like Like x 1
    13. Juliogeordio
    14. AztecCamera
      Stop saying New Yorkshire, Moors, Strepford, working class. Sexxex, Saddlewerth. Do you think Uncle Steve is thinking about this or even cares anymore falling asleep on his sun deck in Malibu with a bottle of corona and eating chocolate chip cookies and John Maher cares about this while shootin' hoops in his backyard basketball court at his house in Oregon. Is it so difficult to quote the beginning of a bible verse and make a song out of it.? Don't you people work in "the uk"? Do you have anything better to do?
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    15. Roger O
      Roger O
      Mike Joyce's drumming could be so perfectly sad and beautiful along with Marr on songs like Reel around the fountain and Suffer. He would just hang his head. Morrisseys buttocks are two bluberry pancakes.
      • Funny Funny x 1
    16. Anonymous
      I don't know if the entire song has references to the murders, but it is documented that David Smith (Myra Hindley’s brother-in-law) was coaxed to the Brady/Hindley house with the offer of some wine that Brady had stolen (Bought on stolen wine…).

      They wanted David Smith to witness the murder of Edward Evans, in an attempt to entrap him into their cult. Smith was horrified and as soon as he could get away from the house, he went to the police and Brady was arrested.
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    17. Anonymous
      I do like the sound of "Yorkshire, so much to answer for".
    18. Anonymous
      Life is never kind
      Life is never kind
      Oh, but I know what will make you smile tonight
    19. Case Info
      Case Info
      The Moors Murders: A Notorious Couple and Their Young Prey

      She came up for parole several times, and Lord Longford, a Labour peer famed for championing social outcasts and unpopular causes, worked for her release, saying she was “a genuinely reformed person.”

      “She may have done evil things, but which one of us haven’t?” he said.​

      What a stupid thing for Lord Longford to have said. To compare the "evil things" most of us have done to the torture and murder of a child is not the way to win the sympathy of the public. It's possible he was telling the truth about himself when you consider all of the crimes of abuse and murder of children that powerful people seem to have been committing at that time.
      Anyway, I do agree with what Morrissey said elsewhere that the names of the murderers are known and they are studied with fascination but the victims are often forgotten. Even in this story one of them only gets two sentences.
      Here is a podcast about it which is very long, three parts.

      Here are photos and info put together by a person who studied the case.
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