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

"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

Excerpt:
"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.
Regards,
FWD.

"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."
 
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H

Herpes Harmonica

Guest
His obession with various things over the years has to do with his asperger. I know psychology is not accepted in the world of true science but some diagnoses seem to be quite spot on as in the case with asperger where a person with it act peculiar or have peculiar interests or both.

Asperger Disorder described in short:

1. Overly dramatic gestural use

2. Pedantic (overly formal) speech.

3. Provides too much detail when talking on topics of interest.

4. Absent or reduced eye contact when speaking.

Anyone seeing him arrive at an airport will point to number one and him inviting a camera to his house will tick the rest.
 
Y

Yoda

Guest
His obession with various things over the years has to do with his asperger. I know psychology is not accepted in the world of true science but some diagnoses seem to be quite spot on as in the case with asperger where a person with it act peculiar or have peculiar interests or both.

Asperger Disorder described in short:

1. Overly dramatic gestural use

2. Pedantic (overly formal) speech.

3. Provides too much detail when talking on topics of interest.

4. Absent or reduced eye contact when speaking.

Anyone seeing him arrive at an airport will point to number one and him inviting a camera to his house will tick the rest.

 

Maradona

Senior Member
I was on a Will Self reading spree recently and, sidetracked by his 2010 Question Time appearance with Carol Vorderman and Boris Johnson, went on to read up a bit on the James Bulger and Mary Bell cases (the Question Time had dealt in the perpetrators' state-funded anonymity post-release).

Apparently Mary Bell's mother - who then frequently left her young daughter to go and work as a prostitute in Glasgow - had exclaimed, "Get that thing away from me" upon giving birth to Mary. I immediately thought, of course, of the song Neal Cassady Drops Dead; Moz says this line after the list of child illnesses, etc.

Too much of a coincidence, surely, given Morrissey's history of child killer-inspired lyrics (Suffer Little Children, Ambitious Outsiders, The Youngest Was the Most Loved [does that count?]).

I wondered if this had been remarked upon before re: Neal Cassady Drops Dead's lyrics.

Anyway Moz is on stage right now in Leeds, and I hope it is shit-hot.
 

Amy

from the Ice Age to the dole age
I'm trying to think of any way that I Don't Owe You Anything could be a story of Brady and Hindley's "early romance". What nonsense.
 

Peterb

Well-Known Member
I'm trying to think of any way that I Don't Owe You Anything could be a story of Brady and Hindley's "early romance". What nonsense.
Hi Amy,
That kind of occured to me too.
The article's title refers to an 'obsession' but for evidence of this we get one song (which is really what the article is about) and the odd reference.
If hardly looks like obsession.
Pretty thin gruel.
But still a good read.
 

Amy

from the Ice Age to the dole age
Hi Amy,
That kind of occured to me too.
The article's title refers to an 'obsession' but for evidence of this we get one song (which is really what the article is about) and the odd reference.
If hardly looks like obsession.he simply read
Pretty thin gruel.
But still a good read.

Yes, it was a good read. I don't think Morrissey was obsessed with the crimes but "Beyond Belief" is a difficult book to forget. He read it in about 1978 or so, didn't he? "The Severed Alliance" quotes from one of his letters to a pen pal around that period, and he said something along the lines of, "Sexual repression is bad for you, you could end up a psychopathic bisexual child-murderer".

I agree with Morrissey's point about Ann West being made to suffer her whole life through the media obsession with the case. It resulted in Lesley-Ann Downey's grave being desecrated by pro-Hindley nutjobs and then having to be re-interred in an unknown location. Later, Lesley's brother and young niece were killed when their house was torched by mentally unhinged woman"obsessed" with the case. If that's not sick, what is? And now Keith Bennett's surviving family members have to tolerate all manner of oddballs, "psychics" and "researchers" digging up the moor and pretending they have new clues about Keith every 5 minutes.
 
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