Telegraph have done an opinion piece hoping Morrissey gets a new record deal - despite accusing him of supporting the EDL.
Edit: it would probably help if I remembered the link.
However objectionable you find the Smiths singer, he shouldn't be reduced to hawking his new album to the highest – or lowest – bidder
No record label will touch Morrissey – and that’s the music industry’s lossHowever objectionable you find the Smiths singer, he shouldn't be reduced to hawking his new album to the highest – or lowest – bidder
JAMES HALL 4 June 2021 • 2:10pm
The last 12 months have been unkind to us all. Even, it seems, rock stars living in Los Angeles. Morrissey, the pugnacious former Smiths singer, said this week that he’s had “the worst year of my life”.
On one level, sympathy may be in reasonably short supply. Partly because of the LA rock star thing but mainly because Morrissey has in recent years made a barrage of offensive pronouncements including swipes at the Chinese, seeming defences of individuals accused of sexual abuse and sympathy for groups such as the English Defence League. But all of this notwithstanding, the former king of bedroom melodrama has still had a genuine shocker.
Last summer his beloved mother died. In April he was lampooned in an episode of The Simpsons called Panic on the Streets of Springfield. The show featured a vegan singer from the 1980s called Quilloughby – complete with thick-rimmed glasses and a quiff – who sang in a band called the Snuffs. But Quilloughby turned out to be a figment of Lisa Simpson’s imagination and was actually an overweight, meat-eating man with anti-immigrant views. Morrissey’s manager called the episode “hurtful and racist”.
And last November, Morrissey was dropped by his record label. “We wish him well in the next chapter of his career,” BMG said in a statement at the time.
That’s a bad 12 months, indeed. Heaven knows he’s miserable now. But on Sunday Morrissey sprung a surprise on us all. “The worst year of my life concludes with the best album of my life,” he said. He has recorded Bonfire of Teenagers in LA, an album of 11 new songs with none-more-Morrissey titles such as Rebels Without Applause, My Funeral and Saint in a Stained Glass Window. His lack of a record deal? No problemo, as Bart Simpson might put it. A message on the singer’s website read: “Morrissey is unsigned. The album is available to the highest (or lowest) bidder."
That’s right. Morrissey’s new record will be sold to the highest record label bidder. My initial thought was “Poor lonely man”. It was accompanied by a slight sucking of teeth. “Bit embarrassing if no label buys it,” I mumbled to myself. But this was soon overridden by a feeling of “Why not?” There was even a dollop of respect there. It’s a ballsy thing to do. A bold "f––– you" to the system. How typically Morrissey.
Besides, traditional means of music distribution – whereby a label puts out an album by an artist to which it has paid an advance – have long since broken down. Technology and the streaming revolution have seen to that. There are countless examples of artists seeking alternative ways of releasing new music. And auctioning an album to a label is another addition to this list.
In 2007 Radiohead, out of contract with EMI, released In Rainbows as a pay-what-you-want download. This honesty box approach saw 62 per cent of downloaders paying nothing (but those who did pay spent an average of around £5 globally). Four years later the Kaiser Chiefs released The Future is Medieval as a create-your-own-album concept. The band streamed snippets of twenty songs online and let fans choose their 10 favourites for £7.50. In 2014 U2 famously gave away Songs of Innocence to 500 million iTunes users free of charge: it appeared on iPhones and iPads around the world (whether people wanted it or not – millions didn’t).
The point is, anything goes when it comes to getting an album out there. My favourite alternative release story probably relates to rap collective Wu-Tang Clan. In 2015 they printed just one CD copy of their album Once Upon a Time in Shaolin and auctioned it off as an art object. A legal stipulation meant that its contents could not exploited commercially until the year 2103. The CD was bought by businessman Martin Shkreli, who reportedly paid $2 million for it. But in 2018 Shkreli was convicted for securities fraud and a federal court seized his assets, including the Wu-Tang album.
I hope the Morrissey album is picked up. Because despite his stupid pronouncements he is on something of a musical roll. When he was dropped by BMG he said that his three albums with them – 2017’s Low in High School, 2019’s California Son, and last year’s I Am Not A Dog on a Chain – were the best of his career. “I stand by them till death,” he said. While not quite up there with Vauxhall and I or Viva Hate, they are very strong records.
Last year’s single Bobby, Don’t You Think They Know? featured Don’t Leave Me This Way singer Thelma Houston on guest vocals. It’s an epic and slightly bonkers track that is completely absorbing. And 2017 single Spent the Day in Bed is up there with his best solo work.
This isn’t to say that Morrissey would be an easy artist to have on your roster. He was the final performer I reviewed before lockdown kicked in last year. His gig in Leeds in March 2020 was typical of the man: he slated critics, largely ignored his hits, and at one point mock-sneezed on the crowd to make some kind of point about Covid-19. Perhaps if he’d known what was around the corner, he’d have been more circumspect.
Or perhaps not. A comment on his website at the weekend about his upcoming Las Vegas residency (called Viva Moz Vegas) said the following: “Morrissey’s 5 nights at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas start on August 28, and there are no anti-social distancing or facial concealment rules in place.”
But however "toxic" people find Morrissey, there are many musicians who have done things far worse than him who have record contracts. There are members of rock bands with record deals who’ve spent time in prison for domestic abuse; meanwhile it was reported last year that a British drill rapper was offered a record deal while in prison awaiting trial for murder. No matter how abhorrent you may find Morrissey's opinions, he's committed no crime.
So here’s my message to labels: take a deep breath and snap up Bonfire of Teenagers. It’ll probably be quite good. And you might just cheer up music’s biggest grump.
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