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Note that I've corrected the odd factual and typo as I've caught them (probably adding more as I go, for which I apologise).



Home Thoughts From Abroad

What makes this most English of Englishmen relocate to the most American of American cities? In 1998 Morrissey decamped to Clark Gable’s old Hollywood lair, exchanging Blighty’s court battles and disaffection for a new life, new inspiration and an exotic new fanbase. And, this weekend, a new passenger in his open-topped Jag: Andrew Harrison.

Morrissey is trying to drive and be nice at the same time. It is a sunny Good Friday afternoon in Los Angeles, he is pointing his eggshell blue Jaguar XK8 westwards along Wilshire Boulevard, and several feet behind his left ear a young woman in a Bob Marley bobblehat is hanging out of the passenger window of an enormous crimson SUV. "Morrissey! Morrissee!" she yells. Morrissey throws a strained smile back over his shoulder and at the same time tries to watch the traffic, which of course is on the wrong side of the road. The wheel wobbles in his hand. "Morrissey!" the girl cries. "Do you remember me?"

"That's what a lot of them say," Morrissey observes a couple of minutes later, after the excited fan has turned off Wilshire and disappeared with her story. "And how can you possibly answer them? Saying yes is worse than saying no. It can encourage troublesome behaviour. I usually say 'possibly'." Alongside us at the traffic lights, someone else has pulled out their cellphone and appears to be telling a friend who's pulled up next to them. While note exactly a household name here, Morrissey is famous enough among his sizeable and passionate group of enthusiasts to provoke a double-take if they encounter him in the street - much as he is in the UK. Morrissey drums his silver-ringed fingers on the wheel of the Jag and then turns up the stereo. And what is the soundtrack of his transplanted life in Los Angeles? The Red Hot Chili Peppers? Snoop Dogg? Rush Limbaugh and the bucketmouths of American talk radio? No, it's a BBC cassette of collected interviews with John Betjeman. "I do love making television programmes, " says the voice of Betjers, projected from the 1970s of Reithian power. "The engineers do all the work and I get all the credit." Morrissey sniggers in approval. Then he goes into one about the decline of standards of pronunciation on the radio. He can't stand the mania for regional accents in broadcasting, or people who say "Actually, yes" when they just mean "yes," or newsreaders who say "Bridish" when they mean "British". It's all too horrible.

Morrissey moved to Los Angeles five years ago, his relocation coinciding with a lengthy musical silence. He has not released an album since 1997's poorly-received Maladjusted and has been without a deal since Island Records declined to take up their option for a further two solo albums. A lot of things have changed in music since then, and many of them have left Morrissey seeming more disconnected than ever from what's happening in the UK. During the 80s, with The Smiths and in his early solo records like Everyday Is Like Sunday, he assembled an unprecedented and utterly unfamiliar persona for a pop singer - equal parts Philip Larkin, Oscar Wilde, Billy Fury and Les Dawson - and turned himself into the kind of star he had always worshipped as a teenager. The Smiths were far more than the moany student act of caricature: for the first and arguably only time, there was a band which rocked demonically yet had sufficient humour and intellectual content to captivate those who hid at the back of the hall too. And Morrissey polarised people. His song scenarious included being willingly seduced by a charming man in a charming car, being immolated like St Joan Of Arc and gaily stringing up every witless DJ in radioland. Either you fell at the feet of this skinny, flailing individual, who tossed bon mots around like confetti and behaved as if popular acclaimation had elected him King of the North of England - or you thought he was a prancing nancy boy who deserved a slap, in which case the joke was on you because you were only encouraging him.

Naturally, it couldn't last. On his own, Morrissey proved too brittle for Britpop and too unnerving for the Oasis era. Today adult introspection is catered for by Radiohead's obliqueness or Coldplay's sensitivity; teenage disaffection by the Americanised tropes of nu metal or hip hop more than the old-fashioned indie guitar. When Morrissey moved to Los Angeles in 1998, he apparently cut his ties with the one apparently indispensable facet of his life - his Englishness, or at least Anglo-Irishness. In The Smiths he had written about the private miseries of growing up in Manchester; as a solo artist, he'd ransacked everything from the Kray Twins to Brighton Rock to amateur boxing night at the York Hall gym in Bethnal Green for increasing violent characters to write about. Why on earth would he move to a place without history or human texture? Morrissey (rain, bleak humour) and Los Angeles (sun, cheery vapidity) seemed to be a contradiction in terms.

But there are signs that Los Angeles has been good for Morrissey. Last year he played his first European shows in three years to crowds which startled even the singer himself. I went to one of the first, at the Royal Albert Hall, and it was simply magnificent, an hour or so of sheer, concentrated theatrical energy (afterwards, everyone in the pub round the corner seemed to be talking about Morrissey, and as last orders drew near one drinker proposed a whip-round in the bar so that we could start our own label and sign him. There were many takers, and even talk of remortgages). The new songs Morrissey played that night indicated that life in Los Angeles might have rescued him from the solipsistic rut he inhabited on Maladjusted. There were two, Mexico and The First Of The Gang To Die, in which he sang movingly about the Mexican-Americans who have taken him to heart since he moved to the West Coast, and a funny and very-now sounding one called The World Is Full Of Crashing Bores, and a brilliant, defiant one called Irish Blood, English Heart. When he sang "Irish blood, English heart - this I'm made of/There is no-one on earth I'm afraid of" I found myself believing that maybe it could indeed all turn around for this man who once meant so much.

The Jag noses its way towards West Hollywood, where Morrissey lives, and below the rear-view mirror a silver cross and a Greek army dog-tag - thrown onstage by a fan in Athens - jangle against one another. Morrissey tells me he is "three dotted i's away" from signing a new record deal with the Sanctuary Music Group, home to Black Sabbath, Todd Rundgren and others of the never-say-die fanbase contingent. As a dowry, they are giving him his own label, the resurrected 60s and 70s reggae imprint Attack, along with the rights to its back catalogue and license to sign whomever he likes (this Morrissey finds especially delicious considering the stick he took in the late 80s for telling the NME that "Reggae is vile"). Recording of the album Irish Blood, English Heart should happen in the summer.

As a curtain-raiser, Morrissey has assembled a compilation of the songs that made him who is for Under The Influence, a rock-based offshoot of the Back To Mine dance compilation series. Featuring The Ramones, Diana Dors, Sparks and a male soprano singing about death just a short time before he succumbed to AIDS, it is wildly uncommercial by very enjoyable. "I did it because I love music," he said, as if that's a strange and private kink which most pop stars don't share. "And anyway what's the point in filling it with songs that everyone's got?"

What would be the ideal listening environment for the record?

"It would be handy to be stuck in traffic, I think. The East India Dock Road at 5 o'clock on a Friday... I love music and I love my cars [He has an Aston Martin V7 Vantage as well as the Jag]. I find driving very liberating. It's a shame that it's destroying the planet, but when you are on your own, your mind clears and you drive to relax the brain, even though it is now wholly associated with road rage."

And does he observe the English rules of the road while in Los Angeles?

"Oh I don't observe any rules at all. Driving or otherwise."

Describe your typical day in Los Angeles.

Oh, get up, breakfast... Boring already. I don't have a typical day. I don't know where I'm going to be two hours from now, which I now find quite exciting. Los Angeles was just the place I happened to find myself situated. It could have been Paisley, it could have been Perth, it could have been... I don't know, Norris Green. Simply because you're in a maelstrom of madness doesn't mean you participate in it, and I truly am oblivious to what goes on down the hill from this house. Please don't imagine that I came to Los Angeles to surf or work out. I know it's happening here somewhere but I could never do any of that.

How do you feel when you go back to the UK?

I don't feel especially like a stranger, although obviously when you have been away for great gaps of time it can be hard to pick up the thread of things. And I don't just mean EastEnders. You do get the sense that the country has moved on and you are not really involved any more, which is quite sad. But I think I can live with it. I miss the common, daily things, the general gossip of what's happening and why. About how pathetic the Government is, how British television is deteriorating, how music is horrendously-structured... In America you can't even talk about something you both saw on TV last night. There's too many channels.

Many of the recent big hits on American television have been British imports, like Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?, The Weakest Link and Pop Idol.

Quite so, and they're to the detriment of American society. Even the BBC America channel is positively vile. It shows Changing Rooms back to back for nine hours.

It's not that bad, surely. They show the news, and Father Ted.

Father Ted? (Pained expression). Ugh. You see, I don't find humour funny. That's my problem. What I find funny is things like Alan Bennett, or Jo Brand, or Victoria Wood. In the early 80s she completely changed the face of television comedy, not just for women by for men too. I admire her for that. She was revolutionary.

When you come back from England, do you do the expatriate trick of smuggling in a jar of Marmite, teabags and the Manchester Evening News?

No, because when you live here you learn your secret ways of laying your hands on important things like imported teabags. I have my ways. I am a devoted Ceylon tea man, and I like incredibly weak tea. Cadbury's chocolate is of course essential. Americans are terrible at confectionery, and cheese too, whereas the vegetarian cheese in England I find absolutely dazzling. There is a bakery here that has a huge cheese selection but of course it all contains rennet - until I demonstrated against it, with my little placard. Now they have three very fine Welsh vegetarian cheeses. It's very much like getting a ramp at the public library. You have to agitate for your right.

What can you cook?

I'm very good with pasta, but I have the most boring palate. I'd cry if I had to eat curry, or what's commonly referred to as "a Chinese".

Who comes to visit you in Los Angeles?

Many people. World figures. The oddest people. Nancy Sinatra came a few weeks ago. I served tea, which she wisely did not drink. We talked about her, her music and her life - she knows absolutely everything about my music, which is extraordinary. She's recording a new song of mine called Let Me Kiss You, which makes me very, very happy. My mother and sister don't come to Los Angeles too often; my mum doesn't like Americans.

Your music has often been quite hard on your upbringing. Barbarism Begins At Home is a howl of protest against being beaten, the child in Used To Be A Sweet Boy goes wrong in some unspecified way, Late Night, Maudlin Street is a straightforward attack on the misery of the family home... how does you mum feel about all this?

Early on the music was quite harsh, yes, but that has changed. Generally she likes it, although it is all autobiographical. I did get the clip around the head occasionally, but I probably deserved it. I was a very noisy child. I always stood in front of the television, I wouldn't go to bed, and then I discovered music at the age of six and played it loud, continuously, all day from that point onwards. I would sing, non-stop, which must have been unbearable. I was surprised they were so tolerant of me, to be honest.

Is your father still around? Are you like him?

Yes, he is. And yes, I am, in certain respects. Why?

Because your Irishness is coming to the fore. You've written a song called Irish Blood, English Heart, you've started to say "Jaysus", you now pronounce the word "any to rhyme with "Annie"...

That's interesting. But even when The Smiths recorded Please Please Please Let Me Get What I Want there were thousands of letters saying "This is Foster and Allen" or something similar. I've never had a Manchester accent. I've always had a very soft voice and I was raised by my mother's side of the family, who were very Irish. I never sounded Mancunian, for which I thank God every day.

What does your father do?

He does... certain things. Useful things. Let's leave it at that.

Who do you admire?

There are certain people in modern pop who I am very impressed with. People like Bono and Noel Gallagher. I like them enormously. I understand Bono and I think he is worth supporting. When you meet him, you can see why he is very good at that ambassadorial role. He exudes a great sense of ease and enthusiasm. That's a gift. I've met him a few times. The first time was when I presented an award to him in Belfast about six years ago, and we talked at length. You can see he's a very loving and decent person and actually not remotely pretentious. And I think I understand Liam and Noel too. They've done so much for Manchester music, and saleswise they've put so many people in their. They're very natural. They present themselves as they truly, absolutely are, which is admirable. They don't try to present some rock persona.

Some people would say that's exactly what they do.

I think they're very honest. I haven't had many dealings with them but I met Liam on the plane to Dublin, and I met Noel a few months ago in Australia. Liam was absolutely convivial. It is one of the tricks of the papers to make people out to be monsters, and you meet them and they're terribly sweet and quiet.

And who do you hate?

In music? A lot of people. Although I now feel that, somehow in their own peculiar way, almost everybody is doing their best. They're just not interesting to me because they know no better. In the wider world, George W and Tony Bland are insufferable, egotistical, insane despots. It is unforgivable of them to send people to Irag and certain death. Watching the war from here was astonishing. In this country American error is unthinkable, so you simply cannot watch the American news. I was here on September 11 and you could clearly see that it has given America another opportunity to bully people. When you come through airport customs, you must be abused and insulted. Americans are very big on people in authority and in uniform. In this country the police have absolute power - they can shoot you in the street and the courts will always side with them. So it is a very, very fascist country.

So why live here?

Well there's good and bad everywhere. Just because I live in a certain part of America, I don't accept everything that goes on here.

What's your working regimen here?

I don't work. I never really have. I don't consider what I do to be work. I just exist, and be. In terms of making records, a couple of the band live here. Boz has his other work, and some of the others like Spencer prefer to work only for me, so they just tend their freesias and wait for the call. For the signal in the sky. In the very early days. I remember Geoff Travis from Rough Trade telling me "You must have a Walkman for you work," and I walked away thinking, "What does he mean, work?" I can't conceive of what I do as a job. I object very strongly, for instance, to the word "performance". I don't think I have ever given a performance in my life - I've only ever been me. I live a certain life that is documented in recordings, but it is just a life.

So when was the last time you went to a recording studio?

I can't remember the last time. We convened the band before we toured at the end of last year, but I have never jammed, if that's what you're asking. I'm not the sort of person who likes to hang around a recording studio - I don't find that remotely interesting. But recorded noise I find fascinating.

The received wisdom of how The Smiths made records was that Johnny Marr would create the music entirely separately from you, and you would then arrive with lyrics which had also been created in isolation, and you would often do it in one take.

Yes, absolutely, and that is how it still goes on. I prefer a completely purist approach to everything. What I do is so precious and so pure that, as someone once said, touch it and the bloom is gone. The band and I do discuss the framework and the general identity of what the music will be, but how the records are actually made is a mystery to me. As you've implied, I arrive and swish my cloak and I express. It is a highly charged and precious moment. If it doesn't exist in the first three takes, it never will exist. I do three at most. It's a splurge and it's a cleansing and it's a burst. I could never lose that spontaneity.

How do you feel about the new grown-up British rock bands - people like Radiohead or Coldplay?

Well I certainly envy the way they've been promoted, because I have never experienced that. With Coldplay, if you fail with that amount of promotion you must be pretty atrocious. They have been hammered into American society. The music mystifies me, because I don't understand why I have the monopoly on the word "miserable". Both of those bands sound very unhappy, with not a sign of a witty lyric. I might be wrong but I don't understand how they've escaped that accusation. I can't say I've enjoyed their records, no.

Robbie Williams is now your neighbour here in Los Angeles. Why do you think the Americans haven't taken to him?

He is being absolutely foisted on America - so much money has been invested that there has to be a return somehow. But Americans have their own people playing that "straightforward entertainer" role, and his Cheeky Chappie thing doesn't play here. Americans construe it as being rude, just as they never took to Noel and Liam for the same reasons. What we enjoy in England, the Americans are repulsed by. Americans are actually terribly polite and they don't like boorish people. Personally I think that almost everything about Robbie Williams is fantastic... apart from the voice and the songs. He seems to have everything in place, the photos are fantastic, he's reasonably amusing, he's undeterred and he's not precious about what he does. I admire all of that. But I just can't remember the songs.

Did you hear TATU's version of How Soon Is Now?

Yes, it was magnificent. Absolutely. Again, I don't know much about them

They're the teenage Russian lesbians.

Well, aren't we all?

Morrissey lives in Clark Gable's old house. Next door, Johnny Depp lives in Boris Karloff's old house - in 1939, Depp's driveway appeared as the Yellow Brick Road in The Wizard Of Oz. "I feel I ought to go over and borrow a cup of sugar," says Morrissey, "But when you approach people you don't know over here, they immediately start backing away. They're all obsessed with 'Armed Response'." Morrissey has had his own brushes with the US entertainment world. The Drew Carey Show used Girlfriend In A Coma for an episode in which Drew's girlfriend was, yes, comatose. Friends was very enthusiastic about having Morrissey on as a guest star, in a similar capacity as his friend Chrissie Hynde when she sang on the tiny stage in Central Perk. The producers were unsure if they wanted Morrissey to do a song, but they knew the punchline. Phoebe was to hug him and say "Oh Morrissey, you're just so miserable." "As you could imagine, I turned on my heels and ran," he says.

The Morrissey residence is a cool, high-ceilinged house in a quiet, serpentine street up the hill off Sunset Boulevard. It could not differ more from the pinky-blue stores and ranch-themed steak joints down the hill. In his parlour Morrissey has an overstuffed brocade settee, a Thai love goddess sitting in his fireplace, a crystal ball on the coffee table ("It doesn't work"), a giant brass lion, a disconnected neon sign from the Virgin Megastore which reads MORR ISSEY over the fire and no TV. A heavy, locked bookcase contains biographies of Steve McQueen and other Hollywood stars, and there are bongoes by the patio door. There are bits of Mexican silver everywhere, and a keyring with ESTEBAN stamped on a little replica of a Mexican license plate. It's all rather sybaritic. Another room, however, is less sensually-inclined. It contains a flatscreen G4 Powermac and a giant plasma screen TV.

And there are framed black and white pictures everywhere - it's like being surrounded by Smiths record sleeves. Morrissey and his sister Jacqueline, when Morrissey was one year old ("Moments after that was taken, she tried to kill me"). Millwall FC over the bed and Johnny Thunders and David Johansen of the New York Dolls in the bathroom. Boxer Billy Conn, an Irishman from Pittsburgh famed for losing to Joe Louis in 1942, presides over the dining area and Bobby Moore over the stairs. And over the toilet is a signed portrait of Diana Dors. "Some people find it hard to go when someone's looking," says Morrissey. "But not me."

The house, he feels, is a refuge. Friends visit often. In 2000 Kirsty MacColl, who'd sung on Interesting Drug and The Smiths' Ask and had been married to Morrissey's producer Steve Lillywhite, came over. She'd heard that he had been to Mexico - was it nice? Should she take the kids? Morrissey told her she absolutely must, must go. The day she arrived in Mexico she was killed by a speedboat which was in a swimming area. "She is irreplaceable to me," Morrissey says.

Fans, inevitably, have found him here. Knots of people often wait at the gate; if Morrissey does not give enough of his time, they can be abusive. "You don't choose your fans but you sure know how to lose them," is a standard taunt, which Morrissey thought was quite witty at first. Then he realised it was common currency among the kind of people who wait at pop stars' gates. His house has been broken into twice. Once the burglars stole a car, which was frightening because Morrissey was in the house at the time, but also sort of reassuring because at least they were just thieves - they didn't want to talk to him. A few weeks before the Iraq war, he founds a note stuck between the railings, from someone called Enrico. It said he was going to the Gulf and he must speak with Morrissey before he went. "What can you say?" Morrissey wonders. "Go? Don't go? Go but don't shoot anybody?" Again, there is nothing you can say that will make anything better."

The worst thing about living in Los Angeles, Morrissey thinks, is the food. You can't get a decent vegetarian meal for love nor money. Most nights he eats at home.

Your music is quite British and Anglo-Saxon. Why do you think you've made this unexpected connection with the Hispanic world?

I think you'll find they prefer to be called Mexican - "Hispanic" is the soft-radio term - and I don't think the connection is so strange. I have a great fondness for Mexican society and culture. When you go to Mexico, you constantly hear people singing and music playing, and it's very soft, loving music, not harsh, brittle hip hop or very nasty urban social messages. I don't know what the connection is, to be honest, but it is there. It might be the emotional outpouring, which Mexicans also do very well: the high pitch and the stretching-out of songs. The songs are reaching out towards people and asking for some form of communication, they're not mumbled or sung into the chest. Their music is very out and there is a great sense of building rhythm. It could be that.

Several of your new songs are about Mexican life. There’s The First Of The Gang To Die, where the typical Morrissey boy-hero is a gangster called Hector, and Mexico, about migrant workers. Isn’t this the first time you’ve written about people who aren’t British?

It’s about time isn’t it? I do like social observation and these seemed like natural subjects for my kind of songs. It is a fascinating culture, but also the Spanish-speaking audience is so valuable in America these days. Everybody wants the “Hispanic” audience. I have to say, though, that I don’t watch Spanish television any more than English television. It’s unwatchable, it’s just people cheering and applauding all the way through and you never know why.

How is your Spanish?

It’s not bad. I can get by. In Denmark.

The 90s were quite a hard time for you. You were pilloried as a racist for producing the Union Jack onstage at a Madness show in Finsbury Park in 1992, yet within a couple of years British pop culture had wrapped itself in the flag. Did you feel vindicated by Britpop?

I did in a way. So many of those groups were citing The Smiths that I was surprised by the across-the-board rejection of me in the mid-90s. There were a lot of really horrible things written about me then.

Is that strictly true? I recall Vauxhall & I being lauded to the rafters.

Yes, but I had more chance of being struck by lightning than having a record played on the radio. Television and radio producers have, I think, just decided that they don’t like me, possibly because I am simply too real for their media today. And in the press, two weeks after Vauxhall & I went straight in at number one in 1994 it was right back to the assumption that the racism thing had seen me off. Unfortunately when the press turn against you, everyone turns against you.

I wonder if that’s really the case. For many years now, you’ve been writing songs which said “I’m bad news, I’m damaged goods.” There’s A Place In Hell For Me And My Friends, Satan Rejected My Soul, I Am Hated For Loving, Trouble Loves Me, Used To Be A Sweet Boy, even Unloveable from The Smiths’ days. Is it possible that you sang these things so often, they became true?

Possibly. But I wasn’t always singing about me. I was often – if not usually – singing in character. Anyway it should not matter if the contribution you’ve made to pop music is significant enough to set such things aside.

Why did you wave the Union Jack at the Madness show?

Truly, honestly, I can’t remember. It was not a great choreographed plan, it was just there. I wasn’t making any statement.

What, in front of Madness’s audience?

No, it was not necessarily a statement. What happened was that the NME led the charge. They decided to get rid of me and this was their chance. From being the New Morrissey Express, with me in it every other week, it had gone to the point when they actively wanted to drive me out of their world. They had a board meeting and decided ‘Morrissey must go’.

What goes through you mind when you’re onstage?

The joy of final human fulfilment. There’s nothing to touch it. It’s as good as life gets, and never more so than the last string of dates I did in Blackburn, Bradford and Glasgow. They were the best nights of my life. The audiences were so astonishing and I though, “There is nothing that life can give me that will take me beyond these night.”

What is the current state of play in your legal dispute with Mike Joyce? [The Smiths’ drummer was awarded £1.25m in back royalties in 1996; Morrissey lost an appeal in 1998]

The appeal comes to court at the end of June. He has put a charge on my mother and sisters’ houses, and it is astonishing that that could happen. In the 1996 trial Judge John Weeks made a very wayward judgment which told Joyce he was a 25 per cent partner who can have whatever he wanted. But the judge did not explain to Joyce how he could get the money. As every contract was always with Morrissey and Marr, no company will recognise Joyce so he’s issuing writs left, right and centre. He has been at the stage door of every concert I’ve played recently, trying to get money. He is a purely evil person and he has persecuted my mother, my nephews and sister, but he presents the public face of a person who’s hard done-by and has been thrown to the wayside.

Yet Johnny and I looked after and protected him throughout his time with The Smiths. He never had to make one creative decision. His drum patterns were all designed by Johnny. He never had to sit in on any intense business meetings, which is how Johnny and I had to face every single day. We even looked after his tax. Joyce went into court with no witnesses and no evidence, and stood against a mass of evidence and witnesses, against all of which the judge simply said “this did not happen”. The judge had obviously been primed on my character, and told that I had written about Thatcher and the Queen. It’s likely that Thatcher had appointed the judge. So I was not a very sympathetic character whereas Joyce was playing the part of the wounded soldier.

In his summing-up, the judge famously characterised you as “devious, truculent and unreliable.” Why do you think he described you that way?

I think he knew it would stick with the media. Because his findings were so wrong and perverse, he had to make that extreme comment or people might have examined his judgement a bit more closely, and seen that his reasons for finding in favour of Joyce were non-existent. So he described me as three things which I am not and I have never been. And the following week the word “truculent” was painted across the door of my mother’s house.

The merits of the case aside, isn’t it a shame that this ensures there will never be a lap of honour for The Smiths? No Smiths Anthology, no reunion tour?

Yes, but it’s all about money and greed. Mike Joyce has destroyed The Smiths, he’s put a slur on the whole thing with his greed and there is no way back. The Smiths will now not be reappraised or reassessed. What I find particularly abhorrent is that Joyce began legal action in the late 80s and early 90s, and then he worked with me for a while in which time he never mentioned that case. When I told him that I did not want to work with him any longer, that’s when he reactivated his case.

Are you well off?

No, and I think that has propelled Joyce somewhat. When I signed to RCA and did the Southpaw Grammar album it was announced that I had signed a £9 million deal. In truth I received £250,000. And when I signed to Mercury in 1996, Q magazine said I was in line to receive £21 million! People actually believe these things. What I got was a mere dusting of that amount. I mean, I can go on trips to Mexico, I treat myself to First Class travel and nice hotels, I have a reasonably nice car and I own this house, but I am not well off. I don’t see money from tours either. They are very successful but on the last two or three, I’ve had not a Mars bar to show for it at the end. That’s not why I do them, of course, but people think you are rolling in it and I’m not.

Did the case bring you any closer to Johnny Marr?

Johnny settled eventually. He watched the way my appeals ran and when they were rejected, he settled. From what I can gather, Marr despises Joyce. I’ve not seen Johnny often. We saw one another at the court case and we have got together privately a couple of times, but the case didn’t especially bring us closer together because although the criticism of me has been so relentless, Johnny has never dispelled it. He didn’t stand up and say “No, Morrissey is not devious, truculent or unreliable.” He could have fought Joyce more forcefully. For those reasons, a wedge has occurred.

Again, disregarding the court case, did The Smiths achieve what you wanted them to achieve?

More so. Much more. I saw The Smiths as an extension of my feelings towards music, and the way I wanted to be that dissenting voice, the person who brushed against and not with. And that happened. I was instantly perceived as quite abnormal, which is exactly what I wanted. The Smiths were anarchic. The sound was very thin and shambolic, exactly the opposite of the gleaming A-Ha sound where everything was very fleshy and the voices sounded cylindrical, as if they were coming from outer space. And in the midst of it was my little treble. It’s hard to imagine now how different things were then. Today everyone wants to be different and alternative and interesting, but there was no-one like that around back then. Only us. Even at Rough Trade, people would say, “Oh yes, you’re in the running but don’t have high hopes.” And instead it always happened for us. There were so many fantastic victories for The Smiths, even though there was never any promotion. This is why I’m envious of Coldplay and Radiohead. If we – I – could have had that, I tremble at the possibilities.

When Johnny Marr left The Smiths in 1987 it was completely unexpected. There has been a sense of unfinished business ever since.

There’s no doubt that The Smiths could have gone on and would have got better too. I thought it could have easily run to twenty albums. All we needed was a rest. But Johnny made a dreadful decision and I think he’s spent the last thirteen years trying to justify it. You have to remember that he was very, very young and also an extraordinary musician, and I don’t think he’s ever been replaced. When you hear the complexity and uniqueness of what he did within Nowhere Fast or Is It Really So Strange?, you see very clearly that no-one has come near him. But I don’t see how we could or would make music together again.

What do you worry about?

I have a lot of business pressures. There are three court cases and Joyce has caused so much pain in my family. I worry that I find so much modern music atrocious, and unpalatable – because I do love music, and I want to like, and to be able to join in. I don’t want to come across as mealy-mouthed Disgusted of Tunbridge Wells but most people who are currently successful have absolutely nothing to offer. I long for someone to reach out and startle me, and say something that means something. I long for someone a little bit like me.

What do you regret?

Never having proper managerial guidance. Never having someone to whom I can turn. I always feel that I stand alone, in every sense.

On the way out of Morrissey’s house, I wondered how it is that talking to him had been so easy this time. Every previous Morrissey press engagement I’d been aware of had been a nightmare of shifting dates, changing plans, endless negotiation and picture approval – the guilty secret of the entertainment industry, whereby artists are allowed to select the photographs which show them as they prefer to be seen and veto others. For this interview, there had been none of that stuff. For a couple of days Morrissey had put himself at our disposal. I wondered if it’s because he’s living the unstructured Hollywood life he talked about, or if he’s genuinely mellowed, or if he just doesn’t have much else to do.

In the driveway, he asked a favour. He wanted to modify a few of the things he said. “Please don’t have me say anything unpleasant about Coldplay and Radiohead,” he said “There’s no point to it, it just looks silly and mean. They’re perfectly good bands, they’re just not to my taste.”

You called them Oldplay and Radiodead.

“I know. But I say a lot of things I don’t mean.”

And that was something I’d never heard from Morrissey before.
Re: 6449 words - I won't do that again in a hurry

You get an A for effort Stu!
Thanks for that, its much easier to read then the scanned article.

What about a round of applause for my efforts?
I had to take the computer apart to find out why the scanner wasn't working, then put it all back together again.

*NB: if any of you have a scanner that apparently does not work, try checking that the plug is pushed in firmly to the mains before you take your computer apart.
just noticed...

Each Moz reply to Mr Harrison was indented in my original Word document to make the distinction between his words and those of the interviewer - forgot that this would be lost when I posted it here. Sorry if it's unclear at all as a result.

> Great...while I was slaving away doing this someone's scanned that bugger!

> I urge everyone to try and get a copy of the mag for themselves, as it's a
> small-scale enterprise produced with a genuine passion - if anyone cares
> about good writing on such subjects then your support couldn't be better
> placed.

> Note that I've corrected the odd factual and typo as I've caught them
> (probably adding more as I go, for which I apologise).

this isn't what i was expecting, but its appreciated! i've been put out of my misery and its good.

just when i was contemplating ordering directly from the magazine, i suppose now i can wait for it to show up at the bookstore.

Thank you for your efforts- mucho mucho mucho appreciated!!


thanks stu! now i can't wait to get my hands on a hard copy
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