Was/Is Morrissey Racist?

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Bengali in Platforms? National Front Disco? Asian Rut?

What was he trying to say? Why the silence ever since on this issue? Can an artist flirt with the Union Jack/Skinhead Imagery and get away with it? Were you at Finsbury Park?

Dr. C, Sunday, 3 February 2002 01:00 (seventeen years ago) Permalink

w. national front disco i have always considered that as a response dripping with irony and sarcasm . but i have to reconiser it the more i think about it the more difficult it becomes ,

anthony, Sunday, 3 February 2002 01:00 (seventeen years ago) Permalink

Let's ask Tjinder Singh.

Keiko, Sunday, 3 February 2002 01:00 (seventeen years ago) Permalink

Racist?
Bengali In Platforms - questionable, I put it down to bad phrasing myself.
National Front Disco - no
Asian Rut - no, but arguably quite naieve.
Did anyone see Andrew Collins pop up on the SOTCAA forum? He basically said the whole Morrissey = racist thing was the result of a slow news day and a misjudged gesture by Moz himself...

DG, Sunday, 3 February 2002 01:00 (seventeen years ago) Permalink

Oh, and somewhere I have an NME from 1999 where a fan wrote in (possibly after one of Swell's imaginative tirades) with tons of quotes, mostly from Les Inrockuptibles (or whatever it's called) where Moz explicitly denies being racist, so it would appear he only kept his mouth shut to the UK press.

DG, Sunday, 3 February 2002 01:00 (seventeen years ago) Permalink

About ten years ago the industry rumour spread that The Moober had expressed some unexpectedly virulent views about Anglo-Asians at an otherwise civilised dinner party, which is why NME went after him, trying to pin him down to an 'I Love Everybody' quote. Which he never gave. I have no idea whether said remarks were ever made, but after he was clouted by a carton of fruit juice while pratting around in front of an audience of skinheads at the Madness reunion show, one wit filled in the section 'Drink of the Year' in the 'Select' poll as 'the orange juice which hit Morrissey'. Touche! Murray Chalmers at Parlophone would probably know, I guess, but I bet he ain't saying. (See also Dave Haslam's patchy book on DJs, which has some very interesting and dubious quotes from the man. BTW in Bill Buford's daft if engrossing 1991 book on football hooliganism 'Among The Thugs, the author visits a National Front disco (his exact phrase) in Bury St Edmunds, a singularly unglamorous event.

Snotty Moore, Sunday, 3 February 2002 01:00 (seventeen years ago) Permalink

I still have that NME. Some of the quotes they used to sugggest he was racist were laughable, to put it mildly. Stuff like 'I hate Diana Ross' 'Hang the DJ' and so forth. His flirtation with the flag was ill-judged, of course, but I have strong doubts as to whether he is/was acually racist. I wonder if the people who thought this are similar to those who think that 'Amelie' is a racist film because there are barely any black faces on the screen.

Daniel, Sunday, 3 February 2002 01:00 (seventeen years ago) Permalink

No, just a Northern socialist conservative. 70s Labour, not 70s NF.

Robin Carmody, Sunday, 3 February 2002 01:00 (seventeen years ago) Permalink

I think we have to ask in what way art can be 'racist'?

While it might be easy to accuse a company of racism if it failed to employ people because of their racial origin, and while we might call someone a racist if they expressed the opinion that Chinese were 'inferior', it's difficult to say that a pop song is similar to an employment policy or a personal opinion.

A pop song usually has all the ambiguity of any work of art, and it was this ambiguity that Morrissey had every right to preserve by maintaining his silence in the face of the NME's inquisition.

Mr Morrissey employed characters. Some were Bengali. (This was already more than most songwriters did, and probably laudable). Mr Morrissey employed narrators to tell his stories. His narrators had a position within the song. They were perhaps characters, perhaps proxies for the author. As usual with art, we will never know. The songs contained voices which said things like 'Life is difficult enough when you belong here' or 'Three against one, that can't be fair'. If these were statements made in a fist fight, we would judge them according to context. In a song, we cannot. They are just hanging there: provocative, yes, racist, no.

There's an interesting parallel with an exhibition held in the early 90s by Pruitt and Early called The Black Show. They collected together artifacts of 'blackness'. They made no earnest Adrian Piper-like statements of condemnation, just presented these stereotypes and totems without comment. They were hounded out of the art world in the ensuing controversy. It took Rob Pruitt about eight years to be accepted once again as a serious artist. He now paints pandas.

Momus, Sunday, 3 February 2002 01:00 (seventeen years ago) Permalink

Whether or not a piece of 'art' can be racist in itself may be debatable, but there is such a thing as intention on the creator's part (see D.W. Griffith, Richard Wagner, Celine, to take three popular forms. In the case of Mozferatu he was paddling in some pretty murky pools, especially for someone who deliberately portrayed himself as an outsider, sensitive to your pain, young fan. (Then again, he did actually possess a fan base, some of whom might have been impressionable.) The many Smiths shows I saw in the eighties had a far higher proportion of British Asian youth present than other bands attracted, who deserved an explanation far more than the NME. And even 'conservative Labour' types of the seventies were quite often as intolerant as their supposed opponents, as anyone who recalls the Tatchell (Labour) V Mellish (Old Labour... honestly) by- election in Bermondsey, a dirty 'left-left' V 'right-left' battle which let in the Lib Dems, will know. BTW did the artist in question ever take a actual beating for his 'controversial' work? Or was that treat reserved for plebs of a darker pigment, as usual?

Snotty Moore, Sunday, 3 February 2002 01:00 (seventeen years ago) Permalink

There's a cool book that discusses this subject at length called 'Sounds English' by Nabeel Zuberi (2001). His conclusion is that Morrissey is not so much racist as nationalistic. His attraction to skinheads is read along homoerotic lines, naturally.

Michael Dieter, Monday, 4 February 2002 01:00 (seventeen years ago) Permalink

This morrissey certainly isn't - the evidence surrounding my namesake suggests something different

leigh morrissey, Monday, 4 February 2002 01:00 (seventeen years ago) Permalink

Clearly voices within a pop song can express views which are not those of the author. Momus is right that in many cases we'll never know. In Morrissey's case especially, I'm not so keen on the rigid separation of art and the artist. One of the clearest distinctions between The Smiths and other pop was the directness of Morrissey's songs, both in use of language and richness of personal experience. Why should we be so swift to assume that only the unpalletable stuff should be in the third person, if we also assume that say, How Soon is Now isn't?

Dr. C, Monday, 4 February 2002 01:00 (seventeen years ago) Permalink

'How Soon Is Now' has exactly the same ambiguity. A lot of Morrissey's songs present you with the paradox of a handsome, successful 30-something man singing the sentiments of an ugly, failed adolescent. Did the NME or anyone else pipe up about that paradox and accuse him of being a liar? Did they parade before him the evidence of his success (his house in Chelsea, his wealth, the queues of young Britons of both sexes lining up to be his concubines) and condemn the songs? Of course not. Like a pantomime audience, they accepted that the middle-aged TV star was supposed to represent a young prince.

Keeping our pantomime metaphor, the racism episode was when Morrissey became the pantomime villain and got hissed for reasons as arbitrary as those for which he was applauded when he was the 'famous international playboy' in role as the 'November monster' (one fiction playing another).

The reasons for the press's change in attitude may be many -- sympathy with Marr, a preference for Rough Trade over EMI, a sense of boredom with Morrissey's domination of the music press, an effort to clear the decks for the 90s, the fact that many journalists had been converted by the acid house revolution to the dance music Morrissey so despised, and even, I would suggest, some homophobia, since Morrissey's actual interest in these songs about skinheads and Bengalis may well come from a sexual interest in both (cf Hanif Kureshi's 'My Beautiful Launderette', which I think we can assume kindled M's interest quite a bit, and shows a skin overcoming prejudice by developing a crush on one of his former victims).

Momus, Monday, 4 February 2002 01:00 (seventeen years ago) Permalink

Here is the NME's own version of events. Andrew Collins blithely admits that he doesn't think Morrissey was really a racist. They were just enraged by M's failure to clarify his use of the Union Jack at Madstock. Collins ends by failing to clarify his own subsequent use of the Union Jack to promote Britpop at Select.

Subject: Re: NME disappearing up its own PR [ Previous Message ] Posted By Andrew Collins on Thu Jul 26 15:41:34 BST 2001:

I never said the Morrissey witch-hunt issue was real journalism, Jon. I said it was "real" journalism, ie. closer to journalism than the shit we usually did. I was at Madstock and the crowd were pretty dodgy, some of them - fat, middle-aged skins who looked like they hadn't come out of their North London pub since Madness's heyday. Whether Moz is/was a racist or not was less important than the fact that he was flirting with far right imagery - like a cultural tourist - and not going on record about his reasons, or his real feelings. He could have stopped that cover story with one statement. He chose to remain enigmatic and distant, compounding his error. There was an artificial excitement in the office over those two days (we dropped Kylie from the cover for Moz you know!) At first, as features editor, I refused to get involved, but I was ordered by my boss into the big emergency staff meeting, and once the decision was made, it was up to the senior staff (me, Danny Kelly and Stuart Maconie) to get the copy done, along with an excellent piece by Dele Fadele who is black and could therefore offer a perspective none of us NME white boys could. (Dele was furious about Moz's actions and needed no coercion to write.) All I did was compile Morrissey's faux-racist quotes from every interview he'd ever done, and collate the lyrics. My own personal opinion never appeared, but I was part of the staff and stood by the issue. It asked questions of an increasingly remote but still hugely influential artist who refused to answer them. There are very few issues of NME from that period that anybody remembers let alone still talks about. We did our job.

Then Stuart and I left and "reclaimed" the Union Jack for the Select British issue.

Momus, Monday, 4 February 2002 01:00 (seventeen years ago) Permalink

**A lot of Morrissey's songs present you with the paradox of a handsome, successful 30-something man singing the sentiments of an ugly, failed adolescent**

He once WAS that ugly failed adolescent, wasn't he? Perhaps not exactly as described in HSIN, but certainly something similar.

So why not a possibility that the right-wing persona could be *him*.

Dr. C, Monday, 4 February 2002 01:00 (seventeen years ago) Permalink

'he chose to remain enigmatic and distant, compounding his error'

'He chose to remain enigmatic and distant' = he was an artist, who knows that you have no obligation to explain away your art's ambiguities and ironies with simple statements in a Jimmy Hill voice to the press.

'Compounding his error' = we, the NME, have our own game plan for 'Moz' (we even have a different name for him). It is through us that he tells the world what he 'means', and it is for us to tell him when he is making mistakes. We are deeply invested in him because he sells a lot of papers for us. If he stops talking to us we are in trouble. We will make him pay. We will find some slur that will stick, then he will be sorry.

Momus, Monday, 4 February 2002 01:00 (seventeen years ago) Permalink

i find skinheads sexy , its playing with the working class , does this make me racist or one in a rather long history of upper middle class slummers . I think this is one of the things we are missing , maybe with his house in chelsea et al morissey was moving out of his social place ,maybe he was trying to top as a bottom , economically speaking ?

anthony, Monday, 4 February 2002 01:00 (seventeen years ago) Permalink

I don't think El Mobo is racist (I think 'Bengali in Platforms' is possibly the best evidence to suggest he is, and even that is just massively solipsistic, using a caricature as a metaphor for his own kosmic alienation). However, I do think his career is based on a perverse enjoyment of the frissons of deviance. In the beginning there was the undecideability of sexuality: was he gay/straight/asexual etc. The skinhead thing has an element of this, as has been pointed out, but I'm sure he also knows it has the frisson of the forbidden in political terms. There's certainly a flirtation there. Ironically, the reason he got all the stick at Madstock was that he was flirting with a constituency who would never accept him, ie Nutty boy Madness lads, for whom he will always be an insufferable ponce (in many ways, this is the story of his career). I think Morrissey's potency as a popstar is in his unique conflation of the political and the personal (I have a mad theory that, representing his own civil war, 'The Queen is Dead' is a version of 'Hamlet': all about fantasies of revenge and vacillation), and as such, the skinhead thing is kind of irresistable to him. Maybe you could say this flirtation is socially irresponsible, but I think we shouldn't expect popstars to be anything else.

Actually, now I come to think of it, the song that is most dubious or problematic is 'We'll Let You Know': 'we are the last truly British people you will ever (never want to) know'. It's ambivalent about a kind of rump of Englishness, implying that all that is left are the hateful aspects of English crowd culture. I think it's troublesome nature is kind of interesting, really - much more so than more ideologically clearcut representations.

Edna Welthorpe, Mrs, Monday, 4 February 2002 01:00 (seventeen years ago) Permalink

ok i sort of agree with you momus, but the artist who refuses to accept that his/her work *will* be mediated = the artist who is refusing to accept that anyone else evah sees or thinks about it, and does to it what they choose to (eg it leaves moz-world and enters other worlds, yes he can fight or not fight that, or play or not play, or DO SOMETHING ELSE ALTOGETHER — which would really have ben the smart response — but he can't moan when he fails to get the reaction he wants, seeing as his JOB is getting the reaction he wants)

hmm i don't think i put that very well: i am *so* on deadline and not supposed to be reading ILM

mark s, Monday, 4 February 2002 01:00 (seventeen years ago) Permalink

ie, art/music doesn't exist in a vacuum? context changes all?

gareth, Monday, 4 February 2002 01:00 (seventeen years ago) Permalink

If you really want context, I think the relevant facts are these.

Morrissey, well-known for severing ties with friends over real or imaginary slights, had already decided to cut the NME dead, probably because of editor Danny Kelly's undisguised partisanship for Johnny Marr. Morrissey's failure to speak to them (although, as noted above, he continued speaking volubly to people like Les Inrockuptibles in France) was as big a blow to the NME circa 1990 as it would have been for Oasis to cut them dead in 1997. They could have said lamely 'The biggest star in the music firmament will no longer talk to us.' Instead, they said 'The biggest star in the music firmament is, er, a racist! Down with him! Long live, er, Kingmaker and, er, The Wonder Stuff!'

Momus, Monday, 4 February 2002 01:00 (seventeen years ago) Permalink

'I never said the Morrissey witch-hunt issue was real journalism, Jon. I said it was "real" journalism, ie. closer to journalism than the shit we usually did. [WELL THAT'S DOWN TO YOU, ISN'T IT?] I was at Madstock and the crowd were pretty dodgy, some of them - fat, middle-aged skins who looked like they hadn't come out of their North London pub since Madness's heyday [DODGY, OBVIOUSLY1]. Whether Moz is/was a racist or not was less important than the fact that he was flirting with far right imagery - like a cultural tourist [LIKE SOMEONE WHO GOES ON SAFARI TO SEE NORTH LONDON PUB REGULARS AT PLAY!] - and not going on record about his reasons, or his real feelings. He could have stopped that cover story with one statement. He chose to remain enigmatic and distant [i.e., NOT SAYING 'HOW HIGH' WHEN IPC SAYS 'JUMP'], compounding his error. There was an artificial excitement in the office [IT CERTAINLY COMES ACROSS] over those two days (we dropped Kylie from the cover for Moz you know!) At first, as features editor, I refused to get involved, but I was ordered by my boss into the big emergency [IPC'S PRIORITIES ARE COOL!] staff meeting, and once the decision was made, it was up to the senior staff (me, Danny Kelly and Stuart Maconie) to get the copy done, along with an excellent piece by Dele Fadele who is black and could therefore offer a perspective none of us NME white boys could.[JUST THINK ABOUT THIS STATEMENT FOR A WHILE. LIKE REALLY THINK ABOUT IT.] (Dele was furious about Moz's actions and needed no coercion to write.) All I did was compile Morrissey's faux-racist quotes from every interview he'd ever done, and collate the lyrics. My own personal opinion never appeared [NO COMMENT, SEE PREVIOUS SENTENCE], but I was part of the staff and stood by the issue. It asked questions of an increasingly remote but still hugely influential artist who refused to answer them [...'FOR US']. There are very few issues of NME from that period that anybody remembers let alone still talks about. We did our job. '

Unless I've COMPLETELY got the wrong end of the stick (first time for everything) and 'Andrew Collins' is really...

dave q, Monday, 4 February 2002 01:00 (seventeen years ago) Permalink

Unfortunately Collins is all too real: I've heard him on the radio, and encountered him online.

The most intriguing thing about "We'll Let You Know" for me was the Battle of Hastings / Bayeux Tapestry (what it made *me* think of, anyway, or maybe an old regional TV thing about same) sequence of sounds in the middle of the song: his most self-conscious use of atmospherics rather than lyrics to evoke a certain atmosphere, his equivalent of the Luke Haines / Winchester Cathedral Choir version of "In The Bleak Midwinter". I'm not sure whether I think that bit of "We'll Let You Know" was better and more subtle than the vocal sections of the song, or just pathetically crude attempts to establish certain cultural associations. Put another way, I really can't work out my position on "We'll Let You Know" generally, even after all this time, which you could say is quite possibly what Morrissey intended.

The book "Sounds English" that Mike mentions looks interesting: any details?

Robin Carmody, Monday, 4 February 2002 01:00 (seventeen years ago) Permalink

NOT SAYING 'HOW HIGH' WHEN IPC SAYS 'JUMP'

This set off a fantasy sequence in my head in which David Bowie's 'Jump They Say', supposedly about his brother, is actually about another brother, Morrissey. Bowie had of course been through the same kind of witch-hunt for his supposed 'Hitler salute' at Victoria station. In the early 90s Bowie and Morrissey were performing together live and on record -- M did 'Drive In Saturday' live and B returned the compliment by singing 'I Know It's Gonna Happen Someday' on the same album as 'Jump'. The video for 'Jump' is set in a bleak corporate block -- much like IPC's chilly King's Reach Tower. Bowie always loved the idea of the messiah figure assassinated by the kids and the corporations; it's Ziggy, it's The Man Who Fell To Earth. Maybe it was also, briefly, Mozzy Stardust. (Morrissey shortly afterwards cut Bowie dead because of some imagined slight backstage at the Hollywood Bowl, I believe.)

Momus, Monday, 4 February 2002 01:00 (seventeen years ago) Permalink

He was trying to be the in-the-middle continuum figure at that time, was he not? Because besides all the Bowie covering and all, he also was doing "My Insatiable One" by Suhr-uede. Wasn't it you, Momus, who talked about seeing an early show by them and doing nothing but videotaping Justine at chest level?

Ned Raggett, Monday, 4 February 2002 01:00 (seventeen years ago) Permalink

I don't care, just so long as this debate exists. Because then, anytime anyone mentions Morrissey, I can just dismissively say "oh, yeah, that racist motherfucker" and get people to stop fucking talking about him.

Sterling Clover, Monday, 4 February 2002 01:00 (seventeen years ago) Permalink

Wasn't it you, Momus, who talked about seeing an early show by them and doing nothing but videotaping Justine at chest level?

It was indeed me. I still have the tape. It was partly because there was only one light at the Camden Falcon and it happened to be shining right down Justine's chest, making it look like a relief map of the paps of Jura.

Momus, Monday, 4 February 2002 01:00 (seventeen years ago) Permalink

I was told yesterday that Morrissey is Bob the Builder. Well "Slap me on the patio..."

Loop Dandy, Monday, 4 February 2002 01:00 (seventeen years ago) Permalink

Momus: somewhat unrelated to the actual issue, I agree with Mark -- I would go further than Mark, actually -- with regard to the public's right to declare pretty much any artist it chooses a racist, socialist, misogynist, or neurotic based solely on the content of the art itself. To say that this screen of "character" somehow mystifies the whole thing beyond the listener's comprehension is to basically smack the listener down and say "you are stupid," or at least "you are not allowed to have critical thinking skills": we can understand that an artist is "playing" a character and yet -- and note that this is unrelated to Morrissey -- we are still allowed to make decisions as to how the artist apparently feels about that character. To pretend otherwise is to say that Billy Bragg's "The Few" may actually be pro-racism or that unironically imperious busts of Lenin could theoretically be arguments for capitalism. People are not necessarily idiots, and while it may be better to shelve accusations in those instances where the "text" could be interpreted either way, this does not bar our essential ability to pass judgement when we think judgement is called for.

Morrissey's mistake was that his flirtation with the far right seemed largely a matter of aesthetics, and a matter of fashion. One could accuse of him "racism" not insofar as there's much evidence that he actually holds such beliefs, but insofar his willingness to flirt with them the way 90s bands flirted with trip-hop -- as if he were completely oblivious to how very important such issues were, and how his actions could very well make it that much more likely for thousands of Asian kids to get beaten bloody -- well, this is not a fine thing to do and not a fine thing to be glib or silent about, because it matters. The artist's God complex is that he is free to pick and choose signifiers from the air and invest them only with whatever meaning he thinks they have to him -- but then it ceases to be art, which is about communication, and becomes either impenetrable solipsism or drunken raving. Momus, you should not give artists a free pass on this any more than you should give it to bank managers or cab drivers: this "don't draw real-world conclusions from anything" is a route to making art either meaningless or completely dull.

Nitsuh, Monday, 4 February 2002 01:00 (seventeen years ago) Permalink

(Another way of putting this is that when we look at the Chinese man in the film of "Breakfast at Tiffany's" -- who is even more of a "character" than any narrator Morrissey's ever devised -- we're still learning something very real about how both the screenwriter and Rooney view, or are willing to view, Chinese men. To say we can't possibly make critical judgements about such things is to tie our hands and leave us at the mercy of artists who are often painfully oblivious to why anything might actually matter in the real world.)

Nitsuh, Monday, 4 February 2002 01:00 (seventeen years ago) Permalink

my point was more, yeh, give morrissey his "Art = A Free Pass" pass, but then you have to give the *same* pass to the NME: their project is also "artistically valid" ie its consequences in the world are of no relevance to its aesthetic success (also audience gets pass, but since its expression of *its* creative reworking doesn't on the whole manifest publicly, ILM excepted heh, this = a slight red herring)

anyway, if moz didn't want to play MassKult headgamez with stardom and slebrity, why sign to emi at all? it's a waste of global corporate outreach and he = a ToTaL LaYMuR as a result (cf dave q's only-too exact crit of the actual nme editorial gameplan: this shd have been a manipulative symbol-war of titans, using every field of media; instead SPM went uber-indie on everyone and (implicitly) made it just abt the music maaan... basically nme offered him the chance to be bowie and he fucked out)

mark s, Monday, 4 February 2002 01:00 (seventeen years ago) Permalink

(pah i am still not being v.clear i think)

mark s, Monday, 4 February 2002 01:00 (seventeen years ago) Permalink

This is from the "MOZ FAQ" at http://www.oz.net/~moz/faq/faqlyric.htm

"At the heat of the racist debate, the former NME editor Steve Sutherland wondered if Morrissey's alleged racism "might be a gay thing". "

I wonder if that quote is true?

Dickon Edwards, Monday, 4 February 2002 01:00 (seventeen years ago) Permalink

I have several questions here. First, isn't the "Union Jack" just the British flag? What is racist about that? Second, how is any of this different from the audience-baiting tactics so admired in people like Iggy Pop (who actually physically attacked the audience, right?) and the Velvet Underground (who terrorized with noise, supposedly). Is it less acceptable for a wuss like Morrissey, whose music is completely non-threatening, to wage a more subtle war with his audience? To me, it's just about the only interesting thing about the Smiths. It is especially easy for me to imagine why someone like Morrissey would want to build a wall between himself and his audience (alienation being his lifeblood and meal-ticket). Any fascist imagery could conceivably serve the dual purpose of parodying this separation between the Morrissey and his fans, and enhancing this separation by making the audience feel uncomfortable. The more salient question to me is, did you, as a Smiths fan, find this material repugnant or not, and if so, why did you continue listening to the Smiths?

Every single person I knew growing up who was a Smiths fan was Asian (mostly of Chinese descent, over here). I haven't heard any of the Smith's songs in question, but from their titles I'm guessing they portray the same beautiful losers as all the other Smiths' songs I have heard. Anyway, it is impossible for me to fathom that some paki-bashing yob could have been inspired by Morrissey (of all people!) Or was England in the 80's really like this?

Kris, Monday, 4 February 2002 01:00 (seventeen years ago) Permalink

I just looked at the lyrics to "Asian Rut", and sure enough it's the same comically macabre melodrama as everything else I've heard from them. What is supposed to be offensive about stuff like this? It would be like ladies from Nantucket getting cross over a dirty limerick.

Kris, Monday, 4 February 2002 01:00 (seventeen years ago) Permalink

First note: if you're looking for an excuse for Morrissey, the clear starting point is that no one got upset about his hard-on for other types of non-racist Bad People, as there was no ideology to attach to them -- but surely we can imagine his previous subject-characters were as violent and nasty as the skins, if for different purposes. I don't subscribe to this line of reasoning, but still.

Kris, I think you're entirely right -- particularly w/r/t fans and what Smiths fandom actually "meant" in the public sphere. I, anyway, was at no point bothered in any deep sense by listening to the Smiths / Morrissey, and never imagined that Morrissey's flirtations with near-racist symbols actually reflected near-racist ideology on his own part. It did, however, make me like him a lot less as time went on: it is one thing to traffic in such symbols in the process of making a relevant artistic statement, but to toy mutely with them for no massive purpose strikes me as dumb and glib and something of a mockery of how very real and threatening and Actually Quite Serious such symbols are. It made Morrissey look like a decent artist who really needed to stick with his own neuroses and keep his nose out of cultural politics for fear of hugely embarrassing himself.

I wrote in something a while ago that "conservatism" can be a very lovely thing in pop music, when it is only aesthetic and the actual workings of the world are not at stake -- thus Morrissey's paens to vanishing Anglicisms never struck me as actually reactionary. But as he toed lines between aesthetics and cold hard reality he raised the possibility that those paens weren't purely aesthetic or personal/emotional, and I think it made him look both silly and stupid, or in any case completely unaware that Symbols Mean Something beyond what they mean in the very scenic midscape of Stephen Patrick Morrissey.

I do agree that looking at lyrics is unhelpful. "National Front Disco" is loaded with sarcasm from the very title, and anyway assigns plenty of threat to the idea: where has our dear boy gone -- oh dear, he has gone bad, and by that time in the man's career you could tell that he recognized the badness but just had an idiosyncratic attraction to it. "Asian Rut" eulogizes the Asian boy, if patronizingly. "Bengali in Platforms" is basically the height of condescension and exhibits really iffy word choice with the "belong," but it seems less virulent than just sort of solipsistic and dumb, i.e. Morrissey is so blindly English that he never considers that life can be way harder elsewhere even if you do "belong" there, and basically just demonstrates his inability to think properly about anything that doesn't slot nicely into his very English little world.

Nitsuh, Monday, 4 February 2002 01:00 (seventeen years ago) Permalink

"At the heat of the racist debate, the former NME editor Steve Sutherland wondered if Morrissey's alleged racism "might be a gay thing"." I wonder if that quote is true?

I'm almost positive that is true, because I recall reading something very similar to this in the NME at the time....iirc Sutherland was editing the letters page and was speculating about it.

Nicole, Monday, 4 February 2002 01:00 (seventeen years ago) Permalink

two months pass...
Heh, Heh, heh, heh, You guys! All this speculation is very amusing, hilarious! But you are all scrutinizing the issue to closely. What you need to do is stand back and look at the writing on the wall. Any of you who love Morrissey should know by now (and the rest of who do not should listen up). The Man is a genius at using words and imagery to add to all that he is and projects outwardly to be. All of his songs are controversial to some degree, however each are all just stories about people... Merely fictional characters! Vauxhall and I: The girl in "Lifeguard Sleeping, Girl Drowning" is going to let her nemesis drown. There is a Stalking song: "The More you ignore me the closer I get", The whole entire album of Kill Uncle is claimed to be about murders. November spawned a monster about a birth defective person in a wheel chair. C'mon!!! For crying out loud!! The minute you read the lyrics for National Front Disco or Bengali In Platforms you should have known that it was all Morrissey storytelling with young protagonist feeling misplaced and looking for approval or love. Does Everyone actually think that Morrissy was 16, clumsy and Shy and went to London and Booked Himself in at the Y.W.C.A??? - NO that song is about a 16 YEAR OLD SHY CLUMY GIRL WHO HAS A CRUSH ON SOMEONE.... Get it together folks! It's Called SENSATIONALISM!!! Do think that Motley Crue worshiped Satan? - NO! Do you think that Vanilla Ice or the Backstreet Boys came from a rough neighborhood? - No Siree! Do you think that Micheal Jackson had a woman named Billy Jean to accuse him of impregnating her? Nope, just a song my friends. -Hey maybe Jimmy Page, John Paul Jones, and Robert Plant really know this lady who bought the actual stairway TO HEAVEN???!! People they're just songs, and there just stories and I believe that Morrissey is very outspoken and if he were really racist, or desired to look racist I doubt we would have to be guessing by the lyrics in one of his many many story telling songs. Get - a - life....

Duke Rojas, Thursday, 4 April 2002 00:00 (seventeen years ago) Permalink

Wow, thanks for setting me on the right path! You are truly an insightful person who has gauged the situation with perfect accuracy, and knows all of our hearts oh so well.

Ned Raggett, Thursday, 4 April 2002 00:00 (seventeen years ago) Permalink

Those random googlers are often like that, aren't they? Quite uncanny really. Makes me feel less alone in the world

electric sound of jim, Thursday, 4 April 2002 00:00 (seventeen years ago) Permalink

I think this is the part where somebody tells us we gotta honour the fire or something. Anyhow, resuscitated threads are OK by me, especially when the personified-narrator catch-all is being exhumed from its grave yet again. Morrissey has made an entire career out of arguing, explicitly, that the distance between his authorial voice and himself is as narrow a distance as can reasonably be achieved in art. Odd, how the personified narrator defense is most often invoked when defending people who should know better against charges of either racism or sexism. Odd.////// As to the utterly brilliant "16 Clumsy and Shy," our Mozz- loving friend above (don't freak, I love him m'self, quite a lot actually) has missed the point of that song completely. The joke is that Morrissey/Morrissey's narrator (O how dull to do that every time, lest one be accused of unsophisticated theoretical grounding!), a young man uncomfortable in his own skin, attempted to check himself into the YWCA. The point of the big dramatic pause after he pronounces "Y" is to play up how sadly comic the vision of a 16 year old Mancunian guy going to the big city and checking in at the YWCA is. The narrator of the song is male.

John Darnielle, Thursday, 4 April 2002 00:00 (seventeen years ago) Permalink

John nails it! And brilliantly at that. And hey, I got the Ludus comp with bits of Moz commentary today, along with Stockholm Monsters luv. Yay Manchester, yay LTM!

Ned Raggett, Thursday, 4 April 2002 00:00 (seventeen years ago) Permalink

That Ludus comp is so great. I played it for the N-Sync lovin' kids I work with at the day job and even they thought it was kind of cool. We did a conga line to "Let Me Go Where My Pictures Go."

John Darnielle, Friday, 5 April 2002 00:00 (seventeen years ago) Permalink

one month passes...
Morissey seems like an intelligent person who will not allow his thoughts to be policed by pseudo-intellectual politically correct sheep and bullies like you lot.

Jack Hobbs, Tuesday, 14 May 2002 00:00 (seventeen years ago) Permalink

Yes, we're all trying to bully Morrissey, that's it.

You may or may not have noticed that there is a diversity of thought and opinion on this thread.

N., Tuesday, 14 May 2002 00:00 (seventeen years ago) Permalink

Wow, Jack just managed to use the world's two dumbest and most meaningless criticisms in the same sentence.

nabisco%%, Tuesday, 14 May 2002 00:00 (seventeen years ago) Permalink

Also I have no idea why I described the Japanese Mr. Yunioshi from Breakfast at Tiffany's as Chinese.

nabisco%%, Tuesday, 14 May 2002 00:00 (seventeen years ago) Permalink

Because you are a notorious racist.

N., Tuesday, 14 May 2002 00:00 (seventeen years ago) Permalink

If I ever do create a band called Ladyboy, the first single is going to be called "Notorious Racist".

Dan Perry, Tuesday, 14 May 2002 00:00 (seventeen years ago) Permalink

DJP also otm about it sinking in -- I think once it did, unfortunately Moz-worms were already burrowed into my brain at that point via Smiths songs. idk. It doesn't help that there are Smiths songs that conjure some of my worst memories, so it's all mixed up. I def don't feel sad for the loss of Morrissey in my life.

weird woman in a bar (La Lechera), Wednesday, 15 May 2019 16:47 (one week ago) Permalink

To say his music (solo and The Smiths) meant a lot to me for so many years, I haven't really had much of a problem cutting him out my life. It's been quite easy to just stop listening to him and sell off a bunch of his records. Every time I take another one out my collection, I wonder if I'll regret it and so far I haven't.

I haven't been paying attention to his latest album campaign, but I was surprised to see a single with Billie Joe Armstrong pop up on the new release schedule. Considering how outspoken Billie has been about politics, is he really just that unaware of Morrissey's views?

kitchen person, Wednesday, 15 May 2019 17:06 (one week ago) Permalink

I do still like and sometimes listen to the Smiths' music, and even some solo Morrissey.

All along there is the sound of feedback (Sund4r), Wednesday, 15 May 2019 17:09 (one week ago) Permalink

yeah i'm not going to dump his catalog up through Vauxhall which i still find very worthwhile. I will not give him any money now though.

akm, Wednesday, 15 May 2019 17:16 (one week ago) Permalink

A whole of bunch of American artists are on his new album, I believe. Far be it for me to bring up the subject of American insularity but...

Ned Caligari (Tom D.), Wednesday, 15 May 2019 17:20 (one week ago) Permalink

Moreover, one of those artists is a first-generation child of Indian immigrants.

☮ (peace, man), Wednesday, 15 May 2019 17:48 (one week ago) Permalink

xps to jamiesummerz and Mark G re We’ll Let You Know. Agree re ambiguity of quotes - I didn’t notice them either - but the song ends with that half-whispered

know
We are the last truly British people you will ever know
You'll never never want to know


Which seems to underline the sinister vibe of the whole song and ofc it’s not bad to sing a song in character etc. But I do agree that this far down the line and esp that around that time he was seriously fascinated with skinheads and a lot of fashy imagery that he loses any benefit of the doubt in the interpretation. (Also? Who thought Bengali in Platforms was narrated by the subject of the song?! That one is so casually cruel as well.)

gyac, Wednesday, 15 May 2019 17:53 (one week ago) Permalink

Moreover, one of those artists is a first-generation child of Indian immigrants.

Like Morrissey, except Indian.

Ned Caligari (Tom D.), Wednesday, 15 May 2019 18:00 (one week ago) Permalink

Yeah, Morrissey's family were immigrants!

Le Baton Rose (Turrican), Wednesday, 15 May 2019 18:02 (one week ago) Permalink

More like “You’re The One For Me, Fashy”

Conceptualize Wyverns (latebloomer), Wednesday, 15 May 2019 18:29 (one week ago) Permalink

Let The White One In

gyac, Wednesday, 15 May 2019 18:35 (one week ago) Permalink

A Rush and a Putsch and the Land Is Ours.

Ned Caligari (Tom D.), Wednesday, 15 May 2019 18:37 (one week ago) Permalink

... could do this all night, should warn you.

Ned Caligari (Tom D.), Wednesday, 15 May 2019 18:37 (one week ago) Permalink

irish skull, english calipers

findom haddie (jim in vancouver), Wednesday, 15 May 2019 18:38 (one week ago) Permalink

Like Morrissey, except Indian.

― Ned Caligari (Tom D.), Wednesday, May 15, 2019 6:00 PM (thirty-six minutes ago) Bookmark Flag Post Permalink

Yeah, Morrissey's family were immigrants!

― Le Baton Rose (Turrican), Wednesday, May 15, 2019 6:02 PM (thirty-four minutes ago) Bookmark Flag Post Permalink

I did not know this and it makes his whole deal like 10 times more stupid.

☮ (peace, man), Wednesday, 15 May 2019 18:38 (one week ago) Permalink

there are lots of racist british nationalists who are from irish immigrant backgrounds. stephen yaxley-lennon aka tommy robinson's parents are irish, the leader of the fash group morrissey supports, for britain, is from ... dublin

findom haddie (jim in vancouver), Wednesday, 15 May 2019 18:39 (one week ago) Permalink

it's pretty clear that "has immigrant family" does not inoculate one against racist/xenophobe brainworms

weird woman in a bar (La Lechera), Wednesday, 15 May 2019 18:41 (one week ago) Permalink

I guess it’s that whole idea of pulling up the ladder - I’m sure it wasn’t exactly great to be second gen Irish in Britain all the time, but I doubt he had it as bad as any of the Asians he despises.

gyac, Wednesday, 15 May 2019 18:42 (one week ago) Permalink

I suspect that Union Jack waving Proud-To-Be-British West Brit thing seems especially bizarre to me because I'm from Scotland.

Ned Caligari (Tom D.), Wednesday, 15 May 2019 18:44 (one week ago) Permalink

lol I just checked and his parents immigrated to Manchester a year before he was born - which makes shite like his hankerings for an England that no longer exists - and it is always England - even funnier.

He would be a worthy winner of the worst diaspora poll.

gyac, Wednesday, 15 May 2019 18:50 (one week ago) Permalink

agree
but the competition is extremely fierce!

weird woman in a bar (La Lechera), Wednesday, 15 May 2019 18:53 (one week ago) Permalink

i don't think 'irish' immigrants count as immigrants in these people's minds these days, because white.

akm, Wednesday, 15 May 2019 19:00 (one week ago) Permalink

Polish and Eastern European immigrants are white and they count as immigrants to these people.

Ned Caligari (Tom D.), Wednesday, 15 May 2019 19:04 (one week ago) Permalink

Maybe now but this was definitely *not* the case in 70s and 80s UK - a lot of Irish people in this country were regularly assumed to be IRA sympathisers for one thing.

(White Eastern Europeans are among the most vocally reviled of immigrant groups in modern day Britain as well).

Matt DC, Wednesday, 15 May 2019 19:06 (one week ago) Permalink

Not to mention British attitudes to the Irish going back centuries.

Ned Caligari (Tom D.), Wednesday, 15 May 2019 19:08 (one week ago) Permalink

And still flourishing even today!

The Return of the Irish Question - this week's excellent cover essay
is by @JohnBew pic.twitter.com/WEcKg3pNpZ

— Jason Cowley (@JasonCowleyNS) May 15, 2019

gyac, Wednesday, 15 May 2019 19:34 (one week ago) Permalink

ahh always good to have a nice old-fashioned "(ethnic group) question" rumination

omar little, Wednesday, 15 May 2019 19:39 (one week ago) Permalink

meet the new statesman, same as the old statesman

michael keaton IS jim thirlwell IN ‘foetaljuice’ (bizarro gazzara), Wednesday, 15 May 2019 20:13 (one week ago) Permalink

fucking imperialist arrogance of that...cunts!

calzino, Wednesday, 15 May 2019 20:30 (one week ago) Permalink

It's ok you can't buy the NS in Ireland

Doctor Nu (Noodle Vague), Wednesday, 15 May 2019 20:42 (one week ago) Permalink

Just read mark s's piece and it is very good!

All along there is the sound of feedback (Sund4r), Thursday, 16 May 2019 03:02 (one week ago) Permalink

I gave a listen to his new covers album, and lord does it suck. His trying to compete with Marilyn McCoo is offensive in and of itself. I guess his current fanbase likes pointless nostalgia.

Hyper-Capitalists Against the Entertainment Business (I M Losted), Friday, 17 May 2019 12:30 (one week ago) Permalink

Does anyone want to start a project re-writing The Smiths Lyrics and melodies to remove Morrissey?

The Smiths Without Morrissey - THE LP

I'm serious!

| (Latham Green), Friday, 17 May 2019 14:21 (one week ago) Permalink

SongMeanings comment on "Asian Rut" (which btw reminded me of stuff from the old alt.music.smiths group - I'm actually surprised by the comments upthread that it was inconceivable that Morrissey could have inspired a Paki-bashing yob):

Slightly controversial point here (which will no doubt attract a lot of negative comments) but this is yet another Morrissey song which prompted certain people (including Paul Heaton from the once good The Beautiful South and The Housemartins) to believe he was racist. The point some people fail to see is that patriotism isn't racism AT ALL. Sure that racists are very patriotic, but some people are patriotic without being racist. This applies to this song and another of his songs, Bengali In Platforms in particular. Without talking too much about the meanings of both songs (which are quite obvious really), it seems to me that Morrissey has similar views to myself on issues of race/equality. The fact is that there's almost TOO MUCH political correctness these days, where British or white people in general can be the butt of racist jokes, etc. and the culprits seem to get away with it. But there is plenty of what could be interpreted as racism towards white people from, for example, black gangster rappers. Why should they get away with these racist (and often sexist amongst other things) comments, when white people get condemned? It's silly. It should be deemed unacceptable for people of all races to be racist. Then there are people who disagree with Asylum seekers and illegal immigrants, who come over and gain housing and work from those who are more in need of them. And yet some (for example) British Muslims seem to think these comments are an attack on Muslims in general, which is very paranoid. Wherever you're from, whatever country you're from, if you move to another country you should always respect the laws and the culture of that country. Anyway this song has a pretty good tune, and has thought-provoking, interesting lyrics (although from possibly his weakest album though, even though it is OK).
All Is Dreamon January 04, 2007

All along there is the sound of feedback (Sund4r), Friday, 17 May 2019 14:24 (one week ago) Permalink

So many thoughts being provoked inside that controversial mind, how does he hold them all together?

pomenitul, Friday, 17 May 2019 14:31 (one week ago) Permalink

Guar Gum

| (Latham Green), Friday, 17 May 2019 14:36 (one week ago) Permalink

That comment succeeds at being worse than the song itself

flamboyant goon tie included, Friday, 17 May 2019 14:48 (one week ago) Permalink

The Siths - Who Put The M In Misanthropy?

flamboyant goon tie included, Friday, 17 May 2019 14:49 (one week ago) Permalink

snowflake triggered

Might be tricky to review the new Morrissey album. Been refused a copy because we wrote this piece about him. "Afraid management are not keen to provide advance music to the Guardian for this release". 🎻https://t.co/Dd9IGepUbU

— Guardian music (@guardianmusic) May 17, 2019

Captain ACAB (Neil S), Friday, 17 May 2019 15:00 (one week ago) Permalink

Hitler and Morrissey - the vegetarian white nationalists

| (Latham Green), Friday, 17 May 2019 15:24 (one week ago) Permalink

lol @ morrissey of course but I'd also prefer it if the Guardian didn't review his album anyway, save the space for something more relevant

Daniel_Rf, Friday, 17 May 2019 15:26 (one week ago) Permalink

I know I said I was curious how "It's Over" would sound (which I think was this thread but maybe not) so I eventually remembered to listen to it.

It's fairly competent, I suppose, until he spectacularly bottles the last note.

Elitist cheese photos (aldo), Friday, 17 May 2019 16:57 (one week ago) Permalink

morrissey is a sorry ass animal rights activist. he whined that he couldn't find eggs in the grocery store anymore. even though he doesn't eat them. he just sees it as another sign of the decline of britain or whatever. what is his fucking trip?

:∵·∴·∵: (crüt), Friday, 17 May 2019 17:21 (one week ago) Permalink

White power trip

findom haddie (jim in vancouver), Friday, 17 May 2019 17:24 (one week ago) Permalink

Incredible that this has been largely forgotten

https://www.theguardian.com/books/2017/mar/20/bigmouth-strikes-again-row-morrissey-james-baldwin-t-shirt-the-smiths

piscesx, Friday, 17 May 2019 17:31 (one week ago) Permalink

I just saw how it is exactly 15 years ago that he went straight into the top three with Irish Blood English Heart. It's crazy to think how much has changed in those 15 years. The amount of goodwill he had for that whole era was ridiculous. It really was a perfectly executed comeback and people were so happy to have him back. It's almost impressive to see how much he's managed to piss that all away.

kitchen person, Friday, 17 May 2019 17:37 (one week ago) Permalink

At this point, the Mexican-American community has put up with his outlandish comments the way one might a drunk uncle who won’t shut up at the dinner table. You love him, but he just won’t stop saying terrible things.

https://pitchfork.com/thepitch/does-the-mexican-american-community-still-love-morrissey-despite-everything

Yeah I’ve seen it and this is pretty much OTM. His music has a heavy fanbase in mexico and they brush off his insane views as one would with a drunk uncle.

✖✖✖ (Moka), Friday, 17 May 2019 18:11 (one week ago) Permalink

https://www.walesonline.co.uk/whats-on/music-nightlife-news/morrissey-smiths-record-shop-banned-16313914

"Spillers Records bans Morrissey music over his support for the far right"

koogs, Thursday, 23 May 2019 12:36 (yesterday) Permalink

The amount of goodwill he had for that whole era was ridiculous. It really was a perfectly executed comeback and people were so happy to have him back. It's almost impressive to see how much he's managed to piss that all away.

This is true and he could've had a nice retirement off the back of it - a 6Music Sunday show (syndicated across America maybe), the occasional festival...instead he'll be doing Butlins weekend packages and flogging his CDs from a table in the foyer.

fetter, Thursday, 23 May 2019 12:54 (yesterday) Permalink

"I don't think the word ‘racist’ has any meaning any more"

Is this cunt for fucking real?

Le Baton Rose (Turrican), Thursday, 23 May 2019 12:58 (yesterday) Permalink


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