M is for Morrissey
Few artists have had such a profound influence on the zeitgeist as Morrissey. Few artists have managed to annoy people as much, once again proving the link between genius and spikiness.
Morrissey has been described by been described by music magazine New Musical Express as "one of the most influential artists ever," and The Independent has stated "most pop stars have to be dead before they reach the iconic status he has reached in his lifetime.
Steven Patrick Morrissey grew up in inner city Manchester and his lyrics reflect the crumbling streets, back-to-back houses and garbage strewn streets of a city where all it seems to do is rain.
Morrissey's influences seem to have been Coronation Street, James Dean and Oscar Wilde. He was a fan of the New York Dolls and briefly fronted the Nosebleeds before a meeting of minds and talents with Johnny Marr led to the creation of The Smiths in the 1980s.
From the outset The Smiths were different. In an age of synthesisers and gaudy clothes The Smiths were marvelously downbeat. Their first top 10 UK hit Heaven Knows I'm Miserable Now contained the lyric: "I was happy in the haze of a drunken hour, but heaven knows I'm miserable now."
Seriously. We can all relate to that lyric.
A previous single What Difference Does it Make? only reached number 12 which is surprising considering it's one of the best tracks in the history of forever. In my unbiased opinion.
Morrissey's uncompromising vegetarian PETA-loving credentials were set out in the title of the 1985 album Meat is Murder, a song that coincidentally busted my first and only clandestine teenage party.
My parents were away and we decided to hold a party. We may have got away with it had two diehard Smiths fans wearing Meat is Murder T-shirts not tipped out all of our milk in the coat closet by way of protest. That took some explaining.
The album The Queen is Dead coincided with my departure for university which was handy because it meant I could hang Smiths posters in my room and could listen to their mournful lyrics on a student downer which occurred at least twice a week:
And now I know how Joan of Arc felt
Now I know how Joan of Arc felt
As the flames rose to her roman nose
And her Walkman started to melt
Morrissey later upgraded the lyric at a concert, replacing "walkman" with iPod, apprently, although, to be fair, Joan of Arc may have had more pressing concerns that her iTunes playlist as she was burned at the stake.
Inevitably Morrissey and Marr fell out and Morrissey went solo in the late 1980s, recording some memorable songs including Suedehead, Every Day is Like Sunday, The Last of the International Playboys and The More You Ignore Me, the Closer I Get.
Morrissey's musical industry feuds and political controversies are legendary. In a 1984 interview, he said of then British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher: "She is only one person. She can be destroyed. It is the only remedy for this country at the moment." His first solo album, Viva Hate, included a track entitled "Margaret on the Guillotine."
In 2010, despite a the previous feud, he supported Marr, when he forbade British Prime Minister, David Cameron, another Conservative, from liking the Smiths. Morrissey said: "I would like to, if I may, offer support to Johnny Marr who has spoken out to the media this week against David Cameron. David Cameron hunts and shoots and kills stags – apparently for pleasure. It was not for such people that either Meat Is Murder or The Queen Is Dead were recorded; in fact, they were made as a reaction against such violence."
There have been the extreme animal rights comments and allegations of racism that coincided when he said of the Chinese. "Youcan't help but feel the Chinese are a sub-species." He was referring to China's record on animal rights.
In 2011 in the wake of the Norwegian massacre Morrissey said: "We all live in a murderous world, as the events in Norway have shown, with 97 [sic] dead. Though that is nothing compared to what happens in McDonald's and Kentucky Fried Shit every day."
These kinds of comments raise the distinct possibility that Morrissey may be a bit of a jerk. But at least he's a jerk that sounds good.
Curious fact about Morrissey - he worked for the Inland Revenue for a while but was so unimpressed with the job he decided to go on the dole instead.