Morrissey in 2005
|Birth name||Steven Patrick Morrissey|
22 May 1959 |
Davyhulme, Greater Manchester, England
Steven Patrick Morrissey (born 22 May 1959), commonly known by his last name, Morrissey, or by his nicknames, Moz or Mozza, is a British singer, lyricist, and author. He rose to prominence as the lyricist and vocalist of the indie rock band The Smiths, which was active from 1982 to 1987. Since then, Morrissey has had a solo career, making the top ten of the UK Singles Chart on ten occasions.
Born in Davyhulme, Lancashire to a working-class Irish migrant family, Morrissey grew up in Manchester. As a child he developed a love of literature, kitchen sink realism, and popular music. Involved in Manchester's punk rock scene during the late 1970s, he fronted two punk bands, The Nosebleeds and Slaughter & The Dogs, with little success. Beginning a career in music journalism, he authored a number of books on music and film in the early 1980s. With Johnny Marr he established The Smiths in 1982, soon attracting national attention for their self-titled debut album. As the band's frontman, Morrissey attracted attention both for his intelligent, witty, and sardonic lyrics and his idiosyncratic appearance; deliberately avoiding rock machismo, he cultivated the aesthetic of a social outsider who eschewed drugs and embraced celibacy. The Smiths released five further albums – including the critically acclaimed Meat is Murder and The Queen is Dead – and had a string of hit singles. Personal differences between Morrissey and Marr resulted in The Smiths' separation in 1987.
In 1988, Morrissey launched his solo career with the album Viva Hate. This and its follow-up albums – Bona Drag, Kill Uncle, Your Arsenal, and Vauxhall and I – all did well in the UK Albums Chart and spawned a number of hit singles. Having left Britain and moved to Los Angeles, during the mid-1990s Morrissey's image began to shift into that of a burlier figure, who toyed with patriotic imagery and working-class masculinity; his discussions of British national identity resulted in accusations of racism, which he denied. In the mid-to-late 1990s, his subsequent albums, Southpaw Grammar and Maladjusted, also charted but were less well received. After a hiatus between 1998 and 2003, Morrissey released a successful comeback album, You Are the Quarry, in 2004. Relocating to Italy, ensuing years saw the release of albums Ringleader of the Tormentors, Years of Refusal, and World Peace Is None of Your Business. In 2013 Morrissey released his autobiography, followed by his first novel in 2015.
Highly influential, Morrissey is widely credited as being a seminal figure in the emergence of indie rock and Britpop. He has been acclaimed as one of the greatest lyricists in British history, with his lyrics having become the subject of academic study. Having attracted an international and highly dedicated cult following, Morrissey's ambiguous sexuality has also resulted in him becoming a gay icon. However, his forthright opinions – endorsing vegetarianism and animal rights, condemning royalty and prominent politicians, and questioning issues of British national and cultural identity – have courted controversy.
- 1 Early life
- 2 Solo career
- 3 Vocal and lyrical style
- 4 Personal life
- 5 Reception, legacy, and influence
- 6 Solo discography
- 7 Publications
- 8 Notes and references
- 9 Further reading
- 10 External links
Steven Patrick Morrissey was born on 22 May 1959, at Davyhulme Park Hospital, in Davyhulme, Lancashire. His parents – Elizabeth (née Dwyer) and Peter Morrissey – were working-class Irish Catholics. They had emigrated to Manchester from Dublin with his only sibling, elder sister Jacqueline, a year prior to his birth. They had given him the forename of Steven after the American actor Steve Cochran. His earliest home was a council house at 17 Harper Street in the Hulme area of inner Manchester. Living in that area, as a child he was deeply affected by the Moors murders in which a number of local children were murdered by Ian Brady and Myra Hindley; the killings had a lasting impression on him and would be referenced in the later Smiths song "Suffer Little Children". He also became aware of the anti-Irish sentiment in British society which impacted Anglo-Irish people like himself. In 1970 the family relocated to another council house at 384 King's Road, Stretford.
Following an early education at St. Wilfred's Primary School, Morrissey failed his eleven plus exam, and proceeded to St. Mary's Technical Modern School, an experience that he found unpleasant. He excelled at athletics, although was an unpopular loner at the school. He was critical of his formal education, later stating that "the education I received was so basically evil and brutal. All I learnt was to have no self-esteem and to feel ashamed without knowing why". He left school in 1975, having received no formal qualifications. He continued his education at Stretford Technical College, and there gained three O-levels in English Literature, Sociology, and the General Paper.
Morrissey's mother, nicknamed "Betty", was a librarian, and encouraged her son's interest in reading. In particular he adored the work of Irish author Oscar Wilde, whom he came to idolise. He also took an interest in reading feminist literature. The young Morrissey was a keen fan of the television soap Coronation Street, which focused around working-class communities in Manchester; this love resulted in his authoring a number of scripts and storylines for the series which he sent to the show's production company, Granada TV, although all were rejected. He was similarly a keen fan of the playwright Shelagh Delaney's A Taste of Honey, as well as its 1961 film adaptation, which was a kitchen sink drama focusing around working-class life in Salford. Many of his later songs would contain lyrics quoted directly from A Taste of Honey.
Morrissey has described his adolescence as a time when he was often lonely and depressed. As a teenager, he began taking prescription drugs to help combat the depression that would later follow him throughout his life. In the summer of 1975 he travelled to the United States in order to visit an aunt who lived in New Jersey. The relationship between Morrissey's parents was strained, and they ultimately separated in December 1976, with his father moving out of the family home.
Of his youth, Morrissey said, "Pop music was all I ever had, and it was completely entwined with the image of the pop star. I remember feeling the person singing was actually with me and understood me and my predicament." According to a later claim, the first record that he purchased was Marianne Faithfull's 1964 hit "Come and Stay With Me". During the 1970s he became a keen fan of glam rock, enjoying the work of British acts like T-Rex, David Bowie, and Roxy Music, and in 1971 he attended a T-Rex gig in Manchester. He was also a fan of American glam performers Sparks, Jobriath, and most significantly The New York Dolls, the latter of whom he discovered after seeing them give a television performance in 1973. The Dolls were a significant influence on Morrissey, to the extent that he organised a British fan club for the band through small adverts in the back pages of music magazines. It was through the Dolls' interest in female pop singers from the 1960s that Morrissey too developed a fascination for such artists, who included Sandie Shaw, Twinkle, and Dusty Springfield.
Early bands and published books: 1977–81
Having left formal education, Morrissey initially gained employment as a clerk for the civil service, and then for the Inland Revenue, also working in a record store and as a hospital porter, although subsequently quit and began claiming unemployment benefits. He used much of the money from these jobs to purchase tickets for gigs, attending performances by Talking Heads, Ramones, and Blondie. He regularly attended concerts, having a particular interest in the alternative and post-punk music scene.
Having met the guitarist Billy Duffy in November 1977, Morrissey soon agreed to become the vocalist for Duffy's punk band The Nosebleeds. They played a number of concerts, including one supporting Magazine, which was reviewed in NME by Paul Morley. Morrissey also founded the Cramps' fan club "The Legion of the Cramped" with another enthusiast for their music, Lindsay Hutton, but he progressively scaled down his involvement in the club because of the increasing amount of time he was devoting to his own musical career. Morrissey co-wrote a number of songs with the band – "Peppermint Heaven", "I Get Nervous" and "I Think I'm Ready for the Electric Chair" – and performed with them in two support slots, first for Jilted John and then Magazine. The band soon disbanded.
After The Nosebleeds' split, Morrissey followed Duffy to join Slaughter & The Dogs, briefly replacing original singer Wayne Barrett. He recorded four songs with the band and they auditioned for a record deal in London. After the audition fell through, Slaughter & The Dogs became Studio Sweethearts, without Morrissey. Morrissey came to be known as a minor figure within Manchester's punk community. By 1981, Morrissey had become a close friend of Linder Sterling, the frontwoman of punk-jazz ensemble Ludus; both her lyrics and style of singing would exert an influence on him. Through Sterling, he came to know Howard Devoto and Richard Boon. At the time, Morrissey's best male friend was James Maker; he would visit Maker in London or they would meet up in Manchester, where they visited the city's gay bars and gay clubs, in one case having to escape from a gang of gay bashers.
Desiring to become a professional writer, Morrissey considered a career in music journalism, having produced a number of freelance reviews for Record Mirror. He authored a number of short books for local publishing company Babylon Books: in 1981 they released a 24-page booklet he had written on The New York Dolls, which sold 3000 copies. This was followed by a volume he wrote about the late film star James Dean, titled James Dean is Not Dead. Morrissey had developed a love of Dean, having covered his bedroom with pictures of the deceased film star.
Establishing The Smiths: 1982–84
In August 1978, Morrissey was briefly introduced to the 15-year old Johnny Marr by mutual acquaintances at a Patti Smith gig held at Manchester's Apollo Theatre. Several years later, in May 1982, Marr turned up on the doorstep of Morrissey's house, there to ask Morrissey if he was interested in co-founding a band. Marr had been impressed that Morrissey had authored a book on the New York Dolls, and was inspired to turn up on his doorstep following the example of Jerry Leiber, who had formed his working partnership with Mike Stoller after turning up at the latter's door. According to Morrissey: "We got on absolutely famously. We were very similar in drive." The next day, Morrissey phoned Marr to confirm that he would be interested in forming a band with him. Steve Pomfret – who had served as the band's first bassist – soon abandoned the group, to be replaced by Dale Hibbert. Around the time of the band's formation, Morrissey decided that he would be publicly known only by his surname, with Marr referring to him as "Mozzer" or "Moz". In 1983 he forbade those around him from using the name of "Steven", which he despised. Morrissey was also responsible for choosing the band name of "The Smiths", later informing an interviewer that "it was the most ordinary name and I thought it was time that the ordinary folk of the world showed their faces".
Alongside developing their own songs, they also developed a cover of The Cookies' "I Want a Boy for Christmas", the latter reflecting their deliberate desire to transgress established norms of gender and sexuality in rock in a manner inspired by the New York Dolls. In August 1982, they recorded their first demo at Manchester's Decibel Studios, and Morrissey took the demo recording to Factory Records, but they weren't interested. In late summer 1982, Mike Joyce was adopted as the band's drummer after a successful audition. In October 1982 they then gave their first public performance, as a support act for Blue Rondo à la Turk at Manchester's The Ritz. Hibbert however was unhappy with what he perceived as the band's gay aesthetic; in turn, Morrissey and Marr were unhappy with his bass playing, and so he was removed from the band and replaced by Marr's old school friend Andy Rourke.
After the record company EMI turned them down, Morrissey and Marr visited London to hand a cassette of their recordings to Geoff Travis of the independent record label Rough Trade Records. Although not signing them to a contract straight away, he agreed to cut their song "Hand in Glove" as a single. Morrissey chose a homoerotic cover design in the form of a Jim French photograph. It was released in May 1983. It was championed by DJ John Peel, as were all their later singles, but it failed to chart. The band soon generated controversy when Garry Bushell of The Sun tabloid alleged that their B-side "Handsome Devil" was an endorsement of paedophilia. The band denied this, with Morrissey stating that the song "has nothing to do with children, and certainly nothing to do with child molesting". In the wake of their single, the band performed their first significant London gig, gained radio airplay with a John Peel session, and obtained their first interviews in music magazines NME' and Sounds.
The follow-up singles "This Charming Man" and "What Difference Does It Make?" fared better when they reached numbers 25 and 12 respectively on the UK Singles Chart. Aided by praise from the music press and a series of studio sessions for Peel and David Jensen at BBC Radio 1, The Smiths began to acquire a dedicated fan base. In February 1984, they released their debut album, The Smiths, which reached number two on the UK Albums Chart.
As frontman of The Smiths, Morrissey – described as "lanky, soft-spoken, bequiffed and bespectacled" – subverted many of the norms that were associated with pop and rock music. The band's aesthetic simplicity was a reaction to the excess personified by the New Romantics, and while Morrissey adopted an androgynous appearance like the New Romantics or earlier glam rockers, his was far more subtle and understated. According to one commentator, "he was bookish; he wore NHS spectacles and a hearing aid on stage; he was celibate. Worst of all, he was sincere", with his music being "so intoxicatingly melancholic, so dangerously thoughtful, so seductively funny that it lured its listeners... into a relationship with him and his music instead of the world." In an academic paper on the band, Julian Stringer characterised The Smiths as "one of Britain's most overtly political groups", while in his study of their work, Andrew Warns termed them "this most anti-capitalist of bands".
The Smiths' growing success: 1984–87
In 1984, the band released two non-album singles: "Heaven Knows I'm Miserable Now" (their first UK top-ten hit) and "William, It Was Really Nothing". The year ended with the compilation album Hatful of Hollow. This collected singles, B-sides and the versions of songs that had been recorded throughout the previous year for the Peel and Jensen shows. Early in 1985 the band released their second album, Meat Is Murder, which was their only studio album to top the UK charts. The single-only release "Shakespeare's Sister" reached number 26 on the UK Singles Chart, though the only single taken from the album, "That Joke Isn't Funny Anymore", was less successful, barely making the top 50. "How Soon Is Now?" was originally a B-side of the 1984 single "William, It Was Really Nothing", and was subsequently featured on Hatful of Hollow and the American, Canadian, Australian and Warner UK editions of Meat Is Murder. Belatedly released as a single in the UK in 1985, How Soon Is Now? reached number 24 on the UK Singles Chart.
During 1985, the band undertook lengthy tours of the UK and the US while recording the next studio record, The Queen is Dead. The album was released in June 1986, shortly after the single "Bigmouth Strikes Again". The record reached number two in the UK charts. However, all was not well within the group. A legal dispute with Rough Trade had delayed the album by almost seven months (it had been completed in November 1985), and Marr was beginning to feel the stress of the band's exhausting touring and recording schedule. Meanwhile, Rourke was fired in early 1986 for his use of heroin. Rourke was temporarily replaced on bass guitar by Craig Gannon, but he was reinstated after only a fortnight. Gannon stayed in the band, switching to rhythm guitar. This five-piece recorded the singles "Panic" and "Ask" (with Kirsty MacColl on backing vocals) which reached numbers 11 and 14 respectively on the UK Singles Chart, and toured the UK. After the tour ended in October 1986, Gannon left the band. The group had become frustrated with Rough Trade and sought a record deal with a major label, ultimately signing with EMI, which drew criticism from some of the band's fanbase.
In early 1987, the single "Shoplifters of the World Unite" was released and reached number 12 on the UK Singles Chart. It was followed by a second compilation, The World Won't Listen, which reached number two in the charts – and the single "Sheila Take a Bow", the band's second (and last during the band's lifetime) UK top-10 hit. Despite their continued success, personal differences within the band – including the increasingly strained relationship between Morrissey and Marr – saw them on the verge of splitting. In July 1987, Marr left the group and auditions to find a replacement proved fruitless.
By the time the group's fourth album Strangeways, Here We Come was released in September, the band had split up. The breakdown in the relationship has been partly attributed to Morrissey's annoyance with Marr's work with other artists and to Marr's growing frustration with Morrissey's musical inflexibility. Strangeways peaked at number two in the UK, but was only a minor US hit, though it was more successful there than the band's previous albums.
Early solo work: 1988–91
Morrissey released his first solo album, Viva Hate, in March 1988, eight months after the dissolution of The Smiths. The album was recorded with former Smiths producer Stephen Street, Vini Reilly of Durutti Column (and, formerly, The Nosebleeds), and drummer Andrew Paresi. It reached number one in the UK upon release, supported by the singles "Suedehead" and "Everyday Is Like Sunday". The album was certified gold in the US on 16 November 1993.
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Morrissey initially planned to release a follow-up album entitled Bona Drag, after releasing a few singles during 1989: "The Last of the Famous International Playboys", "Interesting Drug", and "Ouija Board, Ouija Board". The first two of these became top ten hits. However, by the end of 1989 Morrissey had decided to scrap the idea of a full-length LP and to release Bona Drag as a compilation of singles and B-sides.
Morrissey recruited Clive Langer and Alan Winstanley to produce his next album, titled Kill Uncle, for which songs were written with Mark E. Nevin of Fairground Attraction. The album peaked at number eight on the UK charts. The two singles released in promotion of the album, "Our Frank" and "Sing Your Life", failed to break the Top 20 on the singles charts, reaching number 26 and number 33 respectively. Morrissey then released two non-album singles, "Pregnant for the Last Time" and "My Love Life".
Changing image: 1992–97
The band Morrissey assembled in 1991 for his Kill Uncle tour went on to record 1992's hit album Your Arsenal. Composition duties were split between Mark E. Nevin and new guitarist Alain Whyte. Your Arsenal was produced by former David Bowie guitarist Mick Ronson, and earned a Grammy Award nomination for Best Alternative Album. The album peaked at number four on the UK charts, with two of its three singles, "We Hate It When Our Friends Become Successful" and "You're the One for Me, Fatty", debuting in the Top 20 in the UK. Co-written with Alain Whyte, the album was produced by Mick Ronson. The album was critically well received.
A number of the tracks on the album, most notably "Certain People I Know" and "The National Front Disco", dealt with the lives and experiences of tough, working-class youths. Various sources jumped on his discussion of the National Front, a far-right political party, and accused Morrissey of being a racist; in doing so they failed to recognise the ironic, tongue-in-cheek nature of the song, which pitied rather than praised those who joined the party. In 1992 he then appeared at Madstock in North London's Finsbury Park, where he included images of suedeheads as a backdrop and wrapped himself in a Union flag. Simpson suggested that Morrissey's use of such iconography at Madstock was a deliberate act of provocative defiance against those who accused him of racism for "The National Front Disco". However, these actions resulted in him being booed offstage by a group of Neo-Nazi skinheads in the audience, who believed that he was appropriating skinhead culture. Others in attendance have suggested that the skinhead audience were angered by the phrase "London is dead" in the song "Glamorous Glue" (it was during this song that Morrissey draped himself in the Union flag). Subsequently, his usage of this imagery was cited as further evidence for Morrissey's alleged racism by the NME.
By the release of Your Arsenal, Morrissey's image had changed; according to Simpson, the singer had converted "from the aesthete interested in rough lads into a rough lad interested in aestheticism (and rough lads)". According to Woods, Morrissey developed an air of "quietly assured masculinity", representing "a more robust, burlier, beefier version of himself", while the poet and Morrissey fan Simon Armitage described the transition as being one from that of "stick-thin, knock-me-over-with-a-feather campness" to that of a "mobster and bare-knuckle boxer image". This new image was reflected in the cover art for Your Arsenal; a photograph taken by Sterling, it featured Morrissey onstage with his shirt open, displaying a muscular torso beneath.
Morrissey's 1994 album Vauxhall and I was his second solo number one album in the UK. Co-written with Whyte and Boz Boorer, the album had been produced by Steve Lillywhite. It was both a critical and a commercial success. Years after the release, Morrissey said that he had felt at the time that it would be his last album, that it was the best album he'd ever made and one that he would never be able to top. One of the album's songs, "The More You Ignore Me, the Closer I Get", reached number eight in the UK and number 46 in the US. That year, he also released a single, "Interlude", a duet with Siouxsie Sioux, followed by an EP, Boxers, in January 1995.
Morrissey began work on his first album on the RCA Victor label, Southpaw Grammar, in early 1995. When released in August, the album reached number four in the UK. Compared to its two predecessors, the album made little impact.
In 1996, a legal case against Morrissey and Marr, brought by Joyce, came to court. Joyce claimed that he had not received his fair share of recording and performance royalties from his time as The Smiths' drummer. The judge found in favour of Joyce and ordered that he be paid over £1 million in back pay and receive 25 percent henceforth. During the proceedings in court, Morrissey acted contemptuously of the High Court judge, who accused him of being "devious, truculent and unreliable when his own interests were at stake". Morrissey claimed that he was "... under the scorching spotlight in the dock, being drilled ..." with questions such as "'How dare you be successful?' 'How dare you move on?'" He stated that "The Smiths were a beautiful thing and Johnny [Marr] left it, and Mike [Joyce] has destroyed it". Morrissey repeatedly appealed against the verdict, but was not successful.
Morrissey returned on Island Records in 1997 with the single "Alma Matters" and album Maladjusted. The album peaked at number eight in the UK album charts and its further two singles, "Roy's Keen" and "Satan Rejected My Soul" both peaked outside the UK Top 30.
Recording hiatus: 1998–2003
In 1998, Uncut reported that Morrissey no longer had a record deal. In 1999, he embarked on a tour called "Oye Esteban" and was one of the headliners of the Coachella Festival in California. The tour extended to Mexico and South America.
In 2002, Morrissey returned with a world tour, culminating in two sold-out nights at the Royal Albert Hall in London, during which he played as-yet unreleased songs. Outside the US and Europe, concerts also took place in Australia and Japan. It was during this time that Channel 4 filmed The Importance of Being Morrissey, a documentary which eventually aired in 2003. In June 2003, it was reported that Attack Records, a defunct reggae label, had been transferred to Morrissey from Sanctuary Records, with a view to his recording new material and signing new artists.
Morrissey's seventh album, You Are the Quarry, was released in 2004, peaking at number two on the UK album chart and number 11 on the Billboard album chart in the United States. Guitarist Alain Whyte described the work as a mix between Your Arsenal and Vauxhall and I, and the album received strong reviews. The first single, "Irish Blood, English Heart", reached number three in its first week in the UK singles chart, the highest chart placing for a Morrissey single. Three other hit singles followed: "First of the Gang to Die", "Let Me Kiss You", and "I Have Forgiven Jesus". The album has since sold over a million copies.
To promote the album, Morrissey embarked on an accompanying world tour from April to November. In August 2004, Morrissey made a series of appearances on Craig Kilborn's The Late Late Show in the US. A concert at the Manchester Arena on Morrissey's 45th birthday was recorded and released on the DVD Who Put the M in Manchester? in 2005.
Morrissey's eighth studio album, Ringleader of the Tormentors, was recorded in Rome and released on 3 April 2006. It debuted at number one in the UK album charts and number 27 in the US. The album yielded four hit singles: "You Have Killed Me", "The Youngest Was the Most Loved", "In the Future When All's Well", and "I Just Want to See the Boy Happy". Originally Morrissey was to record the album with producer Jeff Saltzman; however, he could not undertake the project. Tony Visconti, of T.Rex and David Bowie fame, took over production and Morrissey announced that the album was "the most beautiful—perhaps the most gentle—so far". Billboard described the album as showcasing "a thicker, more rock-driven sound". Morrissey attributes this change in sound to new guitarist Jesse Tobias. The subsequent 2006 international tour included more than two dozen gigs in the UK, including concerts at the London Palladium.
In January 2007, the BBC said that it was in talks with Morrissey for him to write a song for the 2007 Eurovision Song Contest. If an agreement could be made, Morrissey would be writing the song for someone else, rather than performing it himself. The following month, the BBC stated Morrissey would not be part of Britain's Eurovision entry.
In early 2007, Morrissey left Sanctuary Records and embarked on a Greatest Hits tour. The tour ran from 1 February 2007 to 29 July 2008 and spanned 106 concerts over eight different countries. Morrissey cancelled 11 of these dates, including a planned six consecutive shows at the Roundhouse in London, due to "throat problems". The tour consisted of three legs, the first two, encompassing the US and Mexico, with support from Kristeen Young and the third, covering Europe and Israel, with support from Girl in a Coma.
After a show in Houston, Texas, Morrissey rented Sunrise Sound Studio to record "That's How People Grow Up". The song was recorded with producer Jerry Finn as a future single and for inclusion on an upcoming album. In an interview on BBC Radio 5 Live with Visconti, the producer stated that his new project would be Morrissey's next album, though that this would not be forthcoming for at least a year. However, in an interview with the BBC News website in October 2007, Morrissey said that the album was already written and ready for a possible September 2008 release and confirmed that his deal with Sanctuary Records had come to an end.
In December 2007, Morrissey signed a new deal with Decca Records, which included a Greatest Hits album and a newly recorded album to follow in autumn 2008. Morrissey released "That's How People Grow Up" as the first single from his new Greatest Hits album. It reached number 14 on the British charts. One reviewer noted that the album only includes songs which reached the Top 15 in the charts, putting the emphasis on new songs and making the CD more suitable for new listeners than for old fans. The album charted at number 5 in the British album chart on its week of release. A second single from the Greatest Hits, "All You Need Is Me", was released in March.
On 30 May 2008, it was announced that Morrissey's ninth studio album, Years of Refusal, would be produced by Jerry Finn. On 5 August 2008 it was reported that, although originally due in September, Years of Refusal had been postponed until February 2009, as a result of Finn's death and the lack of an American label to distribute the album.
On 15 August 2008, Warner Music Entertainment announced the upcoming release of Morrissey: Live at the Hollywood Bowl, a DVD of the live performance that took place at the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles on 8 June 2007. Morrissey greeted news of the DVD's release by imploring fans not to buy it. This DVD has never been released.
In November 2008, Rolling Stone magazine ranked Morrissey as 92nd of "The 100 Greatest Singers of All Time". The list was compiled from ballots cast by a panel of 179 "music experts", such as Bruce Springsteen, Alicia Keys and Bono, who were asked to name their 20 favourite vocalists.
Years of Refusal was released worldwide on 16 February 2009 by the Universal Music Group, reaching number three in the UK Albums Chart and 11 in the US Billboard 200. The record was widely acclaimed by critics, with comparisons made to Your Arsenal and Vauxhall and I. A review from Pitchfork Media noted that with Years of Refusal, Morrissey "has rediscovered himself, finding new potency in his familiar arsenal. Morrissey's rejuvenation is most obvious in the renewed strength of his vocals" and called it his "most venomous, score-settling album, and in a perverse way that makes it his most engaging". "I'm Throwing My Arms Around Paris" and "Something Is Squeezing My Skull" were released as the record's singles. The song "Black Cloud" features the guitar playing of Jeff Beck. Throughout 2009 Morrissey toured to promote the album. As part of the extensive Tour of Refusal, Morrissey followed a lengthy US tour with concerts booked in Ireland, Scotland, England, Russia. He had never before performed in Russia.
In 2009, remastered editions of 1995's Southpaw Grammar and 1997's Maladjusted were released. These both featured a rearranged track listing with the inclusion of B-sides and outtakes, as well as new artwork and liner notes written by Morrissey.
In October 2009, a 2004–2009 B-sides collection, named Swords was released. The album peaked at 55 on the UK albums chart, and Morrissey later called the compilation "a meek disaster". On the second date of the UK tour to promote Swords, Morrissey collapsed with breathing difficulties after the opening song of his set, "This Charming Man", at the Oasis Centre, Swindon. He was discharged from the hospital the following day.
Following the Swords tour, it was announced that Morrissey had fulfilled his contractual obligation to Universal Records and was without a record company.
In October 2010, EMI reissued the 1990 album Bona Drag on its Major Minor imprint, resurrected specifically for the release. The release featured six additional previously unreleased tracks, and reached number 67 in the UK charts. The 1988 single "Everyday Is Like Sunday" was also reissued to coincide with the release on both CD and 7" vinyl formats.
In April 2011, EMI issued a new compilation, Very Best of Morrissey, whose tracklist and artwork were chosen by Morrissey. The single "Glamorous Glue" was released the same week with two previously unreleased songs. In March 2011, it was announced that Morrissey was now under the management of Ron Laffitte. In June and July 2011, Morrissey played a UK tour, mainly consisting of small venues in the north of Britain; played the Glastonbury Festival and headlined the Hop Farm Festival. In July and August he toured venues in Europe and played two festival dates, Hultsfred Festival in Sweden and the Lokeren Festival in Belgium.
During his performance at Glastonbury in 2011, Morrissey criticised the UK prime minister, David Cameron, for attempting to stop the ban on wild animals performing in circuses, calling him a "silly twit". On 14 June 2011, Janice Long premiered three new Morrissey songs in session on her BBC Radio 2 programme; "Action Is My Middle Name", "The Kid's a Looker", and "People Are the Same Everywhere".
Morrissey's 2012 tour started in South America and continued through Asia and North America. Morrissey played concerts in Belgium, Italy, Greece, Turkey, Israel, Portugal, England, and Scotland. In late September, while visiting Strand Bookstore in Manhattan, he saved an elderly lady who had fainted beside him. On 12 November 2012, Morrissey announced that he would be continuing his North American tour adding 32 cities beginning in Greenvale, NY on 9 January and ending in Portland, Oregon on 8 March. Patti Smith and her band were special guests at the Staples Center concert in Los Angeles, and Kristeen Young opened on all nights.
In late January 2013, following hospital treatment Morrissey was diagnosed with a bleeding ulcer and the several engagements were re-scheduled. On 7 March, Morrissey was hospitalised again, this time with pneumonia in both lungs. One week later, it was finally announced that the rest of the tour had been cancelled. During his rehabilitation he spent time in Ireland, where he watched the country's football team play a match against Austria in the company of his cousin Robbie Keane.
On 8 April, EMI reissued the single "The Last of the Famous International Playboys" backed by three new songs, "People Are the Same Everywhere", "Action Is My Middle Name", and "The Kid's a Looker", all recorded live in 2011. In April, Morrissey announced that he would perform live shows in Mexico, Brazil, Argentina, Peru and Chile, starting from June. In August, Morrissey's concert at Hollywood High School on 2 March 2013, had a worldwide cinema release. 25Live marks Morrissey's 25th year as a solo artist, and is the first authorised live Morrissey DVD for 9 years. On 22 July, Morrissey announced the cancellation of the South American leg of his tour due to a "lack of funding", saying it was "the last of many final straws".
Autobiography and World Peace Is None of Your Business: 2013–present
On 17 October, Morrissey's autobiography, titled Autobiography, was released after a "content dispute" had delayed it from the initial release date of 16 September 2013. The book's release caused controversy as it was published as a "contemporary classic" under the Penguin Classic label at Morrissey's request, which some critics felt devalued the Penguin Classics label. Morrissey had completed the 660-page book in 2011, before shopping it to publishers such as Penguin Books and Faber and Faber. The book opened to divergent reviews with The Daily Telegraph giving it a 5-star review that described it as "the best written musical autobiography since Bob Dylan's Chronicles", while The Independent criticised the book's "droning narcissism" as well as Penguin Classics. The book entered the UK book charts at number one with nearly 35,000 copies being sold in its first week. In December, a 2011 live cover version of Lou Reed's "Satellite of Love", was released as a single.
In January 2014, The Guardian reported that Morrissey was writing his debut novel. He announced that he has signed a two-record deal with Capitol Music, with recording to commence on 1 February in France. Morrissey's 10th studio album, World Peace Is None of Your Business, was released on 15 July. Prior to its release, he embarked on a US tour in May and June. Morrissey was hospitalised in Boston, and cancelled the remaining nine dates on the tour due to a cold or virus. The title track of the album was issued as a digital download in May. Three other songs, "Istanbul", "Earth Is the Loneliest Planet" and "The Bullfighter Dies" followed in subsequent weeks. The songs were promoted with spoken word videos, featuring Morrissey reciting the lyrics.
In August, Capitol Music and Harvest Records ended their contracts with Morrissey. Later that year, he publicly disclosed that he had received treatment for Barrett's oesophageal cancer.
In March 2015, Morrissey released "Kiss Me a Lot" as the fifth single from World Peace Is None of Your Business as a digital download. After making a six date arena tour in the UK, he did a US tour during June and July, including a concert in New York with special guest Blondie at Madison Square Garden. In July 2015, he publicly claimed that an airport security guard had groped his penis at San Francisco International Airport; he filed a sexual assault complaint although the Transport Security Administration found no supporting evidence to act on the allegation.
Vocal and lyrical style
Morrissey's lyrics have been described as "dramatic, bleak, funny vignettes about doomed relationships, lonely nightclubs, the burden of the past and the prison of the home". Among those who are not fans of his work, there is a common feeling that his music's emphasis on the sadness of life is depressing.
His lyrics are characterised by their usage of black humour, self-deprecation, and the pop vernacular. Many of his lyrics avoid mentioning the gender of the narrator, and thus provide both male and female listeners with multiple points of identification. Simpson felt that his lyrics often highlighted "the essential absurdity of gender". Discussing The Smiths' lyrics, in 1992 Stringer highlighted that they placed great emphasis on the concept of Englishness, but added that unlike the contemporary Two-Tone and acid house movements, they focused on white England rather than exploring its multi-cultural counterpart. Although noting that during the 1980s emphasising white identity was a trait closely linked with right-wing politics, Stringer expressed the view that The Smiths represented "the only sustained response that white, English pop/rock music was able to make" against the Thatcher government's "appropriation of white, English national identity".
His lyrics have expressed disdain for many elements of British society, including the government, church, education system, royal family, meat-eating, money, gender, discos, fame, and relationships. In his lyrics for The Smiths, Morrissey avoided explicit descriptions of the consummation of sex; rather, he sings about the anticipation, frustration, aversion, or final disappointment with sex. Stringer suggested that this deliberate avoidance of sex was a reflection of the band's 'Englishness' because it invoked English cultures' "lack of emotional expression, the way in which feelings, and especially sexual feelings, cannot be expressed directly through casual touch, body contact and so on". Male homoerotic elements can be found in many of The Smiths' lyrics, however these also included sexualised descriptions featuring women.
Simpson opined that Morrissey's lyrics "bleed and throb with violent imagery", citing the references to bus crashes and suicide pacts in "There is a Light that Never Goes Out", smashed teeth in "Big Mouth Strikes Again", and nuclear holocaust in both "Ask" and "Everyday is Like Sunday".
Morrissey's vocals have been cited as having a particularly distinctive quality. Simpson believed that Morrissey's work embodied and personified that of the "Northern Women", speaking in styles of vernacular language that would be common to many women living in northern England. In this he was strongly influenced by the Northern singer Cilla Black, who had a successful career as a pop music singer in the 1960s, as well as Viv Nicholson, who similarly earned fame during that decade. Other female singers from that decade who have been cited as an influence on Morrissey have been the Scottish Lulu, and the Essexer Sandie Shaw. However, Stringer noted that rather than expressly singing in a Mancunian working-class accent, Morrissey adopted a "very clipped, precise enunciation" and sang in "clear English diction". He is also noted for his unusual baritone vocal style (though he sometimes uses falsetto),
When performing onstage, he often whips his microphone cord about, particularly during his up-tempo tracks. Simpson believed that Morrissey often gave "slyly aggressive gestures" while onstage; he cited two instances from Top of the Pops, one in which Morrissey used hand gestures in order to pretend shooting at the audience during "Shoplifters of the World Unite" and another in which he turned his microphone cord into a hangman's noose while repeating the lyrics "Hang the DJ, hang the DJ" in the song "Panic".
Throughout his career, Morrissey has retained an intensely private personal life. Morrissey, a long time resident of Los Angeles during the latter part of his solo career, now maintains a number of homes in Los Angeles, Rome, Switzerland, and the UK. Stringer characterised Morrissey as a man with various contradictory traits, being "an ordinary, working-class 'anti-star' who nevertheless loves to hog the spotlight, a nice man who says the nastiest things about other people, a shy man who is also an outrageous narcissist". He further suggested that part of Morrissey's appeal was that he conveyed the image of a "cultivated English gentleman (and being every inch the typically English 'gent' he is perfectly representative of that type's loathing for cant and hypocrisy, and his fragile, quasi-gay sexuality)". Similarly, Morrissey biographer David Bret described the singer as being "quintessentially English", while Simpson termed him a Little Englander.
A vocal advocate on animal welfare and animal rights issues, Morrissey has been a vegetarian since the age of 11. He has explained his vegetarianism by saying that "if you love animals, obviously it doesn't make sense to hurt them". According to a 2015 interview with Larry King, Morrissey is now a vegan.
He is a lapsed Catholic. Morrissey is a cousin of Robbie Keane, the Irish footballer who is the captain of the Republic of Ireland national football team. He has said of Keane, "To watch him on the pitch – pacing like a lion, as weightless as an astronaut, is pure therapy."
Morrissey's sexuality has been the subject of much speculation and coverage in the British press during his career, with claims varyingly being made that he was celibate, a frustrated heterosexual, or bisexual. In a 1980 letter, he described both himself and his then-girlfriend as bisexual, although added that "I hate sex". During his years with The Smiths, Morrissey professed to being celibate, which stood out at a time when much of pop music was dominated by visible sexuality. Marr said in a 1984 interview that Morrissey "doesn't participate in sex at the moment and hasn't done so for a while". Repeatedly, interviewers asked Morrissey if he was gay, which he denied. In response to one such inquiry in 1985, he stated that "I don't recognise such terms as heterosexuality, homosexuality, bisexuality, and I think it's important that there's someone in pop music who's like that. These words do great damage, they confuse people and they make people feel unhappy so I want to do away with them." As his career developed, there was increased pressure placed on him to come out of the closet.
In 1997, he revealed that he had abandoned celibacy and that he had a relationship with a Cockney boxer. That person was revealed in Morrissey's autobiography to be Jake Walters. They lived together until 1996. In an interview in March 2013, Walters said, "Morrissey and I have been friends for a long time, probably around 20 years." Morrissey was later attached to Tina Dehghani. He discussed having a baby with Dehghani, with whom he described having an "uncluttered commitment". In his autobiography, Morrissey also mentions a relationship with a younger Italian man, known only as "Gelato", with whom he sought to buy a house around 2006.
In October 2013, Morrissey released a statement through his semi-official website, which said, "Unfortunately, I am not homosexual. In technical fact, I am humasexual. I am attracted to humans. But, of course... not many." Simpson noted that many questioned why Morrissey does not identify as bisexual, given his sexual experiences with both men and women.
The Encyclopædia Britannica states that he created a "compellingly conflicted persona (loudly proclaimed celibacy offset by coy hints of closeted homosexuality)" which has "made him a peculiar heartthrob". Speculation was further fuelled by the frequent references to gay subculture and slang in his lyrics. In 2006, Liz Hoggard from The Independent noted, "Only 15 years after homosexuality had been decriminalised, his lyrics flirted with every kind of gay subculture." For example, she says that "'This Charming Man' ... is about age-gap, gay sex". Reviewer Stephen Thomas Erlewine says the lyrics of the Smiths single "Hand in Glove" contain "veiled references to homosexuality".
Views on political leaders
Morrissey's first solo album, Viva Hate, included a track entitled "Margaret on the Guillotine", a jab at Thatcher. After Thatcher's death in April 2013, Morrissey called her "a terror without an atom of humanity" and that "every move she made was charged by negativity". In December 2010, he publicly supported Johnny Marr, who had stated that he forbade British Prime Minister, David Cameron, from liking The Smiths. Morrissey added criticism of Cameron for his hobby of stag hunting. In 2013, he said that he "nearly voted" for the UK Independence Party, expressing his admiration for party leader Nigel Farage and endorsing the latter's Eurosceptic viewpoint with regards to the UK's membership of the European Union.
At a Dublin concert in June 2004, Morrissey announced the death of former US President Ronald Reagan and then said he would have preferred if then President, George W. Bush, had died instead. During a January 2008 concert, Morrissey remarked "God Bless Barack Obama" and criticised Hillary Clinton. In 2015 however he endorsed Clinton for President, criticising the Republican nominees.
In February 2006, Morrissey said he had been interviewed by the FBI and by British intelligence after speaking out against the American and British governments. He said: "They were trying to determine if I was a threat to the government... it didn't take them long to realise that I'm not".
Views on the British monarchy
Morrissey has exhibited enduring anti-royalist views from his teenage years. Morrissey has fiercely criticised the British monarchy and has publicly stated his position as a monarchical abolitionist, stating: "I don't think the so-called royal family speak for England now and I don't think England needs them. I do seriously believe that they are benefit scroungers and nothing else. I don't believe they serve any purpose whatsoever", also going on to criticise journalists for not giving a true assessment of Royalist support in the United Kingdom.
I think it's fascist and very, very cruel. To me there's something dramatically ugly about a person who can wear a dress for £6,000 when at the same time there are people who can't afford to eat. When she puts on that dress for £6,000 the statement she is making to the nation is: "I am the fantastically gifted royalty, and you are the snivelling peasants." The very idea that people would be interested in the facts about this dress is massively insulting to the human race.
In an October 2012 interview with TV comedian Stephen Colbert he spoke out against the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II, stating; "It was a celebration of what? 60 years of dictatorship. She's not [my Queen]. I'm not a subject." He later went on to say; "I hate the royals. I think they're absolutely horrible people. I think they're arrogant, horrible dictators. The world does not need them."
He has also criticised the royals for their record on animal welfare, focusing on condemning Princess Anne's promotion of horsemeat consumption, and Queen Elizabeth, Prince William, and Prince Harry's involvement in hunting and blood sports.
Reaction to comments involving race and ethnicity
Morrissey has been accused of racism on a number of occasions during his career. In 1985, he was criticised after saying "reggae is vile", although he later stated that this had been a tongue-in-cheek answer to "wind up the right-on 1980s NME", and that he was a fan of much reggae music. In a 1986 interview, he characterised reggae as a "total glorification of black supremacy" and expressed the view that he "detest[ed]... black modern music... Obviously to get on Top of The Pops these days, one has to be, by law, black". Accusations of racism were also made of The Smiths' song "Panic" with its call to "Hang the DJ". Some commentators accused The Smiths of racism, but others opined that this accusation oversimplified their relationship to race and nationhood.
Morrissey's performance at the first Madness Madstock! reunion concert at Finsbury Park, London, in 1992, saw him appear on stage carrying a Union Flag. As a backdrop for this performance, he chose a photograph of two female skinheads. The British music magazine NME responded to the performance with a lengthy examination of Morrissey's attitudes to race, claiming that the singer had "left himself in a position where accusations that he's toying with far-right/fascist imagery, and even of racism itself, can no longer just be laughed off with a knowing quip". Morrissey's biographer Simon Goddard describes NME's reaction as "sensationalised".
In 1994, Morrissey rejected claims of racism, saying "If the National Front were to hate anyone, it would be me". He added that far-right rage "is simply their anger at being ignored in what is supposed to be a democratic society". In 1999, he lamented the rise of Austrian far-right politician Jörg Haider, saying: "This is sad. Sometimes I don't believe we live in an intelligent world". In 2004, he was a founding signatory of the Unite Against Fascism pressure group.
In 2007, Morrissey said in an interview with NME that British identity had disappeared because of immigration. He later claimed to have been misrepresented, and his manager described NME article as "character assassination".
In 2008, Morrissey made a donation of £75,000 to the organisers of the Love Music Hate Racism concert in London, after the withdrawal of NME's sponsorship left the event facing a financial shortfall. A legal suit by Morrissey against NME for unsubstantiated accusations of racism began in October 2011. Morrissey's case against Conor McNicholas and IPC/NME was due to have been heard in London in July 2012. In June 2012, the parties settled the dispute, with NME saying: "We do not believe that he is a racist. We didn't think we were saying he was and we apologise to Morrissey if he or anyone else misunderstood our piece in that way".
In 2010, during an interview with Simon Armitage for The Guardian, Morrissey alighted on the topic of animal cruelty in China, saying "you can't help but feel the Chinese are a sub-species". This led to Love Music Hate Racism, to whom Morrissey had previously donated money, saying it would be unable to accept support from him again without a retraction. "When you start using language like 'subspecies'", said Martin Smith, "you are entering into dark and murky water".
According to the commentator Liz Hoggard: "Morrissey didn't help his case with an uneasy flirtation with gangster imagery: he took up boxing and was accompanied everywhere by a skinhead, named Jake ... the man who abhorred violence became strangely fascinated by it". Encyclopædia Britannica says that Morrissey's 1990s albums, including Your Arsenal (1992), Vauxhall and I (1994), Southpaw Grammar (1995) and Maladjusted (1997), "testified to a growing homoerotic obsession with criminals, skinheads, and boxers, a change paralleled by a shift in the singer's image from wilting wallflower to would-be thug sporting sideburns and gold bracelets".
Despite accusations of racism in his native Britain, Morrissey enjoys a high popularity with Latin American audiences—chiefly in Los Angeles and in Mexico. Morrissey himself has stated his fondness for his Latino fans and has made lyrical and symbolic overtures to display his devotion.
Morrissey is an advocate for animal rights and a supporter of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). In recognition of his support, PETA honoured him with the Linda McCartney Memorial Award at their 25th Anniversary Gala on 10 September 2005. In 2012, he appeared in a PETA ad campaign, encouraging people to have their dogs and cats neutered to help reduce the number of homeless pets.
In January 2006, Morrissey attracted criticism when he stated that he accepts the motives behind the militant tactics of the Animal Rights Militia, saying "I understand why fur-farmers and so-called laboratory scientists are repaid with violence—it is because they deal in violence themselves and it's the only language they understand".
Morrissey has criticised people in the UK who are involved in the promotion of eating meat, specifically Jamie Oliver and Clarissa Dickson Wright – the latter already targeted by some animal rights activists for her stance on fox hunting. In response, Dickson Wright stated, "Morrissey is encouraging people to commit acts of violence and I am constantly aware that something might very well happen to me." The Conservative MP David Davis criticised Morrissey's comments, saying that "any incitement to violence is obviously wrong in a civilised society and should be investigated by the police". On 27 March 2006, Morrissey released a statement that he would not include any concert dates in Canada on his world tour that year—and that he supported a boycott of all Canadian goods—in protest against the country's annual seal hunt, which he described as a "barbaric and cruel slaughter".
In 2009 he briefly abandoned the main stage at the Coachella Festival, which was situated next to the food concession area. Upon his return he said, "The smell of burning animals is making me sick. I just couldn't bear it."
At a concert in Warsaw, Poland on Sunday, 24 July 2011, Morrissey caused more controversy when stating "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", in reference to the recent attacks of Anders Breivik in Norway on 22 July, which resulted in the killing of 69 people who were attending a Youth Labour Party camp on Utøya Island, and eight people working in and around a government building which was bombed. His statement has been seen as crude and insensitive. Morrissey later elaborated on his statement, saying, "If you quite rightly feel horrified at the Norway killings, then it surely naturally follows that you feel horror at the murder of ANY innocent being. You cannot ignore animal suffering simply because animals 'are not us.'"
In February 2013, after much speculation, it was reported that the Staples Center had agreed for the first time ever to make every vendor in the area 100% vegetarian for Morrissey's performance of 1 March, contractually having all McDonald's vendors close down. In a press release, Morrissey stated, "I don't look upon it as a victory for me, but a victory for the animals". The request was previously denied to Paul McCartney. Despite these reports, the Staples Center retained some meat vendors while closing down McDonald's. Later in February, Morrissey cancelled an appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Live! after learning that the guests for that night also included the cast of Duck Dynasty, a show about a family who create duck calls for use in hunting. Morrissey referred to the cast as "animal serial killers".
He has stated that "If anyone has seen the horrific and unwatchable footage of the Chinese cat and dog trade – animals skinned alive – then they could not possibly argue in favour of China as a caring nation. There are no animal protection laws in China and this results in the worst animal abuse and cruelty on the planet. It is indefensible".
In 2014 Morrissey stated that he believed there is "no difference between eating animals and paedophilia. They are both rape, violence, murder."
In 2014 PETA worked with animator Anna Saunders to create a cartoon called "Someday" in honour of Morrissey's 55th birthday. It contains Morrissey's song "I Know It's Gonna Happen Someday" and highlights the journey of a young chick.
In September 2015, Morrissey expressed his revulsion at the "Piggate" scandal, saying that if the story were true about British Prime Minister David Cameron inserting "a private part of his anatomy" into the mouth of a dead pig's severed head while at university, then it showed "a callousness and complete lack of empathy entirely unbefitting a man in his position, and he should resign". Morrissey condemned the "sexual perversion" of such an act, adding that "people in power misusing and sexually abusing corpses" was "not excusable".
Reception, legacy, and influence
Bret believed that Morrissey was an artist who divided opinion among those who loved him and those who loathed him, with little space for compromise between the two. Press termed him the "Pope of Mope".
Soon after achieving national fame, Morrissey became a gay icon. This development was influenced by the speculation around his own sexual orientation, his lyrics that dealt with such subjects as age-gap sex and rent boys, as well as The Smiths' heavy use of gay and camp imagery on their record covers.
Relationship with fans
Simpson stated that Morrissey had a global fan following that was unrivalled in its devotion to the singer, characterising this as "the kind of devotion that only dead stars command" normally. Morrissey's fans have been described as being among the most dedicated of pop and rock fans. Music magazine NME considers Morrissey to be "one of the most influential artists ever", while The Independent says, "Most pop stars have to be dead before they reach the iconic status he has reached in his lifetime." According to Bret, Morrissey's fanbase "religiously followed his every pitfall and triumph". Simpson highlighted an example during the U.S. leg of Morrissey's 1996 Maladjusted tour in which young men asked the singer to sign his autograph on their neck, which they subsequently had permanently tattooed into their skin.
The film 25 Live evidences a particularly strong following amongst the singer's Latino/Chicano fans.
There are a number of Morrissey fansites. In the early 2000s, Morrissey issued a "cease and desist" notification against the fan website Morrissey-Solo for publishing claims, never proven, that Morrissey had failed to pay members of his touring personnel. In 2011, he issued a lifetime concert ban against the site owner who, it was claimed, had caused "intentional distress to Morrissey and Morrissey's band" over a number of years. Another fansite, True-To-You, enjoys a close relationship with Morrissey and functions as his official website for statements.
Morrissey is routinely referred to as an influential artist, both in his solo career and with The Smiths. The BBC has referred to him as "one of the most influential figures in the history of British pop", and NME named The Smiths the "most influential artist ever" in a 2002 poll, even topping the Beatles. Rolling Stone, naming him one of the greatest singers of all time in a recent poll, noted that his "rejection of convention" in his vocal style and lyrics is the reason "why he redefined the sound of British rock for the past quarter-century". Morrissey's enduring influence has been ascribed to his wit, the "infinite capacity for interpretation" in his lyrics, and his appeal to the "constant navel gazing, reflection, solipsism" of generations of "disenfranchised youth", offering unusually intimate "companionship" to broad demographics. Paul A. Woods described Morrissey as "Britain's unlikeliest rock 'n' roll star in several decades", noting that at the same time he was also "its most essential". Bret described him as "probably the most intellectually gifted and imaginative lyricist of his generation".
Journalist Mark Simpson calls Morrissey "one of the greatest pop lyricists – and probably the greatest-ever lyricist of desire – that has ever moaned" and observes that "he is fully present in his songs as few other artists are, in a way that fans of most other performers ... wouldn't tolerate for a moment." Simpson also argues that "After Morrissey there could be no more pop stars. His was an impossible act to follow ... [his] unrivalled knowledge of the pop canon, his unequaled imagination of what it might mean to be a pop star, and his breathtakingly perverse ambition to turn it into great art, could only exhaust the form forever".
In 2006, Morrissey was voted the second greatest living British icon in a poll held by the BBC's Culture Show. The All Music Guide to Rock asserts that Morrissey's "lyrical preoccupations", particularly themes dealing with English identity, proved extremely influential on subsequent artists. Journalist Phillip Collins also described him as a major influence on modern music and "the best British lyricist in living memory". In 2002, the NME, by his point a critic of Morrissey's, nevertheless considered him to be the "most influential artist ever".
Other scholars have responded favourably to Morrissey's work, including academic symposia at various universities including University of Limerick and Manchester Metropolitan University. Gavin Hopps, a research fellow and literary scholar at the University of St. Andrews, wrote a full-length academic study of Morrissey's work, calling him comparable to Oscar Wilde, John Betjeman, and Philip Larkin, and noting similarities between Morrissey and Samuel Beckett.
The British Food Journal featured an article in 2008 that applied Morrissey's lyrics to building positive business relationships. A book of academic essays edited by Eoin Devereux, Aileen Dillane and Martin Power, Morrissey: Fandom, Representations and Identities, which focuses on Morrissey's solo career, was published in 2011.
He is regarded as an important innovator in the indie music scene; while in 2004, Pitchfork Media called him "one of the most singular figures in Western popular culture from the last 20 years." A Los Angeles Times critic wrote that Morrissey "patented the template for modern indie rock" and that many bands playing at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival "would not be there – or at least, would not sound the same – were it not for him". Similarly, the critic Steven Wells called Morrissey "the man who more or less invented indie" and an artist "who more than anybody else personifies" indie culture. Stephen Thomas Erlewine of Allmusic writes that The Smiths and Morrissey "inspired every band of note" in the Britpop era, including Suede, Blur, Oasis, and Pulp. Other major artists including Jeff Buckley and Thom Yorke have also been influenced by Morrissey.
Colin Meloy of the Decemberists, who recorded a 2005 EP of Morrissey covers titled Colin Meloy Sings Morrissey, acknowledged Morrissey's influence on his songwriting: "You could either bask in that glow of fatalistic narcissism, or you could think it was funny. I always thought that was an interesting dynamic in his songwriting, and I can only aspire to have that kind of dynamic in my songs". Brandon Flowers of the American rock band The Killers has revealed his admiration for Morrissey on several different occasions and admits that his interest for writing songs about murder such as "Jenny Was a Friend of Mine" and "Midnight Show" traces back to Morrissey singing about loving "the romance of crime" in the song "Sister I'm a Poet". Flowers was quoted as saying, "I studied that line a lot. And it's kind of embedded in me".
|1994||Vauxhall and I|
|2004||You Are the Quarry|
|2006||Ringleader of the Tormentors|
|2009||Years of Refusal|
|2014||World Peace Is None of Your Business|
Publications by Morrissey
- The New York Dolls. By Steven Patrick Morrissey.
- Manchester: Babylon, 1981.
- Reprint. Manchester: Babylon, 1995. ISBN 9780907188506.
- James Dean is Not Dead, Manchester: Babylon, 1983. ISBN 978-0907188063. By Steven Patrick Morrissey.
- Exit Smiling, Manchester: Babylon, 1998. ISBN 978-0907188476. Edition of 1000 copies. By Steven Patrick Morrissey.
- Autobiography. London: Penguin Classics, 2013. ISBN 978-0141394817.
- List of the Lost. London: Penguin, 2015. ISBN 9780141982960.
Publications with contributions by Morrissey
- Marc Bolan: Wilderness of the Mind. London: Xanadu, 1992. ISBN 978-1854801555. By John Willians and Caron Thomas. With an introduction by Morrissey. About Marc Bolan.
- Cockney Reject. John Black, 2005. ISBN 978-1844548811. By Jeff Turner and Gary Bushell. With a foreword by Morrissey. About Cockney Rejects.
- The Autobiography: Bowie, Bolan and the Brooklyn Boy. New York: HarperCollins, 2007. ISBN 978-0007229451. By Tony Visconti. With a foreword by Morrissey.
Notes and references
- Huey, Steve. "Morrissey". Allmusic. Retrieved 3 January 2016.
- Hughes, Josiah (3 January 2014). "Morrissey Working on New Album and Novel". Exclaim!. Retrieved 3 January 2016.
- Timberg, Scott (14 April 2009). "Morrissey and the Smiths' influence is apparent". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 3 January 2016.
- Erlewine, Stephen Thomas. "Morrissey - Your Arsenal". Allmusic. Retrieved 3 January 2016.
- Bret 2004, p. 6; Simpson 2004, p. 32.
- Bret 2004, p. 6.
- Simpson 2004, p. 33.
- Bret 2004, p. 6; Goddard 2006, p. 21.
- Bret 2004, p. 7; Simpson 2004, p. 39.
- Bret 2004, p. 7; Simpson 2004, pp. 43–44.
- Simpson 2004, p. 53.
- Bret 2004, p. 8.
- Simpson 2004, p. 37.
- Bret 2004, p. 8; Simpson 2004, pp. 37–38.
- Simpson 2004, p. 38.
- Bret 2004, p. 17; Simpson 2004, p. 38.
- Bret 2004, p. 18.
- Bret 2004, p. 18; Simpson 2004, p. 76.
- Simpson 2004, pp. 39–40.
- Bret 2004, pp. 12–13; Simpson 2004, pp. 39–40.
- Simpson 2004, p. 42.
- Bret 2004, p. 7; Simpson 2004, pp. 53–55.
- Simpson 2004, pp. 55–58.
- Simpson 2004, pp. 56–57.
- Bret 2004, p. 13; Simpson 2004, p. 35.
- Simpson, Dave (1998). "Manchester's Answer to the H-Bomb". Uncut. Retrieved 11 November 2006.
- Bret 2004, pp. 18–19.
- Bret 2004, p. 20; Simpson 2004, pp. 37, 40; Goddard 2006, p. 10.
- Holden, Stephen (17 July 1991). "The Pop Life: Out of the Mainstream". The New York Times. Retrieved 18 November 2008.
- Simpson 2004, p. 35; Goddard 2006, p. 10.
- Bret 2004, p. 15; Simpson 2004, p. 64; Goddard 2006, p. 10.
- Bret 2004, p. 15; Simpson 2004, p. 69; Goddard 2006, p. 10.
- Simpson 2004, p. 64.
- Bret 2004, pp. 15–18; Goddard 2006, p. 10.
- Bret 2004, p. 15; Simpson 2004, p. 70.
- Goddard 2006, pp. 10–11.
- Goddard 2006, p. 10.
- Bret 2004, pp. 13–14.
- Bret 2004, pp. 20, 23, 24; Simpson 2004, p. 76.
- Bret 2004, p. 20.
- Goddard 2006, p. 11.
- Bret 2004, p. 22.
- "LOTC—Legion of the Cramped". Carrollsweb.com. Retrieved 13 August 2010.
- Goddard 2006, p. 9.
- Bret 2004, p. 23.
- Rogan, Johnny (1993). Morrissey & Marr: The Severed Alliance. Omnibus Press. ISBN 0-7119-3000-7.
- Goddard 2006, p. 12.
- Bret 2004, p. 23; Goddard 2006, p. 12.
- Bret 2004, pp. 26–28.
- Simpson 2004, p. 77.
- Bret 2004, pp. 25–26; Goddard 2006, p. 11.
- Simpson 2004, pp. 82–85.
- Bret 2004, p. 32; Goddard 2006, pp. 16–17.
- Goddard 2006, p. 16.
- Bret 2004, p. 32; Goddard 2006, p. 16.
- "Desert Island Discs with Morrissey". Desert Island Discs. 2009-11-29. BBC. Radio 4.
- Goddard 2006, p. 17.
- Goddard 2006, pp. 19, 21.
- Bret 2004, p. 34; Simpson 2004, p. 42.
- Goddard 2006, p. 21.
- Bret 2004, p. 34; Goddard 2006, p. 20.
- Goddard 2006, p. 20.
- Bret 2004, p. 35; Goddard 2006, pp. 22–23.
- Bret 2004, p. 33; Goddard 2006, pp. 22–23.
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