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ADULTHOOD often brings with it the crushing realisation that those bold, dangerous rebels you idolised as a youth are actually nothing more than pretentious, tedious bores and liars.
It’s an accusation that could most definitely be laid at the feet of Morrissey, someone who railed against consumerism, fame and wealth before moving to LA and hanging out with movie stars.
For those who don’t know, Morrissey was the frontman of the groundbreaking Eighties band The Smiths, someone with such an utterly joyless attitude to life that he makes Victor Meldrew seem happy-go-lucky.
The cover of a new 457-page memoir the singer wrote features a picture of Morrissey, eyes closed with a dreamy look of contentment on his face – a look I doubt many readers will feel like copying by the time they finish. I’d like to think the fact the book has been published by Penguin Classics, an imprint usually reserved for acclaimed works of literature, is a nod to irony, but since we’re talking about a man with no obvious sense of humour, I somehow doubt that.
I defy the heart of even the most devoted fan not to sink when they read the first few pages.
“My childhood is streets upon streets upon streets upon streets. Streets to define you and streets to confine you.” What follows are pages (there are no chapters) of misery, telling of a childhood that sounds more like something out of Oliver Twist than an upbringing in Sixties Manchester, as he talks of feral children, dark alleyways and prostitutes on every corner.
His school days were unhappy ones. He says he was caned brutally by the teachers, bullied and failed by the education system – although assuring us that he is actually super-bright. Several pages are devoted to quoting some of his favourite poets and authors. Wilde, Auden, Betjeman and Belloc – he loves them all, don’t you know?
Lonely, unfulfilled and confused about his sexuality, as a teenager Morrissey sought solace in music. He listened to Marc Bolan, Bowie and Roxy Music before the punk explosion convinced him he wanted to be a rock star.
In the early Eighties, he replied to an advert looking for a singer and The Smiths were formed, signing in 1983 to Rough Trade records.
It’s here that the book contains some of its most interesting pages. Listening to Morrissey describe the trappings and hangers-on that fame brings is entertaining.
Latching on to the kudos The Smiths had, Morrissey (he did away with his first name, Steven, as no other rock stars then were known just by their surname) finds himself being courted by Michael Stipe, Elton John and Vanessa Redgrave.
There are few celebrities about whom Morrissey can find a good word. Robbie Williams is given short shrift, while meat-eating David Bowie is accused of “feeding off the blood of mammals”.
One deeply uncomfortable thing that jumps off the page at you is how much Morrissey seems to despise the opposite sex.
Woman after woman is mocked and derided in the most bitchy of tones. He laughs at the expense of several of his overweight female fans. A Job Centre employee is described as a “fat-ass Dunlop bloater of walrus proportions”.
Siouxsie Sioux is described as “a physical blancmange that is six parts Kate O’Mara, two parts Myra Hindley and two parts Fenella Fielding. She might stare you out as you lay dying on a zebra crossing”.
Much of his poison is aimed at the Royal Family, particularly the Duchess of York, whom he claims seems to follow him everywhere, describing her as “blessed with two daughters of Queen Victoria pot-dog pudginess”.
By 1987, The Smiths have split up and for years afterwards Morrissey finds himself mired in legal actions, the most notable being when the band’s former drummer, Mike Joyce, sued for his share of royalties. More than 50 pages of the book are devoted to the 1996 court case where Morrissey heaps bile on everyone that dared to cross him.
The subject of his sexuality has always been a grey area, but we do learn of two relationships, one with a man and one with a woman.
By the end, there’s a distinct feel of Sunset Boulevard about the whole thing, with a dejected Morrissey living in LA, telling fanciful stories. He claims he was offered the role of Dot Cotton’s son in EastEnders, which seems unlikely as the part’s been played by another actor for years. He was also, he says, offered a part in Friends.
I doubt anybody will open this book hoping to find a warm, cuddly side to Morrissey, but that he’s quite so unpleasant is something of a shock. Charming man he most certainly ain’t. – Daily Mail