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Morrissey

Steven Patrick Morrissey (born May 22, 1959), known primarily as Morrissey, is a British singer and lyricist. After a short stint in the punk rock band The Nosebleeds in the late 1970s, he rose to prominence in the 1980s as the lyricist and vocalist of the alternative rock band The Smiths. After the band's breakup in 1987, Morrissey began a solo career, in which he continued the jangle pop sound of The Smiths. Morrissey's solo albums have garnered ten Top 10 singles in the United Kingdom. UK magazine NME has described Morrissey as "one of the most influential artists ever" and The Independent has stated that "most pop stars have to be dead before they reach the iconic status that he has reached in his lifetime.

Morrissey's sardonic, literate lyrics tend to be "dramatic...bleak, funny vignettes about doomed relationships, lonely nightclubs, the burden of the past and the prison of the home." He sings with a baritone voice, occasionally using a high falsetto voice for emphasis. His "forthright, often contrary opinions" led to a number of media controversies, such as his criticism of the Band Aid hunger-relief effort and his statements against political leaders including Margaret Thatcher and George W. Bush. He has also attracted media attention from his advocacy of vegetarianism and animal rights.

Biography

Early life

Steven Patrick Morrissey was born at Park Hospital (now known as Trafford General Hospital) in Davyhulme, Urmston, Lancashire on 22 May 1959 to Irish Catholic immigrants. His father, Peter Morrissey, was a hospital porter, and his mother, Elizabeth Dwyer, was a librarian. His parents had emigrated to England just before Morrissey's birth and, along with his only sibling (elder sister Jackie), Morrissey was raised in Harper Street in Hulme, Manchester. In 1965, the family moved to Queens Square in Hulme near Moss Side. The family moved to 384 Kings Road in the suburb of Stretford in 1969, when many of the old terraced streets were being demolished. He has maintained a strong attachment to his mother throughout his life. His relationship with his father, however, suffered much strain over the years.

As a child, Morrissey developed a number of interests and role models that marked him out among his peers, including '60s girl groups, and female singers such as Sandie Shaw, Marianne Faithfull and Timi Yuro. He was also interested in the "kitchen sink"-style social realism of late 1950s and early 1960s television plays, Coronation Street's Elsie Tanner, actor James Dean, as well as authors Oscar Wilde and Shelagh Delaney. The Moors Murders of the early 1960s, in which a couple raped and killed a number of Manchester-area children and teens, had a large impact on him as a child. He examined these memories in his 1982 song "Suffer Little Children".

In adolescence, Morrissey's athletic ability saved him to a large degree from bullying. Nevertheless, he has described this period 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. He attended St Mary's Secondary Modern School and Stretford Technical School, where he passed Three O levels, including English Literature. He then worked briefly for the Inland Revenue, but ultimately decided to "go on the dole," sequestering himself in his room in his mother's home to concentrate on writing, reading, and listening to music. As of 1974, he regularly wrote letters (as Steve Morrissey) to music magazines such as Melody Maker and the NME, giving his forthright opinions on various bands. Morrissey's letters to a penpal friend in 1981 surfaced online over 20 years later.

Morrissey would sometimes venture out to see bands at local Manchester venues; the first such occasion being T.Rex at Belle Vue in 1972. He was taken there by his father, fearing for his safety in the notoriously rough district. He chose to wear a purple satin jacket, not the best way of avoiding unwanted attention. Morrissey has described the occasion as "messianic and complete chaos".

First steps in popular culture

Throughout the 1970s, a teenage Morrissey acted as president of the UK branch of the New York Dolls fan club. He articulated his love for the group in a recent biopic of ex Doll Arthur Kane: "Some bands grab you and they never let you go and, no matter what they do, they can never let you down... the Dolls were that for me. This New York Dolls influence made Morrissey an early convert to punk rock. Morrissey, then still with forename, briefly fronted The Nosebleeds in 1978, who by that time included Billy Duffy on guitar (Duffy went on to form the post-punk band The Cult). They played a number of concerts, including one supporting Magazine, which resulted in a New Musical Express review by Paul Morley. Morrissey also founded The Cramps fan club, the Legion of The Cramped, with another enthusiast for their music, Lindsay Hutton, although he progressively scaled down his involvement in the club over time, due to the increasing amount of time he was devoting to his own musical career.

Morrissey wrote several songs with Duffy, such as "Peppermint Heaven", "I Get Nervous" and "(I Think) I'm Ready for the Electric Chair", but none were recorded during the band's short lifespan, which ended the same year. 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 The Studio Sweethearts without Morrissey.

Morrissey for the time interrupted his music career, focusing instead on writing on popular culture. He published two works with Babylon Books: The New York Dolls (1981), about his favourite band; and James Dean Is Not Dead (1983), about Dean's brief career. A third book, Exit Smiling, which was actually written first (in 1980) and which dealt with obscure B-movie actors, was initially rejected and remained unpublished until 1998, when Morrissey had become famous and Babylon decided to publish it.

The Smiths

The Smiths were formed in early 1982 by Steven Morrissey and John Maher, a guitarist and songwriter. Maher changed his name to Johnny Marr to avoid confusion with the Buzzcocks drummer, and Morrissey performed solely under his surname. After recording several demo tapes with the drummer from The Fall, Simon Wolstencroft, they recruited drummer Mike Joyce in the autumn of 1982. Joyce had formerly been a member of punk bands The Hoax and Victim. As well, they added bass player Dale Hibbert, who also provided the group with demo recording facilities at the studio where he worked as a factotum. However, after two gigs, Marr's friend Andy Rourke replaced Hibbert on bass, because neither Hibbert's bass playing or personality fit in with the group. In a 1984 interview Morrissey stated that he chose the name The Smiths "...because it was the most ordinary name" and because he thought that it was "...time that the ordinary folk of the world showed their faces. Signing to indie label Rough Trade Records, they released their first single, "Hand in Glove", in May 1983. The record was championed by DJ John Peel, as were all of their later singles, but failed to chart. 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 John Peel and David Jensen at BBC Radio 1, The Smiths began to acquire a dedicated fan base.

In February 1984, the group released their debut album The Smiths, which reached number two on the UK Albums Chart. The released debut album followed a scrapped full-length version of the album recorded between July and August 1983 by producer Troy Tate. This collection, with its numerous variations from the final released version, is known as the "Troy Tate Sessions" and is a rarity. The planned single, "Jeane," was retained as a B-side for the "This Charming Man" single. Shortly after the release of the album, Sandie Shaw, who Morrissey was a fan of, recorded vocals for "Hand in Glove" backed by Marr, Rourke and Joyce. The hit single resulted in the band performing barefoot (a Sandie Shaw trademark) in tribute on Top of the Pops. In 1984, the band released several singles not taken from the album: "Heaven Knows I'm Miserable Now" (the band's first UK top-ten hit) and "William, It Was Really Nothing" (which featured "How Soon Is Now?" as a B-side). 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. This album was more strident and political than its predecessor, including the pro-vegetarian title track (Morrissey forbade the rest of the group from being photographed eating meat), the light-hearted republicanism of "Nowhere Fast", and the anti-corporal punishment "The Headmaster Ritual" and "Barbarism Begins at Home". The band had also grown more adventurous musically, with Marr adding rockabilly riffs to "Rusholme Ruffians" and Rourke playing a funk bass solo on "Barbarism Begins at Home". The album was preceded by the re-release of the B-side "How Soon is Now?" as a single, and although that song was not on the original LP, it has been added to subsequent releases. Meat Is Murder was the band's only album (barring compilations) to reach number one in the UK charts. The single-only release "Shakespeare's Sister" reached number 26 on the UK Singles Chart, although the only single taken from the album, "That Joke Isn't Funny Anymore", was less successful barely making the top 50.

During 1985 the band completed 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 single again featured Marr's strident acoustic guitar rhythms and lead melody guitar lines with wide leaps. 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. He later told NME, "'Worse for wear' wasn't the half of it: I was extremely ill. By the time the tour actually finished it was all getting a little bit... dangerous. I was just drinking more than I could handle." Meanwhile, Rourke was fired from the band in early 1986 due to his use of heroin. He received notice of his dismissal via a Post-it note stuck to the windshield of his car. It read, "Andy – you have left The Smiths. Goodbye and good luck, Morrissey. Rourke was temporarily replaced on bass by Craig Gannon (formerly a member of Scottish New Wave band Aztec Camera), 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. The band ultimately signed with EMI, which drew criticism from 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 – the title was Morrissey's comment on his frustration with the band's lack of mainstream recognition, although the album 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 August 1987, Marr left the group, and auditions to find a replacement for him 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 primarily attributed to Morrissey becoming annoyed by Marr's work with other artists and Marr growing frustrated by Morrissey's musical inflexibility. Strangeways peaked at number two in the UK but was only a minor US hit, although it was more successful there than the band's previous albums. The album received a lukewarm reception from critics, but all four members name it as their favourite Smiths album. A couple of further singles from the album were released with earlier live, session and demo tracks as B-sides, and the following year the live album Rank (recorded in 1986 while Gannon was in the band) repeated the UK chart success of previous albums. There have been many more compilations released since the group's demise as the group's back catalogue is now in the hands of Warner Music following Rough Trade's bankruptcy.

In 1996, Joyce took Morrissey and Marr to court, claiming that he had not received his fair share of recording and performance royalties. Morrissey and Marr had claimed the lion's share of The Smiths' recording and performance royalties and allowed ten percent each to Joyce and Rourke. Composition royalties were not an issue, as Rourke and Joyce had never been credited as composers for the band. Morrissey and Marr claimed that the other two members of the band had always agreed to that split of the royalties, but the court found in favour of Joyce and ordered that he be paid over £1 million in back pay and receive twenty-five percent henceforth. As Smiths' royalties had been frozen for two years, Rourke settled for a smaller lump sum to pay off his debts and continued to receive ten percent. While the judge in the case described Morrissey as "devious, truculent and unreliable", he did not state that the singer had been dishonest. 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 appealed against the verdict, but was not successful.

In late November 2005, while appearing on radio station BBC 6 Music, Mike Joyce claimed to be having financial problems and said that he had resorted to selling rare band recordings on eBay. As a teaser, a few minutes of an unfinished instrumental track known as "The Click Track" was premiered on the show. Morrissey hit back at Joyce with a public statement shortly after, on the website true-to-you.net. Relations between Joyce and Rourke cooled significantly as a result of Morrissey's statement which claimed that Joyce had misled the courts. Morrissey claimed that Joyce had not declared that Rourke was entitled to some of the assets seized by Joyce's lawyers from Morrissey. VH1 attempted to get the band back together for a reunion on its Bands Reunited show. The program abandoned its attempt however after host Aamer Haleem was unsuccessful in his attempt to corner Morrissey before a show. To this day Morrissey refuses to reunite his old band, going as far as to say that he would "rather eat [his] own testicles than re-form The Smiths, and that’s saying something for a vegetarian. In March 2006, Morrissey revealed that The Smiths had been offered $5 million to reunite for a performance at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, which he turned down, saying, "No, because money doesn't come into it." He further explained, "It was a fantastic journey. And then it ended. I didn't feel we should have ended. I wanted to continue. [Marr] wanted to end it. And that was that. When asked why he would not reform The Smiths, Morrissey responded "I feel as if I’ve worked very hard since the demise of The Smiths and the others haven’t, so why hand them attention that they haven’t earned? We are not friends, we don’t see each other. Why on earth would we be on a stage together? In August 2007, it was reported by the NME that once again Morrissey had turned down a near £40 M offer to reunite with Johnny Marr on a 50 date world tour, Morrissey later denied these claims calling the reunion tour a hoax.

Solo career

On March 22, 1988, a mere six months after The Smiths' final album, Morrissey's released his first solo album, Viva Hate. To create the album, Morrissey teamed up with former Smiths producer Stephen Street, Vini Reilly of Durutti Column, and drummer Andrew Paresi. The prevailing sound of the album is jangle pop, similar to that of the Smiths, though Reilly's guitar work adds more abrasive and atmospheric elements to the work. Viva Hate reached number one upon release, supported by such singles as "Suedehead" and "Everyday Is Like Sunday." The album was originally entitled Education in Reverse, but was renamed to reflect Morrissey's feelings after the break-up of The Smiths. Some LPs in Australia and New Zealand were however released with the original title. Viva Hate was certified Gold by the RIAA on November 16, 1993.

Morrissey initially planned to release a follow-up album entitled Bona Drag after releasing a few holdover singles from the Viva Hate sessions. As such, he released "The Last of the Famous International Playboys", "Interesting Drug", and "Ouija Board, Ouija Board" over the course of 1989. The first two of these became top ten hits. However, by the end of 1989 it became apparent that he would not be able to put out an album of new material soon enough. Morrissey decided to scrap the idea of a full-length LP and release Bona Drag as a compilation of singles and B-sides instead. Bona Drag (1990) collected these early singles along with further non-album cuts such as "November Spawned a Monster" and "Piccadilly Palare," along with the B-side "Hairdresser on Fire".

After a falling out with Stephen Street, Morrissey recruited the production aid of Clive Langer and songwriting services of Mark E. Nevin, of Fairground Attraction, for the studio follow-up to Viva Hate, entitled Kill Uncle. The album, which peaked at #8 on the UK charts, is often cited as the weakest in Morrissey's back catalog. 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 #26 and #33 respectively. Morrissey released two non-album singles, "Pregnant for the Last Time" and "My Love Life" but nearly fared better on the charts. 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 guitarists Boz Boorer and Alain Whyte, who have been the core of Morrissey's band ever since. Your Arsenal was produced by former David Bowie guitarist Mick Ronson, and earned a Grammy nomination for best alternative album. The album peaked at #4 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", both debuting in the Top 20 in the UK.

By 1994 Morrissey had suffered the loss of three people close to him: Mick Ronson, Tim Broad, and Nigel Thomas. Channeling his grief, Morrissey wrote and recorded his second number one album in the UK, Vauxhall and I. Years after the release, Morrissey acknowledged that he felt at the time that it was going to be his last album, and that not only was it the best album he'd ever made but that he would never be able to top it in the future. One of the album's songs, "The More You Ignore Me, The Closer I Get," reached #8 in the UK and #46 in the US. That year, he also released a single "Interlude" in duet with Siouxsie Sioux of Siouxsie & the Banshees. Following the success of Vauxhall and I Morrissey began work on Southpaw Grammar in early 1995. When released in August, the album was a hit, peaking at #4 in the UK. However, both of its singles failed to chart in the Top 20. The nature of the album was different to past Morrissey releases. Musically, the inclusion of two tracks which surpass the ten minute mark, the near two and half minute drum solo courtesy of Spencer Cobrin which opens the track "The Operation" and the sampling of a Shostakovich symphony have led some to dub the album as 'Morrissey's flirtation with prog-rock.' Some critics were impressed by this apparent attempt at progression, while others dismissed the longer tracks as mere self-indulgence. With the exception of the single "Sunny" in that December it would be another year before Morrissey released a new album or single.

Morrissey returned on a new record label in 1997 with the single "Alma Matters" in promotion of his album Maladjusted. Though the album was hailed as a return to form for Morrissey the album only peaked at #8 and its further two singles, "Roy's Keen" and "Satan Rejected My Soul" peaked outside the UK Top 30. However, the album did cause a small amount of controversy over what was to be the penultimate track. Entitled "Sorrow Will Come In The End", it featured Morrissey intoning, rather than singing, over a backing of manic strings and the beat of a judge's gavel. The song is clearly about the Mike Joyce royalties dispute, and lyrically takes the form of, essentially, an extended threatening message to him and his representatives. Island Records, Morrissey's label at the time, dropped the track from UK versions of the album for fear of libel action. Having left his new record label and lost a court case over Smiths royalties with former band mate Mike Joyce, Morrissey relocated from his Dublin home to Los Angeles in the late 1990s; though Morrissey continued to tour in the late 1990s and early 2000s, it would be another seven years before he would release another single or studio album.

Comeback

In June 2003, Sanctuary Records group gave Morrissey the one-time reggae label Attack Records to record new material and to sign new artists. Morrissey's album You Are the Quarry was released on May 17, 2004 (one day later in the US). The album peaked at #2 on the UK charts. 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," was released internationally on May 10, 2004. The single reached number three in its first week of sales in the UK singles chart. This was the highest placing chart position for Morrissey in his entire career as both a solo artist and the lead singer of The Smiths (the 2006 release "You Have Killed Me" also debuted at number three in its first week in the charts). Also, it has sold over a million copies, making the album his most successful one, solo or with The Smiths. Three other hit singles followed - "First of the Gang to Die" (July 12, 2004) UK #6, "Let Me Kiss You" (October 11, 2004) UK #8, and "I Have Forgiven Jesus" (December 13, 2004) UK #10. With the release of "I Have Forgiven Jesus" in December 2004, Morrissey along with McFly became the only artists to score four top-10 hits in the UK singles chart that year. In August of 2004, Morrissey was slated to headline a week-long set of shows on Craig Kilborn's The Late Late Show. Morrissey did not perform every night of the weeklong series due to a throat illness. He did, however, perform the following week.

Morrissey's next album, Ringleader of the Tormentors, debuted at #1 in the UK album charts and #27 in the US. Recorded in Rome, it was released internationally on April 3, 2006, and one day later in North America. The album wielded four hit singles - "You Have Killed Me" (March 27, 2006) UK #3, "The Youngest Was the Most Loved" (June 5, 2006) UK #14, "In the Future When All's Well" (August 21, 2006) UK #17, and "I Just Want to See the Boy Happy" (December 3, 2006) UK #16. Originally Morrissey was to record the album with producer Jeff Saltzman, however he could not undertake the project. Producer Tony Visconti, of T. Rex and David Bowie fame, took over the production role and Morrissey announced that the album was "the most beautiful—perhaps the most gentle, so far." Billboard magazine described the album as showcasing "a thicker, more rock-driven sound" ; Morrissey attributes this change in sound to new guitarist Jesse Tobias. The album cover is an allusion to the iconic Deutsche Grammophon record cover logo and design, with Morrissey posing as a violinist after the photos of Jascha Heifetz or Yehudi Menuhin. The subsequent 2006 international tour included more than two dozen gigs in the UK, including concerts at the London Palladium. Just prior to the album's release, Morrissey was photographed in Rome by Bryan Adams for the cover of 'Zoo Magazine'.

Morrissey was scheduled to appear at the 2005 Benicassim festival in Spain but pulled out at the last minute. On 9th January 2007, the BBC confirmed that it was in talks with Morrissey for him to write a song for the 2007 Eurovision Song Contest. The video for the single You Have Killed Me may be an affectionate homage to the style of the contest during the 1970s. If an agreement could be made, Morrissey would be writing the song for someone else, rather than performing it himself, a BBC spokesperson claimed. On 23 February 2007 the BBC ruled this out, and stated Morrissey would not be part of Britain's Eurovision entry.

Greatest Hits

In early 2007 Morrissey left Sanctuary Records and embarked on a Greatest Hits tour. The tour ran from February 1, 2007 to July 29, 2008 and spanned 106 concerts over 8 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 U.S. and Mexico were supported by Kristeen Young from Feb to October while the remainder featured Girl In A Coma. The final leg was a small scale European tour that saw Morrissey headlining the O2 Wireless Festival in Hyde Park on July 4 and culminated in Morrissey playing at the Heatwave Festival in Tel Aviv, Israel on July 29.

After a show in Houston, TX on the first leg of the tour Morrissey rented out the Sunrise Sound Studio to record "That's How People Grow Up". The song was recorded with producer Jerry Finn rather than previous producer Tony Visconti for a future single and inclusion on an upcoming album. In an interview on BBC Radio 5 Live with Visconti, the producer stated that his new project would be "the next Morrissey 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 is 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 he signed a new deal with Decca Records, which included a Greatest Hits album and a newly-recorded album to follow in autumn 2008. In a reaction to the NME story, Morrissey pointed out that he would rather not be signed to a label.

Upon signing with Decca, Morrissey released "That's How People Grow Up" as the first single off of his new Greatest Hits album. Despite lukewarm reviews, especially in the NME, the lack of airplay on British radio (except on XFM), and even the incredulity of fan sites, "That's How People Grow Up" reached the Top 15, reaching the 14th place of British charts and the 25th place in Germany when released in February of 2008. Following the single, Morrissey released his third Greatest Hits album. Reviews were very mixed; reviewers noted that the album only includes songs which reached the Top 15 in the charts, putting the emphasis on new songs, making the CD more suitable for new listeners than for old fans.{ } The album charted fifth in the British album chart on its week of release. A limited edition of the Greatest Hits album also featured an eight-track live CD which was recorded at the Hollywood Bowl in 2007. A second single from the Greatest Hits, "All You Need Is Me", was released in March. For the single Morrissey recorded two B-sides with Academy Award-winning Argentinian film composer, Gustavo Santaolalla. Santaolalla recorded two tracks, "Children In Pieces" and "My Dearest Love" in Los Angeles.

On 29 May 2008, Morrissey parted ways with his manager of five years, Merck Mercuriadis, in favour of a new contract with IE Music, however by September Morrissey left the group and has now acquired the services of Irving Azoff.

Years of Refusal

On 30 May 2008, true-to-you.net stated that Morrissey's new studio album, Years of Refusal would have 12 tracks and be produced by Jerry Finn. On 5 August 2008 it was reported that, although originally due in September, Years of Refusal has been postponed until February 2009, as a result of Finn's death and the lack of an American label to distribute the album.

New songs slated for appearance on Morrissey's next album include "Something Is Squeezing My Skull", "Mama Lay Softly On The Riverbed", "I'm Throwing My Arms Around Paris" and "One Day Goodbye Will Be Farewell", which were performed on the 2007/2008 Greatest Hits tour during US and European live appearances. The song "I'm Throwing My Arms Around Paris" is set to be released as the fist single off of the new album.

On August 15, 2008 Warner Music Entertainment announced the upcoming release of Morrissey: Live at the Hollywood Bowl, a DVD documenting the live performance that took place at the historic Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles, CA, on June 8th, 2007 on the first leg of Morrissey's 2007/2008 'Greatest Hits' tour.

Morrissey greeted news of the DVD's release with the following comment on fanzine True-To-You.net:

The slapdash release of Morrissey live at the Hollywood Bowl is done by Warner without any consultation to me whatsoever, and is in breach of their terms as laid out by themselves in an agreement made for the film between Warner and my ex-manager. Being Warner, predictably the sleeve art is appalling. It is the work of cash-hounds, and I urge people NOT to buy it. I am not signed to Warner, and no royalties from this dvd will come to me. Please spend your money elsewhere.
thank you, MORRISSEY.|

Originally due to be released October 6, 2008, the DVD has subsequently been delayed until March 1, 2009 by Warner Music according to HMV. Coincidently, the DVD is set to be released one month after "Years of Refusal". Further Morrissey-related items to be released before Years of Refusal are a remastered version of 1995's Southpaw Grammar which features three previously unreleased bonus tracks due out January 26, 2009 and The Sound of The Smiths, a remastered Smiths compilation, to be released November 3, 2008. The Sound of The Smiths will be available as both single and double disc editions. Morrissey himself is credited with having coined the compilation's title, while guitarist Johnny Marr was involved in the project's mastering.

Image and politics

Music industry feuds

In 1996, The Smiths' drummer Mike Joyce sued Morrissey and Johnny Marr for outstanding royalties and won. Morrissey expressed bitter displeasure with the ruling on the track, "Sorrow Will Come in the End," from 1997's Maladjusted. The judge presiding over the case ruled that Morrissey was "devious, truculent and unreliable. However, the judges in the Court of Appeal stressed there was no suggestion that Morrissey had been dishonest.

Morrissey has criticized singers such as Madonna, Elton John, David Bowie and George Michael, generally claiming that their lyrics are pointless and are more interested in being celebrities than in their music. He has also had disagreements with The Cure's Robert Smith, who stated "If Morrissey says 'don't eat meat', then I'll eat meat, because I hate Morrissey". Lol Tolhurst, another founding member of The Cure, has claimed that he likes Morrissey's music, however, he also said that Smith was justified in his ire as their feud began when Morrissey allegedly made "a very uncalled for remark concerning Robert in the English press. Morrissey also once openly wished that Morrissey & Marr: The Severed Alliance author Johnny Rogan "ends his days very soon in an M3 pile-up". Neil Tennant of the Pet Shop Boys co-wrote two songs inspired by Morrissey's public stereotyping as miserable and unloveable ("Getting Away with It" and "Miserablism"). In the April 2004 edition of GQ, Morrissey stated that singer-songwriter David Bowie is "not the person he was. He is no longer David Bowie at all. Now he gives people what he thinks will make them happy, and they're yawning their heads off. And by doing that, he is not relevant. He was only relevant by accident."

Reputed to be uninterested in compromise or record company marketing principles, Morrissey operated as a quasi-outsider in the music industry. Though his large and loyal fan base follow his every move, his albums Southpaw Grammar and Maladjusted had great trouble reaching a wider audience. Between 1999 and 2003, Morrissey was unable to find a record contract.

In 1994 Morrissey was criticized by Manic Street Preachers' bassist and lyricist Nicky Wire, in regards to comments that Morrissey had made about the British National Party. Other targets of his disapproval have been Band Aid, rap, reggae (a criticism he later retracted, stating that he was being facetious and that he grew up partly on the classic singles released by the British reggae label Trojan in the early to mid-1970s), rave and teenage pop stars.

Political leaders

Morrissey has always been politically outspoken, and the figures he has criticized include Oliver Cromwell, the British Royal Family, former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom Margaret Thatcher, former Prime Minister Tony Blair, and President of the United States George W. Bush. He has criticised both the two main centrist political parties of the United Kingdom, the Labour Party and the Conservative Party.

In a 1984 interview, Morrissey criticized the then Conservative Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, stating that "She is only one person. She can be destroyed. It is the only remedy for this country at the moment." Morrissey’s song "Such a Little Thing Makes Such a Big Difference" lyrics end with a caustic "Leave me alone, I was only singing / You have just proved again, most people keep their brains between their legs". Morrissey's first solo album, Viva Hate, included a track entitled "Margaret on the Guillotine", a tongue-in-cheek jab at Prime Minister Thatcher, which referred to her being executed on a guillotine. A controversial etching on the 12" vinyl record for Strangeways, Here We Come stated "Guy Fawkes was a genius." Fawkes was infamous for the 1605 Gunpowder Plot, in which he attempted to blow up the British Parliament.

At a Dublin concert on 5 June 2004, Morrissey caused controversy by announcing the death of former US President, Ronald Reagan and stating that he would have preferred it if the current President, George W. Bush, had died. In October 2004, Morrissey released a statement urging American voters to vote for Democratic Party candidate John Kerry for President, calling this vote a "logical and sane move" and a way to get rid of the then Republican President George W. Bush. Morrissey argued that "Bush has single-handedly turned the United States into the most neurotic and terror-obsessed country on the planet.

In February 2006, Morrissey said he had been interviewed by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and by British intelligence after having spoken out against the American and British governments. Morrissey said "the FBI and the Special Branch have investigated me and I've been interviewed and taped and so forth. They were trying to determine if I was a threat to the government, it didn't take them long to realise that I am not. During a January 2008 concert Morrissey remarked "God Bless Barack Obama" and ranted against "Billary Clinton" (a pun on Hillary Clinton). The anti-Clintons rant followed a performance of "The World Is Full of Crashing Bores", in reference to the 2008 Democratic Party campaign to become presidential candidate in the US.

Accusations of racism

Morrissey was accused of racism during part of the 1980s and much of 1990s, in part due to the ambiguous lyrics in songs such as "Bengali In Platforms", "Asian Rut" and "National Front Disco". They also stemmed from Johnny Rogan's biography of the singer, which claimed that in his late teens, the singer wrote "I don't hate Pakistanis, but I dislike them immensely"; Rogan does not provide a substantiating source. In 2006, Liz Hoggard from The Independent argued that "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." She claimed that the "man who abhorred violence became strangely fascinated by it."Encyclopedia Britannica argues 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.

A trigger for much of the criticism was Morrissey's performance at the first Madness Madstock! reunion concert at Finsbury Park, London, in 1992, in which he appeared on stage draped in the Union Flag, a symbol often associated with nationalism and hence with far right groups in Britain. As a backdrop for this performance, he chose a photograph of two female skinheads. The British music magazine NME responded to this 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".

In the early days of The Smiths, Morrissey stated that "all reggae is vile", leading to the first reports of his alleged racism. He later explained that this was a tongue-in-cheek answer to "wind up the right-on 1980s NME" and that he grew up partly on the classic singles released by the British reggae label Trojan in the early to mid-1970s. The Smiths' "Panic", released in July 1986, fades out with the refrain "hang the DJ, hang the DJ, hang the DJ..." Rogan's biography reports that initial critical response to this content was interpreted as distaste for the increasing influence of rap and R&B over popular music at the time.

Critics of the racism allegations point to Morrissey’s involvement in organizations such as Amnesty International and almost performing at an anti-Apartheid concert. Morrissey has also been quoted as saying "If I am racist then the Pope is female. Which he isn't," and "If the National Front were to hate anyone, it would be me. I would be top of the list." He qualified that by saying that far-right rage "is simply their anger at being ignored in what is supposed to be a democratic society. In the 2002 documentary, "The Importance of Being Morrissey", he posits the question, "Why on earth would I be racist? What would I be trying to achieve?" In the film, he also takes issue with those who fail to discern the subtlety of his supposedly racist lyrics, stating that "Not everybody is absolutely stupid."

In 1999 Morrissey commented on the rise of Austrian far-right politician Jörg Haider, stating "This is sad. Sometimes I don't believe we live in an intelligent world. In 2004 he signed the explicitly anti-fascist Unite Against Fascism statement, and in 2008 he made a personal donation to the organisers of the Love Music Hate Racism concert in London after the withdrawal of the NME's sponsorship left the event facing a financial shortfall.

In 2007 NME printed an interview with Morrissey where he was quoted as saying, "Britain's a terribly negative place. And it hammers people down and it pulls you back and it prevents you. Also, with the issue of immigration, it's very difficult because although I don't have anything against people from other countries, the higher the influx into England the more the British identity disappears." In the same article, he called racism "silly" and "beyond reason", and said he would be "pilloried" for his comments. The interview was conducted by Tim Jonze. Jonze asked to have his name removed from the article, saying he was unhappy with how it had been "rewritten" by the NME, but also stating he had found Morrissey's comments "offensive" and disapproved of them.

Morrissey's lawyers are now pressing legal action against NME for defamation, with the magazine declining to print a retraction or apology. Within days of issuing the writ against NME, Morrissey also released a detailed explanation of his side of the story via an online fanzine. The statement included a firmly worded rebuttal against the accusations of racism, a condemnation of racism itself and an exposition on his belief that NME's editor had deliberately staged and scandalised the outcome of the interview in an orchestrated attempt to boost the paper's "dwindling circulation". In 2008, Word magazine was forced to apologise in court for an article by David Quantick that accused Morrissey of being a racist and a hypocrite.

In 2008, Morrissey donated £75,000 to support the Love Music Hate Racism festival in London's Victoria Park.

Animal rights

Morrissey has been vegetarian since he was 11 years old. Morrissey explained his vegetarianism by saying "If you love animals, obviously it doesn't make sense to hurt them. 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 September 10, 2005.Morrissey has been known to wear leather, stating in 1986 that "there is simply no sensible alternative" to leather shoes. He has also said "I find shoes difficult to be ethical about - one just can't seem to avoid leather. One is trapped, ultimately. Morrissey notably named one of his songs "Meat is Murder", which shared its name with the album it was featured on. It was the second studio album (and third overall album) of The Smiths.

In January 2006, Morrissey attracted criticism after stating 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 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 these comments, though his party leader David Cameron has claimed to be a Smiths fan. On March 27, 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 of the country's annual seal hunt, which he described as a "barbaric and cruel slaughter". The comedian Russell Brand, who is also a vegetarian, regularly states on his BBC Radio 2 show that Morrissey is his hero and often plays his music and reads out emails Morrissey has sent him.

Sexuality

Morrissey's sexuality has been a matter of debate, and this has been fuelled by many conflicting statements from the singer, in none of which he has explicitly stated his sexual orientation. Encyclopedia Britannica argues that he created a "compellingly conflicted persona (loudly proclaimed celibacy offset by coy hints of closeted homosexuality)" which "made him a peculiar heartthrob". "Morrissey has always taken great pains to maintain the ‘undecidable’ nature of his sexuality." In 1983 he claimed to be "a kind of prophet for the fourth sex", on the grounds that he was "bored with men and ...bored with women." In 1984, he stated that he refused "to recognise the terms hetero-, bi-, and homo-sexual" because "everybody has exactly the same sexual needs." A 1984 Smiths article in Rolling Stone stated that Morrissey "admits he's gay" but Morrissey replied that it was news to him and the article used the term "fourth-gender" in its title.

The speculation was further fuelled by the references to gay subculture and slang in his lyrics. In 2006, Liz Hoggard from The Independent noted that "...[o]nly 15 years after homosexuality had been decriminalised, his lyrics flirted with every kind of gay subculture"; for example, she claims that "This Charming Man" "is about age-gap, gay sex"Reviewer Stephen Thomas Erlewine claims that lyrics to The Smiths single "Hand in Glove" have "veiled references to homosexuality".As well, fans noted "Morrissey's admiration for gay icons such as Oscar Wilde and James Dean, and his references to gay culture (as in the picture of bisexual Andy Warhol star Joe Dallesandro on the cover of The Smiths' debut album...

Throughout much of his career, he maintained in interviews that he was asexual and celibate. Johnny Marr stated in a 1984 interview that "Morrissey doesn't participate in sex at the moment and hasn't done so for a while, he's had a lot of girlfriends in the past and quite a few men friends". In 1986, Morrissey claimed that he was "dramatically, supernaturally, non-sexual." In a 1994 interview, he claimed that "sex is actually never in my life", and as such, he argued that "I have no sexuality." In 1995, he claimed "I’d like to have a sex life, if possible." In a 1997 interview he revealed he had been in a relationship with someone for two years but that it had ended and the person in question had just stopped loving him. He did not reveal the gender of his partner or whether it was a sexual relationship. However, he did admit to caring deeply and he stated that he had hoped that they had shared similar feelings.In a 2006 NME interview, he stated that he was no longer celibate, but he did not give any additional details. A 2006 article in UK paper The Independent stated that the singer "...has even hinted at a late-blooming sex life."

Morrissey frequently tells interviewers who ask him about his sexuality that the question is irrelevant to his music, or he gives an evasive or ambiguous response. While the debate over Morrissey's sexuality has become widespread on fan websites, including attempts to analyze the meaning of his ambiguous song lyrics, their attempts are often stymied, because, as The Times critic Tom Gatti puts it, "Morrissey’s music [i.e., his lyrics] offers infinite capacity for interpretation" because "they are too flexible, too rich, too textured.”

Solo discography

Notes and references

External links


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