Let’s start then right back at the beginning, when he emerged all skinny and tortured with The Smiths, like a breath of fresh air. Finally, amidst all that bouncy, poppy Duran Duran and Wham, here was somebody telling it like it was. Telling us it was okay to be socially inept and miserable and, more than that, making us feel like we weren’t the only ones not living the kind of life portrayed on MTV via supermodels. I would put Morrissey right up there with any feminist icon for squashing the idea that only beautiful, successful people matter. Morrissey gave the lonely misfits a voice and it was a voice, I would say, that still rings as strong today.
More than anything, Morrissey is an exquisite writer. He tells stories that are in turn both heart wrenching and hilarious. Who can fail to be moved by ‘Please, Please, Please, Let Me Get What I Want’, or chuckle at the cheekily ironic ‘Frankly Mr Shankly’? At the heart of his songs though is real life and feelings that we all know and recognise. They are poetic in the way that they offer an incisive representation of alienation within our society. To those people who dismiss Morrissey as simply a misery guts peddling depression, I say listen again because frankly, you are wrong.
Not only do I commend Morrissey on his own writing but also on the way he introduced a generation to literature and culture and made it okay to be a studious geek. How many of us would have read Keats or Yeats or Oscar Wilde had Morrissey not piqued our interest with his quirky song references? I would be willing to bet that there was a resurgence in the reading of poetry and
other classic literature as a result of Morrissey’s influence. At a time when unemployment was at an all time high and the 80s recession was biting deep, what better way to empower young people than to send them flocking to the libraries and giving them a glimpse of a better life. The message that Morrissey gave us was that you didn’t need money to have a rich imagination and a vibrant inner life.
Some people mock Morrissey for his stance on vegetarianism. He refuses to allow burger vans anywhere near his
performance venues and has likened the mistreatment of animals and eating meat to child abuse and murder. I’m not a vegetarian but I admire Morrissey’s commitment to it and the fact that he is willing to be pilloried for standing up for what he believes in. Nobody could ever accuse him of being a moral coward or a hypocrite as, over the years, Morrissey has aired his views on a whole host of sensitive topics which have, more often that not led to him being vilified in the media. He has refused to play the game and they hate him for it.
Time has moved on and Morrissey, like the rest of us, has slipped into middle age. He’s not jumping on the bandwagon of all those other old has-beens, however, and hitching his wagon to the nostalgia tour brigade. Instead, love him or loathe him, he is still making new music and still performing as himself, not some ridiculous pantomime version of what he used to be. You can also hear his influence in a host of other bands. Listen to the rich story telling of the Arctic Monkeys and you’ll see what I mean.
I hope I have done the man proud and convinced those of you who may like to refer to him as moany Morrissey or the son and heir of misery that he is so much more than that. If not, I might have to do to you what I did to a student who was foolish enough to say, “But he is old, fat and crap.” We listened to all of his albums through the young rascal’s detentions and he’ll never make that mistake again!