Morrissey autobiography: Singer dishes the dirt as 'Classic' memoir hits bookshops
The former Smiths frontman settles old scores in this 457-page tome, but there's precious little on the break-up of The Smiths
Nick Clark is the arts correspondent of The Independent. He joined the newspaper in June 2007, initially reporting on the stock markets. He has covered beats including the City, and technology, media and telecoms and made the switch to arts in December 2011. He has also contributed articles to the sports section.
Thursday 17 October 2013
There have long been question marks over whether the day would come, but Morrissey fans can finally read the singer-songwriter's story in his own words.
Autobiography has hit bookshops, with the 54-year-old gleefully dishing dirt, settling scores and revealing secret loves following a career in the music industry spanning more than three decades.
The 457-page paperback, controversially published as a Penguin Classic, has no chapters or index and the first paragraph goes on for more than four pages.
The account covers his legal battles and his run-ins with the NME as well as surprising titbits such as being offered a part in EastEnders and a cameo in US sitcom Friends.
Yet fans may be disappointed that Morrissey's work fails to explain the break-up of The Smiths at the height of their popularity.
This Christmas season it will go up against autobiographies from Jennifer Saunders, Harry Redknapp and Mo Farah, but few can have been as hotly anticipated or executed in so distinctive a style.
Steven Patrick Morrissey was born in Manchester, a city he described as a "place of Dickensian drear," in the mid-1960s. The autobiography opens: "My childhood is streets upon streets upon streets upon streets."
The story runs from his birth, which "naturally almost kills my mother, for my head is too big," to his childhood – which included an incident of being inappropriately touched by a teacher – on to The Smiths, his solo career and culminates at a concert in Chicago in the winter of 2011.
Despite a turbulent relationship with guitarist Johnny Marr, the account is largely warm towards his former bandmate, whom, he revealed, wrote to him after the break-up, regretting the collapse of their friendship.
The Smiths started in 1982 and split five years later. After the Strangeways Sessions, he said, "there took place a glut of meetings with accountants and lawyers at the Wool Hall Studio, and in the context of such, The Smiths breathed a last exhausted sigh and folded." He added that it happened "as quickly and as unemotionally as this sentence took to describe it".
Long passages detail his legal battles, including the 1996 court case with The Smiths drummer Mike Joyce in which Judge John Weeks described him as "devious, truculent and unreliable". Morrissey retaliated in Autobiography, calling the judge the "pride of pipsqueakery" and "resembling a pile of untouched sandwiches".
Joyce himself came under fire as a "flea looking for a dog" and "Joyce Iscariot", while he reserved particular bile for Geoff Travis, the founder of The Smiths' record label Rough Trade.
The anecdotes run from Mick Jagger to David Bowie; they tell of Pretenders' Chrissie Hynde biting a dog in a pub, REM singer Michael Stipe's dental hygiene and how he turned Manchester United footballer Eric Cantona against him.
Morrissey has been hugely secretive about his love life but said he had never been in a serious relationship until he was 35. In the book he revealed a "whirlwind" two-year relationship with photographer Jake Owen Walters after the pair met in a restaurant. "For the first time in my life the eternal 'I' becomes 'we'," he said.
The book also described his "uncluttered commitment" with Tina Dehgani, with whom he discussed having a child; a "mewling miniature monster".
As a Penguin Classic, the book will sit on the shelves alongside works by Charles Dickens, Virgil and George Eliot – a move that divided the publishing world.
There were also doubts over whether the book would be released at all. The autobiography had been mooted for several years and last month, out of the blue, Morrissey claimed that relations with his publisher had fallen apart three days before a supposed publication.
The Smiths’ break-up “It happened as quickly and as unemotionally as this sentence took to describe it.”
His two-year affair with Jake Owen Walters “For the first time in my life the eternal ‘I’ becomes ‘we’. Every minute has the high drama of first love, only far more exhilarating.”
The press “Morrissey quotes shoot out from the press like darts, distorted and exaggerated, and something sniggers to me that my life is no longer my own.”
Suicide “Yet there comes a point when where the suicidalist must shut it down if only in order to save face.”
The offer of a cameo in Friends “I am requested to sing ‘in a really depressing voice.’ Within seconds I wind down the fire-escape like a serpent and its goodbye to Hollywood yet again.”
Sarah Ferguson “A little bundle of orange crawling out of a frothy dress, the drone of Sloane blessed with two daughters of Queen Victoria pot-dog pudginess.”
George Best "An apocalyptic disturber of the peace... [who] swirls across the pitch."
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