Devious, truculent and unreliable

What a judge said about the rock star Morrissey

Clare Garner
Thursday 12 December 1996 00:02 GMT

Heaven knows, Morrissey really does have reason to be miserable now. The Smiths' lead singer, who always held the purse strings, has been ordered by a High Court judge to dig deep into his own pocket to pay out money owed to the band's former drummer Mike Joyce.

Concluding the seven-day battle over how the profits should be shared between the group's four members, Judge John Weeks described the lead singer, Stephen Morrissey, as "devious, truculent and unreliable" and ordered the man who "held the purse strings" to pay the ex-drummer his fair share.

Morrissey and lead guitarist Johnny Marr who together wrote the group's hit songs, including "Heaven Knows I'm Miserable Now", were the dominant figures in running The Smiths' affairs. They claimed there was an agreement that they would get all the profits from publishing, and 40 per cent each from other royalties. But Joyce claimed he was never told he was going to be paid only 10 per cent of record and performing royalties.

Now Morrissey and Marr must now pay Joyce his quarter-share of the profits made by the band, and must also pay legal costs, estimated at pounds 250,000. Legal experts said the extra share of the profits, plus interest dating from 1987, would mean Joyce should receive pounds 1m.

Judge Weeks said that when Joyce applied for a mortgage, his accountant wrote to the building society stating his share of the annual income of the band was in excess of pounds 20,000, which the accounts showed was a 25 per cent share of the profits from 1984 and 1985.

When Joyce was sent a copy of the group's accounts in July 1986, he put it in a drawer without studying it. Judge Weeks said he was satisfied that even if he had looked at the figures, he would not have realised the implications and that he was receiving a 10 per cent share.

It was only when the group dissolved in 1987 that Joyce realised what had been happening. He showed the accounts to a friend who had accountancy knowledge and he began his legal battle for an equal share.

In 1989, Andy Rourke, the group's bass guitarist who had fought a battle with heroin addiction, was "desperately short of money" and settled with Marr and Morrissey for pounds 83,000 and 10 per cent of future record royalties, giving up all further claims.

When Marr and Morrissey eventually admitted there had been a partnership agreement in November last year, they paid over pounds 273,000 to Joyce as settlement of 10 per cent of The Smiths' profits.

Judge Weeks said all four had no business experience, having left school between the ages of 15 and 16 with few qualifications, but that Morrissey took all the decisions. At 23, he was four years older than the other members and more assertive and although he controlled the group's finances, he "lacked the will" to tell Rourke and Joyce of his decisions over profit sharing.

"He left it to Mr Marr to give the unpalatable news to the other two," the judge said.

Joyce said after the hearing: "I still have the highest regard for Morrissey but always knew 10 years ago when I started this action that I would win. This was never about money. It will not change my lifestyle but it will secure the future for my wife and children."

Morrissey, who was not in court for yesterday's judgment, in a statement issued through his solicitors, said: "I am disappointed and surprised at the judge's decision, particularly given the weight of the evidence against Mike Joyce's claim. I will be considering the terms of the judgment with my solicitors to assess possible grounds for appeal." Marr refused to comment and left the court building immediately.

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in