Morrissey recently ran into a wrangle with his now-former label Harvest Records on their promotional efforts on his latest album World Peace Is None of Your Business. The long and short of it was that he wanted a video for a song, they did not want to pay for it and before you can even sing ‘Good times for a change …’, ‘this charming man’ was seething at the edges, taking to his fan-run site ‘True To You’ and unloading a long verbal diarrhea on how he was wronged by the label. Nestled amonsgt the many choiced quotes in the lengthy statement, which included minor jabs at the press, the odd sarcastic retort at the label’s refusal to see his logic and many worrying nods towards traditional media still being the best way to promote an album, was this beauty …
Yes, I can be intensely persistent, and I certainly have an over-active fantasy-life, but the Harvest experience tells us that despite the blinding flash of teeth and smiles, it doesn’t take much for the coin to flip and suddenly we’re all compromised and shattered. All you need to do is disagree with the vanity of the label boss and your beheading will be slotted in between bottles of the most average champagne on the market. Just one weak-chinned drone can assert the fist of injustice and all of our efforts are flushed away. And thus … they were.
Being 55 has obviously done little to quench the punk fire from this Lancashire-born’s belly.
Don’t get me wrong, I am a huge fan of his work, with The Smiths, post-Smiths solo and even his recent ‘patchy’ albums out of the States. I am a steadfast fan of the man’s work. I mean, he was obviously quite a genius wasn’t he? Flipping through my collection of Smiths records, I find myself dumbfounded by just how much personally-affecting music this man has been responsible for in my life. I can still remember repeating ‘Last Night I Dreamt That Somebody Loved Me’ through one of my breakups, enthralled by the words, and how accurately they spoke to me, “And tell me how long before the right one?’ I have played my copy of ‘The Queen is Dead’ well, to death.
“Age shouldn’t affect you. You’re either marvellous or you’re boring, regardless of your age — Morrissey”
The problem with ‘Steven Patrick’ Morrissey isn’t that he’s still angry at 55. The problem is that he’s angry like a 25-year old at 55. Wrangles with record labels and taking to fan-run sites to bitch about it are really not things you expect a revered musical icon at his age to be doing. It’s things you do when you are younger, still floundering in the business, trying to catch a break and worrying about whether or not a certain misstep may cause you to miss it. Not someone who was in one of the most seminal and successful bands of its era, a band that still sells records until today; who had an equally successful stab at a solo career and who can still rather easily these days, sell out tours if he wanted to. I mean he could probably very well put the record out himself and fund the whole bloody marketing campaign if he wanted to, couldn’t he not?
But he would probably argue that it’s not an issue of economics and financial feasibility but a matter of principle. Which is a fair point — you shouldn’t be expected to back down on something just because it’s not something immediately pressing to your personal safety, or in his case, simply because he can afford it. But in this case, the ‘how’ is far more important than the ‘what’ and ‘whys’.
At least it should become more important with age.
There was a time when scathingly implicating the royal family for the suicide of a nurse (back in 2012), on a fairly weak argument may be considered ‘punk’ and ‘anti-establishment’. In fact it was something you would probably easily attribute to the gawky and socially awkward 25-year old Morrissey, one that would nonchalantly speak his mind with little care on consequence. Not to mention subsequently instructing his band to wear ‘We Hate William and Kate’ shirts on stage. Back in 1985, that would’ve been considered funny for a younger Morrissey. But for a 55-year old, that just reeks of pettiness and immaturity. In fact, it may have had the opposite effect, making him seem like a disillusioned ‘fan’ who couldn’t quite admit to his fascination with the royal couple and has instead decided to flock to the other tangent and be aggressively opposing towards them instead. For many of his peers, my guess would be they may not have bothered to even stoop as low as to offer a complain …
Or how about his statement after the Breivik Norwegian massacre, equating the lives of the 77 people who died to being ‘nothing compared to what happens in McDonald’s and Kentucky Fried shit every day’. Look, no one is for a moment belittling the vanguards of animal rights activists, but timing, or at least developing a better handle of it, is expected with age and maturity. He clearly showed he had none of the latter when he blurted this out to a bewildered Warsaw crowd back in 2011. And we have not even mentioned him referring to Chinese people as a ‘subspecies’. That was particularly hard for me to take.
“Don’t talk to me about people who are ‘nice’ cause I have spent my whole life in ruins because of people who are ‘nice’ — Morrissey”
As I grow older I find myself battling with these same dilemmas — am I gradually becoming a parody of my younger self? I think there is a time and place for you in your lifetime to go through a huge gamut of feelings, emotions and reactions but they don’t always work in every single facet of your lifetime. Each of them has/had a time and place, and like a jigsaw puzzle, they are not meant to be slotted where they don’t belong. Much like how it would be unbecoming for a 25-year old to be behaving, reacting and speaking like his 5-year old self, it’s similarly unbecoming for a 55-year old to be responding to situations like a person half his age.
I feel nothing’s essentially changed with the things I feel strongly about, passionate about or am interested in, other than the fact that I am older now. I am getting to an age where there should be a paradigm shift to how I approach things, respond to things and comment on things. Did the gradualness of the process smoothed out the gnarly edges, as such I have in actual fact matured in the way I look at these things, except that it’s not noticeable to me? Do you have to actively engage these faculties to forcefully mature them or are they like muscles, where they grow naturally into place over time anyway? So many questions, but not many clear answers. Such is the haziness of self reflection at times.
“I am capable of looking on the bright side — I just don’t do it very often — Morrissey”
We would like to think that even with the passing of time and major life changes that we can in some ways, still retain the more fiery facets of our personalities. The cliche would be to gradually grow duller and more predictable with age, offering no indication or proof that a personality ever existed in your shell to begin with. That sounds like an absolute nightmare to many of us.
But yet there is a danger that even if you do, that you end up becoming a parody like Morrissey, clearly someone who has yet to be able to transit his 25-year old fire, with age. It’s like a ‘shirt’ that looks good when you’re younger, but completely inappropriate once you reach a certain age. If anything he is a cautionary tale that even the most intelligent of us, the geniuses, have problems negotiating this creaky plank. What more plain old me …
“I’ve always assumed there’s a dark river flowing beneath my fans’ desires — Morrissey”
Or perhaps that is what makes him such a genius, that he does not conform to what people expects from him. That the very fact that he goes very much against the grain is initial proof of his brilliance and independence. Y
I for one would prefer to grow older with a little more dignity. I think it’s perfectly possible for you to remain highly opinionated and independent-minded, without becoming an abhorring human being. It’s not a line that is easily straddled, because people with strong opinions tend to not be the most amicable people in the world. You’ve seen it before, that strange uncle you have with an unorthodox hobby, who happens to also be socially awkward and seem to approach situations in a way that does not befit his age. As much as some would laud him and people like him for their genuinity to the person he is, I would much prefer to take a less bumpy road to adulthood. To be the kind of 55-year old that kids would look up to with reverence and respect and not one that they would ask to come along with them to hang on the monkey bars at the playground.
Perhaps ‘Moz’ was just someone who wrote a bunch of frighteningly morbid and honest songs that ironically struck fear in himself of what he may potentially or eventually become, hence the person he is today …
The passing of time
Leaves empty lives
Waiting to be filled
I’m here with the cause
I’m holding the torch
In the corner of your room
‘Rubber Ring’ by The Smiths