[sic] Magazine

Morrissey – Autobiography

Prosaically titled, and prosaically economical with the truth, Autobiography is the most elusive, elliptical work by an icon since Dylan’s Chronicles, eagerly awaited, awash with revelation, and – at the same time – frustratingly scant on known facts, the text is utterly 100% Morrisseyesque, 457 pages of self-justifying revenge.

If you think that is a long sentence, wait until you read the rest of the book. It is essential, unputdownable, and treats fact and truth as luxuries, whilst Morrissey settles scores in what can be charitably described as one 400,000 word grudge match against reality.

Not so much setting the record straight as putting it at the correct speed (78 rpm, of course), Morrissey levels his guns at every target he can for his cruel and outrageous suffering of success, and ensures that no one escapes without scorn except his perfect self. It is compelling reading and, for anyone with a vague interest in him, is worth a read. There’s more to his life than this book, of course, so much more. And how utterly lacking in distance. History is written by the victors, and none so victorious as Morrissey. But one who is such a loser he does not recognise when he has won.

And what is telling, is not just what he will say, but what he will not.

What isn’t here? Well, of the known facts, according to this book, Andy Rourke was never dismissed for a week; The Smiths never had Guy Pratt as a bass player for a week. The triumphant 1988 Wolverhampton concert is not mentioned at all. “Viva Hate”, “Kill Uncle”, and “Vauxhall And I” were never recorded with any other musicians. Compilation albums “Suedehead”, “The Best Of”, “The Very Best Of”, “Smiths Best Vol I,” “Smiths Best Vol II”, and live albums “Beethoven Was Deaf”, “Live At The Hollywood Bowl 2007” (as part of a Greatest Hits release), and “Swords / Live In Warsaw” do not exist. Neither do the concert films “Live In Dallas”, “Introducing Morrissey”, or “Who Put The M In Manchester”? Not only that, but “Bona Drag” and “Live At Earls Court” are referenced only in terms of sleeve art and spelling mistakes. The poor sales of The “World Of Morrissey” compilation rest on a typo in an advert in the UK, and not – contrary to fact – the fact that 60% of the songs had previously been on one of Morrissey’s previous six albums. He seems to think that he can put his name on any old record, and the public are sabotaged from owning it by vicious businesses and incompetent lackeys, as opposed to the fact that sometimes, people just don’t want to buy Morrissey records.

Equally economical is his slapdash approach: according to this book, Morrissey did not tour between late 1992 and 2004; no allusion is made to his touring in 1995, 1997, 1999-2000 or 2002. His controversial support slot with David Bowie – and subsequent disappearance from it halfway through – are breezed through simply by not mentioning it at all. His bass player Jonny Bridgewood is never mentioned, nor drummers Deano Butterworth or Spike Smith. Gary Day – his bass player from 1991 to 2006 – disappears without a mention. Musical players drift in and out of the ether as if they were ghosts: the reason he chose his 1991-1997 band were never mentioned, but their salaries are. His 1991-97 band were not the musicians they ought to be, and he lambasts them by default, for their lack of rehearsal and cheap equipment when he neglects to mention the band was put together quickly with little time for rehearsal, using cheap equipment, and thrown to the wolves of 10,000 capacity US Arenas within ten shows.

At the same time, Morrissey wants to make it perfectly clear to you, dear reader, that he is a saviour of everyone else and singlehandedly lifted all his musicians – including The Smiths – from a life of drudgery and council employment by merely meeting them, as if they were saved by the touch of his hand of his genius. The failures of his career are all the fault and hand of incompetent others for whom the phrase “plankton” would insult sea-life: the album “Southpaw Grammar” murdered by a label, and not, of course, by his not playing one headline live show outside of Helsinki or Japan to support it and then disappearing from the stage for two years. “Hold Onto Your Friends” charted at 42 due to EMI sabotage, and not down to the fact that he made no attempt to promote it and the song did not have a video. His commercial decline in the US goes noticed, but the fact that he did not perform live in the US for five years is mysteriously absent. Morrissey is the last to blame, and the first for praise. His lion like genius, lead astray by the donkeys.

The last thirty or so pages capture Morrissey in oblivious non-reflective state, as he lists with all the passion of a shopping list a list of cities and brief anecdotes. After the previous 400 or so pages of breathless, chapterless prose, it neglects to ponder perhaps the very frank and open, deep conversations of mortality and direction you might expect at the close of an autobiography. Instead we get tales of adoration, and – in anecdotes that follow a confusing lack of linearity (as was often the case), where a leap back in time, or forward, of a decade can occur between full stops, as if mere seconds had passed. Morrissey is a truculent, devious, and unreliable narrator, with a clear memory and a confirmation bias that ensures that he – and only he – is ever, perpetually the voice, where no other worlds exist but The World of Morrissey.

For more from Mark, please visit The Final Word