Saturday, February 1, 2014

Book Review: Autobiography – Morrissey

My, there have been a lot of fools in Morrissey’s life. There were the teachers at his drab Manchester school, and indeed, anyone in Manchester outside of his immediate family. There was Rough Trade Records boss Geoff Travis, who didn’t fully appreciate the Smiths' hit-making capabilities, a precursor to the many other record company that would thwart Moz’s tilts at chart glory. There were the Smiths, particularly drummer Mike Joyce, who apparently did not understand the 10 per cent share in Smiths’ royalties he was signing up to and subsequently took Morrissey and guitarist/songwriting partner Johnny Marr to court over it. And then there was Judge Weeks, who presided over ‘the Smiths’ case’, and whose bias and incompetence, along with that of Joyce’s, is teased out over around fifty pages. 

No doubt there are other sides to these stories, but history is written by the eloquent. And eloquent this book is, even if in sentences it reads like the work of a lyric-writer. No matter… better that than bland ghost writing, and Morrissey’s words positively flow, with the odd witty remark thrown in. I originally skipped straight to the Smiths part, and then continued on to his early solo career, and then went back to his critical adoration of early punk rockers the New York Dolls, but the parts on his early and later life are also well worth reading. The only parts I really got tired of hearing about was how many fans he has cheering him on stage, but I suppose when you are a touring musician for a living fawning fans are a large part of your life.

Like many indie fans, I’m pretty familiar with the Smiths’ work, but reading this inspired me to go back and listen to his solo stuff. His shift to a Johnny Marr-less career was not as dramatic as I had imagined, and reading about Morrissey’s life also helps to give a proper perspective on his time as a Smith – really, it was only five short years, and much of Morrissey’s life and art is built on what came before and after. So definitely pick it up, chortle at the fact that Morrissey insisted on being published under the ‘Penguin Classics’ album, and enjoy a music autobiography to rank alongside those of Patti Smith and Bob Dylan. Just remember that, if you ever have the chance to talk to Moz himself about it, you’d better have your facts straight. 

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