I’ve been a fan of The Smiths and Morrissey since the 1980s when I was a teenager, so don’t take this post the wrong way; I really do like Morrissey. But the thing is, I am struggling a little bit with his recent Autobiography (published by Penguin Classics). I got an A+ in my Critical Theory examination at University so I know I’m capable of “understanding” literature but Morrissey’s Autobiography is, quite frankly, beyond me – there seems to be a lot of wind and piss and not a lot that’s meaningful. Well, that’s my opinion anyway…
It’s taken me well over a week to manage to read 130 pages and I know other people have struggled with it too, so I thought that I should do the world a service and read it on behalf of those who just can’t manage it but want to get the nub and the gist of the whole brouhaha.
Having read less than a quarter of the book to date, I somehow doubt I will get to the end without Morrissey’s people or the publishers asking me to remove this, so enjoy it while you can, folks. The plan is to present it to you in 14 bitesize chunks, here are the first 4 for now and expect more soon.
*SPOILER ALERT* IF YOU HAVEN’T ALREADY GATHERED IT, I AM TELLING YOU WHAT HAPPENS IN MORRISSEY’S AUTOBIOGRAPHY!!!
Manchester Queen’s Square, the Morrissey miniseries
1: The Punishment Begins Manchester, 1959. Morrissey is born and his head is so big that his mother nearly dies during childbirth. Morrissey finds it hard to swallow so he is hospitalised for months. Somehow he survives only for his older sister Jackie to try and kill him four times; she is unsuccessful. St Wilfrid’s school is grim and the teachers like to give beatings. One day during class fat Bernadette tries to strangle herself with a leather belt as teacher Miss Dudley reads the newspaper unperturbed. At home Morrissey has a jar of cold cream rammed up his nose; he falls in the fire and burns his wrist; he gets a large spoon of rice pudding stuck in his throat. Somehow he survives all of this. One day Morrissey sees Ena Sharples of Coronation Street fame having her photograph taken at some local flats; Morrissey watches television a lot. Morrissey is pushed in the deep end at the public baths. Morrissey faints when he sees George Best playing football at Old Trafford. Morrissey is mad about music and starts buying records. Auntie Jeane loves Johnny, but Johnny loves to use his fists on her face; she still loves him anyway. In 1965 Grandad Esty dies at the age of 52. Uncle Ernie dies a few weeks later at the age of 24, collapsing in the street on his way home from work. Ernie had predicted his own death. The family die young – Uncle Anthony had died aged only 9 months. Queen’s Square is demolished.
2: How is One to Live if One Doesn’t Want to Die? After Esty’s and Ernie’s deaths Nannie Dwyer moves to Trafalgar Square. Morrissey’s dad takes the family on a drive to Liverpool and they collide with an amber gambler dicing with death; Auntie Mary has her face shattered with glass. Weeks later they have a second crash when a tyre blows out. They all survive, unlike cousin Eileen Sullivan who turns up at Nannie’s one day and is later discovered dead in the back bedroom. Trafalgar Square is boarded up so Nannie moves to Gorse Hill. Cousin Jody Keating is an unhappy soul as her only son Billy accidentally set fire to himself in the backyard when he was 11. Morrissey worships at the Paul Marsh record shop. Morrissey dances in the living room until his dad tells him he looks embarrassing. Morrissey’s parents argue constantly, so he repeatedly tries to run away but is always sent straight back home. When he’s not trying to run away he spends most of his time bedridden, keeping death at bay and watching television – he likes Jason King of Department S. When he gets out of the sick bed Morrissey joins a gang led by a 16 year old girl Lillian. Nannie thinks the world is ending during the 1971 partial eclipse, but, no, life goes on. Morrissey can’t eat smelly foods as they make him vomit, so he exists largely on a diet of tea and toast until he discovers pasta and pizzas when he reaches his thirties, but that’s a long way off yet so for now it’s just tea and toast. Morrissey plays Ulrick in the play On Dartmoor but his dad tells him he is very embarrassing. Morrissey comes 4th in a race at Stretford Stadium and his dad tells him he didn’t win and looks away. More failure: Morrissey fails his 11-Plus exam and has to attend St Mary’s Secondary School. Headmaster Vincent Morgan beats small boys every day; Morrissey suspects there are sexual motives behind this behaviour. One of the physical education teachers, Mr Sweeney, massages Morrissey’s wrist with anti-inflammatory cream; Morrissey suspects there are sexual motives behind this behaviour. Morrissey discovers Warhol and Bowie. Wearing a purple satin jacket Morrissey heads off to his first concert in 1972 – T-Rex.
3: A Hammer Blow to the Head Can Injure the Soul September 1972: Morrissey sees David Bowie in concert and touches his hand as he passes him a fan note. Months later he sees Roxy Music and sneaks into their soundcheck, getting the opportunity to chat with the band’s saxophonist. That year Morrissey also sees Mott the Hoople and Lou Reed. Morrissey buys the New York Dolls’ single from Rumbelows. The New York Dolls are referred to as ‘the world’s first homosexual rock band’; Morrissey suspects there are no homosexual motives behind their more-or-less transgender behaviour. Morrissey is chastised for painting the New York Dolls in art class. Morrissey is popular with the girls but he’s not much bothered by their attentions, instead he prefers to ride stolen racing bikes by night. Morrissey buys the Jobriath album from Rare Records and he also enjoys social problem films. Aged 14 now, Morrissey has a canary-yellow streak dyed in his hair. Morrissey plays truant to go and see Roxy Music in Preston but he pays for it back at school. Morrissey wins medals representing the school in track races. Morrissey gets into poetry and goes on and on about it endlessly.
4: A Handful of People in the Depths of Silence Morrissey is still going on about poetry, only now he suspects that Justice Wills wanted to destroy Oscar Wilde in order to save the world from homosexuality. Morrissey goes on and on about judges until he is distracted by Jon Daley walking along Great Stone Road wearing knee-high silver boots and they start hanging out together. Morrissey and Jon are mistaken for extras on the set of Coronation Street. Morrissey is given a cycle-on part in an Edwardian drama The Stars Look Down. Morrissey is also hanging out with Hazel Bowden and Kath Moores, who go to see the New York Dolls and Roxy Music and hang out with the bands after the shows. Hazel later tells Morrissey that Jon Daley has died in a horrific motorway crash. Morrissey starts hanging out with Anji Hardy and her friends – they all like the Glitter Band and the New York Dolls. Anji Hardy’s mum takes 15 year old Morrissey to a private jazz club and gives him a cigarette but Morrissey doesn’t smoke. Anji ’phones up one evening and casually announces that the doctor has given her six weeks to live; several weeks later Anji dies of leukaemia. One sorry-assed Saturday in 1975 Morrissey buys Patti Smith’s Horses in Boots the Chemist in Macclesfield. In 1976 Morrissey sees the Ramones’ first Manchester gig. Joey Ramone looks so ill Morrissey thinks he has met his twin. Tea and toast for two, is it? In the same year he sees David Bowie at Wembley but feels disappointment. He also goes to see Auntie Mary in New York and feels disappointment – he spends seven miserable weeks there getting by and apologising, although they somehow manage to survive a hurricane. Morrissey meets Russell Mael of Sparks outside CBGBs and gets an autograph. In 1977 Morrissey goes to Birmingham to see Patti Smith. Morrissey goes on about Iggy Pop, Lou Reed and Patti Smith being a trinity or something… Morrissey meets Marc Bolan and asks for his autograph but he refuses. O well, Morrissey goes to see the Sex Pistols at the Lesser Free Trade Hall. He somehow seems to have confused Johnny Rotten with a character from Dickens. Morrissey sees men about town Paul Morley and Ian Curtis; they are trying to make something of themselves and Morrissey wants to get in on it and make something of himself too. He’s no longer content to just be in the audience; he believes something must happen. Morrissey lives in a haunted house with his mother and sister and he has penpals. Morrissey wants to sing but instead he has to work – he works briefly at a record store, then briefly at the Inland Revenue until he is fired for wearing a Ramones t-shirt. He is offered a job cleaning the canal banks but he is turned down for a job as a postman because he is deemed physically and psychologically incapable of delivering letters. Morrissey is interviewed in London by Sounds magazine for a writer’s job but he is unsuccessful. Morrissey works briefly at a Bupa hospital and submits a script for Coronation Street, which is turned down. Then he is fired from his post as a stylist at Damien & Jason because he can’t tell the difference between oily hair and a wig. Morrissey hangs out with James Maker and he goes on and on about him. Then he hangs out with Simon Topping and he doesn’t get a chance to go on and on about him as their friendship is cut short; they listen to Nico’s Chelsea Girl together until Mrs Topping declares Morrissey “a bad influence” on her son. Morrissey wants to die. But instead Morrissey meets Nico twice in Manchester and she dies aged 49 after falling off her bicycle.
That’s all for now, folks! But expect more from the Morrissey miniseries soon – Hero Culte: reading Morrissey’s Autobiography so you don’t have to.