Is It Time To Stop Listening To Morrissey?

The ex-Smiths frontman lives off the oxygen of publicity – is it time to pull the plug?

The Smiths are back
Morrissey The ex-Smiths frontman Image Getty Images

Remember when Morrissey was known more for his music than his politics?

As frontman of The Smiths and for much of his solo career, the Lancashire-born lyricist cdelighted fans with his brilliantly baritone vocals and kitchen sink realism.

That Morrissey feels like someone from another age now though. An alternate dimension where only Morrissey: the musician, exists, separate from Morrissey: the “political” activist.

Everyone has the right to an opinion, valid or not. But the danger is that Morrissey increasingly uses interviews and live gigs as a platform to promote some pretty nasty opinions. Ones that no one in attendance can recall requesting in the first place.

The question now is whether those fans who turn up to see him relive the glory days of The Smiths and his subsequent solo career are willing to pay top dollar to see Morrissey play the classics and occasionally interrupt proceedings with offensive and/or insensitive asides.

A gig broadcast on BBC 6 Music to promote his album, Low High School, is just one example of this. Speaking between songs, the ex-Smiths man declared: “I was very surprised the other day – it was very interesting to me – to see Anne Marie Waters become the head of UKIP,” adding: “Oh no, sorry, she didn’t. The voting was rigged. Sorry, I forgot.”

Morrissey has made no secret of his appreciation for UKIP – an appreciation of that particular party really isn’t the issue here – but it was this comment on the party’s anti-Islam activist candidate that proved problematic.

Was he suggesting that the Islamophobic candidate was cheated out of the leadership or making a joke? It’s difficult to tell, but it’s hardly the first time he’s been guilty of this sort of thing.

Morrissey and The Smiths
Mozza Morrissey and The Smiths Image Stephen Wright

In the wake of the Norwegian massacre of 2011 in which Anders Brevik killed 76 people, Morrissey took the opportunity at a gig to compare and contrast the killings to the fast food industry. “We all live in a murderous world, as the events in Norway have shown, with 97 [sic] dead. Though that is nothing compared to what happens in McDonald’s and Kentucky Fried shit every day,” he told the audience.

A year earlier, when discussing the treatment of animals in China, he declared that “you can’t help but feel that the Chinese are subspecies.” These aren’t isolated incidents. In 2008, Morrissey donated £28,000 to the charity Love Music Hate Racism after making anti-immigration comments in an interview with NME – today, that same charity would flat out refuse any similar donations from the singer, after one too many misdemeanours.

In any other area of the entertainment industry, Morrissey’s career would be in jeopardy given some of the things he has said – the likes of Mel Gibson and Jim Davidson are, by and large, a testament to that. And yet Morrissey remains a force in the music scene. A legend respected and adored by fans, loaded included, who still remember the good old days of The Smiths.

It’s difficult to let go of that memory, even if the new material may not live up to the same standard. To simply hear Morrissey belt out the opening lines of Charming Man is enough to seemingly forgive and forget pretty much anything.

The internet never forgets though. So while the likes of Eric Clapton and Elvis Costello have their own politically incorrect skeletons far at the back of their own closets, Morrissey’s are all too recent and fresh in the mind for that.

Morrissey pictured onstage has now turned to being an author

At 58, he’s too old and long in the tooth to change now too. This is the Morrissey we are stuck with and as his output continues to underwhelm, fans face the unfortunate reality that the only way to truly stop Morrissey being Morrissey is to stop listening.

That means no gigs, no new albums, no social media, no nothing. Is that likely to happen though? Probably not. And as long as he continues to say contentious things, the press is going to lap it up, which is the kind of free publicity only he could turn into something positive.

Is it time to stop listening to Morrissey? Probably. It’s been over a decade since his last decent album. Does that mean anyone actually will? Not as long as he’s remembered as “this charming man” they will not. And, despite his best efforts, that doesn’t look like happening anytime soon.

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