1992 09 05 Morrissey NME





Re: Morrissey: Flying The Flag Or Flirting With Disaster? NME, August 22.

Thankfully, the NME didn’t take their usual defensive, often sycophantic position with Moz, and instead offered an extremely impressive, investigative piece of music journalism on this most urgent issue.

It’s an insult to the re-release of ‘This Charming Man’ to hear that the very same singer has a skins backdrop at Finsbury Park. I’d like to dupe myself into believing that Moz’s interest in all this sad shit is merely a plot on his part to regain attention lost during the release of certain inferior singles - but I think not. The NME aren’t trying to ruin his career, the man’s digging his own grave.

To refuse an interview; to not care to defend himself against recent racist allegations . . . what are we to conclude?

Victoria Cullen, Hull

How can Morrissey say you’re trying to ruin his career? For someone who’s been on the front cover of the paper he claims despises him 11 times, he’s obviously blind to the situation. If anyone is trying to ruin his career it is him. This is supported by the fact that he’s robbed fans by not appearing at two festivals within the same number of months. Also, the way he and his record company are ‘milking’ The Smiths’ back catalogue (Small point - but that’s little to do with Moz anymore, blame WEA - AC) I am neither a huge Morrissey fan nor an obsessive hater, but a music fan who appreciates the man’s music. Obviously the quality of his music and morals differs considerably. Bloody prat.

Strawberry, Nottingham

Well done, it’s about time Morrissey was confronted on these issues. I’m sure relief will resound amongst NME’s many Afro-Caribbean and Asian readers, who surely must wonder about the effects Morrissey has on young people.

I’m particularly offended at the badge he is wearing in one shot. The badge is a Union Jack covering the whole of the British Isles - where does that leave the Welsh, Scottish, Cornish? Every other word Morrissey utters England this, England that - there is no such f—ing thing. It’s the people who are NOT of English origin that keep the place going - all the black people working in various service trades, all the Irish on building work and maintenance. The Irish built Liverpool and Manchester and a good section of London too (together with a good degree of Scots and Welsh).

If anyone picks up a history book on the British Isles they will see the Celts were here long before the Saxons - so what the f— is Morrissey on about? The NF talk about their “ancient rights’’ - HA! They are very misinformed indeed. England was a section of land inhabited by leftover Romans and Anglo Saxons who drove out the Celts, but never drove them from the mountains. ALL races and ethnic groups are welcome here. F—YOU, STEVEN, GROW UP!!!

Emyr R Evans, Manchester 

Not sure I’m with you on this freedom-for-Cornwall vibe, Emyr. Equally, your rather breathless tribute to immigrants as salt-of-the-earth service fodder has its drawbacks too - but at least your every one-is-welcome sign-off has its heart in the right place. Let us challenge stereotyping and lazy ambiguity. Alternatively . . . pray silence for the dissenting voices - AC


I expect you’ll be swamped with mail after your recent Morrissey cover. I feel sufficiently moved to rise to my hind legs for a while with regard to this one. First of all, if you are concerned about Morrissey’s current direction, why are you giving him the oxygen of publicity? Secondly, how dangerous do you really think all this nonsense is?

Pop music was never a viable force for any sort of social change. Even in its headiest days, at best it was only a soundtrack for a rumble in Grosvenor Square and a signal to widen your trouser bottoms.

People in the industry place such importance on Pop Music (Yeah, and the people who manufacture biscuits place importance on gypsy creams, HOLD THE FRONT PAGE - AC) In the end, Morrissey is just a jangle that comes out of a kitchen radio in between Kylie fading out and some moron offering you a trip to Florida.

I try not to believe what I read in NME interviews because I know that some knackered, bewildered too not-too-bright musician has just been confronted with an unexpected sociology exam when he or she should have been asked about the music. Cor, I bet you shifted some extra copies this week. I certainly bought one. Well done.

Martin Newell, Essex

For f—’s sake, NME, get a life! I haven’t read your ‘Morrissey is a fascist wanker shock probe’ piece but I don’t really need to - (Oh yes you do, BY LAW - AC).

Jim Dennis, London W11

If Morrissey was alive today, you’d send a limousine anyway.

Fabulous, London

RE: Your self-righteous lynch mob attack on Morrissey. It smacked of a McCarthyist witch hunt, but this time you were sniffing out a racist not a communist. What’s wrong with wearing the British flag? Remember, Morrissey’s parents were immigrants. The saddest part of it all is that you were not running a piece because you were concerned with Morrissey’s changing ways, but because you know Morrissey sells papers.

Jhon (sic) Willey, The North

I have just finished reading your Morrissey moan-a-thon and I feel, as a Smiths fan, that the man deserves saving from your fire and brimstone. Why? Because although Morrissey is a petty bigot - like many men in the street - he is, however, also a rock god/star. That means that when he lets his feelings be known it is not to the man in the pub next to him but to anyone who hears his music. It would not be fair to have to censor his own thoughts just because they are foolish. I felt that five pages and a front cover was overkill on your part.

If you felt that his sheep-like devotees needed awakening to the stupidity contained within his work surely a small item in News would’ve sufficed eg “We suspect Morrissey is a racist. He has refused to comment directly on the matter.”

Secondly, your analysis of his interviews and lyrics avoided one crucial point surrounding racism and flirtation with skinheads - he is ignorant of modern life! (Oh he’s off the hook, sorry, we were wrong -AC) l am Jewish, I have a GCSE in Religious Studies, specialising in Judaism, and after living a modem Jewish life for 17 years I went to Israel. I feel qualified to state, if I wanted to (and I don’t), that everything about my culture and religion is crap. If someone else said that (eg Morrissey) it could be said to be anti-Semitic, but from me it would be a reasoned, educated response.

Morrissey knows no more about blacks and Asians that that he hates their music and for some reason dislikes them. He feels affinity with Englanders - he probably doesn’t know why either. His criticisms are no more than ignorant mumblings from a man who says, “I rarely watch TV, I never read a newspaper” and thus by his own admission is totally detached from reality.

Lou Delmore, Glasgow

Finally you revealed what all the hammering and sawing emanating from your pages has been about -you’ve been building a scaffold in preparation for last week’s trial. And the charge? Weil, even you admit it isn’t racism. It’s what it’s always been - Morrissey having the effrontery to occupy the nexus of class, gender, sexuality and race; skinheads in nail-varnish, Mozzer in lame, crooning in a fey way wrapped in the Union Jack; idiosyncratic poetry of what it means to be British.

Doublespeak is the required language at show trials, so the chief witness for the prosecution, finger-on-the-pulse Peter Hooton, culminates about how “out of touch” the defendant is. Five pages on a performer who didn’t even speak to you, the front cover treatment (bet your circulation rocketed), sheaves of passionately livid letters . . .

Mark Simpson, London N6

I’m bloody sick of your right-on, wishy-washy, liberal idealism. Like most things about your poxy non-commital non-lives, it stinks of mediocrity and lack of anything in particular. So, you get worried when some pop star, of all people, sticks his neck out and states his mind. Like Morrissey (apparently), I find Asians thoroughly objectionable - (CUT! You’re on next week’s cover - AC)

David Kenning, Leeds

Who else could obtain a five page spread, as well as being the front cover star in “Rock’s biggest selling weekly” without doing an interview? The Man is a genius, and no. I’m not talking about Danny Kelly.

Brendan Devanney, Hamilton

What I find most galling is a few weeks previous, Ice-T was praised for his outspoken statements in the NME. I like Ice-T’s music, but it just takes one listen to ‘Original Gangster’ tracks like ‘Bitches 2’ and 'Straight Up Nigga’ to realise that the man is racist and sexist to a tee. Why do we not see a five-page feature questioning Ice-T’s lyrics? The reason is, the bigotry coming from a black man from South Central LA can be both accepted and forgiven by right-on NME hacks, whereas Morrissey’s current interest in skin culture is met with rabid hysteria.

Racism is a nasty business but the way you have conducted yourself over the last few issues, it appears the NME is the biggest guilty party of them all.

Peter Hooton's Crap White Trousers

You shut your mouth, how can you say he goes about things the wrong way?

Anon, Hants

A little word in the ears of compilers Danny Kelly, Gavin Martin and Stuart Maconie - don’t tar all skinheads as racists please. Part of the style of the skinhead cult is taken from Jamaica, as is the music (ska and reggae), so true skins can’t be racist. We all know there are NF skins around, but there are also non-racist skins and skins who don’t believe in NF, BNP etc.

The king of ska, Prince Buster, recently came over from Jamaica to do a sell-out London date. His audience was 90 per cent skinheads. What does this tell you? You don’t seem to know anything about the true skinhead cult. You can’t tell me that all skinheads at the Madness gig were NF trouble-makers.

Oi! music never started out as a racist movement, it was the media who ruined it. Have you heard of SHARP (Skinheads Against Racial Prejudice)? I’m not saying all skinheads are angels but they’re not all NF.

Erin Bardwell (18), Swindon

Dele Fadele’s comments concerning the NF in his Morrissey/racism investigation showed incredible ignorance. To justify The Who’s use of the Union Jack in the ’60s by saying that the NF and BNP were not in force in those days is ridiculous. The NF today is a spent force, 20-odd years ago they were quite dangerous, Enoch Powell was an MP and it was considered reasonable for the average white English person to dislike the immigrants recently arrived in Britain from India, Pakistan and the West Indies. I suggest Dele takes a social/political history course at night school.

Bernard Peters, Manchester

You can really rely on the music press to oversimplify the facts to make a politically sensational and dangerous story. The whole tone of your article sucked. It was really bad journalism. You criticise Morrissey for his choice of youth cult rather than music. Are you serious? A youth cult, incidentally, you know nothing about. To quote you, “The original skins were generally racist, nationalist bulldogs” - totally untrue, and the kind of history rewrite usually favoured by the Tony Parsons know-nothing type.

I was a short-haired youth living in North West London at the cusp of the ’60s and ’70s. I was in a gang and amongst my friends were Irish, Greek, Polish and blacks. There would often be trouble, usually between different boroughs, but I never saw any racial violence, nor did I see any gangs this side of the Thames that didn’t have blacks in their number. The words skinhead and suedehead were never used, these were tabloid terms later picked up on by children and Northerners.

I suspect Morrissey was flirting with the camp side of things, I also suspect you know this damn well. What sort of country is it when you can’t even use the imagery of your own flag without being called a racist? A silly one, I’d say. The article was heavily loaded against Morrissey, you’ve clearly got some other gripe against him.

It seems to me that Morrissey was in the wrong place at the wrong time. The only people who benefitted from the whole thing are Madness. Morrissey pulled out of Glastonbury to do that show and now he’s being cast as the sulky child just because he wouldn’t perform in front of a bunch of missile-throwing numbskulls. I understand that on Sunday one of Madness made a quip about Morrissey being a wimp for walking off. He was not a wimp, he was right. He has been well and truly f—ed over, and now you’ve joined him.

Kevin Rowland, Dexy’s, London NW6

You portray this week’s Morrissey media murder special as a sincere expression of concern. It is also:

a) A transparent attempt to talk up a crisis in order to sell a few newspapers.

b) A vitriolic response to Morrissey’s steadfast refusal to speak to you.

c) A symptom of how completely marginalised your publication has become over the past five years.

The feature was not only ill-conceived but also badly written. Last week, The Independent’s terminally dull Ben Thompson articulated the media angst against Morrissey’s current tack in a precise 20 words. That you need to spew forth five pages of rehashed, right-on rubbish says more about your own sad decline than the subject at hand.

James Bailey, London SE4

Congratulations! You’ve excelled yourselves this week! Sales must be low lately. So you bring out the secret weapon - Morrissey on the cover! Will he actually speak to you then? No, of course not. Never mind, Kylie will. Wankers!

Richard Cotton, Birmingham.

I knew I should never have bought this week’s NME as soon as I saw the picture of Morrissey on the cover. I am a huge Morrissey/Smiths fan who buys almost anything with his name on (you know the type), but seeing him on the cover only made me think 'Oh God, what are they slagging him off for now?’ You have never made any bones about the fact that you dislike Morrissey one hell of a lot, but normally you just keep it to things like reviews.

The more I read this article, the more I thought how painfully sad you must be, because it’s obvious you’re out to put people off Morrissey with all the ‘hard work’ you put into the collection of quotes featuring damning statements like “reggae is vile”. Yes, reggae is vile, as is Heavy Metal in my opinion - does that make me racist?

If Morrissey asked me to put my hand in the fire I’d tell him to get a life, but in this case he definitely gets my vote. The Queen’s not dead.

Michael Legge, London NW2

Enough, you rather confused innocents! As you can imagine, this is a mere sample of the scores of Morrissey letters we have received since NME, August 22 hit the streets. Alas, supportive ones were somewhat thin on the ground - it’s been a long time since we did anything this unpopular, for sure.

So, to deal with it. . . Let me overturn at least one of the major, recurring, hypocritical themes - that we stuck the Moz investigation on the cover ‘just to sell papers’.

Firstly, if Morrissey had replied to our genuine concerns it would have been a conventional ‘interview’ feature. He chose not to, and the resultant all-editorial nature of the story seemed to leave some of you feeling short-changed. However, July’s Indie cover was, it seems, acceptable; as was last October’s Morrissey picture-caption cover. The NME is, in case it had passed you by, in the business of selling papers. Why else would we print a weekly Gig Guide?

You who attempt to insult us by bringing (sniff!) commerce into the debate ought to write in occasionally and congratulate us for putting a patently uncommercial name on the cover - Babes In Toyland, Fatima Mansions, and yes, Ice-T. In my mind, to honour Moz once again with centre-stage and, in reaction to recent events, NOT give him the expected print massage, is NME acting as a newspaper (remember those?) If it’s Hello! you want, try a monthly music magazine —AC

Do you really think that Morrissey’s ambiguous jingoism is going to turn a nation of free thinking liberals into gestapo commandants?

Julian Brown, Essex 

Ha! Yeah, what a ludicrous notion. Now read on. . . - AC

We all know racism is a hideous trait, but if Morrissey wishes to dislike blacks, Asians, or even tall people then THAT IS UP TO HIM. It is a free country, and if someone wants to be racist then that is their prerogative as a free person. Please stop telling people how to run their lives, and sort your own out first.

Let’s not slag off Moz - let’s just accept him for what he is and continue to love his music.

Morrissey’s Conjugal Bedroom, Southampton 

Blow me! If anyone supports our half-baked theory that hardcore Moz fans are too stupid and impressionable to deal with ambiguous political messages, you, Mr So-called ‘Morrissey’s Conjugal Bedroom’, are it. In a nutshell. Correct, this IS a free country in which all are entitled to voice an opinion and live their chosen lifestyle - but NOT, surely, if that decision actually stops someone else (ie, a harrassed minority) from living as a free person themselves. If you had a gun rather than a very smart typewriter, you would be a very dangerous citizen indeed - AC

Why doesn’t Morrissey just piss off and die?

Kim Davies

Why doesn’t Morrissey just respond to our rather elaborate - and clearly provocative—charges? That is the question - AC


For me, what started out as mere sadness at the predictability of the ‘leave our Moz alone you bastards’ response to NME’s cover story has now hardened to anger. So let’s get a few things straight. . .

1) We are not ‘desperate’ to sell papers. NME’s UK circulation is the best it has been for eight years. If we had been ‘desperate’ to sell papers that particular week, surely we’d have left Kylie on the cover, as was our original plan. Sadly, she sellsfar more records, and more newspapers, than Morrissey.

2) If the whole Morrissey story had been hatched as a plot to detach The Kids from their hard earned cash then surely this letters page—only a fragment of the vitriol we actually received - proves how stupid a move that would’ve been. Exchanging one week’s sales for a couple of thousand ‘we’re never reading your shitrag again’ letters is hardly the manipulative economic masterplan of which we are accused.

3) Crucially, the reason we did the Morrissey story, and put it on the cover, was simple. It was, and is, very important. The people who say we’ve no right to scrutinise Morrissey’s actions and motivations this closely are naive and victims of selective amnesia. We have always hung on, and attempted to understand, his every word and gesture; when we approved and applauded, that was fine by his fans, who saw it as proper coverage of a major artist and could’t get enough of it. The same level of interest, but with a negative commentary, is, however, interpreted as a campaign of character assassination. You cannot have it both ways.

And the goalposts have moved. In the past, Morrissey’s interesting and ambiguous foibles were of a personal nature; his new fascinations have taken him into an altogether more public domain. Morrissey’s sexuality, for instance, subject to so much speculation and teasing over the years, is, at the end of the day, his own affair. His flirtation with skinhead/nationalist/racist imagery and ideas is a whole other thing.

Morrissey has the right to think, and write, what he likes. But if those thoughts and words are racist then right-thinking people won’t want them in their house or their lives. With Ethnic Cleansing threatening to engulf Europe in the biggest war for 50 years and gangs of skinheads burning immigrant reception centres in Germany this very week, these matters are more important than they’ve been for generations and certainly not fit subjects for flirtatious dilletantism.

5) It’s pathetic that so many of Morrissey’s fans feel driven to fight Morrissey’s battles for him (painting themselves, voluntarily or otherwise, into all sorts of disgusting corners) while the man himself hides behind the lavender handkerchief of Artistry. WHY?

Danny Kelly, editor and Morrissey fan (I think)