Steven Patrick Morrissey (born 22 May 1959), known mononymously as Morrissey, is an English singer, songwriter and author. He rose to prominence as the frontman of the Smiths, who were active from 1982 to 1987. Since then, Morrissey has had a solo career, making the top ten of the UK Singles Chart on ten occasions and reaching number one on the UK Albums Chart three times.
Born in Davyhulme, Lancashire, to a working-class Irish family, Morrissey grew up in Manchester. As a child he developed a love of literature, kitchen sink realism and popular music. Involved in Manchester's punk rock scene during the late 1970s, he fronted the Nosebleeds, with little success. Beginning a career in music journalism, he authored a number of books on music and film in the early 1980s. With Johnny Marr he established the Smiths in 1982, soon attracting national recognition for their self-titled debut album. As the band's frontman, Morrissey attracted attention both for his witty and sardonic lyrics and his idiosyncratic appearance; deliberately avoiding rock machismo, he cultivated the aesthetic of a social outsider who eschewed drugs and embraced celibacy. The Smiths released three further albums—including the critically acclaimed Meat Is Murder and The Queen Is Dead—and had a string of hit singles. Personal differences between Morrissey and Marr resulted in the Smiths' separation in 1987.
In 1988, Morrissey launched his solo career with Viva Hate. This album and its follow-ups—Kill Uncle, Your Arsenal, and Vauxhall and I—all did well in the UK Albums Chart and spawned a number of hit singles. During this time his image began to shift into that of a more burly figure, who toyed with patriotic imagery and working-class masculinity. In the mid-to-late 1990s, his subsequent albums, Southpaw Grammar and Maladjusted, also charted but were less well received. Relocating to Los Angeles, he embarked on a hiatus between 1998 and 2003 before releasing a successful comeback album, You Are the Quarry, in 2004. Ensuing years saw the release of albums Ringleader of the Tormentors, Years of Refusal, and World Peace Is None of Your Business. He released his autobiography in 2013, followed by his first novel in 2015. His eleventh solo album, Low in High School, was released in November 2017.
Highly influential, Morrissey has been credited as a seminal figure in the emergence of indie rock and Britpop. Acclaimed as one of the greatest lyricists in British history, his lyrics have become the subject of academic study. He has courted controversy with his forthright opinions—endorsing vegetarianism and animal rights, condemning royalty and prominent politicians, and promoting a vision of English national identity and Britishness. In a 2006 poll held by the BBC's Culture Show, Morrissey was voted the second greatest living British cultural icon, behind only David Attenborough.
Steven Patrick Morrissey was born on 22 May 1959, at Park Hospital, Davyhulme, Lancashire. His parents—Elizabeth (née Dwyer) and Peter Morrissey—were working-class Irish Catholics. They had emigrated to Manchester from Dublin with his only sibling, elder sister Jacqueline, a year prior to his birth. They had given him the forename of Steven after the American actor Steve Cochran. His earliest home was a council house at 17 Harper Street in the Hulme area of inner Manchester. Living in that area, as a child he was deeply affected by the Moors murders in which a number of local children were murdered by Ian Brady and Myra Hindley; the killings had a lasting impression on him and would be referenced in the lyrics of the Smiths song "Suffer Little Children". He also became aware of the anti-Irish sentiment in British society against Irish migrants to Britain. In 1970 the family relocated to another council house at 384 King's Road, Stretford.
Following an early education at St. Wilfred's Primary School, Morrissey failed his 11-plus exam, and proceeded to St. Mary's Technical Modern School, an experience that he found unpleasant. He excelled at athletics, although was an unpopular loner at the school. He has been critical of his formal education, later stating that "the education I received was so basically evil and brutal. All I learnt was to have no self-esteem and to feel ashamed without knowing why". He left school in 1975, having received no formal qualifications. He continued his education at Stretford Technical College, and there gained three O-levels in English Literature, Sociology, and the General Paper. In 1975 he travelled to the United States to visit an aunt who lived in New Jersey. The relationship between Morrissey's parents was strained, and they ultimately separated in December 1976, with his father moving out of the family home.
Morrissey's librarian mother encouraged her son's interest in reading. He took an interest in feminist literature, and particularly adored the Irish author Oscar Wilde, whom he came to idolise. The young Morrissey was a keen fan of the television soap Coronation Street, which focused around working-class communities in Manchester; he sent proposed scripts and storylines to the show's production company, Granada TV, although all were rejected. He was also a fan of Shelagh Delaney's A Taste of Honey and its 1961 film adaptation, which was a kitchen sink drama focusing around working-class life in Salford. Many of his later songs directly quoted from A Taste of Honey.
Of his youth, Morrissey said, "Pop music was all I ever had, and it was completely entwined with the image of the pop star. I remember feeling the person singing was actually with me and understood me and my predicament." He later revealed that the first record he purchased was Marianne Faithfull's 1964 single "Come and Stay With Me". During the 1970s he became a glam rock fan, enjoying the work of British acts like T-Rex, David Bowie, and Roxy Music. He was also a fan of American glam performers Sparks, Jobriath, and The New York Dolls, the last of which were a significant influence on Morrissey, to the extent that he organised a British fan club for the band through small adverts in the back pages of music magazines. It was through the Dolls' interest in female pop singers from the 1960s that Morrissey too developed a fascination for such artists, who included Sandie Shaw, Twinkle, and Dusty Springfield.
Early bands and published books: 1977–1981
Having left formal education, Morrissey initially gained employment as a clerk for the civil service, and then for the Inland Revenue, also working in a record store and as a hospital porter, although subsequently quit and began claiming unemployment benefits. He used much of the money from these jobs to purchase tickets for gigs, attending performances by Talking Heads, Ramones, and Blondie. He regularly attended concerts, having a particular interest in the alternative and post-punk music scene. Having met the guitarist Billy Duffy in November 1977, Morrissey agreed to become the vocalist for Duffy's punk band The Nosebleeds. Morrissey co-wrote a number of songs with the band—"Peppermint Heaven", "I Get Nervous" and "I Think I'm Ready for the Electric Chair"—and performed with them in support slots for Jilted John and then Magazine. The band soon disbanded.
After The Nosebleeds' split, Morrissey followed Duffy to join Slaughter & the Dogs, briefly replacing original singer Wayne Barrett. He recorded four songs with the band and they auditioned for a record deal in London. After the audition fell through, Slaughter & the Dogs became Studio Sweethearts, without Morrissey. Morrissey came to be known as a minor figure within Manchester's punk community. By 1981, Morrissey had become a close friend of Linder Sterling, the frontwoman of punk-jazz ensemble Ludus; both her lyrics and style of singing influenced him. Through Sterling, he came to know Howard Devoto and Richard Boon. At the time, Morrissey's best male friend was James Maker; he would visit Maker in London or they would meet up in Manchester, where they visited the city's gay bars and gay clubs, in one case having to escape from a gang of gay bashers.
Desiring to become a professional writer, Morrissey considered a career in music journalism. He frequently wrote letters to music press, and was eventually hired by the weekly music review publication Record Mirror. He authored a number of short books for local publishing company Babylon Books: in 1981 they released a 24-page booklet he had written on The New York Dolls, which sold 3000 copies. This was followed by a volume he wrote about the late film star James Dean, titled James Dean is Not Dead. Morrissey had developed a love of Dean, having covered his bedroom with pictures of the deceased film star.
Establishing the Smiths: 1982–1984
In August 1978, Morrissey was briefly introduced to the 14-year old Johnny Marr by mutual acquaintances at a Patti Smith gig held at Manchester's Apollo Theatre. Several years later, in May 1982, Marr turned up on the doorstep of Morrissey's house, there to ask Morrissey if he was interested in co-founding a band. Marr had been impressed that Morrissey had authored a book on the New York Dolls, and was inspired to turn up on his doorstep following the example of Jerry Leiber, who had formed his working partnership with Mike Stoller after turning up at the latter's door. According to Morrissey: "We got on absolutely famously. We were very similar in drive." The next day, Morrissey phoned Marr to confirm that he would be interested in forming a band with him. Steve Pomfret—who had served as the band's first bassist—soon abandoned the group, to be replaced by Dale Hibbert. Around the time of the band's formation, Morrissey decided that he would be publicly known only by his surname, with Marr referring to him as "Mozzer" or "Moz". In 1983 he forbade those around him from using the name of "Steven", which he despised. Morrissey was also responsible for choosing the band name of "The Smiths", later informing an interviewer that "it was the most ordinary name and I thought it was time that the ordinary folk of the world showed their faces".
Alongside developing their own songs, they also developed a cover of The Cookies' "I Want a Boy for My Birthday", the latter reflecting their deliberate desire to transgress established norms of gender and sexuality in rock in a manner inspired by the New York Dolls. In August 1982, they recorded their first demo at Manchester's Decibel Studios, and Morrissey took the demo recording to Factory Records, but they weren't interested. In late summer 1982, Mike Joyce was adopted as the band's drummer after a successful audition. In October 1982 they then gave their first public performance, as a support act for Blue Rondo à la Turk at Manchester's The Ritz. Hibbert however was unhappy with what he perceived as the band's gay aesthetic; in turn, Morrissey and Marr were unhappy with his bass playing, and so he was removed from the band and replaced by Marr's old school friend Andy Rourke.
After the record company EMI turned them down, Morrissey and Marr visited London to hand a cassette of their recordings to Geoff Travis of the independent record label Rough Trade Records. Although not signing them to a contract straight away, he agreed to cut their song "Hand in Glove" as a single. Morrissey chose a homoerotic cover design in the form of a Jim French photograph. It was released in May 1983. It was championed by DJ John Peel, as were all their later singles, but it failed to chart. The band soon generated controversy when Garry Bushell of tabloid newspaper The Sun alleged that their B-side "Handsome Devil" was an endorsement of paedophilia. The band denied this, with Morrissey stating that the song "has nothing to do with children, and certainly nothing to do with child molesting". In the wake of their single, the band performed their first significant London gig, gained radio airplay with a John Peel session, and obtained their first interviews in music magazines NME and Sounds.
The follow-up singles "This Charming Man" and "What Difference Does It Make?" fared better when they reached numbers 25 and 12 respectively on the UK Singles Chart. Aided by praise from the music press and a series of studio sessions for Peel and David Jensen at BBC Radio 1, the Smiths began to acquire a dedicated fan base. In February 1984, they released their debut album, The Smiths, which reached number 2 on the UK Albums Chart.
As frontman of the Smiths, Morrissey—described as "lanky, soft-spoken, bequiffed and bespectacled"—subverted many of the norms that were associated with pop and rock music. The band's aesthetic simplicity was a reaction to the excess personified by the New Romantics, and while Morrissey adopted an androgynous appearance like the New Romantics or earlier glam rockers, his was far more subtle and understated. According to one commentator, "he was bookish; he wore NHS spectacles and a hearing aid on stage; he was celibate. Worst of all, he was sincere", with his music being "so intoxicatingly melancholic, so dangerously thoughtful, so seductively funny that it lured its listeners ... into a relationship with him and his music instead of the world." In an academic paper on the band, Julian Stringer characterised the Smiths as "one of Britain's most overtly political groups", while in his study of their work, Andrew Warns termed them "this most anti-capitalist of bands". Morrissey had been particularly vocal in his criticism of Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher; after the October 1984 Brighton hotel bombing, he commented that "the only sorrow" of it was "that Thatcher escaped unscathed". In 1988 he stated that Clause 28 "embodies Thatcher's very nature and her quite natural hatred".
The Smiths' growing success: 1984–1987
In 1984, the band released two non-album singles: "Heaven Knows I'm Miserable Now" (their first UK top-ten hit) and "William, It Was Really Nothing". The year ended with the compilation album Hatful of Hollow. This collected singles, B-sides and the versions of songs that had been recorded throughout the previous year for the Peel and Jensen shows. Early in 1985 the band released their second album, Meat Is Murder, which was their only studio album to top the UK charts. The single-only release "Shakespeare's Sister" reached number 26 on the UK Singles Chart, though the only single taken from the album, "That Joke Isn't Funny Anymore", was less successful, barely making the top 50. "How Soon Is Now?" was originally a B-side of the 1984 single "William, It Was Really Nothing", and was subsequently featured on Hatful of Hollow and the American, Canadian, Australian and Warner UK editions of Meat Is Murder. Belatedly released as a single in the UK in 1985, How Soon Is Now? reached number 24 on the UK Singles Chart.
During 1985, the band undertook lengthy tours of the UK and the US while recording the next studio record, The Queen is Dead. The album was released in June 1986, shortly after the single "Bigmouth Strikes Again". The record reached number 2 in the UK charts. However, all was not well within the group. A legal dispute with Rough Trade had delayed the album by almost seven months (it had been completed in November 1985), and Marr was beginning to feel the stress of the band's exhausting touring and recording schedule. Meanwhile, Rourke was fired in early 1986 for his use of heroin. Rourke was temporarily replaced on bass guitar by Craig Gannon, but he was reinstated after only a fortnight. Gannon stayed in the band, switching to rhythm guitar. This five-piece recorded the singles "Panic" and "Ask" (with Kirsty MacColl on backing vocals) which reached numbers 11 and 14 respectively on the UK Singles Chart, and toured the UK. After the tour ended in October 1986, Gannon left the band. The group had become frustrated with Rough Trade and sought a record deal with a major label, ultimately signing with EMI, which drew criticism from some of the band's fanbase.
In early 1987, the single "Shoplifters of the World Unite" was released and reached number 12 on the UK Singles Chart. It was followed by a second compilation, The World Won't Listen, which reached number 2 in the charts – and the single "Sheila Take a Bow", the band's second (and last during the band's lifetime) UK top-10 hit. Despite their continued success, personal differences within the band – including the increasingly strained relationship between Morrissey and Marr – saw them on the verge of splitting. In July 1987, Marr left the group and auditions to find a replacement proved fruitless.
By the time the group's fourth album Strangeways, Here We Come was released in September, the band had split up. The breakdown in the relationship has been partly attributed to Morrissey's annoyance with Marr's work with other artists and to Marr's growing frustration with Morrissey's musical inflexibility. Morrissey blamed the band's breakup on the lack of a managerial figure—in a 1989 interview with then-teenage fan Tim Samuels. Strangeways peaked at number 2 in the UK, but was only a minor US hit, though it was more successful there than the band's previous albums.
Early solo work: 1988–1991
Several months before the Smiths dissolved, Morrissey had enlisted Stephen Street as his personal producer and new songwriting partner, with whom he could begin his solo career. By September 1987, he had begun work on his first solo album, Viva Hate, at Wool Hall Studios near Bath; it was recorded with the musicians Vini Reilly and Andrew Paresi. Rather than featuring pre-existing images of celebrities, as the Smiths' album and single covers had done, Viva Hate featured a photograph of Morrissey taken by Anton Corbijn on its cover sleeve. In February 1988, EMI released the first single from this album, "Suedehead", which reached number 5 on the British singles chart, a higher position than any Smiths' single had achieved. The second single from the album, "Everyday Is Like Sunday", was released in June and reached number 9. The album reached number 1 on the UK album charts. The album's final song, "Margaret on the Guillotine", featured descriptions of Thatcher being executed; in response, the Conservative Member of Parliament Geoffrey Dickens accused Morrissey of being involved in a terrorist network and police Special Branch conducted a search of his Manchester home.
Morrissey's first solo performance took place at Wolverhampton's Civic Hall in December 1988. The event attracted huge crowds, with NME's journalist James Brown observing that "the excitement and atmosphere inside the hall was like nothing I have ever experienced at any public event". Despite his solo success and previous issues with band members, Morrissey still expressed interest in a Smiths reunion. On 22 December 1988, Morrissey, Andy Rourke, Mike Joyce and Craig Gannon performed to a sold out Wolverhampton Civic Hall. This would serve as his first solo show, and also the last Smiths live show ever. Many of those in attendance had waited for days to gain admission. After Viva Hate, Morrissey put out two new singles; "The Last of the Famous International Playboys" was about the Kray twins, gangsters who operated in London's East End, and reached number 6 on the UK singles chart. This was followed by "Interesting Drug", which reached number 9. After his songwriting partnership with Street ended and was replaced by Alan Winstanley and Clive Langer, he recorded "Ouija Board, Ouija Board", released as a single in November 1989; it reached number 18. Christian spokespeople and tabloid newspapers condemned the song, claiming that it promoted occultism, to which Morrissey responded that "the only contact I ever made with the dead was when I spoke to a journalist from The Sun."
With Winstanley and Langer he began work on his second album, Bona Drag, although only recorded six new songs for it, the rest of the album comprising his recent singles and B-sides. The album itself reached number 9 on the UK album chart. Two of the newly recorded Bona Drag tracks were released as singles: "November Spawned a Monster", a song about a wheelchair-bound woman, reached number 12 in the charts but received criticism from some who believed that it mocked the disabled. The second, "Piccadilly Palare", referenced London rent boys and featured terms from the polari gay slang. Released in November 1990, it reached number 19 in the charts. The song attracted some criticism from the British gay press, who were of the opinion that it was wrong for Morrissey to utilise polari when he was not openly gay; in an interview the previous year he had nevertheless acknowledged his attraction to both men and women.
Adopting Mark E. Nevin as his new songwriting partner, Morrissey released the album Kill Uncle, released in March 1991 and peaking at number 8 on the album chart. The two singles released in promotion of the album, "Our Frank" and "Sing Your Life", failed to break the Top 20 on the singles charts, reaching number 26 and number 33 respectively. Another of the album's tracks, "Found, Found, Found", alluded to Morrissey's friendship with Michael Stipe, the lead singer of American indie rock band REM. Planning his first solo tour, Morrissey assembled several musicians with a background in rockabilly to be his new backing group, including the guitarist Boz Boorer, Alain Whyte, and Spencer Cobrin. Morrissey began the Kill Uncle tour in Europe; he brought Phranc as his support act and decorated the stage of each performance with a large image of Edith Sitwell. On the US leg of his tour, he sold out Los Angeles' 18,000 seat The Forum in fifteen minutes, faster than Michael Jackson or Madonna had done. During the performance, David Bowie joined him onstage for a rendition of "Cosmic Dancer". In the US, he sold out 25 of his 26 other performances; one Texan performance was filmed by Tim Broad for release as the VHS Live in Dallas. He proceeded to Japan—where he was frustrated by the authorities' tough stance toward fans—and then Australasia, where he cancelled several dates due to acute sinusitis.
The early 1990s were described by biographer David Bret as the "black phase" in Morrissey's relationship with the British music press, which was increasingly hostile and critical of him. In some cases, this involved the press spreading misinformation, such as the claim that he and Phranc were recording a cover of "Don't Go Breaking My Heart"; others, such as those of Barbara Ellen in NME, were closer to personal attack than musical review. NME claimed that his cancelled performances reflected a disrespect towards his fans. He became increasingly reticent in talking to British music journalists, expressing frustration at how they constantly compared his solo work with that of the Smiths; "my past is almost denying me a future". He told one interviewer that the band he was then working with were technically better musicians than the Smiths had ever been.
Changing image: 1992–1995
In July 1992, Morrissey released the album Your Arsenal, which peaked at number 2 in the album chart. It was the final release from producer Mick Ronson; Morrissey related that working with Ronson had been "the greatest privilege of my life". Your Arsenal reflected Morrissey's lament for what he regarded as the decline of British culture in the face of increasing Americanisation. He told one interviewer that "everything is informed by American culture - everyone under fifty speaks American - and that's sad. We once had a strong identity and now that's gone completely". A number of the tracks on the album, most notably "Certain People I Know" and "The National Front Disco", dealt with the lives and experiences of tough, working-class youths. Your Arsenal was critically well received, and often described as his best album since Viva Hate. The first single, "We Hate It When Our Friends Become Successful", had been released in April 1992 and peaked at number 17; this was followed by "Certain People I Know", which reached number 34, and "You're the One for Me, Fatty", which reached number 19. From September to December, Morrissey embarked on a 53-date Your Arsenal tour in which he varyingly decorated the stage with backdrops of Diana Dors, Elvis Presley, and Charlie Richardson. One of the performances was recorded and released as Beethoven Was Deaf.
By the release of Your Arsenal, Morrissey's image had changed; according to Simpson, the singer had converted "from the aesthete interested in rough lads into a rough lad interested in aestheticism (and rough lads)". According to Woods, Morrissey developed an air of "quietly assured masculinity", representing "a more robust, burlier, beefier version of himself", while the poet and Morrissey fan Simon Armitage described the transition as being one from that of "stick-thin, knock-me-over-with-a-feather campness" to that of a "mobster and bare-knuckle boxer image". This new image was reflected in the cover art for Your Arsenal; a photograph taken by Sterling, it featured Morrissey onstage with his shirt open, displaying a muscular torso beneath.
Various sources accused Morrissey of racism for making reference to the National Front, a far-right political party, in his song "The National Front Disco"; this criticism nevertheless ignored the ironic context of the song, which pitied rather than glorified the party's supporters. These and other allegations of racism typically entailed decontextualising lyrics from Morrissey songs such as "Bengali in Platforms" and "Asian Rut". NME also accused Morrissey of racism on the basis of the imagery he employed during his 1992 performance at the Madstock festival in North London's Finsbury Park; Morrissey included images of suedeheads as a backdrop and wrapped himself in a Union flag. However, these actions resulted in him being booed offstage by a group of neo-Nazi skinheads in the audience, who believed that he was appropriating skinhead culture.
In mid-1993, Morrissey co-wrote his next album, Vauxhall and I, with Whyte and Boz Boorer; it was produced by Steve Lillywhite. Morrissey described the album as "the best I've ever made", and at the time believed it would be either his final or penultimate work. It was both a critical and commercial success, topping the UK album chart. The album had been named for Vauxhall, a town in South London famous for the Royal Vauxhall Tavern gay pub. One of the album's songs, "The More You Ignore Me, the Closer I Get", was released as a single in March and reached number 8 in the UK. The single's sleeve featured images of Jake Walters, a skinhead in his twenties, who was living with Morrissey at the time. Walters had introduced Morrissey to York Hall, a boxing venue in Bethnal Green, part of London's East End, with the singer spending an increasing amount of time there. That year, he also released a non-album single, "Interlude", a duet with Siouxsie Sioux: the track was a cover of a Timi Yuro song. The record was published under the banner "Morrissey & Siouxsie"; due to record company issues, "Interlude" was only available on import outside Europe.
In the autumn of 1994, Morrissey recorded five songs at South London's Olympic Studios. In January 1995, the single "Boxers" was released, reaching number 23 on the singles chart. In February 1995 he embarked on the Boxers tour, supported by the band Marion and featuring a backdrop depiction of the boxer Cornelius Carr. One of these performances was filmed by James O'Brien and released as the VHS Introducing Morrissey. In December 1995, the song "Sunny" was released as a single; a lament for Morrissey's terminated relationship with Jake, the song was the first of Morrissey's singles not to chart. In 1995 the compilation album World of Morrissey was released, containing largely B-sides.
Move to Los Angeles: 1995–2003
After his contract with EMI expired, Morrissey signed to RCA. On this label, he recorded his next album, Southpaw Grammar, at the Miraval Studios in southern France before releasing it in August 1995. Its cover art featured an image of the boxer Kenny Lane. It reached number 4 in the UK album charts, although made little impact compared to its two predecessors. It is generally regarded as one of Morrissey's weaker albums. In September 1995, Morrissey served as the support act for the European leg of Bowie's Outside Tour. Backstage at the Aberdeen gig, Morrissey was taken ill and taken to hospital; he did not return for the rest of the tour. Later referring to the tour critically, he stated that "you have to worship at the Temple of David when you become involved" with Bowie.
Morrissey returned on Island Records in 1997, releasing the single "Alma Matters" in July, followed by his next album Maladjusted in August. The album peaked at number 8 in the UK album charts. Its further two singles, "Roy's Keen" and "Satan Rejected My Soul" both peaked outside the top 30 on the UK singles chart. Having been unhappy with the cover design for Southpaw Grammar, Morrissey left control of cover art of Maladjusted to his record company, but again was unsatisfied with the result.
In 1998, Uncut reported that Morrissey no longer had a record deal. In 1999, he embarked on a tour called "Oye Esteban" and was one of the headliners of the Coachella Festival in California. The tour extended to Mexico and South America.
Leaving Britain, Morrissey purchased a house in Lincoln Heights, Los Angeles. It had formerly been the residence of Carole Lombard and had been re-designed by William Haines. Over the next few years he rarely returned to Britain. In 2002, Morrissey returned with a world tour, culminating in two sold-out nights at the Royal Albert Hall, during which he played as-yet unreleased songs. Outside the US and Europe, concerts also took place in Australia and Japan. During this time, Channel 4 filmed The Importance of Being Morrissey, a documentary which aired in 2003; it was Morrissey's first major screen interview to appear on British television. He told interviewers that he was working on an autobiography, and expressed criticism of reality television music shows like Pop Idol which were then in their infancy.
Morrissey signed to Sanctuary Records, where he was given the defunct reggae label Attack Records to use for his next project. Produced by Jerry Finn and recorded in both Los Angeles and Berkshire, Morrissey's seventh solo album was You Are the Quarry; it was released in May 2004. The album's cover art featured an image of Morrissey carrying a machine gun. He said that it was his best album to date. It peaked at number 2 on the UK album chart and number 11 on the Billboard album chart in the United States. The first single, "Irish Blood, English Heart", reached number 3 in the UK singles chart, the highest ranked single of his career. Promoting the album, he made appearances on both Top of the Pops and Later with Jools Holland, and gave his first television interview in 17 years on Friday Night with Jonathan Ross; Morrissey was visibly uncomfortable with Jonathan Ross' questions. He also agreed to interviews with various press outlets, including the NME, stating that "the nasty old guard" who controlled the magazine in the 1990s were gone and that it was not "the smelly NME any more".
To promote the album, Morrissey embarked on an accompanying world tour from April to November. He marked his 45th birthday with a concert at the Manchester Arena, supported by Franz Ferdinand; it was recorded for release as the DVD Who Put the M in Manchester?. Morrissey was also invited to curate that year's Meltdown festival at London's Southbank Centre. Among the acts he secured were Sparks, Loudon Wainwright III, Ennio Marchetto, Nancy Sinatra, The Cockney Rejects, Lypsinka, The Ordinary Boys, The Libertines, and playwright Alan Bennett. He had unsuccessfully attempted to secure appearances from Brigitte Bardot and Maya Angelou. That year he also performed at several UK music festivals, including Leeds, Reading, and Glastonbury.
Morrissey's eighth studio album, Ringleader of the Tormentors, was recorded in Rome and released on 3 April 2006. It debuted at number 1 in the UK album charts and number 27 in the US. The album yielded four hit singles: "You Have Killed Me", "The Youngest Was the Most Loved", "In the Future When All's Well", and "I Just Want to See the Boy Happy". Originally Morrissey was to record the album with producer Jeff Saltzman; however, he could not undertake the project. Tony Visconti, of T.Rex and David Bowie fame, took over production and Morrissey announced that the album was "the most beautiful—perhaps the most gentle—so far". Billboard described the album as showcasing "a thicker, more rock-driven sound".
In January 2007, the BBC reported that it was in talks with Morrissey for him to write a song for the 2007 Eurovision Song Contest. If an agreement could be made, Morrissey would be writing the song for someone else, rather than performing it himself. The following month, the BBC stated Morrissey would not be part of Britain's Eurovision entry.
In early 2007, Morrissey left Sanctuary Records and embarked on a Greatest Hits tour. The tour ran from 1 February 2007 to 29 July 2008 and spanned 106 concerts over eight different countries. Morrissey cancelled 11 of these dates, including a planned six consecutive shows at the Roundhouse in London, due to "throat problems". The tour consisted of three legs, the first two, encompassing the US and Mexico, with support from Kristeen Young and the third, covering Europe and Israel, with support from Girl in a Coma.
After a show in Houston, Texas, Morrissey rented Sunrise Sound Studio to record "That's How People Grow Up". The song was recorded with producer Jerry Finn as a future single and for inclusion on an upcoming album. In an interview on BBC Radio 5 Live with Visconti, the producer stated that his new project would be Morrissey's next album, though that this would not be forthcoming for at least a year. However, in an interview with the BBC News website in October 2007, Morrissey said that the album was already written and ready for a possible September 2008 release and confirmed that his deal with Sanctuary Records had come to an end.
In December 2007, Morrissey signed a new deal with Decca Records, which included a Greatest Hits album and a newly recorded album to follow in autumn 2008. Morrissey released "That's How People Grow Up" as the first single from his new Greatest Hits album. It reached number 14 on the British charts. One reviewer noted that the album only includes songs which reached the Top 15 in the charts, putting the emphasis on new songs and making the CD more suitable for new listeners than for old fans. The album charted at number 5 in the British album chart on its week of release. A second single from the Greatest Hits, "All You Need Is Me", was released in March.
On 30 May 2008, it was announced that Morrissey's ninth studio album, Years of Refusal, would be produced by Jerry Finn. On 5 August 2008 it was reported that, although originally due in September, Years of Refusal had been postponed until February 2009, as a result of Finn's death and the lack of an American label to distribute the album.
On 15 August 2008, Warner Music Entertainment announced the upcoming release of Morrissey: Live at the Hollywood Bowl, a DVD of the live performance that took place at the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles on 8 June 2007. Morrissey greeted news of the DVD's release by imploring fans not to buy it. This DVD has never been released.
In November 2008, Rolling Stone magazine ranked Morrissey as 92nd of "The 100 Greatest Singers of All Time". The list was compiled from ballots cast by a panel of 179 "music experts", such as Bruce Springsteen, Alicia Keys and Bono, who were asked to name their 20 favourite vocalists.
Years of Refusal was released worldwide on 16 February 2009 by the Universal Music Group, reaching number 3 in the UK Albums Chart and 11 in the US Billboard 200. The record was widely acclaimed by critics, with comparisons made to Your Arsenal and Vauxhall and I. A review from Pitchfork Media noted that with Years of Refusal, Morrissey "has rediscovered himself, finding new potency in his familiar arsenal. Morrissey's rejuvenation is most obvious in the renewed strength of his vocals" and called it his "most venomous, score-settling album, and in a perverse way that makes it his most engaging". "I'm Throwing My Arms Around Paris" and "Something Is Squeezing My Skull" were released as the record's singles. The song "Black Cloud" features the guitar playing of Jeff Beck. Throughout 2009 Morrissey toured to promote the album. As part of the extensive Tour of Refusal, Morrissey followed a lengthy US tour with concerts booked in Ireland, Scotland, England, Russia. He had never before performed in Russia.
In 2009, remastered editions of 1995's Southpaw Grammar and 1997's Maladjusted were released. These both featured a rearranged track listing with the inclusion of B-sides and outtakes, as well as new artwork and liner notes written by Morrissey.
In October 2009, a 2004–2009 B-sides collection, named Swords was released. The album peaked at 55 on the UK albums chart, and Morrissey later called the compilation "a meek disaster". On the second date of the UK tour to promote Swords, Morrissey collapsed with breathing difficulties after the opening song of his set, "This Charming Man", at the Oasis Centre, Swindon. He was discharged from the hospital the following day.
Following the Swords tour, it was announced that Morrissey had fulfilled his contractual obligation to Universal Records and was without a record company.
In October 2010, EMI reissued the 1990 album Bona Drag on its Major Minor imprint, resurrected specifically for the release. The release featured six additional previously unreleased tracks, and reached number 67 in the UK charts. The 1988 single "Everyday Is Like Sunday" was also reissued to coincide with the release on both CD and 7" vinyl formats.
Touring and autobiography: 2011–2013
In April 2011, EMI issued a new compilation, Very Best of Morrissey, whose track list and artwork were chosen by Morrissey. The single "Glamorous Glue" was released the same week with two previously unreleased songs. In March 2011, it was announced that Morrissey was now under the management of Ron Laffitte. In June and July 2011, Morrissey played a UK tour, mainly consisting of small venues in the north of Britain; played the Glastonbury Festival and headlined the Hop Farm Festival. In July and August he toured venues in Europe and played two festival dates, Hultsfred Festival in Sweden and the Lokeren Festival in Belgium.
During his performance at Glastonbury in 2011, Morrissey criticised the UK prime minister, David Cameron, for attempting to stop the ban on wild animals performing in circuses, calling him a "silly twit". On 14 June 2011, Janice Long premiered three new Morrissey songs in session on her BBC Radio 2 programme; "Action Is My Middle Name", "The Kid's a Looker", and "People Are the Same Everywhere".
Morrissey's 2012 tour started in South America and continued through Asia and North America. Morrissey played concerts in Belgium, Italy, Greece, Turkey, Israel, Portugal, England, and Scotland. In late September, while visiting Strand Bookstore in Manhattan, he saved an elderly lady who had fainted beside him. On 12 November 2012, Morrissey announced that he would be continuing his North American tour adding 32 cities beginning in Greenvale, New York on 9 January and ending in Portland, Oregon on 8 March. Patti Smith and her band were special guests at the Staples Center concert in Los Angeles, and Kristeen Young opened on all nights.
In late January 2013, following hospital treatment Morrissey was diagnosed with a bleeding ulcer and the several engagements were re-scheduled. On 7 March, Morrissey was hospitalised again, this time with pneumonia in both lungs. One week later, it was finally announced that the rest of the tour had been cancelled. During his rehabilitation he spent time in Ireland, where he watched the country's football team play a match against Austria in the company of his cousin Robbie Keane.
On 8 April, EMI reissued the single "The Last of the Famous International Playboys" backed by three new songs, "People Are the Same Everywhere", "Action Is My Middle Name", and "The Kid's a Looker", all recorded live in 2011. In April, Morrissey announced that he would perform live shows in Mexico, Brazil, Argentina, Peru and Chile, starting from June. In August, Morrissey's concert at Hollywood High School on 2 March 2013, had a worldwide cinema release. 25Live marks Morrissey's 25th year as a solo artist, and was the first authorised live Morrissey DVD in nine years. On 22 July, Morrissey announced the cancellation of the South American leg of his tour due to a "lack of funding", saying it was "the last of many final straws".
On 17 October 2013, Morrissey's autobiography, titled Autobiography, was released after a "content dispute" had delayed it from the initial release date of 16 September 2013. The book's release caused controversy as it was published as a "contemporary classic" under the Penguin Classic label at Morrissey's request, which some critics felt devalued the Penguin Classics label. Morrissey had completed the 660-page book in 2011, before shopping it to publishers such as Penguin Books and Faber and Faber. The book opened to divergent reviews with The Daily Telegraph giving it a five-star review that described it as "the best written musical autobiography since Bob Dylan's Chronicles", while The Independent criticised the book's "droning narcissism" as well as its status as a Penguin Classic. The book entered the UK book charts at number 1 with nearly 35,000 copies being sold in its first week. In December, a 2011 live cover version of Lou Reed's "Satellite of Love", was released as a single.
Debut novel, further album releases: 2014–present
Also in January 2014, he announced that he had signed a two-record deal with Capitol Music, with recording to commence on 1 February in France. His 10th studio album, World Peace Is None of Your Business, was released on 15 July. Prior to its release, he embarked on a US tour in May but was hospitalised in Boston in early June, and cancelled the remaining nine dates on the tour. The title track of the album was issued as a digital download in May. Three other songs, "Istanbul", "Earth Is the Loneliest Planet" and "The Bullfighter Dies" followed in subsequent weeks. The songs were promoted with spoken word videos, featuring Morrissey reciting the lyrics.
In March 2015, Morrissey released "Kiss Me a Lot" as the fifth single from World Peace Is None of Your Business. After finishing a six date tour in the UK, he did a US tour during June and July, including a concert in New York with special guest Blondie at Madison Square Garden. In July 2015, he publicly claimed that an airport security guard had groped him at San Francisco International Airport. He filed a sexual assault complaint; the Transport Security Administration found no supporting evidence to act on the allegation.
Morrissey's 11th studio album, titled Low in High School, was released on 17 November 2017, through BMG and Morrissey's own Etienne record label. Two shows at Los Angeles' Hollywood Bowl were scheduled for November.
In November 2017, Morrissey announced his first UK tour since 2015. The tour begins in Aberdeen and concludes in London.
Vocal and lyrical style
Mark Simpson characterised Morrissey as "the anti-Pop Idol", representing "the last, greatest and most gravely worrying product of an era when pop music was all there was". Music journalist and biographer Johnny Rogan stated that Morrissey's oeuvre seems based on "endlessly re-examining a lost, painful past".
Morrissey's lyrics have been described as "dramatic, bleak, funny vignettes about doomed relationships, lonely nightclubs, the burden of the past and the prison of the home". Among those who are not fans of his work, there is a common feeling that his music's emphasis on the sadness of life is depressing.
His lyrics are characterised by their usage of black humour, self-deprecation, and the pop vernacular. Many of his lyrics avoid mentioning the gender of the narrator, and thus provide both male and female listeners with multiple points of identification. Simpson felt that his lyrics often highlighted "the essential absurdity of gender". Discussing the Smiths' lyrics in 1992, Stringer highlighted that they placed great emphasis on the concept of Englishness, but added that unlike the contemporary Two-Tone and acid house movements, they focused on white England rather than exploring its multi-cultural counterpart. Although noting that during the 1980s emphasising white identity was a trait closely linked with right-wing politics, Stringer expressed the view that the Smiths represented "the only sustained response that white, English pop/rock music was able to make" against the Thatcher government's "appropriation of white, English national identity".
His lyrics have expressed disdain for many elements of British society, including the government, church, education system, royal family, meat-eating, money, gender, discos, fame, and relationships. In his lyrics for the Smiths, Morrissey avoided explicit descriptions of the consummation of sex; rather, he sings about the anticipation, frustration, aversion, or final disappointment with sex. Stringer suggested that this deliberate avoidance of sex was a reflection of the band's 'Englishness' because it invoked English cultures' "lack of emotional expression, the way in which feelings, and especially sexual feelings, cannot be expressed directly through casual touch, body contact and so on". Male homoerotic elements can be found in many of the Smiths' lyrics, however these also included sexualised descriptions featuring women.
Morrissey has described having "a macabre fascination" with violence. Simpson opined that Morrissey's lyrics "bleed and throb with violent imagery", citing the references to bus crashes and suicide pacts in "There is a Light that Never Goes Out", smashed teeth in "Big Mouth Strikes Again", and nuclear apocalypse in both "Ask" and "Everyday is Like Sunday". More broadly, Morrissey had a longstanding interest in thuggery, whether that be murderers, gangsters, rough trade, or skinheads.
Morrissey's vocals have been cited as having a particularly distinctive quality. Simpson believed that Morrissey's work embodied and personified that of the "Northern Women", speaking in styles of vernacular language that would be common to many women living in northern England. In this he was strongly influenced by the Northern singer Cilla Black, who had a successful career as a pop music singer in the 1960s, as well as Viv Nicholson, who similarly earned fame during that decade. Other female singers from that decade who have been cited as an influence on Morrissey have been the Scottish Lulu, and the Essexer Sandie Shaw. However, Stringer noted that rather than expressly singing in a Mancunian working-class accent, Morrissey adopted a "very clipped, precise enunciation" and sang in "clear English diction". He is also noted for his unusual baritone vocal style (though he sometimes uses falsetto).
When performing onstage, he often whips his microphone cord about, particularly during his up-tempo tracks. Simpson believed that Morrissey often gave "slyly aggressive gestures" while onstage; he cited two instances from Top of the Pops, one in which Morrissey used hand gestures in order to pretend shooting at the audience during "Shoplifters of the World Unite" and another in which he turned his microphone cord into a hangman's noose while repeating the lyrics "Hang the DJ, hang the DJ" in the song "Panic". Rogan claimed that Morrissey exhibited "a power onstage which I have seldom seen from any other artiste of his generation", and that while performing he "oozes charisma, offering that peculiar combination of gauche vulnerability and athleticism".
On various occasions, Morrissey has expressed anger when he believes that bouncers and the security teams at his concerts have treated the audience poorly. For instance, at his San Antonio concert as part of the Your Arsenal tour he stopped his performance to rebuke bouncers for hitting fans.
Throughout his career, Morrissey has retained an intensely private personal life. A longtime resident of Los Angeles during the latter part of his solo career, he now maintains a number of homes, in Los Angeles, Rome, Switzerland, and the UK. Friends refer to him as "Morrissey", and he dislikes the nickname "Moz", telling one interviewer that "it's like something you'd squirt on the kitchen floor."
Stringer characterised Morrissey as a man with various contradictory traits, being "an ordinary, working-class 'anti-star' who nevertheless loves to hog the spotlight, a nice man who says the nastiest things about other people, a shy man who is also an outrageous narcissist". He further suggested that part of Morrissey's appeal was that he conveyed the image of a "cultivated English gentleman (and being every inch the typically English 'gent' he is perfectly representative of that type's loathing for cant and hypocrisy, and his fragile, quasi-gay sexuality)". Similarly, Morrissey biographer David Bret described the singer as being "quintessentially English", while Simpson termed him a Little Englander. During the 1980s, interviewer Paul Morley stated that Morrissey "sets out to be a decent man and he succeeds because that is what he is." Eddie Sanderson, who interviewed Morrissey for the Mail on Sunday in 1992, said that "underneath all the rock star flim-flam, Morrissey is actually a very nice chap, excellent company, perfectly willing and able to talk about any subject one cared to throw at him". Having photographed him in 2004, the photographer Mischa Richter described Morrissey as "genuinely lovely".
Morrissey is known for his criticism of meat eaters, the British music press, royalty, and politicians. Simon Goddard described him as being "pro-working class, anti-elite and anti-institution. That includes all political parties, parliament itself, all public schools, Oxbridge, the Catholic church, the monarchy, the EU, the BBC, the broadsheet press and the music press. Because his comments are not consistent with any one political agenda it confuses people, especially on the left. If anything, he’s a professional refusenik." According to Bret, his "withering attacks" on those he disliked are typically delivered in a "laid-back" manner. A vocal advocate on animal welfare and animal rights issues, Morrissey has been a vegetarian since the age of 11. He has explained his vegetarianism by saying that "if you love animals, obviously it doesn't make sense to hurt them". According to a 2015 interview with Larry King, Morrissey is now a vegan.
He is a lapsed Catholic, who has expressed criticism of the Roman Catholic Church. In 1991, he said that he believed in an afterlife. Morrissey is a cousin of Robbie Keane, Irish footballer and former captain of the Republic of Ireland national football team. He has said of Keane, "To watch him on the pitch—pacing like a lion, as weightless as an astronaut, is pure therapy." He is also a fan of boxing. He has described suffering from clinical depression for which he has pursued professional help.
Animal rights advocacy
Morrissey is an advocate for animal rights and a supporter of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). In recognition of his support, PETA honoured him with the Linda McCartney Memorial Award at their 25th Anniversary Gala on 10 September 2005. In 2012, he appeared in a PETA ad campaign, encouraging people to have their dogs and cats neutered to help reduce the number of homeless pets. In 2014 PETA worked with animator Anna Saunders to create a cartoon called "Someday" in honour of Morrissey's 55th birthday. It contains Morrissey's song "I Know It's Gonna Happen Someday" and highlights the journey of a young chick.
In January 2006, Morrissey attracted criticism when he stated that he accepts the motives behind the militant tactics of the Animal Rights Militia, saying "I understand why fur-farmers and so-called laboratory scientists are repaid with violence—it is because they deal in violence themselves and it's the only language they understand".
Morrissey has criticised people in the UK who are involved in the promotion of eating meat, notably Jamie Oliver and Clarissa Dickson Wright—the latter already targeted by some animal rights activists for her stance on fox hunting. In response, Dickson Wright stated: "Morrissey is encouraging people to commit acts of violence and I am constantly aware that something might very well happen to me." The Conservative MP David Davis criticised Morrissey's comments, saying that "any incitement to violence is obviously wrong in a civilised society and should be investigated by the police". Morrissey has also criticised the British royal family for their involvement in fox hunting.
On 27 March 2006, Morrissey released a statement that he would not include any concert dates in Canada on his world tour that year—and that he supported a boycott of Canadian goods—in protest against the country's annual seal hunt, which he described as a "barbaric and cruel slaughter".
In 2010, during an interview with Simon Armitage, he said "[y]ou can't help but feel that the Chinese are a subspecies" due to their "horrific" treatment of animals. Armitage said: "He must have known it would make waves, he's not daft. But clearly, when it comes to animal rights and animal welfare, he's absolutely unshakable in his beliefs. In his view, if you treat an animal badly, you are less than human."
At a concert in Warsaw, Poland on 24 July 2011, Morrissey stated: "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," in reference to the attacks by Anders Breivik in Norway on 22 July, which resulted in the killing of 77 people. His statement was described as crude and insensitive by NME. He later elaborated on his statement, saying: "If you quite rightly feel horrified at the Norway killings, then it surely naturally follows that you feel horror at the murder of ANY innocent being. You cannot ignore animal suffering simply because animals 'are not us.'"
In February 2013, after much speculation, it was reported that the Staples Center had agreed for the first time ever to make every vendor in the arena 100% vegetarian for Morrissey's performance of 1 March, contractually having all McDonald's vendors close down. In a press release, Morrissey stated, "I don't look upon it as a victory for me, but a victory for the animals". The request was previously denied to Paul McCartney. Despite these reports, the Staples Center retained some meat vendors while closing down McDonald's. Later in February, Morrissey cancelled an appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Live! after learning that the guests for that night also included the cast of Duck Dynasty, a show about a family who create duck calls for use in hunting. Morrissey referred to the cast as "animal serial killers".
In 2014, Morrissey stated that he believed there is "no difference between eating animals and paedophilia. They are both rape, violence, murder."
In September 2015, he expressed his revulsion at the "Piggate" scandal, saying that if Prime Minister David Cameron had inserted "a private part of his anatomy" into the mouth of a dead pig's severed head while at university, then it showed "a callousness and complete lack of empathy entirely unbefitting a man in his position, and he should resign". Also in September, he called Australian politician Greg Hunt's campaign to cull 2 million cats "idiocy", describing the cats as smaller versions of Cecil the Lion.
In December 1996, a legal case against Morrissey and Marr brought by Smiths' drummer Joyce arrived at the High Court. Joyce alleged that he had not received his fair share of recording and performance royalties from his time with the band, calling for at least £1 million in damages and 25% of all future Smiths album sales. After a seven day hearing, the judge ruled in favour of Joyce. In summing up the case, Judge Justice Weeks referred to Morrissey as "devious, truculent and unreliable when his own interests were at stake", with the words "devious" and "truculent" being widely used in press coverage of the ruling. Marr paid the money legally owed to Joyce but Morrissey launched an appeal against the ruling. He claimed that the judge had been biased against him from the start of the proceedings because of the critical comments that he had made about Margaret Thatcher. Morrissey lost his appeal in July 1998, although he launched another soon after; this too was unsuccessful. In a November 2005 statement, Morrissey said that Joyce had cost him £600,000 in legal fees alone and approximately £1,515,000 in total.
Morrissey sued NME for libel over a 2007 article published by the outlet. In the article, NME criticised Morrissey after he allegedly told a reporter that British identity had disappeared because of immigration. He was quoted as saying: "It's very difficult [to return to England] because, although I don't have anything against people from other countries, the higher the influx into England the more the British identity disappears. ... the gates of England are flooded. The country's been thrown away." His manager described the article as a "character assassination". In 2008, The Word apologised in court for a piece written by David Quantick, which commented on the 2007 NME article and suggested Morrissey was a racist. Morrissey accepted The Word's apology. The legal suit against NME began in October 2011 after Morrissey won a pre-trial hearing. Morrissey's case against NME editor Conor McNicholas and publisher IPC was due to have been heard in July 2012. In June 2012, the parties settled the dispute with NME issuing a public apology. Morrissey's lawyer said that "no money was sought as part of a settlement. ... The NME apology in itself is settlement enough and it closes the case."
Morrissey's sexuality has been the subject of much speculation and coverage in the British press during his career, with claims varyingly being made that he was celibate, a frustrated heterosexual, or bisexual. In a 1980 letter, he described both himself and his then-girlfriend as bisexual, although adding that he "hate[d] sex".
During his years with the Smiths, Morrissey professed to being celibate, which stood out at a time when much of pop music was dominated by visible sexuality. Marr said in a 1984 interview that Morrissey "doesn't participate in sex at the moment and hasn't done so for a while". Repeatedly, interviewers asked Morrissey if he was gay, which he denied. In response to one such inquiry in 1985, he stated that "I don't recognise such terms as heterosexuality, homosexuality, bisexuality, and I think it's important that there's someone in pop music who's like that. These words do great damage, they confuse people and they make people feel unhappy so I want to do away with them." As his career developed, there was increased pressure placed on him to come out of the closet, although he presented himself as a non-practicing bisexual. In a 1989 interview, he revealed that he was "always attracted to men and women who were never attracted to me" and thus he did not have "relationships at all". In 2013, he released a statement which said, "Unfortunately, I am not homosexual. In technical fact, I am humasexual. I am attracted to humans. But, of course ... not many."
In 1997, he revealed that he had abandoned celibacy and that he had a relationship with a Cockney boxer. That person was revealed in his autobiography to be Jake Walters. Their relationship began in 1994 and they lived together until 1996. In a March 2013 interview, Walters said, "Morrissey and I have been friends for a long time, probably around 20 years." Morrissey was later attached to Tina Dehghani. He discussed having a baby with Dehghani, with whom he described having an "uncluttered commitment". In his autobiography, Morrissey also mentions a relationship with a younger Italian man, known only as "Gelato", with whom he sought to buy a house around 2006.
The Encyclopædia Britannica states that he created a "compellingly conflicted persona (loudly proclaimed celibacy offset by coy hints of closeted homosexuality)" which has "made him a peculiar heartthrob". Speculation was further fuelled by the frequent references to gay subculture and slang in his lyrics. In 2006, Liz Hoggard from The Independent noted, "Only 15 years after homosexuality had been decriminalised, his lyrics flirted with every kind of gay subculture." For example, she says that "'This Charming Man' ... is about age-gap, gay sex". Reviewer Stephen Thomas Erlewine says the lyrics of the Smiths single "Hand in Glove" contain "veiled references to homosexuality".
Views on political leaders
Morrissey's first solo album, Viva Hate, included a track entitled "Margaret on the Guillotine", a jab at Margaret Thatcher. After her death in April 2013, Morrissey called her "a terror without an atom of humanity" and that "every move she made was charged by negativity". He described Thatcher's successor, John Major, as "no one's idea of a Prime Minister ... a terrible human mistake". During the Iraq War, he described George W. Bush and Tony Blair as "insufferable, egotistical insane despots".
At a Dublin concert in June 2004, Morrissey announced the death of Ronald Reagan and said he would have preferred if George W. Bush had died instead. During a January 2008 concert, Morrissey remarked "God Bless Barack Obama" and criticised Hillary Clinton, naming her "Billary Clinton". However in 2013, Morrissey criticised Obama for the White House Turkey Pardon ceremony calling it "embarrassingly stupid". In 2015, he accused Obama of not doing enough to tackle police brutality, stating he could not "see him doing anything at all for the black community except warning them that they must respect the security forces.”
In August 2015, he endorsed Hillary Clinton in the 2016 US Presidential election, criticising the Republican candidates. He later criticised both Hillary Clinton, calling her "the face and voice of pooled money", and Donald Trump, referring to him as "Donald Thump" and accusing him of not having any sympathy for the victims of the Orlando nightclub shooting. He called Bernie Sanders "sane and intelligent" and accused the US media of not paying attention to his campaign. When asked in a 2017 interview with Der Spiegel if he would hypothetically push a button that would kill President Donald Trump, Morrissey said: "I would, for the safety of humanity. It has nothing to do with my personal opinion of his face or his family, but in the interest of humanity I would push."
In December 2010, he publicly supported Johnny Marr, who had stated that he forbade British Prime Minister, David Cameron, from liking the Smiths. Morrissey added criticism of Cameron for his hobby of stag hunting. In response to the 2017 Manchester Arena bombing, Morrissey made a post on his Facebook page in which he criticised Prime Minister Theresa May, Mayor of London Sadiq Khan, Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham and Queen Elizabeth II for their statements regarding the bombing.
In 2013, he said that he "nearly voted" for the UK Independence Party, expressing his admiration for party leader Nigel Farage and endorsing his Euroscepticism regarding the UK's membership of the European Union. In October 2016, he praised the UK's referendum on EU membership as "magnificent" and said the BBC had "persistently denigrated" supporters of the Leave campaign. In October 2017, he stated his belief that the then recently concluded UKIP leadership election had been rigged against anti-Islam activist Anne Marie Waters. During a live performance on BBC 6 Music, he said: "I was very surprised the other day—it was very interesting to me—to see Anne Marie Waters become the head of Ukip. Oh no, sorry she didn't—the voting was rigged. Sorry, I forgot." In a November 2017 interview with Der Spiegel, he criticised Angela Merkel for her open borders immigration policy, and stated his opposition to multiculturalism: "I want Germany to be German. I want France to be French. When you try to make everything multicultural, you will not have any culture at the end. All European countries have fought for their identity for many, many years. And now they just throw it away. I find that sad."
In February 2006, Morrissey said he had been interviewed by the FBI and by British intelligence after speaking out against the American and British governments. He said: "They were trying to determine if I was a threat to the government ... it didn't take them long to realise that I'm not".
Views on the British monarchy
Morrissey has exhibited enduring anti-royalist views from his teenage years and has fiercely criticised the British monarchy.
In a 1985 interview with Simon Garfield for Time Out, he stated that he had always "despised royalty" and that royalist sentiment is a "false devotion". In a 2011 interview with Clash, he publicly identified as a republican, stating: "I don't think the so-called royal family speak for England now and I don't think England needs them. I do seriously believe that they are benefit scroungers and nothing else. I don't believe they serve any purpose whatsoever."
In an October 2012 interview with Stephen Colbert he spoke out against the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II, stating: "It was a celebration of what? 60 years of dictatorship. She's not [my Queen]. I'm not a subject," and commenting: "I hate the royals. ... The world does not need them."
Reception, legacy, and influence
Bret believed that Morrissey was an artist who divided opinion among those who loved him and those who loathed him, with little space for compromise between the two. Press termed him the "Pope of Mope".
Simpson stated that Morrissey had a global fan following that was unrivalled in its devotion to the singer, characterising this as "the kind of devotion that only dead stars command" normally. Morrissey's fans have been described as being among the most dedicated of pop and rock fans. Music magazine NME considers Morrissey to be "one of the most influential artists ever", while The Independent says, "Most pop stars have to be dead before they reach the iconic status he has reached in his lifetime." According to Bret, Morrissey's fanbase "religiously followed his every pitfall and triumph". Simpson highlighted an example during the U.S. leg of Morrissey's 1996 Maladjusted tour in which young men asked the singer to sign his autograph on their neck, which they subsequently had permanently tattooed into their skin. Rogan compared Morrissey to Wilde's character Dorian Gray "in reverse; while he slowly ages, his audience remains young". Rogan also noted that while onstage, Morrissey "revels in the messianic adoration" of his fans.
Soon after achieving national fame, Morrissey became a gay icon, with Bret noting that by the start of his solo career, Morrissey already had a "massive gay following". This development was influenced by the speculation around his own sexual orientation, his lyrics that dealt with such subjects as age-gap sex and rent boys, as well as the Smiths' heavy use of gay and camp imagery on their record covers. Morrissey's gay following was not restricted to Western countries, for he remained popular within the Japanese gay community as well.
The film 25 Live evidences a particularly strong following amongst the singer's Latino/Chicano fans. In various countries, fanzines were established devoted to him.
There are a number of Morrissey fansites. In the early 2000s, Morrissey issued a "cease and desist" notification against the fan website Morrissey-Solo for publishing claims, never proven, that Morrissey had failed to pay members of his touring personnel. In 2011, he issued a lifetime concert ban against the site owner who, it was claimed, had caused "intentional distress to Morrissey and Morrissey's band" over a number of years. Another fansite, True-To-You, enjoys a close relationship with Morrissey and functions as his official website for statements.
Morrissey is routinely referred to as an influential artist, both in his solo career and with the Smiths. The BBC has referred to him as "one of the most influential figures in the history of British pop", and NME named the Smiths the "most influential artist ever" in a 2002 poll, even topping the Beatles. Rolling Stone, naming him one of the greatest singers of all time in a recent poll, noted that his "rejection of convention" in his vocal style and lyrics is the reason "why he redefined the sound of British rock for the past quarter-century". Morrissey's enduring influence has been ascribed to his wit, the "infinite capacity for interpretation" in his lyrics, and his appeal to the "constant navel gazing, reflection, solipsism" of generations of "disenfranchised youth", offering unusually intimate "companionship" to broad demographics. Paul A. Woods described Morrissey as "Britain's unlikeliest rock 'n' roll star in several decades", noting that at the same time he was also "its most essential". Bret described him as "probably the most intellectually gifted and imaginative lyricist of his generation", listing him alongside Leonard Cohen, Bob Dylan, and Jacques Brel as being one of "the monstres sacrés".
Journalist Mark Simpson calls Morrissey "one of the greatest pop lyricists—and probably the greatest-ever lyricist of desire—that has ever moaned" and observes that "he is fully present in his songs as few other artists are, in a way that fans of most other performers ... wouldn't tolerate for a moment." Simpson also argues that "After Morrissey there could be no more pop stars. His was an impossible act to follow ... [his] unrivalled knowledge of the pop canon, his unequaled imagination of what it might mean to be a pop star, and his breathtakingly perverse ambition to turn it into great art, could only exhaust the form forever".
In 2006, Morrissey was voted the second greatest living British icon in a poll held by the BBC's Culture Show. The All Music Guide to Rock asserts that Morrissey's "lyrical preoccupations", particularly themes dealing with English identity, proved extremely influential on subsequent artists. Journalist Phillip Collins also described him as a major influence on modern music and "the best British lyricist in living memory". In 2002, NME, by this point a critic of Morrissey, nevertheless considered him to be the "most influential artist ever". In 2004, Q gave him its best songwriter award.
Other scholars have responded favourably to Morrissey's work, including academic symposia at various universities including University of Limerick and Manchester Metropolitan University. Gavin Hopps, a research fellow and literary scholar at the University of St. Andrews, wrote a full-length academic study of Morrissey's work, calling him comparable to Oscar Wilde, John Betjeman, and Philip Larkin, and noting similarities between Morrissey and Samuel Beckett.
The British Food Journal featured an article in 2008 that applied Morrissey's lyrics to building positive business relationships. A book of academic essays edited by Eoin Devereux, Aileen Dillane and Martin Power, Morrissey: Fandom, Representations and Identities, which focuses on Morrissey's solo career, was published in 2011.
He is regarded as an important innovator in the indie music scene; while in 2004, Pitchfork Media called him "one of the most singular figures in Western popular culture from the last 20 years." A Los Angeles Times critic wrote that Morrissey "patented the template for modern indie rock" and that many bands playing at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival "would not be there—or at least, would not sound the same—were it not for him". Similarly, the critic Steven Wells called Morrissey "the man who more or less invented indie" and an artist "who more than anybody else personifies" indie culture. Stephen Thomas Erlewine of Allmusic writes that the Smiths and Morrissey "inspired every band of note" in the Britpop era, including Suede, Blur, Oasis, and Pulp. Other major artists including Jeff Buckley and Thom Yorke have also been influenced by Morrissey.
Colin Meloy of the Decemberists, who recorded a 2005 EP of Morrissey covers titled Colin Meloy Sings Morrissey, acknowledged Morrissey's influence on his songwriting: "You could either bask in that glow of fatalistic narcissism, or you could think it was funny. I always thought that was an interesting dynamic in his songwriting, and I can only aspire to have that kind of dynamic in my songs". Brandon Flowers of the American rock band The Killers has revealed his admiration for Morrissey on several occasions and admits that his interest for writing songs about murder such as "Jenny Was a Friend of Mine" and "Midnight Show" traces back to Morrissey singing about loving "the romance of crime" in the song "Sister I'm a Poet". Flowers was quoted as saying, "I studied that line a lot. And it's kind of embedded in me". Noel Gallagher called Morrissey "the best lyricist I've ever heard".
A 2017 biopic of Morrissey's early years, titled England Is Mine, was written and directed by Mark Gill and stars Jack Lowden. The film, which co-stars Jessica Brown Findlay, premiered at the closing gala of the Edinburgh Film Festival on 2 July 2017 and went into wide release in the UK and US in August 2017.
Awards and nominations
|1995||Himself||Best British Male||Nominated|
|1993||Your Arsenal||Best Alternative Music Album||Nominated|
Ivor Novello Awards
|1998||Himself||Outstanding Contribution to British Music||Won|
Meteor Music Awards
|2005||Himself||Best International Male||Won|
|2005||Himself||Best Solo Artist||Nominated|
|Hero of the Year||Nominated|
|2006||Morrissey: Who Put the M in Manchester||Best Music DVD||Nominated|
|1994||Himself||Q Songwriter Award||Won|
|2004||"Irish Blood, English Heart"||Best Track||Nominated|
Publications by Morrissey
- The New York Dolls. by Steven Patrick Morrissey.
- Manchester: Babylon, 1981.
- Reprint. Manchester: Babylon, 1995. ISBN 978-0-907188-50-6.
- James Dean is Not Dead, Manchester: Babylon, 1983. ISBN 978-0-907188-06-3. By Steven Patrick Morrissey.
- Exit Smiling, Manchester: Babylon, 1998. ISBN 978-0-907188-47-6. Edition of 1000 copies. By Steven Patrick Morrissey.
- Autobiography. London: Penguin Classics, 2013. ISBN 978-0-14-139481-7.
- List of the Lost. London: Penguin, 2015. ISBN 978-0-14-198296-0.
Publications with contributions by Morrissey
- Marc Bolan: Wilderness of the Mind. London: Xanadu, 1992. ISBN 978-1-85480-155-5. By John Willians and Caron Thomas. With an introduction by Morrissey. About Marc Bolan.
- Cockney Reject. John Black, 2005. ISBN 978-1-84454-881-1. By Jeff Turner and Gary Bushell. With a foreword by Morrissey. About Cockney Rejects.
- The Autobiography: Bowie, Bolan and the Brooklyn Boy. New York: HarperCollins, 2007. ISBN 978-0-00-722945-1. By Tony Visconti. With a foreword by Morrissey.