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Morrissey

Morrissey

Singer, songwriter

From his debut as lead singer of the Smiths in 1983, Morrissey has been—to critics and fans alike—an enigma. Although his hearing is fine, he often wears a hearing aid; his eyesight, on the other hand, is poor, but he can't stand wearing his contact lenses on stage. This self-proclaimed "prophet for the fourth gender" has hinted at being gay, but prefers to discuss his celibacy, dismissing strictly defined sexual orientation as too limiting of people's potential. Morrissey's subtle, sardonic wit constantly confuses those interviewers who probe too far, making it particularly difficult to tell who the real Morrissey is: the morose and lonely lyricist or the passionate and engaging performer.

Steven Patrick Morrissey was born on May 22, 1959, in Manchester, England. Son of Peter Aloysius Morrissey, a night security guard, and Elizabeth Ann (Betty) Dwyer, a librarian, Morrissey recalls his childhood as being morbid, with undercurrents of violence, elements later reflected in his often humorously black lyrics. His parents divorced when he was 17. "I literally never, ever met people," he told James Henke in Rolling Stone. "I wouldn't set foot outside of the house for three weeks on a run." To Spin magazine, Morrissey admitted, "There was no sense of frivolity in my young life at all, ever. There was no such thing as going crazy, or getting drunk, or falling over, or going to a beach…. Everything in my life was just hopelessly premeditated."

Morrissey passed the days reading, writing pages of poetry, and listening to music. "The power of the written word really stung me, and I was also entirely immersed in popular music…. [Actor James Dean and nineteenth-century Irish wit Oscar Wilde] were the only two companions I had as a distraught teenager. Every line that Wilde ever wrote affected me so enormously. And James Dean's lifestyle was always terribly important. It was almost as if I knew these people quite intimately and they provided quite a refuge from everyday slovenly life," he revealed to Henke. Morrissey also found refuge in the feminist writings of Susan Brownmiller and Molly Haskell, as well as the "terribly gloomy" and "terribly embittered" English novelist Charles Dickens. Where music was concerned, Morrissey lost himself in mid-1960s British pop hits and later, the androgynous glitter rock of the New York Dolls and David Bowie.

The Debut of the Smiths

Morrissey left school at 17. Jobs as civil-service clerk, hospital porter, and record-store salesman didn't interest him past the first paycheck. It was guitarist Johnny Marr's 1982 invitation to join a band that finally got him out of the house. Within months, the Smiths burst onto the British music scene. Several BBC radio broadcasts landed the band a contract with Rough Trade Records along with an impressive and enthusiastic following—this even before the release of their debut album, The Smiths. Stereo Review's Steve Simels referred to the album as "mostly midtempo love ballads with a not-so-subtle homoerotic ambiguity…. Morrissey has a vocal style that manages to walk the tightrope between being affectingly plaintive and cloyingly sensitive." With their second album, Meat Is Murder, entering the British charts at number one and going gold within a week, the Smiths had made their mark. Writing for the Nation, Frank Rose described their sound as "a difficult but strangely compelling amalgam of American blues and British folk set to a spinning beat…. Morrissey doesn't sing with the tune, he sings all around it, and the resulting tension is as hypnotic as it is disorienting." The release of The Queen Is Dead further deepened their impression on the music world. Johnny Rogan, author of Morrissey & Marr: The Severed Alliance, hailed them as the most critically acclaimed and musically accomplished ensemble of the decade.

Yet, by the time Strangeways, Here We Come was released, in 1988, the Smiths had disbanded; Johnny Marr had decided to work with various other artists, and the group simply dissolved. What would become of Morrissey was a mystery to critics who assumed he'd be nothing without Marr. "The general opinion was that once Johnny Marr unplugged that umbilical cord I would just kind of deflate like a paddling pool," Morrissey told Spin's Steven Daly. Mark Peel, for example, declared in Stereo Review, "Morrissey seemed headed over the abyss."

Went Solo with Viva Hate

Morrissey defied them with his first solo release, Viva Hate. Melody Maker called the album "implausibly fresh: the music's breathing again, free of a certain stuffiness and laboriousness that had set in seemingly irreversibly in the Smith's twilight period." "Morrissey's band may have deserted him," wrote Peel of the singer's triumph over the abyss, "but fortunately for us, his muse didn't." Rachel Felder of Rolling Stone characterized his second release, Bona Drag, as "a choppy compilation of British B sides." Although critics on both sides of the Atlantic appeared to dismiss this collection, in a not-so-favorable Melody Maker review, Dave Jennings did concede that "Morrissey still asks awkward questions, gets under skins, touches nerves."

Critics seemed to lose faith in Morrissey with the 1991 release of Kill Uncle. Excerpts from several Melody Maker reviews clearly define their position: "devoid of magic, melodies and memorability"; "Morrissey revelling in mundanity"; "such a tragic, turgid pathetic record one can only assume it's an act of spite"; and finally, "Morrissey's future probably lies in America…. Over there, [it] was critically acclaimed, his gigs were received rapturously and he even made it onto the Johnny Carson Show." And although a bigger American audience was discovering Morrissey through Kill Uncle, Rolling Stone felt it "only hints at the achievement of the earlier album…. What Kill Uncle lacks is the musical coherence, let alone the stick-in-your head charisma, that would lend the album the consistency of the singer's previous work … it plays more like a fragmented collection of polished studio outtakes than a finished album."

For the Record …

Born Steven Patrick Morrissey on May 22, 1959, in Manchester, England; son of Peter Aloysius (a security guard) and Elizabeth (Betty) Ann (a librarian; maiden name, Dwyer) Morrissey. Education: Attended Stretford Technical School, Stretford, England, 1975-76.

Worked as civil-service clerk, hospital porter (flesh remover), record-store salesman, c. 1976; singer, song-writer with the Smiths, 1982-88; solo artist, 1988–; released solo debut Viva Hate, 1988; released solo albums throughout 1990s; released You Are the Quarry, 2004.

Awards: O2 Silver Clef Award, 2004; Mojo Icon Award, 2004.

Addresses: Record company—Attack/Sanctuary Records Group, Sanctuary House, 43-53 Sinclair Rd., London, UK, W14 ONS, website: http://www.sanctuary recordsgroup.com. Website—Morrissey Official Website: http://www.morrisseymusic.com.

Melody Maker was correct in noting that reception of Morrissey in Britain and the United States diverged. The most notable example of this being—no matter how critics and fans rave—Morrissey just can't get a hit in America. "As far as I can tell, any fool can have a hit record in America—except me," he lamented to David Browne in Entertainment Weekly. "I don't want to be the biggest star in the universe, but I do feel deliberately slighted." He could sell out New York City's Madison Square Garden, but he couldn't get a spot on MTV. "Everything I've achieved, I've earned, and nobody has handed it to me, and that kind of existence is hard to understand for the music industry. They don't understand the language of being your own person. Don't get me wrong, I wouldn't change it. But I just feel anger, because when you repeatedly do things against what seems like all the odds there comes a time when the size of your audience should be recognized and you should be treated accordingly," he complained to Spin's David Thomas.

Rapturous Reception Worldwide

Morrissey's fans would certainly be the first to point out this glaring omission on the pop charts; they are an almost unnervingly ardent group. The singer's love of Oscar Wilde had prompted him to carry flowers in concert, which in turn inspired fans to heap the stage with his favorite, gladiolus. Dozens of fanzines devote their pages to "Mozz," as they call him, and fans regularly almost crush him when they practice the traditional concert group hug. Describing a Morrissey concert, Bill Flanagan of Musician called it "strange, the wimpy kids stood on their chairs and pumped their fists in the air and screamed and the wimpy singer ripped off his shirt. All the people who usually mock the big hairy-chested rock show had a big hairy-chested rock show of their own. It was touching. Like the Special Olympics." When Morrissey does meet his fans outside the concert hall, wrote Spin's Thomas, "he treats them with kindness and consideration. He talks to them, hugs them, and bashfully accepts the flowers, books, and little presents that they always want to give him."

"So why is Morrissey held a rock hero in the hearts of half the population of England's disaffected bohos and America's freshman dorms?" asks Flanagan. Partly because of his overwhelming fan identification and partly because "Morrissey, who in his lyrics, on his albums and in his interviews shows self-immolating weariness with the insensitivity of the world, comes alive in concert as a stomping, rocking, posing, sweating, handsome and scream-inducing star."

Mozz's fans were at last vindicated in 1992 with the release of Your Arsenal; although they had never given up hope in his ability, his critics were beginning to. "But on Your Arsenal," wrote Jeremey Helligar in People, "he pulls back from the brink of self-parody and delivers some of his strongest tunes yet … bless his bummedout soul." Mark Coleman of Rolling Stone called Arsenal "the most direct—and outwardly directed—statement he's made since disbanding the Smiths. Buoyed by the conversational grace of his lyric writing, Morrissey rides high atop this album's rip-roaring guitar tide…. His penchant for maudlin balladry held firmly in check by taut arrangements and riff-driven melodies… Your Arsenal is stockpiled with the rock and roll equivalent of smart bombs: compact missives that zoom in on their targets with devastating precision. The repercussions last long after the rubble is cleared." "The band can also strut and stomp with the brawn and moxie of a rockabilly band," wrote New York Times contributor Jon Pareles. "The contrast between the introversion of Morrissey's smooth, vibrato-rounded croon and rock's brashest tradition only heightens the piquancy, and Morrissey knows it."

Morrissey continued releasing a steady stream of material through the mid-nineties, but only 1994's Vauxhall and I elicited the same excitement as Your Arsenal. Oddly, a single from Vauxhall and I—"The More You Ignore Me, the Closer I Get"—played on MTV and reached the Top 50 singles chart, introducing the singer to an American audience. Bolstered by his success in the United States, Morrissey moved from Dublin to Los Angeles where he began work on a new album for Mercury in 1996.

If fans had greeted Morrissey's Kill Uncle with anger, they greeted 1997's Maladjusted with indifference. "The last album was not a showstopper," Morrissey recalled to Marc Spitz in Spin. "The sleeve was dreadful. I look like a mushroom or a leprechaun. It was designed by the record company, and they were collapsing." Following the album, the singer dropped out of public view (with the exception of sightings at Libertines and Sex Pistols' concerts) for the next seven years. During this period he devoted a great deal of time to People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) and working in coordination with the Los Angeles Animal Police.

A Return to Form

In 2004 Morrissey returned to the music scene with the release of You Are the Quarry. Speaking of his long absence, he told Spitz: "It was very frustrating. But I absolutely believe in fate and I knew that it would end. I felt like I was being carried along by something, and perhaps it's all the better that there was a gap." Critics and fans, meanwhile, warmly embraced the new album, calling it a return to form. "At its best," wrote Allison Stewart in the Washington Post, "it pulls off the near-impossible trick of being both a good wallow and a sharp stick in the eye. Even at its worst, it's simply irreproducible, the rare record that's actually about something."

Morrissey claims to know a lot; he is notorious for his forthright opinions: "Michael Jackson has outlived his usefulness," he said in People, "Prince and Madonna are of no earthly value whatsoever." While he's fond of English singer-songwriter Paul Weller and Prefab Sprout's Paddy McAloon, he told Entertainment Weekly that "I certainly think Britney Spears is … the devil. The way she projects herself and the fact that she is so obviously vacuous. I think it's such a shame that she became so influential to very small children. Most of the faces I see on the covers of American music magazines are just dreadful—people with nothing to offer the world at all."

"Many people underestimate [rock] as a force; this is dramatically wrong," Morrissey told People. "It is the last refuge for young people; no other platform has so much exposure." It is a platform on which Morrissey will more than likely remain. Life, as well, will apparently continue much as it has before; he told Thomas, "The day always ends the same way, with exactly the same scenario. I'm closing the door and putting the lights out and fumbling for a book. And that's it. I find that very unfortunate, but then, I could have a wooden leg."

Selected discography

Solo albums

Viva Hate, Sire/Reprise, 1988.

Bona Drag, Sire/Reprise, 1990.

Kill Uncle, Sire/Reprise, 1991.

Your Arsenal, Sire/Reprise, 1992.

Beethoven Was Deaf, EMI, 1993.

(Contributor) Alternative Energy, Hollywood/Greenpeace, 1993.

Vauxhall and I, Sire/Reprise, 1994.

Southpaw Grammar, Sire/Reprise, 1995.

Maladjusted, Mercury, 1997.

You Are the Quarry, Attack/Sanctuary, 2004.

With the Smiths

The Smiths, Rough Trade, 1984.

Hatful of Hollow, Rough Trade, 1984.

Meat Is Murder, Sire, 1985.

The Queen Is Dead, Sire, 1986.

The World Won't Listen, Sire, 1987.

Louder Than Bombs, Sire, 1987.

Strangeways, Here We Come, Sire, 1988.

"Rank," Sire, 1988.

Sources

Books

Rogan, Johnny, Morrissey & Marr: The Severed Alliance, Omnibus Press, 1992.

Periodicals

Advocate, July 16, 1991.

Billboard, May 7, 1988; June 22, 1991.

Cash Box, November 16, 1991.

Entertainment Weekly, August 14, 1992; October 16, 1992; May 21, 2004.

GQ, April 2004.

Los Angeles Times, November 3, 1991.

New York Times, July 15, 1991; July 21, 1991; July 17, 1991; February 23, 1992; September 22, 1992.

Melody Maker, September 12, 1987; February 20, 1988; January 7, 1989; February 4, 1989; April 15, 1989; April 22, 1989; May 26, 1990; November 3, 1990; May 4, 1991; October 5, 1991; December 21, 1991.

Musician, May 1988; June 1991; December 1992.

Nation, August 3, 1985.

People, June 24, 1985; August 19, 1991; October 5, 1992.

Playboy, August 1991.

Pulse!, April 1993.

Rolling Stone, June 7, 1984; October 9, 1986; May 19, 1988; December 15, 1988; August 23, 1990; August 22, 1991; October 29, 1992; January 21, 1993.

Spin, April 1990; July 1990; February 1991; April 1991; November 1992; April 2004.

Stereo Review, October 1986; July 1984; July 1985; July 1988; October 1988.

Time, May 31, 2004.

Village Voice, April 5, 1988; May 3, 1988; July 12, 1988; July 18, 1989; April 2, 1991.

Washington Post, May 19, 2004, p. C05.

Additional information for this profile was obtained from a Sire/Reprise Records press release on Kill Uncle, 1991.

—Joanna Rubiner andRonnie D. Lankford, Jr.

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Morrissey

Morrissey

Singer, songwriter

Delighted in British Pop

Smiths Disbanded

Fans Devoted to Mozz

Selected discography

Sources

From his debut as lead singer of the Smiths in 1983, Morrissey has beento critics and fans alikean enigma. Although his hearing is fine, he often wears a hearing aid; his eyesight, on the other hand, is poor, but he cant stand wearing his contact lenses on stage. This self-proclaimed prophet for the fourth gender has hinted at being gay, but prefers to discuss his celibacy, dismissing strictly defined sexual orientation as too limiting of peoples potential. Morrisseys subtle, sardonic wit constantly confuses those interviewers who probe too far, making it particularly difficult to tell who the real Morrissey is: the morose and lonely lyricist or the passionate and engaging performer.

Steven Patrick Morrissey was born on May 22, 1959, in Manchester, England. Son of Peter Aloysius Morrissey, a night security guard, and Elizabeth Ann (Betty) Dwyer, a librarian, Morrissey recalls his childhood as being morbid, with undercurrents of violence, elements later reflected in his often humorously black lyrics. His parents divorced when he was 17. I literally never, ever met people, he told James Henke in Rolling Stone. I wouldnt set foot outside of the house for three weeks on a run. To Spin magazine, Morrissey admitted, There was no sense of frivolity in my young life at all, ever. There was no such thing as going crazy, or getting drunk, or falling over, or going to a beach. .. . Everything in my life was just hopelessly premeditated.

Delighted in British Pop

Morrissey passed the days reading, writing pages of poetry, and listening to music. The power of the written word really stung me, and I was also entirely immersed in popular music. . . . [actor James Dean and nineteenth-century Irish wit Oscar Wilde] were the only two companions I had as a distraught teenager. Every line that Wilde ever wrote affected me so enormously. And James Deans lifestyle was always terribly important. It was almost as if I knew these people quite intimately and they provided quite a refuge from everyday slovenly life, he revealed to Henke. Morrissey also found refuge in the feminist writings of Susan Brownmiller and Molly Haskell, as well as the terribly gloomy and terribly embittered English novelist Charles Dickens. Where music was concerned, Morrissey lost himself in mid-1960s British pop hits and later, the androgynous glitter rock of the New York Dolls and David Bowie.

Morrissey left school at 17. Jobs as civil-service clerk, hospital porter, and record-store salesman didnt interest

For the Record

Born Steven Patrick Morrissey, May 22, 1959, in Manchester, England; son of Peter Aloysius (a security guard) and Elizabeth (Betty) Ann (a librarian; maiden name, Dwyer) Morrissey. Education: Attended Stretford Technical School, Stretford, England, 1975-76.

Worked as civil-service clerk, hospital porter (flesh remover), record-store salesman, c. 1976; singer, songwriter with the Smiths, 1982-88; solo artist, 1988.

Addresses: Record company Sire Records, 75 Rockefeller Plaza, 20th Floor, New York, NY, 10019.

him past the first paycheck. It was guitarist Johnny Marrs 1982 invitation to join a band that finally got him out of the house. Within months, the Smiths burst onto the British music scene. Several BBC radio broadcasts landed the band a contract with Rough Trade Records along with an impressive and enthusiastic following this even before the release of their debut album, The Smiths. Stereo Reviews Steve Simeis referred to the album as mostly midtempo love ballads with a not-so-subtle homoerotic ambiguity. . . . Morrissey has a vocal style that manages to walk the tightrope between being affectingly plaintive and cloyingly sensitive. With their second album, Meat Is Murder, entering the British charts at Number One and going gold within a week, the Smiths had made their mark. Writing for the Nation, Frank Rose described their sound as a difficult but strangely compelling amalgam of American blues and British folk set to a spinning beat. . . . Morrissey doesnt sing with the tune, he sings all around it, and the resulting tension is as hypnotic as it is disorienting. The release of The Queen Is Dead further deepened their impression on the music world. Johnny Rogan, author of Morrissey & Marr: The Severed Alliance, hailed them as the most critically acclaimed and musically accomplished ensemble of the decade.

Smiths Disbanded

Yet, by the time Strangeways, Here We Come was released, in 1988, the Smiths had disbanded; Johnny Marr had decided to work with various other artists, and the group simply dissolved. What would become of Morrissey was a mystery to critics who assumed hed be nothing without Marr. The general opinion was that once Johnny Marr unplugged that umbilical cord I would just kind of deflate like a paddling pool, Morrissey told Spins Steven Daly. Mark Peel, for example, declared in Stereo Review, Morrissey seemed headed over the abyss.

Morrissey defied them with his first solo release, Viva Hate. Melody Maker called the album implausibly fresh: the musics breathing again, free of a certain stuffiness and laboriousness that had set in seemingly irreversibly in the Smiths twilight period. Morrisseys band may have deserted him, wrote Peel of the singers triumph over the abyss, but fortunately for us, his muse didnt. Rachel Felder of Rolling Stone characterized his second release, Bona Drag, as a choppy compilation of British B sides. Although critics on both sides of the Atlantic appeared to dismiss this collection, in a not-so-favorable Melody Maker review, Dave Jennings did concede that Morrissey still asks awkward questions, gets under skins, touches nerves.

Critics seemed to lose faith in Morrissey with the 1991 release of Kill Uncle. Excerpts from several Melody Maker reviews clearly define their position: devoid of magic, melodies and memorability; Morrissey revelling in mundanity; such a tragic, turgid pathetic record one can only assume its an act of spite; and finally, Morrisseys future probably lies in America.... Over there, [it] was critically acclaimed, his gigs were received rapturously and he even made it onto the Johnny Carson Show. And although a bigger American audience was discovering Morrissey through Kill Uncle, Rolling Stone felt it only hints at the achievement of the earlier album. ... What Kill Uncle lacks is the musical coherence, let alone the stick-in-your head charisma, that would lend the album the consistency of the singers previous work ... it plays more like a fragmented collection of polished studio outtakes than a finished album.

Melody Maker was correct in noting that reception of Morrissey in Britain and the U.S. diverged. The most notable example of this beingno matter how critics and fans raveMorrissey just cant get a hit in America. As far as I can tell, any fool can have a hit record in Americaexcept me, he lamented to David Browne in Entertainment Weekly. I dont want to be the biggest star in the universe, but I do feel deliberately slighted. He could sell out New York Citys Madison Square Garden, but he couldnt get a spot on MTV. Everything Ive achieved, Ive earned, and nobody has handed it to me, and that kind of existence is hard to understand for the music industry. They dont understand the language of being your own person. Dont get me wrong, I wouldnt change it. But I just feel anger, because when you repeatedly do things against what seems like all the odds there comes a time when the size of your audience should be recognized and you should be treated accordingly, he complained to Spins David Thomas.

Fans Devoted to Mozz

Morrisseys fans would certainly be the first to point out this glaring omission on the pop charts; they are an almost unnervingly ardent group. The singers love of Oscar Wilde had prompted him to carry flowers in concert, which in turn inspired fans to heap the stage with his favorite, gladiolus. Nearly 20 fanzines devote their pages to Mozz, as they call him, and fans regularly almost crush him when they practice the traditional concert group hug. Describing a Morrissey concert, Bill Flanagan of Musician called it strange, the wimpy kids stood on their chairs and pumped their fists in the air and screamed and the wimpy singer ripped off his shirt. All the people who usually mock the big hairy-chested rock show had a big hairy-chested rock show of their own. It was touching. Like the Special Olympics. When Morrissey does meet his fans outside the concert hall, wrote Spins Thomas, he treats them with kindness and consideration. He talks to them, hugs them, and bashfully accepts the flowers, books, and little presents that they always want to give him.

So why is Morrissey held a rock hero in the hearts of half the population of Englands disaffected bohos and Americas freshman dorms? asks Flanagan. Partly because of his overwhelming fan identification and partly because Morrissey, who in his lyrics, on his albums and in his interviews shows self-immolating weariness with the insensitivity of the world, comes alive in concert as a stomping, rocking, posing, sweating, handsome and scream-inducing star.

Mozzs fans were at last vindicated in 1992 with the release of Your Arsenal; although they had never given up hope in his ability, his critics were beginning to. But on Your Arsenal, wrote Jeremey Helligar in People, he pulls back from the brink of self-parody and delivers some of his strongest tunes yet... bless his bummed-out soul. Mark Coleman of Rolling Stone called Arsenal the most directand outwardly directedstatement hes made since disbanding the Smiths. Buoyed by the conversational grace of his lyric writing, Morrissey rides high atop this albums rip-roaring guitar tide.... His penchant for maudlin balladry held firmly in check by taut arrangements and riff-driven melodies,... Your Arsenal is stockpiled with the rock and roll equivalent of smart bombs: compact missives that zoom in on their targets with devastating precision. The repercussions last long after the rubble is cleared. The band can also strut and stomp with the brawn and moxie of a rockabilly band, wrote New York Times contributor Jon Pareles. The contrast between the introversion of Morrisseys smooth, vibrato-rounded croon and rocks brashest tradition only heightens the piquancy, and Morrissey knows it.

Morrissey claims to know a lot; he is notorious for his forthright opinions: Michael Jackson has outlived his usefulness, he said in People, Prince and Madonna are of no earthly value whatsoever. While hes fond of English singer-songwriter Paul Weiler and Prefab Sprouts Paddy McAloon, he told Spin that the floaty Cocteau Twins make me vomit on sight.... Theyre outstandingly unappealing on every human level; they look awful, their interviews are awful, and their records are just utter stupidity.

Many people underestimate [rock] as a force; this is dramatically wrong, Morrissey told People. It is the last refuge for young people; no other platform has so much exposure. It is a platform on which Morrissey will more than likely remain. Life, as well, will apparently continue much as it has before; he told Thomas, The day always ends the same way, with exactly the same scenario. Im closing the door and putting the lights out and fumbling for a book. And thats it. I find that very unfortunate, but then, I could have a wooden leg.

Selected discography

With the Smiths

The Smiths, Rough Trade, 1984.

Hatful of Hollow, Rough Trade, 1984.

Meat Is Murder, Sire, 1985.

The Queen Is Dead, Sire, 1986.

The World Wont Listen, Sire, 1987.

Louder Than Bombs, Sire, 1987.

Strangeways, Here We Come, Sire, 1988.

Rank, Sire, 1988.

Solo releases; on Sire/Reprise Records

Viva Hate, 1988.

Bona Drag, 1990.

Kill Uncle, 1991.

Your Arsenal, 1992.

Beethoven Was Deaf, EMI (British/European import), 1993.

(Contributor) Alternative Energy, Hollywood/Greenpeace, 1993.

Sources

Books

Rogan, Johnny, Morrissey & Marr: The Severed Alliance, Omnibus Press, 1992.

Periodicals

Advocate, July 16, 1991.

Billboard, May 7, 1988; June 22, 1991.

Cash Box, November 16, 1991.

Entertainment Weekly, August 14, 1992; October 16, 1992.

Los Angeles Times, November 3, 1991.

New York Times, July 15, 1991; July 21, 1991; July 17, 1991; February 23, 1992; September 22, 1992.

Melody Maker, September 12, 1987; September 19, 1987; September 26, 1987; October 17, 1987; October 24, 1987; December 19, 1987; February 20, 1988; March 12, 1988; March 19, 1988; January 7, 1989; February 4, 1989; February 25, 1989; March 4, 1989; April 1, 1989; April 15, 1989; April 22, 1989; May 26, 1990; October 13, 1990; November 3, 1990; February 23, 1991; May 4, 1991; July 27, 1991; October 5, 1991; October 12, 1991; December 21, 1991.

Musician, May 1988; June 1991; December 1992.

Nation, August 3, 1985.

People, June 24, 1985; August 19, 1991; October 5, 1992.

Playboy, August 1991.

Pulse!, April 1993.

Rolling Stone, June 7, 1984; October 9, 1986; May 19, 1988; December 15, 1988; August 23, 1990; August 22, 1991; October 29, 1992; January 21, 1993.

Spin, April 1990; July 1990; February 1991; April 1991; November 1992.

Stereo Review, October 1986; July 1984; July 1985; July 1988; October 1988.

Village Voice, April 5, 1988; May 3, 1988; July 12, 1988; July 18, 1989; April 2, 1991.

Additional information for this profile was obtained from a Sire/Reprise Records press release on Kill Uncle, 1991.

Joanna Rubiner

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Morrissey

MORRISSEY

Born: Steven Patrick Morrissey; Manchester, England, 22 May 1959

Genre: Rock

Best-selling album since 1990: Bona Drag (1990)

Hit songs since 1990: "Interesting Drug," "We Hate It When Our Friends Become Successful," "More You Ignore Me, the Closer I Get"


Few singers in the pantheon of alternative rock music rival the enigmatic British recording artist Morrissey. Since his debut in 1983 as the lead singer of the band the Smiths, he has remained a mystery both to fans and to critics. Is he the moody, maudlin, melismatic singer he often comes across as in his jangly, guitar-driven songs? Or is he the politically minded activist who passionately pursues causes and who reminded people that "Meat Is Murder"? Is Morrissey homosexual, as rumored? Or is he unwaveringly celibate, as he has publicly declared? These questions only seem to add to his mystique.

Morrissey's concerts are transcendent experiences. Both male and female fans go to great lengths to communicate
with him by tossing flowers, bras, T-shirts, boxer shorts, or themselves toward the stage. On stage he appears in an Elvis Presleylike pompadour, with brooding good looks and emotional ruminations. His songs contain snappy titles like "Last of the Famous International Playboys," "We Hate It When Our Friends Become Successful," and "Hairdresser On Fire." Famously private, Morrissey boasts an amazingly loyal fan base and appeals equally to people of different races, genders, and sexual preferences. Though many critics believe that Morrissey's solo work does not compare to his music with the Smiths, his fans would probably disagree.


A Solitary Childhood

Son of a night security guard and a librarian, Morrissey has recalled his childhood as turbulent and marked by extensive periods of staying indoors. His parents split when he was seventeen years old, and his black-humor lyrics were influenced by his solitary upbringing. He spent time with poetry and music and became a fan of the American actor James Dean and the Irish dramatist Oscar Wilde. When Morrissey and guitarist Johnny Marr met in 1982 and formed the Smiths, they created one of the most revered indie bands in Britain. Morrissey was often provocative and blunt in interviews, and he associated himself with somewhat unusual and controversial issues, such as vegetarianism and animal rights. By the time the Smiths broke up and Morrissey embarked on a solo career, he had a massive following in the United States.

With the release of his solo album Viva Hate (1989), the title a reference to the bitter split with Marr and the Smiths, Morrissey scored a couple of hit singles, including the beautifully morose "Everyday Is Like Sunday" and the catchy, obsessive love song "Suedehead." In "Suedehead" Morrissey implores, "Why do you come here? / And why do you hang around?" The song introduced him to a wide American audience; and its forlorn romantic story struck a chord with scores of misfit, lovelorn youth.

Bona Drag (1990), his second album, is a compilation; it surveys various troubling issues but is not really a wholly conceived album. Kill Uncle (1991), his next release, was dismissed by critics who thought it unremarkable and perhaps even deliberately turgid. Yet the album features the lovely and haunting "Driving Your Girlfriend Home," the jaunty rockabilly-like "Sing Your Life," and the humorous, vivid, and snide "King Leer."


At His Sly Best

Fans and critics alike were vindicated by Your Arsenal (1992). The album features electric guitars and aggressive tempos. Your Arsenal just barely missed the Billboard Top 20 (at number twenty-one); its successor, Vauxhall and I (1994), reached number eighteen on its release. Many critics feel that Vauxhall and I shows Morrissey at his post-Smiths best. He sounds vulnerable, appreciative, and somewhat satisfied: from the lead-off track "Now My Heart Is Full" to the wise "Hold On to Your Friends," in which he sings, in second person, "Don't feel so ashamed to have friends." For someone whose career seemed to revolve around adopting a glib posture, these lyrics seemed like a personal revelation.

The last significant single Morrissey released was the midtempo charmer "The More You Ignore Me, the Closer I Get," which landed on the Billboard Top 40 Mainstream, reached number one on the Modern Rock Tracks, and made number forty-six on the Billboard Top 100. The insidious guitar line and witty lyrics are classic Morrissey: "I'm now a central part of your mind's landscape / Whether you care or do not." The ambiguous, double-entendre is effective: Is he taking potshots at record executives, or a lover?

Shortly after the release of Vauxhall and I, Morrissey seemed to disappear from the pop scene, spending time in court and battling record labels. He jumped to BMG Records for the lackluster Southpaw Grammar (1995) and then to Mercury for the equally flaccid My Early Burglary Years (1998). Although he has sold out Los Angeles' Hollywood Bowl faster than the Beatles, Morrissey never achieved monumental record sales. Nevertheless, his complex and uncompromising persona won him deeply loyal fans.

SELECTIVE DISCOGRAPHY:

Viva Hate (Reprise, 1988); Bona Drag (Sire, 1990); Kill Uncle (Reprise, 1991); Your Arsenal (Reprise, 1992); Vauxhall and I (Reprise, 1994): Southpaw Grammar (Reprise, 1995); Maladjusted (Mercury, 1997); My Early Burglary Years (Reprise, 1998). With the Smiths: Meat Is Murder (Sire, 1985); The Queen Is Dead (Sire, 1986); Strangeways, Here We Come (Sire, 1987); Louder Than Bombs (Sire, 1987).

carrie havranek

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"Morrissey." Baker's Biographical Dictionary of Popular Musicians Since 1990. . Encyclopedia.com. 24 Jul. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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"Morrissey." Baker's Biographical Dictionary of Popular Musicians Since 1990. . Retrieved July 24, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/morrissey