A thought bubble appeared in the hours after finishing the Morrissey autobiography. ‘Is Morrissey the world’s best salesman?’
It’s not an obvious reaction to the book, nor have many other people come to anything close to this conclusion about Morrissey, and yet I still have that feeling as if I have been hoodwinked.
Morrissey’s autobiography is like Morrissey himself -in no way typical, I felt cautious while reading it, in that being a fan that I was being lured into forgetting that he is a superstar, forgetting that the book is now a Penguin classic.
I have always seen myself as a Morrissey, Smiths fan, his music has been a huge part of my life. I never have gotten sick of his music, it never becomes dated and has an uncanny property to transpire trends, he is a musician and a writer on the level of intellectual that many other popular artists never even come close to.
There are certain things that as a fan I just take for granted (and love) about Morrissey, and I found those things in his Autobiography, his narrative setting starting in Manchester was so masterfully written that I had to put the book down for a week or so, it had that sort of hard emotional impact. It was so intense that I had to go back reassess Morrissey and his music, I felt for years that much of his lyrics were him being…well lyrical. But it turns out in a song like ‘The Headmaster Ritual” it seems to actually worse than the song permits.
There is something powerful underpinning this Autobiography that kept my mind ticking over while reading this, here is someone who everyone thought would fail, who record companies failed to sign up, who’s personality did not play into the business model of the recording industry, who’s talent was underestimated by the press, who’s demeanour did not fit comfortably to what people class as a successful artist, yet he was a success…he overcame all odds.
His years with the Smiths which recordings people still listen to every single day, he admits where short, and I was surprised how little detail we have about Marr or his friendship with him. In many ways Morrissey is a closed book, forever an enigma, always a labyrinth to navigate, this struck me as being odd as we are invited to learn everything in his autobiography.Many things where missing from his his narrative, like how his family reacted to him becoming a superstar for example, or about his battles with depression which we know with all respect that he has had, or how success had changed him from that innocent Manchester kid who showed up backstage at Roxy music concerts, to multi mega-star whisked away to the sounds of adoring fans.
In his modest way he seems to be amused by his success befuddled, surprised by it.
Morrissey, spends a huge amount of time clearing the decks and attempting to set the record straight, he takes myriad swipes at people never forgetting anything, it is one of his many indulgences that as fans we forgive him for. Yet in this format it does become very tiresome, especially when we encounter his trial with Mike Joyce that goes into the intimate legal details for many pages.
Morrissey has a terrific turn of phrase, some of his passages are pure poetry, yet it is fragmented, a hotch potch recalling of his career, he lingers far from things we want access to, the last quarter of the book reads more like his touring diary with notes rather than a sophisticated wrap up of his whole working career.
The autobiography was intoxicating at times yet I was left with my face pressed against the glass window watching him walk by from afar.