You know what I miss about pop music these days? Pop stars slagging off other pop stars, that’s what.
I don’t want to encourage a culture of bitterness, jealousy and unpleasantness, nor do I wish to sound like a wizened old hack moaning about how they don’t write songs like they used to, “is that a boy or a girl singing?”, etc etc, but pop stars were much more interesting in the 80s, before they all had media training so as to be sure they never said anything likely to offend their potential market.
So it was with great amusement that I read of a recent mini-spat between two former bandmates: Morrissey and Johnny Marr. Some of you may have missed it, so I will explain.
On 25/01/22, in a post entitled: “OPEN LETTER TO JOHNNY MARR.” (his use of caps, I should add) Morrissey posted these words on his website:
“This is not a rant or an hysterical bombast. It is a polite and calmly measured request: Would you please stop mentioning my name in your interviews?
Would you please, instead, discuss your own career, your own unstoppable solo achievements and your own music?
If you can, would you please just leave me out of it?
The fact is: you don’t know me. You know nothing of my life, my intentions, my thoughts, my feelings. Yet you talk as if you were my personal psychiatrist with consistent and uninterrupted access to my instincts. We haven’t known each other for 35 years – which is many lifetimes ago. When we met you and I were not successful. We both helped each other become whatever it is we are today. Can you not just leave it at that? Must you persistently, year after year, decade after decade, blame me for everything … from the 2007 Solomon Islands tsunami to the dribble on your grandma’s chin ?
You found me inspirational enough to make music with me for 6 years. If I was, as you claim, such an eyesore monster, where exactly did this leave you? Kidnapped? Mute? Chained? Abducted by cross-eyed extraterrestrials? It was YOU who played guitar on ‘Golden Lights’ – not me.
Yes, we all know that the British press will print anything you say about me as long as it’s cruel and savage. But you’ve done all that. Move on. It’s as if you can’t uncross your own legs without mentioning me. Our period together was many lifetimes ago, and a lot of blood has streamed under the bridge since then. There comes a time when you must take responsibility for your own actions and your own career, with which I wish you good health to enjoy. Just stop using my name as click-bait. I have not ever attacked your solo work or your solo life, and I have openly applauded your genius during the days of ‘Louder than bombs’ and ‘Strangeways, here we come’, yet you have positioned yourself ever-ready as rent-a-quote whenever the press require an ugly slant on something I half-said during the last glacial period as the Colorado River began to carve out the Grand Canyon. Please stop. It is 2022, not 1982.
Morrissey. January 2022.”
There’s a lot to unpack there, isn’t there? (You can read it here if you so wish to do.)
For a start, anyone who feels the need to begin making their point with the words “This is not a rant…” is clearly about to do exactly that. It’s why when I write my occasional Saturday morning posts commenting on the comings-and-goings in UK politics I deliberately call them Rants. Call it what it is, don’t pretend it’s something its not.
This also completely overlooks or wilfully misunderstands the interview process. I doubt very much that Marr goes into every interview relishing the prospect of being able to stick the boot in; quite the opposite, in fact. Not only is there an eternal interest in the prospect of The Smiths reforming, Morrissey has a history of doing or saying something controversial, so of course, when interviewed, the journalist is going to ask Marr for his thoughts on both. From what I’ve read, Marr is always tactful, diplomatic, and a little weary of being asked. Or, as Swiss Adam said in a recent post over at the ever brilliant Bagging Area:
“In interviews he is thoughtful, considered, enthusiastic and well read, deftly trying to avoid spending every interview talking about his first band and that band’s singer, when he’d clearly much rather talk about other topics – science fiction, modernism, Aldous Huxley, The The or the Bhagavad Vita.”
Which leads me on to the ever-lasting question: will The Smiths ever reform?
I hope not, and I say this as a massive fan of the band.
Don’t get me wrong: I would love to see them live, but I’d love to see them live as they were circa 1985, at the top of their game, not cashing in on, and thereby cheapening, their legacy, for that’s exactly what them reforming would be. We all know that there’s no love lost between them, especially after bassist Andy Rourke and drummer Mike Joyce successfully sued Morrissey & Marr for an equal share of the royalties from their halcyon days.
You’ll know all about Morrissey’s opinion on the case (which he lost) if you’ve ever read his autobiography (wittily titled Autobiography – for a wordsmith that’s either an extremely arrogant title, or it shows a distinct lack of creativity; wouldn’t it be better titled “I’ve Got Everything Now”, or “Half a Person – The Story of My Life”?) – where he wangs on about the Court case and his perceived injustice for, as Stewart Lee would say, “…too long”:
Sparks, of course, put this all far more succinctly:
Sparks – Lighten Up, Morrissey
Sparks also have a history with Morrissey, having done this frankly brilliant remix of an already fine song (see? I can say nice things about him) which I have on a rather great remix compilation album called Future Retro, but which doubtless exists elsewhere:
Morrissey – Suedehead (Sparks Remix)
It turns out, of course, that Johnny had the perfect response to Morrissey’s missive: