Morrissey's new autobiography is unlike any rock memoir ever written. Very little space is devoted to writing and recording his amazing catalog of songs. Instead, he delves deep into his painful childhood in Manchester, his endless battles with Rough Trade Records during his five-year stint in The Smiths, his bitter legal battle with Smiths drummer Mike Joyce and the many, many people he simply despise. It's a very fast and fun read for 457 pages. Read an exclusive excerpt and check out a little preview of fifteen interesting moments. – ANDY GREENE
One of Morrissey's favorite childhood shows was the 1960s camp classic Lost In Space. "I cannot miss Lost In Space," he writes. "Where secrets of masculinity are meted out in the ping-pong clash between Dr. Smith and Major West; Mrs. Danvers facing a wide receiver's grit in two worlds that can never meet. The masculine man hates the feminine man because soft is the enemy of hard…My notepad resting on my lap takes scribble of unspoken truth: effeminate men are very witty, whereas macho men are duller than death."
The New York Dolls legendary 1973 appearance on the Old Grey Whistle Test forever changed his life. "Both of my parents watch unimpressed," Morrissey writes. "Pride and joy electrify my body as the revenge motif dates every other modern pop artist in an instant. Snarl matches visual art and the New York Dolls were mine."
The teachers at his school regularly beat the students in shockingly violent scenes later immortalized in the Smiths classic "The Headmsater's Ritual." "A single minute is not allowed to pass without fiery attack from teacher to boy," Morrissey writes. "With no identifiable human being behind their agonized persona, such teachers are restored only by the general truth that the trapped audience before them cannot squeal, for no one would listen. The classroom is their stage, and each day is their theatrical execution — to our joint disadvantage. What gives these teachers the green light for such relentless physical harm? And who, without seeing it, could ever believe it?"
His life forever changed when he began writing songs with guitarist Johnny Marr in 1982. "I am shaken when I hear Johnny play guitar," Morrissey writes. "He is quite obviously gifted and almost unnaturally multitalented. Since he shows exact perspective on all thing, I can't help but wonder: What is he doing here with me?…Why has Johnny not sprayed his mark – elsewhere, with others less scarred and less complicated than I am?"
They selected a name for their new band very quickly. "I suggest to Johnny that we call ourselves The Smiths," Morrissey writes. "And he agrees. Neither of us can come up with anything else. It strikes me that the Smiths name lacks any settled association on face value, yet could also suit a presentation of virtually any style of music."
The Smiths debut LP entered the UK charts at #2, bested only by the Thompson Twins. "Richard Boon, now on the Rough Trade payroll, whispers to me: 'You know, it would've come in at Number 1 but we didn't manufacture the cassettes in time,'" Morrissey writes. "My life sinks. It is a noisy bell to a quizzy mind, and one that sounds and sounds for five years to come, and it tells me that Rough Trade cannot quite produce enough testosterone in matters of big business, and they will hold the Smiths back."
Morrissey knew that "How Soon Is Now?" was a classic the instant the group recorded it, but Rough Trade head Geoff Travis didn't agree. "I ran from the studio with a final mix and jumped into a black cab, piling out of Collier Street, where I took the stairs five at a time and powered into Geoff's office," Morrissey writes. "Geoff swivels in a large chair and I balance on a footstool as the song plays. 'How Soon Is Now?' struck me as a new landmark, but once the track ended, Geoff broke his silence: 'WHAT is Johnny doing?' he said. "THAT is just NOISE.'"
Many Smiths fans feel that "There Is A Light That Never Goes Out" is the Smiths' greatest song, though Morrissey didn't initially love the song. "I suggested to Johnny that it shouldn't be included on the album," he writes. "He laughs a you-silly-thing warranty, and I drop the protest. The humiliating I live with, because this suggestion is everlasting because the song became – and continues to be – greatly loved as one of the most powerful components of the Smiths canon. It is often a relief to be wrong."
Mick Jagger came backstage to meet The Smiths at a New York show. "He extends the hand of friendship," Morrissey writes. "It is a big moment for Johnny, but I, of course, am a nightmare of judgement, and it takes me years to understand the genius secrets of the Rolling Stones. Dismissal can be a secret form of arrogance, and I held this proudly against the Stones until the light shifted and I caught myself being utterly wrong…In any case, Mick Jagger only stayed for four songs into the Smiths' set."
Two years after the Smiths break up, Morrissey records a couple singles with bassist Andy Rourke and drummer Mike Joyce. "The unhappy past descends upon me each time I hear their voices," Morrissey writes. "And I decide to not invite them to any further recording sessions. Lawyers for Joyce then write to me, clearly stating that Joyce might take legal action in search of Smiths royalties, but will not do so if I agree to make him a permanent member of the Morrissey Band (a band which, in any case, don't even exist.)
The huge success of his early 1990s albums Kill Uncle and Your Arsenal result in Morrissey-mania erupting all over America. He's finally selling out arenas and confronting hordes of crazed fans. "I am forever trapped in a car on which young people lie across the hood," he writes. "I am secretly bundled out venues via underground passageways, and each day repeats itself with scenes of unthinkable madness."
The huge success of his early Nineties albums Kill Uncle and Your Arsenal result in Morrissey-mania erupting all over America. He's finally selling out arenas and confronting hordes of crazed fans. "I am forever trapped in a car on which young people lie across the hood," he writes. "I am secretly bundled out venues via underground passageways, and each day repeats itself with scenes of unthinkable madness."
Nearly fifty straight pages are devoted to Mike Joyce's 1996 lawsuit against Morrissey and Marr seeking a quarter of the group's royalties. Joyce emerged victorious, enraging Morrissey to no end. "Years later, when fattened and bored and watching the clock, Joyce manages to get two letters to me," Morrissey writes. "One of which begins 'I know you must hate me,' (which reads as 'you have every reason to hate me)', and he continues with a plea for renewed friendship, whilst making public declarations in favor of a Smiths re-formation. Johnny, too, tells me that he is ready for a reformation."
In 2004, he fulfilled his lifelong dream by convincing David Johansen to reunite with the surviving members of the New York Dolls. "I put the idea of a Dolls reunion to him in as cheerful a voice as I can muster," Morrissey writes. "I went on about how the Dolls had exercised a wide influence, and that David was still in demand as a singer and social observer., and there was the slightly complicated matter of simply saying Yes instead of saying No…Proudly, like a stage parent, I watched [the reunion concert] from the wings, moving through this strange hallucination and becoming an appendix to the Dolls story when I had once been too modest to live, and was not too screw lose to cry."
The group's first trip to New York didn't go very well for Morrissey. "We were booked into New York's famous Algonquin hotel – so beloved of James Dean in the 1950s," he writes. "I open the curtains and cracks of city light throw slits of hope into the room as I hear a loud fritter behind me. I turn to witness a line of hamster-size cockroaches race across the wonky thrift-store dresser. To my right tree more roaches fish about beneath the television stand, and the scurry of horses' hooves is heard coming from the bathroom."