Much has been said in the press this week about Morrissey’s autobiography. The man himself is like Marmite; you love him or hate him.
Or do you? Are you in fact like me? You loved The Smiths. Had all their albums. Quoted his lyrics to friends and lovers. But then, when The Smiths were no more, you moved on. You knew the Morrissey/Marr combo would never be equalled. So you left it there. Happy memories. Poignant memories.
That was me. I never saw The Smiths live but I did years later see Morrissey at the Brighton Centre. He was everything I thought he would be. Witty and charismatic. But I wasn’t blown away. There was some weird detachment that I felt. Like he was in a forcefield. Untouchable. Unlovable…
Like George Michael, he has become a parody of himself. He seems to believe in his own genius. That he will go down in history alongside Yeats and Wilde. Why else would he insist that his autobiography would only be published by Penguin Classics?
Maybe the problem is to be found in middle-age. If he had died at 27 – like Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, Kurt Cobain, Amy Winehouse – he would have been preserved in rock and roll aspic. But, as a 54 year old man, with houses all over the world, who’s made some outrageous, hateful statements, who puts animals above humans, he does not have enough distance or perspective or self-awareness to write a balanced memoir. But then who does? Maybe it is better to leave it to the biographers.
‘Autobiography’ lies on our kitchen table. I look at the cover – a beautiful image – but I can’t open the book. I am happy to leave The Smiths where they are, a certain moment in my history. I don’t need to know the gory details, the recriminations, the self-justifications. I have the albums and that’s enough.
‘Brilliant one minute, petulant the next, Morrissey’s autobiography is as maddening as the man himself’ – Stuart Maconie, The Guardian
I know I shouldn’t comment until I’ve read the book. And maybe I will. But I have read Alan Partridge’s autobiography, ‘I, Partridge: We need to talk about Alan’, and loved it. But, then, Alan is fictional.
PS. If you haven’t yet done it, try this quiz:
And finally, ‘remember, there’s more to life than books you know…’
When Lord Lucan disappeared in 1974 after his children’s nanny was found murdered in his Belgravia home, my uncle took action. Because he sported a moustache and was dark-haired and of a similar age, he had a t-shirt printed with the caption ‘I am not Lord Lucan’. This was the first slogan t-shirt I ever saw.
It was about a decade later when I got my first and didn’t know then that it would become an iconic piece of 80s memorabilia. In a record shop in Exeter, a friend and I each bought a ‘Choose Wham!” (not ‘Choose Life’) t-shirt and put them on in the ladies in Debenhams. We then strutted around the shops… A couple of years later, I ran the world in those same streets and had the t-shirt for that too.
The 80s was a great time to be a student, not only because we had full grants, but because we had a prime target: Thatcher. The campus at Lancaster was always full of Smash the Tories, etc. And no student was a proper student without a Smiths t-shirt of some description.
These days slogan t-shirts have lost their power and tend to be ‘humorous’ or ironic (‘Sex and Drugs and Sausage Rolls’ was one I saw around Teignmouth last summer). They are also printed up by school-leavers, hen-and-stag parties, and any group or sports club going.
I don’t wear them now I am a woman of a certain age (apart from as pyjama tops). But I still treasure my Choose Wham t-shirt as it sums up my teenage years. Not quite cool but proud of it.
Went to Exeter at the weekend where I spent hours in Top Man assisting my eldest in sorting his prom gear (whatever happened to school discos?). He went for a cool dinner jacket, skinny black trousers and almost-winkle-pickers. Much later, I listened to an old Kate Bush compilation and Wuthering Heights came on. This led to me thinking about other songs about books and writing. Having googled for some ideas I discovered there are many, many such lists. Kate Bush is on all of them, as you’d expect.
Here are some of my favourites:
1. Eurythmics Sex Crime (Nineteen Eighty Four) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IcTP7YWPayU
Chose this because 1984 was such a cool year to be at school (and incidentally the year of my O levels and hence my own school disco/ball/prom thing).
2. Elvis Costello Everyday I Write the Book http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jfFunjzyIsE
Maybe not the most Elvis of Elvis songs but my favourite.
3. Kate Bush Wuthering Heights http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BW3gKKiTvjs
Got to love that red dress, brought back to life recently by Noel Fielding.
4. The Smiths Cemetery Gates http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SfGJWb9OPug
Coolest of the cool
5. Muse The Small Print http://www.musewiki.org/The_Small_Print_(song)
Our hometown boys.
Just some random, slightly connected thoughts.