Oh, the pain. I pass a limp hand across my pallid forehead and sigh, from somewhere deep inside. What’s a 60-year-old boy to do?
When Morrissey first appeared he was part of a sort of movement that was waning, the ‘anti-rockism’ of numerous mainly British bands who, taking their lead from arch Velvet Underground fans The Subway Sect and others with a more political mindset such as The Au Pairs (from Birmingham), kept their knees together whilst on stage, pigeon toed, guitars up underneath chins, the opposite of, say The Clash’s patented gunfighter stance. Guitars as vacuum cleaners rather than machine guns. The idea was to present themselves as bravely sensitive humans, accidental pop stars. A great example is The Beat’s bass player, fondly known as ‘Shuffle’ who’s rubber legged dancing seemed to go against the beat. These were (mainly) men who were not afraid of looking unusual, non-macho. This mindset spread and became fashion, from post-punk into the early 1980s pop scene and could arguably, along with the New Romantics fad, be the reason why it was possible for almost-out gay pop stars like Marc Almond and Boy George to be successful. It laid ground.
Morrissey seemed to sum up the more wicked end of this phase. He had a way with a cutting criticism. His image took from the most-macho James Dean, but his jeans were baggy enough to threaten to slip down over his slim waist. He waved bunches of flowers around, destroying them, so that petals decorated the front row. His unique voice and the four note melody he made his own seemed to hint at a new way of being. You didn’t need to dress like a Hassidic Jew in pancake make up or talk worthy left wing politics to make a statement about your personal, shifting sexuality. This Morrissey provided a focal point for thousands of fans who could agree. I have friends for whom his pop presence literally changed their lives, gave them confidence, brought them together.
Now, name a pop star (in the most general sense) who manages to create interesting material in their second or third, let alone fourth decade of being. There aren’t many. Sure, there are lots of fans who maintain various stars in different ways. Elton John, unfathomably seems to be enjoying a peculiar renaissance, even on the back of his voice morphing into that of a forty-a-day wedding singer. Morrissey, with his die-hard fans has never really stopped touring, releasing, what often sounds like the same dismal, lumpy rock music. He exists, like John Lydon, in an iconic state. And, like John Lydon, Morrissey lived for many years in the USA and observes the UK through the lens of a rosy past, when they were young and their foreheads and bellies weren’t as wide and they were actually relevant in a way that only old, deluded idiots like Donald Trump think they are when they’re in their dotage. That’s the excuse - for the pronouncements, the retired taxi driver in Marbella bullshit they like to indulge in. But give old Mr Rotten his due, he has never to my knowledge worn a badge of an actual fascist organisation (For Britain) on his lapel as a talk show guest. As did Morrissey, on The Tonight Show.
What does that mean? Well, to Americans, it’s the equivalent of wearing a Proud Boy T shirt. For Britain are a racist, anti-Muslim group, run by ex-British National Party members along with rats from the UK Independence Party. They fret about ‘the great replacement’, wherein delicate puce-skinned activists seem to think that there is a massive conspiracy to change the majority skin tones of countries like the UK to various shades of brown and force us all to pray to Mecca three times a day. The fact that Morrissey is now part of this weird group of freaks has an ironic twist, given that the world the latest generation in the west are creating is one that might well have been seen as part of his positive legacy. Just as the conversations we are having now about sexuality and gender couldn’t have been imagined almost forty years ago, Morrissey, who’s tribe were the same kids back then, but without a voice, is joining the nazis.
Part of me would like to think it’s a grand, arch joke. Super irony. But I know it’s not. We have, in past decades invested a lot into our pop stars, most of them quite ordinary but driven young people. Many, like Morrissey and, say, Paul Weller, have only, really ever known the pop world since their childhood and everything they receive is filtered through the prism of their stardom. But Weller, even in his most Home Counties bloke persona, would never support hate, would never wear a nazi badge or give a platform to their views.
So, when I saw the review of Morrissey’s latest demo release in this magazine I was disappointed. We shouldn’t be giving a platform to racists. It’s the most basic way of fighting bigotry. The Jewish 48 Group and 62 Group who physically dismantled the fascist’s platforms in Ridley Road market decades ago, the actual structures the nazis stood on to spew their violent hatred, understood this. To dismiss Morrissey’s views as simply ‘politically controversial’ as the reviewer did seems almost to excuse them. Just so much more Morrissey being Morrissey. The singer should be dead to us when it comes to PR, less than dead. Cancelled; more than cancelled. As if he ceased to exist, from his first anti-Chinese utterance onwards. No platform for hate, no platform for nazis, even if they’ve just released some mouldy old demo tapes in a desperate attempt to stay relevant. To paraphrase Jello Biafra, ‘nazi crooners fuck off’.
Tim London is a musician, music producer and writer. Originally from a New Town in Essex he is at home amidst concrete and grand plans for the working class. Tim's latest thriller, Smith, is available now. Find out more at timothylondon.com
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