Tuesday, 4 February 2014


I've just finished the Morrissey Autobiography.
Do I win some sort of prize, or get a certificate recognising this feat of human endeavour?
What have we learnt?
1. He's not one for a quick, off the cuff soundbite.  Or a general description of what happened at the time.
2.  He's got a bit of a thin skin, and definitely bears a grudge
3.  He does go on a bit

Had a similar problem reading Keith Richards book (Life) a couple of years ago.  Once I realised it was written in "Keith Speak", it became easier to read.  It was the same with Autobiography, it just took a lot longer.
Remembrance of Smiths albums speeds up proceedings, but never goes too far.
Indeed, it seems that The Smiths phase is "just something that happened", and he doesn't want to dwell on that time.  But then he sort of contradicts himself when talking about his early meeting with David Johannsen, and the fact that he didn't want to talk at length about the New York Dolls.
The Smiths period is dealt with in about 70 odd pages, and their demise in 1987 summed up as "we were no longer getting along".  The subsequent Court Case occupies the same number of pages (and more) with further references (of the exasperated tone) to Johnny Marr, Mike Joyce, Andy Rourke and Judge Weeks throughout.
The second half (or so) of the book is the solo Morrissey.  A period of time and output that he is clearly more comfortable about talking about, and he goes to great length.  Even providing a virtual day by day account of being on tour (I reckon he is an ardent diarist, as some of the detail and dates can't be straight from memory alone).

Like all good books, stories, films etc it does make you want to go back and listen to the tunes.
I freely admit to never being a big fan of The Smiths in their lifetime.  I was aware of them (how could you not be?), but beyond buying most of the singles, I'd never invested in a Smiths album
Until the release of 'Best I' compilation, which was effectively the singles plus a couple of album tracks.  It was after this that I finally went out and bought the albums.  And did I rue my mistake for not entering the world of The Smiths earlier?  Not really, no.  They were good albums, I was glad I owned them and could now talk about Smiths tracks other than the singles.  But I  never got the feeling that I'd missed out somehow by not buying them sooner.
And I had (and still have) the same relationship with Morrissey, the difference here is that I do own a smattering of his albums, but remain fairly ambivalent to their content.

The one thing that is truly surprising about The Smiths catalogue, and its repackaging, is the sheer number of Compilations available.
In the lifetime of the band, they manged 3 distinct compilations ("Hatful of Hollow" (1984), and in 1987,  "The World Won't Listen" and "Louder Than Bombs" (which was effectively the same album with more tracks, and originally intended for the US market).
Add to that the live album "Rank" from 1988, and thats 4 compilations in 5 years.
Since the bands demise, and ownership of the catalogue passing to WEA in 1992, there have been a further 5 compilations ('Best ... 1', 'Best ... 2', 'Singles', 'The Very Best Of The Smiths', 'The Sound Of The Smiths' and 2 Box Sets (one of all the singles, and one repackaging all the albums)).
For a band with 4 studio albums and a further 11 singles not on albums, this is a masterclass in re-cycling.

Morrisseys solo career started in February 1988 with the release of the single "Suedehead", followed a month later by the album 'Viva Hate'.  This album spawned 1 more single ("Everyday Is Like Sunday"), and then 5 more singles followed in 1989 and 1990.
Due, no doubt, to the plethora of non-album singles, 2 years into his solo career the first solo compilation ('Bona Drag') was released.  And this was the first of many.  To date, Morrissey has 11 compilations (plus 2 Live albums) in his catalogue.
Its a better ratio of singles/albums to compilation packages, but still a remarkable number.  In fairness, he has shifted labels a fair bit, and many of these compilations are probably a 'contractual obligation'.

Despite the previously quoted ambivalence to solo Morrissey, 'You Are The Quarry' is (probably) his best album, and this track being the standout.

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