Morrissey has been one of my idols since I discovered The Smiths post-breakup aged eighteen. His dulcet tones and misery induced lyrics have been a constant, companionable comfort since then and, in fact, as I write this I am listening to ‘Vauxhall and I’ and swooning a bit. I am delighted to report that his autobiography was everything that I expected and more. It was filled with his beautiful poetic prose and miserable reflections on life. Morrissey possesses a unique and enviable talent with words. His autobiography contains delightfully lilting prose that puts many contemporary authors to shame. Many other music artists have attempted to write an autobiographical account of their successes and failures and these have been surprisingly disappointing but Morrissey succeeds where everyone else has failed and proved himself to be an exceptionally talented writer.
Unsurprisingly his autobiography strays from conventional biographical styles in that it read as more of a stream of consciousness as opposed to periodised, chaptered events. Morrissey sees himself as a product of his destitute and soulless upbringing and his depiction of drab 1950s Manchester gives resonance to the failing industrial city that is unrecognisable today. He depicts himself as a small, shy fish in a big, uncaring pond whose fame was unexpectedly thrust, but accepted, upon him. The poignancy in his lyrics and prose comes from this.
As to be expected, Morrissey gives great resonance to the trials and tribulations he has faced over the years. He constantly berates the British public for failing to give him, and The Smiths, a Number One hit and giving fair recognition to their superb talent. Particular resent is dumped at the doorstep of the music magazine NME for their brandishing of the headline of ‘Morrissey as a racist’. It could be argued that only as time has gone on that his popularity has eventually increased to the correct heights and his genius finally been recognised. In 2006 this culminated in him receiving the vote best British Icon second only to David Attenborough. Most surprisingly he writes about his eventual success with a touch of irony and towards the end of the book appears to be slightly resentful of the constant touring around the world and all-consuming love given by fans. Ironically, he now spends his life wishing to become invisible after a lifetime of wishing to be noticed.
My only real criticism of this book is Morrissey’s lengthy fifty page tirade against The Smiths court case which ruled in favour of drummer Mike Joyce – a ruling which he argues to have been unequivocally prejudiced against him. I guess that he was using his autobiography as a tool through which he could finally give his side of the story. His Smiths court case bashing was in stark contrast to his detailing of the split-up of the band which he wrote with little fervour and climax.
Morrissey certainly paints the picture of himself as a tragic figure at the constant behest of troubles. When recounting his love affairs, with both sexes, he downplays them and confesses that he is at his happiest when he is alone. It is interesting to note that his reflections on his romances are told through riddles for the reader to take what they will from them. This added another dimension to the interesting dialogue.
I will always remain an unashamed Morrissey fan and I thought that his autobiography was exceptionally well written and the story that he wove was beautifully miserable. The peppering of his song lyrics here and there were also a delight. The Smiths haters and care-free, jolly people should probably just stay away.