Funny, sad, bitchy, frustrating: it’s Morrissey, all right
Despite the fanfare, this pacy autobiography reveals little about the Smiths singer
Travis becomes another pantomime villain, with Morrissey twice referring to his “whooping cough smile” while presenting an unrelentingly negative interpretation of his actions. Tony Wilson, the founder of Factory Records, fares little better. Even John Peel gets a roasting.
It’s mainly fellow artists who receive commendation, James Maker, Linder, Chrissie Hynde, Kirsty MacColl, Mick Ronson and Michael Stipe among them. Plus, the Krays. Other people, notably Vini Reilly, Mark Nevin and Pete Hogg, are written out of the script completely. Jake Walters, an assistant who lived at Morrissey’s house for two years, is eulogised – “he is me and I am he” – only to fade from view, again without much explanation.
The solo years are interrupted by a 41-page diatribe covering the Joyce v Morrissey court case. This represents a full 10 per cent of the singer’s life story, but it provides the reader with arguably the greatest, most revealing and painful insight into his peculiar psychology. The drummer is renamed “Joyce Iscariot” while Judge John Weeks is transformed into an almost mythological figure of imagined malevolence in Morrissey’s partisan recounting.
The story gets brighter at the end, with its vainglorious list of adoring actors and touring triumphs. “It is quite true that I have never had anything in my life that I did not make for myself,” Morrissey concludes, with hubristic effusion.
While cataloguing concert dates and chart entries, he writes like a scholarly fan, but he still has little to say about what happens after the stage lights are dimmed. “Too much happens in my life, and then months and months of nothing,” he observes, by way of excuse.
But it is precisely the so-called nothing aspect of Morrissey’s life that still intrigues, far more so than any congratulatory litany of sell-out concerts. Behind closed doors, he remains both an enigma and a blank canvas.
Autobiography by Morrissey is published by Penguin Classics, priced £8.99
Johnny Rogan has written biographies of The Smiths, Van Morrison, The Byrds and Neil Young, including Morrissey & Marr: The Severed Alliance.