Paddy English man (Part 2)

 

Fired up now, Morrissey keeps the momentum going when talk turns to his biographer, Johnny Rogan, who in 1995 published a "controversial" Smiths biography called The Severed Alliance, which according to Q magazine is "one of the best books about music ever written". Rogan is now working on Volume 2 - an in-depth look at Morrissey's solo career. "The intrusion is difficult for my family, especially his investigation of the family history. I was completely raised by my mother's family - I don't know if that is the Irish way - but Rogan in his book wrote as if I was raised by my father's side and he spoke to people I hadn't seen since 1972. My personal history is the Dwyer (his mother's maiden name) family, not actually the Morrissey family. So that was the main thing I objected to, not his Smiths investigations which was just gossip and speaking to sound-men and people on the periphery. But the family history, I was very annoyed by that."

In an interview with this journalist after the book was published, Rogan claimed Morrissey was stage-managing the book from behind the scenes and used his friend Vinni Reilly as an intermediary. "That's incredible. That's the most incredible nonsense I've ever heard. I did say to people `what's his agenda?' and `what's he like?' and people say, well, he loves you. But that frightens me, what he said to you. I had nothing at all to do with the book in any capacity and I spoke to absolutely nobody about the book. Yes, I believe he's now working on Volume 2. I believe he's ransacking my dustbin for clues to lesbianism." Ever thought of writing an autobiography? "Yes, and I have started it. There are so many points to settle. I just don't think it would ever make the shelves - there'd be writs flying all over the place. There are so many things that I have never stated. The Morrissey story is still a half untold story. Even though I've had acres and acres of press over the years, there's still a great deal I want to say."

He has been a solo artist twice as long as he was a Smith. Why does he continue? "The reason I was born was to sing last night in Milan on that stage in front of those people. That really is all there is. I'm very pleased to still be a a part of it. As long as I can do it without looking too dreadful, I will want to do it."

BUT he already has the respect and his legacy is intact? "Well that's just it, I don't think I have the respect. You will fossilise before you ever see me on MTV. I'm sitting here in front of you today without a record deal. I'm not desperate and I can still pull an audience, without any support from anybody. But that's always been the way. Everything I've done is in spite of a million handicaps, in spite of a million critics.

"Although I have a very dedicated audience, the drawback is you also inspire extreme dedication among your critics and detractors. And they well always be there." Are you in danger of turning into a character from Sunset Boulevard? "Well, you should be quite happy, because I already am."

The curious thing about Morrissey's current Oye Esteban (Hey, Steven) tour around Europe and the US is that he's doing it without any "product" to sell (there is no new album, yet - although he did play a few tracks from it in Milan, including a song called Women Don't Seem To Like Me"), and he's doing it without any tour support because he has no record label. You wouldn't find M People playing for the sake of playing. He's also bringing unsigned Dublin indie band, Sack, around with him as the opening act.

"I've always been independent in the true sense of the word and I shall remain so. I've never been part of anything. I've never belonged to anything. Even when The Smiths were doing Top Of The Pops we felt like outsiders. It doesn't matter that I've been on EMI, Mercury or RCA, I've always maintained the true spirit that I feel.

"I feel quite sad for younger groups now. I have met with record company people and they will tell you quite openly that they are not interested in your career, just in what you sell. You are product. It seems now that younger bands have to sell so many copies of their first album if they want to get on. It's all regardless of talent. Sack, who are on this tour with me, have no record deal. When I heard a song of theirs called Laughter Lines I was just staggered by it. It should be No 1 forever." Similarly, he seems to be reacting against received wisdom in the places he is visiting on his Irish tour. "Yes, we're playing Derry. When was the last time Elton John did that? We were never able to play Derry with The Smiths, it will be very interesting. I never believe in taking the easy option and just playing a big city so that people from everywhere have to travel to see you.

"These days promoters only want you to play Dublin - they don't send you to Galway, Cork and Limerick. They say that if you really insist on going to these places that `nobody will turn up' and `there are no people there'. This is what Irish promoters say to me. But I'm still a stickler. I remember The Smiths going to places like Letterkenny and Coleraine and the crowds were fantastic."

Like the character in the Beckett play who opines: "Perhaps my best years are gone, but I wouldn't want them back, not with the fire in me now", Morrissey has plenty of the Promethean purpose blazing away in his belly. And have the best years gone? Certainly solo work like Everyday is Like Sunday, Late Night Maudlin Street, most of Your Arsenal and all of Vauxhall And I exceeds what he accomplished with Maher, Joyce and Rourke and as a live act he remains as dynamic as ever.

He's not going away, you know: "I remember buying David Bowie's Starman when it was No 42 in the charts and that was a truly extraordinary time for me. I was falling in love with the potency of the pop moment. That's why I am here. That's why I am involved in music, because the pop moment in my life was the only thing that ever spoke to me.

"Yes, there is literature and art, but pop music is a combination of literature, art, the photography, the words, the music, hearing the words sang, seeing the performance.

"Growing up in an Irish family in industrial Manchester, there was no colour, it was incredibly negative. I wanted to know about A.E. Houseman and Oscar Wilde. But I was only exposed to violence and embarrassment. Pop music saved me."

Morrissey plays the Rialto Theatre, Derry on Wednesday; The Ulster Hall, Belfast on Thursday; the Black Box, Galway on Saturday, November 27th; the University Concert Hall, Limerick on Sunday, 28th; the Opera House, Cork on Tuesday 30th; and the National Concert Hall, Dublin on Wednesday December 1st and Thursday 2nd