on 12 April 2016
It's as though Morrissey starts writing, goes on for a few badly punctuated pages, and then stops. He doesn't read what he's just written. He just starts up again at a completely different point, carries on depending on how cheesed off he's feeling about something, and then stops again. Many times Morrissey crosses the Atlantic or the Alps several times on the same page without warning. Occasionally one of his overwrought metaphors strikes you as witty, but more often there's a solecism, or twelve words when one would do. Repeat ad nauseam.
For the record Morrissey's pet peeves in order of peevedness are meat-eating, Judge John Weeks, Nigel Davis, Geoff Travis, Tony Wilson, and the NME. The hatchet jobs on Siouxie Sioux and Sandie Shaw are hilarious only because they're so bitchy. You won't learn anything about Morrissey's mental or creative processes in this book because, as becomes obvious, he doesn't actually have any. He just puts pen to paper, mouth to microphone, or glue to pictures and abandons whatever it is when he gets bored, blaming whoever he's roped in to help him when he does.
The book deteriorates into a list of tour dates and dropped names which may interest the Mozophile but nobody else.
Dirk Bogarde and Kenneth Williams were two repressed-gay English showbiz types whose writing turned out to be the best thing they ever did. Morrissey's writing might, with the help of a supremely patient editor, have turned out to be almost as entertaining, but as it is, you will find yourself skipping huge chunks of this book to get to the funny bits. And the funniest bits are all down to Morrissey's utter lack of self-awareness: "Went backstage at (insert name of festival or venue) and (Insert name of big showbiz star) ignored me completely - what a has-been they are".
on 5 December 2013
"Autobiography" by Steven Patrick Morrissey is book that many fans of this musician hardly waited, a book that doesn't disappoint, though some periods of his life weren't given quite as much attention as the reader might expect.
As probably is the case with most readers, I was attracted to this book due to the fact that I'm longtime fan of his music, especially from "The Smiths" part of his career.
Morrissey began his book with description of his childhood and youth, describing his home city Manchester and family in which he was raised, writing in a beautiful and almost lyrical way like you're reading a novel, not a true story of a man about his adolescence and growing up.
He writes in long sentences, but his thoughts are easy to understand, creating images that allow the reader to be fully immersed in action as if yourself you share a youthful days with author.
This part of book manages to explain why Morrissey became such person, giving a great insight about the pain he endured, about his obsessions and fascinations that makes his story sound completely authentic and without embellishment.
In many occasions Morrissey manages to put smile on reader's lips; even in some situations that are serious or sad he succeeds to show the funny side in his poetic writing style. Also it's interesting to see how loyal he was to his beloved and kind to people which he considered friends therefore it's not surprising how he felt stricken by their betrayal (at least in his opinion).
Though, this part of the book in which he strikes back on the people who have hurt him is not so good, even seems a bit unnecessary and if he left it out that wouldn't be reflected on the overall quality of the book.
What can be considered as a flaw is lack of space which he devoted to important part of his career when he was The Smiths front man, due to these days he gained so wide circle of fans all around the world.
Also, it would be interesting to read more about his songs, about the events and experiences that inspired him to write his popular songs together with Johnny Marr.
However, if you want to give a general evaluation of the book it's definitely worth reading, regardless of the shortcomings which if corrected would position his book in the list of the best rock autobiography ever written.
Train, heave on to Euston. Awaiting the launch of my Autobiography, Penguin Books have incarcerated me in a tawdry penthouse flat at 6 Grosvenor Square. The harsh London light through the floor-to-ceiling windows peels my eyeballs, my feet wince at the coarse touch of the cashmere and angora carpet, and as I numb the pain with a third Grey Goose, my mind drifts back to Nan's tenement at 69 Saddleworth Cuttings, Strangeways. Here, behind the rainy Salford Road, I would watch the damp grey wallpaper peeling slowly off the walls, licking my wounds after yet another day of casual brutality from the callous, sadistic teachers of Rusholme Secondary Modern, where the education was never modern, and my needs and feelings were always secondary.
The doorbell rings. Is it Jobraith? Is it The New York Dolls, on bended knee, begging me to become their lead singer? No, alas, it is the frightful and blancmange-like Debbie, my PA from Penguin, clutching an advance copy of my book. My heart sinks from wounds already inflicted and wounds still to come. Already the Penguin philistines have rejected my glamorous cover art (a black and white Alain Delon posing naked over Oscar Wilde's grave, drinking a glass of milk). Typical. I tear disinterestedly at the brown paper, fearing the worst. The cover is predictably a travesty. Although it mentions my name (in an insultingly small typeface) and features a dismissively small photograph of me, over 50% of the surface area is utterly wasted and makes no reference to me at all. Not one. It is yet another nail hammered through my palm by the uncaring powers that be. I disdainfully hand the feeble effort back to the vile Debbie, who understands nothing, and who still reeks of the sizzling flesh which she has oh-so-obviously been cramming into her flabby chops at - shudder- MacDonalds. The yawning grave opens its maws, awaiting me. Then I snatch the book back, and inspect the flyleaf, magnifying glass in hand. And there it is - THERE IT IS. 'The moral right of the author has been asserted'. Yet will Judge John Weeks deign to listen? Inevitably, Mick Joyce will 'assume' he is due 25% of the revenue, and justice will once again crush my limp white body beneath its cruel, remorseless wheels. And where is Johnny Marr? Nowhere to be seen, as usual, but smirking as he exits yet again through the rear door.
David Bowie says my Autobiography is 'wonderful', and for me this is the apotheosis of a journey that began amidst the slums and loafing oafs of sixties Stretford. Penguin assure me it will be Number 1 on the Amazon bestsellers chart, and yet they have made no effort to promote it, and my name is to all intents invisible in the uncaring and hostile national press. I check my computer, and then I recoil aghast. My Autobiography is Number 2, behind Sir Alex Ferguson's. Oh Manchester, Manchester, so much to answer for! At last my corpse is ready for the abattoir. Heaven knows, I'm miserable now.
on 17 July 2015
The tremulously awaited Morrissey autobiography is now with us and it’s everything you wished for and everything you feared. This is a door-stop sized dollop of full-on Moz, not ghost-written and I’d be willing to bet not even edited, a vast slab of melodramatic and self-pitying soul baring that would be almost completely preposterous and laughably self-serving if it wasn’t so saturated with wit and passion and sheer outrageous conviction. It’s pretty damn well-written too, even if the author has a somewhat cavalier approach to strict chronology (and even what tense he’s writing in) and clearly finds the notion of dividing one’s magnum opus into easily digestible chapters hopelessly pedestrian. While you sometimes find yourself craving a bit more detail on the nuts and bolts of making those extraordinary records it can’t be denied that Autobiography is several cuts above your average plodding rockstar career summary.
Or at least it is for the first half of the book. In these first 225 pages Morrissey achieves the tricky feat of tempering his relentless denouncements of the various establishment forces that he transparently feels are working round the clock to deny him fulfilment (you know, schoolteachers, record label bosses, meat eaters, people like that) with frequent flashes of self-deprecatory humour and turns of phrases that bolster his reputation as one of the greatest of lyricists. One of his teachers will “die smelling of attics”. Another is “a sexual hoax”. The release of the first Smiths single Hand In Glove shattered their staunchly alternative label Rough Trade’s afternoons of “wok rotas, poetry workshops and Women’s Hour”. David Bowie “feeds on the blood of mammals”. It’s bracing, hilarious, fiercely non-ingratiating stuff that cedes not an inch to the many commentators who dismiss him as a one-note miserabilist and the style couldn’t be mistaken for that of another human being on the planet.
And once you’ve acclimatised yourself to the style you get quite a bit of insight into the formative years of a sensitive Mancunian lad raised in the 1960s within an extended Irish family dominated by doughty women. If the young Mozzer’s chief sources of misery were school and the brutal attitudes of teachers and would-be teenage gang leaders alike his salvations were television, books and particularly 45 rpm records, which he collected and studied obsessively. Later he would fall under the spell of The New York Dolls, Jobriath and other strange, sexually ambiguous acts on the margins of rock music, but his tentative attempts to establish himself as either writer or singer didn’t come to much until Johnny Marr came knocking on his door in the early 80s. Morrissey conjures the whirl and creative flood of the early days of the group he’ll always be best remembered for with rare economy and flair: “The Smiths’ sound rockets with meteoric progression; bomb-burst drumming, explosive chords, combative bass-lines, and over it all I am as free as a hawk to paint the canvas as I wish.” Autobiography captures the emotional highs and lows of the band’s stormy five-year lifespan brilliantly even if it leaves it up to the reader to remember or research some of the prosaic discographic facts (anyone wanting a more objective summary of these years is hereby directed to Tony Fletcher’s excellent A Light That Never Goes Out).
After the group breaks up however the book becomes considerably less essential as Morrissey’s sense of being wronged by the world in general and by a long list of former collaborators, judges and media figures in particular starts to colour everything. It’s still a more or less entertaining read but the dramatic tension is gone with the narrative flitting around between perceived slights that people have made against Moz’s character and, fatally, a fifty page account of the court action initiated by Smiths drummer Mike Joyce in pursuit of what he claimed was his fair share of The Smiths’ earnings that ends with judge John Weeks finding against the singer and branding him “devious, truculent and unreliable.” Morrissey does not like this one little bit and goes into obsessive, nit-picking detail about the spuriousness of Joyce’s case, repeating himself and restating his unimpeachable arguments over and over and over again. Sometimes, the reader is forced to conclude, it’s better to just let something go.
To be fair though, the book is not all Morrissey railing at the world. There are some unexpectedly tender passages scattered here and there amongst all the disappointment and bile. The singer pays moving tribute to the much missed Kirsty MacColl and several other prematurely deceased friends such as producer Mick Ronson, manager Nigel Thomas and video director Tim Broad, and is constant in his devotion to members of his family. There are also one or two accounts of Moz helping injured and distressed birds and animals, another constituency that he’s always been a fearless defender of.
But in the end you can’t help feeling that the book, despite delivering a surface punch as powerful and witty as anyone could have hoped for, has missed its mark ever so slightly. It’s a shame, because without the court case section and with some judicious trimming and collation of the isolated, loosely strung-together events and impressions that make up the back end of the book Autobiography would have been a genuine instant Penguin Classic, worthy of the imprint that Moz insisted on as part of the publishing deal. As it is, it’s closer to something like The Kenneth Williams Diaries – an insight into a unique and unmistakable British recording artist who’s as incapable of mellowing with age as a neglected stub of camembert at the back of the fridge.
on 26 March 2014
I don’t read books all that often because I’m usually too busy, but I was genuinely interested in reading this so I asked the other half to get it for me for Christmas.
It’s taken me three months to read, mainly because I’ve read it exclusively on the bog and there’s only so much time I can spend on there before she sends out a search party for me.
Now I must confess to being a massive fan of The Smiths - I don’t listen to them all that often but I do keep going back every now and again. Therefore, it was something of a disappointment that there wasn’t really much in here about their explosion onto the British music scene in the 1980s.
Instead, what you get is Morrissey carping on about being hard done to, how he wished they had been more mainstream etc.
This is pretty much the theme of the book - he moans about people close to him dying, he moans about Mike Joyce’s lawsuit against him (a lot), he moans about Judge John Weeks, who presided over the matter in court.
He moans about him being misrepresented in the national and music press (with some justification, it has to be said), he moans about people who eat meat.
Amongst all of this moaning there exists a man who essentially finds the world and the majority of those within it tiresome, unless they are hero-worshipping him.
Being a Film and Media Studies graduate I find his musings on popular culture quite interesting, and very accurate.
Maybe he would have been better writing a precis of his thoughts on popular culture, because as it is this book is a pretty arduous read, particularly when he keeps returning to the Joyce/Weeks/Marr axis when you think (hope) that he’s done with it.
He doesn’t really talk about his sexuality, which I suspect is what a lot of readers of his book would be quite intrigued at. Instead, he teases and hints at relationships with both men and women, but I rather suspect that he is essentially asexual and rather more interested in finding a companionship which he doesn’t find tiresome and irritating.
I’m glad I read it, because there is some interesting quotes and one or two remotely amusing anecdotes, but if you expect to get an insight into the true character of Morrissey, you’ll probably be disappointed as Autobiography is actually rather predictable and therefore a bit dull.
There is a moment in his autobiography where Morrissey complains about the disappointment of his lunches with surviving members of the New York Dolls. They aren't at all interested in him, don't want to talk about the things that fascinate him about the Dolls and are just not the people that existed in his mind; a perfect allegory for this hugely disappointing and woefully undisciplined book that is still as compelling as lunch with David Johansen probably is.
It turns out that Morrissey doesn't want to talk about what interests me. His relationship with his father, the meaning behind his lyrics, how the songs were composed, walking out on the David Bowie tour, playing with three fifths of the ex Smiths at Wolverhampton whilst 2 were suing him, the Jonny Rogan biography, none of that gets a mention. Because Morrissey wants to slag off Geoff Travis and Judge John Weeks for page after page after page. He even repeats the same insults (seriously, get an editor!).
He also wants to slate most of the people he has worked with, obsess over chart positions and generally blame every record company and manager he has worked with for anything that has gone wrong in his adult life. I can't help thinking that the thing all these people have in common is Morrissey. Reading the excellent Mozipedia reveals several other collaborators unnamed in Autobiography who had to take legal action against him after his mother called them to say that they would not be getting paid... I digress.
This book confirms that Morrissey is just not the person he is in my head. I had guessed as much, but the person that emerges from Autobiography is not one that I warmed to at all. He's funny. He loves pop music and films. He truly cares about animals on a global and personal level and talks extensively about the inhumanity of the human race and feminism. This is the Morrissey I hoped for. But the book displays a woeful lack of self awareness. He seems to completely lack in empathy for individuals however noble his more grand universal sentiments about suffering might be. He uses the N word on a very shaking context along with some pretty sexist language (calling the other 3 Smiths "girls" when describing the court case among other things). he also uses some grim metaphors to describe female genitalia and dismisses people based on their appearance on most pages. It's a vulgar picture which says nothing to me about my life (and if you thought that was bad wait until you read some of his own lyrical insertions). But the clincher for me was his moaning about an accountant who wouldn't help him get a managers £250K back from their grieving family after a deal went wrong following the man's sudden death.
I considered myself a big Morrissey fan, I've lost count of how many books I've read about him so I shouldn't have been too surprised. Especially as this book is very constant with his dire blog postings on Truetoyou.net On reflection I believe I've been making excuses for Morrissey for years, at least since You Are the Quarry. I've tried to like the last 3 overwhelming mediocre albums and clung to the rare moments of inspiration. There are rare moments of inspiration in Autobiography too and I found it an addictive read. But Morrissey has warn out my good will this time and I left the book considering myself a former fan. In that regard it was a powerful experience, but not the one I wanted - like a bad lunch date with the late Arthur Kane? Quite possibly.
A thoroughly enjoyable read from start to finish. Morrissey has his own style of writing, and as with his speaking he gets straight to the point and says it as it is - no going around the houses or beating about the bush here. Combine this style of writing with interesting topics and a genuine author and you have a book that is absorbing and hard to put down.
The autobiography (naturally) starts with his childhood. His schooldays with it's sadistic and twisted teachers, and the dark austere times of growing up in 60's/70's Manchester. The teenage years reveal Morrissey's love of music, which clearly served as an escape from the pain-ridden surroundings that he found himself in. Being of a similar age as Morrissey I particularly found interest in the music of the time that he was picking up on, and the bands that took his interest (and possibly providing influence for later years); he was a big New York Dolls fan. This section of the book is full of interest, as well as great little anecdotes - like obtaining autographs of famous people, and his experience on the set of Coronation Street.
Next up are The Smiths days. The beginnings of the Morrissey/Marr partnership. How it all got started with Rough Trade. The recordings, the touring, the press, the record companies, and much information about what really went on behind the scenes - and the truth can only be known from the 'horse's mouth.' I for one was unaware of the extent that Morrissey had to endure regarding the legalities of The Smiths, and how he and Marr were 'stitched up' by the music-biz. And worse was later to come, with the ex Smiths saga. The details of what happened in Court and the behaviour of the Solicitors and Judges was no surprise to me. They are the despicable face of modern (and old) England, and Morrissey is someone in the public eye rare enough to see through it and brave enough to speak up about it. Naturally, this corrupt and unjust 'System' was always going to lay into him and hang him out to dry - and it surely did. The gutter press is also touched upon here. Whatever has happened in the past though, Morrissey comes out the winner in my eyes. He has his dignity and self-respect as a human being, and his talent will always be there. A successful solo career and a top selling book proves this - Morrissey prevails in the end.
The last part of the book covers the Morrissey years (as opposed to The Smiths). The years on the road touring, the fanatical fans and the gigs that have been lodged in his memory. He mentions his time in L.A, his love of Scandinavia, and his affinity with his Mexican fans. It's a successful time for Morrissey, both on the road and commercially (despite the anti media), and it is here that he seems most contented - "Yet the cost of such a life had led me to return in triumph, even if it would only be the sort of gift that God would give to someone whom he knew had suffered."
I loved Morrissey's book from start to finish. I found it absorbing and well written. Full of great factual content and peppered with interesting little anecdotes concerning the famous - i.e.: Bowie, Siouxsie, Charles Hawtrey, Alan Bennett, Mick Ronson, (the family of) James Dean, Ron Mael, Eric Cantona, Nancy Sinatra, Peter Wyndgarde, Dirk Bogarde, Kirsty McColl, Chrissie Hynde, etc, etc. And it's peppered with the thought provoking statements that you would expect form Morrissey - "There are more stolen goods in either Buckingham Palace or the British Museum than the Mexican poor could ever get their hands on. Yet, the people of Mexico are largely unable to move or to progress, and although their toil and labor has built most of America, modern America does its utmost to keep them from joining in." The tale of the event on the Moors on a dark and misty night is a delightful addition.
I admire Morrissey, both as an artist and as a person. This may be due to the fact that I agree with absolutely everything that he says. It's so refreshing to hear someone famous use their voice to say something meaningful, worthwhile, and truthful - to see it as it is and to say it as it is. Whether it be about corrupt politicians, the repulsive and obnoxiousness of Royalty, or the despicable treatment of animals and the hypocrites who say they 'love animals' yet are happy to cause their suffering, torture, and death by living off their corpses. Morrissey will always have the establishment against him because he reveals the truth, and for most the truth is better kept hidden or ignored. But thankfully more and more people are seeing through the 'garbage' that is inherent in our Society and the World in general. And our Society and the World desperately needs people like Morrissey now.
on 9 December 2013
Opinions on Morrissey tend to be black or white. People either love him, startlingly so in many cases, or hate him. I used to be a massive fan but owing to two concerts where his prima-donna behaviour really annoyed me (walking off after 7 minutes in one of them) and hearing his rants at predictable targets, I have grown tired of him. This, I feel, makes me pretty neutral when it comes to reviewing his autobiography.
I bought this thinking he would display a usage of words that would make this different from other books even if it did little to repair his image in my eyes. The language is certainly what you would expect. He writes well of his upbringing in impoverished Manchester. You can see the inspiration for his songs, particularly 'The Headmaster Ritual' and the television of the day is well covered. Poetry's influence is covered, perhaps a little too much for my liking but I have to accept its impact on his style.
We move all too quickly through the 5 years of The Smiths complete with familiar tales of artists not being top of the list of those making money from their efforts. As we move into his solo career (some of the lower points being skimmed over and deservedly so) the court case with Joyce and Rourke takes up almost as much space as the band's career did. Here, we have to take Morrissey's word for what happened but it makes for an incredible judgement if this is precisely how it happened.
That part is (understandably) a bit ranty and this book also includes a few unnecessary barbs at the Royal family. I'm not disagreeing with his assessment of Sarah Ferguson but didn't feel it belonged in his autobiography. Fortunately, such intrusions are short.
The closing part of the book (not chapters - there aren't any) details experiences of his tours and maybe meanders a little. However, this book is well written, save for having adopted American spellings, and is as self-deprecating as you would expect. The fact that I made time to read this rather than just snatching a bit of time at the end of the day shows that it is far from boring as some of the one-star reviews would tell you. 4.75/5
on 13 January 2014
He's the only pop star who my heart still beats a little bit strangely for, so a read of this was inevitable. The wish is that he'd been guided to elaborating the first third, an absorbing impressionistic swipe around his childhood and Manchester full of tantalising anecdotal nuggets, then the Smiths as the great leap free, and that would have done: instead the group is tied up and abandoned in about thirty pages, and then after a little solo life we're into the Court Case, where the writing slumps and it's a bit like peering through the blinds of a Dickensian studio where a gibbering old man fling documents in the air and says, Look, I was right, look, I was right, over and over again. Then it's a final 100 or so pages about audience love on endless tours and that's it. You can see why the court thing obsesses him - having escaped his uniformed comprehensive inferno, suddenly, there he is, back in the schoolmasterish world of British justice, being smacked down by Authority yet again. But it's hard to understand why a wealthy and intelligent man couldn't get decent legal representation and appears to be left floundering with an elusive bunch of half-wits. The big gap is a glimpse of the engine room where the Morrissey/Marr chemistry took fire and blazed down the building: the creative process is hard to describe, but if that's what makes certain lives worth living, then for god's sake, at least have a go. It could really have been worthy of its publishing house; but, as it is, not quite.
on 4 October 2014
I enjoyed it. Initially I had chosen not to read this book because I am a huge fan of the Smiths and Morrissey and sensed my opinion of him would lessen on reading it since he is prone to bragging and making pretentious remarks. I did however enjoy it. It is witty for the most part and the writing is good enough, i felt, to keep you reading even though it does ramble, as i recall, from the account of the acrimonious court case to the end (of the book).
Coverage of the court case in the book by Moz is just ridiculous. We all know he felt hard done by but there is no need to go on about it. To be honest it's probably the best example in the book of Moz's self-indulgent, self-pitiful mentality but, hey, there would be no Smiths without it! It's just strange i find that, all these years later, after so much success and vindication of his talents which kept him aloof in his youth, he still feels the need to go on about how special he is. Yes Moz you are special and brilliant but keep it to yourself treasure..... on reflection i am reminded of a lyric of his:
"such things i do, to make myself attractive to you, have i failed?"
and the answer to that, after reading the autobiography, would have to be....er, kind of yes and no (as always)