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Meetings with Morrissey Paperback – 5 May 2009
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Brown lifts the lid on one of the most individual performers we have today - from Morrissey's sexuality to what still drives him. Often biographies don't tell us anything new - this is an exception. Fans will love this insight into Morrissey. --The Sun newspaper September 2008
Now my head is full As a man whose meeting with Morrissey, both formal and informal, stretch back to being the first to interview the solo Moz in 1988, and on into 2003 and his pre-You Are The Quarry resurgence, Brown has more credentials than most to hurl a book about Steven Patrick out into the market. A self-confessed Smiths diehard, he also avoids turning this into some fawning Mozfather love-in.
It's not quite bursting with unprinted interviews. Most of the text re-tells the story, with Brown's own personal experiences (of Morrissey and other events in his life) adding colour, turning these memoirs-cum- biography into a hugely enjoyable read. What we get is a portrait of a man who, to reference Oscar Wilde as Brown does, has turned his life into a work of art.
Brown takes Moz's declaration that "everything's linked, everybody takes from the artists they love" as a manifesto, tracing Morrissey's story through his literature, British film/TV and female pop influences. Ultimately (and sometimes wearily overbearingly so), it leads right back to Wilde, Morrissey's biggest love. The final chapter, tying up all the influences and parallels between the artists' lives, might get a bit much, mind. Without being brainsizzlingly new, Brown's turned out a very fair, even-handed account that happily gets you running back to those records to play detective yourself. --Unknown
There is much to enjoy here; the interview material is sparkling and Brown's extrapolations on the figures who populate Morrissey's imagination, from the obvious (Oscar Wilde, James Dean) to the more obscure (TV's pioneering camp hairdresser Raymond 'Teasy-Weasy' Bessone) show an impressive grasp of Mozza arcana...one of the better books on the man who has claimed onstage to be Stinky Turner, Stan Ogden and 'Bruce Springroll'. --Unknown
About the Author
As well as having been involved in the making of numerous documentary programmes for television, mostly on music, Len Brown was a staff journalist on the New Musical Express in the Eighties and early Nineties. He has also written for Spin USA, Vox, The Guardian, The Observer, The Independent, South Shields Gazette and The East End News.
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Having now finished reading `Meetings with' I can honestly say that I found it quite a let down. The problem as I see it is that Brown has attempted to construct a biography of sorts but he fails to address any aspects of Morrissey's personal life which is frankly pretty crucial in any biography. Also, the analysis and exploration of Morrissey's work and career is not consistent. Some albums such as `Southpaw' and `Maladjusted' are given around only half a page each. Even his more commercially favoured albums, though given a little more attention, are skipped over with little detail in my opinion.
Where it does work of course is in allowing us fuller transcripts of the interviews undertaken with Morrissey over the last 25 years or so. As I've said elsewhere Morrissey gives great interview so these sections are pretty valuable. Also, unique to this Morrissey book, Brown does explore Morrissey's influences with significant focus, notably Wilde, which is very enlightening.
Brown and Morrissey have endured a 'friendship' of sorts over the years and this unfortunately is another difficulty. The book makes very little criticism of Morrissey and even I, as a longstanding fan, know that there is scope for constructive negative comment in the man's career.
Overall it's worth reading for the interviews but Rogan's seminal `Morrissey and Marr' still remains the biography of choice alongside Simpson's intelligent and very witty `St Morrissey' study.
There are a couple of pesky insects in the ointment however:
1. Len spends far too much time detailing the Oscar Wilde connection and at one point in the final chapter almost seems to infer that Moz may be a reincarnated Wilde; comparing timelines and commen events in their lives. Note: He doesn't come out and say it so perhaps I am reading too much into it.
2. I was expecting more actual interviews, more transcribed conversations. Instead there was a fair amount of interviews padded out by album reviews etc. Still it was a good read and I especially liked the interviews with Stephen Street.
I didn't mind Len's dragging his own life into the story as it made the book more human. Also, Len's intelligent approach and research helped greatly in explaining Morrissey's fascination with books, film, plays and music and how they have influenced him (as detailed in the appendix on 'Morrissey's People'). Morrissey's deep interest in death and suicide is not news to the serious fan but on a few occasions in the book he mentions cases where people have killed themselves after their mother died (e.g. Jimmy Clitheroe). Let's hope this is not an idea floating around the back of Moz's mind.
As a result of Brown's deep, deep knowledge of the star through his meetings he falls into two unfortunate pitfalls that demerit the book. Firstly, Brown devotes too much time to the study of Oscar Wilde's influence on Morrissey. Anyone who knows even a small bit of trivia about the singer will know how immensely influential the Irish literary figure has been on his song-writing and career. Brown begins to repeat specific facts about Wilde over and over, certain dates, places and even an entire chapter that concern Wilde make for frustrating reading as Brown veers too far away from the books main subject. Secondly, Brown places too much of his own life into the book, while some readers may find this helpful and endearing of the writer I personally felt that it became as though Brown was almost willing Morrissey's life and his own to be intertwined to a much greater degree than they really are. One can appreciate that since the book is based on Brown's meetings with Morrissey that the author understandably makes himself present within the pages of the book, however, facts about his life- such as his brothers death, his employment, etc- seem superfluous. As a slight aside, his undying support, approval and joy at almost everything the singer does can be nauseating at times.
As I stated initally, this book is recommended reading to any fledgling fans of Morrissey who wish to learn more about the star, also, hardcore fans may find something new about their hero that they didn't already know. My advice would be to purchase this book if you are a Morrissey fan at any level, because if you aren't completely satisfied with Brown's interviews with Morrissey you can always stand to learn more about Oscar Wilde or Len Brown himself.
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Although some of the passages are illuminating and show Morrissey tantalisingly...Read more