There are none so blind as those who will not see.
The creative worth of Morrissey since 2004’s “You Are The Quarry” has been, increasingly, worth less…and less…and less. Only the most ardent of his disciples could argue that point and argue it they will, hailing every whimper or belch that he releases as further evidence, irrefutable evidence at that, of his genius.
The truth is though that each of the albums he has released in the years since then have been filler padded out with a little more filler and, occasionally, with one killer moment to remind you why you loved him in the first place.
I speak only of the music at this point.
The decline and fall of the artist we thought we knew.
This decline hasn’t just been in his songwriting…three quarters of “Autobiography” was turgid, nasty, mean spirited and boring. All of “List of the Lost” was utterly dreadful. Utterly. Dreadful. The ramblings of a man who hasn’t heard anyone say anything honest to him in decades. The posturing of a man who has seen his soul be consumed by his own ego.
Terribly, terribly, achingly…sad.
A while back the journalist Simon Reynolds pointed out that the font being used on some Morrissey merchandise was the same as that which was used by fascist oi band Skrewdriver. Here when we talk about fascists we are not talking about Danny Baker posting a poorly thought out Tweet…we are talking about bona fide, committed, genuine, white supremacists. The implication for Reynolds was clear…same font = same core values. I disagreed, I felt that this was stretching things more than a bit. I wrote a long, rather unlettered, article on the many pieces of evidence of Morrissey’s racism and concluded, like many cult members, that the Messiah was innocent…largely.
In recent months that position has been made to look a little, maybe more than a little, silly (at best).
There is no real need to go into the things that Morrissey has said and done of late…you can find multiple articles on the issues in every corner of the internet.
What I am interested in is what will this mean for the music of The Smiths?
Some artists flirt with the far-right and drag themselves back by blaming alcohol, drugs, a combination of the two or just being stupid and then have the willingness to apologise and move things forward…hello Bowie and Clapton. It seems highly unlikely that Morrissey will follow that path.
It is impossible to consider Morrissey apologising for anything.
His is an ego so large, a self-belief so sure and a character so lacking in humility that an apology is never going to happen. There is evidence to support this from an appearance on “Later…” where Jools Holland tells him his last appearance was X years ago which Morrissey disagrees with. The producers of the show confirm the number of years to Jools via his ear piece but Morrissey still insists that he is right, he calls over to Boz Boorer who confirms the date Holland has given and Morrissey still insists that it is he who is correct. It is terrifying to watch.
Is it possible then that the music of The Smiths will be consigned to the dustbin of history?
I thought that this could be a possibility until this happened…
It didn’t need to be.
There was hope for the songs that saved my life.
You could just get Johnny Marr, Mike Joyce, Andy Rourke and a glittering gallery of Smiths fans in pop music to play them without Morrissey and we could all just, you know, enjoy them.
Look at the reaction of the crowd to Brandon Flowers and Johnny Marr rattling through “This Charming Man” there…it’s euphoric. A field in England connecting with one of the great English bands and feeling neither baneful, racist, racial or guilty about it.
I can see it now.
The Smiths sans Morrissey and all the baggage and ugliness he would bring with him.
Brandon Flowers doing “This Charming Man” again.
Heloise Adelaide Letissier taking centre stage for “Handsome Devil”.
Noel Gallagher singing something mournful like “Last Night I Dreamt That Somebody Loved Me”.
Susan Boyle doing “There is a Light…” to a field of bemused festival goers.
You get the general idea.
Some things are worth preserving even when the person who created those things has become…troubling, troublesome and downright ugly.