Messed Up Details About Morrissey

Once upon a time, being a lonely, awkward teenager meant there was one music star you projected all those angsty feelings onto. As lead singer for The Smiths, Morrissey was the guy who provided the background for a thousand coming of age tales. Witty, Wildean, and whip-thin, his was the voice of outsiders everywhere. Whether you were a melancholy kid from rural Britain or grew up in inner-city Los Angeles — where Moz has a huge cult following among Latinx communities — listening to Morrissey felt like forging a connection with someone who truly understood you.

You know that weird feeling you sometimes get when you're talking with an old friend and they drop an unexpected clanger? ("I'm a race realist these days," for example). Morrissey is that old friend on steroids. Since the heyday of The Smiths and his early solo career, the shy, awkward idol you remember has grown into the human equivalent of an industrial muck spreader, spraying a steady stream of manure every time he opens his mouth. Want to ruin your memories of adolescence? Dive on in.

Morrissey openly supports Britain's craziest far-right party

For Britain is the far-right party all other far-right parties dread inviting over for Thanksgiving dinner because they know it's gonna get tanked and say something objectionable. Founded in October 2017 as a home for those who thought the far-right UKIP was getting too mainstream, it's been described by Nigel Farage — a man who once blamed traffic congestion on immigration – as being made up of "Nazis and racists." And Morrissey supports them like they're going out of fashion.

In 2019, the singer wore a For Britain pin while performing on Fallon (via NME). When he was criticized for using his fame to promote a party that invites Holocaust deniers to speak at its conferences (via Guardian), Morrissey doubled down on his support in the most bizarre way imaginable, saying, "The UK is a dangerously hateful place now, and I think we need someone to put a stop to the lunacy and to speak for everyone. I see [For Britain leader] Anne Marie Waters as this person." Because there's nobody quite like an anti-Islam activist able to speak for everybody in a country where millions of people identify as Muslim.

Morrissey wrote the most cringe-inducing sex scene in history

Pro tip, amateur writers! Next time you read something back in a bout of self-loathing and wonder how you could've ever written anything so dreadful, just remember that there's no way your misspelled Avengers fan fiction could be anywhere near as bad as Morrissey's debut novel. List of the Lost was published hot on the heels of Morrissey's autobiography, and was widely panned as the literary equivalent of vomiting in a bucket and calling it haute cuisine (see this representative review). But it wasn't just the general awfulness of List of the Lost that caught the world's attention and made it really, really uncomfortable. Nope, it was the sex scene that did that. No mere words on the internet can do justice to Morrissey's attempts to write about sex. Much better to just let you read yourself:

"Eliza and Ezra rolled together into the one giggling snowball of full-figured copulation, screaming and shouting as they playfully bit and pulled at each other in a dangerous and clamorous rollercoaster coil of sexually violent rotation with Eliza's breasts barrel-rolled across Ezra's howling mouth and the pained frenzy of his bulbous salutation extenuating his excitement as it smacked its way into every muscle of Eliza's body except for the otherwise central zone." 

Word to the wise, kids. If your breasts ever manage to barrel-roll across someone's howling mouth, seek immediate medical attention.

That time Morrissey called the Chinese a "subspecies"

There are people in this world who love nothing more than a raw, red, dripping steak, and Morrissey is absolutely not one of them. A lifelong vegetarian, Morrissey's concerts are almost as famous for their occasional unscripted rants about meat consumption as they are for their music (see: that time he declared at Coachella "I can smell burning flesh ... and I hope to God it's human"). And that's absolutely not a problem. Loads of people would rather not eat dead animal and it would be the ultimate jerk move to rag them for it. 

But there's caring about animals, and then there's using that as cover for dropping racist bombs. In 2010, Morrissey gave an interview to the Guardian where he declared of China, "Did you see the thing on the news about their treatment of animals and animal welfare? Absolutely horrific. You can't help but feel that the Chinese are a subspecies."  

There are about a bazillion words that could've ended that sentence and not caused a media storm, from "...are institutionally cruel to animals", to "...are seriously in need of some animal welfare policies." But, no. Moz had to go with the one that reduced a entire nation to a racially-charged stereotype.

Morrissey ripped off the two less-famous members of The Smiths

The classic Smiths lineup was a four man band: Morrissey on vocals, Johnny Marr on lead guitar, Andy Rourke on bass, and Mike Joyce on drums. As is the case with just about every successful band in history, some members got super famous, and some members got stuck in their shadows. But Morrissey and Marr weren't content with just being the recognized ones. When The Smiths got big, they imposed differing salaries on each member. The TLDR version: Rourke and Joyce got ripped off bad.

The Smiths' earnings went 40 percent to Morrissey, and 40 percent to Marr, leaving the other two members scrabbling to divide the remaining 20 percent between them. While even 10 percent of a mega famous indie band's earnings is probably more money than any of us will ever see, it was still an unfair amount. Joyce even resorted to taking Morrissey to court for unpaid earnings.

You can read the appeals court's judgement online for free, and it's fascinating. Cut through the legalese and the judge essentially sided with Joyce, agreeing Morrissey and Marr ripped him and Andy Rourke off. At least Marr didn't contest the ruling. Morrissey kept right on fighting until it was crystal clear he was gonna lose.

That time Morrissey attacked Harvey Weinstein's accusers

In fall 2017, a newspaper story about Harvey Weinstein assaulting women unleashed a tsunami of accusations against the movie mogul. By November, dozens upon dozens of women had come forwards to claim Weinstein attacked them, while at the same time a number of young men were also coming forward to accuse actor Kevin Spacey of inappropriate behavior against them (in some cases while they were still underage). Come late November, #MeToo had taken off and the world was finally listening to those who'd been harassed. With one glaring exception.

That month, in an interview with Germany's Der Spiegel (via the BBC), Morrissey defended both Weinstein and Spacey and attacked their accusers. On the reports of Weinstein inviting actresses to his hotel room, where he allegedly raped several, Morrissey commented: "People know exactly what's going on, and they play along. Afterwards, they feel embarrassed or disliked. And then they turn it around and say: 'I was attacked, I was surprised'. But if everything went well, and if it had given them a great career, they would not talk about it."   

If that wasn't bad enough, he then added, presumably in reference to Spacey allegedly trying to seduce a 14-year-old, "If you go through history, almost everyone is guilty of sleeping with minors. Why not throw everyone in jail right away?"

The song Morrissey wrote about decapitating Margaret Thatcher

Despite her general international reputation, Margaret Thatcher was not a popular Prime Minister in her home country. Plenty of Brits are still incredibly divided on her premiership, to the extent that tens of thousands of people celebrated her passing by buying copies of the song "Ding Dong the Witch is Dead!" So, yeah, British people talking about Thatcher isn't usually the most politically correct conversational environment. Even so, Morrissey's contribution to the debate was a little extreme. Meaning he recorded a song when Thatcher was still alive begging her to die and pleading for her to be guillotined. 

"Margaret on the Guillotine" contains the lyrics "when will you die?" and "please die," and a call to arms for listeners to "make the dream real," i.e. to really cut off Thatcher's head. While the song is clearly just Morrissey being deliberately provocative — it appears on an album called Viva Hate for goodness' sake — there's still something kinda grim about it, especially when seen from the poisonous political climate of today. Change the name to "Hillary on the Guillotine," or imagine a pop song begging people to decapitate Trump and you'll begin to see why it's problematic.

Morrissey blamed a "black pop conspiracy" for keeping white music down

It's a well-known fact that white people in the 1980s suffered dreadful oppression. Specifically, industries like music were run exclusively for black artists, with a wide-ranging conspiracy put in place that was designed to keep whites from topping the charts. Just take a glance at the best-selling artists of the 1980s and you won't find a single white name among them: Bruce Springsteen, Sting, Bon Jovi, Meatloaf, Madonna ... need we say more?

At least, that's how the first paragraph of this slide would read in the alternate-universe novel Morrissey apparently constructed in his head. One in which Noughts and Crosses isn't a clever allegory, but a paranoid screed written by a white guy terrified of anyone a shade darker than him. In 1986, Morrissey was interviewed by Melody Maker (via the Guardian) and declared that a "black pop conspiracy" was stopping The Smiths from becoming more famous. Quoth Moz: "Obviously to get on Top of the Pops these days, one has to be, by law, black." (Again via the Guardian). Err, obviously.

While it's certainly possible to see this as a clever piece of irony from Morrissey, in context with other stuff he's said it certainly doesn't seem that way. In 1992, for example, he told Q Magazine "I don't really think, for instance, black people and white people will ever really get on or like each other." Although it's certainly possible they could all unite around the unanimous opinion that Morrissey is a prat.

Morrissey supported violence against scientists who experiment on animals

Animal testing is a really not cool thing we should all be very ashamed of. In an ideal world, we wouldn't do it all. While this isn't an ideal world, advocating a total ban is a legitimate position to take. On the other hand, advocating violence against those doing the testing, um, isn't. Care to guess which of those stances Morrissey has taken?

In the mid-2000s, the Animal Rights Militia was in the English press for conducting a campaign of terror against a farm that grew guinea pigs for animal testing. According to the Guardian, the group sent letter bombs, posted death threats, attacked homes, and even indulged in grave robbing and the desecration of a corpse to get their point across. 

When members of the group were jailed for their terror campaign, Morrissey gave an interview where he voiced support for their tactics and said he understood "why fur-farmers and so-called laboratory scientists are repaid with violence — it is because they deal in violence themselves and it's the only language they understand," (via Irish Examiner). Not long after, he told a group of laboratory workers in Oxford, "We'll get you." Because everyone knows the old saying "an eye for an eye makes the whole world a better place."

That time Morrissey compared the 2011 Norway Attacks to eating meat

On July 22, 2011, a far-right terrorist in Norway killed 77 people with a combined bomb and gun attack. As news of the massacre traveled around the world, it left mostly stunned silence and heartbreak in its wake. Those who commented on it broadly did so only to offer support and their thoughts and prayers. With one very big exception.

Onstage in Warsaw a few days later, Morrissey commented on the worst massacre on Norwegian soil since WWII by saying, "We all live in a murderous world, as the events in Norway have shown, with 97 dead [at the time, there wasn't an accurate death toll]. Though that is nothing compared to what happens in McDonald's and Kentucky Fried Sh*t every day," (via Pitchfork). He then started playing the Smiths song "Meat is Murder," just in case he hadn't yet put a fine enough point on it.

To be absolutely fair to Morrissey, he did later make a point of saying he thought the massacre was horrific. But even so, there are times when its inappropriate to compare McDonald's to far-right terrorism and one of those times is days after a far-right terrorist just slaughtered 77 people.

Morrissey claimed the reign of Queen Elizabeth II is a brutal dictatorship

Of all the hateable political figures in the world, it's hard to think of one less hateable than the Queen of England. Sure, her permanently annoyed expression is amusing, and that weird hand waving thing is kind of bizarre, but is she really as bad as, say, Muammar Gaddafi? Oh, what's that? Morrissey thinks she's on a par with the late Libyan dictator? Well, gosh. Isn't that a surprise.

The year was 2011, and Queen Elizabeth II had just undertaken a state visit to Ireland. In the magazine Hot Press (via the Guardian), Morrissey took the opportunity to explain, as he saw it, what a brutal dictatorship Queen Liz was running. "For a broad historical view of what the queen is and how she 'rules'," he wrote, "examine Gaddafi or Mubarak, and see if you can spot any difference." While it's certainly possible to imagine the dead Libyan dictator dressing up like the queen, it's less easy to imagine Elizabeth II blowing up civilian airliners, mass-executing her enemies or, say, brutally laying siege to Oxford.  

Nor was this a one-off comment. Later the same year, Morrissey called the queen the "ultimate dictator" and claimed she "would not hesitate to turn her tanks on the British people," (via NME). It's always the quiet monarchs you have to look out for.

That time a High Court judge ruled Morrissey "devious"

Many of us have the misfortune to know dreadful people, but how many of those dreadful people have a British high court ruling telling them the law considers them dreadful? Step forward, Stephen Patrick Morrissey! Back in the '90s, when Morrissey was getting sued by The Smiths' former drummer for unpaid earnings, the case wound up before the English High Court. There, Judge John Weeks delivered a verdict not just on the case itself (Morrissey lost) but also on the frontman personally. His considered opinion of Morrissey? That he's "devious, truculent, and unreliable," (via the Independent). 

During the trial, it emerged that Morrissey had forced an agreement on members Mike Joyce and Andy Rourke to only receive ten percent of profits each ... without actually telling them. When Rourke was trapped in a heroin addiction and in desperate need of cash, Morrissey then forced him to waive future claims to his fair share in return for a quick cash injection to feed his monkey (that's slang for addiction, not an actual pet monkey). Oh, plus there's the fact that when the band started Morrissey was a fully grown man of 23, while the other members were teenagers barely out of high school. If there's a better word than "devious" for describing a man who rips off teenagers for tens of thousands of dollars ... no, there isn't.  

Morrissey used civil rights imagery to hawk his merchandise

What's the first thing that pops into your mind when you hear the name James Baldwin? Is it the writer's powerful, epoch-shaking novels, like Go Tell it on the Mountain? Is it Baldwin's famous civil rights work alongside Martin Luther King Jr, and his honest recounting of his experiences of being black in mid-20th Century America? Or is it Morrissey, the guy who once claimed a "black pop conspiracy" was keeping him down, and that blacks and whites would never be able to like each other? If you've got an ego like Morrissey then the answer is apparently the latter.

In 2017, Morrissey's solo tour was accompanied by merchandise that could charitably be called "questionable." The question in point being: "Who the hell would think putting James Baldwin's face on a t-shirt under the Smiths' lyric 'I wear black on the outside, 'cause black is how I feel on the inside' was a good idea?" Yet, as the Guardian reports, that's exactly what Morrissey did. Sure, Morrissey is a big fan of Baldwin's novels and, sure, Baldwin is an icon. But reducing a civil rights hero to an image accompanying your lyrics when you're a white guy with a habit of blaming black people for oppressing you? Yeesh.