TamTam Books News

Thursday, June 03, 2004:

For the last twenty years or so, I have been a fan of Morrissey’s music – but even more of a fan of Morrissey’s aesthetic and passion. Without a doubt he is one of the more interesting pop figures in the last two decades. Through him and his culture I discovered Billy Fury, The Kray twins, British gay icons that are famous and not famous, and also a fresh look at bands that I love such as the New York Dolls. The only cultural obsession that I can possibly share with Morrissey that he might be impressed with is that I actually saw Jobriath (obscure glam rock figure) at the Troubodour in the 70’s!

In the current London Time Out there is an interview between Morrissey and one of my favorite crime writers Jake Arnott. He wrote this magnificent novel on 60’s British crime world that features a Kray or two plus Joe Meek called "The Long Firm."

I got the following interview from MorrisseyTour.com that in turn got it from Time Out. Whew! It is also the most interesting interview with Morrissey I have read so far. I think because of the questions by Arnott - who shares a certain aesthetic with Mr. Morrissey.

Following the interview is Morrissey’s commentary on this year’s Meltdown Festival – a program that he personally put together. Sparks, New York Dolls, Jane Birkin, etc. What more can one ask for!

Time Out
June 02, 2004
SECTION: Pg. 10 11 12

by: Jake Arnott

When we asked our guest editor, novelist Jake Arnott, whom he would like to interview for this special issue on dissidents and renegades, there was little hesitation: it had to be Morrissey, 'one of the last true voices of dissent'.Here's what happened when the music-loving crime writer met the 'novelist who simply sings'.

The original location for the photo-shoot was the disused tube station at Aldwych, but Morrissey wanted to take us somewhere else as well. He had discovered the English Martyrs' Club the night before while strolling around theback streets of the East End. This wonderful setting, a working men's club attached to a beautifully decorated Catholic church, seemed so apt to his creative spirit that one could easily imagine it appearing out of nowhere, like the visitation of the Grail Castle on the patient Elect, ready to claim him as its patron saint. A soul of the anti-establishment and one of the last true voices of dissent in popular culture, Morrissey is the perfect subject for interview in this issue of Time Out . It was St Patrick's Day, and I was just lucky enough to be in the right place in the right time.

And maybe I got him on a good day, but I encountered none of his supposed 'difficult' behaviour. Instead I found him to be demonstratively courteous, withan old-school politeness. Sharp, quick-witted, arch even, but not a man who would ever be rude by mistake. His poetic precision with language is, I have to admit, pretty daunting. And his generosity in conversation soon leaves one in his debt. 'Questions will spill out of you like hot wax, ' he declared encouragingly as I fumbled with my notes at the start of the interview, giving me an image of eloquence that I couldn't possibly live up to.

He remains a provocative figure, a refusenik of the first order and a much needed antidote to a mindless celebrity culture. Impossible to pin down but always worth listening to.

JAKE ARNOTT: I suppose a good place to start, and it's quite a romantic notion, is a return from exile.

MORRISSEY: Well, I would maintain that I haven't been anywhere. I maintain that the world has been in exile or somewhere else. I haven't been anywhere, honestly. I've just lived life in the same old mundane way as ever. So I'm not really returning to anything.

So maybe it's England and London that are returning to you.

Do you feel like that? You have a great new album, you're doing Meltdown in Juneand it seems everybody loves you again.

Well, it will pass I'm sure, but for now that certainly seems to be the case. I'm very thankful and, yes, as you spotted today, this love affair which I've denied with this city, is really slapping me about the face and demanding a response from me.

The album has a lot about national identity and your lovehate relationship with that.

It's not quite love-hate, but it is trying to understand it and trying to explain it. As you know it's very difficult to explain But everybody wants an explanation.

And I live to give explanations for some utterly obscure reason.

Maybe you do that through contradiction. The track that comes to mind is 'Irish Blood, English Heart'. Of course, it's St Patrick's Day today. That famous British saint who civilised the Irish.

Not much evidence of that really, is there?

Laughs Will you be celebrating St Patrick's this evening?

Oh, quietly in my heart, yes. I won't be hanging from the balcony singing Gaelicsea-shanties, much as I'd like to.

There's a lot of Catholicism in the album as well, no?

I'm terrified of Catholic guilt. If you're a Catholic, it naturally follows. There's no other emotion.

Well, in some ways it's great in that it makes things more intense. But is thereredemption?

Is there? I don't think so.

We were just at the English Martyrs' Club which I think you should join immediately do you identify with that?

I do indeed. I've never felt like a standard pop artist or pop singer. I've always felt I'm a novelist who simply sings. And so therefore there's no category for me really, and I'm delighted by that.

Do you think that you've done penance?

Laughs For myself and many others.

Certainly for many others, I think. Do you think that your Catholic 'sensibility' a dreadful word to use, but I have has communicated itself to your Mexican fanbase? Do you think they get that?

They must do or they wouldn't be around, but I cease to question what they see or what they hear or what they feel from me. I'm just delighted that they feel something, but I don't really know what it is. I assume it's the romantic heart and the spinning of emotions. It's unexpected and I never assume that people like me because of the way I look. I've always assumed that there has to be something else, some dark river flowing beneath their desire.

But maybe this is because what comes with martyrdom is mortification of the flesh. The 'self-deprecating bones and skin' that you talk of on the album, thatsounds like mortification.

Laughs Well I only laugh because I'm always amused when I hear someone else recite my lyrics. I don't know why, I don't know why. Well, why are you a novelist?

Me? Well, it was out of a sense of desperation. I always wanted to write, but ittook me such a long time.

A long time to actually write a novel that got rejected. Then I wrote another one that didn't get rejected, and in this long process I became a sort of novelist and I'm trapped with that now.

And are there any modern novelists you care for particularly?

Patrick Hamilton, Graham Greene. Kurt Vonnegut, actually, because he's so precise and minimal and easy to read. But you say you felt you were a novelist?

Yes, but the only problem I had was I didn't actually write novels.

But the writing that is, of course, a very profound aspect of your work.

Well, everything I want to say can be said within a song, and that's much more powerful than a novel I'm sorry!

No, you're absolutely right.

And you don't have to worry too much about narrative or any of those crafty things.

Well, you have to in a sense because you want to be memorable in a brief amount of time. You want to write something that's reasonably timeless, something that can't date, and you only really have two minutes, 35 seconds.

There are quite a lot of literary echoes.

I felt the need to take all the things and all the people I loved along with me somehow. I've always considered pop music to be powerful and yet somehow lackingin intellect. I thought making the effort to combine the two would be interesting for so many people. I don't think people really want simplistic pop songs. I think people really want to use their brains if they can.

Can I ask you about 'The First of the Gang to Die'?

What attracts you to the gang?

Envy really, because when I was young I wasn't part of one. I wanted to be. It strikes me as a completely satisfactory pastime to be a member of a gang becausethe great lure of violence and living life in the swill bucket is fascinating tome the cut and thrust of life.

There's a girl gang in the album as well, isn't there? In 'All the Lazy Dykes'.

Yes, certainly, but within the song a very happy and fulfilled one.

Was it something you saw?

It was. The Palms mentioned in the song is a club near where I live. I've never been in there, but the clientele are always spilling out on to the street. Really fantastically strong women. Absolutely breathtaking, the opposite end to the soft, fluffy glamour that's so familiar to us. And I just think that such women are absolutely fascinating. And they look as if they'd kick you to death in an instant, but they may have reason to.

I'm going to quote one of your lines again.

Well, I'll giggle again.

On 'The World Is Full of Crashing Bores' you refer to 'the lockjawed popstars, thicker than pig shit.'

The way you say it, it has more meaning.

Laughs But since the world has been in exile from Morrissey, that has sort of been on the increase Suffocatingly on the increase. Depressingly so, and it's easy to criticise those people but they're not the problem. It really is the record companies who want to make money quickly with people who won't ask for a proper wage and who are just delighted and thrilled to be somewhere they should never have been. It's the obsession with celebrity for absolutely no reason, just being known for being known and not really having anything to offer the world of celebrity or the world of music. It's just good enough to be there and be seen, it validates your basic existence somehow. Am I wrong there?

No, no. I'm just thinking about it. In a way people have always wanted to be famous.

But not for no reason.


I mean if it was tied into an end but, no, it absolutely seems to be for no reason and it's very respectable to be filmed on television while you're practising. So it's self-obsession.

But is it obsession with the self? There doesn't seem to be much self there.

Ah, well, yes, but you see, the lock-jawed pop stars who are thicker than pig shit they think there is.

In 'Let Me Kiss You' you talk about finding a place in the sun.

Do you feel you have found a place in the sun?

Well, I didn't literally mean sitting in a sunspot with a hanky on your head. I mean you've found a comfortable place to be, and within the song it's a reflection of the desired other.

Which of course, me being me, doesn't really conclude well.

It's an illusion.

But the place in the sun in terms of location, do you think that has had an effect as well?

I reached a time where I wanted to create some distance between me and the past,and occasionally you have to go and live somewhere else. So, the sun, in the literal sense, is in Los Angeles all the time. It can make you expand, make you more physical and I have never been a physical person before because I was very much of the North of England. I was born in rain, raised in rain and I didn't find shelter until I was 15, so I was soaked for those first 15 years! So, Los Angeles has been quite it's quite like being stretched on the rack.

And did you want to, did you suddenly think: I just want to get out of England?

I did. And as you know, when you are physically in Los Angeles, you can't quite picture and imagine what is going on at the same time in England because it is light years away.

And that's quite invigorating for the brain. So, I wanted to be away and I admitit's gone on longer than I expected.

Do you think you might come back?

Big sigh and pause What would I do with the houseplants? What would I do with the I mean, I'm so rooted there Really?

Yeah but the answer is yes. Yes. A major part of me is always dark and slightlyunhappy and that has no part in the glittering beams of Beverly Hills.

But there's also the political side. In 'America Is Not the World' you express your love for America at the same time as a profound disquiet about the country.

Well the political system in this country is quite similar now. I never see myself reflected in any political debate at all and I don't think I ever will.

But you still have a voice of dissent?

I prefer to think of it as a voice of reason.

Morrissey explains his Meltdown

Time Out
June 02, 2004

HEADLINE: Meltdown 2004 Morrissey explains what's on and why.; THE KNOWLEDGE
Sparks, Royal Festival Hall 'In 1974 the whirling rhythms of "Kimono My House" by Sparks completely stopped me in my tracks. Russell, I thought, had the most beautiful female voice in pop music, and Ron was and still is like an abandoned ventriloquist's doll. Lines such as "You mentioned Kant and I was shocked/Because where I come from none of the girls have such foul tongues" were, to me, magnificently funny. Mind you, I was quite ill at the time.'

Loudon Wainwright III + Damien Dempsey, Queen Elizabeth Hall 'Loudon Wainwright is an honoured guest, and Damien Dempsey has a better voice and better songs than the artists he looks up to.'

The Films of Bob Gruen, QEH 'The films of Bob Gruen are from that early '70s New York period of the Dolls and Jobriath so scorned by the industry at the time, and now, exciting because they show how it is only the artists who push and risk who change anything for the better.'

JUNE 16, 18
The New York Dolls + James Maker with Noko 440, RFH 'I've magnified the importance of The New York Dolls since I was a small, fat, dull child, and it isn't possible to say too much about them. The songs were great and still are, and David Johansen looks and sounds better than ever. Yes, we all wish Johnny Thunders and Jerry Nolan were still around, but they're not. I think they'd be happy to know how The Dolls are still loved.'

Alan Bennett, QEH 'All praise for Alan Bennett is useless he is beyond all review and beyond analysis by dull people like me. He is a non-stop genius and Iam proud to have swept his backyard.'

JUNE 17-19
Ennio Marchetto, Purcell Room 'Ennio Marchetto is a great stylist, and his show is like a riddle being unravelled
very clever, very funny, and 100 per cent original.'

Jane Birkin 'Arabesque' + Ari Up + James Maker with Noko 440, RFH 'Jane Birkin is a leaf on a tree in a storm. Ari Up has, I think, remained her true self. TheSlits were about the shock of selfrecognition. As a meagre fan, I would've loved four, five or six albums instead of just the one. The new songs of James Make rare powerful instruments. He's been through Raymonde in the '80s and RPLA in the'90s but has never been better than he is now. He isn't like anybody else and prefers to be categorised as something for which there is, as yet, no name. Brilliant, funny, and like an enchanting blow to the lower belly.'

Nancy Sinatra + Linder, RFH 'The songs of Nancy Sinatra are full of heart. She has a timeless style and nothing ever dates it.
This will be her first live appearance on a British stage.

Linder is Ann-Margret on her motorcycle 10km outside St Tropez. Everything shesings about is by way of a last word sensual and robust.' JUNE 23, 24 Lypsinka! The Boxed Set, QEH 'Lypsinka is a character created by John Epperson, who is from the American South and who lives in New York City. Lypsinka is a creature in human form, perilously funny and impeccably staged like Jean Arthur resisting arrest. You will instinctively try to pull your chair nearer tothe stage. A genius.'

Gene, QEH 'The press have always compared Gene to The Smiths to the point of dulling boredom, but there is so much more to be said about them that is never said. I saw them live in Los Angeles three or four years ago and the audience screamed hysterically throughout. These things matter.'

The Cockney Rejects supporting Morrissey, RFH 'The Cockney Rejects were Liam and Noel before Liam and Noel were Liam and Noel. I never quite understood what their politics were meant to be I've always seen them as just a great pop bandwith great singles. I hope they play the old tunes of glory.'

Tosh // 9:40 AM

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