Morrissey's "Autobiography" Reviewed
I’ve read three rock star autobiographies where the writers voice is unmistakably the musician’s voice, Chuck Berry’, Bob Dylan and now Morrissey. More than Keith Richards or Pete Townshend’s these three books are inseparable from their authors. But that means they can feel a little incomplete.
Morrissey’s “Autobiography” is one part tour journal, one part seismic personal history and two parts score settling. I worship it but even I have to wonder why Moz chose not to explain the Smiths with anything approaching thoroughness with which he took us through the court case in which Marr and Moz lost 25% of his loyalties to the dreaded Mike Joyce.
While the autobiography is roughly speaking chronological, Moz’s attention is always equal. The opening chapters, detailing his childhood where he was raised as an essential cipher in the brittle biting backstopping poverty soaked ultra violent world of Irish Catholics in Manchester in the 1960s and early 1970s. This is the best writing in the book, a poetic prosaic vision of hell for children and so important if you care for Moz because if nothing else it builds up the bricks of the stone faced and paranoid in the face of success Moz . Right through High School, Morrissey’s only consistent is a world that has nop interest in him and as he gets thrown out of job after job reaching his nadir working at a hospital where his job was to shake the human flesh remains off surgeous gowns.
Meanwhile, music was saving his life and from 1960s pop to 1970s glam and Moz, who wanted to be a rock critic at one point, is superb in writing about his heroes, especially the New York Dolls, especially the way rock saved him from himself.
There is no place this autobiography doesn’t work for me, I enjoy the writing all the way through , but the pages from his tour journal are just weird as they take up up the bio for pages of playing in Rio De Janeiro and the outpouring of love so unlike the love in his own life. These are obviously diary stuff from life on the road
While Morrissey doesn’t shroud his personal life in mystery, he is about as forthcoming about it as he is about the Marr-Mozz partnership which, I dunno, he doesn’t really dig down deep enough, and you know he would if he wanted. As far as I can tell, he had exactly one sexual experience in his life, with Jake Walters.
More fun are the brushes with greatness which often end with Morrissey humiliated; though he gets the horrible in person Siouxsie Sue just about right and his stories about Chrissie Hynde are perfect. Best of all is his tribute to the late and much lamented Kirsty MacColl. In Moz’s world celebrities either (more or less):
1. Those who don’t know who he is.
2. Those who don’t like him
There are a lot of them the pride of place goes to Charlie Hawltry who simply put the phone down on him. But this is the only time when I managed to contact somebody else, someone I trust, for their take on a situation with Morrissey and, and I’m assuming this is true throughout the book, Moz omits parts of the story he doesn’t want to discuss.
So break it down:
1. Early years.
2. Music Reviews
3. The Smiths
4. Post Smiths success
5. The court case
And a great many deaths in between, the saddest being that of his Auntie Ruth where Moz finally outs himself as an agnostic. The book ends with a close to happy Moz performing the world with a close knit backing band.
Moz mixes intense ego with unconsolable self doubt. In his mind, even in his 50s, he seems to see himself as one of the victims of the Manchester Moors murderer Myra Hindley, running in the dark as horrors come out at him from every direction. At least aesthetically, that’s the heart of the matter for the man: he is what he was, he sees real terror in death and real horror on the Moors and on the dark streets of Manchester and he can’t get out.
You know, you read a bio and you expect the writer to place order on his life and Morrissey tries to a little, but he can’t manage it because he is still terrified of dying, of rejection, because he feels superior and inferior. He constantly bottles himself into an exclamation,no one ever came him anything (not true, Marr saved him) and he gave everybody everything. It makes for a strange sad tale, a tale which seems blanketed by his inability to find joy in anything but performing on stage: as though the only love he believes in is mass adulation.
Well, who needs a happy Morrissey any way? And at least “Autobiography” does one thing it should: it sounds like him.