When you see an idol falter, you want to carry its wings and see it through. I was even prepared to give Morrissey a free pass here, based on my loveWhen you see an idol falter, you want to carry its wings and see it through. I was even prepared to give Morrissey a free pass here, based on my love for his lyrics and even for the semi-flawed last part of his otherwise brilliant "Autobiography". So, what did we face from this book?
Many reviewers seem to avoid the fact that Morrissey has actually written a couple of short books before having his autobiography published. This, however, is his first non-lyrical, fictional offering to the world.
The start was promising. A gang of men, runners all, are described using various inflections and rhymes, recalling William Faulkner and dadaistic poets, as dialogue is spurted out. Sentences like the following are often found:
Surrounded by women, some mechanically minded, some badly made-up, and all envious of one another, the boys had heartily gnawed at their iron bars and unwisely allowed alcohol a free dash at their brains because things overall mattered a little less since their track timings were now a bed of roses and their overall fitness boomed good times ahead, and what harm would a little devilment do?
To me, the first half of the book seemed more like an attempt to use clever wordplay to parlay Morrissey's own views of the world, by generally rephrasing his thoughts on murdering animals, on judges, on women, et cetera, rather than making a book come together.
In my view, the most obvious problem with this book, is that the author has simply not learned to write as a professional, and it shows, both in style and editing. Even though sentences and stanzas are beautiful to read and will be long-lasting, the book does not hold up as a whole, which pains me to say. Where Morrissey single-handedly revived lyrical writing where the whole musical universe is concerned, and made his autobiography light up the literary world some (where musical artists' autobiographies are concerned, especially), this tome is cracked.
I feel that Morrissey has tried hard to write this, while acting complacently and lacklustre with parts that clearly did require fierce editing prior to publication. He introduces the book by thanking his editor, who also edited "Autobiography", but I would like to hold her - and Penguin - to the wall for this.
So, how about that writing?
At the start of the book, Morrissey veers between describing the youthful men and their physical apotheosis, and also poetically describes the inevitable human physical downfall:
Look at them now in their manful splendor and wonder how it is that they could possibly part this earth in dirt, as creased corpses, falling back as the skeletons that we already are, yet hidden behind musculature that will fall in time at life’s finishing line.
It is certainly something to dwell excitedly within a body that fully and proudly shows whatever the person is, since we all, for the most part, struggle in haunted fashion, unaware of ourselves as flesh, looking at a future that does not show promise, or back at a past that couldn’t provide any, and permanently petrified at passing through without ever having lived.
The body is a thing only, of which we all irrationally fear … how to control, how to control … that which controls us.
Morrissey inevitably delves into gender, where men are irrevocably hailed and women are looked down upon, lost and not at all interesting, which has drawn a fair amount of criticism where writers feel Morrissey is a misogynist. The Daily Beast's article about this, titelled "Morrissey’s First Novel ‘List of the Lost’ Is a Bizarre, Misogynistic Ramble", makes valid points. Even though many an apologist may excuse Morrissey by saying he has simply painted a portrait where the characters of his book think and say these things, the fact remains, that men are intricately looked into, where women are frowned upon in a variety of disdainful ways. Examples of this:
Although the publicly confessed lust of the man must always be made to seem ridiculous and prepubescent, the lust of the woman is at first childlike and desperate – as if they know there is something about which they know nothing, and this itch takes on the aggressive – which almost never works.
Women are less of a mystery because their methods and bodies have been over-sold, whereas the male body speaks as the voice calls a halt.
Of Margaret Thatcher:
I hate womb-men like that…they just can’t wait to be one of the boys…and just watch, if she becomes prime minister she won’t hire any women into her government. Why do I even care? I mean, just look at her face.
There are some beautiful one-liners found throughout the book:
Justice and the law are two entirely different things.
Unless I am with you I shall never be where I belong.
Look at the blue of the sky and tell me why you held back. Did you think there would one day be a bluer sky and a better hour?
“I thought you’d said goodbye?” said Nails, nursing his hand. “Nails. To you … someone will always be saying goodbye …” Rims threw his final dart. With that he walked away.
It is impossible for Morrissey to deviate from his own persona. As he is a staunch vegetarian, the matter of animals being slaughtered by humans pops up from time to time:
In the church of secret service known as the abattoir this is exactly what humans excitedly do to beautiful bodies of animals who were also crafted in care by some divine creationist, yet at the human hand the animals are whacked and hacked into chopped meat whilst gazing up at their protector with disbelief and pleading for a mercy not familiar to the human spirit, ground and round into hash or stew for the Big Mac pleasure of fat-podge children whose candidature for roly-poly vicious porkiness makes their plungingly plump parents laugh loudly, as little junior blubber-guts orders yet another Superburger with tub-of-guts determination to stuff death into round bellies, and such kids come to resemble their parents as ten pounds of shit in a five-pound bag.
He even gets in words about people whom he has hailed throughout his existence, e.g. Buffy Sainte-Marie and James Baldwin, paired with his hatred for the monarchy and the justice system. It could have been used better, instead of making me feel as though the book, at times, is another blog platform for Morrissey.
Some sections of the book are plainly confusing, e.g. one about former president Ronald Reagan, gender and the fictive Cartwright family:
Reagan has no time for black power, women’s rights, gay liberation, animal rights, anti-war rallies or student demonstrations. He contrasts all of the exciting changes that made America new again, and he offers old-fashioned power-politics, the type of which must always keep a profitable war on the go … everything old (including himself ) sold off like fake insurance to the all-powerful conglomerate America of Bonanza, a rich and expertly presented daily television drama where cow-rustling Ben Cartwright lives handsomely with his three sons (none of whom share one single gene, since all three are of different mothers, and, magically, all three mothers are either dead or hidden behind studio curtains).
and although deity Ben Cartwright had fathered three sons from three women who had usefully dissolved into tumbleweed, his three strapping sons themselves do not reproduce and almost never pair off for passionate romance.
And let's not miss what I think is the most written-about stanza in the whole of the book:
At this, 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 whacked and smacked its way into every muscle of Eliza’s body except for the otherwise central zone. Both fell awkwardly off the bed, each tending to their own anguish yet still laughing an impaired discomfort of giggles whilst curving into a hunched disadvantage.
Well, bulbous salutation confronted, I will choose to put the wording out of my mind for now.
All in all, this is a fairly muddled ride through Morrissey's mind, rather than through a slew of sporting men and their lives. Opportunities came knocking, were wasted yet some shimmer like diamonds in the sky....more
This marks my premier venture into the world of Lovecraft. I've been longing to read this for a while, and I was both disappointed and pleasantly surpThis marks my premier venture into the world of Lovecraft. I've been longing to read this for a while, and I was both disappointed and pleasantly surprised; the good bits are the language, which is both varied and interesting, plus the eldritch feeling that hangs o'er the entire work. The bad things, is that this is a work that feels like reading an architect magazine crossed with Edgar Allan Poe. I'm guessing Lovecraft fans may want to crucify me for that.
Still, I read an annotated version of this book; Leslie S. Klinger has done a great job with annotating both the Sherlock Holmes tales and the "Sandman" stories, the latter by Neil Gaiman, and he continues in that vein throughout this relatively short story.
A man goes to Antarctica and finds some scary stuff. There's a synopsis for you. I shan't spoil anything for you, but I think it's safe to say that the film "Alien" and "The Thing" both have been heavily inspired by this tome.
I got tired of reading a bunch of "and the spires towards the skies from the unfathomable architecture of the Old Ones from 50 million years ago are scary" stuff, almost over and over again, so that didn't scare me; however, Lovecraft's way of weaving a gloomy, haunting atmosphere at the start of this book is admirable; he almost goes deep, headlong into describing landscapes and the recurring so much that it really hits home, when he goes into the oeuvre.
All in all, not my cup of tea, and it bored the pants off me from time to time, but it was at the very least well-written with a lot of nods to different cultures. And yes, I'd pick up the annotated-by-Leslie-S.-Klinger-version if I were you....more
This is a quite the breath of air that I've been waiting for, after last reading Irvine Welsh's "Trainspotting"; Barrett seems to have his finger on tThis is a quite the breath of air that I've been waiting for, after last reading Irvine Welsh's "Trainspotting"; Barrett seems to have his finger on the pulse of everyday adventure with bored teenagers and youths, and their outlook on life, which permeates this book, a collection of short stories from the northern part of Great Britain.
My town is nowhere you have been, but you know its ilk. A roundabout off a national road, an industrial estate, a five-screen Cineplex, a century of pubs packed inside the square mile of the town’s limits. The Atlantic is near; the gnarled jawbone of the coastline with its gull-infested promontories is near. Summer evenings, and in the manure-scented pastures of the satellite parishes the Zen bovines lift their heads to contemplate the V8 howls of the boy racers tearing through the back lanes. I am young, and the young do not number many here, but it is fair to say we have the run of the place.
Boredom, violence, inner despair, bullshit and impressing girls, well, it's all here along with some stellar descriptions on how people perceive each other.
It's all everyday, of persons trying to make something out of life, almost as anti-heroes without realising they are just that.
Bat’s head hurts. He drank six beers on the roof of his house last night, which he does almost every night, now. The pain is a rooted throb, radiating outwards, like a skull-sized toothache, and his eyes mildly burn; working his contact lenses in this morning, he’d subjected his corneas to a prolonged and shaky-handed thumb-fucking. A distant, dental instrument drone fills his ears like fluid. Hangovers exacerbate Bat’s tinnitus.
Or rather, it contains a lot of great information and thought-worthy elements, but given Brand's a) ADHD way of acting outThis book is fair. Not more.
Or rather, it contains a lot of great information and thought-worthy elements, but given Brand's a) ADHD way of acting out - which I think works well in condensed textual form, or while performing stand-up - and b) how the book should have been much better edited, it's a bit of a failure.
Brand obviously caters to Noam Chomsky - whom I love - and Bill Hicks - whom I also love - but can't pull off what they brought to the table. I mean, his thoughts are interesting but not much more. I hope this book will work as a kind of trampoline for people who will reach Chomsky and Hicks because of it....more
This is an interesting autobiography by someone who's been in some really successful bands and who's now trying to sort out things. I have little doubThis is an interesting autobiography by someone who's been in some really successful bands and who's now trying to sort out things. I have little doubt that the advent of his former Joy Division/New Order band mate Peter Hook's autobiography, which was released a little earlier this year, which threw daggers at Sumner. Here, Sumner spends a good deal of time to sort that out.
At the same time, Sumner explains his growing up in Salford, Manchester, a lot. It's been really interesting to read about his upbringing and how he's handled things, including massive success.
Sumner's really self-deprecating which is funny and injects air into the story. In other words, he takes the piss out of himself which is fun.
All in all: a good read on what his life's been like so far. He seems to know that he's lucky enough to be able to support himself by creating and performing music....more
The only strange thing that I find about this book is that it's both epic and wondrous at the same time that it's extremely common and its contents peThe only strange thing that I find about this book is that it's both epic and wondrous at the same time that it's extremely common and its contents permeates the lives of everyone I know, including myself.
The trees cannot often be seen because of the forest that's there.
I started following the @EverydaySexism account on Twitter about a year ago and have learned a lot about myself, how men work and - above all - how common it is for men to discriminate against women, and to sexually attack women, verbally and physically.
It's one thing to *know* this, but it is something else to realise it; I don't think I ever will, as I was born with penis. As such, the closest that I have come to being submitted to sexual discrimination is when I've stood up against sexism at the workplace.
Having said that, women are the target of 98% of all sexual violence, all over the globe. This book displays how women are targeted daily, through snide comments, groping, getting paid lower wages than men, being subjected to a plethora of offences from the minor to the major, in ways that men rarely are subjected to, but mainly commit.
The main three things, I feel, that this book addresses, are:
1. The fact that this pandemic is true and integrated into society in so many ways 2. It shows that one is not mad for recognising it, as one is not alone; there are so many reports from persons who have been subjected to daily sexualised abuse that all the "can't you take a joke?" are truly seen as the offenders, as they should be 3. It provides hope - it looks into what can be done, what has been done and what is being done.
The book is filled with hope, even though the contents are so depressing. But rather than focusing on the victims, this book is feministic; it focuses on the fact that all guilt, all "blame", if you will, should reside with the attackers, and not the persons who are being attacked.
Everything in this book is very well explained, and there are so many examples and good things in here, that I cannot possibly do it justice in a simple review. Buy it, read it, follow the project and better yourself. The book made me want to become a better person....more
This is a collection of interviews with David Foster Wallace, which is published posthumously. DFW does these interviews either face-to-face or by e-mThis is a collection of interviews with David Foster Wallace, which is published posthumously. DFW does these interviews either face-to-face or by e-mail (which he perfers, as he refers to himself as a "five-draft man").
MILLER: What were you intending to do when you started this book?
DFW: I wanted to do something sad. I’d done some funny stuff and some heavy, intellectual stuff, but I’d never done anything sad. And I wanted it not to have a single main character. The other banality would be: I wanted to do something real American, about what it’s like to live in America around the millennium.
MILLER: And what is that like?
DFW: There’s something particularly sad about it, something that doesn’t have very much to do with physical circumstances, or the economy, or any of the stuff that gets talked about in the news. It’s more like a stomach-level sadness. I see it in myself and my friends in different ways. It manifests itself as a kind of lostness. Whether it’s unique to our generation I really don’t know.
On using pop-cultural references in his writing:
MILLER: Are you trying to find similar meanings in the pop culture material you use? That sort of thing can be seen as merely clever, or shallow.
DFW: I’ve always thought of myself as a realist. I can remember fighting with my professors about it in grad school. The world that I live in consists of 250 advertisements a day and any number of unbelievably entertaining options, most of which are subsidized by corporations that want to sell me things. The whole way that the world acts on my nerve endings is bound up with stuff that the guys with leather patches on their elbows would consider pop or trivial or ephemeral. I use a fair amount of pop stuff in my fiction, but what I mean by it is nothing different than what other people mean in writing about trees and parks and having to walk to the river to get water a 100 years ago. It’s just the texture of the world I live in.
On being furry:
DFW: I’ve never had a beard. I’ve tried periodically to grow a beard, and when it resembles, you know, the armpit of a 15-year-old girl who hasn’t shaved her armpit, I shave it off.
Q: I mean, when you have something like the oil rigs “bobbing fellatially”—
DFW: Yeah, except that’s exactly how they look. [Laughs]
Q: Do you read reviews of your work
A: It’s tempting to. It’s also tempting to try and eavesdrop on people who are talking about you and don’t think you can hear them. But you almost always get your feelings hurt if you eavesdrop like this. It’s the same way with reviews. It took me a while to figure out that reviews of my work are not for me. They’re for potential book-buyers. I have a nice tight established circle of friends and associates I can send stuff to and get honest critical response that helps me make the stuff better. By the time the stuff is published, though, anything I hear about it amounts to me eavesdropping.
And, to finish off, a quote from an interviewer to DFW:
Anyway, I remember you once actually answering your phone by saying not “Hello” but “Distract me,” which struck me as the truest way to put it—when you pick up the phone, you’re leaving the submersion of good writerly concentration.
Brown is, in my mind, a brilliant researcher whose careful writing and restrained fandom - for make no mistake, he is an ardent Morrissey fan - makes this book essential for everybody who are into Moz.
Where Morrissey's "Autobiography" delves far deeper into Morrissey's internal workings where The Smiths and his solo work is concerned (not to mention everything else that Moz writes of), Brown's second person view is required and at times questions Morrissey and his thoughts.
This book is from the start of The Smiths and ends with Morrissey's "Ringleader Of The Tormentors", and as such, it covers a lot of areas, and also manages to focus on a few subjects, e.g. the human sexuality, vegetarianism, Oscar Wilde and female artists from the 1950s.
Essential to fans, and highly recommendable to anybody who wants to read a very human account of a very accounted human; Morrissey remains the funniest star in music, ever....more
This is dry, thoughtful and very witty English humor, all packed into 107 pages where the author has treated what could easily be a very dulling subjeThis is dry, thoughtful and very witty English humor, all packed into 107 pages where the author has treated what could easily be a very dulling subject (capitalism) into paranoia and fun; weave into that what you may.
The tube stops on the Jubilee line. The speaker announces that while you shouldn't fret, capitalism has stopped working and while things sort themselves out, yes, you're stuck underground.
So people actually start talking to each other, and what commences is a whirl through modern day, people like Thatcher, Marx and Chomsky, ideas and fracas. Commendable book, I say, tut-tut....more
One of my favourite films, ever. It's possible to quote endlessly from this book, but what this screenplay does add beyond the film, are the explanatiOne of my favourite films, ever. It's possible to quote endlessly from this book, but what this screenplay does add beyond the film, are the explanations on the characters' intents, notably during the final scene. Also, Robinson's explanations of the scenes are wonderfully humorous (and tragic, put it that way). Very well worth the cash....more
One of my favourite quotes is from Zach De La Rocha, singer with Rage Against The Machine. The quote goes like this: "Your anger is a gift". Bearing tOne of my favourite quotes is from Zach De La Rocha, singer with Rage Against The Machine. The quote goes like this: "Your anger is a gift". Bearing this in mind is important while reading "Autobiography".
While some who have read this autobiography - written by one of the most important persons not only in culture but in public existence and now - seem stuck on the idea that Morrissey is nasty and a vile, damp cloth for not whitewashing things, I think he is writing what he feels, even though I'm sure that certain things in this book are debatable and arguable.
However, a nascent non-philistine will know the contents of this book for what they are: a receptacle that will live on and that has, to the best of my knowledge, yet to find its real match.
During my reading, I often found myself invigorated, filled with an urgency of life; paraphrasing and punning not the point; you will find much of that in the book, for instance, where Morrissey semi-starts, by writing of his teachers:
Miss Redmond is aging, and will never marry, and will die smelling of attics.
I won't defend Morrissey any more - which is futile, as his work speaks for itself and really needs no defense - but say this: the past is the past, and I have often read Morrissey's referrals to this book in the past, where he's been quoted by laying out the truth in his autobiography. If his troubled pre-teens were terrible, why not write about it in more than song?
I was small and I couldn’t swim, and the panicked roll to the corn-plastered depths terrified me for years after. This ringing hum of panic returned at Leaf Street Baths on our induction day, and I refused to jump into the pool. Ever-present Miss Dudley made no effort to understand the secret agony of a troubled child, and I was lifted up and thrown into the water in an act that, these days, would count as extreme physical and psychological assault.
It is not without merit that the reader may question Morrissey's sincerity, given his glamor for strong adjectives used in the prop way of a Carry On film; that's his style, not an Attenborough documentary.
Reading Morrissey's words on music at the start of his life is just heartbreaking, and something that all can relate to:
It is only the singing voice, I decide, that tells us how things became how they are, and You’ve lost that lovin’ feelin’ by the Righteous Brothers had led me to the light. In this duet between Bill and Bobby, the language of despair becomes beautiful, and the final forty-five seconds hit such call-and-respond excitement that I am now in danger of feeling too much. Bobby’s rooftop falsetto is the fire in the belly, whilst Bill’s deep-chested leveling is the full invasion. Suddenly everything else in life is in question.
There are visions of divine things: Tommy Körberg sings Judy, my friend, Matt Monro sings We’re gonna change the world and Shirley Bassey sings Let me sing and I’m happy.
His sketches on what is "male":
The masculine man hates the feminine man because soft is the enemy of hard.
My notepad resting on my lap takes the scribbles of unspoken truth: effeminate men are very witty, whereas macho men are duller than death.
The womanly David Bowie is attacked by the Daily Mirror as being ‘a disgrace’ – although how he is a disgrace, or why, is not explained.
And, of not being "male":
Female nudity is generally easy to find – if not actually unavoidable – but male nudity is still a glimpse of something that one is not meant to see. In mid-70s Manchester there must be obsessive love of vagina, otherwise your life dooms itself forever.
All the while, school exists:
St Mary’s Secondary Modern School on Renton Road in Stretford may indeed be secondary, but it is not modern.
Sealed up like an envelope, he is unable to act with kindness or humanity, for he has neither, and there is evidently nothing to humanize him. For five years I witness the monumental loneliness of Vincent Morgan as he busies himself day after day with the beatings of small boys.
Good. Wash out the old. Bring crimes to the surface. However, unlike Questlove and other autobiographers, Morrissey doesn't invite anybody else to the party; why should he?, he thinks. Well. It's Morrissey. It's his trip.
Still, there are plenty of self-critical points throughout the book, not least on a fashion tip:
T. Rex are my first concert and my dad and sister drop me off at daunting Belle Vue on June 16th 1972, watching me waddle away alone in my purple satin jacket – a sight ripe for psychiatric scrutiny.
And early bits, before personally getting to know the surviving members, decades from now, on the New York Dolls:
An even darker force controlled the personalities of the New York Dolls, who are younger than Bowie and who are more-or-less transgender in appearance. Melody Maker announces them as ‘the world’s first homosexual rock band’, which, of course, is what they are not. On face value, the Dolls are menacing rent boys who are forcing the world to deal with them. Their arms drape lovingly around one another in photographs at a time when young men are assumed to want to look like Bobby Moore, Jimmy Greaves or Terry Venables.
Morrissey writes - unsurprisingly - about liking Betjeman (the poet), but his words on Housman (another poet) made me cry. Here are some of them, but not all, and I believe they are key in providing valuable insight into Morrissey's writing:
New air is discovered in the words of A. E. Housman (1859–1936), scholar-poet, vulnerable and complex. On the day of his twelfth birthday his mother dropped dead, sealing a private future of suffering for Housman, who was said to be a complete mystery even to those who knew him. With no interest in applause or public recognition, Housman published three volumes of poetry, each one of great successful caress, each a world in itself, forcing Housman into the highest literary ranks. A stern custodian of art and life, he shunned the world and he lived a solitary existence of monastic pain, unconnected to others. The unresolved heart worked against him in life, but it connected him to the world of poetry, where he allowed (in)complete strangers under his skin.
The published poetry makes the personal torture just barely acceptable. The pain done to Housman allowed him to rise above the mediocre and to find the words that most of us need help in order to say.
It’s easy for me to imagine Housman sitting in a favorite chair by a barely flickering gas fire, the brain grinding long and hard, wanting to explain things in his own way, monumental loneliness on top of him, but with no one to tell. The written word is an attempt at completeness when there is no one impatiently awaiting you in a dimly lit bedroom – awaiting your tales of the day, as the healing hands of someone who knew turn to you and touch you, and you lose yourself so completely in another that you are momentarily delivered from yourself. Whispering across the pillow comes a kind voice that might tell you how to get out of certain difficulties, from someone who might mercifully detach you from your complications. When there is no matching of lives, and we live on a strict diet of the self, the most intimate bond can be with the words that we write:
Oh often have I washed and dressed And what’s to show for all my pain? Let me lie abed and rest: Ten thousand times I’ve done my best And all’s to do again.
I ask myself if there is an irresponsible aspect in relaying thoughts of pain as inspiration, and I wonder whether Housman actually infected the sensitives further, and pulled them back into additional darkness. Surely it is true that everything in the imagination seems worse than it actually is – especially when one is alone and horizontal (in bed, as in the coffin). Housman was always alone – thinking himself to death, with no matronly wife to signal to the watching world that Alfred Edward was now quite alright – for isn’t this at least partly the aim of scoring a partner: to trumpet the mental all-clear to a world where how things seem is far more important than how things are? Now snugly in eternity, Housman still occupies my mind. His best moments were in Art, and not in the cut and thrust of human relationships. Yet he said more about human relationships than those who managed to feast on them. You see, you can’t have it both ways.
And, naturally, words on Oscar Wilde:
As the world’s first populist figure (first pop figure), Oscar Wilde exploded with original wisdom, advocating freedom for heart and soul, and for all – regardless of how the soul swirled. He laughed at the squeezers and the benders and those born only to tell others what to do. Tellingly, a disfigured barrister and a half-wit in a wig destroyed Wilde in the end, and in doing so one lordly barrister and one lordly judge deprived the world of further works from Oscar Wilde. Solitary confinement was deemed judicially right for the man who had brought more positive change and excitement and fun to the London literary world than anyone else – dead or alive.
On finding a friend in youth, among others:
Anji’s nightly telephone calls to Kings Road are marathon, and even the most vague generalities of her day are spiced with such absurd account that the two hours kneeling in an unheated hall, ears numb and jaw aching, are always worth the labor.
At times, not for long:
‘Oh, I went to the doctor today,’ begins Anji. ‘Y-e-e-s?’ I say, impatient for Part Two. ‘He said I’ve got six weeks to live,’ she breezes, almost throwaway. I laugh because everything in Anji’s delivery is funny – and she knows it. ‘Yeah – leukemia ... hang on, there’s someone at the door ...’ Some weeks later Anji’s life has met its deadline, liberating laughter leading her every step to the grave, never losing her edge for an instant, bearing sadness with dignity, and always explaining herself so well, at peace with death as she was with life, the black earth of Haslingden entombing seventeen years of best endeavor and generosity. I see her now – peeling potatoes in the sun and laughing her head off.
On being a fan:
At last I am face to face with Marc Bolan – as his flutterers flutter about him in the lobby of the Midland Hotel in Manchester. I am nothing and look nothing. ‘Could I have your autograph?’, I ask softly. ‘Oooh, no,’ he says, and slowly walks away to nowhere –
Manchester, growing up, thinking, tormenting:
I am suddenly full of sweeping ideas that even I can barely grasp, and, although penniless, I am choked by the belief that something must happen. It is not enough just to ‘be’. I am reliant upon the postage stamp, and tactlessly revealing letters are catapulted north and south – anywhere where a considerate soul might lurk. There is such a godsend as ‘penpals’ – friends known only via letters, and these are easier to construct than any living embodiment. The lineage from Dolls to Ramones seemed like a Himalayan missionary’s trek from which a thousand lessons could be applied. But I want no more. I want it to stop now. I cannot continue as a member of the audience. If only I could forget myself I might achieve. I am crumbling from the top downwards – in mad-eyed mode, finding daylight difficult. Unemployable, my life draws in tightly. At 17 I am worn out by my own emotions, and Manchester is a barbaric place where only headless savages can survive. There is no one to take me on, and no one to bother about me. Months go on for years. I explode from intensity. I cannot cope with anything other than my inability to cope. I want to sing. I am difficult and withdrawn – a head, really, but not a body – full of passion within, but none outwardly. There are no sexual guidelines and I see myself naked only by appointment. It is simply a funnel, and there is no one around who suggests otherwise, and my mental horizons are so narrow and no soul is interested in the me that is beneath the chastity belt.
On Sparks, and upon meeting Russell Mael on one of Morrissey's US trips:
I wander into CBGBs, where I find Russell Mael, and I blush my way through a request for a photograph, and there I stand – 17, clumsy and shy, with Russell, smiling beneath the CBGBs canopy. The first five Sparks albums had been constant companions. I had first heard This town ain’t big enough for both of us as Radio One’s Record of the Week, which they played daily at around 5:15. I had no idea who Sparks were, but I thought the singer – whoever she was – had the most arresting voice I’d ever heard. In time, of course, Sparks exploded, the color of madness. Ron Mael sat at the keyboard like an abandoned ventriloquist’s doll, and brother Russell sang in French italics with the mad urgency of someone tied to a tree. It was magnificent, and the ferocious body of sound was a speedboat in overdrive. The life and death question was: what is it? As children the Mael Brothers probably slept in bunk-coffins in an unused wing of the house, playing with surgical instruments whilst other kids of Los Angeles addressed the surf. The straitjacket sound of Sparks could never be fully explained, and even now their historic place is confusing since they belong apart. Lyrically, Ron Mael is as close to Chaucer as the pop world will ever get – elevated and poetic, nine parts demon, and I am very thankful: You mentioned Kant and I was shocked ... so shocked; You know, where I come from, none of the girls have such foul tongues. The lyrics of Ron Mael and the vocal sound of Russell Mael are solid and original factors, so unique that by the very laws of existence I can hardly believe they exist. The sound registered is very tough, although the faces are fixed in imperishable marble. What are Sparks? A miracle, of sorts, and the dead child is momentarily revived.
"You’ve been waiting for your first encounter – what a let-down. I’m just finishing my first encounter – what a let-down."
Further awaiting life:
Deserts of boredom dripped by, thinly disguised as years.
Indeed, language becomes quarry where Moz is concerned:
James was one of the first people I had ever met who spoke in complete sentences, minus the ‘kind of, sort of, like, y’know, actually’ redundancies that prop up most people’s tautological cobblers. Londoners especially over-used the word ‘actually’, and usually placed it where it meant nothing.
On meeting Linder for the first time:
During the soundcheck for the Sex Pistols’ third Manchester gig I begin a conversation with Linder Sterling, who is with the group Buzzcocks. Linder is nine parts sea-creature, and alights with all of the conversational atmospherics of someone steeped in machine-gun artistry.
‘Are you still ill?’ asks Linder, as we meet our weekly meet at Kendals rooftop restaurant, and while a song is born, so too is a lifelong friendship fortified and not weakened by time.
And starting the love of a non-lifetime, The Smiths:
History had trapped me for a long time, and now it must let me go. But my time with Billy is already over. He has been lassoed into joining the excellent Theatre of Hate who are ready for Top of the Pops, and rather than bury my face in the mud I am happy for him. And history takes the strangest of turns. I return to the have-nots, with more reason to cry than anyone else on earth, but Billy has left me with a parting suggestion. He tells me of a boy called Johnny Marr, who also lives in Wythenshawe and who ‘is a much better guitarist than me’. The suggestion is thoughtful, but I am not the type to tap on people’s windows. Luckily, Johnny Marr was the type to tap on people’s windows, and Billy had also turned Johnny to face my direction.
Dispassionate and obviously mad, Margaret Thatcher is presiding over political England, raging war on the needy and praising the highborn.
More on the start of The Smiths:
There are months to follow when Johnny and I – along with Angie (Johnny’s lifelong girlfriend) – concentrate deeply on the realization of the dream. For the first time in my life the future is more important than the past. Angie’s view in 1982 (and for the next five years, at least) held a bravely impartial and apolitical quality, and she would never be of the Girlfriend Syndrome who are famously destructive of the band that causes their love life momentary pause. Angie would always be intelligently supportive and ready to block gunfire; an honorable tack far superior to the commonplace and dreaded musician-girlfriend who would habitually cause infallible destruction and petty squabbles at Thatcherite levels. I suggest to Johnny that we call ourselves the Smiths, and he agrees. Neither of us can come up with anything else. It strikes me that the Smiths name lacks any settled association on face value, yet could also suit a presentation of virtually any style of music. It sounded like a timeless name, unlikely to date, and unlikely to glue itself to come-and-go movements: it could very well be Hancock Park of 1947, or Hulme of 1968; it could be primitive or developed – the Smithy poets of bygone Russia, or the servitude of the hard-working, and so on.
On the Hate for Rough Trade boss Geoff Travis:
I foolishly looked to Geoff for an explanation when the single Panic stalled for two weeks at number 11, inching no higher even though it is generally accepted that here is the Smiths’ first unstoppable number 1. Johnny sends me a postcard yelling ‘PANIC: NUMBER ONE !!!!!!!!’, a common sentiment, yet once again, here we are, derailed by non-existent competition. Geoff leans forward and removes his glasses. ‘Do you know why Smiths singles don’t go any higher?’ I say nothing because the question is horribly rhetorical. ‘Because they’re not good enough.’ He puts his glasses back on and shrugs his shoulders. I glance around his office searching for an axe. Some murders are well worth their prison term.
Re. Linder's pregnancy:
Linder appears at Caroline Place to tell me that she is pregnant. As the full-stop locks the T in ‘pregnant’, the legs of my bent-wood chair give way and I splat onto the floor. We are both bagged. There can be no composure. Reason is lost for ten full minutes, as Linder and I are unable to look at each other, each fit dying down only to start up again with a further convulsion, and out peals laughter and tears combined. ‘Well,’ I begin, with postgraduate’s calm, and suddenly we are both deranged all over again, painful laughter now causing concern, leakage imminent, sealed-up frenzy running loose.
All in all, this autobiography is a triumph. It contains much, much more than the above, which is culled from the start of the book. I strongly recommend it to all. The only downside to the book is Morrissey's bitterness, which can also be a strength, but where it goes on for far too long, it stains; still, this is a truly epic book and should be digested by all, swallowed whole and infused forever....more
This book is great from the core and up. The structure is marvellous, the writing is, stylistically, by a master, and I didn't want to miss a paragrapThis book is great from the core and up. The structure is marvellous, the writing is, stylistically, by a master, and I didn't want to miss a paragraph. It's a horrid tale of rôles, love, hierarchies (including God), friendship and treachery. I loved it....more
When I saw Control, all those years later, I didn’t even notice it was in black and white because it was exactly what my childhood had looked and felt
When I saw Control, all those years later, I didn’t even notice it was in black and white because it was exactly what my childhood had looked and felt like: dark and smoggy and brown, the colour of a wet cardboard box, which was how all of Manchester looked in those days.
This is a seemingly honest look at how things were back in the day when Peter Hook started out in not only Joy Division, but in life. He writes about having lived in Jamaica, in Manchester and of meeting Bernard Sumner, Ian Curtis and a plethora of drummers before coming across Stephen Morris.
He writes of the good, bad old days, and not so much of the current situation - where Hook and Sumner have communication issues that prevent them from functioning together - which is good. This is after all a book on Joy Division.
Hook has done a lot of thinking, maybe not because of Curtis' death, but maybe because he has re-hashed everything now that he's no longer part of New Order.
There's a lot of piss-taking of himself here, e.g.
You know what? It was the same being in a group. Just goes to show that you can take the boy out of Salford but you can’t take Salford out of the boy, because we were terrible for nicking things in Joy Division and New Order. We used to go to these wonderful gigs with all this beautiful stuff backstage and nick it all. Now you’ve got bands like the Happy Mondays, or Oasis (in the early days), who had big scally reputations, but they had the same background as us: just working class thieves. You never had anything so you took it. Same attitude to music: you’ve got to start somewhere. The difference was that nobody expected that sort of behaviour from us in Joy Division or New Order because we had the arty intellectual image. These days I restrict it to hotels.
At the same time, it's great to see another angle of Ian Curtis, which is not the apotheosised person we often see today:
But looking back that’s exactly what he was: a people pleaser; he could be whatever you wanted him to be. A poetic, sensitive, tortured soul, the Ian Curtis of the myth – he was definitely that. But he could also be one of the lads – he was one of the lads, as far as we were concerned. That was the people pleaser in him, the mirror. He adapted the way he behaved depending on who he was with. We all do a bit, of course, but with Ian the shift was quite dramatic. Nobody was better at moving between different groups of people than he was. But I also think this was an aspect of his personality that ended up being very damaging to him. He had three personas he was trying to juggle: he had his married-man persona, at home with the wife, the laddish side and the cerebral, literary side. By the end he was juggling home life and band life, and had two women on the go. There were just too many Ians to cope with.
The book also displays what it's like being in a band, even one which has been lauded since after Curtis' death:
22 September 1978
Joy Division play the Coach House, Huddersfield. “One person turned up. It was diabolical.”
Plus some other details on other bands, e.g.:
14 November 1978
Joy Division play the Odeon, Canterbury, as part of their tour with the Rezillos and the Undertones. “The Undertones – they were so young. They’d bought an air pistol and were having target practice backstage, shooting cans off the stairs. Then someone brought in letters from home because they’d been away touring for a while, and next thing they were all crying in the dressing room reading letters off their mums. Me and Ian were looking at each other like, Aw, isn’t that sweet?”
I love the bits about how the tracks came about, e.g.:
‘Shadowplay’ happened in a similar way: Bernard had been listening to ‘Ocean’ by Velvet Underground and wanted to write a track like that, with the surf sound, a rolling feeling in it. So we started jamming and that’s how we came up with ‘Shadowplay’. You wouldn’t say it sounded anything like Velvet Underground, but once you know you can hear the root.
And a bit on how very little money was very good:
So that was two days to record Unknown Pleasures. Closer took three weeks. Movement took about two months and Waiting for the Siren’s Call, New Order’s last, took three years.
The beauty of Joy Division is that we never made much money while the band existed so there was nothing to sully it – no piles of drugs or cases of booze in the dressing room. We went everywhere in a convoy of knackered van and Steve’s Cortina and stayed with friends – no hotels for us, just the odd B&B. Even when we went to London to record Closer we stayed in a quite scruffy pair of flats with £1.50 per diem: you could spend how you wished, dinner or a couple of pints but not both. We didn’t yet have any money from the record. (Publishing, as in who wrote what in the songs, brings nearly all bands down. I remember the immortal quote from the Mondays: ‘Why is the one playing the maracas getting as much as me who writes the songs?’ Ironically Bez is now as important as all the songwriters, if not more. How the world turns.)
So how reliable is the book? Hook answers that himself, and I deem him to be quite reliable just by judging on how he writes, e.g.:
I liked Annik, though, and still do. Years later we talked about that interview she did at Dave Pils’ flat. It was featured in Control and my character’s sitting there saying dopey things about the name ‘Buzzcocks’, which I hated when I saw it. Made me look a right twat. I told Annik I would never have said anything so daft and she said to me, ‘Ah, but I have the tape, ‘Ooky, and zat is exactly what you said.’ So there you go. You shouldn’t trust a word I say.
And in ending:
But we didn’t do it the normal way, of course. We did it the Factory way. Not that I’d change anything, mind you. I’d stop Ian hanging himself, obviously. But otherwise I really wouldn’t change anything.
This is a practical guide on how to write a living eulogy of your Self, as though it is a martyr pretending to something else.
Crisp's wit and intelligThis is a practical guide on how to write a living eulogy of your Self, as though it is a martyr pretending to something else.
Crisp's wit and intelligence is his saving grace in this, his autobiography written in the middle of his life, but his despondent attitude constantly leaned me to think him a whiner. His seemingly inadvertent bravery in coming out as homosexual in the 1920s is more than remarkable, and he even stood up for in a court case where policemen accused him for attempting to prostitute himself; the case was dismissed.
Crisp's writing is at times essential and a great example of intelligence and humor intertwined, e.g.:
For about twenty years I lived in a state of intoxication with my own existence and, perhaps for that very reason, excess of alcohol was one of the extremes to which I felt no urge to fly. I asked many people why they drank so much but never received an explanation that I fully understood. It was the tales of their escapades while under the influence of drink that brought me nearest to comprehending their need for it. It seemed to give them a few hours of freedom from rates which, during the rest of their lives, they reluctantly obeyed. If this was true, then in the example of my life lay a cure for drunkenness, though it was hardly an answer which Harley Street would have approved. The prophylactic is, never to conform at all.
In short, a mostly interesting, saddening and self-made tragedy made by a man who transformed himself into a work of art and shed himself of music and love. Do see the documentary "Resident Alien" on Crisp, made as Crisp was turning 80 years of age. He moved to New York at the age of 74 and the documentary does give a few very different views on his life, at least as it was lived during the latter part, which shows this autobiography as a work of art onto itself, but knowing Crisp - and most people - how could it be anything else?...more
This is quite what the title implies: an encyclopaedia on Morrissey and his world, by journalist Simon Goddard. While the his subjective takes on whatThis is quite what the title implies: an encyclopaedia on Morrissey and his world, by journalist Simon Goddard. While the his subjective takes on what the songs are about are mostly worthless, as are his way of trying to be funny and witty - just read the end of his bit about Johnny Rogan's "The Severed Alliance" and you'll see what I mean - the real goodness in owning this book is that it serves as a collection of interesting trivia.
I'm your average trainspotter when it comes to music: things like label changes, singles, b-sides, shows, changes in lyrics are cool to me; vague, bizarre stuff about music sticks in my mind. And as Morrissey is my favourite living artist and seems to be extremely nerdy when it comes to music, he's left a legacy of borrowing elements from all types of media for his lyrics and music - for instance many a lyric he's culled off Shelagh Delaney's plays, or the music from The Cookies' "Only To Other People" for his "Girl Least Likely To" - not to mention obscure stuff like excommunicating people and leaving messages in the run-out grooves of vinyl records, his unique style and varying likes and dislikes are very much enhanced through this knowledge. If you're a music-sicko like me, that is.
I read this book from page one and forth, and as such it was beautiful to take an inner journey through Morrissey's work. For instance, reading of the workings surrounding the album "Vauxhall & I" really added depth for me, in relation to even the lyrics for the songs, those on the album, those reserved for b-sides and those discarded completely.
If the reader is a Morrissey neophyte, watch out: he has often given pretty varying accounts of events, times and likes/dislikes in the past, consciously or/and unconsciously. Hence, this feels a bit like treading water in wait for Morrissey's autobiography to drop, whenever and if-ever it will.
So, all in all, is this book worth a read? Fairly. If you're as much into minutiae regarding Morrissey and The Smiths as I am and you have a fair amount of common sense in order to try and separate gossip from fact, I'd say go for it. If you've heard "Girlfriend In A Coma" and say "Who?" when you hear the name Timi Yuro or see a picture of The Salford Lads Club, you'd probably fare better with another book....more