Autobiography by Morrissey

manual_9780141394817 …I am the son and the heir…

Autobiography starts with a great joke, being published as a Penguin Classic. Many have been ruffled by this: possibly they didn’t get it. Anyway, as his musical output over three decades makes clear, Morrissey can actually write. Early years are movingly handled: home, friends (limited) and education – belligerent ghouls did indeed run Manchester schools. An extended passage on the death of his relative Nannie is a thing of sad beauty: ‘Nannie’s life had modest happiness, but was largely one of struggle and self-punishment; tragic importance given to gas bills and bus fares and begging God’s pardon.’ It’s perhaps no surprise to learn that Alan Bennett regularly took tea with Morrissey. During the solo career that he says he never wanted, through the huge crowds – especially in Scandanavia and the US – Moz finds the love that had been missing. ‘I am no more unhappy than anyone else, and most humans are wretched creatures.’ Fair enough. Sandie Shaw climbs in at Morrissey’s first-floor flat window and Moz is cut off on the phone by a Carry On legend (‘I don’t blame Charles Hawtrey for finding me dull, since I, too, find me dull.’) He sees a ghost on Saddleworth Moor, he is asked to be in EastEnders, Friends – and even Emmerdale. He says Strangeways, Here We Come – by some distance the most pedestrian of the band’s albums – was the happiest of the The Smiths’ recording experiences. Perhaps there is a link. Frustratingly, we get virtually nothing about the creative process – exactly how that sequence of fabulous songs was written with Johnny Marr – and in just 70-odd pages The Smiths have been and gone. There is more than half as much on the dubious court case upheld against him and Marr for loss of earnings by drummer Mike Joyce. The reader feels Moz’s pain. The judgment seems laughable. But that is, frankly, no excuse for being boring about it. But then he rarely is elsewhere in the book. Take this, from the The Smiths’ heyday, on accepting press criticism: ‘How delightful to be thought “bad”, I muse, as I sit by a reading-light, pawing George Eliot’s Scenes of Clerical Life.’ Simply irresistible.

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