First of all, can we just all calm down a bit. Autobiography by former Smiths’ frontman Morrissey is, to paraphrase Scroobius Pip, just a book. It isn’t – as the Guardian suggested in a truly demented article – evidence that the people who once liked Morrissey are now running and ruining the world (although, yes, someone who admits to liking Morrissey is currently in Number 10). It isn’t Mein Kampf (itself – if you’re looking to pick arguments – just a book). What it is, first of all, is a celebrity memoir written by a celebrity. This is quite rare. So rare as to warrant comment, you would think, but I’ve not seen this point come up yet. A celebrity memoir not written by a ghost writer. This is commendable. Aghh though, the baying hordes chorus, it’s a book by Morrissey who is a twat who we all used to love but then we grew up and realised he’s a twat he’s a twat he’s a twat. There are a great many people who feel the need to advertise this opinion. Do a Google search on any Morrissey story and you’ll either see this view in the article itself or in the comments below. Morrissey is a twat and everyone who likes him is a twat and I am not a twat because I am very sensitive to twats of all types and can offer an itemised breakdown if you’d be interested. You would think that if you didn’t like Morrissey, you wouldn’t read the book. There are shelves and shelves of books in the world, a great many usually to be found at the top of the best seller lists, that I know are not for me but I rarely spend time worrying about them. I just file them under NOT FOR ME and get on with my life. Argh, these Morrissey haters say. They’re not by Morrissey though! This book is by Morrissey! It’s worse than a hate crime! And it’s been published as a Penguin Classic! Which is right up there with the invasion of Poland! How dare someone who was the frontman for a band that many people once thought were significant dare to tell people about his life! Who does he think he is?!? The temerity, the unmitigated gall! Penguin will rue the day! RUE THE DAY! Once upon a time, each side of the great pro and anti Morrissey divide would argue the finer points of whether he was or wasn’t (or is or isn’t) pointless / annoying / a racist / whatever in the letters page of the NME. These days, the arguments are a little one-sided. The haters hate. And the non-haters? Well, they buy the concert tickets and download the records and smile (or maybe even chuckle) when he has a go at the Royal Family or the Olympics or meat eaters or whatever it is. And they have probably bought this book too. Quietly, and without the need to broadcast the purchase too loudly. They have probably bought this book and smiled at the fact it’s a Penguin Classic (as good a joke as Morrissey has ever told). Later, when they got home and settled in with a cup of tea (and maybe a biscuit), they will have read about his family life, about Manchester in the 60s and 70s (which is a dark and menacing place), about his school life (also dark and menacing), about the TV and the books and the films that meant something to him, shaping his view of the world. They will have gobbled up the stories of The Smiths (and possibly wondered is that all?), and puzzled over the way in which Morrissey has put the story together, without chapters, discursively paddling from one atoll to another, like Dylan in Chronicles (Tell me you’re not comparing Morrissey to Dylan! Tell me you’re not doing that!! OH SHUT UP!), and maybe just maybe been reminded of Father Ted’s awards speech as Morrissey tells us about some person or other who did him wrong (although the rescinded invitation to have a photograph taken with Paul McCartney is hilarious). Certain people don’t come out of it as well as perhaps you think they should (Johnny Marr! For shame!) and certain issues are not confronted as sturdily as you would perhaps like (we know that the NME diddled Morrissey with all the talks of him being a racist but there are still quotes attributed to him that are troublesome and hard to digest). There are ghosts stories and court case stories (quite possibly more court case stories than you would want) together with a fair bit of perhaps surprising self-awareness. This reader came away feeling like Morrissey is a knowing eccentric, a person who recognises he can be difficult, someone who is proud of what he has done, who can recognise that not everything is as good as the best (he disses Kill Uncle, as he should, and praises Vauxhall and I, as he should) and who comes, perhaps surprisingly, or not, out of it all rather well. Are there times where he is pompous? Yes, quite possibly. Should Morrissey be singled out as the only pop star who has done or said something regrettable? Name virtually anyone – David Bowie? Lou Reed? Iggy Pop? – you can guarantee at some time they will have said or done something vaguely idiotic. It’s what comes from existing in the public eye. If you like Morrissey, it’s highly likely you’ll like this. If you don’t, if you never have, if you did for a bit but haven’t for a long time, possibly not.
Any Cop?: We liked it. We’re sorry, haters, we are. But still. We liked it. There you go.