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Autobiography

by Morrissey

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5632334,855 (3.63)20
Covers Morrissey's life from his birth until the present day.
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English (22)  Swedish (1)  All languages (23)
Showing 1-5 of 22 (next | show all)
I am so excited for this, you don't even know. ( )
  briggio | Mar 1, 2022 |
Bumped this up to four because 1) there isn't a way to give a half star, and 2) it made me laugh (his dark humour, not his woe-is-me life) - but the lack of paragraphs make for a painful read.... ( )
  georgeybataille | Jun 1, 2021 |
"I am no more unhappy than anyone else, and most humans are wretched creatures - cursed by the sadness of being. The world created me and I am here - never realizing that I am in love until it gets me into trouble."

It took me an embarrassingly long time to finally dive into beloved Morrissey's elegant, measured prose, yet here I am, humbled by the way he's walked right up to the microphone and named all the things he loves and all the things he loathes.
In my eyes, he's always been a sensitive soul struggling to keep his basic humanity intact in a world (a pigsty) where you can be stripped of it at every corner. Constantly in the public spotlight, crucified by the media countless times, lately dismissed as that washed out old singer who hates everybody, misquoted, misunderstood, maladjusted - but no attacks on his character seem to be able to extinguish his spirit, and boy, are we glad!
The book spans from his formative years, tortured youth, through the rise and fall of The Smiths, his going solo and all the way to the beyond, where we now stand. Some of the highlights it covers are his early musical influences, his friendships with kind and interesting people, the infamous court process that marked his life so and of which he speaks with lingering bitterness that can only be the bitterness of sincerity, the glory and gore of The Smiths years, and the passion and dedication which have transformed him into a living legend.
He speaks of his idols and influences with heartwarming admiration and familiarity , and this might be the moment to mention that if I were to draw up a similar list, his name would be at the very top. He had me at first with his lyrics and his voice, and later on with his wit, bluntness, love for Wilde, vegetarianism, unwillingness to interact with people who didn't make him comfortable...a kindred soul, the gentle hand that rocks the cradle as you drift into sleep in the dead of yet another lonely night.

Far from putting him on a pedestal and unreservedly believing everything he's said or sung, I appreciate how human and real he is, take it or leave it. If you don't like me, then don't look at me. Nobody asked you to buy that disc, get that tattoo, scratch that name on your arm with a fountain pen, put up that poster, splash out on that concert ticket. Those who do, however, are a congregation, a community drawn together by love, connected through music, a mosaic of worshiping faces that brings Moz himself down on his knees with disbelief.
Don't expect to skim the book for any juicy details or sudden revelations regarding his private life that have somehow slipped under your radar over the years. This is not that kind of book, nor was it written by that kind of man. Who Morrissey chooses to share his bed with has always been and will always be none of our business. And yet, there is a lesson to be learned from his words far, far more important than any simple-minded gossip: this book, just like his life, is about love: the search for it, the giving and receiving of it, and finding it in the most unexpected places, such as a particularly emotion-charged note or an audience member's scream. It is also about having your face dragged in fifteen miles of shit, and triumphing nevertheless. And I'm not talking about slander here, or any of the smaller or larger scandals that have turned listening to Morrissey into a political act. I'm talking about facing the world and all its gloom and doom, the passing of time and all of its sickening crimes, not hanging yourself over every pale day, doing your best and not worrying.

This, to me, is this extraordinary man's ultimate message: there is evil and stupidity and ignorance and intolerance and sorrow and misery all around us, there's no denying it. But there's also so much beauty and love and kindness and truth, if you can take them when offered and give them whenever you're able to. Taking and giving. The ultimate beauty and love and truth? Music.

"It is the song of the unresolved heart, and is so disconnected with sorrow that the sorrow turns in on itself and becomes triumph." ( )
  ViktorijaB93 | Apr 10, 2020 |
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 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.

On Thatcher:

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. ( )
  pivic | Mar 23, 2020 |
What can what say about Morrissey that somebody hasn't already told the tabloids of the United Kingdom? Nothing that's what, and its all lies anyway.

Poor Morrissey.

This is another one I wish I had kept scribbled notes of while I was reading it, it was such a laugh-out-loud read, and that's a good thing. Whether it is Morrissey's forever deteriorating relationship with Siouxie Sioux, or the bitter bile of Top of the Pops, again, disappointing him, there is no end to his misery or our enjoyment as readers.

My manager loaned this to me, because he knew about my fondness for The Smiths, but don't read this if they are all you want to know more about. If possible, though, read this with a friend nearby, because Morrissey's phrasing needs to be shared. Otherwise you'll just have a bunch of strangers looking at you funny. ( )
  ManWithAnAgenda | Feb 18, 2019 |
Showing 1-5 of 22 (next | show all)
It is a shame that not more moments occur in "Autobiography". As a lyricist Mr Morrissey was keen to point to his flaws—to portray himself as a “bigmouth” or to sing of unrequited, disappointed love. Such self-deprecation made him endearing. It also prevented anyone from being able to quite copy the style that made The Smiths so good. This is not the case with “Autobiography”, which seems crippled by self-consciousness yet lacking self-awareness. Unfortunately Mr Morrissey has made himself easy to parody.
 
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My childhood is streets upon streets upon streets upon streets.
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Covers Morrissey's life from his birth until the present day.

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