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Morrissey
Pride of Manchester's guide to...  
MORRISSEY
born Stephen Patrick Morrissey in 1959 in Davyhulme, Manchester
Biggest Hits...
Irish Blood, English Heart listen to soundbites - UK no.3 (May 2004)
You Have Killed Me listen to soundbites - UK no.3 (Apr 2006)
Suedehead listen to soundbites - UK no.5 (Jun 1988)
First Of The Gang listen to soundbites - UK no.6 (Jul 2004)
 
 
 
 
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Morrissey

Steven Patrick Morrissey was born in Davyhulme, Manchester, on 22 May 1959. Unemployed in Manchester during the late 70s, he regularly wrote letters to the music press and was eventually taken on by Record Mirror as a freelance local reviewer. During this period, he also ran a New York Dolls fan club and wrote a booklet about them. Another small illustrated volume, James Dean Is Not Dead, briefly catalogued the career of another Morrissey obsession. Two other projects, on girl groups and minor film stars, failed to reach the printed page. In the meantime, Morrissey was attempting unsuccessfully to progress as a performer.

Wit his local band, The NoseBleeds, he played a couple of gigs and failed a record company audition with a relaunched version of Slaughter And The Dogs. In 1982, he was approached by Wythenshawe guitarist Johnny Maher (later Marr) with the idea of forming a songwriting team. They soon developed into the Smiths, the most important and critically acclaimed UK band of the 80s. Morrissey's arch lyrics, powerful persona and general news worthiness made him a pop figure whose articulacy was unmatched by any of his contemporaries. By the late summer of 1987, the Smiths had disbanded, leaving Morrissey to pursue a solo career.

Early the following year he issued his first post-Smiths single, "Suedehead", with Vini Reilly (Durutti Column) filling the guitarist's spot. The track was irresistibly commercial and reached the UK Top 5. The subsequent Viva Hate hit number 1 in the UK album charts soon after, indicating a long and successful future with EMI Records. A further UK Top 10 single with the John Betjeman-influenced "Everyday Is Like Sunday" reiterated that point. In spite of his successes, Morrissey was initially keen on promoting a Smiths reunion but the closest this reached was the equivalent of a farewell concert in the unlikely setting of Wolverhampton Civic Hall. On 22 December 1988, Morrissey performed alongside former Smiths Andy Rourke, Mike Joyce and Craig Gannon for a 1,700 capacity audience, many of whom had queued for days in order to gain admittance to the venue. The following year brought several problems.

Although he continued to release strong singles such as "The Last Of The Famous International Playboys" and "Interesting Drug", both reviews and chart placings were slightly less successful than expected. By the time of "Ouija Board, Ouija Board", Morrissey suffered the most disappointing reviews of his career and, despite its charm, the single only reached number 18. Financial wrangles and management changes, which had characterized the Smiths' career, were repeated by Morrissey the soloist. A projected album, Bona Drag, was delayed and eventually cancelled, although the title served for a formidable hits and b-side compilation. In the meantime, Morrissey concentrated on the singles market, issuing some fascinating product, most notably the macabre "November Spawned A Monster" and controversial "Piccadilly Palare".

In March 1991, Morrissey issued the long-awaited Kill Uncle, a light yet not unappealing work, produced by Clive Langer and Alan Winstanley. By this time, the artist had not toured since the heyday of the Smiths, and there were some critics who wondered whether he would ever perform again. That question was answered in the summer and winter of 1991 when the singer embarked on a world tour, backed by a rockabilly band, whose raw energy and enthusiasm brought a new dimension to his recently understated studio work. The fruits of this collaboration were revealed on Your Arsenal, a neat fusion of 50s rockabilly influences and 70s glam rock.

The presence of former David Bowie acolyte Mick Ronson as producer added to its impetus. During 1992, Morrissey again hit the headlines when he issued a bitter attack on author Johnny Rogan. Prior to the publication of a book on the Smiths, which he had yet to read, Morrissey decreed: "Personally, I hope Johnny Rogan ends his days very soon in an M3 pile-up." The much-publicized and long-running dispute merely served to focus attention on the book and heighten appreciation of his Smiths work. Beethoven Was Deaf, a live album that disappeared after only two weeks in the charts, was a dismal failure. However, Morrissey was now beginning to cultivate a following in the USA substantially beyond the cult devotees who had followed the Smiths in that country.

This offered welcome succour at a time when UK critics were predicting his imminent downfall. Then came the Madstock disaster - a live appearance in support of a re-formed Madness that saw Morrissey bedecked in a Union Jack - which, when combined with song titles such as "Bengali In Platforms" and "The National Front Disco", saw a huge debate rage in the media over the artist's interpretation of "Englishness". Vauxhall And I, a chilling treatise of pained reflection proved Morrissey's most outstanding release to date, reaching number 1 in the UK. With the more sedate production of Steve Lillywhite, this was the closest the artist had come to matching his lyricism with the right material components since the Smiths. Indeed, as Select magazine decreed: "If he keeps making albums like this, you won't want the Smiths back". However, it was to be his last album with EMI/HMV Records, apart from the much-criticized compilation The World Of Morrissey.

Meanwhile, a collaboration with Siouxsie on the single "Interlude", fell outside the UK Top 20. Morrissey next moved to BMG Records as they chose to revive another old label, this time RCA-Victor Records for 1995's Southpaw Grammar. This set opened with "The Teachers Are Afraid Of The Pupils', an arresting 11-minute update to the Smiths" "The Headmaster Ritual", which placed the secondary school teacher in the role of victim. Critics were not overly impressed and the album disappeared from the play lists and people's minds after a few weeks. Morrissey made the headlines in 1997 with the long-standing court case over Mike Joyce's claim on royalties. The judge ruled against Morrissey and Marr. This must have been his absolute nadir; even his tracker-dog biographer Rogan was able to confront him at the courtrooms. Ploughing on, Morrissey released the delayed Maladjusted for new label Island Records, although he was forced to omit a track that allegedly attacked Joyce and Rourke.

 
 
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