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
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
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.