“Everyday Is Like Sunday”: Growing Up Irish In An English World

[photo credit: David Martínez]

From rumor to reality, the Smiths’ former frontman has recently released his long-awaited autobiography. However, unlike many other rock stars who bequeathed their enduring fans the story of their lives, Morrissey takes sole credit for the narratives contained between the covers bearing his name. As such, it often exhibits the characteristics of an imagination that has spent a lifetime composing lyrics, inspired by life and imagination, as opposed to marshaling archival sources into an historical discourse. More Lord Byron than Edward Gibbon, if Byron were working-class Irish growing up in Manchester, Morrissey evokes a nonlinear array of early memories, impressions really, of his childhood. Always the odd one out, Stephen Patrick Morrissey was a sensitive kid, though frequently a bit too clever for his mates. At this stage of the book, which is bereft of chapters, Morrissey recalls a child’s life in which clocks and calendars have yet to rule the day, instead only the natural rhythms of home, school, and play matter. Eventually, as Morrissey matures, his narratives become more aware of time and place, particularly as he discovers the music of his generation. Whether he’s waxing poetic in his adulation for Patti Smith or relishing every chord played and lyric sung by the New York Dolls, complete with insights into the Sex Pistols and the Ramones, Morrissey emerges as not only a true lover of music but also as a very gifted music historian, much of which is based on personal experience. With respect to the Smiths, Morrissey displays an unexpected candor in his criticism of the band’s first album, even as he admires his bandmates’ copious talent, especially guitarist Johnny Marr. Some may regard his remarks about the music industry, including those who should have been concerned with the band’s best interest, such as Rough Trade and Sire Records, as classic sour grapes. Others will find the anecdotes intriguing, as Morrissey recounts a touring life that was often anything but glamorous, while appreciating Morrissey and Marr’s ever growing musical maturity, replete with memorable hooks and provocative lyrics. Who else, other than maybe the Sex Pistols, would dare title an album ‘The Queen Is Dead’ for the UK market? In any case, Morrissey doesn’t hold back at making it clear that “fame, fame, fatal fame” doesn’t guarantee happiness. In fact, although the end of the Smiths’ recording career is portrayed as a non-event, a kind of mutual understanding between band members, the subsequent antagonism is purely the result aging egos not necessarily aging well, as Morrissey’s solo career took off, leaving the others, even Marr to a certain extent, in the shadows of times past. With respect to the latter, if I have one criticism of this book, it’s the fact that a little too much time is spent picking apart the legal case that former bandmates, Andy Rourke and Mike Joyce, brought against Morrissey and Marr over a royalties dispute. Indeed, the critique of the proceedings becomes a bit much when Morrissey begins going page by page, tearing apart all of the the inconsistencies, unanswered questions, and absurdities recorded in official court documents. He’s more sharp, not to mention concise, in his opprobrium for NME magazine, in particular a certain unnamed editor who clearly had it out for the Smiths and especially Morrissey from the beginning. While Morrissey never loses his wit, nor his humanity, despite all he’s endured, it goes without saying that the best parts of this book are about the music; from teenage nouveau to lyrical frontman and onward to seasoned singer and raconteur, Morrissey will forever be remembered for the sarcastic charm that begot everything from “Bigmouth Strikes Again” to “Suedehead.”

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