Wednesday, March 13, 2013

LETTER FROM NYC: SING YOUR NON-LIFE, column
Melody Maker, September 19th 1992

By Simon Reynolds


Morrissey's recent flirtation with jingoism really shouldn't have been that surprising. Insularity has always been his thing, from his nostalgic resentment of foreign/futuristic influences on English culture, to his denial of the truth that "no man is an island". For me, even more revealing than the "black and white will never mix" bit in the Q interview, was Morrissey's admission that he'd taken Ecstasy, twice, and each time by himself. The first time was, apparently, the most amazing moment in his life: he looked in the mirror and saw "someone who was extremely attractive".

Now, along with freaky-dancing, E promotes empathy, tactile affection and intimacy. The idea of Mozzer using the "interesting drug" to bond more closely with himself is so tragi-comical, so perfectly attuned to his image and his pathology, it's not true. In fact, I've begun to wonder if it really isn't true, but rather a tale spun by Moz as part of a strategic policy of disinformation. Because Morrissey knows that his aesthetic, his career, his financial future, depend on the idea that he is unloveable and unloved. He has to keep on insisting that he's charmless and untouched by human hand, in order to sustain his appeal to his mostly heterosexual, love-lorn following.

These feelings were amplified when I read the US Morri-zine Sing Your Life. In North America, the Mozzer cult is bigger than ever (amazingly, these kids were hooked by the lame solo stuff rather than The Smiths), and Sing is just one of a dozen, including one computer 'zine. By far the most interesting thing about Morrissey now is the devout ardour of his fans. S.Y.L. makes it clear that their main concern is strategies for getting onstage in order to kiss and hug their idol. So there are letters from readers thanking S.Y.L. for showing that Morrissey "is not untouchable", that "with unrelenting determination, our dream will one day be realised". There are innumerable testimonials of what The Moment was like. "The most emotional scenes I have ever seen... I just wanted to stay there forever", "I saw God coming down", "a lord up there, his music savagely attacked me", "Morrissey is my life; Morrissey is my death", "the utmost feeling of ecstasy", "Morrissey makes reality seem unreal".

I could never dismiss these people as sad individuals, but their stories make me sad. I can remember living that adolescent intensity, where the love you owe yourself or other flesh-and-blood humans seems like it can only be expressed through an idol or an Ideology. For these fans, touching Morrissey is an electrifying sacrament in which all their repression and passion is orgasmically released. Reading S.Y.L., it's also clear that it's crucial for the fans to believe that Morrissey is as shy, awkward, and starved of touch as they are. What's unique about Moz is the way he's codified the themes of loneliness and fan projection in his work, and exposed the circularity and ultimate sterility of the syndrome. He must know that his teen belief that he was engaged in "an absolute tangible love affair" with his idols, leads nowhere (unless they're all supposed to become idols, with fans/phantom lovers of their own - the argument of the song "Sing Your Life"?). A Pied Piper of teen angst, he's knowingly led his fans into the cul-de-sac of loving only the pristine images of distant (or dead) icons, rather than risking the messy compromises of real-life close encounters. What makes Morrissey such an increasingly grotesque phenomeon is the age gap between idol and fans; his audience hasn't grown with him because his art hasn't grown up. Instead his flock is endlessly re-stocked with each year's harvest of sensitive souls.

You can't live 'here', and the brighter writers on Sing Your Life know it. Hagop Janoyan observes how all Moz's US fans are in their late teens, how the Smiths-era fans have moved on, and worries that he too will out-grow his ardour and become a member of "the Ordinary World". Mark Sirard writes in "The Morrissey Equation" that "it is our desire to bridge this distance that keeps us in a state of eternal attraction". Fandom is an ultra-intense state of suspension and deferral that allows the fan to live in the ideal, unrequited but thus never dis-illusioned. But to give up illusions needn't mean a come-down to banality, it can mean affirming limits and finding an object worthy of your passion. Perhaps Hagop should start a spinter zine called Start Your Life.


BONUS QUOTES FROM THE MORRISSEY INTERVIEW IN Q

On racism and multiculturalism.

"I don't want to sound horrible or pessimistic but I don't really think, for instance, black people and white people will ever really get on or like each other. I don't really think they ever will. The French will never like the English. The English will never like the French. That tunnel will collapse."

On the death of Englishness

"It's a part of my overall psyche. It's not unique to [Your Arsenal]. I supposed a few years ago I would have spoken more morosely about this great, dying tradition. Well, now it has died. This is the debris, now.... I don't want to be European. I want England to remain an island. I think part of the greatness of the past has been the fact that England has been an island. I don't want the tunnel. I don't want sterling to disappear. I don't want British newscasters to talk in American accents. I don't want continental television.

On Ecstasy

"I've taken it a couple of times. The first time I took it was the most astonishing moment of my life. Because - and I don't want to sound truly pathetic - I looked in the mirror and saw somebody very, very attractive. Now, of course, this was the delusion of the drug, and it wears off. But it was astonishing for that hour, or for however long it was, to look into the mirror and really, really like what came back at me. Now even though I had that wonderful experience, and it was a solitary experience - there was nobody else present - I'm not actually interested in drugs of any kind."

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