LETTER FROM NYC: SING YOUR NON-LIFE, column
Melody Maker, September 19th 1992
By Simon Reynolds
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
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.
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.
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."