Star Hits, 1985
MORRISSEY ANSWERS 20 QUESTIONS
Star Hits, 1985
Steven Morrissey was born in Manchester on May 22, 1959. He's never had a job but has written two short books, one on James Dean, and the other on the New York Dolls. In early 1982 he met guitarist Johnny Marr and they formed The Smiths. A year later Rough Trade released their first single, "Hand In Glove," an independent hit they followed up with their first chart hit, "This Charming Man". Since then Morrissey has enchanted, disturbed and annoyed with his laconically delivered lyrics, popularised bunches of flowers and being miserable and continued to indulge in his passions for Oscar Wilde, Billy Fury and Sandie Shaw.
1. Were you bullied at school?
I was never bullied at any point, I must admit. I was never picked on, never pushed around and that's that. It's not very interesting is it?
2. When did you start wearing glasses?
Seriously when I was 13. I needed to wear them much sooner but glasses had this awful thing attached to them that if you wore them you were a horrible green monster and you'd be shot in the middle of the street. So I was forced to wear them at 13 and I've stuck with them ever since.
3. What did your parents do for a living?
Very spectacular jobs. One was a librarian and one worked in a hospital. Who did what? Elizabeth, my mother, is the librarian. Peter, my father, works in the hospital. Yes we still keep in touch, every day.
4. Were you good at sport?
Miraculous. It was the only thing I was good at and I used to love it completely. The 100 metres was my raison d'être. Yes, I won everything. I was a terrible bore when it came to athletics. I was just the type of person everyone despises so I've carried on in that tradition.
5. When did you leave home?
I left spasmodically and I returned home spasmodically for years. I was never very good at it. I think the first time was when I was 17 and the last when I was 23. I just went to the usual foul, decrepit bedsits that simply crush your imagination.
6. Were you ever a punk?
Not in the traditional sense. I did like lots of it. I did see most of the important groups and I was incredibly aware at the time... but a punk as far as style goes I never was.
7. What did you want to be when you grew up?
Oh, I'm afraid I always wanted to be a librarian. To me that seemed like the perfect life: solitude; absolute silence; tall, dark libraries. But then they started to become very modern, you know, these little pre-fabs and they had no romance whatsoever. So suddenly the idea had no fascination for me. I also wanted to be what I am now, all the time, but I think when you want to sing and you want to enter popular music, you're convinced by everybody that it's an absurd notion, that it's childish, and it's a whim and it's diseased - which of course it is - and you're always badgered out of it. So I thought well, perhaps it is these things, but I'm going to try it anyway.
8. What's the worst illness you've ever had?
Probably being on the dole. I always consider that to be an absolute illness. A physical illness? I've not really had anything.
9. Do you drink or smoke?
I have spasms of wine but I don't smoke. But I'm afraid, yes, red wine occasionally.
10. Are you gay?
I feel that I am quite vulnerable and that's quite good enough because I wouldn't want to be thought of as Tarzan or Jane or whatever! I'd rather be thought of as someone quite sensitive who could understand women in a way that wasn't really sexual. I hate men who can only see women in a sexual way - to me that's criminal and I want to change that. I don't recognise such terms as heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual and I think it's important that there's someone in pop music who's like that. These words do great damage, they confuse people and they make people feel unhappy so I want to do away with them.
11. Favourite shop?
Rymans, the stationers. To me it's like a sweet shop. I go in there for hours, smelling the envelopes. As I grew up I used to love stationery and pens and booklets and binders. I can get incredibly erotic about blotting paper. So for me, going into Rymans is the most extreme sexual experience one could ever have.
12. Favourite joke?
The funniest thing - I mean I'll say this now but it won't seem the least bit funny, it'll seem completely damp - was when this famous social gadfly came up to Oscar Wilde at this celebrated event in Paris and said, "Isn't it true, Oscar, that I'm the ugliest woman in the whole of Paris?" and he said "No, my dear, you're the ugliest woman in the whole of the world" which I thought was quite funny.
13. Who does your laundry?
Me, I'm afraid. Every Friday night you'll find me leaning over the bathtub, immersed in Persil. I simply cannot go to the launderette and I don't have a washing machine and I don't have time to get one. It's quite passionately romantic leaning over the bath, scrubbing one's shirts.
14. Are you in love?
If I said no, that would seem too stark. I have to be. I think everybody has to be otherwise where do you get the energy from to go on, in life, and strive for certain things? The things that stir me are schools and buildings and I'm quite immersed in the past and in the history of this country and how things have evolved and I get quite passionate about certain people in desperate situations.
15. Are you frightened of growing old?
No, not to any degree. I was never happy when I was young so I don't equate growing old with being hysterically unhappy. To me old age doesn't mean doom, despair and defeat. There are lots of people I know in considerably advanced years that I find fascinating.
16. Do you socialise with the rest of The Smiths?
Well, I see them every single day, but we don't go out to clubs, so no, we don't socialise in that way. We haven't fallen into that throng of people who need to be seen - we're quite private in that respect.
17. Are you a socialist?
I am. I don't belong to any particular party but I were to be stripped down, as it were, I would be shoved in the socialist box. Why? Just the very obvious things of coming from a working-class background, being exposed to hardships and the reality of life. I think all socialists are absolute realists.
18. Do you believe in an after-life?
Not really. I can't think of any reason why I should. You're born, you live, you die and that's the end.
19. If you were an animal what would you be?
I'd probably be a cat, I think. Mainly because I'm very fond of them and they can lead a relatively luxurious life. They're also very independent beings - not like dogs who need persistent attention. I'd like to be an ordinary scrubber, an alley cat... no, a tabby.
20. The best thing about being a pop star?
The best thing is, one way or another, that people respect you. It just boils down to fame. No matter what you've done in the past - people will forgive you. People in the past who've spat at you are quite forgiving. It's two-faced, of course, but it gives me a great deal of satisfaction because it's an enormous sense of achievement. It can't be surpassed, really.
Morrissey On Hand In Glove
"The favourite lyric I have written appears in a song called Hand In Glove. The lines which are most precious to me are: 'The good people laugh/Yes we may be hidden by rags/But we have something they'll never have.' Which is how I felt when I couldn't afford to buy clothes and used to dress in rags but I didn't really feel mentally impoverished.
"The inspiration? Just the very idea of people putting enormous importance on what they had and how they dressed and this very materialistic sense of value which is completely redundant. It goes back to the old cliché of what one has inside is really what one is. And that was it really.
"I don't deliberately sit down to write a lyric, it just happens: a spasm that one has throughout the day. It just occurs and suddenly I have to grab a pen and write.
"I remember vividly the night I wrote Hand In Glove. It was just over a year ago. I just wanted to use the theme of complete loneliness. It was to be our first record and it was important to me that there'd be something searingly poetic in it, in a lyrical sense, and yet jubilant at the same time. Being searingly poetic and jubilant was, I always thought, quite difficult because they're two extreme emotions and I wanted to blend them together.
"I was in my room, alone, with a cassette with a guitar tune on it and I was surrounded by lots of words, and I just sat there for two hours and threw the whole thing together.
"There isn't one thing that inspires me to write, it's just being incredibly aware to almost everything in life. That's really the basis of good writing, rather than saying: 'I'm going to sit down and write a poem and at eight I'll go down to the pub.' To me that's wrong. It's like allowing writing to become a profession or a hobby. Creativity should never be stifled or scheduled.
"I get an enormous response to my lyrics and the interpretations are almost always correct, even on lines that are quite hidden. People put the most extraneous, belaboured implications on them, which I really like. People do write to me constantly, saying 'I listened to that and cried,' and to me there's no greater compliment. That's exactly what I want.
"As far as my lyrics are concerned, I'm quite convinced that I'm the only person who really puts his life completely on the line. I always felt it would be necessary to risk social and public embarrassment by saying certain things and by being unnecessarily honest. And I've always done that. I felt it was time for somebody to open their heart and say: this is how I really feel."