Sounds, April 1985
STARS IN THE BATH
Sounds, April 20th 1985
You have stars in your bath.
"They just fall off me.. ."
NOBODY TOLD me that, in the flesh, Steven Patrick Morrissey looks like Judy Garland's understudy. Nobody informed me that Steven Patrick can't quite wrap his pretty tongue around the letter 'S'. Nobody unbridled the fact that my arse was to be booted out of Steven Patrick's boudoir once the interview reached a sticky consistency.
Steven is celibate, yet Steven has a double bed. Steven isn't paranoid, yet he now has all interviews doubly recorded. Steven shrills long and loud about castrated cows and lambasted lambs, yet he confesses to finding leather seats 'highly erotic'. Steven is a funny little kettle of fish.
Why are we being recorded? What is this, the CIA or something?
"It's one of the rules of the hotel..."
Do you think you've become a professional paranoid?
"No. The only reason you say that is because The Smiths are successful. Now if The Smiths were incredibly unsuccessful, you wouldn't ask me that question. It just seems once you're elevated to the public eye... well, there's a big difference between being there and not being there."
Do you enjoy the difference?
"Most of the time yes, and some of the time no - but I'm not going to be so snotty as to make that statement."
Would you describe yourself as a mega misery guts?
"You quite like that word 'mega', don't you? It's very provincial..."
One more crack like that, and I'll put you across my knee and wallop you.
"At last! Prayers answered, prayers answered! Now, what was question 17?"
"Misery guts? Not in the least. Good heavens, no."
Why is it that you never write a song that could be described as happy?
"Do you really think that I don't? Not even with a massive stretch of the imagination? Isn't there a happiness, a certain release in actually saying things? It's like when you turn around to your best friend, and say - 'Well, actually I despise you, and I've despised you since we were in third year' - I mean, that's really a massive relief, don't you find? Turning around to your parents and saying, 'I'm not living in this dump anymore'... come on, connect the two ... get your knitting needle out!"
I wouldn't call that happiness. Smug, maybe.
"But it is! It is! It's like shedding skin! It is a form of happiness. We shouldn't think of happiness as one thing! Happiness is eating an ice cream, happiness can be Bernard Manning... it can be... an old woman falling off a donkey! I don't know, for heaven's sake, I don't know."
Are you happy?
"No. I haven't a clue why."
But you're so funny and witty and clever and charming and handsome and successful ...
"Oh come now, come now, come now - I'm melting in the chair! It's a tragedy."
What's preventing you from being happy?
"I don't know. I think it's something to do with the hormones. I haven't a clue."
Your neuroses, perhaps?
"Give me a chance to answer the question!! Good heavens, that's the first time 1've shouted since 1976. Now I've forgotten the question."
What's stopping you from being happy?
"I've been in every conceivable situation in human existence -"
Every conceivable situation in human existence? You've had group sex on a rubber mat with a bowl of custard??
"Daily. It's a terrible yawn... "
You have swung from chandeliers with black grapes in your teeth?
"I do it every February, every February..."
You have starved in a ghetto?
"I have been in almost every conceivable human situation - "
You have ridden an elephant -
"Backwards? Wearing a party hat? I've been in almost no conceivable human situation, come to think of it."
What is delicate?
"Delicate? Why do you ask me that? You're a woman of the world... "
Me? I'm provincial, remember?
"Ah - you're a woman of the world, it's written all over your face. You know what delicate means, it's what we think it would mean. Fragile."
Are you fragile?
"To a horrificalIy alarming fault. I'm hideously delicate."
You are human and need to be loved. Aren't you a mite too precious to be loved? In your present state of horrific fragility, wouldn't you break?
"Yes, I might - but it's a risk that somebody out there must take before it's too late."
Have you ever been in love?
"No, I haven't."
"Yes, I have. I was lying then. But only from an absurd distance."
But that isn't love - that's obsession.
"It - it was love... I felt it, because it was there - I squeezed the... I squeezed the - I'll find the word in a minute-"
I never squeeze it, so I don't know.
"- the aura! I felt it. Is love obsession until it becomes physical commitment? I've never had physical commitment. Oh, that sounds terrible . . ."
What a bloody fibber. I don't believe you for a minute.
"I'm allowed to lie. I've got my rights."
I hear you're fond of Valium...
"Valium? I... used to be. As a distraught 15-year-old."
"I'm not! I'm telling the hooth, the hooth, and the whole hooth. Yes... I used to. I went through those years. Life as it stood -"
It stood, but you wanted to lie down and die?
"I must make a point of doing that this afternoon."
Don't you think that your frailty has become redundant?
"Well, it always seems that way as soon as something becomes big business. How can it become redundant?"
In the same way as somebody like Prince has become nauseating in his fixation with f***ing and rubber jockstraps.
"It's not the same thing. I've never sung about a jockstrap."
But isn't the approach parallel?
"Not in the least. A jockstrap is just one thing."
Celibacy and fragility are not?
"They're a whole continent... an undiscovered continent."
So you're going to trundle out album after album about pain and vulnerability?
"Almost, but I'm not going to be quite that boring. I think, though, that people will still be fascinated by the ninth LP. Oh yes."
But your approach to music is, if you'll excuse the expression, so tight-bottomed.
"I certainly do not excuse that expression."
Don't you think you're tight-bottomed?
"Well I certainly wouldn't put it that way... I think we're very British, but that doesn't mean we're limited. I'm not influenced by the rock 'n' roll elements. I'm not inspired by Mick Jagger."
But you are! How can you say that you're not influenced by those elements when you work so hard to avoid them? If they didn't exist, would your stance be half as definite?
"Ah - I'm not influenced in a massively positive way..."
But influence isn't necessarily positive.
"Yes, but in a positive way I'm not influenced by them, so PPRRFTTT.' (Blows raspberry.) I'm influenced by people who no-one in music has ever been influenced by before."
How do you know that? Maybe they just don't go around mouthing off ...
"Right. I give in, I give in. I'm going back to bed."
Up against the wall, thanks.
No look, I know. You don't have to tell me. I'm a clever person. I've got my rights. There's a reason why I'm here. You're not going to catch me out. You're not going to trip me up. I'm genuine."
The genuine artifact?
"The genuine article."
Do you think that 'Meat Is Murder' is subconscious self-flagellation for practising or latent homosexuality?
"Never! I never think that! It's never occurred to me..."
Did you have a bad experience as a child?
"What? With meat?"(Blushes)
What do you find highly erotic at the grand old age of 25?
"Highly erotic? Mmmmm... I can't give you a satisfactory reply. I do find many things erotic, but I can't give you a satisfactory reply. As a child of the Sixties, when the seats of cars were made of leather, to me there was something highly erotic about actually being in a car. I have always found cars highly erotic - not the driver's seat ... there was just something about the old leather seats ... The things that I find erotic are certain situations. They don't even have to be particularly sexual ... I don't have to tell you. The erotic feelings I have are very conventional, I'm afraid. It's just - oh, I can't say!!!"
Yes you can. Look up.
"No, I can't! It's silly! It's silly!"
Do you get turned on by situations in which you're repressed?
"No I don't. I think I'm always 'turned on'."
I mean sexually aroused.
Why? You're lying through your teeth and we both know it.
"One has to protect oneself."
But if you have 'erotic feelings', why don't you sleep with anyone?
"Well, it just doesn't happen."
Why don't you make it happen?
"I don't want to anymore, I don't want to. I don't. No, I'm not going to instigate things anymore."
So you're telling me that if some dark man came up behind you in the hall, pulled your Marks and Spencers down and...
"I can't grasp what you're talking about!"
I'm sure you could if you tried hard enough.
"I just can't grasp it, I'm sorry."
HALF A minute later, and the Pope of Pop is conveniently removed from my vision. And only the words of Oscar Wilde come to mind: "But beauty, real beauty, ends where an intellectual expression begins. Intelligence is in itself a mode of exaggeration, and destroys the harmony of any face. The moment one sits down to think, one becomes all nose, or all forehead, or something horrid."