Chris Heath, Star Hits, 1987
What a nice surprise. From what you read you could be forgiven for thinking that Morrissey, singer with The Smiths, is a rather gruff and unapproachable sod but this afternoon in his publicist's office he seems absolutely charming. Admittedly he does give me the dodgy chair ("I'll sit on the one that doesn't sway") and I have had to promise not to ask about why The Smiths guitarist Johnny Marr has just left the group and admittedly he does take great delight in saying as many catty things about me as he can during the interview ("you wouldn't know, you're a journalist") but apart from all that he's extremely friendly.
He just sips his tea, investigates thoroughly a cream puff that he's brought along, gets a little peeved when I don't realise that his rather scruffy jacket with long sleeves is actually from a very swank designer ("well over a hundred pounds") and rattles on in his peculiar swooping, rather affected voice. For some strange reason he seems to say most of his sentences twice (perhaps because he likes them so much the first time) and every now and then he starts laughing and going very bashful indeed. He also keeps tripping over his words, something that he's clearly a bit disappointed with himself for.
"I had a bad morning," he says by way of explanation. "I woke up and felt very dazed. I just had great difficulty in getting dressed. I tripped over everything. Twice."
His mood probably wasn't helped by his taxi this morning bringing him past Buckingham Palace.
"There were crowds of people - all dressed in pink - because it's the old bat's (i.e The Queen Mother's) 85th birthday today..."
You obviously keep in touch with these things.
Well yes, I do. I have a diary of Royal events I like to follow.
Did you send her anything?
Yes, a large bouquet of vegetables. I couldn't believe the number of people. If the woman had died there would have been less.
But you'd have been there then.
Yes. I'd have been hammering the nails in the coffin to make sure she was in there.
You rotter. You've been on holiday recently, haven't you?
Well. I've been away. I've been away. It wasn't really much of a holiday.
Where did you go?
I went to Los Angeles, which is in America. It was a silent holiday, a completely silent holiday. I went to a hotel, the hotel was empty. I never saw any people. It was like convalescing. I thought it would be exciting... Hollywood... all those famous stars.
It sounds like the dullest holiday ever.
Well, maybe you could match it. How was your caravan this year?
I don't have a caravan, thank you. But you used to go to America before The Smiths started, didn't you?
Yes, how did you know that? I have relatives in America. I saved up the money when I was much younger - 17 - and went for the first time. I took this awful sickening job in this horrendous office in Manchester to save up the money. It was an Inland Revenue office - I was just filing and exciting things like that.
So do you have an Auntie Joan or something in America?
Yes, though her name isn't Joan. She's called Mary.
Yes. You make it sound so glamorous! Now she lives in Colorado but then she lived in New York. She has a lot of children and she was originally from Manchester.
So you've got lots of cousins?
Yes. Yes. I get on with them quite well. I can manage courteous responses to their questions.
And what do they think of cousin Stephen?
They think he's a very "interesting" person. They listen to the records, they have the pictures. But I think they're a bit sceptical. I'm not sure.
Are your own parents living apart?
Yes. They're separated.
Are you still in touch with your father's side of the family?
Yes. Less so, shall we say.
Do you still see your father?
What does he do?
He works in a hospital. But he isn't a brain surgeon. He's a porter which isn't quite on the same scale.
What does he think of you?
Oh, a great deal. He has pictures all over his walls and he has t-shirts and cassettes.
People have always hinted that you're abnormally close to your mother. Would that be right?
Yes. I think it's good. It doesn't affect me in a dangerous way, not at all.
Not very rebellious of you though, is it?
I am 28, you know.
If not more.
(Looks very sheepish and laughs nervously.) Aaaaargghhhhhhh! Never mind.(??)
Do you talk to your mum every day on the phone?
Yes, always once, generally late in the day. She does a lot of business for me - a lot of people phone her up because they don't have access to me and she takes messages and things like that. I'll call her and she'll tell me about those things amongst other things. She deals with people like accountants and lawyers.
Queer? (Goes bright red.) Oh... weird. I thought you said queer.(???)
Does she say "Now, Stephen, have you been drinking lots of orange juice?"
Yes, she does say that kind of thing and she asks me what I've been eating and if I've been out, if I've seen anybody. Typical mother questions, really.
Do you tell her everything?
No! Of course not. Of course not.
You don't confide your great misdemeanours?
No, good heavens, no. I simply write about them.
So there are great misdemeanours?
Yes, there are.
A long time ago when asked what the biggest lie you'd ever told was you said you couldn't say because it was still working to good effect.
A great answer.
So what were you talking about?
I'm completely stumped.
What about you always saying you're celibate (i.e. not having sex with anyone)?
That's just the machinations of a suspicious mind, I think.
So can you put your hand on your heart and say "I'm celibate"?
Yes I can, hand on heart (puts his hand on his knee).
So if that's true is it a happy thing or a sad thing?
It's occasionally happy and frequently I just eat at a pillow. Eat a cushion with frustration.
Could you bear being with someone?
Sharing yoghurt and things, you mean? No. I don't like to share really.
Are you selfish?
I'm selfish in a positive way. Self preservation and all that. Sharing is a funny word. I do send off money to the Blue Cross - animal refuges, things like that.
Don't you worry you'll end up 55 and all alone?
Yes, but it seems unavoidable really. It seems totally unavoidable.
George Michael said when "I Want Your Sex" was out...
I heard that quite recently in the car. I wasn't deeply impressed, no. I thought it sounded like Ponce. I mean, Prince.
...he said he thought you were a complete fibber about not having sex and that if you weren't he felt very sorry for you.
And when he said that did he laugh or did he have a straight face? I don't know how to answer that really. What can I say? How does George Michael know - he's only ever met me once. If he feels sorry for me, he does. I think he probably has a bit more fun than I do, put it that way. I'm not George Michael, to begin with. I'm not George Michael at all! If he can live that way (shrugs)...
There are quite a lot of people who don't like The Smiths ...
You do surprise me. I hadn't noticed.
And the main reason seems to be...
Is that they like The Smiths but hate the singer?
...no, that they think you're always whining and miserable.
I can totally understand that and it's generally said by lesser individuals, to my mind. It's generally people with a very clumpish intellectual state. It's never people who are vastly intelligent, I find - it's always very unthinking, unlistening people. So I don't really mind that much.
Are you saying The Smiths only make music for clever clogs?
Not at all, but there is a certain, shall we say, social standing that you have to take in to consume The Smiths without any degree of ruffled feather. I think you have to be, er, "with it".
You have to be awake. You have to be... up early.
Please stop using silly expressions and say what you mean. Do you mean you have to be a clever clogs?
Yes. You have to be "with it", really. I can't believe I've said that twice.
A lot of people - a lot more than buy Smiths records - are very happy...
Oh we'll soon change that - give me a few more minutes...
...listening to wonderful records by Mel & Kim, or Madonna or Curiosity Killed The Cat. What do you think about that?
It'll pass, believe me. It's a phase. It's like spots really. As for happiness, that's no excuse. Happiness doesn't bring you peace of mind.
Well, unhappiness hasn't brought you peace of mind, has it?
Oh, it has. I've never said I was unhappy anyway.
You've said it millions of times before.
I've always paraphrased it. I've never actually said the word.
Hmmm. You're in a bit of a hopeless position, aren't you?
No I'm not, I'm just thinking what I'm going to have for tea tonight.
Something very dry but exotic, I think.
Can I help?
Yes, you probably can really. As you know I don't eat anything that has burped or ran or swam so it has to be something really quite dry and lifeless and exotic. Rather like me.
What are the choices?
They're not varied. Generally it centres around cheese, bread, yoghurt, fruit, tea.
I think you should have a nice piece of cheese and two peaches.
I'll definitely do that. Peaches and cheese.
Glad we've got that sorted out. Can we carry on now?
Do you ever burst into tears?
Yes I do. About once a year I burst into tears and I just can't stop. I get the impression that I should do it more often but because I don't everything seems to come out at once.
What sort of things trigger it off?
Perhaps just a very empty experience. Once, in 1984, it was a very horrendous plane journey and lots of... er... what do you call it?
Yes. For some reason the floodgates just opened as they say - and didn't stop for the rest of the day. On the plane, in the airport, in the hotel, at the soundcheck... I just couldn't stop.
Were you terrifically embarrassed?
Initially I was, yes. People tend to just look the other way.
What did the rest of the band think?
They didn't say much.
They didn't go up to you and say "Morrissey's a cry baby"?
No! They wouldn't do that. They just put their Walkmans on and got out their in-flight magazines.
You don't like Walkmans, do you?
I love Walkmans. I have a really good Walkman.
What's in at the moment?
Shirley Bassey... which brings me on to a very sore point. I've just heard that record she's made with Yello and I'm really really distressed because I've written to her so many times and sent her tapes and she's never even replied. And now she's made a record with Yello!
Do you have any friends?
Yes, I have a friend. No, I have one or two.
What are they like?
What's that like?
Welll... Hmmmmmmm... ha ha ha ha... (looks very embarrassed)... spluttering all over your rather quaint tape recorder. That's the hardest question. This isn't fair, I think you can guess.
Who are your friends?
Nobody you'd know. I've got two friends who I've had for years who make records but are not dramatically famous.and I have one friend who makes records and is dramatically famous and I have a friend who made records and was quite famous but isn't making records at the moment.
So who are they?
One of them is called Howard Devoto (who used to be singer in a band called Magazine), one of them is called Pete Burns (ie. of Dead Or Alive) and the other two you probably wouldn't know are called Linder (from a Manchester band called Ludus) and James (from a band called Raymonde). James and I have been friends for ten years.
Do you feel after that which-I'm-not-allowed-to-talk-about (i.e. Johnny Marr's departure) at a loose end?
Well, not really, because this situation I felt was brewing for a long time. It wasn't simply an overnight occurrence. So I was prepared, I suppose. I don't feel at a loss or confused at all. I'm very confident about the future.
Does it not disappoint you all these things happening to The Smiths? Doesn't it spoil the point of it all?
I don't believe so. There's certain things I don't have any specific control over and I really can't stop them happening, like Johnny's departure. The few people who've stepped forward for the job have been very good, very interesting and certainly possible so it's just a matter of making a slight mathematical calculation...
Are you the sort of person who's embarrassed to walk into the local grocer's to buy loo paper?
I get very embarrassed, I don't know why. I just go quite specifically to one shop and they always speak to me and they're always very nice and I start bumbling and they ask me very easy questions and I can never answer them. Yesterday she said to me "you like the rain, don't you?". I couldn't answer, I really couldn't answer her.
But you do love it?
Yes. I love weather like this (there's thunder and lightning outside).
Just to make other people as unhappy as you?
Yes (laughs). I really like 3.30 in the afternoon when the sky is overcast and there's thunder and there's rain and you're watching the Monday Matinee and you've got a nice big solid piece of toast in front of you. That to me is life lived to its fullest.
What do you have on the toast?
If it isn't marmalade I'll have plum preserve.
Does your mum make it?
No she doesn't. I buy it. It's 72p.
Have you told many fibs today?
I lie a lot - it's really useful - but everything I've said today has been the whole truth and nothing but the truth. So help me... er... Trevor...