NME, February 1989
IT'S THAT MAN AGAIN !
James Brown, NME, 25th February 1989
MORRISSSEY, PART III
"Obviously the situation is there for me to become a big pop face in Europe and be on prime time TV everyday, but I do nothing about it because I can't travel. I arrive at destinations and look 61! The Smiths did about 10 European dates in 1984 which is paltry really. As far as America goes we did two very lengthy and successful tours.
"I think it's partly because I don't travel that I have such a unique relationship with my fans. I think they sense that I do belong here; I'm not going to stray off and do sexy interviews with SKY TV. I'm not going to pop up in some greasy Greece festival, or at some waterlogged Belgian event. They know that I'm hovering about the district... doing mission work, squirrel work. Most artists of my status jog around the world doing commercials and benefits.
"I've always led a hermetic life and it isn't ending. I'm quite comfortable living this way and making records. And doing as I wish. There is generally great record company pressure to promote but EMI are so perfect for me, they're so tolerant."
Don't they just feel they're getting their money's worth?
"I don't think it's that simple. I think they do appreciate that I see and feel that it's important for artists, musicians, singers of my generation to do something different. And not to be photographed backstage in the Greek Ampitheatre with Yoko Ono and Art Garfunkel, things like that, it's very important for musicians of my generation to not do the typical rock 'n' roll things and fall into the usual traps."
Is that one of the reasons you don't attend many functions?
"No, not really. I think I know the reality of those events. I know the reality of the screening of the Lennon Imagine film. I do get lots of invitations to clubs, films, and lots of invitations to appear on television but it just isn't me."
Don't you feel you miss out on so much by having such a tight-knit group of friends?
"No, because all my friends are very talented and witty."
Are they experienced in life?
"They don't have to be, they have a special viewpoint. They have a very keen sense of being, they can see things before they happen. Which makes shopping very easy."
Don't you ever hunger for experience, as well as knowledge?
"Never, I try to be studious, I have one CSE in Woodwork, and a few other things. I despise travelling, I despise flying, I don't think flying is safe at all, I don't know where the notion ever came from. I despise travelling by air, surface, and sea, so I'm stranded really."
So you lead a gentle life, but how does this tie in with your early love of the New York Dolls?
"That's a twist which I've never been able to unravel. I don't know where the New York Dolls came from. I just don't know why it happened but it did. I have liked very hard music, very ramshackled, ill-disciplined, technically disastrous, energetic... I went to all the right gigs in Manchester in the '70's. I was there at the age of 12, I was there at the age of 15. I may have gone to these events totally alone but I stood there and I saw everybody, so crossbreeding this with understanding words and enjoying Joyce Grenfell is... well what is it? It's made me what I am today, it's unusual.
"I have a vast collection, a worldwide collection of material by the New York Dolls."
"Yet even television is deteriorating, I mean, who wants 87 channels? Four is enough."
Is there nothing you like watching on television?
"Nothing. I hate it."
"You guessed it, it must be the footwear! No, not Bullseye. There's very little I'll have to religiously watch but I'll keep an eye on it. I despise the influx of Australian soap operas, quiz shows, commercials, films. I fail to see the attraction. I despise the over-bearing amount of television. I've never watched Hill Street Blues. There are certain situation comedies which have amused me. But it's mere titillation.
"I was very interested in the 25 Years Of Top Of The Pops, but not, obviously, when the thing unveiled itself before me. I always wonder why the people involved bungle those situations. That was potentially an incredible programme and, of course, all the footage was hand-picked for its pointlessness; Cliff Richard, Lulu...
"There's so much wonderful history and footage that could have been whipped out - even T-Rex were scarcely mentioned. There were a lot of disastrous omissions. I think if the BBC put me in control of their libraries and said, 'You've got 20 minutes' I'd produce a shattering, a devastating programme.
"I am intrigued when people get the key to the BBC and then mess it up totally. There must be some kind of dangerous gas chamber in that building with its lid off that affects everybody's senses.
"When I first went to Broadcasting House I had fainting spells, just thinking of all the people who had fainted there before me. Backstage at the London Palladium I was quite hopeless for a while."
What's your particular favourite period of film and TV?
"I don't think I have a particular favourite period. I take bits from different times. I can't take very much from the '80's."
Do you think there are films being produced today to be compared to the Ealings?
"No, I've never seen them and I've got quite a keen eye. You have to take in the aroma of those films, Passport To Pimlico is a triumphant film littered with outstanding faces. These days films feature perhaps one recognisable face and a cast of unknowns, which is quite baffling.
"Even the English language, I find, has been hopelessly mucked about with and everything is American or Australian. It's astonishing but it's so rife. It's not that I dislike America - I think America is fine on the other side of the Atlantic. It works quite well and is interesting.
"If Margaret Thatcher was a strong person, which she isn't, she would not allow this Americanisation to happen. But because she is such a weak Prime Minister it happens and any influence American business wishes to have on England it has. They've completely taken over Newcastle."
I thought that was the Japanese?
"Well American/Japanese, they're all foreign... I don't mean that."
Are your obsessions friend substitutes? Emotion substitutes?
"No, not really, it's not that simple. I really did feel that surging passion. I'm not a collector in the basic sense that just having is enough. I can't have anything that I don't really need, when I go off a record it's in the bin. I know people for whom the obsession is in the collecting but I'm not obsessive in that way.
"I'm currently listening a lot to radio tapes such as Round The Horn, Beyond Our Ken, ITMA, are you familiar with these? I've bought a lot of them. The Clitheroe Kid. Some people play rugby, some people listen to Beyond Our Ken. It's an interesting slice of history. It was very very risque, it's hard to believe he got away with most of it but he did."
Do you delight in that sort of camp comedy?
"Yes, I do, I do delight in most aspects of camp but I never believed camp to be purposely and restrictively homosexual. And I never believed camp to be the sort of humour only adaptable by gay people because I know, if we must use categories, I know heterosexual people who have an enormously camp sense of humour. But yes, a fascinating topic. Highly intellectual, very witty, and totally unattainable by most people."
Do you have a particular Camp Hall of Fame or heroes?
"Yes I do. Candy Darling, she was the cover of Sheila Take A Bow. To be able to inflict Candy Darling on the record buying public was a perfect example of my very dangerous sense of humour."
Are you deliberately camp yourself?
"No, I don't think so, but a lot of people would find this room very camp. I wouldn't have it any other way. I don't feel camp all the time but in matters of humour and a sense of fun it's quite useful. Camp is very hard to define, it's just there, it's a certain viewpoint, it's a matter of wit."
Are you selective about the sides of Morrissey that you let people see?
"No, I am as I am. Yes, I do feel quite defensive. People very rarely get through to me so when they do it's quite important that the mood is harmonious. I'm not one for confrontations or arguments. When I sense a tremor I back off."
Are there millions of things you'd love to do that you feel inhibited about?
"No, not millions of things."
You've never fancied surfing?
"No, I've never ridden on a horse. No, I do quite like sports but I don't engage in them because I suppose it's not right for me to. Well, it just isn't. You know why, I suppose that's something that I regret, not taking part, I was very good once. Jogging doesn't come into it, jogging isn't very sporty."
What about camp flirting?
"I never do that."
"I knew you'd stray. I knew as soon as I mentioned 'camp' you'd stray from the real meaning of the word. I knew you'd suddenly think of feathers and things like that. No, I don't flirt. You were there at Wolverhampton, you could see the steam, there was aggression."