Archive for May, 2007

Entry for May 31, 2007

May 31, 2007

The Police: An Arresting Trio

(Suppose this is about as relevant now as it ever will be—not at all?—but it’s here to serve historical interest. Will follow up with more detailed interviews with all three clownheads at the height of their fame! –dd)

The Police are a three-man band from England.

The fact that they may well be the best new band to emerge from that country is nice, certainly, but not extraordinary. The fact that they are a three-man band, on the other hand, is.

To put it mildly, the band has captivated me with its debut album, Outlandos d’Amour (A&M SP4753). I’ve never heard a fuller sound emerging from a three-piece band, and the fact that the band studiously avoids the tedium of overdubbing makes their music all the more remarkable.

The Police are guitarist Andy Summers, drummer Stewart Copeland and bassist and vocalist Sting. They all have roots–Summers particularly–yet the sum total of each musician’s musical contribution never sounds at all derivative, and it is this uniqueness that sets the Police apart from most other new bands.

Currently the group is beginning a six-week tour that will eventually bring them to Detroit’s new Center Stage on March 22, on a bill with the Romantics. In a phone interview last Thursday, both Summers and Copeland sounded extremely enthused about their upcoming tour, especially as it will continue their headlining-only policy established during the band’s first U.S. tour.

First U.S. tour? How, you ask, can a band whose first album was released less than a month ago already be making their second tour?

Easy, guitarist Summers explains. They took the low-budget route.

“Actually our first tour went against the usual tradition,” Summers recalls. “Bands don’t usually tour unless they’ve an album to promote. We couldn’t really expect A&M to give us much support without an album, so we did it ourselves.”

As it happened, the band packed up their gear, took Copeland’s drums as hand luggage and flew to the States, where they used a van and borrowed someone else’s amps for their first “economy tour.” Bookie’s, the Detroit Club, was in fact one of the band’s few stops–a concert I unfortunately missed, though I’m told it was a crazy show.

Why the headlining approach? Copeland feels it’s the only way.

“We’ve been offered spots as back-up group on tours with Boston and Alice Cooper,” he says. “But we don’t want to be associated with that garbage. We don’t want to be in a position where the audience walks in and sees only one or two tunes in our set. We want to headline–and even if we do end up playing for a few empty houses we’ll be working just as hard to win over the audience.”

The band’s personal history is almost as interesting as its music. Summers, for instance, has played with an enormous array of respected British musicians, including the Soft Machine, Kevin Ayers and Kevin Coyne. Coming over with the Soft Machine for their first U.S. tour, Summers said, he was left in the U.S. when that band broke up (to later reform and record their second LP and many others). He got a call from Zoot Money–a member of Eric Burdon’s New Animals and highly distinguished musician in his own right–and joined the Animals for their last LP, Love Is, a certified classic. Summers’ ties with Money extend backward through Dantalion’s Chariot–a psychedelic outfit–and Money’s Big Roll Band, a straight R&B group.

“There’s no question that my roots are straight R&B,” Summers said, “and I think they’re the best roots possible.” He says that R&B and reggae form the basis of the current Police sound, though outright pop influences are certainly evident.

How Copeland formed the band is an equally interesting tale. Though his passport says he’s an American citizen, he says he’s actually spent a total of three years living in the United States. Otherwise, he’s lived in Egypt, Syria and Lebanon, among other places, and presently lives in London, which he terms “the hub of the world.” Copeland says he was within eight credits of graduating from the University of California at Berkeley when he “got the call” from his brother Miles to come to London.

In London, Copeland spent two years playing with a reformed version of Curved Air. “We were a really fine band on the road,” he recalls, “but there were a lot of problems in the studio. The general thing was stagnation–caused by too much money and too big a budget. It’s the kind of situation where you’ve got 60,000 pounds being put into a recording and it almost has to be commercial–you can’t take chances with that kind of money.”

Curved Air disbanded for a second time shortly before the end of 1976, Copeland said, shortly before the British punk scene was underway. And he has much positive to say about that scene:

“It was really very much a social thing–it was a new generation that wanted to have new heroes, their own. Kids were giving up on the really big scene, they’d enjoy watching a local band as much as the
ones they saw on television. And, really, the whole thing made extremely good sense to me.” Such good sense, in fact, that Copeland decided to form his own new wave band. Bringing bassist Sting down from Newcastle, Copeland formed a trio with guitarist Henri Padovani, called the band the Police, and released “Fall Out” b/w “Nothing Achieved” on Copeland’s own label, Illegal Records. The single sold so well, Copeland says, the initial press run of 2,000 was increased to 10,000.

But things weren’t working out for the first version of the Police.

“Our guitarist played three chords well,” Copeland said, “and not much else. Sting and I became bored of our musical limitations; we knew we needed a more versatile guitarist.” They found that guitarist in Andy Summers, who played with bassist Mike Howlett, Copeland and Sting in a Gong Reunion Festival held at Paris in mid-1977.

“I ran into Andy a while later on Oxford Street,” Copeland recalls.” He saw me and said, ‘Hey, you boys got talent!'” It wasn’t long before Summers joined the band, and the group, as Copeland sees it, improved tremendously.

“Roxanne” was the first tune the Police Mark II recorded–a tune which easily stood as one of the year’s best. Within six months the entire LP was recorded–then came the first U.S. tour, then a return to England. Since that time eight new tracks have already been recorded–including the upcoming single “Message In A Bottle”–and after the new tour, guitarist Summers said, the band will return to finish off the second LP.

Speaking of the new material, Summers mentioned that songwriting contributions may be spread around a little more–Sting composed the bulk of the first LP–but, as far as he’s concerned, “We’re very happy to be doing songs by Sting. He’s quite an excellent writer.”

With phone interviews here, radio spots there, the Police are currently reaping the benefits of having a tour actually coinciding with a new album release. The fact that the album is selling so well, according to the trades, makes this new tour all for the better.

“Our main thrust is in live performance,” Copeland says. “We’ve become a much better band since the album’s been recorded.”

And that, most definitely, is saying a lot. Remember to catch the group at the Center Stage on March 22. The Police, for once, are a force to be reckoned with–and you should watch them in action. I know I’ll be there.

(Michigan State News 3/8/79)

Entry for May 31, 2007

May 31, 2007

The Police: An Arresting Trio

(Suppose this is about as relevant now as it ever will be—not at all?—but it’s here to serve historical interest. Will follow up with more detailed interviews with all three clownheads at the height of their fame! –dd)

The Police are a three-man band from England.

The fact that they may well be the best new band to emerge from that country is nice, certainly, but not extraordinary. The fact that they are a three-man band, on the other hand, is.

To put it mildly, the band has captivated me with its debut album, Outlandos d’Amour (A&M SP4753). I’ve never heard a fuller sound emerging from a three-piece band, and the fact that the band studiously avoids the tedium of overdubbing makes their music all the more remarkable.

The Police are guitarist Andy Summers, drummer Stewart Copeland and bassist and vocalist Sting. They all have roots–Summers particularly–yet the sum total of each musician’s musical contribution never sounds at all derivative, and it is this uniqueness that sets the Police apart from most other new bands.

Currently the group is beginning a six-week tour that will eventually bring them to Detroit’s new Center Stage on March 22, on a bill with the Romantics. In a phone interview last Thursday, both Summers and Copeland sounded extremely enthused about their upcoming tour, especially as it will continue their headlining-only policy established during the band’s first U.S. tour.

First U.S. tour? How, you ask, can a band whose first album was released less than a month ago already be making their second tour?

Easy, guitarist Summers explains. They took the low-budget route.

“Actually our first tour went against the usual tradition,” Summers recalls. “Bands don’t usually tour unless they’ve an album to promote. We couldn’t really expect A&M to give us much support without an album, so we did it ourselves.”

As it happened, the band packed up their gear, took Copeland’s drums as hand luggage and flew to the States, where they used a van and borrowed someone else’s amps for their first “economy tour.” Bookie’s, the Detroit Club, was in fact one of the band’s few stops–a concert I unfortunately missed, though I’m told it was a crazy show.

Why the headlining approach? Copeland feels it’s the only way.

“We’ve been offered spots as back-up group on tours with Boston and Alice Cooper,” he says. “But we don’t want to be associated with that garbage. We don’t want to be in a position where the audience walks in and sees only one or two tunes in our set. We want to headline–and even if we do end up playing for a few empty houses we’ll be working just as hard to win over the audience.”

The band’s personal history is almost as interesting as its music. Summers, for instance, has played with an enormous array of respected British musicians, including the Soft Machine, Kevin Ayers and Kevin Coyne. Coming over with the Soft Machine for their first U.S. tour, Summers said, he was left in the U.S. when that band broke up (to later reform and record their second LP and many others). He got a call from Zoot Money–a member of Eric Burdon’s New Animals and highly distinguished musician in his own right–and joined the Animals for their last LP, Love Is, a certified classic. Summers’ ties with Money extend backward through Dantalion’s Chariot–a psychedelic outfit–and Money’s Big Roll Band, a straight R&B group.

“There’s no question that my roots are straight R&B,” Summers said, “and I think they’re the best roots possible.” He says that R&B and reggae form the basis of the current Police sound, though outright pop influences are certainly evident.

How Copeland formed the band is an equally interesting tale. Though his passport says he’s an American citizen, he says he’s actually spent a total of three years living in the United States. Otherwise, he’s lived in Egypt, Syria and Lebanon, among other places, and presently lives in London, which he terms “the hub of the world.” Copeland says he was within eight credits of graduating from the University of California at Berkeley when he “got the call” from his brother Miles to come to London.

In London, Copeland spent two years playing with a reformed version of Curved Air. “We were a really fine band on the road,” he recalls, “but there were a lot of problems in the studio. The general thing was stagnation–caused by too much money and too big a budget. It’s the kind of situation where you’ve got 60,000 pounds being put into a recording and it almost has to be commercial–you can’t take chances with that kind of money.”

Curved Air disbanded for a second time shortly before the end of 1976, Copeland said, shortly before the British punk scene was underway. And he has much positive to say about that scene:

“It was really very much a social thing–it was a new generation that wanted to have new heroes, their own. Kids were giving up on the really big scene, they’d enjoy watching a local band as much as the
ones they saw on television. And, really, the whole thing made extremely good sense to me.” Such good sense, in fact, that Copeland decided to form his own new wave band. Bringing bassist Sting down from Newcastle, Copeland formed a trio with guitarist Henri Padovani, called the band the Police, and released “Fall Out” b/w “Nothing Achieved” on Copeland’s own label, Illegal Records. The single sold so well, Copeland says, the initial press run of 2,000 was increased to 10,000.

But things weren’t working out for the first version of the Police.

“Our guitarist played three chords well,” Copeland said, “and not much else. Sting and I became bored of our musical limitations; we knew we needed a more versatile guitarist.” They found that guitarist in Andy Summers, who played with bassist Mike Howlett, Copeland and Sting in a Gong Reunion Festival held at Paris in mid-1977.

“I ran into Andy a while later on Oxford Street,” Copeland recalls.” He saw me and said, ‘Hey, you boys got talent!'” It wasn’t long before Summers joined the band, and the group, as Copeland sees it, improved tremendously.

“Roxanne” was the first tune the Police Mark II recorded–a tune which easily stood as one of the year’s best. Within six months the entire LP was recorded–then came the first U.S. tour, then a return to England. Since that time eight new tracks have already been recorded–including the upcoming single “Message In A Bottle”–and after the new tour, guitarist Summers said, the band will return to finish off the second LP.

Speaking of the new material, Summers mentioned that songwriting contributions may be spread around a little more–Sting composed the bulk of the first LP–but, as far as he’s concerned, “We’re very happy to be doing songs by Sting. He’s quite an excellent writer.”

With phone interviews here, radio spots there, the Police are currently reaping the benefits of having a tour actually coinciding with a new album release. The fact that the album is selling so well, according to the trades, makes this new tour all for the better.

“Our main thrust is in live performance,” Copeland says. “We’ve become a much better band since the album’s been recorded.”

And that, most definitely, is saying a lot. Remember to catch the group at the Center Stage on March 22. The Police, for once, are a force to be reckoned with–and you should watch them in action. I know I’ll be there.

(Michigan State News 3/8/79)

Entry for May 16, 2007

May 16, 2007

A Conversation With Morrissey, 1994

(Might be appropriate now to post this, my second conversation with Morrissey, which took place on January 10, 1994 in Los Angeles. Did it for a piece that would end up being the cover story for Raygun mag. Once again, great fun to speak with the man.-dd)

I wrote a list of things I want to discuss with you, because you’re very difficult to get to these days.

I try my best.

What’s “Vauxhall”?

Vauxhall is place in South London in much the same way that Brixton is.

And what do “you” have to do with it?

(laughs) Oh, well, that’s actually my little secret. We can’t talk about that.

What did Steve Lillywhite bring to the project?

Working with him was extraordinary. I don’t really know how interested readers/people generally are in hearing about producers; I think it’s always considered to be such a vague, uninteresting part of the procedure. But working with him was fascinating. He is incredibly skilled, and he helped me in so many ways. For me, at this stage of the game, it was hugely enjoyable. He’s an astonishingly gifted person.

I noticed there’s also, for the first time, some songs written from the fellow Boz from your band. How did that take place? Are you still writing songs in the same manner in which you used to?

Yes. Nothing has changed. I am not a musician; I cannot play any musical instruments whatsoever. But I seem to have a very good notion of identity for songs–which is actually quite difficult. Reasonably easy, I suppose, if you’re a musician to stick a tune together, but to give a song an identity is quite difficult, I think. And I think that’s always been my secret knack throughout the years. Because it’s not really good enough just to have a straight-ahead pop song or a straight-ahead rock song–there has to be something else. It has to go slightly beyond basic dull, acceptable talent.

I’ve always felt–as have many–that your song titles alone are more interesting than other people’s records.

Well, I actually agree. (laughs)

Do you still write songs to music that’s already been recorded or demoed?

Yes, I do. Mostly we shape the songs, because of the vocal melody and because, obviously, of the amount of words I want to use. So they do get drastically reshaped, and the vocal melody itself–obviously the voice is an instrument, and the key, really, to most of the songs. So once the voice is put down, the musical instruments follow in a very, very different way.

Why the new rhythm section?

The original rhythm section had a couple of things to do, but on the forthcoming tour, which begins in March, it will be the line-up on the Your Arsenal album, who toured here the previous year, so it will be the old rhythm section.

I’d heard you’d planned on working with Mick Ronson again.

Well, he spoke to me a few days before he died. And he was very happy, very enthusiastic about writing songs with me and getting back into the studio, and he was very positive about his health, and positive about his future. And it was astonishing, because a few days later, Suzy Fussey, who was his wife, telephoned me and she said, “My baby’s gone.” It was incredibly painful. It was so painful and so sad for me, because I had become so attached to him that I couldn’t actually attend the funeral. And the year began with the death of my manager [Nigel Thomas] and also the death of a close friend, Tim Broad, with whom I’d made some 13 videos. The three deaths were quite literally on top of each other. And it was an astonishingly depressing time. With Nigel, my manager, he died suddenly–but with Mick and Tim, they both knew that they were dying. So it was a very, very stressful year. I would just really like to say that Mick Ronson was one of the most astonishingly human and attractive people that I’ve ever met–and uplifting. A very, very uplifting person.

Do you think he got the respect he deserved?

I don’t think so. And I don’t know whether that’s really rooted in his years with Bowie; he is obviously connected with the best time of Bowie’s career. And I know, obviously, apart from guitar, Mick’s backing vocal on the many early Bowie records were astonishing, But no, I don’t think he
ever really had the respect
he deserved–and, of course, it’s too late now.

Shifting to you, do you feel your solo work is received with the critical respect with which it is deserved?

No, not at all. Not at all, I’m persistently short-changed in every direction. And I find in a way it’s very respectable–because the people who know about me or attend the concerts do so merely because they’ve heard the record. Nobody has ever, ever discovered me on MTV/ Very few people have ever discovered me on radio. It’s all–as it ever was with the Smiths–word of mouth. Nobody’s ever helped me. Which might sound like Tina Turner in ’68, but it’s actually quite true.

Speaking about MTV, I watched a collection of your videos last night that was put together commercially here in the States. On the one in which you’re lolling around on the beach, is that the word “fat” at the very end?

Yes. Yes it is.

OK. I had to stop that one.

(laughs)

You look like you have a good time in your videos. Do you feel your lyrics are becoming more or less inspired by personal experience; are you becoming more of a storyteller?

No, not really. Because I’ve never considered it to be a profession. I’ve never sat down and pretended to create scenarios. It is all, basically, simply me and my life and however I feel–and whether I feel up or whether I feel down, I document it. So for me it’s no great effort; it’s that I have to force myself to create. It’s just simply my life. And that I suppose is why I will never be a huge, megastar in this country. Because people like me don’t become so–my life and the songs I sing are too real. I’m not as malleable–is that the word?

OK, but…

Is it the word? Or do neither of us know?

Yeah. “Bent”

( laughs)

You say that, but one of the biggest stories out here last year was your capacity to fill the Hollywood Bowl. You sound like you’re deliberately undercutting yourself.

Well, yes, those things do happen���but they’re under-documented, really. And I often feel that it were another artist, it would receive great global recognition. Certainly no one mentioned it in England at all, which I found quite unbelievable. But I never feel that I’m censored–or that there’s a group of people trying to hold me back or pin me down. It’s common knowledge, of course, that Sire have never really put any money toward me at all. And I don’t say that with bitterness. I think they’d actually stand good and admit that themselves. But I do feel that, shall we say, I’m not overexposed in any way.

Except for your album covers���

That’s purely intentional. (laughs)

It’s funny, I was explaining to the magazine’s publisher a while ago that when we first spoke, you’d spent some time complaining about Sire’s treatment of the Smiths in the States, and yet here you were, still signed to Sire.

(laughs) Well, I’m very realistic. Some things don’t change,

There was a sense of personal isolation in your earliest songs that I wonder might even be enhanced by your increased fame.

Yes, it does, because I as a person haven’t really changed that much. And I’ve always suffered from depression also, which is something that isn’t allowed to be said.

Serious depression?

Yes, I always have. So I think that’s also a key aspect of the songs.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but I get the impression that you didn’t have a lot of friends when your career began, and I would imagine with your increased fame, real “true” friends must be even more difficult to come by.

Yes. As I get older now–I’m 34–I do realize the importance of holding on to people whom I become close to. Because there are so many thousands upon thousands of people we meet throughout life who mean nothing to us, that when we do occasionally meet someone who is special, we shouldn’t take it too lightly. I fi
nd that people often do.

As one of the most recognizable faces in Britain, are you more insulated from real life than you were then? Can you have a drink at a normal bar?

Yes. Yes, I can. I can, very freely. And I think that comes from within you. If you act like a star ��� which I never, ever, ever do–you attract attention and create some terrible scene and so forth. But I just slide along with everybody else, so nothing affects me, really.

Was it your idea to have that concert in which people were only allowed in only if they were wearing a t-shirt bearing your picture?

(thinks) Umm. Yes. The concert was free.

it must have been one of the most enjoyable stage experiences of a lifetime.

It was very, very enjoyable

Do you have any bad habits?

Not really, no. Not recognizable bad habits–like, for instance, smoking. No. I don’t eat very well; I’ll have some tea with some toast and jam.

Do you weight lift?

Do I do weightlifting? I certainly do not (laughs). No, no, no, no, I eat very badly, which is something that disturbs me slightly. I have a terrible intake. I’m obviously a vegetarian, but a very bad vegetarian–there are so many vegetables I don’t eat.

Again, when we first spoke, I was talking about the sound effects on “Meat Is Murder,” and I said kind of obnoxiously, “Gee, I wonder if people will think you were listening to Pink Floyd.” And I applaud you for having the balls to say, “I’ve never heard Pink Floyd in my life.”

(laughs loudly) It wasn’t a lie, it wasn’t a lie.

Good. Songs like “Used To Be A Sweet Boy” seem to suggest that people are often blank slates and have no control over their own destiny. Do you believe this is so?

The song really is from the parents’ point of view. When things do go wrong with children, parents never accept the blame. And they always try to wash their hands of it, and assume that their children have gone out of control because of forces beyond their natural understanding. But parents do raise children; children don’t raise parents.

Except in my house.

(laughs) Maybe yours is different.

With the slight exception of Bona Drag, your solo records have charted higher in the American charts than any of the Smiths’. Why?

Why? Should I know the answer?

Are they better?

I’ve got no idea, really. I think all of the records, whether it’s the Smiths or solo, are inescapably, unavoidably me. It’s not as if somebody else were singing within the Smiths, or someone else was writing the words or fronting the Smiths. They’re all basically me. I can’t answer that question. I certainly think Vauxhall And I is the best record I’ve ever been involved in, shall we say.

Do you think you’re taken for granted in England?

Yes, most certainly, I’m almost entirely ignored. The music press persistently writes about me–but it’s always negative. Otherwise, throughout the country on television or radio, I don’t exist at all. But as I said earlier, I think if you are really too intelligent, the nation can’t grasp you really. It’s only the very simple things and the very simple artists who just breeze straight through and find life very easy. If you’re agreeable to anything that’s put before you–if you’re desperate to do anything in order to be famous, which I most certainly am not, then life is relatively easy.

What did you think of David Bowie’s covering “I Know It’s Gonna Happen Someday”?

I felt, when he brought me into the studio in New York for the first playback, I really couldn’t find words. Because I have loved him for so many, many years. And I had first seen him at the age of 12, which was in 1972; being present with 300 people was extraordinary for me. So really, it’s quite indescribable. I thought the rendition of the song was truly beautiful, and respectful, so it was really one of the highlights of my career.

Have many other artists covered your material?

Annie Lennox has covered one song which has never been released, and Chrissie Hynde has covered a little song called “Every Day Is Like Sunday,” which will be released this year, which is truly exceptional. If it’s released here as a single, I think it will be enormous.

What song did Lennox do?

She has done a Smiths song called “Last. Night I Dreamt Somebody Loved Me,” which is truly astonishing.

With song titles like that, it just drives home how much you’re like a natural-born headline writer. It often seems like your song titles alone can be easily parodied, they’re so unique. It hasn’t happened so much of late, but I thought there was some sense of ominousness in the early Smiths material that around the time of “Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now,” seemed to suddenly give way to some degree of humor.

Yes. It certainly seemed like a different language. It wasn’t the same old fodder, and if you consider what was around at the time–it was a stiflingly dull period in pop music, and we’re in yet another of those periods. Somehow it just seemed like a different language.

Bowie is at that stage of celebrityhood where his albums have almost become inconsequential; he himself overshadows his work. Do you think that may be happening to you?

I don’t know. He in my view is one of the five artists in the entire history of music who has not perhaps inspired everybody, but everybody likes a David Bowie song, just as everybody likes a Beatles song perhaps, so I think he’s up there in the Top 5 artists of all time. I don’t think I am. If I ever am, and there are problems attached to it, I’ll begin to deal with it.

Who are the other four?

Oh, you choose.

The story about the Smiths in the last issue of Q magazine flatly called you and Johnny Marr the Lennon and McCartney of your generation. Does that sound right to you?

Well, it’s something I read quite repeatedly, and obviously it sits very comfortably with me. (laughs)

You used to write songs that were deliberately genderless; you used to swear you’d never do music videos. You’ve changed. Is it artistic growth?

Well, the passing of time, really. I’m surely allowed to change in much the same way that everybody else is.

And video as well?

Video I don’t think has ever particularly worked for me, because I don’t really have that much interest. But it is one of the final pressures of a record company. They claim that nothing can really happen without a video, I’ve found that in my case it’s that nothing happens with video, but they have been made nonetheless.

Watching them last night, I thought they were fun…

Well, they’re quaint.

They show people who maybe haven’t been drawn to see you live that Morrissey is a guy who knows how to have a good time. Anyway, are you as enthused by your work as you were from the start?

Yes. Enormously, I am enthused. I am less enthused by the prospect of fame, or the dealings with fame–and it would be reasonably ideal if I could simply make a record and then disappear into the bushes, basically, which isn’t allowed, really. But music, the music I make, does excite me enormously—but music generally does not excite me.

What was the last record you bought?

The last record I bought was by a group called Echobelly, who are English, and by the Blaggers, who are English.

What does “blagger” mean���someone who talks a lot or drinks a lot?

In their case, probably both. (laughs)

Do you know who Momus is? What do you think of him?

Momus. Well, initially when he began to make records he
was constantly compared to me. An inferior version, I might add. But now, I don’t know, I’ve not heard his last record, so I don’t really know. Is he known here?

No, not at all. In fact his first American record is just coming out later this year. He’s obscure, but I think he’s interesting. Do you think it’s true your solo work will always be held in comparison with your Smiths material? And do you resent it?

Yes, it always will be. Unavoidably. But it doesn’t really matter–it doesn’t really matter to me very much. Because as I said, it was always me, basically; there wasn’t somebody else with instruments who was standing in the forefront, it was always me. And I understand that many people think one’s earlier records are the best of you. And in many cases that’s true. But I don’t really believe it’s true in my case–and when people say it, I accept it, but surely it’s a slag.

How is it better? Your voice? The music? Your lyrics going places they’ve never been?

I certainly sing much better now than I ever did���and I’m sure that that plays a great part in it.

You really do.

Yes, I think I do. I think there has been a real constant progression–if you can truly put everything into perspective, from the Smiths’ very first record to Vauxhall And I, there has been a very real progression. Now that the Smiths no longer exist and so forth, it’s always very easy to romanticize, but being rational and being honest, I feel stronger now in every way.

Is it fair to say that the material doesn’t has as strong an organic unity because you’re used so many co-writers?

I do openly admit that some of the songs, some of the solo songs have been substandard–and when it occurred to me, around the period of the Kill Uncle album, it was a great shock to me to actually make a few records which I didn’t really think were exceptional for me. But I think I’m through that time now. It was actually a very bad time for me privately, also. But if we’re talking about Johnny–well, maybe we’re not–obviously he is a great talent. But I think when you consider that I as a solo individual who cannot play an instrument, who is not a musician, came from the Smiths and has continued and has held an audience very, very well–I think I’ve done extraordinarily well.

[END TAPE SIDE I]

Rather than shifting from songs with Alain and Boz and Mark Nevin and Stephen Street, would you prefer to have only one collaborator?

Well, it would be horrible for me now to say whom I like the best and whom I like the least. I don’t really think at this stage of the game it matters that much for me. It doesn’t really matter. When it’s good, it’s good; when its not good, its not good.

If Joe Blow from down the street said, ‘Morrissey, I’ve got some great songs,’ and you liked them, would you be naturally inclined to want to begin a permanent partnership with him? Are you looking to do that with someone?

Well, I think I’ve proven that I can do it with almost anybody. I think I’ve proven that I’m not attracted or attached to one person. So yes, I’d feel very open for any future input from anybody,

What are the prospects of you two writing again? Have you received massive reunion offers?

I think it’s simply that Johnny and I have become very good friends again, and the British music press tend to run away with the situation. And if there was a reformation, I’m sure they’d be the first to decry or try to break it apart. It’s just an absurd situation–wanting what doesn’t exist, and not wanting what exists. It’s just so typical of the British music press.

Do you think you ever will collaborate with him anyway?

Well, we both feel it unnecessary, we don’t see the point.

Is it the sort of situation where it would be too much of a big thing now to actually do?

Yes. In a way. It’s been done. And it’s been done to the. best of our abilities, really–and that’s it, really.

It would be a shame if you were inclined for it to happen, but that it didn’t because of conditions that were imposed on people other than yourselves.

But do reunions ever work? Can you think of any which has worked?

Well, I didn’t expect much from the Velvet Underground reunion, but I must say there are one or two things on the live album which I feel are extraordinary. Don’t tell me���you didn’t like it.

Well, even though I loved the original records, it never occurred to me to go and see them. Similarly with the Who. And the Who’s earlier records I love.

The Who getting back together would seem inevitably a money-making gesture, whereas I don’t think the Velvet Underground reunion was perceived that way. But I guess, considering the Smiths’ fame in England, it would perceived in the same way as a Who reunion.

(laughs) Well, as long as I’m not Roger Daltrey, I don’t mind .

Has there been a major disappointment in your career?

Yes, in a small sense I was very disappointed that the song “Every Day Is Like Sunday” was not a hit here. I fail to see how it could not make the Top 100, especially when you consider that most of the records that do are awful–and there were other English groups at the time that were zooming straight into the Top 40, and I couldn’t understand why, when they were playing miniscule clubs and I went on to play reasonably large venues. So yes, I am frustrated with the lack of promotion.

Were you getting any feedback? Were they saying, “Hey, sorry Morrissey, but it’s your voice”?

Well, there’s always an absurd reason why, but you reach the point where you’re no longer interested. It either happens, or the moment has passed.

Without getting specific in terms of real numbers, are your solo albums selling internationally at a level rate?

I think Kill Uncle dipped everywhere, and Your Arsenal raised the profile once again, And entered at No. 21, which is reasonably high –which still leaves me suspiciously alternative. I don’t know why. Nonetheless, it had presence.

Do you think pop is becoming less literate?

It certainly is. I think every aspect of it is simply grinding down, and the past is more important. And all I seem to see in new modern American groups is Creedence Clearwater Revival—that’s all I see, I can’t see anything truly new. Even with the Seattle groups and so forth. I think pop music is basically finished, Everything is regurgitation, nothing at all is new.

What’s the most recent “new” thing you can recall?

From here? I can’t think of anything. Within England, certainly groups like the Blaggers and Gallon Drunk and Echobelly sound new to me–it sounds as if I’m actually hearing something new. Which seems to be an impossible occurrence in America.

Do you think that’s the state of pop, or the state of you?

Of me? No, I think it’s got nothing to do with me. I think it’s really the basic ground rules within American record companies–it’s not possible to break through with anything that’s challenging. It just isn’t possible. And when something like the Red Hot Chill Peppers becomes successful, the nation is aghast that it just isn’t the same old tawdry regurgitation.

What’s the most distasteful aspect of current pop?

Predictably, it’s rap–which continues in the same old way which has never, ever, ever, ever changed. I mean, there is only one rap song in the entire universe–which is frightening when you consider how many rap records have been made.

Who have you been listening to lately? Has your taste in music changed?

No, not at all. I still listen repeatedly to Nico, to the early Ramones, the Marvelettes–who I was playing before I left for the studio today.

You really were listening to the Marvelettes?

Yes, I was.

You really are consistent–it shows in your music and your listening.

No, it’s not me–it’s the Marvelettes. And the music they made is everlasting,

Do you think pop stars have a shorter shelf life than they used to?

I think there’s a huge musical audience in America who do not want their artists to be daily fodder on MTV; they do not want to see their artists overexposed and repeatedly ra
mmed in their faces. And that audience, I think, is never catered for. It’s always assumed that everybody likes everything in the same old way; everybody likes their music, sleeves and general promotion done in the same old way. But it’s not true–there is a huge listening audience in America who are actually very, very intelligent and are never catered for. I have a good part of them.

Has it come to the point yet where a new group of listeners���say the 10-13 year olds���have come up and felt, “Oh, Morrissey–he’s been around forever. He’s my big sister’s favorite–but this new group is my favorite?”

No, I don’t think so. And there may be a parallel with Lou Reed’s career, really–because he was never over-utilized, shall we say, he was always there to be discovered. Even though he was, is, very well known, and in some ways legendary. So I think that perhaps I would be compared to that situation.

For the longest time, when I was trying to rationalize your fame���

Is it so unbelievable? (laughs)

No. (laughs) And I wondered if some of the emotions that you explored lyrically–loneliness and alienation–might be something that fans could possibly grow out of as they got older and perhaps changed. I wondered if that would happen, but your sales don’t seem to indicate that. Do you know what I’m talking about?

Yes, I do. But I think I was always branded with the adolescence tag initially–and I don’t think loneliness or a sense of isolation is restricted to youth. For some people, unfortunately, it lasts for their entire lives. They remain alone, or they remain very reflective, looking inwards. So I don’t ever feel that I was initially simply writing for 13-year olds. I also don’t think once you’re beyond 21 everything magically falls into place. I don’t think that’s true,

Aside from music, is there anything extra-musical dominating your thoughts now that you’re 34?

Not particularly. I still wait and I still hope that something new will happen within music and that things will change.

Have you said anything recently that’s gotten you in any trouble?

I always seem to be in trouble for some reason. I don’t know why, I don’t know why. But no, nothing else–I think I’ve covered most ground recently.

Are there any more rewards to be had from working in pop music?

Yes, but they’re all very private, really. I have no interest in the Grammy nomination, and I have no interest in any aspects of whoredom. I will always stubbornly remain me, and nothing will change me. All the rewards that I have–the success is in the completion of the record, and my personal enjoyment of the record. I’m not really looking for anybody to hand me a small gold statue.

Do you think there are others whom you admire that carry on in the same manner?

Not particularly. I think everybody eventually falls into the same old traps, unfortunately.

Who’s the most admirable person in pop music?

There isn’t one person who has everything, but there are several people who have a little bit. I like to listen to Pete Townshend talk; I wish he could make a really great record. The collection of the works of the Crystals which was released last year was the most astounding thing, the most overplayed record that I think I’ve ever had. I can’t ever get away from the first New York Dolls album, or the early Nico albums, or the first Ramones album. So really there isn’t one person who stands alone, where I can say, “Yes, you’ve said it all, you’ve had everything.” I think there’s never been somebody who–even Elvis Presley, who, footage of Elvis Presley still astonishes me, but we know of course that he did lots of very embarrassing, blunderous things. I think that, because of the nature of human life and human infallibilities, nobody can be everything to all people.

You mentioned the Nico albums; have you ever pursued working with John Cale?

Yes, yes I did, I did initially ask him to produce Vauxhall And I, but he was busy with the Velvet Underground. He expressed mammoth interest. It’s something to bear in mind.

Who’s the most despicable person in the music business?

Do we have time? There are so many.

And you’re famous for plopping them down regularly.

Yes, but that can so easily seem like routine, to constantly denounce–so easy to sit back and say everybody’s basically crap, and everybody looks cr
ap–that’s very, very, easy, even though in many instances it may be true. And if one goes from John Lennon to Johnny Rotten, it seems also like the British thing to do–to come here and stampede over everybody. But nonetheless, I do it privately.

Do you perceive a difference in American fans than those in other countries? It seems your fame here is really snowballing.

Yes, it is. A lot of them I’ve known for a long, long time–and they’ve been with me, if I can say that, for a long, long time. And I’ve also watched them grow older and change and so forth. And that’s really gratifying, to still meet the same people that I met in 1984 and 1985. It’s very, very gratifying.

Finally���a great American live television question���what’s the major inspiration you have for getting out of bed in the morning?

What gets me out of bed? Simply a sense of duty. Nothing else. I don’t spring from the bed, I’m afraid. A very unsatisfactory answer, I know, but at least this isn’t live television,

(laughs) OK, great. Thanks for your time again.

It was very, very enjoyable. Thank you.

Entry for May 16, 2007

May 16, 2007

A Conversation With Morrissey, 1994

(Might be appropriate now to post this, my second conversation with Morrissey, which took place on January 10, 1994 in Los Angeles. Did it for a piece that would end up being the cover story for Raygun mag. Once again, great fun to speak with the man.-dd)

I wrote a list of things I want to discuss with you, because you’re very difficult to get to these days.

I try my best.

What’s “Vauxhall”?

Vauxhall is place in South London in much the same way that Brixton is.

And what do “you” have to do with it?

(laughs) Oh, well, that’s actually my little secret. We can’t talk about that.

What did Steve Lillywhite bring to the project?

Working with him was extraordinary. I don’t really know how interested readers/people generally are in hearing about producers; I think it’s always considered to be such a vague, uninteresting part of the procedure. But working with him was fascinating. He is incredibly skilled, and he helped me in so many ways. For me, at this stage of the game, it was hugely enjoyable. He’s an astonishingly gifted person.

I noticed there’s also, for the first time, some songs written from the fellow Boz from your band. How did that take place? Are you still writing songs in the same manner in which you used to?

Yes. Nothing has changed. I am not a musician; I cannot play any musical instruments whatsoever. But I seem to have a very good notion of identity for songs–which is actually quite difficult. Reasonably easy, I suppose, if you’re a musician to stick a tune together, but to give a song an identity is quite difficult, I think. And I think that’s always been my secret knack throughout the years. Because it’s not really good enough just to have a straight-ahead pop song or a straight-ahead rock song–there has to be something else. It has to go slightly beyond basic dull, acceptable talent.

I’ve always felt–as have many–that your song titles alone are more interesting than other people’s records.

Well, I actually agree. (laughs)

Do you still write songs to music that’s already been recorded or demoed?

Yes, I do. Mostly we shape the songs, because of the vocal melody and because, obviously, of the amount of words I want to use. So they do get drastically reshaped, and the vocal melody itself–obviously the voice is an instrument, and the key, really, to most of the songs. So once the voice is put down, the musical instruments follow in a very, very different way.

Why the new rhythm section?

The original rhythm section had a couple of things to do, but on the forthcoming tour, which begins in March, it will be the line-up on the Your Arsenal album, who toured here the previous year, so it will be the old rhythm section.

I’d heard you’d planned on working with Mick Ronson again.

Well, he spoke to me a few days before he died. And he was very happy, very enthusiastic about writing songs with me and getting back into the studio, and he was very positive about his health, and positive about his future. And it was astonishing, because a few days later, Suzy Fussey, who was his wife, telephoned me and she said, “My baby’s gone.” It was incredibly painful. It was so painful and so sad for me, because I had become so attached to him that I couldn’t actually attend the funeral. And the year began with the death of my manager [Nigel Thomas] and also the death of a close friend, Tim Broad, with whom I’d made some 13 videos. The three deaths were quite literally on top of each other. And it was an astonishingly depressing time. With Nigel, my manager, he died suddenly–but with Mick and Tim, they both knew that they were dying. So it was a very, very stressful year. I would just really like to say that Mick Ronson was one of the most astonishingly human and attractive people that I’ve ever met–and uplifting. A very, very uplifting person.

Do you think he got the respect he deserved?

I don’t think so. And I don’t know whether that’s really rooted in his years with Bowie; he is obviously connected with the best time of Bowie’s career. And I know, obviously, apart from guitar, Mick’s backing vocal on the many early Bowie records were astonishing, But no, I don’t think he
ever really had the respect
he deserved–and, of course, it’s too late now.

Shifting to you, do you feel your solo work is received with the critical respect with which it is deserved?

No, not at all. Not at all, I’m persistently short-changed in every direction. And I find in a way it’s very respectable–because the people who know about me or attend the concerts do so merely because they’ve heard the record. Nobody has ever, ever discovered me on MTV/ Very few people have ever discovered me on radio. It’s all–as it ever was with the Smiths–word of mouth. Nobody’s ever helped me. Which might sound like Tina Turner in ’68, but it’s actually quite true.

Speaking about MTV, I watched a collection of your videos last night that was put together commercially here in the States. On the one in which you’re lolling around on the beach, is that the word “fat” at the very end?

Yes. Yes it is.

OK. I had to stop that one.

(laughs)

You look like you have a good time in your videos. Do you feel your lyrics are becoming more or less inspired by personal experience; are you becoming more of a storyteller?

No, not really. Because I’ve never considered it to be a profession. I’ve never sat down and pretended to create scenarios. It is all, basically, simply me and my life and however I feel–and whether I feel up or whether I feel down, I document it. So for me it’s no great effort; it’s that I have to force myself to create. It’s just simply my life. And that I suppose is why I will never be a huge, megastar in this country. Because people like me don’t become so–my life and the songs I sing are too real. I’m not as malleable–is that the word?

OK, but…

Is it the word? Or do neither of us know?

Yeah. “Bent”

( laughs)

You say that, but one of the biggest stories out here last year was your capacity to fill the Hollywood Bowl. You sound like you’re deliberately undercutting yourself.

Well, yes, those things do happen���but they’re under-documented, really. And I often feel that it were another artist, it would receive great global recognition. Certainly no one mentioned it in England at all, which I found quite unbelievable. But I never feel that I’m censored–or that there’s a group of people trying to hold me back or pin me down. It’s common knowledge, of course, that Sire have never really put any money toward me at all. And I don’t say that with bitterness. I think they’d actually stand good and admit that themselves. But I do feel that, shall we say, I’m not overexposed in any way.

Except for your album covers���

That’s purely intentional. (laughs)

It’s funny, I was explaining to the magazine’s publisher a while ago that when we first spoke, you’d spent some time complaining about Sire’s treatment of the Smiths in the States, and yet here you were, still signed to Sire.

(laughs) Well, I’m very realistic. Some things don’t change,

There was a sense of personal isolation in your earliest songs that I wonder might even be enhanced by your increased fame.

Yes, it does, because I as a person haven’t really changed that much. And I’ve always suffered from depression also, which is something that isn’t allowed to be said.

Serious depression?

Yes, I always have. So I think that’s also a key aspect of the songs.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but I get the impression that you didn’t have a lot of friends when your career began, and I would imagine with your increased fame, real “true” friends must be even more difficult to come by.

Yes. As I get older now–I’m 34–I do realize the importance of holding on to people whom I become close to. Because there are so many thousands upon thousands of people we meet throughout life who mean nothing to us, that when we do occasionally meet someone who is special, we shouldn’t take it too lightly. I fi
nd that people often do.

As one of the most recognizable faces in Britain, are you more insulated from real life than you were then? Can you have a drink at a normal bar?

Yes. Yes, I can. I can, very freely. And I think that comes from within you. If you act like a star ��� which I never, ever, ever do–you attract attention and create some terrible scene and so forth. But I just slide along with everybody else, so nothing affects me, really.

Was it your idea to have that concert in which people were only allowed in only if they were wearing a t-shirt bearing your picture?

(thinks) Umm. Yes. The concert was free.

it must have been one of the most enjoyable stage experiences of a lifetime.

It was very, very enjoyable

Do you have any bad habits?

Not really, no. Not recognizable bad habits–like, for instance, smoking. No. I don’t eat very well; I’ll have some tea with some toast and jam.

Do you weight lift?

Do I do weightlifting? I certainly do not (laughs). No, no, no, no, I eat very badly, which is something that disturbs me slightly. I have a terrible intake. I’m obviously a vegetarian, but a very bad vegetarian–there are so many vegetables I don’t eat.

Again, when we first spoke, I was talking about the sound effects on “Meat Is Murder,” and I said kind of obnoxiously, “Gee, I wonder if people will think you were listening to Pink Floyd.” And I applaud you for having the balls to say, “I’ve never heard Pink Floyd in my life.”

(laughs loudly) It wasn’t a lie, it wasn’t a lie.

Good. Songs like “Used To Be A Sweet Boy” seem to suggest that people are often blank slates and have no control over their own destiny. Do you believe this is so?

The song really is from the parents’ point of view. When things do go wrong with children, parents never accept the blame. And they always try to wash their hands of it, and assume that their children have gone out of control because of forces beyond their natural understanding. But parents do raise children; children don’t raise parents.

Except in my house.

(laughs) Maybe yours is different.

With the slight exception of Bona Drag, your solo records have charted higher in the American charts than any of the Smiths’. Why?

Why? Should I know the answer?

Are they better?

I’ve got no idea, really. I think all of the records, whether it’s the Smiths or solo, are inescapably, unavoidably me. It’s not as if somebody else were singing within the Smiths, or someone else was writing the words or fronting the Smiths. They’re all basically me. I can’t answer that question. I certainly think Vauxhall And I is the best record I’ve ever been involved in, shall we say.

Do you think you’re taken for granted in England?

Yes, most certainly, I’m almost entirely ignored. The music press persistently writes about me–but it’s always negative. Otherwise, throughout the country on television or radio, I don’t exist at all. But as I said earlier, I think if you are really too intelligent, the nation can’t grasp you really. It’s only the very simple things and the very simple artists who just breeze straight through and find life very easy. If you’re agreeable to anything that’s put before you–if you’re desperate to do anything in order to be famous, which I most certainly am not, then life is relatively easy.

What did you think of David Bowie’s covering “I Know It’s Gonna Happen Someday”?

I felt, when he brought me into the studio in New York for the first playback, I really couldn’t find words. Because I have loved him for so many, many years. And I had first seen him at the age of 12, which was in 1972; being present with 300 people was extraordinary for me. So really, it’s quite indescribable. I thought the rendition of the song was truly beautiful, and respectful, so it was really one of the highlights of my career.

Have many other artists covered your material?

Annie Lennox has covered one song which has never been released, and Chrissie Hynde has covered a little song called “Every Day Is Like Sunday,” which will be released this year, which is truly exceptional. If it’s released here as a single, I think it will be enormous.

What song did Lennox do?

She has done a Smiths song called “Last. Night I Dreamt Somebody Loved Me,” which is truly astonishing.

With song titles like that, it just drives home how much you’re like a natural-born headline writer. It often seems like your song titles alone can be easily parodied, they’re so unique. It hasn’t happened so much of late, but I thought there was some sense of ominousness in the early Smiths material that around the time of “Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now,” seemed to suddenly give way to some degree of humor.

Yes. It certainly seemed like a different language. It wasn’t the same old fodder, and if you consider what was around at the time–it was a stiflingly dull period in pop music, and we’re in yet another of those periods. Somehow it just seemed like a different language.

Bowie is at that stage of celebrityhood where his albums have almost become inconsequential; he himself overshadows his work. Do you think that may be happening to you?

I don’t know. He in my view is one of the five artists in the entire history of music who has not perhaps inspired everybody, but everybody likes a David Bowie song, just as everybody likes a Beatles song perhaps, so I think he’s up there in the Top 5 artists of all time. I don’t think I am. If I ever am, and there are problems attached to it, I’ll begin to deal with it.

Who are the other four?

Oh, you choose.

The story about the Smiths in the last issue of Q magazine flatly called you and Johnny Marr the Lennon and McCartney of your generation. Does that sound right to you?

Well, it’s something I read quite repeatedly, and obviously it sits very comfortably with me. (laughs)

You used to write songs that were deliberately genderless; you used to swear you’d never do music videos. You’ve changed. Is it artistic growth?

Well, the passing of time, really. I’m surely allowed to change in much the same way that everybody else is.

And video as well?

Video I don’t think has ever particularly worked for me, because I don’t really have that much interest. But it is one of the final pressures of a record company. They claim that nothing can really happen without a video, I’ve found that in my case it’s that nothing happens with video, but they have been made nonetheless.

Watching them last night, I thought they were fun…

Well, they’re quaint.

They show people who maybe haven’t been drawn to see you live that Morrissey is a guy who knows how to have a good time. Anyway, are you as enthused by your work as you were from the start?

Yes. Enormously, I am enthused. I am less enthused by the prospect of fame, or the dealings with fame–and it would be reasonably ideal if I could simply make a record and then disappear into the bushes, basically, which isn’t allowed, really. But music, the music I make, does excite me enormously—but music generally does not excite me.

What was the last record you bought?

The last record I bought was by a group called Echobelly, who are English, and by the Blaggers, who are English.

What does “blagger” mean���someone who talks a lot or drinks a lot?

In their case, probably both. (laughs)

Do you know who Momus is? What do you think of him?

Momus. Well, initially when he began to make records he
was constantly compared to me. An inferior version, I might add. But now, I don’t know, I’ve not heard his last record, so I don’t really know. Is he known here?

No, not at all. In fact his first American record is just coming out later this year. He’s obscure, but I think he’s interesting. Do you think it’s true your solo work will always be held in comparison with your Smiths material? And do you resent it?

Yes, it always will be. Unavoidably. But it doesn’t really matter–it doesn’t really matter to me very much. Because as I said, it was always me, basically; there wasn’t somebody else with instruments who was standing in the forefront, it was always me. And I understand that many people think one’s earlier records are the best of you. And in many cases that’s true. But I don’t really believe it’s true in my case–and when people say it, I accept it, but surely it’s a slag.

How is it better? Your voice? The music? Your lyrics going places they’ve never been?

I certainly sing much better now than I ever did���and I’m sure that that plays a great part in it.

You really do.

Yes, I think I do. I think there has been a real constant progression–if you can truly put everything into perspective, from the Smiths’ very first record to Vauxhall And I, there has been a very real progression. Now that the Smiths no longer exist and so forth, it’s always very easy to romanticize, but being rational and being honest, I feel stronger now in every way.

Is it fair to say that the material doesn’t has as strong an organic unity because you’re used so many co-writers?

I do openly admit that some of the songs, some of the solo songs have been substandard–and when it occurred to me, around the period of the Kill Uncle album, it was a great shock to me to actually make a few records which I didn’t really think were exceptional for me. But I think I’m through that time now. It was actually a very bad time for me privately, also. But if we’re talking about Johnny–well, maybe we’re not–obviously he is a great talent. But I think when you consider that I as a solo individual who cannot play an instrument, who is not a musician, came from the Smiths and has continued and has held an audience very, very well–I think I’ve done extraordinarily well.

[END TAPE SIDE I]

Rather than shifting from songs with Alain and Boz and Mark Nevin and Stephen Street, would you prefer to have only one collaborator?

Well, it would be horrible for me now to say whom I like the best and whom I like the least. I don’t really think at this stage of the game it matters that much for me. It doesn’t really matter. When it’s good, it’s good; when its not good, its not good.

If Joe Blow from down the street said, ‘Morrissey, I’ve got some great songs,’ and you liked them, would you be naturally inclined to want to begin a permanent partnership with him? Are you looking to do that with someone?

Well, I think I’ve proven that I can do it with almost anybody. I think I’ve proven that I’m not attracted or attached to one person. So yes, I’d feel very open for any future input from anybody,

What are the prospects of you two writing again? Have you received massive reunion offers?

I think it’s simply that Johnny and I have become very good friends again, and the British music press tend to run away with the situation. And if there was a reformation, I’m sure they’d be the first to decry or try to break it apart. It’s just an absurd situation–wanting what doesn’t exist, and not wanting what exists. It’s just so typical of the British music press.

Do you think you ever will collaborate with him anyway?

Well, we both feel it unnecessary, we don’t see the point.

Is it the sort of situation where it would be too much of a big thing now to actually do?

Yes. In a way. It’s been done. And it’s been done to the. best of our abilities, really–and that’s it, really.

It would be a shame if you were inclined for it to happen, but that it didn’t because of conditions that were imposed on people other than yourselves.

But do reunions ever work? Can you think of any which has worked?

Well, I didn’t expect much from the Velvet Underground reunion, but I must say there are one or two things on the live album which I feel are extraordinary. Don’t tell me���you didn’t like it.

Well, even though I loved the original records, it never occurred to me to go and see them. Similarly with the Who. And the Who’s earlier records I love.

The Who getting back together would seem inevitably a money-making gesture, whereas I don’t think the Velvet Underground reunion was perceived that way. But I guess, considering the Smiths’ fame in England, it would perceived in the same way as a Who reunion.

(laughs) Well, as long as I’m not Roger Daltrey, I don’t mind .

Has there been a major disappointment in your career?

Yes, in a small sense I was very disappointed that the song “Every Day Is Like Sunday” was not a hit here. I fail to see how it could not make the Top 100, especially when you consider that most of the records that do are awful–and there were other English groups at the time that were zooming straight into the Top 40, and I couldn’t understand why, when they were playing miniscule clubs and I went on to play reasonably large venues. So yes, I am frustrated with the lack of promotion.

Were you getting any feedback? Were they saying, “Hey, sorry Morrissey, but it’s your voice”?

Well, there’s always an absurd reason why, but you reach the point where you’re no longer interested. It either happens, or the moment has passed.

Without getting specific in terms of real numbers, are your solo albums selling internationally at a level rate?

I think Kill Uncle dipped everywhere, and Your Arsenal raised the profile once again, And entered at No. 21, which is reasonably high –which still leaves me suspiciously alternative. I don’t know why. Nonetheless, it had presence.

Do you think pop is becoming less literate?

It certainly is. I think every aspect of it is simply grinding down, and the past is more important. And all I seem to see in new modern American groups is Creedence Clearwater Revival—that’s all I see, I can’t see anything truly new. Even with the Seattle groups and so forth. I think pop music is basically finished, Everything is regurgitation, nothing at all is new.

What’s the most recent “new” thing you can recall?

From here? I can’t think of anything. Within England, certainly groups like the Blaggers and Gallon Drunk and Echobelly sound new to me–it sounds as if I’m actually hearing something new. Which seems to be an impossible occurrence in America.

Do you think that’s the state of pop, or the state of you?

Of me? No, I think it’s got nothing to do with me. I think it’s really the basic ground rules within American record companies–it’s not possible to break through with anything that’s challenging. It just isn’t possible. And when something like the Red Hot Chill Peppers becomes successful, the nation is aghast that it just isn’t the same old tawdry regurgitation.

What’s the most distasteful aspect of current pop?

Predictably, it’s rap–which continues in the same old way which has never, ever, ever, ever changed. I mean, there is only one rap song in the entire universe–which is frightening when you consider how many rap records have been made.

Who have you been listening to lately? Has your taste in music changed?

No, not at all. I still listen repeatedly to Nico, to the early Ramones, the Marvelettes–who I was playing before I left for the studio today.

You really were listening to the Marvelettes?

Yes, I was.

You really are consistent–it shows in your music and your listening.

No, it’s not me–it’s the Marvelettes. And the music they made is everlasting,

Do you think pop stars have a shorter shelf life than they used to?

I think there’s a huge musical audience in America who do not want their artists to be daily fodder on MTV; they do not want to see their artists overexposed and repeatedly ra
mmed in their faces. And that audience, I think, is never catered for. It’s always assumed that everybody likes everything in the same old way; everybody likes their music, sleeves and general promotion done in the same old way. But it’s not true–there is a huge listening audience in America who are actually very, very intelligent and are never catered for. I have a good part of them.

Has it come to the point yet where a new group of listeners���say the 10-13 year olds���have come up and felt, “Oh, Morrissey–he’s been around forever. He’s my big sister’s favorite–but this new group is my favorite?”

No, I don’t think so. And there may be a parallel with Lou Reed’s career, really–because he was never over-utilized, shall we say, he was always there to be discovered. Even though he was, is, very well known, and in some ways legendary. So I think that perhaps I would be compared to that situation.

For the longest time, when I was trying to rationalize your fame���

Is it so unbelievable? (laughs)

No. (laughs) And I wondered if some of the emotions that you explored lyrically–loneliness and alienation–might be something that fans could possibly grow out of as they got older and perhaps changed. I wondered if that would happen, but your sales don’t seem to indicate that. Do you know what I’m talking about?

Yes, I do. But I think I was always branded with the adolescence tag initially–and I don’t think loneliness or a sense of isolation is restricted to youth. For some people, unfortunately, it lasts for their entire lives. They remain alone, or they remain very reflective, looking inwards. So I don’t ever feel that I was initially simply writing for 13-year olds. I also don’t think once you’re beyond 21 everything magically falls into place. I don’t think that’s true,

Aside from music, is there anything extra-musical dominating your thoughts now that you’re 34?

Not particularly. I still wait and I still hope that something new will happen within music and that things will change.

Have you said anything recently that’s gotten you in any trouble?

I always seem to be in trouble for some reason. I don’t know why, I don’t know why. But no, nothing else–I think I’ve covered most ground recently.

Are there any more rewards to be had from working in pop music?

Yes, but they’re all very private, really. I have no interest in the Grammy nomination, and I have no interest in any aspects of whoredom. I will always stubbornly remain me, and nothing will change me. All the rewards that I have–the success is in the completion of the record, and my personal enjoyment of the record. I’m not really looking for anybody to hand me a small gold statue.

Do you think there are others whom you admire that carry on in the same manner?

Not particularly. I think everybody eventually falls into the same old traps, unfortunately.

Who’s the most admirable person in pop music?

There isn’t one person who has everything, but there are several people who have a little bit. I like to listen to Pete Townshend talk; I wish he could make a really great record. The collection of the works of the Crystals which was released last year was the most astounding thing, the most overplayed record that I think I’ve ever had. I can’t ever get away from the first New York Dolls album, or the early Nico albums, or the first Ramones album. So really there isn’t one person who stands alone, where I can say, “Yes, you’ve said it all, you’ve had everything.” I think there’s never been somebody who–even Elvis Presley, who, footage of Elvis Presley still astonishes me, but we know of course that he did lots of very embarrassing, blunderous things. I think that, because of the nature of human life and human infallibilities, nobody can be everything to all people.

You mentioned the Nico albums; have you ever pursued working with John Cale?

Yes, yes I did, I did initially ask him to produce Vauxhall And I, but he was busy with the Velvet Underground. He expressed mammoth interest. It’s something to bear in mind.

Who’s the most despicable person in the music business?

Do we have time? There are so many.

And you’re famous for plopping them down regularly.

Yes, but that can so easily seem like routine, to constantly denounce–so easy to sit back and say everybody’s basically crap, and everybody looks cr
ap–that’s very, very, easy, even though in many instances it may be true. And if one goes from John Lennon to Johnny Rotten, it seems also like the British thing to do–to come here and stampede over everybody. But nonetheless, I do it privately.

Do you perceive a difference in American fans than those in other countries? It seems your fame here is really snowballing.

Yes, it is. A lot of them I’ve known for a long, long time–and they’ve been with me, if I can say that, for a long, long time. And I’ve also watched them grow older and change and so forth. And that’s really gratifying, to still meet the same people that I met in 1984 and 1985. It’s very, very gratifying.

Finally���a great American live television question���what’s the major inspiration you have for getting out of bed in the morning?

What gets me out of bed? Simply a sense of duty. Nothing else. I don’t spring from the bed, I’m afraid. A very unsatisfactory answer, I know, but at least this isn’t live television,

(laughs) OK, great. Thanks for your time again.

It was very, very enjoyable. Thank you.

Entry for May 14, 2007

May 14, 2007

A Conversation With Morrissey, 1985

(Here’s an interview with Morrissey that came fairly early in his career; it took place on June 8, 1985 at the Royal Oak Music Theatre in suburban Detroit. The Smiths would play their third American concert there later that night. I’d later write part of this up as a CREEM feature, but the whole dialog is quite entertaining. I was something of a fan. Incidentally, the picture above was taken the same day. –dd)

I’ll tell you right now that I approach your band as a massive fan.

Oh, that makes it very easy.

I tell you that just so you know I won’t be calling you a jerk and asking you to defend yourself.

Well, that’ll make a very big change.

Bear with me if you’re asked some questions you’ve already been asked; you haven’t be given much press in the States so far. Some standard political questions: Have you been satisfied with Warner Brothers’ treatment of the band in the states so far?

Quite the reverse—we’ve had no satisfaction whatsoever. They’ve not really supported us on any level. And even on this current tour that we’re doing, they were quite against it—because they thought it was too ambitious, they thought the venues were far too ambitious in size. They seemed quite certain that we could only possibly appear on a very tiny, club level. And we’ve proved them wrong and they’re quite shocked, and once again they’re tongue-tied. But I can’t really be hesitant about the opinions that I have of Sire–because I do feel quite bitter about the way we’ve been treated. I feel we were signed originally as a gesture of hipdom on their part, and that was really it. And they had no intentions of the Smiths ever meaning anything on a mass level. And they still don’t. And they’ve made several marketing disasters, which have really been quite crippling to us in personal ways. For instance, the release of the last single, “How Soon Is Now” was released in an abhorrent sleeve—and the time and the dedication that we put into sleeves and artwork, it was tearful when we finally saw the record. And also they released the album Meat Is Murder with the track “How Soon Is Now” unlisted, without printing the lyrics. They released the cassette without the track “That Joke Isn’t Funny Anymore,” which is absolutely central to our new stage performances. And also we can discuss a video they made.

I was going to ask; that had nothing to do with the band, correct?

No, it had absolutely nothing to do with the Smiths—but quite naturally we were swamped with letters from very distressed American friends saying, “Why on earth did you make this foul video?” And of course it must be understood that Sire made that video, and we saw the video and we said to Sire, “You can’t possibly release this…this degrading video.” And they said, “Well maybe you shouldn’t really be on our label.” It was quite disastrous–and it need hardly be mentioned that they also listed the video under the title “How Soon Is Soon,” which…where does one begin, really?

Obviously you’re distressed by the way your record company has treated you; have you been satisfied by the way the press has treated you?

In America it’s been very, very difficult because…with the scant coverage we’ve received–and it’s really quite a suspicious mystery to me that it has been so scant–I know that there have been so many things written about me personally that have been so filled with hate that one wonders how one can leave such an impression without actually entering the country. It seems quite remarkable. But in England, it’s enormously supportive.

I wondered about that. After the crack you made about Margaret Thatcher, I saw it getting written about week after week.

What, in this country?

No, over there.

It wasn’t really terribly…it wasn’t really dramatically topical there–it happened, and it was really quite typical of the statements that I make. Which people have really grown quite accustomed to. I don’t really know how it would wash here. I’m not really sure whether I would like to attempt it. (laughs) I must just say that the American coverage has been quite disturbing and distressing. I wish people had a view of the group that was a little bit more rational and a little less malicious.

You’re one of the very few bands that cause a massive reaction in its listeners.

Yes–which is either massive devotion or endless, relentless hatred. Which I can understand now, and I’m pleased in a way—because at least it means whatever you’re doing is strong. If the Smiths were only wishy-washy, nobody would think of any comments to make about them. So I’m pleased about that—but it has its limitations.

There’s always an urge to peg bands as being a certain way. You used to carry flowers onstage—I was in England a few months ago inte
rviewing Tears For Fears, and my wife was with me. She works for FTD, the flower company. When the band heard that, they said, “Oh, you must talk to the Smiths.”

(laughs) Yes, yes. I’ve heard several comments like that.

Does that make you mad? Does it make you want to not do certain things anymore?

What it does, and this is why it hasn’t actually been done for some 18 months, but at the start it was very, very…it was much discussed, and it seemed to be like our total standpoint as artists was merely to throw flowers. It was very critical at first, but because people began to see the flowers and then see the music, I was disturbed and it had to go.

When the “celibacy” thing started getting more momentum, I was wondering if perhaps you thought the flash and the image was starting to get the better part of attention rather than the music itself.

Yes, that is absolutely true. But ultimately I can’t really determine what journalists write about. I can’t be there peering over their shoulders when they’re battering out the words on their typewriter. So this really just comes down to the power of journalism–people will write about what they want to write about. I mean the word “celibacy” bores me to a state of total nausea, but nonetheless it quite a true fact that I am a celibate person. But I never discuss it–but because so many confront me with it, it would seem to onlookers that I’m absolutely obsessed with the subject, I can’t possibly talk about anything else. And nothing could be further from the truth.

The last thing in the world that I’d want to do is talk to someone I don’t know about that sort of thing.

Well…brave man. (laughs)

Correct me if I’m wrong—were you the organizer of a New York Dolls fan club in England?

Yes. It wasn’t quite as glamorous as it can sometimes seem–it was a very threadbare affair, very rudimentary. I merely stuck a few stamps on an envelope one day. It wasn’t very dramatic–I was 13 at the time, which is quite an infant.

Did you used to write rock criticism?

Hmm. (pause) I’ve had bouts of journalism under various pseudonyms, some under my real name. Nothing elaborate—I mean one can talk about these things and they seem quite intricate and mystical, but they weren’t, they were just attractive but insignificant scraps of journalism. But yes, initially I was quite a devout failed journalist. (laughs)

The new album, Meat Is Murder–one who might approach your band cynically…

Lots of people like that, I’m afraid… (laughs)

I can only assume it’s deeply heartfelt…it must be awkward for you.

Yes, it is. Because it’s got to the stage now where people will presume if you cross a street it’s under the name of a slogan or a banner. It really isn’t the case. I really can’t answer for that kind of criticism, because I really believe that people either like you or they dislike you, and regardless of what you do in life, they will maintain that hatred or adoration. And so people that see the words “meat is murder” and smell a rat, as it were, I really can’t answer for them. That’s just the cruel way of the world.

And how might you respond to an album review if someone said, “Oh yeah, animal squeals, Pink Floyd all over again…”

Well, I mean, it might be a fair comment–I’ve never heard Pink Floyd’s records, to be brutally honest. But it might be true, how do I know?

You’ve mentioned in the press that you like a few English bands, among them the Woodentops and James?

Yes. The Woodentops have fallen from favor, I’m afraid. We took them on the road with us, you see, and as a result they circulated a lot of vicious and completely groundless rumors. But James, James was supposed to be on this trip, but they backed out at the last minute. They didn’t think they were ready for America. Which is a terrible shame, because to me they seem to be at the height of their creativity. Even though they’ve only actually released two singles in England, they’re quite an intriguing group. I would really question whether America would embrace them, because they’re very inverted, and they’re very enclosed, almost, and I’m not really sure whether that can be successful in America. But they’re certainly intriguing, and they’re very, very different.

But when you signed to an American label you made it plain you weren’t going to come over here until America was ready for you. Didn’t you find that slightly hypocritical, on a business level?

Almost, but at the time we were living in quite serious poverty, and we were offered quite a…quite a small amount of money, but it seemed at the time quite heavenly. And those were the reasons. And now I can tell you, in retrospect, those were the wrong reasons to sign to a record company. But it can’t be helped. And I think I began to make statements, almost anti-American statements, just because I felt so bitter about the neglect from Sire. Quite naturally, had Sire been enormously supportive, and enormously optimistic about our chances, I’m sure that would’ve infiltrated into the group, into the way we felt generally about coming here. But we made a very, very brief trip in December of 1983, to sign the record contract, and we were treated so abysmally we ended up really fleeing the country.

Somebody got sick or something, I’d heard.

Yes, yes, but it was the most depressing experience you’ve ever encountered. So our memories of America were very, very sour. But now, because we’re in total control, and we realize that we cannot rely upon anybody, we just have to do it ourselves, it works. And I think that’s the best strategy that groups can have—they just have to be their own person—or people, should I say—and just really get on with it, and not rely on anybody. Because when you rely on people, they invariably let you down, I find.

Will this be your third performance in the States, or did you play more than once in New York?

We’ve only ever played one American date, which was at the Danceteria, and we played in Chicago last night.

Do you think with all this praise you’re becoming stuffy, maybe big-headed?

No, no, no, no. Not in the least. Not in the least. I think if people dislike you, they’ll say you’re arrogant. I know that much, because it happens a great deal to me. I can only say that I feel very, very confident about our chances and very, very confident about our value. And if that subsides, or disappears, I wouldn’t really sound the trumpet anymore, because there’s nothing more boring or pointless than the blind rock ‘n’ roll arrogance. People can spot fakes, I really believe that. And I’d just like to feel that if people give the Smiths a genuine chance, they can dislike us or whatever, but I feel that we should be at least allowed to air our views.

With all the things that have been written about you–that you stayed in your room, were depressed, that your lyrics reflect that period in your life, say–do you feel very comfortable with all these people that don’t really know you making these generalizations about your state of mind? I don’t think I would…

Well I really did, I…I foresaw this situation, I fully understood what I was doing when I was baring my soul, if you like, but I felt that it really had to be done. Because I felt that as we go into the 1980s, things are so mechanical and programmed–with the advent of the synthesizer, and there was no poetry in words anymore, it was very sterile and very synthetic. And I thought that it was really time for somebody to be quite human and open about human feelings. And here I am.

Early on, there was some heated controversy about one of your songs’ lyrics. Was that “Handsome Devil” or “Reel Around The Fountain”?

Well, we’ve had quite a litter of controversy throughout our career. Our career is entirely controversial. Yes, initially when we released the first single there was a national press uproar about the song “Handsome Devil,” for reasons which are really too bleak to go into. And seconds later there was a national press uproar about the track you’ve mentioned, and there have been other scattered national press uproars. So it’s been quite part and parcel with…

I didn’t realize there were two…

There’s been seven, actually (laughs) …so you’ve lost count.

Tell me!

Well, they’re almost too laughably insignificant, but I do tend to be persecuted by the daily national press, and they seem to want my views on various things like the monarchy and unemployment—and I give them, and they seem to, urn, they seem to so much go against the grain of machismo authority, sometimes.

You can see the dangers of becoming a cartoon-type character?

Yes, it’s totally tiresome. I’ve really reached a limit with the British press—I’ve got to shut up now and salvage some degree of sanity. I don’t want to seem like a mere spokesperson for the daily tabloids or anything. You know. Ultimately I want to sing, and I want people to look at this group, and I want them to talk about the music and talk about the words. But it’s difficult to get them to do that. (laughs)

Are you fairly satisfied with the evolution of the singles?

Yes indeed, yes indeed. It’s difficult for me to talk about the evolution of the records in American terms, because most of the singles that have been great successes in England have been deemed unworthy or release in America–which is yet another distressing point. So I’m quite confused now as to the rhythm of the releases in this country.

Well, I’m quite familiar with the order the records were released in England. I’m thinking of how you were somewhat upset with Rough Trade about the relative success of “Shakespeare’s Sister.”

Yes, I’d never deny that. In sales terms it did quite well, but in chart placement it didn’t. And innocent onlookers merely look at chart placings. And they feel that if your latest record didn’t go as high as your last, that’s because it’s selling less. But of course that isn’t necessarily the case. But “Shakespeare’s Sister” was…muted–not muted, what’s the word? Gagged. It was gagged, almost, by the national radio stations, because they thought it was avant-garde, they thought it was too hard on the ear, and that was distressing only from the point of view that the Smiths’ status in England is absolutely enormous, yet radio and television deny that the Smiths are a phenomenon. I mean in England, we have equal status to all the English groups who mean a great deal in America now. But it’s distressing that although the people of England have said yes, the music industry has said a deafening no. And we have lots of barriers where radio and television are concerned. We get a small and meager quota of coverage, but it’s very reluctant coverage.

I don’t want to talk to much about business, but do you think that might have something to do with the fact that you’re on Rough Trade rather than a large conglomerate?

It’s got 50 percent. I mean, I do take the blame–the word must be the blame–for any hurdles, if you like. But yes, because we’re on a record company which is known as an independent record label, Rough Trade put nothing into the music industry in England, and they don’t play the game, they don’t comply to any of the meager rules–and therefore, quite naturally, the BPI and the major music industry bodies in England won’t recognize Rough Trade groups. But of course Rough Trade don’t have any groups of any national significance apart from the Smiths, so the Smiths suffer. It’s quite–obviously, it’s very distressing.

Do you have any plans at this point to do something about it?

Well, it’s not beyond the realms of possibility. I mean it’s getting a bit tiresome now. I mean, I feel that we’re actually carrying Rough Trade. And I must be quite honest—this isn’t backbiting, because our relationship is very, very open, and they know exactly what the situation is. But it becomes quite pointless carrying your record company. And we have long since passed–well, in essence, I really feel that we’ve made it on our own. And there has never been any record company backing. And I’m just wondering now, “Well, what could we really achieve if we were pushed, if everybody really tried?” I feel that way especially in America, if Sire really pushed the Smiths in America we’d be massive–we’d be absolutely massive. I know that, I know that would happen. Because I’ve seen people like Sade…

It’s amazing, isn’t it?

It’s quite unfathomable that such a shallow creature should attain such chart significance.

She was just a face in the British papers, and then suddenly…

And it all comes down to money. That’s all. Record company money.

How do you and Johnny Marr collaborate when you write songs? Does he set your words to music or vice-versa?

No, the absolute fact is that he writes tunes and puts them on cassette, and I just live with the cassette and suddenly I’m humming a vocal tune, and suddenly I’m humming the words, and it all comes together that way.

There’s one song that’s merely instrumental—was that a case of your liking the tune as it was, without words?

No. It was an absolute case where I thought we really needed an instrumental track because I felt that the Smiths as a body of musicians seemed to be quite dramatically overshadowed by perhaps the Smiths as a public statement. And I wanted people to hear the fact that the Smiths can play, and they can play very, very well, and they can play inventively. So I felt that we really had to have an instrumental track. As an absolute result, it had absolutely no attention whatsoever. (laughs) Very strange.

There’s a group of people I’ve encountered that like the Smiths’ music, but once “that Morrissey” starts wailing, it drives them up the wall.

I think—I don’t accept it, because ultimately people must accept that the Smiths are a body of people who are very, very close and get on very, very well, to say the least. And if people start to separate Johnny from me–to me it’s uncaring, and it’s very tactless. Because you either like the Smiths or you don’t. So many journalists try to quiz me on this point, and they maintain that the Smiths have two audiences—an audience of Morrissey disciples and an audience of Johnny Marr disciples. And to me it’s wrong, because if you really care about the group in any degree–whether you like the words or you like the music–you wouldn’t really want to bring it down in any department. Because to me the whole of the Smiths is so essential–and it’s so perfect, that really to cut it up and to start picking holes in certain sections, is pointless. It’s ludicrous.

I think the combination is much more powerful than either facet taken on its own.

But having said that, I must be quite honest—I can understand that people can find me very irritating. And I accept that to an almost absurd degree, because I know that I’m not…I’m not…well, I’m not really a pop pushover. And that can irritate people, because they want their music to be quite simplistic, and they don’t really want any fuss and bother and any seriousness—which I know I’ll certainly never fit into that bill. But ultimately I feel that if people are saying no to the Smiths that they’re saying yes to Madonna, and I find that the biggest sin of all. (laughs)

One of the things I enjoy the most about your lyrics–and this aspect has certainly been pointed out–is their sexual ambiguity, in that the songs could apply to relationships between male/female, male/male or female/female. Do you strive for this?

It’s an absolutely intentional move. It has to be that way. Because I think that all the great writers that I ever liked were writers who spoke for everybody. I don’t like it when there’s this separatism, that certain groups can be put into absolutely defined categories, that this group could only possibly appeal to men or women or certain sects. Not sex—sects. So I feel quite adamant about the fact that the Smiths must strive to appeal to almost everybody. Whether it happens or not remains to be seen, but that’s certainly the intention. (The band’s road manager walks in, says time is almost up) OK, we’ll just do a couple more questions, and I’ll be right out.

I’m sure that when I hear your songs I’m hearing something much, much different from what, say, you might’ve intended.

Oh, I hope so—I hope so. (laughs) For your sake. No, sorry.

Do people come up to you and tell you they perceive one of your lyrics to mean something special and you just sort of smile knowingly at their interpretation?

Well no, I don’t always smile–because sometimes people come up to me and say, ‘Well obviously this song is about” whatever, and it’s a completely…umm…erroneous, unintelligent interpretation that they’ve put on the song. But that’s the risk, I mean, that’s the risk that has to be taken. For me, it’s good enough that people just actually think about the song, regardless of what conclusion they come to about them. And I know that people do think about the words a great deal, because they tell me so. And ultimately that’s the biggest prize of all. But I don’t like it when people–certainly journalists–make serious conclusions about me as a person, which in many ways are not true. I don’t like that. Because they’re telling lots of people, “Morrissey does this, and he does this, and he thinks this way because of this.” In some instances it isn’t true–but then again, this is pointless, because this is just the way the whole thing works. Ultimately, you just throw your words out, and however they land, they land. But in Rolling Stone, obviously, which got me into lots of trouble, there was a statement that “Morrissey is a man who says that he is gay.” Which was news to me. And it had an absolutely adverse effect on our chances in America. And obviously Sire backed away immediately. But the journalist who wrote it–who is himself very steeped, he’s a very strong voice in the gay movement in New York, I think it was just wishful thinking on his part–well, I don’t want to be slotted into any category like that in any way. Because it’s pointless–I mean, all these terms and all these categories, they’ve not really proved to be of any value within music.

Just out of curiosity, what do you listen to yourself when you’re home?

I listen to lots of older records. I’m quite fascinated by the Marvelettes…

They’re from Detroit—

Yes, yes—what a wonderful coincidence! I got a wonderful tape of theirs yesterday, with an incredible track on it called “Strange I Know.” Do you know it?

Not really, no.

Oh, it’s quite stunning. And I also like a singer from America who to me had the best voice in the world and doesn’t mean a thing to anybody. She’s never had never success anywhere, from what it appears. Timi Yuro.

Is she Oriental?

No, she’s American-Italian–no, not Oriental. She almost looks Oriental, for some reason.

I remember she was either on Imperial or UA…

She’s on United Artists, is that what you meant?

Yeah.

That voice! Now do you remember a singer, I think she possibly had one hit in the mid-’60s, called Rita Pavone? She had two hits—one was quite major, one was absolutely minor.

Red hair and freckles?

Yes—I think she was 14 when she began.

Was that “Ma! He’s Making Eyes At Me”? No, that’s Lena Zavaroni.

Yes, it certainly is. No, her big hit in England was called “Heart,” and then she had a follow-up called “You, Only You”—but the voice was magnificent! She just dribbled into obscurity. So they are the two voices—Rita Pavone and Timi Yuro—that absolutely captivate me. And the lead singer from the Marvelettes. Gladys—which is quite an unfortunate name for a trendsetter. (laughs)

Well, I don’t want to take up any more of your time.

Yes, I’ll probably get beaten up if I don’t go outside.

You prefer being called Morrissey as opposed to Stephen?

Yes, I’m afraid that name was buried a long, long time ago. It was never of any use to me.

Thanks for your time. Hope I didn’t come on like too big a fan.

Oh, no, no, no. It’s been an absolute pleasure. I hope it’s of some value.

Entry for May 14, 2007

May 14, 2007

A Conversation With Morrissey, 1985

(Here’s an interview with Morrissey that came fairly early in his career; it took place on June 8, 1985 at the Royal Oak Music Theatre in suburban Detroit. The Smiths would play their third American concert there later that night. I’d later write part of this up as a CREEM feature, but the whole dialog is quite entertaining. I was something of a fan. Incidentally, the picture above was taken the same day. –dd)

I’ll tell you right now that I approach your band as a massive fan.

Oh, that makes it very easy.

I tell you that just so you know I won’t be calling you a jerk and asking you to defend yourself.

Well, that’ll make a very big change.

Bear with me if you’re asked some questions you’ve already been asked; you haven’t be given much press in the States so far. Some standard political questions: Have you been satisfied with Warner Brothers’ treatment of the band in the states so far?

Quite the reverse—we’ve had no satisfaction whatsoever. They’ve not really supported us on any level. And even on this current tour that we’re doing, they were quite against it—because they thought it was too ambitious, they thought the venues were far too ambitious in size. They seemed quite certain that we could only possibly appear on a very tiny, club level. And we’ve proved them wrong and they’re quite shocked, and once again they’re tongue-tied. But I can’t really be hesitant about the opinions that I have of Sire–because I do feel quite bitter about the way we’ve been treated. I feel we were signed originally as a gesture of hipdom on their part, and that was really it. And they had no intentions of the Smiths ever meaning anything on a mass level. And they still don’t. And they’ve made several marketing disasters, which have really been quite crippling to us in personal ways. For instance, the release of the last single, “How Soon Is Now” was released in an abhorrent sleeve—and the time and the dedication that we put into sleeves and artwork, it was tearful when we finally saw the record. And also they released the album Meat Is Murder with the track “How Soon Is Now” unlisted, without printing the lyrics. They released the cassette without the track “That Joke Isn’t Funny Anymore,” which is absolutely central to our new stage performances. And also we can discuss a video they made.

I was going to ask; that had nothing to do with the band, correct?

No, it had absolutely nothing to do with the Smiths—but quite naturally we were swamped with letters from very distressed American friends saying, “Why on earth did you make this foul video?” And of course it must be understood that Sire made that video, and we saw the video and we said to Sire, “You can’t possibly release this…this degrading video.” And they said, “Well maybe you shouldn’t really be on our label.” It was quite disastrous–and it need hardly be mentioned that they also listed the video under the title “How Soon Is Soon,” which…where does one begin, really?

Obviously you’re distressed by the way your record company has treated you; have you been satisfied by the way the press has treated you?

In America it’s been very, very difficult because…with the scant coverage we’ve received–and it’s really quite a suspicious mystery to me that it has been so scant–I know that there have been so many things written about me personally that have been so filled with hate that one wonders how one can leave such an impression without actually entering the country. It seems quite remarkable. But in England, it’s enormously supportive.

I wondered about that. After the crack you made about Margaret Thatcher, I saw it getting written about week after week.

What, in this country?

No, over there.

It wasn’t really terribly…it wasn’t really dramatically topical there–it happened, and it was really quite typical of the statements that I make. Which people have really grown quite accustomed to. I don’t really know how it would wash here. I’m not really sure whether I would like to attempt it. (laughs) I must just say that the American coverage has been quite disturbing and distressing. I wish people had a view of the group that was a little bit more rational and a little less malicious.

You’re one of the very few bands that cause a massive reaction in its listeners.

Yes–which is either massive devotion or endless, relentless hatred. Which I can understand now, and I’m pleased in a way—because at least it means whatever you’re doing is strong. If the Smiths were only wishy-washy, nobody would think of any comments to make about them. So I’m pleased about that—but it has its limitations.

There’s always an urge to peg bands as being a certain way. You used to carry flowers onstage—I was in England a few months ago inte
rviewing Tears For Fears, and my wife was with me. She works for FTD, the flower company. When the band heard that, they said, “Oh, you must talk to the Smiths.”

(laughs) Yes, yes. I’ve heard several comments like that.

Does that make you mad? Does it make you want to not do certain things anymore?

What it does, and this is why it hasn’t actually been done for some 18 months, but at the start it was very, very…it was much discussed, and it seemed to be like our total standpoint as artists was merely to throw flowers. It was very critical at first, but because people began to see the flowers and then see the music, I was disturbed and it had to go.

When the “celibacy” thing started getting more momentum, I was wondering if perhaps you thought the flash and the image was starting to get the better part of attention rather than the music itself.

Yes, that is absolutely true. But ultimately I can’t really determine what journalists write about. I can’t be there peering over their shoulders when they’re battering out the words on their typewriter. So this really just comes down to the power of journalism–people will write about what they want to write about. I mean the word “celibacy” bores me to a state of total nausea, but nonetheless it quite a true fact that I am a celibate person. But I never discuss it–but because so many confront me with it, it would seem to onlookers that I’m absolutely obsessed with the subject, I can’t possibly talk about anything else. And nothing could be further from the truth.

The last thing in the world that I’d want to do is talk to someone I don’t know about that sort of thing.

Well…brave man. (laughs)

Correct me if I’m wrong—were you the organizer of a New York Dolls fan club in England?

Yes. It wasn’t quite as glamorous as it can sometimes seem–it was a very threadbare affair, very rudimentary. I merely stuck a few stamps on an envelope one day. It wasn’t very dramatic–I was 13 at the time, which is quite an infant.

Did you used to write rock criticism?

Hmm. (pause) I’ve had bouts of journalism under various pseudonyms, some under my real name. Nothing elaborate—I mean one can talk about these things and they seem quite intricate and mystical, but they weren’t, they were just attractive but insignificant scraps of journalism. But yes, initially I was quite a devout failed journalist. (laughs)

The new album, Meat Is Murder–one who might approach your band cynically…

Lots of people like that, I’m afraid… (laughs)

I can only assume it’s deeply heartfelt…it must be awkward for you.

Yes, it is. Because it’s got to the stage now where people will presume if you cross a street it’s under the name of a slogan or a banner. It really isn’t the case. I really can’t answer for that kind of criticism, because I really believe that people either like you or they dislike you, and regardless of what you do in life, they will maintain that hatred or adoration. And so people that see the words “meat is murder” and smell a rat, as it were, I really can’t answer for them. That’s just the cruel way of the world.

And how might you respond to an album review if someone said, “Oh yeah, animal squeals, Pink Floyd all over again…”

Well, I mean, it might be a fair comment–I’ve never heard Pink Floyd’s records, to be brutally honest. But it might be true, how do I know?

You’ve mentioned in the press that you like a few English bands, among them the Woodentops and James?

Yes. The Woodentops have fallen from favor, I’m afraid. We took them on the road with us, you see, and as a result they circulated a lot of vicious and completely groundless rumors. But James, James was supposed to be on this trip, but they backed out at the last minute. They didn’t think they were ready for America. Which is a terrible shame, because to me they seem to be at the height of their creativity. Even though they’ve only actually released two singles in England, they’re quite an intriguing group. I would really question whether America would embrace them, because they’re very inverted, and they’re very enclosed, almost, and I’m not really sure whether that can be successful in America. But they’re certainly intriguing, and they’re very, very different.

But when you signed to an American label you made it plain you weren’t going to come over here until America was ready for you. Didn’t you find that slightly hypocritical, on a business level?

Almost, but at the time we were living in quite serious poverty, and we were offered quite a…quite a small amount of money, but it seemed at the time quite heavenly. And those were the reasons. And now I can tell you, in retrospect, those were the wrong reasons to sign to a record company. But it can’t be helped. And I think I began to make statements, almost anti-American statements, just because I felt so bitter about the neglect from Sire. Quite naturally, had Sire been enormously supportive, and enormously optimistic about our chances, I’m sure that would’ve infiltrated into the group, into the way we felt generally about coming here. But we made a very, very brief trip in December of 1983, to sign the record contract, and we were treated so abysmally we ended up really fleeing the country.

Somebody got sick or something, I’d heard.

Yes, yes, but it was the most depressing experience you’ve ever encountered. So our memories of America were very, very sour. But now, because we’re in total control, and we realize that we cannot rely upon anybody, we just have to do it ourselves, it works. And I think that’s the best strategy that groups can have—they just have to be their own person—or people, should I say—and just really get on with it, and not rely on anybody. Because when you rely on people, they invariably let you down, I find.

Will this be your third performance in the States, or did you play more than once in New York?

We’ve only ever played one American date, which was at the Danceteria, and we played in Chicago last night.

Do you think with all this praise you’re becoming stuffy, maybe big-headed?

No, no, no, no. Not in the least. Not in the least. I think if people dislike you, they’ll say you’re arrogant. I know that much, because it happens a great deal to me. I can only say that I feel very, very confident about our chances and very, very confident about our value. And if that subsides, or disappears, I wouldn’t really sound the trumpet anymore, because there’s nothing more boring or pointless than the blind rock ‘n’ roll arrogance. People can spot fakes, I really believe that. And I’d just like to feel that if people give the Smiths a genuine chance, they can dislike us or whatever, but I feel that we should be at least allowed to air our views.

With all the things that have been written about you–that you stayed in your room, were depressed, that your lyrics reflect that period in your life, say–do you feel very comfortable with all these people that don’t really know you making these generalizations about your state of mind? I don’t think I would…

Well I really did, I…I foresaw this situation, I fully understood what I was doing when I was baring my soul, if you like, but I felt that it really had to be done. Because I felt that as we go into the 1980s, things are so mechanical and programmed–with the advent of the synthesizer, and there was no poetry in words anymore, it was very sterile and very synthetic. And I thought that it was really time for somebody to be quite human and open about human feelings. And here I am.

Early on, there was some heated controversy about one of your songs’ lyrics. Was that “Handsome Devil” or “Reel Around The Fountain”?

Well, we’ve had quite a litter of controversy throughout our career. Our career is entirely controversial. Yes, initially when we released the first single there was a national press uproar about the song “Handsome Devil,” for reasons which are really too bleak to go into. And seconds later there was a national press uproar about the track you’ve mentioned, and there have been other scattered national press uproars. So it’s been quite part and parcel with…

I didn’t realize there were two…

There’s been seven, actually (laughs) …so you’ve lost count.

Tell me!

Well, they’re almost too laughably insignificant, but I do tend to be persecuted by the daily national press, and they seem to want my views on various things like the monarchy and unemployment—and I give them, and they seem to, urn, they seem to so much go against the grain of machismo authority, sometimes.

You can see the dangers of becoming a cartoon-type character?

Yes, it’s totally tiresome. I’ve really reached a limit with the British press—I’ve got to shut up now and salvage some degree of sanity. I don’t want to seem like a mere spokesperson for the daily tabloids or anything. You know. Ultimately I want to sing, and I want people to look at this group, and I want them to talk about the music and talk about the words. But it’s difficult to get them to do that. (laughs)

Are you fairly satisfied with the evolution of the singles?

Yes indeed, yes indeed. It’s difficult for me to talk about the evolution of the records in American terms, because most of the singles that have been great successes in England have been deemed unworthy or release in America–which is yet another distressing point. So I’m quite confused now as to the rhythm of the releases in this country.

Well, I’m quite familiar with the order the records were released in England. I’m thinking of how you were somewhat upset with Rough Trade about the relative success of “Shakespeare’s Sister.”

Yes, I’d never deny that. In sales terms it did quite well, but in chart placement it didn’t. And innocent onlookers merely look at chart placings. And they feel that if your latest record didn’t go as high as your last, that’s because it’s selling less. But of course that isn’t necessarily the case. But “Shakespeare’s Sister” was…muted–not muted, what’s the word? Gagged. It was gagged, almost, by the national radio stations, because they thought it was avant-garde, they thought it was too hard on the ear, and that was distressing only from the point of view that the Smiths’ status in England is absolutely enormous, yet radio and television deny that the Smiths are a phenomenon. I mean in England, we have equal status to all the English groups who mean a great deal in America now. But it’s distressing that although the people of England have said yes, the music industry has said a deafening no. And we have lots of barriers where radio and television are concerned. We get a small and meager quota of coverage, but it’s very reluctant coverage.

I don’t want to talk to much about business, but do you think that might have something to do with the fact that you’re on Rough Trade rather than a large conglomerate?

It’s got 50 percent. I mean, I do take the blame–the word must be the blame–for any hurdles, if you like. But yes, because we’re on a record company which is known as an independent record label, Rough Trade put nothing into the music industry in England, and they don’t play the game, they don’t comply to any of the meager rules–and therefore, quite naturally, the BPI and the major music industry bodies in England won’t recognize Rough Trade groups. But of course Rough Trade don’t have any groups of any national significance apart from the Smiths, so the Smiths suffer. It’s quite–obviously, it’s very distressing.

Do you have any plans at this point to do something about it?

Well, it’s not beyond the realms of possibility. I mean it’s getting a bit tiresome now. I mean, I feel that we’re actually carrying Rough Trade. And I must be quite honest—this isn’t backbiting, because our relationship is very, very open, and they know exactly what the situation is. But it becomes quite pointless carrying your record company. And we have long since passed–well, in essence, I really feel that we’ve made it on our own. And there has never been any record company backing. And I’m just wondering now, “Well, what could we really achieve if we were pushed, if everybody really tried?” I feel that way especially in America, if Sire really pushed the Smiths in America we’d be massive–we’d be absolutely massive. I know that, I know that would happen. Because I’ve seen people like Sade…

It’s amazing, isn’t it?

It’s quite unfathomable that such a shallow creature should attain such chart significance.

She was just a face in the British papers, and then suddenly…

And it all comes down to money. That’s all. Record company money.

How do you and Johnny Marr collaborate when you write songs? Does he set your words to music or vice-versa?

No, the absolute fact is that he writes tunes and puts them on cassette, and I just live with the cassette and suddenly I’m humming a vocal tune, and suddenly I’m humming the words, and it all comes together that way.

There’s one song that’s merely instrumental—was that a case of your liking the tune as it was, without words?

No. It was an absolute case where I thought we really needed an instrumental track because I felt that the Smiths as a body of musicians seemed to be quite dramatically overshadowed by perhaps the Smiths as a public statement. And I wanted people to hear the fact that the Smiths can play, and they can play very, very well, and they can play inventively. So I felt that we really had to have an instrumental track. As an absolute result, it had absolutely no attention whatsoever. (laughs) Very strange.

There’s a group of people I’ve encountered that like the Smiths’ music, but once “that Morrissey” starts wailing, it drives them up the wall.

I think—I don’t accept it, because ultimately people must accept that the Smiths are a body of people who are very, very close and get on very, very well, to say the least. And if people start to separate Johnny from me–to me it’s uncaring, and it’s very tactless. Because you either like the Smiths or you don’t. So many journalists try to quiz me on this point, and they maintain that the Smiths have two audiences—an audience of Morrissey disciples and an audience of Johnny Marr disciples. And to me it’s wrong, because if you really care about the group in any degree–whether you like the words or you like the music–you wouldn’t really want to bring it down in any department. Because to me the whole of the Smiths is so essential–and it’s so perfect, that really to cut it up and to start picking holes in certain sections, is pointless. It’s ludicrous.

I think the combination is much more powerful than either facet taken on its own.

But having said that, I must be quite honest—I can understand that people can find me very irritating. And I accept that to an almost absurd degree, because I know that I’m not…I’m not…well, I’m not really a pop pushover. And that can irritate people, because they want their music to be quite simplistic, and they don’t really want any fuss and bother and any seriousness—which I know I’ll certainly never fit into that bill. But ultimately I feel that if people are saying no to the Smiths that they’re saying yes to Madonna, and I find that the biggest sin of all. (laughs)

One of the things I enjoy the most about your lyrics–and this aspect has certainly been pointed out–is their sexual ambiguity, in that the songs could apply to relationships between male/female, male/male or female/female. Do you strive for this?

It’s an absolutely intentional move. It has to be that way. Because I think that all the great writers that I ever liked were writers who spoke for everybody. I don’t like it when there’s this separatism, that certain groups can be put into absolutely defined categories, that this group could only possibly appeal to men or women or certain sects. Not sex—sects. So I feel quite adamant about the fact that the Smiths must strive to appeal to almost everybody. Whether it happens or not remains to be seen, but that’s certainly the intention. (The band’s road manager walks in, says time is almost up) OK, we’ll just do a couple more questions, and I’ll be right out.

I’m sure that when I hear your songs I’m hearing something much, much different from what, say, you might’ve intended.

Oh, I hope so—I hope so. (laughs) For your sake. No, sorry.

Do people come up to you and tell you they perceive one of your lyrics to mean something special and you just sort of smile knowingly at their interpretation?

Well no, I don’t always smile–because sometimes people come up to me and say, ‘Well obviously this song is about” whatever, and it’s a completely…umm…erroneous, unintelligent interpretation that they’ve put on the song. But that’s the risk, I mean, that’s the risk that has to be taken. For me, it’s good enough that people just actually think about the song, regardless of what conclusion they come to about them. And I know that people do think about the words a great deal, because they tell me so. And ultimately that’s the biggest prize of all. But I don’t like it when people–certainly journalists–make serious conclusions about me as a person, which in many ways are not true. I don’t like that. Because they’re telling lots of people, “Morrissey does this, and he does this, and he thinks this way because of this.” In some instances it isn’t true–but then again, this is pointless, because this is just the way the whole thing works. Ultimately, you just throw your words out, and however they land, they land. But in Rolling Stone, obviously, which got me into lots of trouble, there was a statement that “Morrissey is a man who says that he is gay.” Which was news to me. And it had an absolutely adverse effect on our chances in America. And obviously Sire backed away immediately. But the journalist who wrote it–who is himself very steeped, he’s a very strong voice in the gay movement in New York, I think it was just wishful thinking on his part–well, I don’t want to be slotted into any category like that in any way. Because it’s pointless–I mean, all these terms and all these categories, they’ve not really proved to be of any value within music.

Just out of curiosity, what do you listen to yourself when you’re home?

I listen to lots of older records. I’m quite fascinated by the Marvelettes…

They’re from Detroit—

Yes, yes—what a wonderful coincidence! I got a wonderful tape of theirs yesterday, with an incredible track on it called “Strange I Know.” Do you know it?

Not really, no.

Oh, it’s quite stunning. And I also like a singer from America who to me had the best voice in the world and doesn’t mean a thing to anybody. She’s never had never success anywhere, from what it appears. Timi Yuro.

Is she Oriental?

No, she’s American-Italian–no, not Oriental. She almost looks Oriental, for some reason.

I remember she was either on Imperial or UA…

She’s on United Artists, is that what you meant?

Yeah.

That voice! Now do you remember a singer, I think she possibly had one hit in the mid-’60s, called Rita Pavone? She had two hits—one was quite major, one was absolutely minor.

Red hair and freckles?

Yes—I think she was 14 when she began.

Was that “Ma! He’s Making Eyes At Me”? No, that’s Lena Zavaroni.

Yes, it certainly is. No, her big hit in England was called “Heart,” and then she had a follow-up called “You, Only You”—but the voice was magnificent! She just dribbled into obscurity. So they are the two voices—Rita Pavone and Timi Yuro—that absolutely captivate me. And the lead singer from the Marvelettes. Gladys—which is quite an unfortunate name for a trendsetter. (laughs)

Well, I don’t want to take up any more of your time.

Yes, I’ll probably get beaten up if I don’t go outside.

You prefer being called Morrissey as opposed to Stephen?

Yes, I’m afraid that name was buried a long, long time ago. It was never of any use to me.

Thanks for your time. Hope I didn’t come on like too big a fan.

Oh, no, no, no. It’s been an absolute pleasure. I hope it’s of some value.

Entry for May 10, 2007

May 10, 2007

First Encounter: Aerosmith 1974

(Sheesh is this dopey! Interesting period for these geeks, though, as “Dream On” had just come out and mildly flopped [it would be re-released and hit the Top 10 two years later] and dorky reviewers weren’t above making New York Dolls comparisons. All in all, “very commendable” and “truly a sight to behold”!—dd)

“It was just like playing at home… and they love us in Boston!”

Such were the words of Brad Whitford, rhythm guitarist of the Boston-based group Aerosmith, after Wednesday night’s appearance at the Brewery.

Aerosmith certainly earned its wings in East Lansing. Apparently a favorite of the Brewery management, the group has “almost” appeared here a number of times, but due to unforseen circumstances, has never had the chance to perform locally.

When Aerosmith was finally booked, the Brewery spent a great deal of time promoting the appearance. And it all paid off–Wednesday night’s show was perhaps one of the most exciting performances this area has seen in months.

Before the group came onstage, it was plain to see a very expectant audience was waiting in the house. The pre-show clapping and hooting indicated that the group had already established a definite audience. That, and a fully packed Brewery, proved that something was particularly special about the band.

Their performance was a knockout. Beginning with “Make it,” the introductory song on their debut album, Aerosmith gradually gathered momentum until full-power, hell-spawned rock and roll was delivered.

But it took a while. The first third of the show seemed weaker in comparison to the final two-thirds. The group seemed sloppy at first, even during the performance of their noted single “Dream On.” Only when they began “One Way Street,” probably their best tune, did the group really begin to open up. Suddenly an air of true professionalism surrounded the band, an aura which did not leave for the remainder of the show.

Onstage, the group was visually interesting, basically because of the antics of charismatic lead singer Steve Tyler. Tyler’s mannerisms, partly responsible for the group’s heralded comparison with the early Stones, seemed much more akin to the style of lead singer David Jo Hansen of the New York Dolls. He seemed to be trying to look like a lead singer, which actually made the show that much more interesting.

The dual work of lead guitarist Joe Perry and rhythm guitarist Brad Whitford was very commendable. Often switching back from lead to rhythm, each guitarist alternately complemented the other quite well, and together both guitarists formed the musical nucleus of the group.

Though bass player Tom Hamilton was seemingly neglected, Joey Kramer was spotlighted several times on drums, and in his, own way contributed much to the group’s visual show. Jumping up from his seat at the conclusion of several songs; he gave the group some degree of spontaneity that helped the show greatly.

The crowd went wild at the Brewery. They demanded two encores, and Aerosmith was extremely appreciative. Promising to return to East Lansing, the group broke into their best performance of the night. They were truly a sight to behold.

Heading for Detroit, the group will share the bill with guitarist Roy Buchanan this weekend, and then continue their trek of the Midwest.

During the night, the group played several compositions from their soon-to-be-released album, Get Your Wings. On Columbia Records, the disc threatens to be a real monster, if Wednesday night’s performance was any indication. Hopefully, the group’s next single, “Same Old Song And Dance” will do what “Dream On” failed to–that is, break simultaneously throughout the country, thereby promising Aerosmith the national audience they truly deserve.

There is an air of stardom about this band, one that cannot go unnoticed for long. Given a little time, this relatively young band will probably make it in a very big way. No one, after Wednesday night, can argue with that.

(Michigan State News, 2/1/74)

Entry for May 10, 2007

May 10, 2007

First Encounter: Aerosmith 1974

(Sheesh is this dopey! Interesting period for these geeks, though, as “Dream On” had just come out and mildly flopped [it would be re-released and hit the Top 10 two years later] and dorky reviewers weren’t above making New York Dolls comparisons. All in all, “very commendable” and “truly a sight to behold”!—dd)

“It was just like playing at home… and they love us in Boston!”

Such were the words of Brad Whitford, rhythm guitarist of the Boston-based group Aerosmith, after Wednesday night’s appearance at the Brewery.

Aerosmith certainly earned its wings in East Lansing. Apparently a favorite of the Brewery management, the group has “almost” appeared here a number of times, but due to unforseen circumstances, has never had the chance to perform locally.

When Aerosmith was finally booked, the Brewery spent a great deal of time promoting the appearance. And it all paid off–Wednesday night’s show was perhaps one of the most exciting performances this area has seen in months.

Before the group came onstage, it was plain to see a very expectant audience was waiting in the house. The pre-show clapping and hooting indicated that the group had already established a definite audience. That, and a fully packed Brewery, proved that something was particularly special about the band.

Their performance was a knockout. Beginning with “Make it,” the introductory song on their debut album, Aerosmith gradually gathered momentum until full-power, hell-spawned rock and roll was delivered.

But it took a while. The first third of the show seemed weaker in comparison to the final two-thirds. The group seemed sloppy at first, even during the performance of their noted single “Dream On.” Only when they began “One Way Street,” probably their best tune, did the group really begin to open up. Suddenly an air of true professionalism surrounded the band, an aura which did not leave for the remainder of the show.

Onstage, the group was visually interesting, basically because of the antics of charismatic lead singer Steve Tyler. Tyler’s mannerisms, partly responsible for the group’s heralded comparison with the early Stones, seemed much more akin to the style of lead singer David Jo Hansen of the New York Dolls. He seemed to be trying to look like a lead singer, which actually made the show that much more interesting.

The dual work of lead guitarist Joe Perry and rhythm guitarist Brad Whitford was very commendable. Often switching back from lead to rhythm, each guitarist alternately complemented the other quite well, and together both guitarists formed the musical nucleus of the group.

Though bass player Tom Hamilton was seemingly neglected, Joey Kramer was spotlighted several times on drums, and in his, own way contributed much to the group’s visual show. Jumping up from his seat at the conclusion of several songs; he gave the group some degree of spontaneity that helped the show greatly.

The crowd went wild at the Brewery. They demanded two encores, and Aerosmith was extremely appreciative. Promising to return to East Lansing, the group broke into their best performance of the night. They were truly a sight to behold.

Heading for Detroit, the group will share the bill with guitarist Roy Buchanan this weekend, and then continue their trek of the Midwest.

During the night, the group played several compositions from their soon-to-be-released album, Get Your Wings. On Columbia Records, the disc threatens to be a real monster, if Wednesday night’s performance was any indication. Hopefully, the group’s next single, “Same Old Song And Dance” will do what “Dream On” failed to–that is, break simultaneously throughout the country, thereby promising Aerosmith the national audience they truly deserve.

There is an air of stardom about this band, one that cannot go unnoticed for long. Given a little time, this relatively young band will probably make it in a very big way. No one, after Wednesday night, can argue with that.

(Michigan State News, 2/1/74)

Entry for May 09, 2007

May 9, 2007

Scrapped Column Headshots

Entry for May 09, 2007

May 9, 2007

Scrapped Column Headshots