Morrissey's Autobiography: Judges, NME get slapped down

Oct 17, 2013

First reviews of Smiths singer's long-awaited memoir say judiciary bears the brunt of his eloquent anger

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LOVE and hate – but mostly hate. Morrissey's long-awaited memoir provides brief glimpses of the singer's personal life, but its longest passages are devoted to verbal thrashings of those he believes have wronged him, critics say.

In Autobiography, released as a Penguin Classic today, the 54-year-old former Smiths frontman reveals he was 35 when he had his first proper relationship with a former boxer called Jake Walters. In 2000, he considered having a baby – a "mewling miniature monster" – with a female friend, but didn't proceed.

So much for affairs of the heart. Writing in The Guardian, Michael Hann says the British legal system and the NME "face the brunt of Morrissey's ire" in the book, although there are "side orders of disdain" for record labels and the 1970s education system.

Judge John Weeks, who described Morrissey as "devious, truculent and unreliable" during a 1996 court battle over money owed to two former members of The Smiths, is described as "the pride of the pipsqueakery".  

"Weeks tore into me with a thunder reserved for rapists and murderers," Morrissey writes. In return, the singer depicts the judge "ringing his creased little hangman's hands whilst resembling a pile of untouched sandwiches".

Morrissey's description of the case and his subsequent appeal takes up nearly 50 pages of the 457-page book, Hann notes. It is the longest passage - Autobiography is not divided into chapters - on a single subject in the book.

There are other targets, of course. Manchester's schools and the "belligerent ghouls" who ran them are both given a slap.

Morrissey's turbulent relationship with the NME is visited several times in Autobiography. In the early 1990s, the music magazine's writers were instructed to "get Morrissey", he claims. That campaign reached a crescendo on 22 August 1992, when the NME ran a cover showing Morrissey draped in the Union Jack accompanied by the headline "Is Morrissey flirting with fascism?"

An indignant Morrissey writes that there was "no thought whatsoever of me in the burning wreckage of it all... They milk and foster their racist allegations – full of high moral code and judicial thuggery".

In fact, writes Hann, the offending NME headline actually read: "Flying the flag or flirting with disaster?"

The Daily Telegraph's Rosa Silverman says Morrissey's "characteristic candour" is extended to targets ranging from Mick Jagger to the late John Peel. The former walked out of a Smiths gig after four songs, Morrissey says, the latter never actually attended a concert by the band.

The BBC's Colin Paterson says the book made him "laugh out loud" every couple of pages. And he notes that the book contains the startling admission that Morrissey is "wrong quite a lot". For example, the singer didn't want There Is A Light That Never Goes Out to be included on the Smiths' 1986 album The Queen Is Dead.

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