From Morrissey to Marr: Why THAT Open Letter Was a Long Time Coming

“This is not a rant or an hysterical bombast,” the singer wrote on his website, Morrissey Central. “It is a polite and calmly measured request: Would you please stop mentioning my name in your interviews? We all know that the British press will print anything you say about me as long as it’s cruel and savage. But you’ve done all that. Move on…

There comes a time when you must take responsibility for your own actions and your own career, with which I wish you good health to enjoy. Just stop using my name as click-bait. I have not ever attacked your solo work or your solo life, and I have openly applauded your genius during the days of ‘Louder than bombs’ and ‘Strangeways, Here we Come’, yet you have positioned yourself ever-ready as rent-a-quote whenever the press require… It is 2022, not 1982.”

Morrissey’s statement sprinted across the media and internet shortly after publication, leaving many of the singer’s fans cheering the move. Over the ensuing years since iconic group The Smiths disbanded, Morrissey has moved forward with a host of solo projects: a whopping 13 solo studio albums, (recently he recorded his 14th), numerous worldwide tours and album sales in excess of 13 million. It had been noted by Morrissey’s supporters and music fans in general that Smiths guitarist Johnny Marr had referenced Morrissey repeatedly in his promotional media rounds over the years (often negatively), and as a result, many have applauded the singer’s decision to finally address the issue.

Amongst the many headlines Marr has made in reference to his ex-bandmate:

“Johnny Marr Says He’s Not Close To Morrissey Anymore” (NME); Johnny Marr on Morrissey “Of Course I Don’t Agree With What He’s Saying” (Far Out Magazine); Johnny Marr Roasts Morrissey’s Politics (Spin); Marr on The Smiths and Morrissey, “You Can’t Change History”(NME); What Morrissey Says Doesn’t Reflect On The Smiths (NME) and Johnny Marr: “Morrissey And Me Are So Different…”(Far Out Magazine).

Image: Getty

The above are just a selection of the instances the guitarist has referenced Morrissey. This highlights for fans just how easy it is for the much-maligned singer to be used as media fodder. Few other artists have been as criticised and hounded by the press as the Mancunian artist has, and many would argue that Morrissey has been the victim of a hate campaign that he clearly does not deserve. Even in Morrissey’s dignified silence, he is criticised. For him (at least in the eyes of many journalists) there really appears to be no right way forward.

While others from those glory days of The Smiths constantly look back to the 80s, Morrissey has not leaned on, nor relied upon, the group’s impressive body of work to propel him forward. He occasionally plays tracks from The Smiths era when on stage, yet this is usually where it ends for Morrissey — he has chosen to let the music do the talking.

One could easily question why certain ex-members of The Smiths only seem to make derogatory comments about the lead singer and lyricist they once worked with, when it is obvious to many that Morrissey gave the band the edge they so needed, and no other singer or lyricist could have brought to the table what Morrissey did. No other artist could have replicated it.

In fact, for many, Morrissey was the face and heart of The Smiths. He was the voice of a jilted generation (and still is). If the band had not had such an intelligent, opinionated and charismatic frontman, there would certainly have been great music from The Smiths, but the group would not have become the adored icons of their generation in the ways in which they have. It was Morrissey’s mind and soul that conjured the sobering beauty of morality in Meat Is Murder, and created the poetical landscapes glimpsed in the words of There Is A Light That Never Goes Out. It was Morrissey who pushed the boundaries, who stood firm as an anti-establishment figure, penning politically charged tracks at a time when — much like now — to be outspoken and controversial was a huge risk.

Morrissey’s style, temperament and outspoken views made The Smiths an exciting and unexpected phenomena, somehow pushing the group to the fringes of acceptability — and yet launching them to the centre stage of the music world. It seems a deep shame that often, those like Marr only seem to berate or criticise the man who helped cement their status in the music world.

Whilst this is hardly surprising (even Morrissey himself surely at this stage expects no better), it is still a huge disappointment to see it happening. Negative headlines again and again, using Morrissey’s name as easy click-bait, does the greatness of The Smiths a disservice. Fans of The Smiths and Morrissey treasure the music, the memories, the magic, and that, for most, is all that will ever matter.

Morrissey’s open letter really was a long-time coming. Few others would have had the patience, dignity or respect to have waited so long to address this issue.

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