Disclaimer: This will be very dull if you intensely dislike The Smiths and Morrissey. It may still be very dull even if you like them.
From the Ice Age to the Dole Age, from the 1980s until now, there has never been a group and solo artist to divide opinion as intensely.
Back in the 1970s I was persecuted at school in the East End for preferring Abba to Madness, but this was nothing compared to the hatred for The Smiths in the 1980s. People still fondly remember hating them now, Justin Bieber barely stirs up a ripple of emotion in comparison.
I became aware of The Smiths only when Panic was released, with its cheerful Hang The DJ refrain, by the time of Girlfriend In A Coma I was hooked, and they split up, after condensing dozens of singles and chart topping albums into just a few years.
The Queen Is Dead is still regarded as one of the best albums of all time. The single and album covers and T-shirts were groundbreaking at the time, if you didn’t want to join the sheep wearing a Wham! Or Frankie Says slogan.
I still have no idea why they split, Morrissey’s autobiography typically leaves many questions unanswered, Morrissey himself bounced straight back with a top 5 single, Suedehead, immediately eclipsing The Smiths, and a number one album, Viva Hate.
Despite often prolific output since, Morrissey only really peaked again with Vauxhall and I and You Are The Quarry. His last release, World Peace is None of Your Business debuted at number 2, but was almost immediately deleted by his own record company, and seems to only exist now on YouTube.
I can’t remember anyone else admitting to liking The Smiths at school, there would be grudging respect for the guitar work of Johnny Marr and Andy Rourke but Morrissey was utterly despised, right from the back pocket gladioli days of This Charming Man and this remains unbroken, much like David Icke announcing he was the Son of God on Wogan was a “first impression” that could never be forgiven by the public no matter how awesome much of his material since.
To the initiated, Morrissey had a great deal of subversive and liberating things to say in his lyrics and interviews, books of his quotes were sold even then, he was an Oscar Wilde of his time, people seriously expected him to lead a revolution against Margaret Thatcher.
He is currently without a record deal despite being able to sell out venues, his Autobiography sold well, but seemed to get bogged down in the details of the court case against Smiths drummer Mike Joyce, even I found his novel List of the Lost, well, let’s say not what I would have expected. But I couldn’t not read it.
I am not sure if I was dragged further into the mire of shyness by The Smiths or carried through it, for every friend who might furtively confess “There Is A Light That Never Goes Out” is their favourite song, pale agoraphobic spotted wearing a Shoplifters Of The World Unite T-shirt or Islamic fundamentalist who might borrow a headphone to jointly listen to “Ouija Board, Ouija Board” on its brief visit to the charts, another ten people would be horrified and never speak to you again on discovering your affiliation.
I was reminded of him again watching The Voice recently, Boy George remembered being described as “overbearing” by him, although later reconciled but Will.i.am as being a fan from childhood.
You have to love a Marmite character don’t you? Or hate them.
Stop press- a new Smiths Twitter account has mysteriously launched @Smiths_Official – could a reunion be on the cards?