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Last Updated: Monday, 17 May, 2004, 06:49 GMT 07:49 UK
Rainy-day voice of a generation
By Stephen Dowling
BBC News Online Entertainment staff

The former Smiths singer has prided himself on his intellect
Morrissey, the former Smiths singer who has enjoyed a chequered solo career since the late 1980s, releases his latest album, You are the Quarry, on Monday, after a seven year silence.

As the lead singer of The Smiths, Steven Patrick Morrissey became one of the 1980s' most unlikely icons.

With his National Health spectacles, hearing aid, and gladioli hanging out of back pockets, the singer struck a chord with music fans who felt left out by the slick, chart-friendly pop stars of the time.

The combination of his lyrics and the emotive guitar-playing of bandmate Johnny Marr turned the Manchester band into one of the most influential groups of the last 25 years.

The distinctive lyrics of the sometime wannabe-music journalist on tracks such as How Soon is Now, Last Night I Dreamed Somebody Loved Me and Ask, painted the picture of a terminally shy, sexually reticent outsider.

The persona was one Morrissey would jealously guard through The Smiths messy break-up in 1987 and into his solo career.

Born to Irish parents in Salford on 22 May 1959, the young Morrissey was a shy, well-read teenager who became passionate about music and film.

Morrissey and Marr

Before the end of the 1970s he had had two books published - one a James Dean biography, the other a book about pioneering US punk band The New York Dolls.

He was also a regular letter writer to the weekly music magazine Melody Maker, being published many times, and the president of the New York Dolls' UK fanclub.

Morrissey tried his hand at singing and auditioned for several bands before meeting Marr through mutual friends in 1982.

The pair soon formed a band, with Mike Joyce on drums and Andy Rourke on bass.

Morrissey on Top of the Pops
Morrissey was a charismatic frontman in The Smiths

They became a sensation from their first single, 1983's Hand in Glove, and Morrissey a style icon in stark contrast to the over-coiffered pop stars of the day.

Their music and imagery delighted in gloomy, melancholy viewpoint, the lyrics morose but spiked with wit.

Through the course of four studio albums - The Smiths, Meat is Murder, The Queen is Dead and Strangeways, Here We Come - Morrissey's persona as a Wildean wit was cemented.

The Smiths became the archetypal British indie band and an influence on acts from Oasis to REM and even rappers OutKast.

The band broke up at the peak of their popularity, after a series of bitter arguments between Marr and Morrissey over the direction the band should take.

Only six months after The Smiths split, Morrissey had embarked on a solo career, releasing the album Viva Hate to music press acclaim, featuring mournful classic Everyday is Like Sunday.


Musically, he suffered a setback with 1991's Kill Uncle, a record that received disastrous reviews, but more serious concerns were made about his politics the following year.

Supporting Madness in Finsbury Park, north London in 1992, Morrissey appeared covered in a Union Flag, with a giant backdrop of a skinhead behind him. Not since David Bowie's 1976 Nazi salute had a pop star made such a loaded statement.

Morrissey's position was not helped by the fact he had recorded a song called Bengali in Platforms, included on Viva Hate. He followed that up with the equally contentious National Front Disco, on the 1992 album Your Arsenal.

The album has been preceded by single Irish Blood, English Heart

Accusations of racism were levelled by the music press, and despite releasing the well-received album Vauxhall and I in 1994, his influence began to wane.

In 1996, a judge called him "devious, truculent and unreliable" in a royalties case brought by former Smiths bandmates Joyce and Rourke. The bad blood over the case - the duo claimed they had not been paid enough performance payments - has quashed any chance of a Smiths reunion.

In 1997, after the album Maladjusted, Morrissey moved to Los Angeles, where he was a cult star - and went into artistic hibernation, save for occasional live dates.

In 2003, it was announced the singer, who had been without a record deal, had been signed to independent label Sanctuary Records.

It followed an appearance in a Channel 4 documentary, The Importance of Being Morrissey, his first major TV appearance since a South Bank Show programme some 16 years earlier.

A kind of critical re-evaluation of the singer seemed to arrive with the announcement he was to curate the Meltdown Festival on at London's South Bank Centre in the summer.

The music press has been praising his new album You Are the Quarry, a typically Morrissey-esque album that, despite coming from LA, seems pre-occupied with a northern English worldview that has remained with him nearly 20 years after the demise of The Smiths.

Morrissey: Why the fuss?
17 May 04  |  Magazine
Morrissey reunites punk pioneers
28 Apr 04  |  Entertainment
Morrissey plays Reading festival
29 Mar 04  |  Entertainment
Morrissey to host arts festival
03 Mar 04  |  Entertainment
Morrissey secures album deal
05 Jun 03  |  Entertainment
The Smiths: The influential alliance
13 May 03  |  Entertainment


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