book reviewDear Morrissey,

I’m really enjoying your book – the cunningly and amusingly ‘straight to the point’ entitled Autobiography. Very few people can get away with such to the point bravado in these times of mouse like celebs who write their memoirs at 21 with tales from the back stages of X Factor and working with the genius of Louis Walsh or something.
No one ignites the flames of fans and foe like you Morrissey.
Most music biogs slip out to rumbustious cheering from the musicians’ fans and critics then disappear to the shelf to collect dust and accolades. It seems like the Moz-tome, though, is already on a very different trajectory with the debate stretching far beyond the back pages of Mojo and into the national psyche. Only last week I had to talk about whether the book should be allowed out on Penguin classic on the BBC with an upset sounding posh person from the Observer who believed that the Penguin classic should be a place of Dickens or maybe and, bizarrely, Bob Dylan if he so wished to become a penguin. I was also asked to go on the 10 O Clock news…
Someone else was upset that your book, Morrissey, was all about self self self – call me confused, but isn’t that the point of an autobiography? I’m not reading this book to find out what everyone else thought of those eighties!
And the self has got a lot to get off his chest – there is no middle ground in your book M! this is a book of grand passions in a time when the timid pop star is king and indie now means London Grammar – a group so safe that they barely exist.  It’s actually a relief to read a book that has hundreds of axes to grind, sometimes in the same paragraph. It’s also a book that says everything and tells you very little and in some ways that’s perfect-  in tabloid 21st century it seems we have to know and see everything and it’s a rare skill to keep your privates private (a little bit of carry on humour there – thought you might like that).
Morrissey, I love the way you have written the book, like me, you seem to love the rush of ideas and the burning keyboard rattling them down- paragraphs are for the weak and syntax is a constricting and cruel gimp suit. The English language is something to be toyed with, a seething mass of words to surf around and all that boring stuff, like the aforementioned paragraphs, and stoic, sensible sentences are discarded in a cascade of lovely, beautiful and fascinating words that make such great sounds and convey such deep meanings. Poetry in motion as XTC once sang!
The book is not a place for dullards, at one point you cry at the beauty of Klaus Naomi’s very individual voice and then fire off the sentence salvos at those that crossed you. The book industry rarely allows this kind of brilliant madness with words that can be waspish (poor old Geoff Travis is machine gunned down in a hail of adjectives like a mobster at the St Valentines day massacre, with bullets replaced by molten adjectives and the clattering of machine guns replaced by the clattering of the typewriter). I’m still chuckling over you walking out on one manager because he ate a plate of frogs legs when you had dinner with him, loving animals is a high form of love whether they are frogs or voles or worms and sticking to what you believe in is noble.
Also  I have never heard meat breath used as a put down before, but I like it very much- as the book unfolds you can be dark, amusing, wry, cruel, sentimental, touching and very funny all at the same time – just like your songs! and you have the knack of saying the darkest things and still being quite loveable.
I guess, as you planned, your memoir has thrilled and pissed off people in equal measures- like that strange piece in the Guardian that blamed you for all the ills of the country because the ‘Smiths generation’ was running everything – well, slap my behind with a wet kipper (not a real one obviously) I know The Smiths were a popular band in their time, but no one was owning a whole generation in pop by those heady times, the days of the Beatles and the Stones being the young kings was over, but that’s not saying the Smiths were not important.
Morrissey,  not since the Sex Pistols, back in the days of the punk thing, has any pop star been able to start a civil war by opening his mouth and you, knowingly and quite cunningly, still seem to be very capable of this dastardly deed, sending your fans scurrying, enemies salvivatating and the press cowering as you lay into a myriad of targets.
The book is a romp, people say you moan a lot, but  if you accept your lot you are the walking dead or slumped in front of the soaps like a sack of potatoes – please keep on moaning, why should we ever accept second best, even when we are in the first class big league like yourself?
Morrissey, you will always get a reaction -surely that’s what you want- like the eternal New York Dolls swaggering down a New York street in the early seventies, dressed like the most hetero gang of MF’s to walk pop’s sequinned catwalk in woman’s blouses you are designed to get a strong  reaction in a way that Gary Barlow could never dare or care to do.
Like you M, I’m old school, this music stuff is worth all this pain, rock ‘n’ roll or whatever this stuff is called is about emotion and beauty- a fragile beauty, but it is also a primal stomp, a poetic description of the dark stuff, the elixir of rebellion and the escape from the monochrome of the every day and the book documents this rarified and quicksilver magic with great hilarity and great poignancy, it sings the song of the post war baby boomers growing up in the smashed, post industrial wastelands and makes sense of the end of the twentieth century and of that post punk confusion -nice work Morrissey- enjoy the praise and the slings and arrows in equal measure…
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Award winning journalist and boss of Louder Than War. In a 30 year music writing career, John was the first to write about bands such as Stone Roses and Nirvana and has several best selling music books to his name. He constantly tours the world with Goldblade and the Membranes playing gigs or doing spoken word and speaking at music conferences.


  1. Thank you for this, it doesn’t counter balance the hate from the middle class guardian who speak to no one unless it’s full of scorn or a private joke amongst themselves (ex nme back slappers) but it’s a greater than them all as it’s a review of the book and not a personal attack on the man (defamatory)

    It’s a must read, I would love a book in which Morrissey discusses each song but that may ruin the enigma.

  2. thank you john, i love your letter, and you and this site are absolutely classy. Morrissey’s book is truly unique which (of course) led to narrow minded so-called journalists attack him with such drooling hatred..

  3. the book is a great read as you say dark, amusing,wry,funny and as you would expect. a bit too much info on chart positions and the court case.however a bit like ‘the north will rise again’ you can open at any page and enjoy .

  4. Morrissey you’re introverted boring music has never moved me, not only am i not a fan – i’m not a fan of your fans … If you’d never met the far more talented Johnny Marr i don’t think the world would have heard much from you. You should be thankful to that man.

  5. Hi John, First of all nice write up, secondly I must apologise for not explaining myself I know that an Autobiography is written about one’s self but when I wrote that Morrissey was being Self, self, self, I meant that he has an uncanny knack of blaming everybody but himself for which-ever predicament he may be in at any one time. You mentioned for example about the manager eating the Frog’s leg’s whom he walked out on during a meal, well I don’t think anybody has the right to preach their way of life onto anybody. There are a lot of these instance’s in the Book and he never once take’s the blame for anything. his remark’s about Mike and other people are blatantly one sided (If I wasn’t so loyal to his cousin’s, as friend’s of mine I could tell you a couple of stories which would raise your eye-brow’s) I don’t think he should judge other people for their actions after all it is an Autobiography, but I will say that his sense of humour is still the same and like you say he manage’s to still portray that without giving anything away so other than his self indulgence it is a good read although we as reader’s are none the wiser to him except to realise he will indeed create a reaction ask the people who have worked with him some of whom I also know personally. Louder than Bomb’s is a Superb page by the way Peace and Love from one John to another x


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