Morrissey's Youth Challenging
The Rise and Fall Of The Smiths/BBC2/YouTube
Steven Patrick Morrissey is born on May 22, 1959 and spends most of his childhood in Manchester, England. Although not good at sports, Morrissey develops a love of music that lasts a lifetime. The singer (shown on the right with his older sister Jackie) tells the New York Times in 1991 music essentially gets him through adolescence. "I remember feeling the person singing was actually with me and understood me and my predicament," he says. British pop stars Sandie Shaw and Marianne Faithfull are two of his biggest idols. As is James Dean.
Writer Before Rocker?
Eight Days A Week/BBC/YouTube
A teenaged Morrissey begins attending concerts in Manchester, even writing letters to influential British music magazine New Musical Express (NME) about bands and shows. A brief stint as the lead singer of The Nosebleeds (which included The Cult's guitarist Billy Duffy) falls through as does a shorter role with Slaughter & The Dogs. Morrrissey tries his hand at writing, releasing a book on glam rock darlings The New York Dolls in 1981 and a book entitled James Dean Is Not Dead in 1983. However meeting a guitarist quickly changes things.
The Smiths Shine
After several "soul-destroying" years of being couped up in his bedroom, Morrissey is rescued in 1982 when a guitarist named Johnny Marr knocks on his door. "It must have been really weird for him just out of the blue he opens the door and this hyperactive flashgit just goes aarrrgghh," Marr says in a 30-minute documentary The Rise and Fall of The Smiths. "I was just there dying and he rescued me," Morrissey says. After other collaborations, drummer Mike Joyce and bassist Andy Rourke flesh out the group now simply known as The Smiths.
Rough Trade/Sire/Rhino UK/YouTube
After 1984's self-titled album, The Smiths take the music world by storm, releasing four studio albums and three B-side/singles compilations in just four years. The Smiths' highlight is 1986's The Queen Is Dead which is a classic. Morrissey becomes an idol to millions of teens who feel left out. Gill Smith, the band's publicist, says Morrissey at the time is this "weirdo frontman who couldn't decide if he was Oscar Wilde or James Dean or some weird hybrid." Another huge hit -- originally a B-side, non-album track -- is "How Soon Is Now?"
Strangeways, Solo Days
Tensions with The Smiths reach a breaking point during the summer of 1987. Marr quits the group; The Smiths break up shortly thereafter, before the release of Strangeways, Here We Come. The band's demise doesn't hamper Morrissey's musical creativity. In early 1988 his solo debut Viva Hate is released. "Morrissey has paid his former band mates a perverse sort of tribute, when you think about it: he's nearly equaled them on his own," Rolling Stone says in its May, 1988 review. "Nearly." The album is best known for the single "Suedehead."
Arsenal Of Albums
The first half of the 1990s sees Morrissey release four studio albums from 1991 to 1995. While 1994's Vauxhall And I reaches the top of the British charts, most agree his 1992 effort Your Arsenal is his finest. The record's heavier guitar-leaning sound under producer (and former David Bowie guitarist) Mick Ronson gives songs such as "The National Front Disco" plenty of bite. However some deem the song a glorification of the British National Front, a far right group. Morrissey also deals with a lawsuit by Mike Joyce over The Smiths royalties.
Mike Joyce sues both Johnny Marr and Morrissey over unpaid royalties, alleging he was short-changed. This claim is only heightened with news only Morrissey and Marr actually signed the original recording contract with Rough Trade. According to The Rise and Fall of The Smiths, Joyce eventually wins his case and receives 25 per cent of the record royalties, Andy Rourke settles out of court and receives 10 per cent. In 2005 Morrissey states Rourke is still suing him, costing him over 1.5 million British pounds including 600,000 in legal fees.
Following 1997's Maladjusted, Morrissey becomes lost somewhat without a major label but keeps touring. "People treat it almost like a religious experience," guitarist Alain Whyte says of Morrissey's fan base in the 2003 documentary The Importance of Being Morrissey, the same year he lands a recording contract. Morrissey sees his back catalog issued in various compilations. He's still vocal for animal rights, saying in 2000 at a PETA (People For The Ethical Treatment of Animals) event the meat industry is "like Hitler thriving in modern day."
Later With Jools Holland/BBC/YouTube
After a lengthy drought between studio albums, Morrissey finally releases You Are The Quarry in 2004. The album -- featuring Moz holding a Thompson submachine gun on the cover -- becomes one of 2004's true surprises with widespread acclaim and singles such as "Irish Blood, English Heart" and "First Of The Gang To Die." NME says it's "a solid, occasionally spectacular comeback record...." A world tour ensues with Canadian stops. The Canadian dates will be his last here due to Canada's seal hunt he describes as a "horrific slaughter."
In 2004 Morrissey convinces New York Dolls to reunite as part of the Meltdown Festival. The singer, who says he was ridiculously "obsessed with" the band growing up, helps kickstart a new chapter for the Dolls. Unfortunately the concert comes mere weeks before the death of Dolls bassist Arthur Kane (who was volunteering as a librarian) from leukemia. "I just thought it was so sad because there seemed to be so much ahead for them," Morrissey says in an interview for the DVD New York Doll, a stellar documentary on Kane and the reunion.
Morrissey: Live At The Hollywood Bowl/Warner/YouTube
Although it doesn't quite make as big a splash, Morrissey follows up a hectic touring schedule with another studio album in 2006, Ringleader Of The Tormentors. In 2005 Coachella organizers offer Morrissey, Marr, Rourke and Joyce $5,000,000 for The Smiths reunion. Morrissey reveals at Austin's South By Southwest Festival (SXSW) he turned the offer down stating "money doesn't come into it" and "I do what I do because it's all that I am." In 2013 another attempt is made. Organizers promise Coachella to be vegetarian to entice Morrissey.
Years of Refusal
In 2009, Morrissey releases Years Of Refusal, which he says is his strongest work thus far. Reviews are generally strong and comparable to You Are The Quarry and he hits the road again. Things take an ugly turn during a Liverpool show that November when he's struck with a water bottle while singing. The singer simply walks off stage with his band and never returns despite completing just one song. Morrissey also has some fun with a photo for a single of he and his band nude with only a seven-inch vinyl single covering their, um, parts.
Swords And Gable
FOTOS Intl. /KEYSTONE Canada
Morrissey sees a B-sides compilation entitled Swords come out in 2009 but it's his loathing of more hits compilations that irks him. "Morrissey does not approve such releases and would ask people not to bother buying them," he says in a statement, adding the record labels never consulted him regarding the releases. The singer continues to enjoy living in Los Angeles having moved there in the late '90s. He reportedly lives in a home which was originally built by classic film star Clark Gable for Gable's rumored lover Jean Harlow.
Concerts and Controversy
Mike Gray/Keystone Press
In 2011 Morrissey is still without a label but records three new songs for a BBC Radio 2 session. He also headlines the iconic Glastonbury Festival that summer. Yet he announces he's banning organizers of fan site Morrissey-solo.com for them commenting on his private life, kicking one out of a gig. He continues touring and becomes known for having his supporting band wear t-shirts showing their disdain for Prince William and Kate Middleton. Syrian President Assad is another target of "Moz" with the slogan "Assad Is S--t" on the t-shirts.
Kevin Coughlin/Keystone Press
2013 sees Morrissey battling health issues including double pneumonia and a touring schedule that veers from delays and rescheduling to complete cancellations. The singer makes headlines after former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher dies, saying "Thatcher was a living hell" for British people under her watch. In March 2013 Morrissey releases a live DVD entitled 25: Live taken from an intimate performance at Hollywood High School. On Oct. 17, 2013 his long-awaited, highly-anticipated memoir entitled Autobiography hits bookshelves.