Morrissey’s ‘Autobiography’: everything you need to know (including the time he almost appeared on ‘Friends’)
It is here. After years of waiting, fans of The Smiths are rejoicing as Morrissey’s ‘Autobiography’ finally hits bookshelves (and Kindles) around the world this morning. We’ve been up all night giving it our undivided attention – here’s our verdict on one of the biggest books of the year…
How does the book begin?
‘Naturally my birth almost kills my mother, for my head is too big’. This isn’t the opening line, but it is the first absolutely stone-cold Morrissey classic – of which there are many over the book’s 480 chapter-less pages.
There aren’t any chapters?
No, nor an index. Good news if you want to wallow in Morrissey’s sparkling and wry prose – which, by the way, had us instantly remembering why we fell in love with The Smiths in the first place. Bad news if you just want to cherry-pick celebrity anecdotes (of which there are hundreds, concerning everyone from Tom Hanks to Robbie Williams).
What about pictures?
Yes, you old culture vulture, you – there are pictures. The title page even has one of the author as a very young child, in nappies and wearing sunglasses. He’s smiling and everything.
Does it run chronologically?
It does, beginning in depth with his childhood in ‘forgotten Victorian knife-plunging Manchester, where everything lies wherever it was left one hundred years ago’. It’s a place of uncharitable nuns and teachers who ‘smell like attics’. These are not easy times for either author or reader, as Morrissey details some shocking acts carried out by teachers – far beyond those mentioned in The Smiths’ ‘The Headmaster Ritual’.
Despite the bleakness, Alan Bennett-esque gems abound: ‘This is still the old and weathered Manchester, where people carry dinner-plates to fish and chip shops, where their supper is dumped onto their own trusted china…then covered by a tea-towel for the walk home’.
How does Johnny Marr enter the book?
After describing being at one of his lowest ebbs (not unlike his natural state, but just more so), Johnny Marr is introduced in an almost hallowed way. It’s extremely touching, and denotes both respect and a huge debt to the man who effectively saved his life.
Are there any revelations about the break-up of The Smiths?
After The Smiths’ demise, Johnny Marr wrote a handwritten letter to Morrissey. In it, he tells him: ‘I really regret us not being friends. I’ve only recently come to realise that you genuinely don’t know all the reasons for my leaving. To get into it would be horrible, but I will say that I honestly hated the sort of people we became’.
Does Morrissey come over as a grouch?
But of course! After a childhood car crash where the family’s car ended up in somebody’s garden, he singles out their kindness for letting them inside, before adding ‘Whereas today’s indignation generation would pellet writs at us from upper windows’.
You know it – wickedly and hilariously so. Geoff Travis (the head of The Smiths’ label Rough Trade) in particular comes in for a ferocious hand-bagging from the great dame. After asking why Smiths songs always stall just outside the Top Ten, Morrissey is told by Travis: ‘”Because they’re not good enough”. He puts his glasses back on and shrugs his shoulders. I glance around the room searching for an axe. Some murders are well worth the prison term.’
But people are rude to him too, right?
Oh yes, frequently. He mentions calling photographer Juergen Teller to thank him for a recent shoot. His assistant asks him to hold, at which point he hears Teller whispering: ‘Oh, tell him I’m not here’. Morrissey hangs up.
These celebrity anecdotes… indulge me.
As you wish. After meeting David Bowie for breakfast – and persuading him to choose fruit salad instead of cold cuts from the buffet – the following exchange occurs:
‘David quietly tells me, “You know, I’ve had so much sex and drugs that I can’t believe I’m still alive,” and I loudly tell him, “You know, I’ve had SO LITTLE sex and drugs that I can’t believe I’m still alive”.’
I love Time Out and Eric Cantona. Is there an anecdote in the book that combines both?
Believe it or not, there is. After the former Manchester United footballer proclaimed to be a fan, Morrissey reacted to the compliment by telling Time Out: ‘I’m very fond of Eric Cantona as long as he doesn’t say anything’.
Soon after, Morrissey caught Cantona’s gaze exiting a hotel lift. ‘Although I offer him a rarely used smile,’ says Moz ‘he doesn’t want it and turns away coldly… Eric takes his place in the hotel restaurant for the catch of the day, which evidently isn’t me’.
Ah yes, speaking of attractive men…
Having been guarded on his sexuality for so many years, Morrissey writes charmingly and hilariously about his two year relationship with photographer Jake Walters – ‘the first time in my life the eternal “I” becomes “we”.’ There’s also a beautiful Italian lover, known only as ‘Gelato’, who steps on the scene around the time of 2006’s ‘Ringleader of the Tormentors’ LP.
How about women?
Morrissey describes his forties as a decade spent ‘attached – quite inexplicably – to a woman of great independence’. As if that wasn’t enough of a head-fuck, consider this sentence: ‘Tina and I discuss the unthinkable act of producing a mewling miniature monster’.
Aye carumba! There could have been a mini Moz?
Apparently so, yes.
Finally, what’s the weirdest, most mind-blowing thing in the entire book?
Hold on to your hats… Morrissey was once asked to appear in an episode of ‘Friends’. After meeting Joey, Rachel and the rest of the gang on set (‘the cast is friendly’ he remarks drily), the show’s scriptwriters apparently suggested a scene where he joined Phoebe for a song at Central Perk, ‘where’, he adds, ‘I am requested to sing “in a really depressing voice”. Within seconds of the proposal, I wind down the fire-escape like a serpent.’
And with that, the world lost the one and only chance to see Morrissey performing ‘Smelly Cat’.
‘Autobiography’ by Morrissey is available from Amazon now.