Billy Bragg Writes

Billy Bragg posted this on Sunday, a powerful and fantastically well written piece about Morrissey and his dangerous association with the far right, white supremacist propaganda and racist ideology (also taking in Stormzy, Brandon Flowers, Johnny Marr, Donald Trump, Rita Tusingham, The Smiths and culture generally). I can’t find anything in it to disagree with.

Last Sunday, while much of the British media were lauding Stormzy’s Glastonbury headline show as epoch defining, Morrissey posted a white supremacist video on his website, accompanied by the comment ‘Nothing But Blue Skies for Stormzy…The Gallows for Morrissey’. The nine minute clip lifted footage from the grime star’s Pyramid Stage performance while arguing that the British establishment are using him to promote multiculturalism at the expense of white culture.
The YouTube channel of the video’s author contains other clips expressing , among other things, homophobia, racism and misogyny – left wing women of colour are a favourite target for his ire. There are also clips expounding the Great Replacement Theory, a far right conspiracy trope which holds that there is a plot of obliterate the white populations of Europe and North America through mass immigration and cultural warfare.
My first thought was to wonder what kind of websites Morrissey must be trawling in order to be able to find and repost this clip on the same day that it appeared online? I came home from Glastonbury expecting to see some angry responses to his endorsement of white supremacism. Instead, the NME published an interview with Brandon Flowers in which the Killers lead singer proclaimed that Morrissey was still “a king”, despite being in what Flowers recognised was “hot water” over his bigoted comments.
As the week progressed, I kept waiting for some reaction to the white supremacist video, yet none was forthcoming. Every time I googled Morrissey, up would pop another article from a music website echoing the NME’s original headline: ‘The Killers Brandon Flowers on Morrissey: ‘He’s Still A King’. I’m well aware from personal experience how easy it is for an artist to find something you’ve said in the context of a longer discourse turned into an inflammatory headline that doesn’t reflect your genuine views on the subject at hand, but I have to wonder if Flowers really understands the ramifications of Morrissey’s expressions of support for the far right For Britain Party?
As the writer of the powerful Killers song ‘Land of the Free’, does he know that For Britain wants to build the kind of barriers to immigration that Flowers condemns in that lyric? Party leader Anne Marie Walters maintains ties with Generation Identity, the group who both inspired and received funds from the gunman who murdered 50 worshippers at a Christchurch mosque. How does that sit with the condemnation of mass murder by lone gunman in ‘Land of the Free’?
As an explicitly anti-Muslim party, For Britain opposes the religious slaughter of animals without the use of a stun gun, a policy that has given Morrissey a fig leaf of respectability, allowing him to claim he supports them on animal welfare grounds. Yet if that is his primary concern, why does he not support the UK’s Animal Welfare Party, which stood candidates in the recent European elections?
mong their policies, the AWF also aim to prohibit non-stun slaughter. If his only interest was to end this practice, he could have achieved this without the taint of Islamophobia by endorsing them. They are a tiny party, but Morrissey’s vocal support would have given the animal rights movement a huge boost of publicity ahead of the polls.
Instead, he expresses support for anti-Muslim provocateurs, posts white supremacist videos and, when challenged, clutches his pearls and cries “Infamy, infamy, they’ve all got it in for me”. His recent claim that “as a so-called entertainer, I have no rights” is a ridiculous position made all the more troubling by the fact that it is a common trope among right-wing reactionaries.
The notion that certain individuals are not allowed to say certain things is spurious, not least because it is most often invoked after they’ve made their offensive comments. Look closely at their claims and you’ll find that what they are actually complaining about is the fact that they have been challenged.
The concept of freedom pushed by the new generation of free speech warriors maintains that the individual has the right to say whatever they want, whenever they want, to whoever they want, with no comeback. If that is the definition of freedom, then one need look no further than Donald Trump’s Twitter feed as our generation’s beacon of liberty. Perhaps Lady Liberty should be replaced in New York Harbour with a colossal sculpture of the Donald, wearing a toga, holding a gaslight.
Worryingly, Morrissey’s reaction to being challenged over his support of For Britain, his willingness to double down rather than apologise for any offence caused, suggests a commitment to a bigotry that tarnishes his persona as the champion of the outsider. Where once he offered solace to the victims of a cruel and unjust world, he now seems to have joined the bullies waiting outside the school gates.
As an activist, I’m appalled by this transformation, but as a Smiths fan, I’m heartbroken.
It was Johnny Marr’s amazing guitar that drew me to the band, but I grasped that Morrissey was an exceptional lyricist when I heard ‘Reel Around the Fountain’. Ironically, it was a line that he had stolen that won my affections. “I dreamt about you last night and I fell out of bed twice” is spoken by Jimmy, the black sailor, to his white teenage lover, Jo, in Sheila Delaney’s play ‘A Taste of Honey’
The 1961 movie, starring Rita Tushingham was an early example of a post-war British society that would embrace multi-racial relationships (and homosexuality too). By pilfering that particular line for the song, Morrissey was placing the Smiths in the great tradition of northern working class culture that may have been in the gutter, but was looking at the stars. Yet, by posting a white supremacist video in which he is quoted as saying “Everyone prefers their own race”, Morrissey undermines that line, erasing Jo and Jimmy and all those misfit lovers to whom the Smiths once gave so much encouragement.
A week has passed since the video appeared on Morrissey’s website and nothing has been written in the media to challenge his position. Today it was reported that research by the Institute for Strategic Dialogue, a UK based anti-extremist organisation, reveals that the Great Replacement Theory is being promoted so effectively by the far right that it is entering mainstream political discourse.
That Morrissey is helping to spread this idea – which inspired the Christchurch mosque murderer – is beyond doubt. Those who claim that this has no relevance to his stature as an artist should ask themselves if, by demanding that we separate the singer from the song, they too are helping to propagate this racist creed’.
Johnny Marr’s set at Glastonbury seemed to be, at least partly, an artist and a crowd revelling in reclaiming those songs from the damage the lyricist has done to their memory, a celebration of outside culture and what The Smiths meant- Bigmouth Strikes Again, There Is A Light And It Never Goes Out- and what they can still mean. But still, with every sentence Billy writes above, the songs are tarnished further.

This re-edit of How Soon Is Now by Maceo Plex will probably annoy the purists but would I imagine sound pretty great chucked into the midst of a DJ set, possibly pitched down a tad. Can’t imagine Morrissey’s a fan.

Exit Connection

A short post with a short song. This is a B-side from a 2015 single, a short, sharp blast of post punk guitars. Angular. Frenetic. Rocking. That sort of thing.

Exit Connection

Imaginary Collaboration Album

Johnny Marr posted this photograph on his Twitter account yesterday with the caption Kylie Fucking Minogue. It got me thinking that I would definitely pay good money for an Imaginary Collaboration Album, Marr and Minogue covering songs from their respective back catalogues. Johnny and his current band with Kylie singing How Soon Is Now and Last Night I Dreamt Somebody Loved Me, Kylie cooing her way through Getting Away With It, The Beat(en) Generation and Still Feel The Rain by Stex and in return Johnny blazing his way through Can’t Get You Out Of My Head, finding a new slinky guitar version of All The Lovers and a jangle version of I Should Be So Lucky. Come on, make it happen.

Johnny Mar’s new solo album came out yesterday to uniformly good reviews. I’m not getting it until tomorrow (Father’s Day innit). This single came out a month ago and sounds like a song he meant to record with his most famous band but never got around to until now.

And some Kylie. In 1994 everyone loved Kylie.

How Soon Is Dub

You may think that the recorded works of Morrissey, Marr, Rourke and Joyce are so sacrosanct that they shouldn’t be mucked with. I don’t as it happens, I’m more than  happy for people to rework and remix almost everything and anything if it’s done well. Plus, seeing as Morrissey sees fit to spew shit all over his legacy there’s no reason why the odd bootlegger and remixer shouldn’t (and given his ‘all reggae is vile’ comment back in the 80s this seems even more fitting). This is a dub version of How Soon Is Now, using the original track, especially Johnny Marr’s wonderful guitar parts, and adding the dub elements in increasingly as it rides on. As a bonus there’s precious little Morrissey involved in it too.

How Soon Is Now Dubweiser Remix

Make Your Way To The Edge Of The World

I’ve just realised this has been a week of posts made up entirely about new releases. It wasn’t planned that way, it just happened, but we may as well finish ahead of the weekend with another one. The Tracers is the new single from Johnny Marr, blazing a trial ahead of his new album Call the Comet. Johnny has put out two solo album sin the last few years. The first, The Messenger, came out in 2013 and had some good songs on it, Upstarts especially. It was accompanied by some gigs- the one I attended at The Ritz sticks in the memory as he ploughed his way through his back catalogue (The Smiths and Electronic) as well as a cover of I Fought The Law. The second solo album didn’t make the same impact, some of the songs were OK but a few were a little forgettable and but it didn’t really achieve lift off.

The new one, thankfully, sounds like a step forward again- a rush of guitars, a driving bassline, some judiciously added ‘woo hoo’s’ and a sense of urgency. Marr seems to have gone back to the music that preceded The Smiths, the post-punk groups of the early 80s. The video looks like it was filmed up on the moors above Manchester where Yorkshire and Lancashire meet, a bit bleak and deserted (and with plenty of pylons).

So Much Confusion

‘…When October comes around’ said the Pet Shop Boys in My October Symphony. Later on Neil Tennant asks about whether we should ‘remember December instead or worry about February?’ I guess February just rhymed. I haven’t got any songs on the computer named after February and can’t think of many with lyrics referring to the second month other than this one.

My October Symphony is from Behaviour, 1990’s PSB tour de force. Produced by Harold Faltermeyer using analogue synths it mixes full on pop, rave influenced pop, ballads and what got called adult pop- musical, reflective, lyrically grown up, classy instead of teenage (which could sound a bit dull but Behaviour is an album that could never be called dull. Inventive, subtle, wry, expansive but not dull). My October Symphony chucks many things into the pot besides Neil’s lyrics- a blast of a male voice choir, house inspired backing vox, sweeping strings and a funky guitar part played by Johnny Marr. I always felt it’s a song about autumn really (and wanting to move on and change) but according to a PSB fan site- ‘Neil adopts the role of a Russian composer who has dedicated his life and work to the ideals of the revolution but now feels confused and betrayed in the wake of the collapse of Communism’. So there you go. On the same site Janet Street Porter claims it is about a lingerie model. Which one Janet?

My October Symphony

In 1991 they released a stand alone single, DJ Culture, partly to promote their singles compilation Discography, partly as a comment on the Gulf War and how George Bush borrowed from Churchill’s wartime speeches just as artists sample each other (with a reference to Oscar Wilde’s trial thrown in too), and partly because they’d recorded what was a very good pop song. As a single it kind of went missing, despite reaching number 13 in the chart.

The Priest

You don’t have to go very far at the moment in this country to see the impact of the social policies of the last Conservative government and the current one. Go into central Manchester (or any British town or city) and take a walk around and you’ll be confronted by homelessness on a massive scale. It became unavoidable in Manchester city centre some time ago, people living on the streets in huge numbers. The public’s reaction to it is appalling too at times- I saw three young men stop, point and laugh at a homeless man sitting on the street recently. Out here in Sale, a 15 minute tram ride from Piccadilly Gardens, 4 miles from the city centre, there are people sleeping in the precinct, on the steps of an electrical substation and in the doorways of Boots and Sainsburys.

Johnny Marr and Maxine Peake have collaborated on a track called The Priest, highlighting the problem of homelessness, based on the poetry of a Big Issue seller Joe Gallagher.

Johnny Marr is finishing a third solo album. In an interview about The Priest and the forthcoming solo album he said this-

‘Because of what had happened with Brexit and Trump and everything, I came into this record really determined to not let those fuckwits impede on my creative life. But you’re living in this world and you can’t do anything about it. So much of the record is about dislocation.’ The full interview is here. There’s an internet meme that goes around which is ‘Be more like so-and-so‘ and in this case it stands up- be more like Johnny. Be more like Maxine.