“I shall evermore only exist in French inverted commas…”
This is Morrissey, assessing himself back in the early 90’s, just after his erudite, chipped-shouldered, sardonic artist-side came out and ostensibly ruined his chance to become Warner Bros “massively successful alternative act…” He was eventually be passed over, playing “bridesmaid” to that year’s actual mainstream-riser, Alanis Morrissette. Some of you will have to look it up – that the French don’t use inverted commas (“ “) in their written language –
Right? So, yeah, there’s one of just a hundred cryptic, circuitously thought-out metaphors that you’ll chip through and slip-upon as you read the chapterless autobiography of the grandest of grandiose pop singers (and former Smiths frontman).
Not surprisingly, narrative writing comes naturally to his long lauded lyricist. Also not surprising, that its dauntingly laid out, (the Ulysses of music-bios) with 2-page-long paragraphs barbed, beautifully and sometimes impenetrably, with devastatingly rich adjectives that evoke, with a heavy hand, the extreme unpleasantness of life in Manchester through the 1970s, as well as life as an artist in the record industry through the 1980s.
Pretentious? Of course! Give it this much, though: self-centered melodramatic subject-matter aside, at least it doesn’t read like your average, boring-ol’ music bio.
There’s danger and excitement, gruesome behaviors as well as inspiring and lyrical renderings of iconic moments in pop-culture history (i.e. The Brit Pop scene and Top of the Pops, to the influence of John Peel and the NME, the latter cast in a not so glowing, nor appreciative light). And then the infamous EMI contract and fall-out with his influential guitarist Johnny Marr, who darts “schizophrenically in the pursuit of self-interest…Revenge is calling,” Morrissey writes, ceaselessly sustaining his ominous and poetic voice, “and I am the quarry.”
Is it worth the read? I’d say so. Is it exasperating? I’d say so. “What Difference Does It Make?” was one of their big singles, as you’ll recall; in which our subject refrains “No more apologies…”