Morrissey’s US tour has officially begun! If you’re a fan of Morrissey, hurry and get your tickets! And also, pick up a copy of D. McKinney’s new book Morrissey FAQ: All That’s Left to Know About This Charming Man. For now, please enjoy the following excerpt from the book:
From Metalhead to Mega-Wuss: How I Became a Fan of the Great and Powerful Moz
You obviously know who my favorite performer is. But guess who is my second favorite?
And my third favorite?
Sparks and Devo are my other two favorite bands, so I’m not THAT cheesy.
But still—people always give me a strange look after I am asked about my favorite bands. Morrissey and Gene Simmons have absolutely ZERO in common: Moz likes veg, Gene likes vag. Both of them do have sideburns, so I guess that counts. So what made me go from “Detroit Rock City” to “My Life Is So Shitty”?
I credit my love of music to two things, the first being that I was fortunate enough to have young parents. There was always music in our apartment (and lots of weed). My mom was into Frank Zappa, David Bowie, and Alice Cooper. My dad liked a lot of southern rock, white-boy blues, and Loverboy. Both of them liked oldies and soul music, so being the oldest and only child (at that point), I liked what they liked. I remember someone asking me what my favorite record was, and I had two—Private Eyes by Darryl Hall and John Oates, and Alice Cooper Goes to Hell (which are still two of my favorite albums). I never got totally into Frank Zappa or Loverboy, but it would have happened eventually if it were not for the second thing that turned me into a musical genius.
Oh yes, the glory days of MTV. Dee Snider versus Neidermeyer, Pat Benatar pretending to be a teenage runaway, and Madonna’s floppy “Borderline” hat with the bow—it did not get any better than that. The older I got (and the older MTV got), the more I started to lean toward the metal side of things. I still listened to all types of music, but as soon as I was welcomed to the jungle by Guns N’ Roses, it was on. Big hair, tight pants, and falsettos became my favorite. It did not help that I was starting to go through puberty, so besides being attracted to thundering drums and hot guitar licks, I was also attracted to thundering bums and hot guitar d . . . well, you know what I mean. I even stayed loyal to the “metal cause” through the grunge years, although I did like Alice in Chains because they were a little harder than the other Seattle bands.
I admit it, I got a little lost in high school. That is because metal kind of died on me. Grunge broke its legs, alternative stomped its head, and hiphop peed all over it. But that was okay, because like every other teenager, I discovered punk rock. Even my taste in punk rock was tainted by metal—my favorite band was the Misfits, which led me to Samhain, which then led me to Danzig. Man, I loved me some Glenn Danzig. He was going to be my future hairy husband. After punk, my tastes started to broaden again in the absence of metal. I started listening to goth music and industrial while revisiting my ’80s MTV favorites. And it was during this time that I fell in love with my other future hairy husband.
I can tell you exactly when and how it happened.
I was hanging out at my friend Mark’s house. It was the usual gang of idiots and the usual Saturday night filled with cigarette smoke, cheap rum, and Jack in the Box tacos. Because I did not smoke and I did not want to listen to the Melvins, I was sitting on the couch in the living room watching 120 Minutes while everyone else was in the dining room with the turntable.
It was the usual college music crap fest: Hüsker Dü, the Replacements, and lots of PJ Harvey.
And then they showed “Tomorrow” by Morrissey.
At first I rolled my eyes and was all “whatever” about it. But I continued to watch. I watched him slink around France in black and white. I watched him pout at me, asking me about “the one thing that I’ll never do.” And when he demanded “tell me that you love me” with that sly crooked smile, I was hooked like a vegan fish.
At first I was embarrassed by my Morrissey crush. I was “punk rock” and madly in love with Glenn Danzig at the time—no way could I let anyone know that I preferred sensitive sideburns now. Plus, I still was not all that crazy about his music. I had tried to listen to the Smiths in the past, and I just could not get into it. I liked “How Soon Is Now?,” but EVERYONE likes “How Soon Is Now?” And forget about even listening to his solo stuff—my friend Mark poisoned me by playing “Ouija Board, Ouija Board” to show me how dumb Morrissey was: “You’re right,” I said, “that song is pretty fucking stupid. Let’s listen to ‘Walk Among Us.’”
But after that, I would feast my twenty eyes on Morrissey’s hairless chest and pompadour. I borrowed Your Arsenal from a friend and loved it. It was surprisingly harder than I expected it to be, and it encouraged me to check out more of his stuff. Surprise! Most of it was pretty hard, and I loved how the slow jams were over the top. Soon after, I found myself giving up the devil lock and accepting the pompadour poof into my life.
I was now a member of the Church of Morrissey.
Whenever I meet people and Morrissey comes up in the conversation, I find that there are two kinds of people: Morrissey Lovers and Morrissey Haters. I am totally understanding and tolerant of other people’s tastes, and I usually don’t get mad when people disagree with me—as a record collector, there is nothing I like more than having a conversation with others about music. But when people tell me that they hate Morrissey, and I ask them why, they can never give me a good reason. It is always:
• He is stupid.
• He is whiny.
• He is all gloom and doom.
• He is still stupid.
I never get a good reason because there is not a good reason to not like Morrissey. They realize they can’t hate on someone who writes witty and insightful lyrics. They can’t hate on someone who was a great front man—Morrissey brought just the right amount of mystery, sexiness, and audience interaction. They can’t hate on someone who wants some privacy. And how can you hate someone who wants to save the animals? You can’t, so that is why I get barraged with lame arguments, insults, and jokes about my Morrissey love. But the joke is really on them—after all, if you have such passionate feelings (both negative and positive) about someone or something, then it is obviously affecting you more than you would like to admit.
Like him or not, Morrissey has an effect on pretty much everyone.
But don’t think for a minute that I am a blind worshipper. I fully believe that the only true fans are real fans, and to be real, you have to remain truthful. I love me some Morrissey, but there are songs that I do not like. He has said stuff that I do not agree with. And there have been times when I just shake my head and roll my eyes. I have met other Morrissey fans who blindly love everything he does and have gotten belligerent if anyone says anything negative. I always point out that underneath all of the hair and satin shirts, he is a normal person like you and me. And then I out-asshole them and remind them that he is human and needs to be loved—just like everybody else does!
So now let’s talk about love.
Why do I love Morrissey? I think the one thing I love the most about Morrissey is the “drama.” I love the mugging, the curling up in a fetal position on stage, the brooding, and the microphone cord whipping. I love the songs where he is mock crying, mock angry, or mock in love. I love the moaning and groaning and the yelping. I liken him to menopause: sometimes he gets you hot, sometimes he gets you depressed, and he changes your life forever.
I hear a lot of Morrissey fans speak about why they love Morrissey, and usually their #1 reason is “I can relate to him.”
Well, I guess that works for some people, but not for me. I am sorry, but I cannot (and could not) relate to Morrissey—I did not grow up in gloomy, dreary, working-class Manchester; I did not feel like an outsider; I am capable of loving someone other than myself; and I prefer cardigans to pullover sweaters. Yeah, we both buried ourselves in music and literature, but other than that, we really have nothing in common. After a long time thinking about what my deep-rooted reason is that I love Morrissey, it suddenly came to me.
I love Morrissey not because I can relate to him, but because he was there for me.
I have loved Morrissey literally for most of my adult life, and he has been the one solid constant thing throughout. Always there with a great album, always there to be judgmental of my meat consumption, and always there when I needed a laugh (or a well-deserved snicker). I knew that if I wanted to feel better or to tune out life, I could just turn on Morrissey.
Morrissey and the Smiths in general proved that you can really just be yourself when it came to music. Sure, they promoted the consumption of flowers during the early years, but other than that—no gimmicks, no bullshit. They brought a new and fresh sound to listeners and paved the way for indie bands to become indie bands. Morrissey also proved with his lyrics that no matter how tragic life was, you had to see the humor in it—because as Morrissey has proven for many people, humor is the only thing that can keep a person going in life.
Morrissey FAQ will look at and explain how a shy and quiet introvert became the hero to millions just like him. Because of the worldwide fan base, fans and information regarding Morrissey are widespread— Morrissey FAQ will provide a complete volume of everything a new fan or old vet needs to know about Morrissey.
I want you to think for a minute: Have you ever met people who have admitted that the Beatles saved their life? That Elvis Presley knew how they felt about getting bullied in high school? Not that the Beatles and Elvis aren’t just as important as Morrissey, but they’re just not as real as Morrissey. Real people have emotions and real people are very much human in nature, and that is why real people can relate to pretty much anyone. And Morrissey is very much real to a lot of people.
Other than the Beatles or Elvis Presley, I cannot think of anyone else but Morrissey who evokes such a crazed and passionate following. From the sweaty dudes who climb up onto the stage to hug him to the legions of fans lined up for his autograph, we are there for Morrissey because he has been there for us. And he represents us: the misunderstood loners, the sexually repressed, and the sardonic chubby people like myself. And although I could not relate to his life, Morrissey represented mine: all of my trials and tribulations, loves current and lost, and late nights lamenting about life.
I have said it once and I will say it again: “There Is a Light That Never Goes Out” is the “Free Bird” of my generation.
I have evened out my musical tastes again, liking a little bit of everything (except Zappa). I am at peace with my eccentric tastes—Black Flag sounds great next to Bell Biv DeVoe on a playlist, and I love to get into conversations with fellow music nerds about Duran Duran stealing everything from Japan (I am talking about you, Nick Rhodes!). Writing Morrissey FAQ was quite an adventure for me: I continued to work full time while writing in my spare time, I had two major surgeries, and I dealt with an abnormal number of ups and downs. But the one person who was there for me throughout it all was Morrissey.
My boyfriend was also there for me, but he doesn’t have the cool sideburns.