Sunday 18 March 2018

vintage moz is a classic

Barry Egan

Barry Egan

OOHH, er, missus. It's like all my Christmases have come at once. Morrissey is to reissue a remastered version of his 1992 tour de force Your Arsenal on CD, gatefold vinyl LP, and digital download.

It is difficult not to swoon publicly when songs like We Hate It When Our Friends Become Successful -- which makes me think of Brendan O'Connor for some reason -- You're The One For Me, Fatty or Seasick, Yet Still Docked come on the radio. Produced by Bowie sidekick Mick Ronson, Your Arsenal was the former Smith at his neurotic-outsider most sublime -- his best record since The Queen Is Dead with his old muckers The Smiths in 1986.

The isolationist ranting of Glamourous Glue is infectious; with the starman railing against his homeland ("London is dead! London is dead! London is dead!") and providing a new cultural context: "We look to LA for the language we use." Elsewhere, he is singing of "the world's fate resting on your shoulders" and of "Give yourself a break before you break down."

The CD of Your Arsenal comes with a DVD of Morrissey's October 1991 concert at the Shoreline Amphitheatre in California. The live concert features Moz in his prime singing Interesting Drug, King Leer, Alsatian Cousin, Angel, Angel, Down We Go Together, Disappointing and My Love Life to his American fan base.

The subject of his love will leave many in America this Christmas, disappointed perhaps. Morrissey's relationship with Jake Owen Walters has been controversially removed from the US edition of the singer's memoir, Autobiography. By who and why, we know not a jot.

In the aforementioned book, Moz reveals a companionship of sorts circa 1994 with photographer Jake -- who has "BATTTERSEA" tattooed inside his lower lip and has "lived a colourful 29 years as no stranger to fearlessness".

After a chance, and charged, meeting in a restaurant, Jake followed Moz back to his house -- who adds in the memoir, that he "steps inside and stays for two years".

There is a revealing, for Moz, incident at an airport. Of which he writes: "'Well,' says the woman in the British Airways lounge, 'you're either very close brothers or lovers.' 'Can't brothers be lovers?' I imprudently reply -- always ready with the pointlessly pert, whether sensible or not."

Pointlessly pert notwithstanding, Moz describes their relationship, lovingly as "the first time in my life the eternal 'I' becomes 'we', as, finally, I can get on with someone". Whatever it was, he and Jake appeared to enjoy a moment of something together -- Jake would bring Moz tea in the bath, among other vanilla-homoerotic pleasantries.

"Jake and I neither sought not needed company other than our own for the whirlwind stretch to come," he writes.

"Indulgently Jake and I test how far each of us can go before 'being dwelt in' causes cries of intolerable struggle, but our closeness transcends such visitations."

Moz and Jake stopped whatever it was they were doing, and that appeared to be that (until it turned up in the book -- and was then edited out of the American edition of the book, intriguingly).

Morrissey describes, with aching Morrissey wit, the end of the relationship with Jake after two years when Alan Bennett calls over and notices something was up. "Now, now. What's going on? Something's happened, hasn't it? ... You haven't spoken a word to each other since I arrived."

To anyone that familiar with his music since The Smiths, it doesn't really matter what Morrissey's sexuality is. His lyrics have always been brilliantly funny about love and lust: from Hand In Glove in 1983 ("The sun shines out of our behinds/ No, it's not like any other love/ This one is different -- because it's us"); to The Queen Is Dead in 1986 ("And I was shocked into shame to discover / How I'm the 18th pale descendant /Of some old queen or other..."); to Life Is A Pigsty in 2006 (I've been shifting gears all of my life/But I'm still the same underneath/This you surely knew?") It is not for nothing that to Noel Gallagher his fellow Mancunian of Irish parents Mozzer is the greatest lyricist ever.

Morrissey explained the gender ambiguity in his songs in an 1986 Rolling Stone interview. "It was very important for me to try and write for everybody," he said.

"I find when people and things are entirely revealed in an obvious way, it freezes the imagination of the observer. There is nothing to probe for, nothing to dwell on or try and unravel. With The Smiths, nothing is ever open and shut."

"Unfortunately, I am not homosexual. In technical fact, I am humasexual," Chairman Moz posted on the fansite True to You after the book came out. "I am attracted to humans," he went on to explain. "But, of course . . . not many." The queen, it appears, is dead.

Irish Independent

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