Take a look back at one of our feature stories, and you will read about the year 1994 a year that in more recent times evoked a debate whether or not it was the most important year for modern music. There was no denying that the year brought some of the best Trip Hop, Rap, R&B, Brit Pop, Indie Rock and Grunge we had heard and they all met at the crossroad of 94. It was also the year when a well-known, private but passively out-spoken man called Steven Patrick Morrissey (Morrissey) released his most successful and commercially satisfying album and equally, continued to evoked debate of love or hate.
However as we celebrate 20 years since the release of Vauxhall and I, let me take you on a brief but visually informative trip back to when it all began to go so well, then so bad and then so well again for the man we like to call Mozza. Following the disbandment of The Smiths soon after the release of their fourth album Strangeways, Here We Come (it still suprises me that they only released four full length albums), Morrissey returned in less than two years, releasing his first solo album Viva Hate. The UK and the US loved it, thanks to the long lasting sounds of Everyday is Like Sunday and the timeless Suedehead.
Having release Bona Drag that compiled a handful of single releases and a collection of B-Sides, Morrissey headed back into the studio to work on Our Frank, my favourite album but too many his worst. The album released in 1991 rode the cusp of the re-birth of the British music scene and much of this could be heard on the album, with its partial inclines to pop melody, a genre that moody Mozza supporters would have “tut tutted” over. Sing Your Life was released to modest cheer but showed the first signs of a style change with his declared love for James Dean, quifs and a 50s swagger.
When Morrissey released Your Arsenal his confidence oozed and so to did his voice, both in maturity and lyrical cynicism, social irony and political stance. So to did his image and his band that now became his new gang, as did James Dean in Rebel Without A Cause. The comparisons in swagger, look and style were uncanny and no coincidence. He looked great and showed all the confidence of a man who had a lot to say.
Twenty years ago this year, Morrissey released Vauxhall and I and today we celebrate its re-release and the eve of his latest album. (We will get to that shortly) Vauxhall and I honoured him the success of fame that would prove too much for a man who loved to provoke but equally didn’t want the attention. Attention he got, hitting number 1 in the UK charts and topped off with one of his best singles The More You Ignore Me.
Signing mayhem in London for Vauxhall and I
SouthPaw Grammar followed in 1995 and failed to ride the wave of success of Vauxhall and I but this was no surprise, even Morrissey knew he couldn’t top the album, claiming that Vauxhall will be the best album he would ever write. Something that many of us would agree with as Southpaw was a let down and so began the somewhat spiral into what many would suggest would be the demise of such a brilliantly talented and important man. Following a few court cases, the mediocre release of Maladjusted in 1997 (still managed to get to number 8) and in 1998 was without a record label things got a little quite, a time when many fans recapped on the joy that was the Smiths to remind ourselves of what brilliance this band created in such a small amount of time.
When all seemed lost and many thought that Morrissey had spent his last musical pound, You Are the Quarry cracked in at number 2 on the UK charts and number 11 on the US Billboard charts, offered with an album cover that saw Morrissey wielding a Machine Gun that pretty much indicated that there was abit of unfinished business on in true gutsy Morrissey style, the album did deliver. Irish Blood, English Heart, First of the Gang to Die, Let Me Kiss You and I Have Forgiven Jesus were all release as singles and for the next 10 years they would become the crowd favourites at every gig he played. Judging from his video clips released with these singles we saw a man who had matured, greyed and mellowed in character but not in music.
This live version of First of the Gang to Die, filmed on the day of his birthday in his home-town of Manchester shows (Who Put the M in Manchester?)a man in his prime and confirms the dedication and love of devoted fans. Its quite amazing to watch the impact he had those around him.
So following a few “best of” and “single” releases The Year of Refusal was release in 2008, his 9th album and although delayed in release due to the death of his Producer Jerry Finn and a friend of Morrissey’s too. Although I struggled to embrace the album again it was acclaimed as an album with great power and merit, especially with the singles I’m Throwing My Arms Around Paris and made the most of its success by touring the world. When Swords hit the record shelves in 2009 it was the time I decided to question my commitment to a man who influenced so many musical decision in my life and instead, remind myself of the days of Suedehead and Sunday.
Swords lacked any spark, coherency and direction, instead sounding irrelevant, misguided and uncommitted. So this brings us to 2013/2014, and the release of his Penguin released Autobiography, an outstanding and worthy read even if not a committed fan of Morrissey and The Smiths. It showed and confirmed a man of intelligence, heart, opinion and purpose. Now on the eve of his latest album World Peace is None of Your Business, the single Istanbul shows Morrissey back to some reassuring form and reassuring us that he is very much settled into his life in LA with a guest appearance of a Baywatch star, Pamela Anderson, who surprisingly, next to Morrissey looks like an unlikely match.
Morrissey has chosen to use spoken word to promote songs from the albums and are rather compelling pieces that those who are “un-Morrissey” will just reference this as utter garbage, I would beg to differ.
So here we go for perhaps one last time, as we head towards mid July when the album is released. Will it be his last or is this a resurrection of a man who really has still a lot to say. Lets meet back here on the 15th of July, post release to discuss. At precisely this point, I sit on the fence.