(Putnam Adult, 464 pages, 29.99)
By Petar Vidjen
‘How would you like it if someone ordered your legs for lunch?” asks a dead serious Steven Patrick Morrissey as his manager orders frog legs.
As one of the most influential and polarizing musicians (and outspoken individuals) of our time, Morrissey, in all his bleak and dramatic glory, has published his first tell-all in the aptly titled Autobiography. At last, we finally gain some insight into a man who could simultaneously release a No. 1 album in England and condemn Bryan Ferry for his taste in veal.
Known commonly as Morrissey, or “Moz” to his fans, Morrissey became well-known at first as one of the co-founders of the alternative pop group The Smiths. Morrissey’s involvement in The Smiths as lead singer would be the music world’s first introduction to his distinct baritone vocal and songs about doomed relationships, despair, secrecy and death. Consider the following lyrics and how they combine more than just one emotion: “Last night I dreamt/That somebody loved me/No hope, but no harm/Just another false alarm.”
Despite the Beatlemania-like success The Smiths enjoyed, professionally the band members found it difficult to continue to work together, which would inevitably bring The Smiths to an end. One of the centerpieces of Autobiography focusses on the years after the breakup when former drummer Mike Joyce sued Morrissey and guitarist Johnny Marr for unpaid royalties. Morrissey makes the claim that he was wrongly treated during the proceedings, but furthermore you feel his anger and disappointment that the demise of his beloved Smiths had succumbed to bitter rivalries over ownership disagreements.
Unlike some of Morrissey’s songs, Autobiography is not all doom and gloom. There are moments of great comedy, as well as passages of strange occurrences and bizarre interactions. There is much exposition on Morrissey’s early childhood, to his relations with fellow musicians and record labels, philosophical musings on life and death, to his views on vegetarianism.
Much like his songwriting, Autobiography is full of wit, insight, sarcasm and sly humor.
Autobiography will without a doubt delight old and new fans.
(Petar Vidjen is a member of the Thunder Bay Public Library staff.)