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Yes, that book. And, yeah, I know it’s three centuries since Morrissey’s Autobiography bashed and booted Dunphy’s competing masterpiece off the top slot in the Irish book charts; but I’ve only just got around to my copy, a belated Christmas present.

And it’s…

Morrissey, the book

Morrissey, the new buke

Well, it’s Morrissey all over. It’s raging, sweet, sniping, scurrilous, beautiful, angry, alliterative, and all the other silly adjectives the reviewers like to use. Oh yeah, and it’s catty and barbed (Morrissey manages to outself Will Self and outbennett Alan Bennett), and sad and hilarious.

Some musical legends are able to write scintillating prose – a brilliant memoir or occasional journalistic foray. I’m thinking here of Elvis Costello in various magazines; or Dylan’s Chronicles; or Tracey Thorn’s Bedsit Disco Queen; or Eno’s Year with Swollen Appendices. I’ve just added Morrissey to that list.

He’s not to everyone’s taste. Some fans are already complaining about overlong sections in the second half – the bits about the infamous court case or the endless tours or seeing a ghost on a moor. But it’s a fat book and this is the second half – the lad has already scored a hatful of hat-tricks in the first, he’s the man of the match and frankly Mr Shankly would have pulled him off by now (if you know what I mean).

Some tiny things slightly threw me though:

  • The American spellings. This is a “Penguin Classic”, a UK edition. So was it an American word processor’s auto-correct that gave us the “job centers” and “city centers”, the “theaters” and “specters”, all the “color” and “glamor” and “groups in the Smiths mold” (surely not quite the same as “the Smiths mould”)? It gives a sort of American twang on every second page, even when it’s about growing up in an Irish family in northern England. Morrissey is a notoriously meticulous artist, from cover art to sleeve-note typos, so was the book transcribed from his handwriting (because surely a quill or poison pen would have been his weapon of choice)?
  • A copyright notice on the first inside page proper: “© Whores in Retirement, 2011”. It’s a gas.
  • The Irish bits: selfishly, I wouldn’t have minded more about Morrissey’s times in Dublin, from Crumlin to Lad Lane and…
  • His iconic appearance: while he talks about his shirts and jeans and hair, there’s nothing about the flowers hanging from his backside, the hearing aid, the National Health specs, the…

These aren’t even minor quibbles. Just tiny almost subatomic things. Definitely treat yourself to a free sneak peek of the first 20-odd pages, or at least the opening paragraph, which lasts a mere four-and-a-half pages.

Morrissey is very candid about his idols and influences, from old Sixties TV shows and Hollywood movie stars to poets and musical acts such as the New York Dolls and David Bowie. So I’ll leave you with Morrissey’s version of Bowie’s “Drive-in Saturday”. The video quality isn’t the greatest, but the band is in fine form. As the man himself says, “it’s karaoke night”…

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