Sunday, June 1, 2008

Music and Politics – Morrissey Rides A Controversial Horse

Former singer of the Smiths and British music tabloid fodder, Morrissey is in a "row" again. The wry yet fey frontman has again been accused of racism based around a late 2007 interview he gave with NME.

In the interview Morrissey says: "Britain's a terribly negative place. And it hammers people down and it pulls you back and it prevents you. Also, with the issue of immigration, it's very difficult because although I don't have anything against people from other countries, the higher the influx into England the more the British identity disappears." What complicates the matter is the way Morrissey presents his opinion it's not "England is dying because of immigration full stop." It's more to do with the critique of the general British character? While he doesn't explain what means by "a disappearing British identity", Morrissey makes it pretty clear when looking at the full context of his statement linked here from the Manchester Evening News

"The change in England is so rapid compared to the change in any other country. "If you walk through Knightsbridge on any bland day of the week you won't hear an English accent. You'll hear every accent under the sun apart from the British accent."

Morrissey admitted he enjoyed `the freedom to go around the world ... so you have to allow others the same freedom' adding `so I'm not sitting here saying it's a terrible thing, I'm saying it's a reality and to many people it's shocking'.

In a follow-up phone interview, Morrissey told the magazine: "I just think that it could be construed that the reason I wouldn't wish to live in England is the immigration explosion.

"And that's not true at all. I am actually extremely worldly and there are other reasons why I would find England very difficult, such as the expense and the pressure."

He said: "My favourite actor is an Israeli, Lior Ashkenazi, and my favourite singer was born in Iraq and now lives in Egypt. So I'm not a part of Little Britain. And by that, I don't mean the show, obviously."

Asked about his parents moving to Britain, he said: "It's different now. Because the gates are flooded. And anybody can have access to England and join in. Millions of people leave the country every year because they don't recognise the place, so I'm not saying anything unusual. If you travelled to Croatia tomorrow for instance, and walked around Zagreb hearing nothing but Dublin accents, you'd find it shocking."

Furthermore, Morrissey, called racism "silly" and "beyond reason", in the same article."The Mozzer's" reputation has been damage to the point of taking legal action. He's also wrote a response in the Guardian which expresses his "adoration of James Baldwin, (my) love of Middle Eastern tunings" and much more.

There's also a variety of past ambiguous, yet controversial situations in Morrissey's history in the last two decades. Namely, the lyrics to "Bengali in Platforms". Although, based on the title, is more of a nice, poppy, glam rocker from Pakistan circa: 1973 than a racist screed. The other controversial title being "National Front Disco" which again, works with the construct of the unknown or absurd. In Europe disco is for a "place to dance" whereas in America it typically refers to Saturday Night Fever or flashy, sleazy guys in Angel Flight pants and coke spoon necklaces. It's hard to imagine Nick Griffin doing the hustle to Donna Summer.

Additionally, these Morrisey = racist accusations come from a 1993 Johnny Rogan penned biography, which claimed he once, in his late teens, wrote "I don't hate Pakistanis, but I dislike them immensely". However, NO substantial source is provided.

Additionally, in 1992 Morrissey's went on stage draped in a Union Jack for his performance at the first Madstock! Madness reunion concert at Finsbury Park, London, Plus, his backdrop for this show was a photograph of two female skinheads. The NME responded to this by investigating Morrissey's attitudes to race, claiming he had "left himself in a position where accusations that he's toying with far-right/fascist imagery, and even of racism itself, can no longer just be laughed off with a knowing quip". (New Musical Express, 22 August 1992)

Morrissey's wearing of the British flag to be no more "racist" than The Who & Def Leppard's popularization of Union Jack t-shirts or Stewart Home's use of skinhead imagery in his books. This lies more in the tradition of "taking the piss" out controversial aesthetics rather than endorsing the ideas of nationalism and racism. This type of tradition goes a least back to Monty Python if not further. It might be more useful for NME to investigate the British Blood and Honor organization's expansion into over 30 countries. Granted these are not big name pop stars. However, they are the real thing-they REALLY are racists who REALLY believe in violence & hate towards "those people". Apparently ambiguous pop stars sell more papers than nazi boneheads in Serbia or Sweden.

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