THE WORLD WON’T LISTEN

Forty years ago, the most damaging verbal assault one could make upon the establishment was to say ‘God save the Queen/she ain’t no human being’; today, simply express reservations over Islam as a ‘religion of peace’ and give the thumbs-up to Brexit. To do so will earn you the same vitriolic condemnation from the establishment and expose you to an identical level of censorship. The main difference now is that the establishment is young and the dissenting voices are old. This upside-down reversal of battle lines has been a long, protracted process, building up over a generation spoon-fed a saccharine soundtrack by the Cowell industry and further sedated by social media. A consensus unquestioned and unchallenged, whether through fear of online ostracism or being lumped in with genuine extremist groups, has stifled debate amongst the young and left those with nothing to lose or prove as the only ones prepared to go against the grain. That these tend to be veterans whose key cultural contributions were made decades ago speaks volumes as to where we are now.

A couple of years back, Chrissie Hynde – feted as an embodiment of ‘Rock Chick Cool’ by a generation judging everything on a pose – spurned her unwanted canonisation by those young enough to be her daughters. She provoked Feminazi outrage with the publication of her autobiography by simply suggesting a little common sense be applied where young women on the town are concerned; and now her near-contemporary Morrissey has fired another contentious missive from his self-imposed exile across the pond, the latest in a long line of them that have served to keep his profile high as his music continues to languish in the same cul-de-sac it’s occupied since the early 90s.

Stephen has always revelled in his contrariness, memorably proclaiming ‘The Wild Boys’ by Duran Duran Single of the Week in ‘Smash Hits’ back in 1984 when he would have been expected to favour some jangly Indie ditty; and whilst he was critical of Thatcherism during its heyday, his loathing never seemed to be a convenient hitch on a fashionable bandwagon in the way it was for many members of his generation, most of whom were later happy to cheerlead for New Labour as they collected their MBEs and Knighthoods. Ben Elton never said he enjoyed the sight of Norman Tebbit being pulled from the wreckage of the Brighton Bombing, for example.

When he was lumbered with the ‘National Treasure’ albatross a decade or so ago, lionised by the likes of JK Rowling, one had the constant suspicion that such plaudits were sitting uncomfortably on his shoulders; his one-time musical soul-mate Johnny Marr publicly expressed he didn’t want David Cameron declaring ‘The Queen is Dead’ to be his favourite album, whereas Morrissey went even further in the eyes of those suddenly singing his praises by taking a big juicy chunk out of the hand that was feeding him. Should anyone have really been surprised, though? This is a man who had called Reggae ‘vile’ and ‘racist’ in the 80s and who was castigated for flaunting the Union Jack at a gig in 1992 by the same music scribes who eulogised Oasis (and Noel Gallagher’s Union Jack guitar) a couple of years later.

Unlike Paul Weller, Morrissey never embraced a particular political party, let alone a specific left or right ideology. He appeared to be above all that and, like Orwell before him, refrained from nailing his colours to the mast. Whichever stance was flavour of the month, he seemed to instinctively adopt the opposite position, and I feel his much-publicised sound-bite support for UKIP was born of the same mischievous motivation rather than a wholesale conversion to Nigel’s Barmy Army. It was just another antagonistic jacket for him to don as a means of getting up the noses of those who were patting him on the head for still being alive.

Yes, it’s true that certain wordsmiths sharing a lineage with Morrissey, such as Philip Larkin or Iris Murdoch, lurched further to the right as they aged; and one could look upon Morrissey’s opinions as belonging to the same process. On the other hand, one could view his refusal to kowtow to the consensus as another example of how his lifelong bloody-mindedness is still intact, even in the face of overwhelming pressure to conform. The furore unleashed by Morrissey’s most recent statements has provoked the kind of demands for his head on a plate that used to accompany similarly provocative comments by those half his age – in short, the kind of reaction rock stars traditionally inspired in the old. What makes today so strange is that it is the old now outraging the young instead of the other way round.

One could equally argue that without his occasional rent-a-gob quotes, Morrissey would still largely be confined to a relatively brief moment in the 80s when he represented an alternative zeitgeist to the prevailing big hair and even bigger shoulder pads that lazy revisionists evoke to sum up the whole era for those who weren’t there. At the same time, however, he no longer has to worry about the kind of career suicide such quotes would threaten twenty-something musicians with; he knows his hardcore devotees will continue to buy his output as they always have, regardless of whether or not their hero is fashionable again. If the mainstream decides it wants him, fair enough; if it doesn’t, he couldn’t care less.

With 35 years of recording behind him, Morrissey has the luxury of being able to afford nonchalance, but those thirty or forty years his junior don’t; they have to conform or they risk losing everything. At a moment when Twitter, Facebook and YouTube are cracking down on any alternatives to the accepted design for life, dissenting voices are being silenced by a ruling class that don’t want democratic debate; they want us all to think and speak the same language. It doesn’t matter what one’s actual political ideology is; we should all be allowed to express it, even if it isn’t one that everybody wants to hear. Otherwise, we’re back to burning books. And it says everything you need to know about 2017 that the only person getting the arbiters of taste frothing at the mouth is someone who arguably hasn’t been relevant for three bloody decades.

© The Editor

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Mr-Yesterday-Johnny-Monroe/dp/154995718X/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1510941083&sr=1-1

4 thoughts on “THE WORLD WON’T LISTEN

  1. His direction of travel was evident with “Bengali in Platforms” (1988)

    Maybe his comments would be less ridiculed if they did not come “from his self-imposed exile across the pond”.

    But nothing eclipses “How Soon Is Now?”

    Liked by 1 person

    1. “Maybe his comments would be less ridiculed if they did not come “from his self-imposed exile across the pond”.

      Plus the fact that apparently a large % of his fan-base is South American!

      Liked by 1 person

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