A Taste of Morrissey

A TASTE OF HONEY BY SHELAGH DELANEY

As you may have already sensed from this blog, I am a huge Morrissey fan. It was the legendary singer and a recent trip to The Lowry giftshop in Manchester that finally led me to buying and reading this highly acclaimed play.

Morrissey famously once said; “I’ve never made any secret of the fact that at least 50 per cent of my reason for writing can be blamed on Shelagh Delaney.” Set in the ‘today’ of her northern, industrial Salford you can see why A Taste of Honey appeals so greatly to him. Delaney was a solo female voice in a wave of 1950s gritty British writing as Morrissey (in my opinion) has often been the only voice in contemporary gritty British song-writing.

A Taste of Honey was Shelagh Delaney’s first play and one that she is most remembered for. It received huge critical and commercial success at the time which led to the 1961 film adaptation scripted by Delaney herself.

The play is a poignant and simple story about teenage Jo, and the fiery relationship she has with her irresponsible mother, Helen. Jo becomes pregnant by a Nigerian sailor who soon leaves her. Gay art student Geoffrey moves in to help Jo with the baby after Helen runs off with her latest fancy-man. Jo remains resilient and optimistic throughout their grim existence in her shabby Salford lodgings.

It was the first play to feature a black man and gay man and became regarded as ahead of its time due its progressive understanding of social and sexual outsiders. Ahead of and of its time it maybe, but that does nothing to diminish its dialogue and themes as a great read for here and now. The exchanges between Jo and Helen are sharp, witty, cruel and equally peppered with dramatic revelations and the stuff of everyday grind.

I loved it. I found it funny and tragic and at turns a harrowing reminder of how times and attitudes have changed.

More on A Taste of Honey’s influence on Morrissey and The Smiths

Shelagh Delaney was the cover star of The Smiths’ Louder Than Bombs and Girlfriend in a Coma. This, her most congratulated play and one that he has boasted he can recite word-for-word, was “a massive influence” on Morrissey and his lyrics as you’ll see from the lines below; Continue reading

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Fancy a huge chunk of pop music? Yeah Yeah Yeah

YEAH YEAH YEAH: THE STORY OF MODERN POP BY BOB STANLEY

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My own story of pop began with Adam Ant in the early 80s. Luckily, music journalist and founder member of Saint Etienne, Bob Stanley,  goes back a bit further than that. This weighty volume comes in at just under 800 pages and is packed with all the songs, bands, personalities and pop trivia that you could wish for. Starting back at the introduction of vinyl, the charts and the music press in 1952 through the rock n roll era, the Beatles and Elvis, the rise of the album, punk and the 80s before things took a turn for the worse with rave and the descent into the throwaway download culture. Yeah Yeah Yeah is pop’s heydey; Bill Haley to Britpop – it’s a thrilling ride.

What interested me was seeing how pop culture and trends changed rapidly from UK to US, West Coast to East Coast, London to Liverpool to Manchester. As much as he tugs at your memory and I swooned with nostalgia over a pictured Smash Hits cover featuring Brother Beyond, Glen Medeiros and The Pasadenas, Stanley also points to scenes and you wonder why you were not there. I wish I’d known about the Smiths and Orange Juice when my senses were being brutally assaulted by Queen, Collins, Young, Sting et al. But then I was only a primary school child at the time!

I disagree with Stanley on some things; his dismissal of post-Smiths Morrissey, post-Bill Berry R.E.M, the weight he sometimes gave to credibility over popularity. Michael Jackson’s ‘Bad’ may have been a let down to him but to myself and just about everybody I grew up with, it was the pinnacle of pop.

Being primary interests of mine I’d read most of the Elvis, punk and new wave stories before and I cannot lay fault at Stanley’s door for the dull chapters which prog rock (Yes, Genesis, Mike Oldfield) and fey, yelpy groups like Spandau Ballet, Duran Duran and OMD fell into.

But it was a joy to realise what a year in pop 1991 was – I still have treasured 45s from those twelve months by the eclectic mix of Right Said Fred, Manic Street Preachers, Bart Simpson, KLF and Hale and Pace. Ah memories!

Here are my favourite facts, insights and quotes from Yeah Yeah Yeah: Continue reading

Moz Mania!

mozintairport

MORRISSEY INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT

BY DICKIE FELTON

Morrissey means just everything.

His music is a crutch, an emotional blanket.

It’s there when nobody else is or when you just need familiar words

(Olivia, Morrissey fan)

Dickie Felton is a Morrissey devotee from Liverpool. Morrissey International Airport is his story of following Moz on tour to 10 gigs in 10 towns in 5 countries. From Dunoon to Dallas, he covered 12,000 miles during Morrissey’s tour of far off places.

dickiefeltonHis book is full of shared stories, tales and experiences from fans all over the world who devote their lives to the legendary Smiths singer’s every move.

Often quiffed, tattooed and rocking the double denim look, The Moz Army  are world-renowned for their globe-trotting passionate pilgrimages. For them, no Moz gig is a gig too far.

But what motivates Moz mania? Why has Margaret from Fresno travelled 5,000 miles for a handshake with a 54-year-old pop star? I can understand it, as will most who read this book. But it’s also a great read for anyone who can’t fathom why we fling ourselves at stage barriers, write him silly notes, blow the overdraft and endure the endless pity of our loved ones for the sake of seeing up close what others perceive as a miserable old bugger.

Little do they know! Continue reading

Classic Morrissey

AUTOBIOGRAPHY BY MORRISSEY

Morrissey book plans back on track

A lot has been said in the press about this book, mainly by the most boring of Morrissey naysayers. Lazy headlines and ignorant opinions filled papers and websites by nobody journalists who flicked through the 457 pages trying to find the “revelations,” This book is not about revelations, we know most of this stuff, it’s about the world through Moz’s eyes which often feels like the world through our own eyes which is why we remain true to him. Viva Moz!

Here are my personal highlights from the book published, very deservedly, as a Penguin Classic:

1. Birds abstain from song in post-war industrial Manchester, where the 1960s will not swing, and where the locals are the opposite of worldly (page 4)

2. Miss Redmond is ageing, and will never marry, and will die smelling of attics (page 10)

3. Every house has a face, and the eyes of 10 Trafalgar Square were already closed (page 34)

moz young

4. Nannie is gone to the world with a satisfied Embassy wheeze whistling in rhythm to the bedside clock, her night-light pointing the way to cough sweets, Holy water, milk of magnesia and Germolene – the vital accoutrements for anticipated midnight peril (page 34) Continue reading