Monday, April 20, 2009

Morrissey's Fickle Ways

I first saw Morrissey and The Smiths at the Royal Oak Music Theatre in 1985. I drove down to the show with Steve Herzog and Christine Lezar from Flint. I almost experienced Morrissey again on Saturday in Oakland. Alas, the show was cancelled, as they often are these days. At least I got to write a non-review of the non-event:

There was wild speculation about the true reason for the cancellation. Morrissey endured a fate worse than sex with Madonna while playing Coachella on Friday -- the smell of grilling meats from the concession stands drifted across the stage during his set. It prompted the middle-aged vegetarian to announce "I can smell burning flesh and I hope to God it's human." Apparently after discovering that human sacrifices are only enacted at Burning Man, Morrissey walked off the stage in mid-lyric during "Some Girls Are Bigger Than Others." Meat is murder, after all. "The smell of burning animals is making me sick. I just couldn't bear it," he explained when he returned to finish a lackluster show plagued by sound problems.

Hey, fair enough. A really bad smell that violates your personal and artistic integrity could render someone "Still Ill" the next day. (I, too, can skillfully weave Smiths song titles into my writing.) And Morrissey fans are a forgiving lot, as evidenced by their willingness to part with $85 to experience one of their hero's notoriously short concerts. (Disclosure: I've seen The Smiths/Morrissey ten times dating back to 1985, and I own every Smiths 12" ever released on Rough Trade.) But it's a bit hard to take when the man who put the "M" in Manchester showed up Saturday night at DNA Lounge to catch a show by Kristeen Young -- a former warm-up act who got the boot from his 2007 tour after she jokingly mentioned Morrissey and oral sex in the same sentence on stage.

For the full article go here.

Morrissey photo courtesy of Christopher Victorio via


  1. I was at that Royal Oak show. I remember being irritated that all these girls kept going on the stage to hug Morrissey. I didn't understand their motivation... I mean, couldn't they figure it out? I remember Billiam laughing about it, which was a perspective that hadn't occurred to me. That's all I recall from that concert.

    I was a Johnny Marr fan, so when he left, I did too.

    Funny how those song lyrics stick in your head though... just when you least expect it, they're there.

  2. I remember those girls rushing the stage. Maybe they were blinded to the obvious by their love.

    And although I still enjoy Morrissey's solo work, it pales in comparison to the Smiths.

  3. The Smiths came to me (like several other good music finds -- The Police, Stray Cats, ELO) from my sister's album collection. Thank goodness because left to my own devices, I had early on made some rather dodgy musical choices, including KC and the Sunshine Band and Bachman Turner Overdrive and several 45s I care not to mention....

    Morrissey is a pretty good example of not having to like somebody to enjoy his/her work. He's a raging egomaniac but God help me I love "Suedehead."

  4. So last month, My wife's good friend flies in from LA for the two of them to see Morrisey in ATL. Yup you guessed it, cancelled. I asked if she was pissed (she flies to see him frequently), she replied 'happens all the time'. The guy should run for Prime Minister, since his fans are not just blinded to his sexuality.

  5. He said nearly the same thing about the 'burning flesh' when I saw him a few years ago at State Theatre in Detroit. Thankfully, he didn't stop the show, though he almost did when he smelled cigarette smoke...

  6. In Morrissey's defense, he did return and finish his set, but there's no doubt he has become a very delicate flower.

    The Smiths were the first band I really got obsessed with in high school and college. (I'm trying to forget my brief flirtation with Duran Duran and The Vapors) And I think it's hard for bands you discover when you're older to ever measure up to a band you love as a teenager. You can logically admit you've discovered better bands, but it's hard to forge that same emotional connection.

    And that has led me to keep buying Moz's often mediocre solo work and keep attending his $100 concerts, even though he often cancels or gets all worked up over the smells permeating the venue.

    Having said that, the live performances are still pretty great, when they actually take place.

  7. I considered going to see Morrissey in Boston in March but tickets + babysitter + mediocre response from my spouse made me reconsider. I don't think there were any meat smells or other offensive odors so it might have been a rare, incident-free concert. I adore The Smiths and Morrissey's early solo stuff. I agree with Gordie that the bands from those formative years stick with you the most. My iPod is full of them. A friend in the music business relayed a story that Morrissey was recording in Italy and one of the musicians either ordered or ate a meat product in a restaurant and Morrissey was so disgusted he disappeared for 3 days - costly protest I imagine. He sure feels strongly and is committed to his ideals.

    You're welcome John. Funny how you didn't mention my Adam and the Ants albums - are you saying you didn't like ant music? I'll admit that I still do...

  8. Adam and the Ants had more than one album? Who knew? If I were still in Flint, I'd head down to a Jellybean and check that out....

  9. Wyatt Earp was the place to go. He gave away posters after he was done with their display.

  10. I saw The Smiths at that same show! ( I will have to check my scrapbook and Yes I kept my ticket stubs)I remember bopping into a punk/new wave store in Royal oak and the clerk telling me and my friend we had just missed seeing The Smiths! I was transfixed by Morrissey but I did not try to hug him. Now I fondly recall Johnny marr that much more. He is one of the world's greatest guitar players.

    I think you should do a memorial to the alte great Wyatt (real name Doug) Earp. I was deeply saddened to learn recently he has passed away from cancer. His store is still open on Corunna Road from what I hear though.

  11. Indeed, Doug's bud Al Steele is still running Wyatt Earp records on Corunna Rd.

  12. Regarding Wyatt Earp Records:

    Here's a little write up.

  13. The sense of smell is curious and often misunderstood, as are its connections to physiological reactions in some but not all of us.

    Among "normal/average" people, not counting the outliers, smell sensitivity is maybe ten times greater in straight females than straight males. (They taught us that in Psych 101's physiology section...remember?)

    Smell sensitivity is one of those factors that, in gay/lesbian folks, sometimes operates more like that of the opposite physical gender.

    Some people are more sensitive to some smells. Sometimes this comes from experience with that smell, plus training yourself to pay attention. The nose can be picking up something, and perhaps the hindbrain is reacting to it if it is associated with some natural context such as comfort, hunger or danger, even though the forebrain is ignoring it. I've learned in my professional life to be able to reliably detect and identify quite small amounts of a number of industrial chemistries that other men say they can't smell at all.

    Some women, and maybe some gay men, are wired so that particular smells elicit significant physiological reactions. It's easy and maybe traditional for men who don't even sense the smell to make fun of this, but it's real. Women evolved to be the ones who figured out if a locale was healthy for sheltering and maybe being pregnant or raising kids, so those sensitivities tend to be to decay, molds, stuff along those lines. I don't think most of us are naturally wired for that reaction to extend to the smell of cooking brats, but I can imagine that it would be psychologically easy in the right individual for a strongly held philosophical belief and this physiological mechanism to interact.


Thanks for commenting. I moderate comments, so it may take a while for your comment to appear. You might enjoy my book about Flint called "Teardown: Memoir of a Vanishing City," a Michigan Notable Book for 2014 and a finalist for the 33rd Annual Northern California Book Award for Creative NonFiction. Filmmaker Michael Moore described Teardown as "a brilliant chronicle of the Mad Maxization of a once-great American city." More information about Teardown is available at