This time, the “Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now” singer has been taking aim at what he describes as attempts to “delete” him from the “central essence” of the seminal band. In a post on his official website Morrissey Central titled “Cancel culture begins at home”, he has claimed that there is an apparent conspiracy to erase or downplay his role in The Smiths.
“There is also an obvious media shift to delete me from being the central essence of The Smiths, but this cannot work because I invented the group name, the song-titles, the album titles, the artwork, the vocal melodies, and all of the lyrical sentiments came from my heart,” he wrote. “And so it's a bit like saying Mick Jagger had nothing to do with the Stones.”
Morrissey’s grievance comes in the wake of what he says are reports that The Smiths’ meeting with Geoff Travis of Rough Trade Records that resulted in the band being signed to the label was conducted without him.
“Several news sites now claim that the initial meeting at Rough Trade Records was with ‘Johnny Marr and Andy Rourke,’ even though Andy wasn't even a committed band member at that point,” he continues. “The meeting, of course, was Morrissey and Marr. Even Geoff Travis has now suddenly decided that he ‘can't remember who was with Johnny,’ even though Geoff looked me squarely in the eye on that very day and said ‘we'd like to release “Hand In Glove” immediately,’ and he then more importantly said to me that his name was Geoff with a G, not Jeff with a J. The hounds are snapping!”
The polemic ends with a lyric from that song: “Hand in glove, I stake my claim! I'll fight to the last breath!”
It is not the first time Morrissey has used the platform to take aim at what he apparently sees as attempts to tarnish his legacy. In a January 25, 2022 post titled “An open letter to Johnny Marr” he lambasted his former songwriting partner after the latter gave an interview to Uncut in which the guitarist said: “I’m really close with everyone I’ve worked with – except for the obvious one. And that isn’t that much of a surprise because we’re so different, me and Morrissey.”
Morrissey’s reply was unequivocal. “This is not a rant or an hysterical bombast,” he wrote. “It is a polite and calmly measured request: Would you please stop mentioning my name in your interviews?
“Would you please, instead, discuss your own career, your own unstoppable solo achievements and your own music?”
He continued: “The fact is: you don’t know me. You know nothing of my life, my intentions, my thoughts, my feelings… We haven’t known each other for 35 years – which is many lifetimes ago. When we met you and I were not successful. We both helped each other become whatever it is we are today. Can you not just leave it at that? Must you persistently, year after year, decade after decade, blame me for everything… from the 2007 Solomon Islands tsunami to the dribble on your grandma’s chin?
“You found me inspirational enough to make music with me for 6 years. If I was, as you claim, such an eyesore monster, where exactly did this leave you? Kidnapped? Mute? Chained? Abducted by cross-eyed extraterrestrials? It was YOU who played guitar on ‘Golden Lights’ - not me.
“Our period together was many lifetimes ago, and a lot of blood has streamed under the bridge since then… Please stop.”
After just five years together, The Smiths split in 1987 amid increasing tensions between Morrissey and Johnny Marr, and were later embroiled in a royalties dispute with fellow band members Andy Rourke and Mike Joyce.
The singer later told the Melody Maker: “The court case was a potted history of the life of the Smiths. Mike, talking constantly and saying nothing. Andy, unable to remember his own name. Johnny, trying to please everyone and consequently pleasing no one. And Morrissey under the scorching spotlight in the dock being drilled. ‘How dare you be successful?’ ‘How dare you move on?’ To me, the Smiths were a beautiful thing and Johnny left it, and Mike has destroyed it.”
Morrissey’s new album Without Music the World Dies is still awaiting a distributor, while Marr’s most recent studio LP, 2022’s Fever Dreams Pts 1-4, reached No. 4 in the U.K. charts. Last year’s Spirit Power: The Best of Johnny Marr peaked at No. 7 and in October 2023 he released the highly-acclaimed book Marr’s Guitars.