By Dave Carnie
Introducing the Valentine’s Day “Flower Wimps” shirt, featuring Morrissey with a bouquet of Gladiolas (art by Todd Bratrud). While it’s difficult to pinpoint the origin of the term, “Flower Wimps,” it was an active pejorative term for The Smiths during the '80s because they would spend a fortune on Chrysanthemums and Gladiolas so Morrissey could stick them up his butt and hand them out on stage. The practice probably began as a tribute to his hero, Oscar Wilde, who had a deep love of flowers. For those that were uncomfortable with The Smiths effeminacy, they taunted them as The Flower Wimps. How very clever and, erm, English.
Presumably I was chosen to write this post since I’m the closest to Morrissey? I did pose for a photo with him at the Cat And The Fiddle in Hollywood, I toured his Sunset Strip home when it was for sale and peed all over his toilet, and he was pro for my sorta-fake sorta-real company, Whale Cock Skateboards. I was also one of the three artists that created graphics for the “Flower Wimps” Morrissey tribute collection of boards back in 2018 that included “Vicar In A Tutu” (art by Cliver), “You’re The One For Me, Fatty” (Bratrud), and “Big Mouth Strikes Again” (Me). Morrissey and I are practically best friends.
The Flower Wimps Collection, 2017.
Only we’re not best friends anymore. We drifted apart because Morrissey turned into a twat and started spouting off all kinds of racist, xenophobic, rightwing-conservative-nutjob nonsense. The idea of writing a post about a shirt that celebrates this crazy old racist queen sounded antithetical to the StrangeLove ideology—the name has “love” in it, not “hate.” Why are we promoting this asshat? I wondered.
But it occurred to me that my opinion of Morrissey being a twat had been formed from secondary sources and hearsay. I realized that I had arrived at that opinion simply from headlines that included the word “racist” somewhere around the word “Morrissey.” I suddenly wondered: is my twat opinion based on my feelings or real empirical facts? I decided to do a little research and see what’s up: is Morrissey a racist twat, or what?
My findings will be revealed below within a review of his most recent album, I Am Not A Dog On A Chain. I thought it might be interesting to have a listen to one of his more recent albums because not only had I dismissed his words as crazy, I stopped listening to his music as well. So let’s see what the man—and the artist—have been up to lately:
Morrissey I Am Not A Dog On A Chain BMG Records, 2020
I chose his most recent album because “you’re only as good as your last performance.” I’m not sure if I subscribe to the saying, but it somehow seems appropriate here. For one, Morrissey has said that his favorite recordings are the last three albums with BMG—who, incidentally, recently kicked him off their label to create more diversity in their artist roster (which sounds like a polite way of saying, we’re not down with your racist shit).
“My three albums with BMG have been the best of my career,” Morrissey said, “and I stand by them till death.”
Okay. Let’s have a listen to the 11 tracks on I Am Not A Dog On A Chain while reviewing some of his recent controversies. There are quite a few.
I enjoy the title of this first song very much. As I wondered what it could mean, I thought, “Waterfall?” Turns out the song does seem to be about a waterfall suicide and there really is a Jim Jim Falls. By crikey, it’s in Australia! Of course they’d name a waterfall, Jim Jim.
Track 1. “Jim Jim Falls”
I’m surprised I like the first song because I was not expecting this. One of my guilty pleasures is dubstep because the mindless, driving beat pairs well with mindless tasks like housecleaning. Tania (m’lady), on the other hand, absolutely despises dubstep and says that “it sounds like a broken fax machine bouncing around in the dryer.” Kind of like the beginning of this song. And I love the suicidal lyrics, they remind me of old Morrissey:
If you're gonna jump then jump / Don't think about it
If you're gonna run home and cry / Then don't waste my time
If you're gonna kill yourself / Then to save face / Get on with it
Bold. Callous. I like it. So, in the same spirit, let’s get on with it and begin with Morrissey’s most controversial racist statement: the one where he calls the Chinese a “sub-species.” I am quoting the original interview in The Guardian, “Morrissey Interview: Big Mouth Strikes Again,” by poet, Simon Armitage. It appears within a paragraph of a half-dozen quotes on a variety of unrelated subjects that the author introduces simply as, “[Morrissey’s] list of dislikes is long”:
Morrissey on other singers: “They have two or three melodies and they repeat them ad nauseam over the course of 28 albums.”
Morrissey on people: “They are problems.”
And shockingly, on the Chinese: “Did you see the thing on the news about their treatment of animals and animal welfare? Absolutely horrific. You can't help but feel that the Chinese are a subspecies.”
Armitage said Morrissey was typically and deliberately provocative throughout the interview. “I thought at the time it was a dangerous thing to say into a tape recorder. He must have known it would make waves, he's not daft,” Armitage said. “But he's provocative and theatrical, and it was one of dozens of dramatic pronouncements. … But clearly, when it comes to animal rights and animal welfare, he's absolutely unshakable in his beliefs. In his view, if you treat an animal badly, you are less than human. I think that was his point.”
His manager, Peter Katsis, in an LA Times article also made an attempt to smooth his client’s words out: “Everyone keeps repeating that Morrissey said, ‘The Chinese are a subspecies.’ That comment was made about the Chinese government, and everybody has problems with the way they treat people.”
True: China does not have the best humanitarian/environmental/animal-rights record and Morrissey isn’t the first person to say that out loud.
Morrissey’s own response to the controversy around his words was issued in a statement: “If anyone has seen the horrific and unwatchable footage of the Chinese cat and dog trade—animals skinned alive—then they could not possibly argue in favor of China as a caring nation. There are no animal protection laws in China and this results in the worst animal abuse and cruelty on the planet. It is indefensible.”
Morrissey also added in an interview on his own website: “The tabloids would attack me if I reversed global warming. I once made a comment about China and of course The Guardian attacked me, but the next day David Cameron said more or less the same thing about China and The Guardian praised him. So, you see, personal bias is usually at the root.”
[Note: Morrissey’s original quote about the Chinese appeared September 3, 2010. I’m uncertain what David Cameron quote Morrissey is referring to, but perhaps it was from this story in November, 2010, “David Cameron tells China: embrace freedom and the rule of law.”]
Princess Flower Wimp.
Track 2. "Love Is On Its Way Out"
Given his recent “hateful” comments, it would indeed seem that love is on its way out—of his life, anyway. But I’m impressed by this song as well. I’m appreciating the compositions and production of these songs. It sounds different and modern—producer Joe Chiccarelli described this album as Morrissey's “boldest and most adventurous”—which is important here because Morrissey to me is kind of like AC/DC or Motorhead: I love them all, but every album is essentially filled with variations on “that one song” they’ve been playing their entire career and their later albums are a little redundant. But this is a little different.
Given this song’s amorous title, it would be apropos to move on to Morrissey’s comments about rape that appeared in Germany’s Der Spiegel newspaper in November 2017. Morrissey essentially defends Kevin Spacey and Harvey Weinstein in regard to their sexual abuse allegations. Most of the attention has been given to his Weinstein comments (translated here from a BBC.com article):
The singer also cast doubt on the dozens of women who have accused film producer Harvey Weinstein of assault. "People know exactly what's going on," he reportedly said when asked about Weinstein inviting actresses to his hotel room, "and they play along. Afterwards, they feel embarrassed or disliked. And then they turn it around and say: 'I was attacked, I was surprised'. But if everything went well, and if it had given them a great career, they would not talk about it."
"I hate rape. ... But in many cases, one looks at the circumstances and thinks that the person who is considered a victim is merely disappointed."
The Author posing with Her Majesty at The Cat And The Fiddle. He put his arm around me without asking.
Track 3. "Bobby, Don't You Think They Know?"
This was the first single off the album and it features backing vocals from Thelma Houston. Again: pretty good. And again, I get to rework the title of the song to address the issue at hand: Bobby, don’t you think Morrissey’s fans know about the things he’s said?
It doesn’t seem like they do. Or they do know and they just don’t care? The LA Times article I linked earlier asked the same question in its title:
Some suspect it’s because a lot of his controversial political views reside in European politics and, as we well know, Americans, including myself, can barely follow reality, or US politics, let alone European politics. I don’t even know where Europe is? But, from my readings, there are a number of comments he’s made that can be summarized thusly:
1. He loudly supports the “For Britain Movement, a minor far-right [nationalist] political party in the United Kingdom, founded by the anti-Islam activist Anne Marie Waters.”
2. He’s become known for anti-immigrant statements such as: "Although I don't have anything against people from other countries, the higher the influx into England the more the British identity disappears. So the price is enormous. Travel to England and you have no idea where you are. It matters because the British identity is very attractive. I grew up into it and I find it very quaint and amusing. Other countries have held on to their basic identity, yet it seems to me that England was thrown away. … You can't say, 'Everybody come into my house, sit on the bed, have what you like, do what you like.' It wouldn't work.”
3. And he has made a few questionable Muslim-related statements: he’s poked fun at London Mayor Sadiq Khan’s way of speaking (Khan was born and raised in London, incidentally), he’s bemoaned the political correctness in response to Islamic acid attacks (“…the perpetrator is considered to be as much of a victim as the actual victim.”), and he really, really, really hates halal.
Regarding the NME interview in #2, Morrissey actually filed a writ for defamation against the magazine and its then editor Conor McNicholas, saying the publication had “deliberately tried to characterize me as a racist … in order to boost their dwindling circulation.” He issued a statement that said: “I abhor racism and oppression or cruelty of any kind and will not let this pass without being absolutely clear and emphatic … Racism is beyond common sense and has no place in our society.” NME did, in fact, issue an apology.
In 2008, Morrissey donated £28,000 to Love Music Hate Racism.
The Queen of The Flower Wimps.
Track 4. "I Am Not a Dog on a Chain"
While he has lost fans, and people have boycotted his concerts (at least the ones he doesn’t cancel—ZING!) his popularity hasn’t seemed to suffer that much—especially when you look at his ticket sales—but that doesn’t mean there haven’t been outspoken critics of his behavior.
British singer-songwriter Billy Bragg said that wearing the For Britain button on The Tonight Show may not have meant much in America, “but in the U.K. it represented him doubling down on troubling statements that he’s made. And when someone doubles down, then you have to start to believe that they actually mean what they’re saying. It’s not something that they’ve inadvertently blurted out. With Morrissey, we’re past the inadvertent blurting stage.”
Bragg also criticized Morrissey on Facebook saying that his advocacy for For Britain “suggests a commitment to a bigotry that tarnishes his persona as the champion of the outsider.”
Bragg’s last sentence is congruent with thoughts that I’ve had: how did the Queen of the Flower Wimp Empire become a foot soldier in the Anti-Flower Wimp Wehrmacht?
And, after years of tolerating Morrissey’s peculiar comments, well-known Los Angeles DJ, Nic Harcourt, has also announced that enough is enough: “He’s always flirted with this right-wing thing. This didn’t just suddenly happen,” Harcourt said. “[But] when he made it so obvious earlier this year, I decided I wasn’t going to play his music anymore on the radio.”
I’m loving the beep-boops on this album, incidentally. The lyrics in this song are a little corny, but seem to be related, yet again, to Morrissey’s relationship with the press and public. I especially enjoyed this line in the song: “I see no point in being nice.”
The Goddess of the Flower Wimps.
5. “What Kind of People Live in These Houses?"
Sorry, I stopped listening. My patience expired at four Morrissey songs. I can go no further.
Interestingly, one of the reasons I’ve stopped listening to this album is because of Nic Harcourt. He used to be a DJ on KCRW and hosted a show called, Morning Becomes Eclectic. It used to bug the shit out of me because it was not eclectic at all. The artists that Harcourt played, in and of themselves, were often eclectic in that they derived ideas and styles from a broad and diverse range of sources (aka “world music”), but there was little difference between the songs in tempo and tone and ultimately it all blended together and sort of sounded like the mellow electronica crap they pump out poolside in Vegas—the exact opposite of eclectic.
Harcourt’s stupid “eclectic” show made me so mad that I started making my own mixes that actually were eclectic (keep in mind this was the '90s and we didn’t have Spotify, or playlists, etc.). At the time an eclectic mix for me would consist of something like Deicide, followed by Miles Davis, Beethoven, Cash Money, The Melvins, Roger Miller, Blood Duster, Pink Floyd, 50 Cent, Slayer, Charles Bronson—simply all the garbage I liked on shuffle. The more eclectic, the better. I loved it. Ever since I’ve had a hard time listening to one genre, let alone one artist, for any length of time and prefer listening to mixes that are not just eclectic, but goddamn schizophrenic. I should start a podcast called, Morning Becomes Schizophrenic.
I’ll be giving the rest of I’m Not A Dog On A Chain a listen at some point because, as I said, I’m rather surprised that I like what I’ve heard. It’s an interesting Morrissey album and worth another visit. Moving along.
6. "Knockabout World"
At first glance I thought the title of this song was “Knockwurst World.” Pretty sure this song is not about sausages, given the man’s militant veganism, but, speaking of sausages, I’m going to stuff all this Morrissey fat we’ve been chewing on into a casing and see what we’ve got.
First, I’m not really sure how to summarize how I feel because I don’t know what Morrissey thinks. He’s all over the place—maybe I’ll invite him on Morning Becomes Schizophrenic? Although I will say that after all the reading I’ve done, my position has softened. Ultimately I think that he’s merely gotten older and, like many older people, he’s developed some conservative opinions. He’s simply an old English fuddy-duddy who has grown bitter and has musty tastes. (“…the British identity is very attractive. I grew up into it and I find it very quaint and amusing.”) Hasn’t he always been a bit of a cantankerous brat?
I also think that most of his racist statements seem to have their basis in his passion for animal welfare: he’s upset at China because they have no respect for animals and he doesn’t have a welcoming opinion of Muslims because they practice halal.
“If you have any concern for animal welfare, for example, you cannot possibly vote for either Conservatives or Labour, because both parties support halal slaughter, which, as we all know, is evil. … There is a new party called For Britain. They have the best approach to animal welfare, whereas no other party even bothers to mention animal welfare. The EU will not protect animals from halal or kosher practice.”
His love of animals is the antecedent to his “hateful” rhetoric. He’s coming from a good place, he wants to save animals, but calling an entire race of people a “sub species” probably isn’t the most effective means of addressing the issue. It’s amusing and endearing on the one hand to see him being a bratty provocateur, but also sort of embarrassing to watch how childish and immature it all is. Punk rock is for kids. A gentleman of his age and influence should be more responsible.
Then again maybe this is the most effective approach to animal welfare: making outrageous comments, no matter how hurtful to others and regardless of the harm they do to your reputation, is the best way to bring attention to the issues you’re passionate about? Perhaps. Although that strategy, if it were indeed a strategy (I don’t think it was), didn’t seem to work with the China comment.
“Morrissey Rides A Cockhorse” by the Warlock Pincers.
Ultimately, Morrissey has some prejudices. There’s nothing wrong with that, we all do. I, for instance, dislike Southern accents, yet I’m enthralled by anyone with an English accent. It’s what we do with those prejudices and how we react to them that is important. I’m reminded of the story of Reverend Jesse Jackson’s realization that he, a black civil rights leader, also had prejudices against his own race. He’s famously quoted about an experience he had in a “bad neighborhood” in the late 90s. As he was walking down the street he heard footsteps behind him and assumed that some black kids were going to jump him. When he turned around, he felt relieved to see it was only a couple of white dudes. He later spoke of the incident:
“We must face the No. 1 critical issue of our day. It is youth crime in general and black-on-black crime in particular. There is nothing more painful to me at this stage in my life than to walk down the street and hear footsteps and start thinking about robbery. Then look around and see somebody white and feel relieved. After all we have been through, just to think we can't walk down our own streets, how humiliating.” —Jesse Jackson
Another term for prejudice is “cognitive bias.” When Jackson realizes that his brain had classified white people as “safe,” and nonwhite people as “dangerous,” he recognized that he was harboring a painful and dangerous cognitive bias. And then he took steps to debias himself.
In my case, I have to force myself to recognize that not every Southerner is an ignorant hillbilly and not every English accent belongs to an Oxford professor. There are, of course, smart Southerners and stupid English people—like Morrissey.
I’m kidding. If there is one thing Morrissey is not, it’s stupid, but his unpopular opinions of late have been rather puzzling. While I don’t agree with many of his opinions, I’m not offended by what he says, it has only become a little tiresome. Especially since he’ll make these outrageous pronouncements about victims of abuse and then himself claim to be a victim, crucified by the press with his own words (sound familiar?). He’s hypocritical and contradictory and seems to revel in the theater of it all. Why is everyone, as his manager said, taking it as gospel? A friend of mine summarized all these Morrissey conflicts rather neatly: “He said something catty. He’s a gay guy. Isn’t that what they do?”
So, I’ve decided I’m going to separate the man from the artist—The Flower Wimps are still a favorite of mine and I’m going to continue to listen to Morrissey’s early solo stuff that I enjoy—in other words, I can continue to enjoy the artist-then while ignoring the man-now. (Although after reading all these controversies, I feel like I need to keep an eye on that dude from now on.)
New Moz music? Eh, I don’t know. I mean, I enjoyed the beginning of this album, so who knows? And the guy is still capable of making me laugh. This line (from above), for instance, is the funniest thing in this whole article to me:
Morrissey on people: “They are problems.”
Yes. We are. We.
Track 7. "Darling, I Hug a Pillow"
Track 8. "Once I Saw the River Clean"
Track 9. "The Truth About Ruth"
Track 10. "The Secret of Music"
Track 11. "My Hurling Days Are Done"
This article is done.