Unapologetically a Morrissey Fan

Fans remain loyal amidst “diva” demands and public backlash


It was recently announced that Morrissey would be headlining Vivid 2015, a Sydney music festival, on the condition that the festival offer only vegetarian options on the days he is performing. This has caused an uproar from some festival attendees and anyone else with an opinion and a Facebook account.

Comments on a story posted by The Guardian: Australia about Morrissey headlining the now “meat free” Sydney Festival.

Being that I consider myself to be a die-hard Morrissey fan, I have an opinion as well. Why is it so strange that Morrissey would request this?

The former Smiths’ front man has been a vegetarian for 44 years. He wrote the majority of songs on the Smiths 1985 album, “Meat is Murder,” most notably its title track. Having already attended eight Morrissey concerts, I know very well what it means when the lights are dimmed, the fog machine is turned on, and the deafening audio of cows being slaughtered is played in the middle of the set. The excitement of the crowd dwindles as they watch graphic footage of animals being tortured and slaughtered. Morrissey has performed the song “Meat is Murder” at almost every single concert since the song was released nearly 30 years ago.

Although it can be graphic and upsetting to some fans, Alex Stern, an avid Morrissey fan and guitarist for Big D and the Kids Table, doesn’t mind sitting through the song. “It’s possibly my least favorite Smiths song but I admire him for being willing to leave money on the table for the sake of his beliefs and convictions.”

Rosy Reyes, owner of Mozzerians Around The World, is one example of a fan who respects the statement but she cannot watch the graphic footage Morrissey plays during “Meat is Murder.”

“Someone needs to speak up for [the animals] and when [Morrissey] does, people listen. His voice is that powerful and it is a wake up call,” said Reyes. “It’s an important part of each show.”

But when does making a statement cross the line for some people? At the 2009 Coachella Music and Arts Festival in Indio, Calif., where he was headlining, Morrissey walked off the stage in the middle of his set because he could not stand the odor of the meat being cooked by food vendors nearby. He said, “I can smell burning flesh and I hope to God it’s human.”

A few years later in May 2014, the artist was set to perform at The Observatory in Santa Ana, Calif. Bands We Are Scientists and PAWS were also booked to play “The Constellation Room,” a smaller room within the venue located on the other side of the building, at the same time as Morrissey. Upon learning that both shows were being hosted at the same venue at the same time, Morrissey threatened to cancel his concert if The Observatory did not cancel the other artist’s show. This occurred a mere four hours before he was supposed to take the stage.

Reyes blames the promoters for deciding to host two shows at the same time and insists Morrissey was trying to protect his fans so they could have the best possible experience. The Observatory eventually caved to both artists’ demands and We Are Scientists and PAWS began their set after Morrissey finished his.

Call him what you want — a diva, unprofessional — but Morrissey talks the talk and walks the walk unlike many other artists out there. Despite the flack he gets from the public and from some fans, he still has one of the most devoted fan bases of any artist. You wouldn’t need to look any further than BBC’s Greatest Living Icon poll in 2006, where fans voted him second, beating out Paul McCartney and David Bowie.

His concerts sell out instantly, especially in Los Angeles, or as some fans call it, “Moz Angeles.” I once arrived 10 hours early before one of his concerts to wait in line so that I could get as close to the Mozfather as possible and there were already about 50 people ahead of me in line. It seemed as if a majority of the people were adorned with Morrissey tattoos including full portraits of him, song lyrics, and the most coveted of all — autograph tattoos. You just don’t see those type of Kanye West tattoos, do you?

If you are one of the unlucky ones who is not familiar with his music, here is what is so great about him — Morrissey is unapologetically Morrissey. He is emotional, and he has a way of taking the shame society has made you feel for being emotional and turns it into courage. Not to mention, the guy is absolutely hilarious. Well, if you can find humor in depression.

“Belligerent ghouls
Run Manchester schools

Spineless swines
Cemented minds

Sir leads the troops
Jealous of youth
Same old suit since 1962

He does the military two-step
Down the nape of my neck”

— “The Headmaster Ritual,” The Smiths

Morrissey fans would agree that he is a prolific lyricist. As a musician, Stern appreciates Morrissey’s unconventional writing style in a different way than non-musicians would. “He writes over a collaborator’s musical bed, and often bends, but doesn’t break, conventional pop form. Verses will happen where anybody else would put a chorus, and vice versa.” Stern is not alone in his appreciation for Morrissey’s lyrical abilities.

Michael Anthony Garcia, a Morrissey fan of seven years, said Morrissey lyrics are so great that he can name at least 10 songs from both Smiths and Morrissey eras that he can really relate to.

“His lyrics just grab me with intense emotion that I just can’t tune out. He’s seriously the best lyricist I’ve ever read.”

Lyrics are just the beginning of what makes Morrissey so great. He has no fear of controversy. Conventional pop stars play it safe. Generally speaking, artists are afraid of a public relations nightmare, but Morrissey is not. He is never one to shy away from controversy if he feels the cause is worthy. Garcia insists Morrissey is as punk rock as they come. “I don’t think [Morrissey] is arrogant or pompous at all. He says what he wants, when he wants and if people don’t like it… that’s their problem.”

It can be difficult being a Morrissey fan at times. I once found many of his comments to be bitter and pompous, but now I understand him — Morrissey is a very opinionated, socially awkward man, much like the weird neighbor across the street that you try to talk to but can’t. I get that now. Perhaps it’s the enduring and inexplicable bond felt between artist and fan that goes further than the music that inspires his fans to defend him rabidly.

Sometimes it can take a while for fans to get used to his style and personality before they fully embrace him. Stern, a fan since 2003, is a perfect example of this.

“I’m sure I accused him of being ‘whiny’ or overly melancholy before I knew better. I don’t say anything to defend Morrissey; almost everybody that I’ve pointed to his music has come away with an appreciation for something in his catalog.”

Reyes said that it’s easy for people to dismiss his “diva behavior” as disrespectful to his fans. She maintains that as fans, we have to be more empathetic toward him and his everyday struggles. “[Some fans] feel as if they think Morrissey owes us something. How can one think that after the 30 plus years of all that he has already given us? I tell these people that you and I should be grateful we still have him around today. He has been great to all of us, even when it seems like he doesn’t care.”

Substance is a publication of the Mt. San Antonio College Journalism Program. The program recently moved its newsroom over to Medium as part of a one-year experiment. Read about it here.