For those familiar with, or in some cases maybe obsessed with Morrissey’s work as a lyricist, a consistent calling card is his use of literary allusions and references. Whether quoting James Joyce or namedropping Oscar Wilde, the former frontman of The Smiths has long had a penchant for praising the great writers of the English tongue. But now he joins those two particular authors in an esteemed club. Just like Joyce and Wilde before him, his art is facing a ban.
Spillers, in Wales, apparently known as the oldest record store in the world, has announced this week that it will no longer carry Morrissey’s records. Just as happened to “A Picture of Dorian Gray” and “Ulysses,” it has been decided by cultural gatekeepers that Morrissey is too dangerous for shelf space. His crime? It is his support for the right-wing Pro Britain Party. But don’t expect these silly protests over his politics to hurt the last of the famous international playboys. It will only make him, and his new record “California Sun,” stronger.
In some ways, Morrissey is like the Intellectual Dark Web (IDW) of the music world. His words are deeply sophisticated in style and content, steeped in the wealth of the Western tradition. Sometimes he writes about World War One, sometimes he writes about esoteric criminals, sometimes he writes about young right-wing disco-goers, sometimes he writes about Latino gangs. And like the IDW, Morrissey’s perspective on politics is actually kind of vague. His supposed violation of norms has less to do with endorsing any political policies than it does with refusing to be told what he may or may not say.
And luckily for Morrissey and the IDW, quite frankly, he is being banned at a time when free speech has become a central issue in our cultural debates. Part of the reason that Quillette gets so many clicks is that it publishes “dangerous” or “unsayable” ideas. Part of the reason Morrissey still sells out stadiums is that he, too, will not change and will not be nice. Like a Jordan Peterson with better hair, he croons his truth and says whatever he pleases in interviews, ever angering the snowflake society that condemns him.
While most celebrities today succumb to the totems and protocols of political correctness, Morrissey abstains from such behavior. This may be in part because he always seems a little ticked off. He often seems to see the world as cruel and crushing, but always finds the smile, the joke, the light that never goes out. And the fact of the matter is that for his fans, no record store ban will make a bit of difference. Most of Morrissey’s biggest fans don’t just love his music—they credit him with helping, even saving, them when they felt lost and lonely.
And to new generations, Morrissey always finds a way through. His crossover appeal to Mexican fans celebrated in the film “Ant-Man and The Wasp” is a perfect example. Morrissey finds new fans everywhere in the world because he speaks to essential human truths, fearlessly, and there will always be an audience for that.
At the end of the day, we should celebrate this great press for Moz. As his new album drops, with some charming covers from a charming man, and he crisscrosses the globe touring it, it is happy news that he is back in the crosshairs singing “Back on the Chain Gang.” As long as they spell your name, right, like the old saying goes.
And more broadly, as is always true with Morrissey, we get to smile and be in on the joke. What feels better these days than knowing one is not locked into the standard talking points and rightspeak mutterings that dullards say as they gravely nod their heads? The only thing I can think of is knowing that while listening to some classic Morrissey tracks.
So ban away, Spillers, supposedly famous record shop in Wales that nobody in New York has ever heard of. Morrissey will be here in September and his fans are excited. We want the one we can’t have because of course we do. And ultimately, what Morrissey says is inevitably deep, rich, straightforward, and honest. Those are qualities so rare today that the more his detractors ignore him, the closer his fans get.