- Paperback: 480 pages
- Publisher: Penguin Classics; Reprint edition (November 4, 2014)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 014310750X
- ISBN-13: 978-0143107507
- Product Dimensions: 5 x 0.8 x 7.7 inches
- Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 236 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #317,336 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Autobiography Paperback – November 4, 2014
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“Practically every paragraph has a line or two that demands to be read aloud to the mirror, tattooed on foreheads, carved on tombstones.”–Rob Sheffield, Rolling Stone
“Morrissey is a pop star of unusual writing talent.”–The New York Times
“As I floated, unmoored, Morrissey would drop in a single masterfully executed sentence. He’s a writer with a gift that he bends to bizarre use.”–Sasha Frere-Jones, The New Yorker
“[Morrissey] is at his very best as he conveys what it was, and is, to be a youth lifted free by the sense of possibilities glimpsed in pop music and films and TV and poetry. He also writes as though he has a clear sense that Autobiography could provide the same kind of beacon, the same kind of life raft, for its most impressionable readers as he found in others. And that’s exactly how he should write, for one of the main reasons Morrissey matters as he does is because he has always been that kind of artist.”–GQ
“Rancorous, rhapsodic, schizophrenic: Autobiography delivers a man in full” –Andrew Male, Mojo
“A wonderfully entertaining read.”–Daily Mirror
“Morrissey's Autobiography is brilliant and relentless. Genius, really.”–Douglas Coupland
“This is the best book ever. Like ever.”–Wonderland
“The Best Music Biog Ever ... In the world of rock autobiographies, Morrissey's is nigh-on perfect.”–NME
About the Author
Morrissey was born Steven Patrick Morrissey in Manchester, England, on May 22, 1959. Singer-songwriter and cofounder of the Smiths (1982–1987), Morrissey has been a solo artist for 26 years, during which time he has had three #1 albums in England in three different decades. Achieving 11 Top 10 albums (plus nine with the Smiths), his songs have been recorded by David Bowie, Nancy Sinatra, Marianne Faithfull, Chrissie Hynde, Thelma Houston, My Chemical Romance, the Killers, and Christy Moore, among others. An animal protectionist, in 2006, Morrissey was voted the second greatest living British icon by viewers of the BBC, losing out to Sir David Attenborough. In 2007, Morrissey was voted the greatest northern male, past or present, in a nationwide newspaper poll. In 2012, Morrissey was awarded the Keys to the City of Tel-Aviv. It has been said, "Most pop stars have to be dead before they reach the iconic status that Morrissey has reached in his lifetime."
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The first quarter of the book, in which he vividly describes his youth in Manchester, is a phenomenal piece of writing. In eloquently rendered, unconventional prose that resembles a sort of thesaurus-wringing beat poetry, Morrissey depicts latter-20th-century working-class life in Northern England as a bleak, modern Dickensian world in which children are beaten by sadistic teachers and every day is silent and gray. Music is the only means of escape for young Morrissey, and one day he decides to stop idolizing bands and start becoming one. Fans of the Smiths will probably be disappointed by the brevity with which he covers his tenure with that band, but it was after all only 10 percent of his life span. The centerpiece of the book is his Kafkaesque account of The Smiths trial in which drummer Mike Joyce sued Morrissey and guitarist Johnny Marr for additional royalties. Here Morrissey really piles the acrimonious invective on Joyce, the lawyers, the judge, and the British justice system in general. He insists over and over again how he got the shaft, and, from his one-sided account, it certainly appears that he did. One can understand Morrissey’s desire to state his case once and for all, and his account is quite riveting for a while, but it goes on far too long. What really kills the book, however, is its final quarter, which consists of an elaborate tour diary in which Morrissey travels the world, basking in the glory of his You Are the Quarry renaissance. He recounts every city he stopped in, how the crowd loved him, and how he loved them loving him. This sort of writing would be fine for a what-it’s-like-to-be-a-rock-star fluff piece in Rolling Stone, but it feels out of place in this otherwise uncommonly literary memoir.
There’s not much in this book about writing songs or recording music. If you’re interested in details of that sort, I would suggest checking out Simon Goddard’s Mozipedia. There is, however, quite a bit said about the marketing of music—as in, no record company or manager ever did enough for Morrissey. It’s surprising how much he obsesses over the chart position of each and every recording. Despite all his scorning of the mainstream and his honorary status as a godfather of “alternative” music, what he really wanted all along was to be the next Beatles. Those hoping for bits of show-biz gossip won’t be disappointed, as Morrissey recounts myriad run-ins with musicians, movie stars, and television personalities and how each and every one of them somehow disappointed him.
Morrissey, in his own words, makes himself sound egotistical, cantankerous, petty, vindictive, querulous, ungrateful, and mean-spirited. Nevertheless, he somehow comes across as quite likeable and frequently hilarious. After reading Autobiography, I don’t think I’d want to hang out with the guy, but one can’t help but admire what he’s achieved in his music career and what he has accomplished with this exceptional book. This may not be quite the memoir diehard fans have been waiting for, but still it’s definitely well worth its cover price.
The most endearing passages of his story were his descriptions of the emotional connection he feels with his audience. I've seen him appear live twice in my life with a 32 year span between. At both shows, the love in the air was almost palpable and I wondered, "Does he feel what we, his audience, are giving him?" These questions were put to rest after reading this book. Regardless of whether you feel too many pages were dedicated to the Joyce debacle, we must remember that this is his story, from his perspective, and quite honestly, I didn't mind it. He could write about a fart in a bathtub and it would read like classic literature.
The book is very impressionistic, which makes it quite a breath of fresh air compared to other rock biogs. Mr. Morrissey spends pages dwelling on obscure moments in his life and seems to skip over huge swaths. For me, there was too little space given to the Smiths period and possibly too much to his adolescence (Johnny Marr knocks on Moz's front door about a quarter through the book). I would recommend this to anyone with even a passing interest in contemporary music -- it's a great under-the-bonnet look at the creative process and the record industry. His ability to describe loneliness and the alienation of someone who is different from the masses is second to none and this book should be a must for teenagers in the same way Catcher in the Rye is.