Morrissey is a polarising figure these days. There was a time when he was the liberal darling of the world, pressing for animal rights and human compassion. As that viewpoint has hardened in time as his fanbase, rallying around the former Smiths singer with renewed intensity, protecting their king. It’s a fandom that Morrissey himself is well aware of and has even been a part of.
The fascinating think about Stephen Morrissey is that, even before debuting with The Smiths and their literary-packed indie-pop sound revolutionising the rock market, the singer was deeply ingratiated in the music business. Not only was he a keen listener of music nor had he only been writing reviews for the then-still potent NME, Morrissey was also apparently the head of a fan club. It is here that we may be able to answer the age-old question, what is Morrissey’s favourite song ever?
Morrissey was said to be the head of the unofficial fan club for New York Dolls. The pioneering punk band paved the way for a host of New York underground acts to tread their heavy platformed shoes. Their brand of theatrics and androgynous drama made them an instant hit for the young Morrissey. As well as comparing the band to current acts in many of his reviews, he was also always looking to share his knowledge on the group wherever possible.
It seems many years later, his love affair with the band was still as strong as ever when he was invited to the BBC Radio 4 studios to take part in Desert Island Discs. A British institution, the radio show has been running since 1942 and sets a simple premise. Imagine you are trapped on an inescapable desert island, you can bring one book, one luxury item and eight singles—which songs are coming with you? Morrissey’s picks are naturally impressive.
You may not be a fan of Morrissey the man, or even the musician, but his ear for the most potent and subversive rock sounds is undeniable. In his selection, he included The Velvet Underground, Ramones, Iggy and The Stooges, Nico and with it he pretty much confirmed his adoration for the Big Apple. But when pressed for his favourite song of the bunch,AKA ‘castaway’s favourite’, he could only turn to his first love.
“Good grief, there has to be a question I don’t answer,” muses Moz. But Young is a dab hand when it comes to these matters and makes a joking reference to the door being padlocked. “I’m used to that,” he replies, “I will say track number one.” Of course, that song was New York Dolls’ ‘(There’s Gonna Be A) Showdown’.
About the band, he says in the interview with host Kirsty Young, and others like them, were a defining moment in his life. “I prattled on and rattled on for years and years about the New York Dolls and here’s one of their tracks from 1974,” he says nonchalantly. But he did eventually show his hand when saying “I think they changed everything. And I’m very grateful.” He later referred to liking the band as a “separating moment” and that his father thought he was “a lunatic” for enjoying them.
With a quick look at the band’s history and a reminder of how influential just Morrissey has been on the music scene alone, even if NYD just stirred something in a young lad from Manchester then they’ve already put a large imprint on the industry. The fact is, though Moz maybe wrong on a few things, it’s hard to not see him as right on the money with this one.