Morrissey has made a career of turning his own sadness into something beautiful. His ability to make the morose seem desirable came from even before he formed The Smiths. Before he sung, Moz was a prolific writer. Not just in review for the NME but as a frequent letter-writer to anybody who would listen.
A 21-year-old Morrissey is more than happy to speak at length about his misery and his pen pal from Scotland was another audience member waiting to hear his woes—or that’s how Moz saw it at least, as this handwritten note from 1979 proves.
At the time, Morrissey’s career as a musician was a little way away and instead he was trying to become a professional writer after running through a series of civil servant jobs. First, as a clerk for the civil service and then the Inland Revenue as a salesperson in a record store, Morrissey even had a spell working as a hospital porter. All before abandoning employment and claiming unemployment benefits before he would begin to have his work published.
It was around this period that Morrissey would frequently write letters to the music press littered with reviews and scathing remarks. He would eventually find himself hired by the weekly music review publication Record Mirror. As well as writing articles, Morrissey also wrote several short books for local publishing company Babylon Books and in 1981 they released a 24-page booklet he had written on the punk pioneers New York Dolls, which sold 3000 copies. This was followed by James Dean is Not Dead, about the late American film star James Dean.
James Dean was a figure of immense intrigue for Morrissey who had grown a real fascination about the late film icon. Dean represented an untainted image of Hollywood glory for Moz and he collected icons like him throughout his career. This was a facet of his personality that he wad seemingly happy to share. Writing to his pen pal, Robert Mackie, in response to a personal ad he saw in Sounds Magazine, Morrissey wrote his reply on the back of a Jimmy Dean photo.
The sentiment of the letter obviously struck a chord with Morrissey from his Scottish counterpart as the two of them would stay in contact for the next 18 months, writing letter after letter to one another as they formed a close bond and really got to know one another.
Read the transcript of Mackie’s first letter below which would initiate the first step of contact and start their unlikely friendship below as well as a photograph of the letter in question.
384- Kings Rd
Manchester- M32 8GW
So nice to know there’s another soul out there, even if it is in Glasgow.
Does being Scottish bother you? Manchester is a lovely little place, if you happen to be a bedridden deaf mute.
I’m unhappy, hope you’re unhappy too.