Morrissey is no stranger to getting into bitter rivalries or, on occasion, blurting something out of line about absolutely anyone that may cross his path. While this has become an incredibly vital facet of his almost cartoonish character, in truth, this has always been an underlying factor of then singer’s personality, even before earned fame as the swooning frontman of The Smiths. Before he was the cynical leader of Manchester pioneers, he was a cynical music reviewer for Melody Maker, NME and Sounds Magazine and, if you thought his persona was all an act, then these pre-fame Morrissey reviews will prove you wrong.
At one point, it was a vicious yet somewhat encouraged part of his character. However, as time has passed, it has often ended up with the former Smiths leader having egg on his face and, more seriously, coming under fire for desperately offensive comments. One of the few constants that have remained throughout the course of his career is, without doubt, his bigmouth managing to strike time and time again. While this has made him both loved and loathed in equal measure, it has confirmed his status as arguably the most controversial musician in the business.
The former leader of The Smiths once proclaimed, “I’ve never intended to be controversial, but it’s very easy to be controversial in pop music because nobody ever is.” However, this list tells a very different story. It’s clear that on certain occasions, Morrissey has often stated his views purely for the sake of stoking up controversy and trying to cause a furore rather than genuinely holding a strong opinion on the recipient of that particular tongue lashing. That doesn’t mean his words don’t carry some bite, sometimes you can tell that Morrissey means every last barb.
When The Smiths first arrived on the British indie scene they not only had a band capable of turning a whole nation into poem-reading, letter-writing, Smiths-listening fan group but a lead singer who was as charismatic as he was antagonistic. It meant, especially in the TV world of the eighties, that Morrissey was often drafted in to offer his opinion on bands and singers, usually providing a hefty soundbite capable of starting feuds and finishing careers.
In truth though, Morrissey has unleashed fury on a whole host of different names from bizarre corners of the musical world. His scathing reviews are fiercely brutal and, unsurprisingly, somewhat hilarious. Here we check out the best of the bunch from when Smash Hits magazine asked him to revisit his reviewing roots in 1984 following the success of The Smiths.
Morrissey’s most scathing single reviews
The sounds of Cyndi Lauper and Morrissey’s share very little in common. In fact, it’s hard to imagine Moz delivering an upbeat cover of ‘Girls Just Wanna Have Fun’ so it is no surprise that he detested her 1984 single ‘All Through The Night’. The song was otherwise met positively by critics and charted in the top five of the Billboard Hot 100….even without Morrissey’s help.
“In homecountry America, Cyndi Lauper is probably filed under ‘New Wave’. This record is grossly unmusical. Squeezing the rag dry, lifted yet again from her LP, She’s So Incredibly Ordinary,” a less than impressed Morrissey quips.
Another single that Moz was full of disdain for was Lionel Richie’s ‘Penny Lover’, a number which is a world away from his wheelhouse and he made sure not to leave any question marks over what he thought of the track to the readers of Smash Hits.
“The seventeeth single lifted from his Can’t Slow Down LP. That people actually care for such things suggests an unholy amount of human misery,” he noted in the way that only Morrissey could.
The Smiths were a reactionary statement to guitar bands of the 1970s such as Status Quo, a group who were not reinventing the wheel, saying anything vaguely interesting or profound and didn’t take themselves quite seriously in the way that Morrissey did.
In his eyes, Quo represented everything that was wrong with music and he made that perfectly clear in his review of their single ‘The Wanderer’ which The Smiths man described as, “Unreviewable impertinence. If you can’t beat ’em, shoot ’em.”
There weren’t many pop groups bigger than Bucks Fizz around in Britain over the 1980s but, despite the countless hit records, they unsurprisingly couldn’t count Morrissey as a fan. The former Eurovision Song Contest winners were everything that Moz hated and their track ‘Golden Days’ perhaps evokes his most visceral review.
The Smiths singer viciously noted: “One would hear more vocal passion from an ape under aesthetic. Inexcusably dim.”
Siouxsie & The Banshees
This review is where we find Morrissey at his most kind and positive but The Smiths singer just can’t bring himself to not stick the boot in—even though he clearly enjoyed their EP The Thorn. Despite this slight dig he manages to squeeze in, in Morrissey world it is still wildly positive.
He wrote: “A worthy investment of four tracks. Sadly, not religiously profound. There have been many brighter days,” he concludes in classic Morrissey style.
Modern Romance, a middle of the road pop group from the 1980s of which history hasn’t been kind to, did actually see their debut album Adventures in Clubland topped the charts in Venezuela. While there is little else to note from their career, this Morrissey review summed up his attitude towards them brutally.
On their track ‘Move On’, Morrissey scathingly said: “There are indeed worse groups than Modern Romance. But can anybody think of one?” — simply beautiful.