Morrissey is now infamous for his caustic tongue. On occasion, comments blurted out from the former Smiths frontman had a comedic tone, whether intentionally or not. Now, he tends to splutter everything from the provocative to the downright despicable, outbursts that deserve and receives the appropriate condemnation. While the list in Morrissey’s black book has grown over the years, one name Moz has recurrently unleashed venom towards is Elton John — but why?
It’s safe to say that the public perception of the two artists couldn’t be any more contrasting. Elton John’s loveable, flamboyant character has seen his fanbase grow consistently for decades. Morrissey, meanwhile, has worked his damnedest to successfully erase any sense of admirable personality from his image. While it’s impossible to imagine Morrissey covering ‘I’m Still Standing’ at a concert anytime soon, his flurry of personal insults is nothing short of an over the top attempt to catch attention — quite the achievement, by his own lofty standards.
Elton John being a target of hate has remained one of the few constants throughout Morrissey’s career, a situation that has popped up time and time again. While some fans adore the hysteria that Moz cooks up, his attacks directed at the Rocketman come across as a personal vendetta to fuel his unrelenting abuse.
Commenting on his contentious streak, The Smiths singer once proclaimed: “I’ve never intended to be controversial, but it’s very easy to be controversial in pop music because nobody ever is.”
The first time Morrissey decided to take a shot at John arrived in 1987 during an interview with NME. In contrast to the open book that is Elton John, Morrissey has remained coy about any detail from his life outside of music, a difference that inexplicably annoyed the singer. “He is pushing his face in all the time and telling us about his private life,” Morrissey once ranted. “Nobody’s interested. He should just go away.”
Then, some 15 years later, the former Smiths man decided to reignite the feud when speaking during the documentary The Importance of Being Morrissey. While his comment was meant to be tongue-in-cheek, it was still a somewhat vile remark to make. “Bring me the head of Elton John…which is one instance in which meat would not be murder if it were served on a plate,” he scathingly said.
Rather than retaliating, Elton always maintained his dignity, refusing to be drawn into a childish slanging match against somebody who had much more expertise in that area. Instead, John killed him with kindness, leaving Morrissey regretting his words when they crossed paths in the mid-2000s.
“Whilst recording in Rome I meet Elton John, who is shockingly down-to-earth and gives me high praise for You Are the Quarry,” Moz wrote in his memoir. “He tells me how he loved the New York Dolls and Jobriath, but how he considered Bowie to be ‘a vampire’. A pleasant evening passes under a Rome sun which – even into late evening – seems not to go away.”
Rather than raising Morrissey’s attacks against his character, Elton instead complimented his most recent album. He made the former Smiths singer regret his vitriol without referring to them at all. Perhaps, if Moz was less judgemental about people he didn’t know then he wouldn’t have burnt so many bridges throughout his career.