The Case of Morrissey

By Robert Urban

1. Past and Present - published at
2. Ringleader of the Tormentors Review - published at

Morrissey's brand new, 8th solo record Ringleader of the Tormentors is rising on the music charts.
He's booked throughout 2006 on a massive solo world tour.
His Who put the "M" in Manchester concert has enjoyed repeated airings on LOGO and other music cable TV channels.



I’ve been shifting gears all of my life
But I’m still the same underneath
This you surely knew?

- track #7 “Life is a Pigsty” from Ringleader of the Tormentors.

1. Past and Present - What can we make of this artist who is a gay icon to millions of loyal gay fans; who has penned many of the greatest gay-themed songs in pop history; whose filmed live concerts are seen by throngs of gay viewers on gay cable TV; who is taken for granted as being virtually gay by healthy, functioning gaydars everywhere - but who after nearly 3 decades in the public eye remains maddeningly silent in the issue of his own sexual orientation?

The Morrissey sound, which began in early 1980s with The Smiths, first hit the pop music world like a bolt out of the blue. There was nothing in the disco, punk or synth/pop or new wave styles of the early 1980s to compare it to.  His was a highly sophisticated, modern Oscar Wilde-like gay perception of things, (fully loaded with all manner of precious non-sequiturs and world-weary asides). This he fused with underground rock. The result was something completely new under the sun.

It was in the hyper-masculine world of rock, where his lyrics, his phrasings, his vocal timbre, inflections, were immediately recognizable by millions of gays as kindred. Unlike an Elton John or a Freddie Mercury - or even a Little Richard – Morrissey's work was, and still is, instantly detectable via gaydar as gay.

Morrissey gave a voice to certain, seriously romantic and essential gay sensibilities that rang true for the first time within rock music. It is a feat that Elton John and Freddie Mercury never even attempted. David Bowie, Marc Bolan, and all manner of gay-looking "New Romantic" and "Goth" rockers went through the motions but could only capture it superficially.

Morrissey is a master at reaching that inner, personal, private part of our gay selves. He especially connects with those who may be out to themselves, (or are somehow at least in the process), but perhaps not yet totally out to world.

It is a delicate and emotionally susceptible zone; represented by a sensitiveness one never completely "gets over", no matter how openly "out" one becomes. It is a place that, if tapped into, can still speak to us even long after coming out. Morrissey touches us there.

Every gay Morrissey fan seems to have a special, personal favorite Moz song lyric that has touched them in a deep, specifically gay way at some critical point in their lives. My own intensely felt Morrissey moment came from my first hearing "Reel Around the Fountain", from the debut The Smiths album.

Although at the time I'd been openly gay for years, something about Morrissey's words and delivery reached deep inside me, as if they were one and the same with my own inner voice. No song or voice in all of rock had ever touched the queer part of me like this song and voice did. Morrissey words seemed to reach back to my own first gay self-realizations, longings and anxieties.

Oh, meet me at the fountain
Shove me on the patio
I'll take it slowly - Oh ...
15 minutes with you. Oh, I wouldn't say "no".
People see no worth in you - but I do.

Doesn't sound like much, I know. But such is the power of Morrissey's extraordinary gift for waxing poetically about homosexuality. I broke down and cried at that first listening and still get choked up whenever I hear that song.

I asked openly gay, award-winning singer/songwriter Scott Free - about his feelings towards Morrissey. "As you know", said Free, "The Smiths were HUGELY influential to me". He claims "This Charming Man" and "Hand in Glove" (also from the debut The Smiths album) as his own gay epiphany-generating Morrissey songs.

Hand in glove
The sun shines out of our behinds
No, it's not like any other love
This one is different - because it's us

Free is one of a growing number of concerned independent GLBT musicians who feel strongly that the gay community should first and foremost support its "out" artists, above "straight" and/or "closeted" ones.  He minces no words in his conflicted feelings towards Morrissey. "What a shame it is that the man who singularly influenced so many gay male musicians when The Smiths first started now hides in a closet...and what a double-shame it is that LOGO gives him such airtime. In interviews Morrissey would say he was celibate, which basically avoids the question".

Openly gay radio host John Frame of Queer Radio 4ZZZ fm102.1 Brisbane, Australia considers "Ambitious Outsiders" (from Morrissey's 1997 Maladjusted CD) his own favorite "gay" Morrissey song.

Bolt-lock your doors
Alarm your cars
And still we move in closer
Every day

Top of the list
Is your smiling kids
But we'll be smiling too
So that's OK
Oh, and by the way
Thank you, because you're
Giving, giving, giving
And we're receiving -
No, no, we're taking
Keeping the population down

In fact, Frame can name 17 Moz songs that, in his opinion, clearly confirm Morrissey's gayness.

But all in all, Frame takes a more lenient stance on "The Morrissey Question". As he says, "I really don't believe that all of Morrissey's songs are written about his own personal experience. The breadth of same-sex attracted nuance expressed in his lyrics is enough for me. Like Morrissey, his characters have a right to a life of their own".

Does Morrissey offer any new revelations, or even clues, in his brand new Ringleader of the Tormentors CD?

 Ringleader of the Tormentors Review
By Robert Urban is published on

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