Stephen Patrick Morrissey was 13 when he fell in love for the first time – with The New York Dolls.
He saw the band on television in the early 70s and immediately flipped for those five glitter-rock hoodlums from the bowels of Manhattan (he eventually published a book about them in 1981).
In 1982 he formed The Smiths with a local Manchester guitarist named Johnny Marr, and the band burst unexpectedly onto the British music scene in the summer of 1983 like a breath of fresh air amid the pre-programmed tick-tock of The Human League and punk‘s rage-by-numbers.
The dominant half of the greatest rock marriage in modern history, Morrissey had found in Marr someone – perhaps the only person – whose gift for melody and harmony could match his own brilliantly arresting song lyrics.
Following the demise of The Smiths in 1987, Morrissey embarked on a solo career characterised by an intense, combative relationship with fans and media alike.
But no solo Morrissey album ever charted lower than #8.
His 1992 album Your Arsenal contained a track that went by the unforgivably (in the eyes of the press) ambiguous title The National Front Disco. And then Morrissey appeared on stage provocatively waving a Union Jack while performing the same song at a Madness concert, in front of a backdrop featuring two skinhead girls. The audience threw bottles at him until he left.
“Is Morrissey racist?” asked the NME. Morrissey was not saying, and the hoopla overshadowed an excellent album, produced by David Bowie‘s former sideman Mick Ronson. It was his finest and most confident work for years.