By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
By Dennis Romero
By Simone Wilson
Moz’s childhood idol, Marianne Faithfull, once told me that her favorite song is by Billie Holiday: “God bless the child that’s got his own,” she incanted — adding, with emphasis, “That’s got his own. It takes a long time to sink in, but it’s one of the most profound things anyone ever wrote.” I look at Morrissey today, and that’s exactly what I see. What he has today, both his material and less tangible rewards, is his to keep now. It doesn't belong to a record company. No magazine, book or newspaper will ever be able to destroy the aura of mystique he has so resolutely built around himself over the years. It’s too late for that. The window of opportunity for humanization has passed him by. Morrissey is the last of the truly mysterious pop icons, and nobody can take that away from him now. Ever. Morrissey is the child that got his own.
And he’s got quite a lot. We met on the rooftop patio of a fancy Beverly Hills hotel. He wore a natty tailored suit. We sat down in rocking chairs next to a roaring gas-flame fire pit, under Westside winter gloom. I had been instructed not to ask about the Smiths, or Moz’s time in Los Angeles, which was okay, as it turned out. The conversation was warm and intuitive, and Moz was kindly and avuncular but never patronizing (even when pushed to the limit regarding the Spice Girls). Turns out Moz is a listener, and he listens with more than his ears. (He speaks often of something like a sixth sense, referring to people as “spirits.”) As for his enormous eyes, they are opaquely blue — almost turquoise — framed by huge eyebrows, set into a face bigger and more roughly cut than you’d imagine.
L.A. WEEKLY:Have you been to your ancestral home?
MORRISSEY: I know nothing about my [ancestral home] in Ireland. My family, although they’re very large on both my parents’ sides, they don’t know much about their family tree. Occasionally, they try to dig, but they can’t get very far, and it’s baffling. In Dublin, it seems that so many public records were wiped out; it’s proven to be very difficult, so I know very little.
I’ve only been to Ireland once, and I felt I would wake up with voices in my head, almost like music, and that if I were a songwriter, I would be very inspired.
It’s a place that’s steeped in so much mythical history, apart from anything else. The people there are very, very poetic, and the history of Ireland is just incredibly rich and deep and mysterious. So it really isn’t unusual to go there and feel this wave of . . . you’re being enveloped by the past. It’s all around you, and it’s actually alive. So it’s not really a unique feeling, and there are so many spirits and specters walking every inch of the land — not just within buildings, but also on the streets. It’s a place full of mystery and intrigue.
Did you ever see a ghost?
Ahh . . . well, I did. It was in England. But yes, I did once.
Can you tell me about it?
Yes! It was January 1989, and it was a very bitter winter. I went with three friends onto Saddleworth Moor in the north of England, which is the most barren, desolate, desperate place . . . a place of many, many murders throughout British history — many bodies were dumped [there] because it was so hostile. [In the mid-’60s, several Manchester schoolchildren were brutally murdered and dumped on Saddleworth Moor in a crime known as the Moors Murders. The killings left a deep scar upon the community. In fact, the first song Morrissey co-wrote with Johnny Marr, “Suffer Little Children,” was about these murders.]
There’s nothing for miles, and it’s very easy to lose your way. We had driven through darkness even though it was only 6 p.m. — you can only see as far as your headlights. At one point, we tried to step outside the car and the wind was so ferocious, a bitter chill of winter. You can’t see lights for miles, because there’s nothing there, just peat and heather. Very, very unfriendly terrain.
And suddenly, as we turned onto a side road, from the side of the road, from the heather, somebody pleaded to the car [throws arms wide, leaning forward, blue eyes wide, but blank — desperate, almost like a suffering saint].
It was a boy of maybe 18 years, and he was totally gray, and he had long hair in a sort of 1970s style, one of those strange feather cuts, and he wore a very small anorak and nothing else; he was completely naked. He just emerged from the heather and pleaded to the lights, and we drove past because we all instinctively knew that this was a spirit.
So, we went to the nearest phone box in the nearest village, and we called the police, and we said, “We have just driven down the Wessenden Road on Saddleworth Moor, and somebody has emerged from the side of the road and pleaded to the car.” The police said, “Keep an open mind [mimes hanging up a phone].” So, the next day we drove back to the spot where we had seen the figure, and in daylight we could see that there wasn’t a building, not a hut . . .
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