Morrissey’s fans still ardent decades later

It’s 25 years since Morrissey, his quiff intact, emerged from the wreckage of The Smiths with his first solo album, 1988’s Viva Hate. To celebrate, the singer has released a live concert film, Morrissey 25: Live, which documents a recent, intimate show in his adopted home town of Los Angeles.

Morrissey’s fans still ardent decades later

The film runs at the Irish Film Institute this week and at Triskel Christchurch Cinema, Cork, in early September.

At the IFI, Dr Eoin Devereux, of UL, will talk on ‘Morrissey and Fandom’ on Aug 26. The sociologist has convened symposia, and co-edited a book, on Morrissey. The singer is a figure of devotion, says Devereux, because, “as an artist, he writes and sings beautifully about human experience and all its highs and lows. Morrissey appeals to his fans on many levels. Consistently, his fans refer to how his songs helped them through very difficult and dark days. He appeals to gay and straight, and to male and female fans with the same levels of intensity.”

Morrissey’s image is complex. “His work, his presentation of himself is multi-layered,” Devereux says. “There is so much to engage with: his pre-show reels; his album artwork; his (often homo-erotic) stage backdrops and his on-stage poses; his poetic lyrics. His use of language in general is very clever. They demonstrate just how literate and well-read he is, whether it is about Oscar Wilde, Joe Orton, Pasolini or the 19th century music hall.” Fandom is about “identity formation. It involves laying down all sorts of semiotic markers as to who you think you are,” he says. When the British prime minister, David Cameron, announced his fandom of The Smiths, he was publicly ‘banned’ by Morrissey and guitarist Johnny Marr from liking The Smiths.

The ‘ban’ is consistent with Morrissey’s strident criticism of the political establishment. It’s not the first time Morrissey curtailed the attentions of a fan. In 2011, he had the founder of fan website, Morrissey-solo.com, thrown out of a show in Copenhagen, and banned from his shows for life. Does Morrissey control the terms upon which one can be his fan? “I am not convinced that Morrissey attempts to control his fans in that way,” says Devereux. “I have very mixed feelings about the Morrissey-solo ‘row’. The site has remained very loyal to Morrissey and is the first port of call for updates as to his career.”

Devereux has been a fan of Morrissey since seeing The Smiths play in Galway in 1985. “My fandom has been a very positive experience,” he says. “It has meant making lots of very good friends; travelling to gigs all over the world and, crucially, enjoying some really important songs that have stood the test of time.”

*Morrissey 25: Live runs at the IFI, Dublin, Aug 26-30 (www.ifi.ie) and at Triskel Cinema, Cork, Sep 7-11 (triskelartscentre.ie). Dr Eoin Devereux will give a free talk ‘Morrissey and Fandom’ at 4.15 in the IFI on Aug 26

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