Morrissey excerpt from 'The History of the NME' by Pat Long.

joe frady

Vile Refusenik
Published in 'The Times' yesterday ~

"Under the direction of Danny Kelly in the early Nineties, the NME became known colloquially as the New Morrissey Express: every time they put the former Smiths frontman on the cover, sales spiked. "Morrissey was perfect for NME because he was intelligent and articulate," says Andrew Collins, a former writer for the paper.

Forget acid house and baggy, Morrissey was the NME, something which made what happened in August 1992 all the more strange. On a sunny weekend in North London's Finsbury Park, Madness re-formed to play their first gigs since they'd split acrimoniously in 1986. Only one act performing wasn't a Londoner: Morrissey, who was due to go on stage immediately prior to the Nutty Boys.

The paper's sole black writer, Dele Fadele, arrived at the office, fuming. "Dele was an amzing guy," says Collins, "a fabled African prince who lived in a squat. He came in to work absolutely impassioned and offended by what he'd seen at Finsbury Park."

As Fadele described it to the rest of the staff, Morrissey had waved a Union Jack thrown on to the stage in front of a huge picture of two skinhead girls taken by NME photographer Derek Ridgers in 1980. It was a provocative move in front of Madness' crowd, which had always been dogged by an unaccountable association withthe Far Right. But the fact that Morrissey's set also included the songs Bengali in Platforms ("Bengali, Bengali/ Oh, shelve your Western plans/ And understand/ That life is hard enough when you belong here") and a new track, The National Front Disco, seemed calculated to inflame both the right-wing and liberal members of the crowd, for entirely different reasons.

In retrospect Morrissey's dalliance with skinhead imagery was just another manifestation of the singer's fascination for rough boys rather than any evidence of fascist tendencies. But that year there was nothing cute about messing about with such imagery. 1992 was the year that Combat 18, the white supremacist group implicated in the deaths of several non-white Britons, was formed.

When the NME's staff heard about what Morrissey was up to, they were aghast. An emergency summit meeting was held at King's Reach Tower. "It was like a Cobra meeting for the government," says Collins, "like being on a real newspaper"

The following week's NME featured a five-page examination of his lyrics and interviews, scouring all for clues to racism, as well as an impassioned piece by Fadele. The conclusion? While crediting Morrissey with the ability to employ irony, the NME staff had to conclude reluctantly that their hero was, at best, a misguided Little Englander.

Morrissey had always had a playful relationship with the paper. This time, though, he was less impressed. "My lawyers are poised," he declared and didn't speak to NME again for 12 years."
 

Worm

Taste the diffidence
Published in 'The Times' yesterday ~

"Under the direction of Danny Kelly in the early Nineties, the NME became known colloquially as the New Morrissey Express: every time they put the former Smiths frontman on the cover, sales spiked. "Morrissey was perfect for NME because he was intelligent and articulate," says Andrew Collins, a former writer for the paper.

Forget acid house and baggy, Morrissey was the NME, something which made what happened in August 1992 all the more strange. On a sunny weekend in North London's Finsbury Park, Madness re-formed to play their first gigs since they'd split acrimoniously in 1986. Only one act performing wasn't a Londoner: Morrissey, who was due to go on stage immediately prior to the Nutty Boys.

The paper's sole black writer, Dele Fadele, arrived at the office, fuming. "Dele was an amzing guy," says Collins, "a fabled African prince who lived in a squat. He came in to work absolutely impassioned and offended by what he'd seen at Finsbury Park."

As Fadele described it to the rest of the staff, Morrissey had waved a Union Jack thrown on to the stage in front of a huge picture of two skinhead girls taken by NME photographer Derek Ridgers in 1980. It was a provocative move in front of Madness' crowd, which had always been dogged by an unaccountable association withthe Far Right. But the fact that Morrissey's set also included the songs Bengali in Platforms ("Bengali, Bengali/ Oh, shelve your Western plans/ And understand/ That life is hard enough when you belong here") and a new track, The National Front Disco, seemed calculated to inflame both the right-wing and liberal members of the crowd, for entirely different reasons.

In retrospect Morrissey's dalliance with skinhead imagery was just another manifestation of the singer's fascination for rough boys rather than any evidence of fascist tendencies. But that year there was nothing cute about messing about with such imagery. 1992 was the year that Combat 18, the white supremacist group implicated in the deaths of several non-white Britons, was formed.

When the NME's staff heard about what Morrissey was up to, they were aghast. An emergency summit meeting was held at King's Reach Tower. "It was like a Cobra meeting for the government," says Collins, "like being on a real newspaper"

The following week's NME featured a five-page examination of his lyrics and interviews, scouring all for clues to racism, as well as an impassioned piece by Fadele. The conclusion? While crediting Morrissey with the ability to employ irony, the NME staff had to conclude reluctantly that their hero was, at best, a misguided Little Englander.

Morrissey had always had a playful relationship with the paper. This time, though, he was less impressed. "My lawyers are poised," he declared and didn't speak to NME again for 12 years."

Even after all these years, they still can't get it right.

"Bengali In Platforms" was not in Morrissey's set.

He played "National Front Disco" because it was a new song from "Your Arsenal", not because he was trying to "calculate" his way into the hearts of the racists in the crowd.

I'm still shocked at how badly the NME and every other news source has utterly, completely, scandalously failed to treat Morrissey fairly with respect to the Madstock show. Of course I'd say that, as a Morrissey fan, but I also say it because I care about what the NME was trying to fight for. Instead of making a valid point about the dangers of ambiguous treatments of racism in art, the entire body of writing about Madstock, from Dele's original article to this latest summary, again and again and again suffers from two of journalism's worst sins, inaccuracy and bias. The various journalists appear to care more about political correctness than the facts of the case, which makes it that much easier for the Right to dismiss other, factual, legitimate complaints.
 

Dave2006

Active Member

Exclusive - journalist can't be arsed checking facts... 'who reads this toss anyway? let's just make it up!'

Give us the knife, give us the knife

Dave
 

Bluebirds

Well-Known Member
Exclusive - journalist can't be arsed checking facts... 'who reads this toss anyway? let's just make it up!'

Give us the knife, give us the knife

Dave

More ammunition for the court case? Untruths reported and sullying Morrissey's name? Can't wait till National Front Disco is played in the libel case.

By the way Journalists Who Lie has become something of an underrated gem for me over the last couple of years. Bizarre.
 

Worm

Taste the diffidence
Pat Long worked at the NME for Conor McNicholas. No more mystery, then.

Disgraceful.
 

Cornflakes

"A bit iffy" ★★☆☆☆ - AV Club
OK, it's an error.

But, for those of you who don't see anything wrong with the way that Morrissey carried on that day, why does it make any difference whether he sang that particular song? So what if he did. Right?
 

Worm

Taste the diffidence
OK, it's an error.

But, for those of you who don't see anything wrong with the way that Morrissey carried on that day, why does it make any difference whether he sang that particular song? So what if he did. Right?

I can't speak for anyone else, but I've never totally approved of Morrissey's "flirtations" with racist imagery, visually or lyrically. Still, in essence, your question is valid. He could have played "Bengali In Platforms" and it wouldn't matter.

The point is that the press badly mis-treated him. You can see in Pat Long's account how the NME has permanently tainted Morrissey's image. I don't think Long has it in for Morrissey, but he's certainly accepted the NME's party line without any critical thought (or simple research, for that matter). That's the real problem here. You're right to say it doesn't matter if he played the song or not. But re-read Long's account. According to Long, Morrissey chose "Bengali In Platforms" because he wanted to-- well, what he wanted is sort of vague, since Long says he was trying to stir up the racists and the anti-racists all at once. But whatever he allegedly wanted, Long used the words "calculated to inflame". "Calculated" would only be appropriate if Morrissey had deliberately inserted "Bengali In Platforms" into the set-list. He didn't, though. And once you take that "calculation" away, guess what, his "calculation" to include "National Front Disco" goes away, too, considering he was playing several new songs from "Your Arsenal". Suddenly what's left is Morrissey offering a standard performance of his material, a more or less by-the-numbers 1992 tour outing, the only difference perhaps being his use of the Union Jack onstage. Do you see how differently things look if the "calculation" is removed from the story of the day? Do you see how this error clouds everything? Long quotes the song as if Morrissey desperately wanted the racists in Madness' audience to like him. That is not a small mistake.

All of this began with the NME's hatchet job in 1992. Go back and check out the original stories if you don't believe me. They're online. They're embarrassing to everyone involved. My God, Andrew Collins wrote a cranky editorial about how much it cost for fans to take trains to see Morrissey at Glastonbury and Finsbury Park. He even quoted the line "money changes everything" back at Morrissey. That's how unbelievably petty they were.

And now, twenty years on, the Pat Longs of the world come along and just accept a version of events canned and labeled by former editors. He was unforgivably lazy, because all he had to do was read the original NME piece to realize that "Bengali In Platforms" was quoted in the article as an example of Morrissey's prior mis-steps, not as a "calculated" attempt by Morrissey to win the hearts of racist Madness fans. You can see in Long's story how half-truths have become accepted facts. And it's in a f***ing book. Morrissey has a right to be angry.
 
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Worm

Taste the diffidence
Just to back up my point, above, I Googled a few key words and found this account of the Madstock gig by Chloe Veltman in The Believer:

"Draped in the Union Jack flag, a symbol of arch nationalism, and singing songs with such perturbing titles as "Bengali in Platforms" and "National Front Disco", Morrissey's acerbic references to "England for the English!" at Madstock failed to appeal to the media's underdeveloped sense of irony. The performance was taken at face value, and Morrissey was branded a racist."

Pat Long's source was probably Chloe Veltman. Pat Long will undoubtedly be a source for who knows how many future articles about Morrissey's racist ways.

Notice how Veltman's sloppy writing not only leaves open the possible interpretation that Morrissey said "England for the English!" between songs, as if trying to whip up the crowd into a chant, but that she also added an exclamation mark, which anyone who has heard the song knows is inapplicable, to make the words seem even more inflammatory. Additionally, the NME did not "brand him a racist". As Long correctly notes, they came close but decided that he was simply irresponsible and misguided. Was his Madstock performance really "taken at face value", when the cover headline was phrased as a question?

The disastrous commentary about Madstock rivals the court case as a depressing low-point in Morrissey's history. It's even worse because Long and Veltman wouldn't have had to dig much deeper to get their facts straight.

Welcome to the future of journalism.

By the way, I'd love to know how many times journalists used the phrase "the Union Jack, a symbol of arch nationalism" in articles about Oasis and Blur. Underdeveloped sense of irony, indeed.
 
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Cornflakes

"A bit iffy" ★★☆☆☆ - AV Club
Well, I don't think Oasis or Blur ever combined waving a Union Jack, singing "England for the English" and standing in front of a 20-foot high photo of two skinheads all at a gig where they knew there would be a strong contingent of old skins in the crowd.

Poor journalism is neither here nor there, IMO. Morrissey could have helped himself by not laying his cock quite so obviously out on the slab.

The question is: why did he do it?
 
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Happy Maudlin

Corinthian and Caricature
When the NME's staff heard about what Morrissey was up to, they were aghast. An emergency summit meeting was held at King's Reach Tower. "It was like a Cobra meeting for the government," says Collins, "like being on a real newspaper"
The irony's too rich.
 

123xyz

Well-Known Member
Subscriber
Poor old NME - they really are (and obviously were at the time) mired in stupidity. Worrying over Morrissey's "racist leanings" on account of some public gyrating with the national flag and a (God forbid!) non-didactic song about the National Front makes about as much sense as worrying over Morrissey's ostensible "support" for the bombing of abortion clinics on account of his propensity for references to God and those appearances dressed in priest garb.


As to why Oasis/Blur etc. haven't copped the same derisive commentary , I can't help but think it's because (rightly or wrongly)they are too easily pigeonholed as "just rock/pop bands" ,complete with alarming yet comforting stories of public spats on planes , drug habits and so on. The ambiguity of Morrissey is an affront, perhaps, to the pathological categorisers...
 
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M-in-Oz

Active Member
I mean, did they even bother to watch any of the footage on YouTube before repeating the lies? Morrissey doesn't "drape" himself in the flag, the Union Jack isn't thrown onto the stage.
 

King Leer

Leering since '97
A confluence of NFD lyrics, Morrissey's interest in skinheads (an ambiguous concoction of mostly-visual fascination, personal trauma (?) and empathy for their disenfranchisement) a few actual racists in the crowd that probably thought Morrissey was a "poof" (gold lamé shirts?) and hated the music, topped off by shit journalism/knocking off of pedestal...

Agree that with the concert available in seconds it's hard to believe one of these "writers" wouldn't go back and finally debunk some of those words and phrases that have hung around for 20 years (amazingly resilient).
 

Qvist

Active Member
What just really kills this for me is what NME did not do. Because if they are serious about their concern - that Morrissey is a racist or at least has indefensible views in that direction, all they needed to do was to ask. If someone's atitude is ambivalent, then he should clarify it. If Morrissey responds by rejecting racism, nationalism and all the nasty stuff - well then, there you are. If he doesn't, ditto. What you don't do is use ambivalence to pass a hypothetical interpretation off as the truth. How it allmade Fadele feel isn't relevant to anything.

So, having achieved a good collective workibg-up through a long adrenalin- filled crisis session, they all sat down "scouring all the lyrics for signs of racism". And 20 years on, thay are still too stupid not to see a pretty fundamental problem with this approach. It's like something out of Little England. What a bunch of idiots.
 
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