Morrissey: 50 Geeky Things You Never Knew About The Smiths Icon

Photo: NME

Morrissey: 50 Geeky Things You Never Knew About The Smiths Icon

NME’s Morrissey Special Collectors Edition is available now, featuring interviews, reviews and grand tales from the great man's career. Here's 50 nerdy pieces of Moz trivia to celebrate, starting with his love for BBC soap The Archers, who recently invited him to record a cameo. Morrissey is "fascinated by the offer" so watch this space...

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Added: 19 Jun 2014

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Morrissey: 50 Geeky Things You Never Knew About The Smiths Icon

It wouldn't be first foray into the world of soaps: as a proud Manc, he also had a fondness for Coronation Street. In fact, Morrissey was so enamored with the Manchester-set soap that as a youth he eventually stumbled onto the set of Coronation Street and was asked to return as an extra for a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it cameo.

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Morrissey: 50 Geeky Things You Never Knew About The Smiths Icon

Other soapy stories: he asked Granada if he could pen scripts for Coronation Street, made an appearance in Brookside and turned down roles in Emmerdale and Eastenders - the latter of which would have had him playing Dot Cotton’s son.

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Morrissey: 50 Geeky Things You Never Knew About The Smiths Icon

He was also asked to make an appearance on popular US sitcom Friends, but baulked at the prospect of having to sing a duet with guitar-playing character Phoebe in a depressing voice. “I wind down the fire-escape like a serpent, and it’s goodbye to Hollywood again,” he remembers in Autobiography.

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Morrissey: 50 Geeky Things You Never Knew About The Smiths Icon

When Stephen Patrick Morrissey was born in Davylhume, Lancashire on May 22, 1959, his head was so large that he nearly killed his mother during childbirth, according to the man himself.

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Morrissey: 50 Geeky Things You Never Knew About The Smiths Icon

But it was Morrissey who ended up returning to hospital: he was placed on the critical list at Salford’s Pendlebury Hospital for several months because he couldn’t swallow and when he was eventually discharged, his older sister Jackie apparently tried to kill him on four separate occasions. No wonder he’d grow up to be so melancholy…

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Morrissey: 50 Geeky Things You Never Knew About The Smiths Icon

Morrissey’s first school experience came at St Wilfreds Primary School. Sadly, he loathed it: in Autobiography, he describes it as an “asylum for Hulme’s pitiful poor” with “rooms of gloom”.

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Morrissey: 50 Geeky Things You Never Knew About The Smiths Icon

He’d later attend St Mary’s Secondary School and then Stretford Tech School, where he gained three O Levels including one - unsurprisingly - in English Literature. When he formed The Smiths, he’d pay tribute to his harrowing experiences of school with the track ‘The Headmaster Ritual’ from ‘Meat Is Murder’.

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Morrissey: 50 Geeky Things You Never Knew About The Smiths Icon

After leaving school, Morrissey found himself struggling to find fruitful employment. First up: a stint at at the Inland Revenue working as a filing clerk. “I would actually prefer prostitution,” he sniped of his time there, but it was probably better than another of his grisly jobs: a hospital worker who removed human innards from doctor’s uniforms.

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Morrissey: 50 Geeky Things You Never Knew About The Smiths Icon

Irish Blood, English Heart: Morrissey’s parents were both Irish Catholic immigrants who moved to Manchester the year before he was born. His father, Peter, worked as a hospital porter while his mother Elizabeth was an assistant librarian.

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Morrissey: 50 Geeky Things You Never Knew About The Smiths Icon

From an early age, Morrissey's great obsession was music. His first gig was T Rex at the Belle Vue in 1972. Years later he’d later bump into frontman Marc Bolan at the Midland Hotel and ask for his autograph - only for Bolan to refuse and walk off.

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Morrissey: 50 Geeky Things You Never Knew About The Smiths Icon

Morrissey’s other favourites included David Bowie, Patti Smith and his beloved New York Dollls, while his literary heroes ranged from Oscar Wilde and WH Auden to Robert Herrick and AE Houseman…

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Morrissey: 50 Geeky Things You Never Knew About The Smiths Icon

As well as writing numerous letters to NME, Morrissey nearly became a music journalist when he was invited for an interview with now-defunct magazine Sounds. He also wrote two books, which were both later published by Babylon Books: a love-letter to his favourite band ‘The New York Dolls’ and another ode to one of his screen heroes with ‘James Dean Is Not Dead’.

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Morrissey: 50 Geeky Things You Never Knew About The Smiths Icon

Morrissey’s career as a pop star got off to a sluggish start. His first role was as frontman of The Nosebleeds - a gig he landed after responding to an advert placed by guitarist Billy Duffy (who’d later join The Cult) in Virgin Records.

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Morrissey: 50 Geeky Things You Never Knew About The Smiths Icon

It was Duffy who suggested that Morrissey team up with Johnny Marr, believing the two would be perfect foils for one another, but the pair had already met. Both went to watch Patti Smith play in Manchester, and Marr waspishly told his future bandmate: “You’ve got a funny voice.”

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Morrissey: 50 Geeky Things You Never Knew About The Smiths Icon

Morrissey wasn't all about music as an adolescent - he also found solace in sport. He represented his school in both the 100 and 400 metres and was also a football fan. In fact, he was so enthralled when his Dad took him to watch Manchester United genius George Best as an eight-year-old that he fainted.

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Morrissey: 50 Geeky Things You Never Knew About The Smiths Icon

After the latter's famous kung-fu kick on an abusive fan at Crystal Palace's Selhurst Park ground in 1995, Morrissey became enchanted by Manchester United forward Eric Cantona. "I find him very exciting," he beamed to one interviewer, turning up to interviews in Cantona shirts and writing the Frenchman's name on his tambourines for live shows.

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Morrissey: 50 Geeky Things You Never Knew About The Smiths Icon

When Cantona and Moz later crossed paths, however, in a hotel lobby years later, they didn't quite hit it off. "I offer him a rarely used smile, he doesn't want it and turns away coldly, and I am nixed like a fatty at the church steps," he recounted in Autobiography. Al Horner's got the full story in NME's Morrissey Special Collectors Edition.

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Morrissey: 50 Geeky Things You Never Knew About The Smiths Icon

According to Morrissey, Factory Records honcho Tony Wilson wasn't impressed by his Smiths cohorts while deciding whether or not to sign the band. “I’m not so sure about Johnny,” Moz claims he said. “‘Hand In Glove’ is ‘Rebel Rebel’.”

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Morrissey: 50 Geeky Things You Never Knew About The Smiths Icon

The Smiths eventually signed with Rough Trade, but Morrissey had a rather snippy relationship with Geoff Travis: he alleges many incidents in Autobiography in which the label boss was unsupportive, dismissive and responsible for scuppering the band’s chances of greater success.

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Morrissey: 50 Geeky Things You Never Knew About The Smiths Icon

Morrissey and Marr received an initial £3,000 from signing with the label. There were no fancy cars or swish mansions for Moz, though: he used the cash to pay an £80 phone bill and the rest was ploughed back into the band.

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Morrissey: 50 Geeky Things You Never Knew About The Smiths Icon

It’s thought that the track ‘Frankly Mr Shankly’, from The Smiths’ masterpiece ‘The Queen Is Dead’, is a thinly-veiled pop at Geoff Travis after Morrissey grew increasingly fed up with their relationship.

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Morrissey: 50 Geeky Things You Never Knew About The Smiths Icon

The Smiths released their debut, self-titled album in 1984, but Morrissey isn’t fond of the LP. Referring to the production duties, which were taken on first by Troy Tate and then John Porter, he says: “The recording of those songs - in my view - failed everyone.”

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The original artwork for The Smiths’ ‘What Difference Does It Make?’ became a rarity after Morrissey used a photo of Terence Stamp on the cover, only for the actor to claim he never gave his permission. A replacement was released in which Moz mimics Stamp.

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Morrissey: 50 Geeky Things You Never Knew About The Smiths Icon

Other figures to have refused permission for their mugs to adorn Morrissey sleeves: Albert Finney, George Best and Alan Bates.

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Morrissey: 50 Geeky Things You Never Knew About The Smiths Icon

Meat Is Murder’, The Smiths’ second album, was released in February 1985. The LP gave Morrissey the platform to promote his long-held belief in animal rights. He had been a vegetarian since the age of 11.

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Morrissey: 50 Geeky Things You Never Knew About The Smiths Icon

In 2005, meanwhile, he was honoured with the Linda McCartney memorial award by PETA. Morrissey has also revealed that, after he left The Smiths and embarked on a solo career, Linda McCartney asked him about the possibility of a duet for their shared favourite cause. “If you ever want to do a song for the animals, get in touch,” she said in a letter from 1988.

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Morrissey: 50 Geeky Things You Never Knew About The Smiths Icon

Morrissey is so known for his strident vegetarianism that, in 2009, the Belgian festival Lokerse Festeen - renowned for its horse-meat sausages - agreed to ban meat products to coincide with his appearance.

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Morrissey: 50 Geeky Things You Never Knew About The Smiths Icon

Morrissey and Marr originally lined up Beatles legend George Martin to produce The Smiths’ third album, ‘The Queen Is Dead’, but he refused as he wanted to only be known for his work with The Fab Four.

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Morrissey: 50 Geeky Things You Never Knew About The Smiths Icon

Their second-choice, Bowie and T Rex cohort Tony Visconti, also declined their offer and Stephen Street produced ‘The Queen Is Dead’ instead. Moz would eventually get his man, though: Visconti would work with him on his 2006 solo album ‘Ringleader Of The Tormentors’.

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Even Morrissey can be dead wrong about music sometimes: he told Marr that he didn’t think ‘There Is A Light That Never Goes Out’ - the one Smiths song that everyone unanimously loves - that it wasn’t strong enough to be included on the album.

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Morrissey: 50 Geeky Things You Never Knew About The Smiths Icon

He also had to convince the guitarist that ‘The Queen Is Dead’ wasn’t a controversial album title: Marr said his parents didn’t like the name, and asked if they could use ‘Bigmouth Strikes Again’ instead.

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Morrissey fell out with Rough Trade - again - while promoting the single ‘Shoplifters Of The World Unite’: they told him he wouldn’t be able to play the track on Channel 4’s ‘The Tube’ unless he released a statement declaring that it wasn’t about shoplifting. Which, of course, it was.

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Morrissey: 50 Geeky Things You Never Knew About The Smiths Icon

Fed up of their wrangles with the label, he and Marr held a business meeting and agreed to jump to EMI after David Munns wooed them with a letter telling them they were “wasting your talents with Rough Trade” and that they were “the new Beatles”.

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Morrissey: 50 Geeky Things You Never Knew About The Smiths Icon

However, they were required to release one final album for Rough Trade - but ‘Strangeways, Here We Come’ would be the Smiths’ last album, full stop. Marr would quit the group and they would split after the album’s release.

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Morrissey: 50 Geeky Things You Never Knew About The Smiths Icon

History could have taken a different turn, though: legendary NME scribe Nick Kent wrote to Morrissey and requested that he fill Marr’s shoes. Morrissey, sadly, declined. Instead, he launched his solo career with ‘Suedehead’, which sold 75,000 copies in its first week and eventually climbed to Number Five on the UK Single Charts.

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Morrissey: 50 Geeky Things You Never Knew About The Smiths Icon

Morrissey fell out with Rough Trade while promoting the Smiths' ‘Shoplifters Of The World Unite’: they told him he wouldn’t be able to play the track on Channel 4’s ‘The Tube’ unless he released a statement declaring that it wasn’t about shoplifting. Which, of course, it was.

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Morrissey: 50 Geeky Things You Never Knew About The Smiths Icon

However, they were required to release one final album for Rough Trade - but ‘Strangeways, Here We Come’ would be the Smiths’ last album, full stop. Marr would quit the group and they would split after the album’s release.

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Morrissey: 50 Geeky Things You Never Knew About The Smiths Icon

It’s something of a surprise that Morrissey is still touring: in 2009, he said that he did not intend to perform live once he reached the age of 55. Morrissey turned 55 in May of this year.

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Morrissey: 50 Geeky Things You Never Knew About The Smiths Icon

His solo debut ‘Viva Hate’ debuted at Number One and enter the US Billboard Charts at 48: a higher chart placing than any of The Smiths’ albums.

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Morrissey: 50 Geeky Things You Never Knew About The Smiths Icon

Moz's 1988 track ‘Margaret On The Gullotine’, a barb at controversial UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, landed him in hot water with Scotland Yard, who quizzed him over the song.

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Morrissey: 50 Geeky Things You Never Knew About The Smiths Icon

Morrissey had previous form when it came to baiting Thatcher: after a Brighton hotel hosting the Conservative Party conference was bombed in 1984, he said “The only sorry of the Brighton bombing is that Thatcher escaped unscathed.” After her death in 2013, meanwhile, he criticised the coverage of her funeral and insisted she “didn’t give a shit about people”.

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Morrissey: 50 Geeky Things You Never Knew About The Smiths Icon

Robbie Williams would try to pressure him into recording a duet together by sticking letters in his front door. “His handwriting is so bad that I can only make out one central line,” sniped Moz of their ill-fated communication.

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Morrissey: 50 Geeky Things You Never Knew About The Smiths Icon

Fed up of their wrangles with the label, Moz and Marr held a business meeting and agreed to jump to EMI after David Munns wooed them with a letter telling them they were “wasting your talents with Rough Trade” and that they were “the new Beatles”.

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Morrissey: 50 Geeky Things You Never Knew About The Smiths Icon

Morrissey raised eyebrows earlier this year when he picked Cliff Richards and Tom Jones to support him on his US tour. Richards claimed that he intended to flout Morrissey’s veggie-only policy by scoffing a chicken curry afterwards, but the shows were eventually cancelled due to Morrissey suffering from illness.

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Morrissey: 50 Geeky Things You Never Knew About The Smiths Icon

One of his most enduring showbiz friendships, though, has been with Russell Brand - even though he (wisely) advised the comedian and ex-wife Katy Perry not to tie the knot. “He’s Russell’s mate and he is fascinating but he was giving us a hard time about getting married,” said Perry.

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Morrissey: 50 Geeky Things You Never Knew About The Smiths Icon

Morrissey released a spate of albums in the mid-90s, but the period has since become best-known for the infamous Smiths court case, as drummer Mike Joyce argued that he had not been fairly compensated for his time in the band.

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Morrissey: 50 Geeky Things You Never Knew About The Smiths Icon

In 2006, Morrissey was voted the second greatest living British icon by BBC’s The Culture Show. He was beaten to the top spot by David Attenborough - but he did manage to finish ahead of Beatles legend Paul McCartney, who was in third, and David Bowie, in fourth.

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Morrissey: 50 Geeky Things You Never Knew About The Smiths Icon

Speaking of Bowie, Morrissey and the Thin White Duke’s relationship was rather strained: Morrissey supported him on tour in 1995 but quit early, apparently frustrated that Bowie kept trying to upstage him and steal the limelight.

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Morrissey: 50 Geeky Things You Never Knew About The Smiths Icon

Morrissey’s 2004 album ‘You Are The Quarry’ was kept off the top spot in the UK Albums Chart by Keane. The three-piece felt so guilty they had kept Moz off the top spot that they sent him an apology letter. For more Morrissey, check out our Collectors Edition magazine, out now.

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