“For Mr Mark – 20 years on with love and gratitude, Coldplay”.
As I pulled the signed white label of ‘Everyday Life’ from the envelope, I was hit by a broad range of emotion. A fondness for a band I’ve championed through thick and thin, despite all the ‘bedwetter’ jibes, the misguided accusations of beigeness, the EDM bits and the new age divorces. A deep shame that it’s been 20 years and I really should’ve made some money by now.
And finally, of course, a lingering certainty that Morrissey is wrong.
This last thought was likely to be my basic rock hack training kicking in. All music journalists are forced to undergo rigorous anti-Morrissey brainwashing regimes before we’re legally allowed to voice an opinion on anything in public or private.
This is important work, enshrined into law by the They’ve All Got It Infamy Act of 1984, to ensure that Morrissey, and Morrissey alone, is hounded, victimised and silenced, despite himself being utterly blameless and faultless in word or deed. Aware of this grand and intricate conspiracy, Morrissey will now – quite rightly – only grant audience to those red-pilled writers who have put themselves through arduous months of psychological deprogramming, and as a result have been scrubbed so thoroughly from the journalistic register and erased from social media by this evil cult of the fourth estate, that you’d almost think that he was interviewing himself.
It wasn’t Morrissey’s support of far-right politicians or questionable views on the Chinese that irked me so. I’ll leave that argument to columnists with a far greater legal budget, as much as Moz wearing a t-shirt reading “Fuck Mark, My Words” would work wonders for my traffic footfall, second only to Liam Gallagher calling me a cunt again.
No, it was his attitude to autographs. On merch stands at recent Morrissey shows have appeared albums by the likes of David Bowie, Lou Reed and Patti Smith, signed by Moz and priced at $300 a pop. The equivalent, you might say, of Banksy shredding a Monet.
Now we could argue for hours about whether Morrissey’s autograph enhances other people’s records and to what financial degree. Since signed copies of his own albums are priced at just $200, does the quality of the art he’s signed reflect the value of the signature? If Morrissey were to sign a Lewis Capaldi album, would it still have a net cultural value of nil? If he were to slap his John Hancock on a Bastille record, would he still have to pay us to take it off his hands?
The main thing is, he’s completely missed the point of fandom. No real fan waits patiently in the pissing rain outside a stage door for some hog-wild aftershow to finish in order to make their soggy tour programme worth twenty quid more than they paid for it. To a real fan, an autograph’s monetary value is irrelevant; it’s priceless to them because it represents a small amount of their idol’s time which they claimed for their own. They’ve spent months or years developing a deep, one-sided and probably borderline psychotic relationship with a musician and their music, and here’s their proof that they were repaid, in person, with roughly three and a half seconds of reciprocal attention. Five seconds if Moz does a smiley face in the ‘o’.
Sure there are eBay autograph vultures out there chasing down celebrity scribbles for monetary gain, but they’re busy swamping pop superstar meet-and-greets and they’re not gonna pay the top market value Mozzer’s asking, they’ve got margins to protect mate. Charli XCX had got the right idea – she recently took to social media to defend fans who have brought along bottles of poppers, douches and their mother’s ashes in an urn for Charli to sign or pose with. “These moments are not the ones I take away from spending time with my fans,” she wrote. “I don’t think about the pictures or the objects I sign.”
From the sounds of it, unless you’ve pulled it out of your rectum right there and presented it to her on a plate made from your own teeth, Charli’ll sign it. It’s great to know that some stars understand that it’s not the object but the connection that matters. And that I might have finally found a musician willing to sign the shrunken peasant’s scrotum that’s been handed down my family for generations, said to have been hacked from the corpse of the very first plague victim – perhaps she’ll even take part in our family tradition of kissing it for luck every St Barnabus Day. Coldplay just made their excuses and left…