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

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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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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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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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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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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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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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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 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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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 performs live on stage with The Smiths at The Royal Albert Hall, London, 05 April 1985. (Photo by Phil Dent/Redferns) Getty
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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Studio shot of Morrissey NME 04/2004 B&W Hamish Brown
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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Other figures to have refused permission for their mugs to adorn Morrissey sleeves: Albert Finney, George Best and Alan Bates.

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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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 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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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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