Tuesday, 16 January 2018

The Day Morrissey (Almost) Came To My House

There have been rather a lot of Morrissey posts on this blog over the last few months for one reason or another. Thanks for putting up with them. This should be the last one for awhile, unless he announces he's going to be performing at Harry & Meghan's wedding or joining the cast of Eastenders as Dot Cotton's long lost son (a role that was apparently offered to him in years gone by).

As previously mentioned, I finally finished reading Autobiography before Christmas and it was an interesting, if frustrating (naturally) read. The early section involved Moz trying too hard to write about his childhood in cod-James Joyce prose, and while this was entertaining in places, it also aggravated me no end. (It was the reason I'd packed in reading this book when I originally bought it in 2013.) After this though, things became more enjoyable. His years with The Smiths felt rushed through - I'm sure many readers would have loved to read more about those days, but Moz obviously wanted to make the point that it was a very small part of his life and he's actually achieved far more success (and wealth) as a solo artist. The court case, on the other hand, went on and on and on... and, yes, we get the point, Morrissey, there's been no greater travesty of justice since they nailed that carpenter to the cross. And the judge was a bit of a wanker. Let's move on, shall we?

(Oh, and the less said about the beyond vicious attack on Julie Burchill, the better. It would be hilarious if it wasn't so juvenile. God knows what she wrote about him to deserve that!) 

Despite all this, there are some surprising passages within Autobiography that are more than worth the price of admission. As is usually the case with any Morrissey enterprise. Moments - no, whole sections - where we get to see behind the mask and... whisper it... Morrissey honestly comes across as a real human being with hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections and passions. Prick him and he does actually bleed!

The section which stood out the most for me is the night in the summer of 1989 when Morrissey goes for a drive on Saddleworth moor with his friends (yes, Morrissey has friends!) Linder, Tim Broad and James O'Brien. This is a part of the world I know very well as I've lived most of my life just a couple of miles away and spent a great many happy hours in my youth walking around the hills and reservoirs up there, so I was shocked to see Moz spend so long describing this one eventful night... 

It's a story I've heard before, but not in Morrissey's own words. Always fascinated by the area because its where Myra Hindle & Ian Brady buried many of their victims, Moz and his friends end up turning off the A635 in their car near Black Hill, just above the village of Holme. They subsequently get lost in the fog, and then see a "ghost": a semi-naked young man (around 18 years old), wearing only an anorak, who throws up his arms and screams in horror at their car. Moz and his pals screech away and spend many a long hour afterwards pondering whether it was actually a ghost... or just some kids mucking about. They drive until they reach the nearby village of Marsden, which Moz amusingly describes as being closed at 8pm, "its inhabitants pulling their chairs closer to the glow of a low fire" where they find a phone box on Wessendenhead Road and call the local police. The police tell them to "keep an open mind" and that "a lot of strange things have been reported" up there... which is all very League of Gentleman (appropriate, really, since the exterior scenes of The Local Shop For Local People were shot just a mile or so's walk away from where Morrissey had his gruesome sighting).

However, one thing puzzled me... how the hell did Morrissey get from Black Hill above Holme to Wessenden Road in Marsden... without coming through the village of Meltham (where I currently live) and then driving past the farm my mum and dad have lived on for the past 60 years which lies on the only main road connecting the two places? The map below shows what I mean. The arrow at the bottom shows the A635. The one at the top shows Marsden. The only road between them involves going through Meltham in the upper right corner... yet Meltham does not feature in Morrissey's story at all.

But then I thought a little harder. As I've said, I've walked these hill many a time... particularly when I was a younger man. And there is another road which links the two places... but it's not the kind of road you'd normally drive on... you wouldn't be able to these days since it's been gated off to all but walkers. Back in 1989, however, maybe that gate wasn't there. Or perhaps someone had left it open...

Morrissey and his pals returned to the scene of their terrifying experience the following day and found only "a pair of y-front underpants, discoloured with dirt, but certainly of the type which an 18-year-old might wear". They consider all the options, including the dark possibility that "the boy had possibly broken free and fled from a nearby farmhouse where he had been subjected to either violence or rape... and saw our Mercedes as his only hope". (At no point does anyone suggest doggers. Just saying.) But Moz inevitably concludes the whole event was even more scary than that...

"How many unfortunate souls have Saddleworth Moor as their final resting place? Or are there still people so disfigured that they cannot live at society's lack of mercy, and can only find solace in dark places? There may very well be spirits of 1780 who still roam, begging for release by prayer - buried without ceremony, out of the way, beyond gaze, blotted out of creation just for knowing too much, or for saying too much, or for being witness to some dark crime; rent boys and runaways, troubled teens and latchkey kids, motherless druggies and hastily pregnant Carol Annes, now silenced good and proper, deliberately dumped so far from their homes that even a most determined spirit could not find its way back."

The whole story makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end, particularly as I know that lonely track above so well, having walked it many times, especially when I was a teenager...

I was 17 in 1989, Morrissey... and do you know what? I'd like my underpants back, please.


  1. Excellent post, Rol. Particularly liked seeing Slaithwaite Road on the map, reminded me of your old Sunset blog.

  2. That's a passage that has stuck with me from Mozza's book too, so it was great to be reminded of it with some personal insight. You've hit the nail on the head with how frustrating his writing is; the Joyce-esque recollections of his childhood hinted at the strengths he could bring to the novel if he ever put his mind to it (a suspicion that was subsequently dashed with his ridiculous novella List of the Lost; a truly terrible read) but felt really out of place here. And yes those endless passages regarding the court case! We get it, the judge had you down to a tee and you loathed him for it. But I must admit I rather liked the cruel bile he directed at Julie Burchill, if only because I detest her one woman crusade to brand John Peel a paedophile.

  3. And that's the passage that has stuck with me too and also gave me goosebumps (and, as with all good scary stories, slightly watery eyes, why is that?) As Mark says, great to have your personal insight - it really added something, thanks.


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