No one in the rock world will claim that Morrissey is the easiest person to get along with. From former members of The Smiths to a selection of his contemporaries, the leader behind one of indie rock’s greatest acts certainly has made some comments that have rubbed a few people up the wrong way. Although Morrissey might run his mouth in the press, some of his detractors have put their hatred to music.
Since The Smiths’ prime, some artists have thrown their hat into the ring, calling out Morrissey for his seemingly awful characteristics. From how he conducts himself above most other artists or his whiney demeanour both on and off the stage, it’s not like some of Moz’s fellow artists are shy about pulling their punches.
Then again, not every song about loathing Morrissey is unprovoked. The Smiths frontman has also been known to not mince words about some of the artists he has issues with, so it’s only natural that some of these talented writers clap back at him because of the awful things he had to say. As much as hate songs might be hard to swallow, there’s a good chance Morrissey brought a handful of them upon himself.
From the world of punk, classic rock and art rock, some of the biggest names in the world can’t help but take a few cheap shots at one Moz himself. For all of the great material he pumped out during his prime, there are always songs that should serve as reminders of the awful back pages of Morrissey.
10 songs about disliking Morrissey:
10. ‘Deathtime’ – Turbonegro
The world of hardcore punk often feels like the further thing from The Smiths. While both acts might have a heavy emphasis on rebelling against straight behaviour, the delectable sounds of Johnny Marr’s guitar riffs always made up for some of the questionable lines that Morrissey had to say. Once the members of Turbonegro began to listen a little closer, they weren’t ready to forgive and forget Morrissey’s comments.
In the song ‘Deathtime’, the band lay into Morrissey’s character, comparing his insufferable comments to spending some time in a German concentration camp. Although the idea of songs having to do with death and destruction isn’t outside Turbonegro’s usual wheelhouse, they are far more cutthroat on this track, going so far as to compare a handshake from him to some unpleasant sexual favours in East Africa.
Then again, Turbonegro has been known for its use of shocking subject matter for most of their career, so this is probably just a standard writing session for them. Although Morrissey might like to take the piss out of every band that dares to step on him, it’s hard to imagine that this is probably the tame version of what the Norwegian punk band had to say.
9. ‘Stephen You’re Really Something’ – The Associates
Throughout The Smiths’ career, Morrissey never had any problem bringing his personal life into the mix. On some of their greatest works, songs like ‘Frankly Mr Shankly’ dealt with his time working dead-end jobs, calling out one of his bosses for the disgraceful attempts at poetry that he read from him. If Morrissey was going to air his dirty laundry, he shouldn’t have been surprised when some of them were looking to clap back.
Of Morrissey’s former friends that he tore through the mud, The Smiths song ‘William It Was Really Nothing’ struck a nerve with Billy McKenzie of The Associates, who took offence to some of Moz’s lines about him supposedly living a terrible life. As a direct retort, ‘Stephen You’re Really Something’ is a spit back in Morrissey’s face, talking about his happiness with his life and not wanting to associate himself with people like Morrissey ever again.
For that extra salt in the wound, McKenzie also made a point to call Morrissey by his actual name in the title, as if that miserable kid that grew up to be a miserable adult is just a repressed memory at this point. Although The Associates might not have reached the same heights as The Smiths did in their prime, McKenzie’s scathing review of Morrissey’s character makes the listener question the tortured soul they related to on The Queen is Dead.
8. ‘Steven (You Don’t Eat Meat)’ – Sandie Shaw
Of the many adjectives to describe The Smiths in their salad days, charitable was not one of them. As the band were cutting their teeth on the scene, though, they invited ‘60s singer Sandie Shaw to sing some of their songs, even turning up for a performance of ‘Still Ill’ on Top of the Pops with the non-Moz members of the group. Although Shaw may have revived her career, she wasn’t exactly thankful for what The Smiths did for her.
In the song ‘Steven (You Don’t Eat Meat)’, Shaw is a lot more savage towards Morrissey’s character, chastising himself for being holier than thou and claiming to be above him in every conceivable way. Although the idea of someone claiming to be morally superior to Morrissey isn’t the most impossible task in the world, Shaw begins to look petty throughout the song, telling Morrissey to eat his heart out because of the songs that she has in the pipeline behind him.
As if to drive her weird Smiths tribute song home, the record’s flipside also featured a few words about Smiths guitarist Johnny Marr called ‘Go Johnny Go’, where she goes after him for not returning her calls after The Smiths rose to new heights. Although Morrissey has his own issues to deal with half the time, Sandi Shaw’s way of dealing with her supposed friend’s hangups feels more bitter than anything else.
7. ‘Miserabalism’ – Pet Shop Boys
Around the same time The Smiths were making some of the biggest songs of their career, synth-pop was also on the rise. Despite Johnny Marr pioneering different ways of playing the guitar on tracks like ‘The Headmaster Ritual’, The Pet Shop Boys were using the primitive buzz of synthesisers and turning them into modern pop sounds. Pop was supposed to be optimistic, and Neil Tennant had no time to hear a sad-sack indie rocker complain for a three-minute song.
On their track ‘Miserablism’, Tennant doesn’t hide his hatred for the kind of songs Morrissey prided himself on, penning lyrics about how depressing it must feel to live a life where there’s a pity party for someone going on every day. Although he never mentions Morrissey by name in the track, it’s easy to see where Tennant is getting his ideas, trying to get into Morrissey’s head by suggesting that he can get more depth in his music by frowning all the time.
Although Morrissey may have been trying to quote what was in his heart, Tennant saw nothing but contempt for the world in The Smiths frontman and figured he’d take the piss out of him in song. Then again, this would not be the first nor the last time Tennant decided to air his grievances about Morrissey.
6. ‘My Life As a Morrissey Song’ – Oh Pioneers!
Around the turn of the century, most of Morrissey’s work felt more like style over substance. Outside of his phenomenal work with The Smiths, some modern rock bands saw the world’s most insufferable vegan as a punchline in music more than anything else, loving nothing more than to celebrate how bad the world was treating him. Though Oh Pioneers! were far from the most popular band in the world at the time, ‘My Life As a Morrissey Song’ might be the best encapsulation of where The Smiths frontman was in pop culture.
Although Morrissey never gets a minute on the track, frontman Eric Solomon is singing more about the songs that Morrissey was known for, as he makes a track about wasting his life away and not having anything to do about it. While the song attempts to be a love song in some spots, even those are washed away when Solomon asks his friend/lover if they feel vacant like him, as if that’s the key to sounding cool.
If nothing else, this song accurately depicts how far Morrissey’s character had fallen in the years since The Smiths and his early solo career. It started with the romantic sounds of dying by the smash of a ten-tonne truck, and now it was about arguing about the most minuscule things to sound tortured.
5. ‘Lighten Up Morrissey’ – Sparks
For all of his whining in public, Morrissey always remained an adamant fan of rock music. Even when he wasn’t busy tearing through his contemporaries like The Cure, Morrissey always wanted to talk about music and was even willing to become a journalist before finding fame behind the microphone. Then again, it might sting a little bit when one of his favourite acts wasn’t putting up with him complaining anymore.
As Morrissey fell in love with music, he had an affinity for the eccentric art rock band Sparks, who made some of the most forward-thinking rock and roll with the help of industry veterans like Tony Visconti. Although the two brothers behind Sparks had a stable enough relationship with Morrissey, their 2008 single ‘Lighten Up Morrissey’ was meant to be a fun takedown of his public persona, with vocalist Russell Mael suggesting that his lover can look past his flaws if Morrissey would just take a break from his morbid phase.
Although the band might sound like they were attacking Morrissey at the time, this song remains one of his more humorous takedowns, acting more as a satire of the man that even The Smiths frontman got a kick out of. For all the hate that gets thrown Morrissey’s way, it’s nice to know that even he can admit how overblown some of his statements can occasionally be.
4. ‘Anti-Music Song’ – The Mountain Goats
On the surface, both The Mountain Goats and The Smiths have much more in common than most would realise. Although both of them fit snuggly in the indie rock category, the lyrical depth of John Darnielle isn’t that far off from what Morrissey does, occasionally sprinkling in different literate turns of phrase to suit his melody. Despite both men’s love of wordplay, Darnielle doesn’t have any problem tearing Morrissey through the mud with the technique.
In ‘Anti-Music Song’, Darnielle goes after countless artists he sees making millions off riding the coattails of more successful artists like Van Morrison. While this could easily be a takedown of countless singer-songwriters that do poor imitations of their heroes, Darnielle can’t help but put in a few cheap shots at Morrissey, recalling how he saw someone doing a Smiths imitation on MTV and thinking that Morrissey was “a second rate songwriter” even in his prime.
As if to twist the knife a little bit further, Darnielle deliberately mispronounces Morrissey’s name before moving on to other legends like Jimi Hendrix and Brian Jones. Though Darnielle would walk back his takedown of Morrissey in 2007, the fact that he decided not to acknowledge his verbal slipup speaks volumes when put next to some of the giants of rock and roll.
3. ‘I Hate Morrissey’ – Ween
Morrissey is one of the few rockstars that’s almost easy to despise. Throughout his career, he has burned enough bridges to become dislikable to most people in the music industry, whether that’s the big wigs at MTV or his fellow musicians. When it comes to his music, though, Ween tends not to differentiate much.
In their song ‘I Hate Morrissey’, Gene and Dean Ween have no time for the self-pitying songs to come out of The Smiths, thinking that all Morrissey does is hate life and tell them about it day after day. Although some parts of the song didn’t age well, like a few homophobic lines, they aren’t far off the mark, with very few Smiths songs having to do with any positive aspect of life.
Then again, Ween’s hatred of Morrissey was only a blip on their radar, making some of the zaniest music ever created throughout the rest of their career on records like The Mollusk. The music behind The Smiths might be great, but ‘I Hate The Smiths’ is a good example of how good music can be nullified if the lyrics don’t work.
2. ‘Getting Away With It’ – Electronic
The fact that The Smiths cracked the MTV market in the mid-1980s was an amazing feat by itself. In an era where most people were talking about how great every waking moment of their lives was, Morrissey was delivering scathing indictments of everyone around him and ensuring every listener knew how deep and important his thoughts were. That attitude didn’t fly with The Pet Shop Boys with ‘Miserablism’, though, and Neil Tennant felt the same way working with Electronic.
Imagining a song that Morrissey could have written, ‘Getting Away With It’ is an electronic sendup of Morrissey’s usual schtick, as Tennant sings about walking in the rain just so he could get wet on purpose. Although the song has tongue-in-cheek humour, it gets a little awkward after reading the liner notes for the single.
Fresh off of The Smiths’ breakup, Johnny Marr is playing on the track, almost giving Tennant permission to be as cutthroat as he wants. Even though the song might be about a toxic romantic relationship, it’s hard not to see Tennant’s words apply to Marr’s relationship with his former singer. It might have been fun back in the old days, but it didn’t take long for Marr to realise that he was going down a one-way street with Morrissey that was not going to end well.
1. ‘I Know It’s Gonna Happen Someday’ – David Bowie
It takes some guts on Morrissey’s part to go after some of the giants of rock and roll. Regardless of their stature in the music world, Morrissey isn’t exactly shy about telling off some of his biggest detractors, even if they shaped him into the musician he is today. He needed to be prepared when they clapped back, though, and ‘The Starman’ decided to go after the king of melancholy with his own song.
During Morrissey’s solo career, the song ‘I Know It’s Gonna Happen Someday’ bore a strong similarity to David Bowie’s song ‘Rock and Roll Suicide’. Not to be outdone, Bowie did a cover of Morrissey’s track on his album Black Tie White Noise, almost to remind both him and his audience that he could deliver some of the greatest rock theatre pieces of all time, even in his old age.
Any other fan of Bowie would be honoured to have their song covered, but Morrissey was pissed, not appreciating the jab Bowie made and hardly speaking his name when doing a tribute song to him a few months following his death. Morrissey might have a good way of dishing out criticisms left and right, but leave it to ‘The Thin White Duke’ to show the world how frail of a human is hiding underneath all that hair.