Former Smiths frontman Morrissey plays the 3Arena tonight. The City spoke to UL sociology lecturer Eoin Devereux about the significance of the gig for Moz’s Irish fans.
As much as I hate to admit it, I can hardly count myself as a real Mozaphile. Yes, I can recite the words to ‘Alma Matters’, and a host of other gems no bother, but I just don’t have the vast wealth of knowledge a true Mozhead has.
Put it this way: I’m more of a lowly private than a medalled general in the #MozArmy. I’ll work myself up the ranks someday, but for now I’ll just keep studying the back catalogue.
The clue is in the quiff. You can always tell Morrissey’s most devoted fans by their great sweeping fringes, and most are infantile compared to Dr Eoin Devereux’s.
Dr Devereux (pictured) is Senior Lecturer in Sociology at UL and co-director of the Popular Music and Popular Culture Research Cluster. He is Ireland’s Morrissey expert.
He has a host of Mozzer gigs under his belt after first seeing The Smiths in Galway in 1984 and has “never looked back since”.
Writing in an email, he explains what first attracted him to Morrissey: “[His] status as the Outsider’s Outsider is at the core of his appeal for me. He sings about the lonely, the sad, the disenfranchised. That has been the constant thread for me. He is a raconteur of the marginalised and is wonderfully anti establishment.”
It’s common for people who get Morrissey to describe how he gets them. His music changed their lives, which is common rhetoric for music fans, but there’s something different about Morrissey fans. He’s more than just a pop hero.
Dr Devereux explains: “While fandom in general is a continuum and levels of fandom vary, Morrissey fans are passionate, sensitive and devoted. I don’t mean devoted in a slavish way. I mean they display huge dedication to knowing and understanding as much as is possible about the object of their fandom and the things that influence him. It’s striking how many of them talk of how their Morrissey fandom has led them to reading Oscar Wilde.”
Perhaps more obscurely, Mozafiles also celebrate the work of Manchester dramatist Shelagh Delaney because of her influence on Morrissey’s songwriting (The first Shelagh Delaney Day took place last Tuesday).
My inaugural Moz gig was three years ago at Vicar Street. I was amazed by the great urgency for the audience to propel themselves at their hero. Some punters defied security and flung themselves on stage just so they could touch His Mozness. This is a common occurrence at his concerts. (Take a look at the pandemonium at a recent gig in Berlin).
“There is almost a sacred dimension in evidence at Morrissey gigs in terms of the need of fans to touch the hand of their often reluctant icon,” Dr Devereux says. “This is particularly intense where his Chicano/Latino fans are concerned.”
If you don’t already know, Morrissey has a very strong Latino following, which might be a bit surprising. But think about it, Latinos are marginalised in the States. Morrissey is marginalised everywhere (at least in his own eyes), so it makes sense.
He gets most stick in the British red tops, often for saying something unflattering about the Queen or the meat industry. After all, he is a sexually ambiguous, reclusive, celibate, vegetarian pop star who doesn’t take drugs, so the tabs can’t really make any sense of him unless they can squeeze him under a headline like Heaven Knows He’s Miserable Now or Bigmouth Strikes Again.
Much like my other hero, Leonard Cohen, Morrissey is often misunderstood as a depressing whinge (The Pope of Mope, they call him). Yes, he does sing about loneliness, but he does so in a very empowering way. And he’s actually very funny. He writes witty, kitchen sink lyrics Jarvis Cocker can only dream of. Listen to ‘Girlfriend in a Coma’ or ‘You’re the one for me, Fatty’ and you’ll see.
Born to Irish-emigrant parents in 1950s Manchester, Morrissey considers himself “ten parts Crumlin, ten parts Old Trafford” and is clearly proud of his Irish blood and English heart.
But is there anything unique about his fans in Ireland? Do we have a stronger connection with him since he is “one of us”?
“Fans around the world have different kinds of connections with Morrissey,” Dr Devereux says. “Where Ireland is concerned I think that apart from his Irish roots (and influences) his anti establishment position on a range of issues makes a firm favourite here. His Second Generation Irish and Catholic upbringing are still strongly in evidence in his creative output.”
So if we were to draw a tour map of Morrissey’s Dublin, where would we go? First stop Crumlin, where next?
“The National Stadium where The Smiths and Morrissey have played; the site of the old SFX; the Point Depot (3Arena) where he talked in 2004 of being ’10 parts Crumlin, 10 parts Old Trafford’, Swords and anywhere associated with his beloved Oscar Wilde.”
So he has made his mark on this city and its people. And if he hasn’t made his mark on you, where should you start?
“Viva Hate would be the one [Morrissey’s debut solo album],” Dr Devereux says. “It’s still a great record and bridges the world of The Smiths and Morrissey’s solo career. For ‘Late Night, Maudlin Street’ or ‘Margaret on the Guillotine’ alone it’s a great album.”
I wonder if Dr Devereux has ever met Morrissey, surely the most sacred experience for any Mozaphile:
“I haven’t met Morrissey,” he says. “I don’t think I would like to, really. Never meet your anti-heroes!”
This article first appeared on thecity.ie.