“THERE’S more to life than books you know... but not much more”. So sang Morrissey on Handsome Devil, an early track by The Smiths that – to my knowledge – was only ever recorded for a 1983 John Peel Session.
Those lyrics lead us neatly to Mozza’s just-released memoir, Autobiography (Mozography would have been a snapier title, methinks!).
Marmite man that he is, the critics are divided as to the book’s merits – the naysayers seem particularly peeved about it being published under the Penguin Classics banner (an insistence of the singer, allegedly).
The Telegraph’s Neil McCormick called it “the best written musical autobiography since Bob Dylan’s Chronicles”. The Independent’s Boyd Tonkin, on the other hand, dismissed it as “droning narcissism and the whine of self-pity”.
Me, I’d say Morrissey is incapable of saying something boring, let alone writing it down. Autobiography sees Mozza write elegantly about his early life in working-class Manchester; of ancient, embittered teachers; his first crush (“Jerry Nolan on the front of the Dolls debut album (in drag) is the first woman I ever fell in love with”); a love for Eurovision; his first serious relationship (with a male photographer, which only happened in his 30s) and, of course, The Smiths.
In between moments of Wildean wit, Mozza delights in ruffling some feathers. Coming in for a kicking are judge John Weeks (“an old, weathered tree trunk”), who presided over the bitter legal battle over royalties with Mike Joyce; Sarah Ferguson (“the Duchess of Nothing”), and Julie Burchill (“I shall be honoured to attend her funeral, and I might even jump into the grave”).
That Autobiography is undeserving of its place on the shelves alongside Penguin Classics like Homer’s The Odyssey and Tolstoy’s War and Peace... well, that goes without saying – but it’s a must-read for any fan.