Morrissey had been gradually putting together material for a solo album since Johnny Marr left The Smiths, under the working title Education In Reverse. His debut solo single appeared in February 1988. In her Peepholism: Into The Art Of Morrissey, Jo Slee commented in a short article about it: “Emotionally bruised but professionally undeterred by the break-up of the group, Morrissey was ready six months later with the release of his first solo LP, preceded by the single Suedehead. Those who expected him to go down with the ship, presumably having crumbled at the loss of his creative partnership with Johnny, were rudely disappointed; the single went to #5, five place higher than any Smiths single, and was seen as, at worst, a creditable bridge to an optimistic future, and at best, a rousing and defiant beginning.”
For the single’s release, EMI reactivated the dormant heritage label His Master’s Voice. The last single on that label had been one by Joyce Grenfell on 10 November 1967, with the catalogue number POP1617 – Suedehead bore the number POP1618. In the interim, EMI had used the label for classical releases but had retired it once again when they rolled out the EMI Classics line; now the brand was for the exclusive use of Morrissey, all of whose solo releases in the 1980s would be issued on the label. This included the album he had been working on, which was released as Viva Hate some weeks after the single. Morrissey later referred to it as “more of an event than an achievement. I think the audience was simly relieved that I was still going on with living. That in itself was the celebration of Viva Hate. I’ve always been fiercely self-critical and … it wasn’t perfect.” Be that as it may, it still went to #1, and yielded another Top 10 single in Every Day Is Like Sunday.
Morrissey’s band for Viva Hate featured Stephen Street, Vini Reilly and Andrew Paresi, but he retained only Street for his third solo single The Last Of The Famous International Playboys and its follow-up Interesting Drug. For those two singles (also Top 10; already his solo career had eclipsed the chart achievements of The Smiths) he was reunited with former Smiths Andy Rourke, Craig Gannon and Mike Joyce. Interesting Drugalso featured Kirsty MacColl on backing vocals, she also having performed those duties for The Smiths. She was back for the final Morrissey single of the 1980s, Ouija Board, Ouija Board, as was Paresi. But there was no sign of another album, and this single fell short of the Top 10.
☛ What happened next
Morrissey remains a much discussed figure in the music industry, loathed and loved in seemingly equal measure. For every circling vulture hoping that the next record will be a flop, there is an ardent fan who will ensure it charts. Over 25 years, he has recorded for nearly all the major record companies and nine further studio albums have followed his debut, all of which have reached the Top 10. His views on politics, the British monarchy and on vegetarianism and animal rights have won him almost as many column inches in the press as his music. Critically, his solo recordings are not as revered as those of The Smiths, although his 1994 album Vauxhall and I (his last for EMI, another #1, which included his first British Top 10 single for several years and only US hit The More You Ignore Me The Closer I Get) often appears on lists of the best albums of the 1990s. Ill health has led to periods of recording inactivity and cancelled concerts. Recently he has turned to writing with mixed results. A few weeks ago his first novel was published to almost universal derision. His Autobiography (2011) was better received; it was one of the most anticipated musical memoirs. With typical wit and audacity, it was published in the Penguin Classics imprint, a list previously reserved for titles long-regarded as critically acclaimed.
NEW SINGLES on sale from Nov. 13
Kirsty MacCOLL You Still Believe In Me (Polydor POSP368)
BIG FUN Can’t Shake The Feeling (Jive JIVE234)
Bobby BROWN Roni (MCA MCA1384)
DANNY WILSON I Can’t Wait (Virgin VS1226)
MORRISSEY Ouija Board, Ouija Board (HMV POP1622)
SPANDAU BALLET Empty Spaces (CBS SPANS5)