By Ryan Walker
‘’If only I could get away from everything! Get away from all this bloody austerity, and form-filling, and die. Quietly and peacefully, reading Keats of something. Oh, this all-hating world! Can’t anybody find a little happiness? But no one can tell me why I was born.’’
– Kenneth Williams, 1948.
I’m actually a little unsure what this article is about. I’ve chased rabbits down their holes and returned to the surface more confused and exhausted and obsessed than before I entered them. I yearned to learn more, but not in ways which adhered to academic qualification or scholastic critique. Nor approach from the position of an adoring fan, besotted by the figure we have come to canonise as the outsider’s outsider, the other’s other, perched upon the peripheries’ periphery. But merely as a young man caught up in his own confused narrative. Frequently entangled, and occasionally crippled, by the difficulties of being an abjection of this normative ‘either-or’ binary, a rebel against the preference. Sex is a heavly way to drop dead. Suspicious of how heavy it hovers. Its weights and its wants. Its depths and its lengths. And simply, in a darkly lit corner of some northern pub, sat opposite a caramel hourglass with a crucifix kink. A crucifix filled with sunflowers and strawberries. The one with the ‘fro and eyes which could hypnotise fields of exotic wildlife with one glance, a total psychological headlock with strips of pretty-stained silver running from zero. Or an animal-hating vegan. A child-despising teaching assistant. The burly, bearded, pretty young mod with the rugby-muscles. All in a basement or on a park bench. Or at a wire party, watching the twisted world turn a further degree into the mists of oblivion: both interested, yet unavailable, to move. Only ever being able to…come close.
Morrissey says he has “never been a sexual person”. Yet, typically flippant, filled with ridicule, the indubitable, clever coyness of the interview-as-battlefield, he also states in another article from 1988: “I think I’m just considered to be a British phenomena… as well as a sex symbol’’. And like being positioned before a journalist in Rolling Stone from the 1990s, who near-enough concluded that Morrissey was gay. Yet, can such things ever really be concluded? On what grounds? On whose terms? Like a full-stop stamped into the forehead to eradicate this analogical, elliptical trail often found behind him, to which he replied: “I’m gay? Well…that’s news to me”. The notions of Morrissey not being sexual is news to me…news to us all.
The veil of ambiguity is his to gaze from behind. And it’s mine too. But it doesn’t work the opposite way. As fans, as people, despite their ceaseless trying, their investigative papers, their inquisitive questioning probes, in column inches and on forums, cannot penetrate that obscure barricade. Materials of flesh and bone, daft matters and maddening protractions of the human race, time and time again removing the dying batteries and hysterically rubbing them together, and shoving them back in, all as a charging stampede towards the same pit.
Bona to vada your dolly old eek.
“Sex is a waste of batteries”, Morrissey confirms in Melody Maker, 1986. There’s often more worth in the words, loaded and lauded, and often loathed, that one can summon up the courage to profess as a matter of fact, in the face of all those fantastical ideas about riding into the sunset on horseback holding hands with your newlywed. About boarding a boxcar to reach the summit of the almighty, galactic alps. Cages of crosses and arrows constructed around Mars and Venus, a construction site built above where Isis and Joa are said to have collapsed onto each other. Morrissey, either in the middle of, or above, is an embodiment of how a sexless life, a subversive life, can be a symbolic kind, of beguiling survival.
But perhaps Morrissey is more content, more impactful, in the articulation of these strange-tasting sensations, these peculiar, unknown pleasures; without bias, void of orientation, unwilling to conform to the boredoms of normalcy, lunacy tiresomely guised as something traditional. Unlike Bowie in 1976’s Melody Maker who straightforwardly, shockingly so announced “I am gay, and I always have been’’, Morrissey, years later, and despite the rising levels of acceptance of queer cultures and communities palpitating from the epicentres of New Romanticism, defied indulgences, physical indulgences, of sex altogether. Because rather than admit who or what he is; rather than be drowned in states of sexual denial, tremors and repressions, rejection; or equally, be pulled apart by maddening bouts of parasitic, conjugal interchange, when people are together but really, planets apart; it’s better to be a self-built island in self-imposed exile; to wonder, a dramatist, than simply, be boring, a dullard lump.
All as a way, a mechanism of defence; to express oneself with the most poignant, potent form of poetry, wrapped in a melody, inside an enigma. My Manchester, Morrissey’s England, Churchill’s Russia. A negation of the label, a refusal of all meathead masculinity, the tyrannical types of derisory life. Alive and well in a world “marked out by a million intolerably exhaustive guidelines…a sea of should-nots, must-nots, do-nots’’. A world of wayward principles and wanton temptations. Dumped onto the bones of the boys who didn’t quite fit. His skin thrown out entire pairs of shoes ago. The body organs of his best friend served on a lime green polypropylene dinner tray.
So behold: unanimous love, universal silence, the language of the planets, impassioned and intellectually inflamed. An ocean of echoes and explosions stretching out and waiting, above and beyond the parameters of the flesh. Seen soaring above the jagged, mechanics of the chromosomes and rainbows and heartbeats and toolboxes but still – Morrissey remains fascinated. He remains compelled to write, to experience, disappointment or the avoidance of, from a distance as an interview with James Brown from 1989s NME puts forth when being asked about being attracted to other people: “Yes sometimes. I do have the occasional flushes but they do pass. I sit down and have a chip butty. You don’t accept that do you? Yes, I do have flushes, usually at bank holidays. Mostly, no, people are a great disappointment to me. I think I am interested and then I discover the reality”.
Celibacy as a method of escape. To avoid the constant weights of disappointment, welded deep within people. People, domesticated by love, a trap people fall into and eventually, within this reality, pulls them apart. Because love is something that people for fall, in order to finally, fall in. And therefore, most folks are fools who crave a taste but can’t handle the rules of the daily game, the weekly grime. And the pen is mightier than the sword, to have and hold, cling onto and climb up, even if theoretically so – to scrawl so hard on the walls of the modern world the entire, tiresome edifice collapses into a jumble of pitiful bricks and mortar. To reveal, a world without walls. Without curtains. Without cloaks. Without clothes. And wish the armour would be pierced by the warm, neon stare, touched by the hand of a gentle, generous specimen; and shatter each link to sequins. A sacred space without gendered segregation, or any dividing lines for that matter. “The lyrics I write are specifically genderless. I don’t want to leave anybody out”. And hope to feel the force flock toward him in quite ‘’historical’’, revolutionary, and reactionary demonstrations of agency.
To be huma-sexual as the means to reach maximum, sexual, potential; with maximum, poetic, protection. In this way, I can relate. A sudden, cold breeze reverberating throughout the chambers of ones’ heart on a summer’s day. The stench of electricity and lingering petrol inner city-tears. The pulse of sublimity for both sides, for all kinds; keeping my curious eyes, my restless-legged mind, wide open, to receive, just about anything. Invalid, unable to act, as a man, as your man, as anyone’s anything. Without vices, but with all the reapable virtues. But the vortex always calls my name from the snaking caves and abhorrent, disorderly corridors of the morning, empty-bed, full-head.
These are Morrissey’s methods of intellectualising the sexual impulse; the inner wheel, the anatomy of the myth, to the advantage of the being this extraordinary property bulges from within. And such a thing does exist. He is not a shell. One can be sexual, without being physical. To be interested, but not involved, is more where Morrissey might align himself. A quote from 1989 reinstates this notion: “Obviously, I’m interested in sex and every song is about sex”, affirmed, matter-of-factly, in 1989.
So everything is about sex. Obviously it’s about sex. Of course it is. We’re so fucking blind. What else would it be about? So chopped up and blocked off by this ‘celibate’ or ‘asexual’ tag that we fail to think they could be the most interested-in-sex individual we have ever known. Subtext is delicious. And we dissect and dismantle everything until it bubbles below and boils over, hoping there’s a trail of breadcrumbs leading from his bedroom door to someone’s mouth. Sex as an idea, sex as a subject matter, an agonising, energised suggestion flowing and glowing and imploding from within the song’s core.
Because I can have both. Because I am two people.