"Can someone check on Abrahán Garza. Is he doing OK?"
When word came through in December that Morrissey had cancelled Houston (yes, again), the texts and private messages starting rolling in. When I saw footage where the beloved singer had actually appeared in front of a sold-out crowd in Boulder, Colorado, to explain that the show simply could not go on and why, I knew his show would not be happening five days later in Houston.
I've been a Morrissey fan for many, many years. To some people, I am "That Morrissey guy." I held a Smiths and Morrissey trivia night at Rudyard's in January and left an entire room of fans completely stumped in the bonus round. I was recently asked how many times I had seen Morrissey and which concert was my favorite. My answer was: "The last one is usually the best. Morrissey has still got it."
Love him or hate him, Morrissey will be returning to Houston next month. In light of his recent cancellations/postponements, many fans feel that he owes them something, but instead his 1983 song "I Don't Owe You Anything" comes to mind. Thanks to a couple of well-placed connections, last week the Houston Press was able to catch up with the man they call Morrissey and find out what memories, if any, he has of our beloved Bayou City.
Houston Press: First of all, how are you these days? Embarking on a new tour must be exciting.
Morrissey: I'm incredibly okay. Yes, it's always great to go on tour. It feels a bit like crossing the frontiers, and, of course, it brings you closer to people who share your beliefs.
Your Mporium Merchandise site always sells out of items. Have you considered self-releasing new music through the site?
It's never occurred to me, and if it's never occurred to me, then I shouldn't do it!
I loved the spoken-word promo videos for World Peace [his latest studio album, 2014's World Peace Is None of Your Business]. Can we expect more of that in the future?
Definitely not. It wasn't my idea, it was the label's, and I only did it to be nice...which was very, very painful, ha-ha...
You were recently spotted at the BMG Offices in London. Can you shed light on that visit?
Yes, I own an industrial cleaning company and we had arrived to tidy up the offices. That was fake news, by the way.
Have you ever been completely caught off guard and found yourself starstruck? Can you share who the encounter was with and where?
Yes. In 1986 in Barcelona I came across James Baldwin sitting in a hotel lobby. My tongue stuck to the roof of my mouth with fright. I couldn't find the nerve to say hello. I was very, very dim in those days, so I just watched him, and I let the moment pass. To me he's more important than any American president.
Is there a song in the history of music that you wish you had written?
Many! There is a Bacharach-David song called "Loneliness Remembers What Happiness Forgets," which is quite a mouthful and pacy yet tender, and is obviously about the agony of almost. But really, this question is so difficult because there's probably 700 songs that I'd wish I'd written. My main interest in life is the construction of the song.
Is there a Morrissey song you've ever thought of re-recording?
There is a Smiths song I loved called "I Want the One I Can't Have," but the recorded vocal was terrible, and if not for the vocal, I think it could have been a big hit. It's shocking when you're the one who lets the team down.
Over the course of your career in the music business, you've proven that your audience will always be there for you as long as you have the ability to sing your life. Record-breaking tours, Chart-topping autobiography. Is there any advice you can share with label A&Rs that could change the industry for the better?
Well, I've been through the times when the industry served the artist, and now I'm living through a time where the artist must serve the industry, and for all concerned, the former is the best arrangement.
What is it like to have such a devoted and adoring fan base still in this day and age? Is it something your younger self would ever have expected?
No. I couldn't ever see beyond ten months. If I had been told 34 years ago that I would still be a gleam of hope for people in 2017, it wouldn't register. When you become successful, it's difficult to adjust to the speed because at heart you are still an overweight blob eating ice cream.
How does it feel looking into the crowd every night and seeing your hairstyle fill the rows?
We were driving to the show in Buenos Aires recently and as we stopped at the traffic lights, a boy crossed in front of us. He was very skinny, NHS spectacles, a hearing aid, an open, flowery shirt, flowers in his back pocket, quiffed to the sky...and he looked fantastic...even now! I saw so much in that moment because he was the me of 1982. It was incredible.
You mentioned Houston, just once, in your autobiography: "The world would be forgiven for assuming that I had stalked Houston side streets after midnight wrapped in a black cloak concealing a sabre, ripe to slash to ribbons the next available plump face." That would be quite a look for you. What have your impressions of Houston been over the years?
Nothing but good memories. At the earlier shows, it was easier to meet people because the eBay fraternity hadn't quite kicked in and spoiled everything. I remember a lot of girls from Houston...I won't mention their names...but their commitment to the songs sustained me for a long time. They said what they believed and they said it well.
Have you seen the "Morrissey Signing at Record Rack" video on YouTube from 1992? I believe the same chaos still exists for Morrissey in 2017. Can we hope for autograph sessions for your next album?
I remember it very well. The chief of police was fantastic, and she and I were caught in most of the shots in the newspapers of that week. I wonder if she remembers me? We were exchanging jokes all through the day...such a happy memory for me.
I recently hosted a Smiths and Morrissey trivia night, and no one in the room could answer any of my bonus questions. Here was the hardest: Name a Smiths song with a guitar solo. Not an intro, not an outro — but a real guitar solo.
Well, I'm an amateur but..."Paint a Vulgar Picture"? Or "Shoplifters of the World Unite"? Johnny always wanted to avoid the glassy glossy cheesy guitar solo...but I don't think he was capable of ever playing anything that was false or wrong.
Do you have any advice for Morrissey — ten years into the future?
Give in to numbness...you've earned it.
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Morrissey appearing before a sold-out crowd in Boulder, Colorado:
I would like to personally thank you for walking out onstage and speaking to the crowd in Denver in November. Fans, in attendance or not, appreciated hearing the news directly from you. I felt the Houston cancellation a few days later was completely justified. As you prepare to return to Houston, can we expect any new material when you take the stage at the Lawn at White Oak Music Hall in April?
The new material just might be my shirts and jackets...which doesn't matter because nothing is counterfeit or manufactured. If you ever see me dashing down a stadium runway to please the crowd, then, please, I beg you, give up on me.
Morrissey will grace the stage and change your life forever on Friday, April 14 at the Lawn at White Oak Music Hall.