Before the Smiths, letters 1974-1981
Collected here are letters written by a pre-fame Morrissey that were published in various magazines' readers' columns, or reviews section. An excerpt or sometimes the complete text is included for most of these entries.
Private letters written circa 1980-1981 by Morrissey to a Scottish penpal named Robert Mackie were at some point collected as a fanzine. They have since leaked on the internet. They can be read from scans here. Two more letters were later published in different fanzines. These can also be read from scans at Morrissey Scans: letter 1, letter 2.
14 June 1974 - NME (UK)
Letter from Steven Morrissey praising the latest album by Sparks, titled "Kimono My House": "Today I bought the album of the year. I feel I can say this without expecting several letters saying I'm talking rubbish. The album is Kimono My House by Sparks. I bouth it on the strength of the single. Every track is brilliant, although I must name 'Equator', 'Complaints', 'Amateur Hour' and 'Here In Heaven' as the best tracks and in that order. Steven Morrissey, 384 Kings Road, Stretford, Manchester."
6 September 1975 - Melody Maker (UK)
Another letter from Steven Morrissey's pen: "Aerosmith are one of those American dance-a-rama scenic bands with enough punch to see the Stones on pensions and enough make-up to last them through the winter. Their music is that of confused struggle, with vocalist Steven Tyler sounding as though he is using the microphone to brush his teeth. They are as original as a bar of soap and have as much to offer seventies rock as Ena Sharples. Aerosmith are just another street-corner rock'n'roll band, using notorious Zeppelin riffs in an effort to steal out love and devotion. But when one ruminates over the fact that 'Toys In The Attic' is the band's third album. Thanks, but not thanks Aerosmith. I'll stick with the New York Dolls for my rock'n'roll thrills. STEVE MORRISSEY, Kings Road, Stretford, Manchester."
11 December 1975 - Melody Maker (UK)
Letter signed Steven Morrissey in which he spoke negatively of the Sex Pistols.
27 December 1975 - Sounds (UK)
In the letter titled "Dolly Mixture Wasn't Right", Morrissey mourns the fact that the New York Dolls and Jobriath were not appreciated as much as they deserved: "The British public are very wary of new bands. Anything that aims to change the day-to-day routine of the rock world is carefully observed before admitted. What a shame the New York Dolls and Jobriath were a little too fond of their satins and silks because I am sure that they both had enough - and more, to please the media. After two albums, several European tours and a large amount of money spent on publicity, the Dolls are back on the streets of New York with the bands whose path was paved by the Dolls. It is often forgotten that the dolls were the beginning of a whole new music scene in America which has produced such rarities as Kiss, Aerosmith, The Tubes, Wayne County, the Dictators, and the current genius, Bruce Springsteen - names which wouldn't stop the show, but have been the topic of much enthusiastic journalism. Not to mention the truck loads of amateur bands which, as I pen this epistle, will no doubt be screeching away at unrecognisable chords after bathing in the latest brands of cosmetics. - Steve Morrissey, Kings Road, Stretford, Manchester."
18 June 1976 - NME (UK)
Review by Steven Morrissey of a Sex Pistols concert: "I pen this epistle after witnessing the infamous Sex Pistols in concert at the Manchester Lesser Free Trade Hall. The bumptious Pistols in jumble sale attire had those few that attended dancing in the aisles despite their discordant music and barely audible lyrics. The Pistols boast having no inspiration from the New York / Manhattan rock scene, yet their set includes, "I'm Not Your Stepping Stone", a number believed to be done almost to perfection by the Heartbreakers on any sleazy New York night and the Pistols' vocalist / exhibitionist Johnny Rotten's attitude and self-asserted 'love us or leave us' approach can be compared to both Iggy Pop and David JoHansen in their heyday. The Sex Pistols are very New York and it's nice to see that the British have produced a band capable of producing atmosphere created by The New York Dolls and their many imitators, even though it may be too late. I'd love to see the Pistols make it. Maybe they will be able to afford some clothes which don't look as though they've been slept in."
24 July 1976 - Melody Maker (UK)
Under the headline "Ramones are rubbish", Morrissey writes: "The Ramones are the latest bumptious band of degenerate no-talents whose most notable achievement to date is their ability to advance beyond the boundaries of New York City, and purely on the strength of a spate of convincing literature projecting the Ramones as God's gift to rock music. They have been greeted with instant adulation by an army of duped fans. Musically, they do not deal in subtlety or variation of any kind, their rule is to be as incompetent as possible. For a band believed to project the youth of America, New York - suburban life, anti-conformism, sex and struggle, or whatever, they fail miserably. And in the sober light of day their imperfections have a field day. (...). The New York Dolls and Patti Smith have proved that there is some life pumping away in the swamps and gutters of New York and they are the only acts which originated from the N.Y. club scene worthy of any praise. The Ramones have absolutely nothing to add that is of relevance or importance and should be rightly filed and forgotten. Steve Morrissey, Kings Road, Stretford, Manchester."
25 September 1976 - Sounds (UK)
This issue has two letters by Morrissey. A first under the pen name Morrissey where he mentions that it is "a joke that the Dolls should be compared to such notoriously no-talents as the Ramones and the Sex Pistols". Another letter under the pen name 'Steven' talks about Patti Smith: "Horses by Patti Smith has virtually no competition as the most exciting rock album of the year and it shows more potential than just about any other release in recent memory. There is no 'beat on the brat' nonsense. Patti is intriguing without being boring and every track is laced with her own brand of sardonic humour."
?? November 1976 - NME (UK)
Another letter about the New York Dolls: "I thought it was terrific when David Johansen of the New York Dolls delivered such quips as: 'Who cares about music when one has such sense of drama?' and, 'We don't play too good but we can dance as bad as we want,' and 'We don't hold concerts - we throw parties!' and 'It doesn't bother us when people say that we can't play, when we met we actually couldn't,' etc, etc, but all these sweeping statements were launched in 1973, and when those same epigrams are repeated three years later by lesser mortals (ie Sex Pistols, Runaways, Ramones and Kiss), things begin to look synthetic. Methinks that The Dolls weren't the 'damp squid' that Nick Kent would have us to believe because if you look closely at the increasing number of British 'punk' bands emerging by the shipload, you will see in each one, a little bit of The Dolls. I think it's time that NME broke the office rules and had an article on the New York Dolls. You know it makes sense. Steven Morrissey."
11 December 1976 - Melody Maker (UK)
This issue also includes two letters by Morrissey. A first one about the state of punk includes: "The likes of the Sex Pistols have yet to prove that they are only worthy of a mention in a publication dealing solely with fashion, and if the music they deliver live is anything to go by, I think that their audacious lyrics and discordant music will not hold their heads above water when their followers tire of jumpers and safety pins". In a second letter he writes: "British punk rock is second to the New York equivalent, in that it does not possess the musical innovation. The New York Dolls, Patti Smith, The Ramones and Jobriath can withstand accusations of novelty value because, although a great deal of their act was based on image, they also had the musical professionalism and variation to suitably recompense for their image-conscious inclinations. However, although British punk bands are emerging by the truckload, even the most prominent are hardly worthy of serious musical acceptance. So why the space devoted to these acts?"
11 December 1976 - Record Mirror (UK)
Morrissey letter to the editor asking for more coverage of Patti Smith and the New York Dolls. Read from this scan (provided by Philip Collins).
?? December 1976 - Sounds (UK)
The ads section includes one where "Dolls / Patti fans wanted for Manchester-based punk band".
12 February 1977 - Melody Maker (UK)
Morrissey's letter was chosen letter of the week, making him the 'LP winner'. In the letter signed "Steven Morrissey, Kings Road, Manchester" Morrissey praises the New York Dolls and complains about how little positive press coverage the Dolls received in the UK music press. He also slags the Rolling Stones and Thin Lizzy.
July 1977 - Kids Stuff #7 (UK fanzine)
Morrissey writes about the Manchester music scene: "Of the new bands, Warsaw, The Worst, The Drones and the Fall look the most likely to make any headway. Warsaw were formed some times ago by vocalist Ian Curtis and have performed alongside more prominent bands like The Heartbreakers. Although they offer little originality with Ian's offstage antics resembling one Iggy Pop, highliting (sic) their set is 'Another Kill' which is at least memorable, if slightly typical." Also includes an article on the Buzzcocks.
Read from scans
September 1977 - Kids Stuff #8 (UK fanzine)
Morrissey writes about the career of the New York Dolls, particularly David Johansen: "I heard the NY Dolls and cried".
Read from scans
November 1977 - Sounds (UK)
Morrissey after the split of his New York Dolls talking about the new projects of ex-members: "I have just received some tapes from a friend in California of the David JoHansen Group and all I have to say is LOOK OUT, because when David gets over here, new wave will age rapidly. Something happening over Manhattan and British Punk is eight blocks behind (sad!). Jerry Nolan - explain yourself... Steven Morrissey, Stretford, Manchester."
? 1977 - NME (UK)
Morrissey letter to the editor: "A mere further mention of punk rock would no doubt bring bellowing yawns from all quarters, as its five-minute stint at serious musical acceptance seems long overdue. The elements of punkitude are still apparent within my good degenerate self, however, and I have made the impertinence to inform the masses of a quartet infamously known as Buzzcocks who seem to fit so neatly into the punk category, yet have been eschewed from all chances of recognition. Buzzcocks differ only one way from their contemporaries: they possess a spark of originality (that was important once, remember?), and their music gives you the impression they spend longer than the customary ten minutes clutching the quill in preparation to write. Indubitably, Buzzcocks will hardly figure strongly - or even weakly - in the NME poll, and in these dark days when Patti Smith, Loudon Wainwright or even the New York Dolls fail to make an impact on Radio 1 DJs, common sense is therefore not so common. Both this letter and Buzzcocks themselves will probably be filed and forgotten. But for now, they are the best kick-ass rock band in the country. Go and see them first and then you may have the audacity to contradict me, you stupid sluts. Steve Morrissey, Stretford, Manchester.
unknown date ~ 1977 - NME (UK)
Morrissey letter to the editor: "After witnessing Johnny Thunders & the Heartbreakers live, my much revered Carly Simon, Loudon Wainwright, Jefferson Airplane, Buff Sainte-Marie, New York Dolls, Phil Ochs and Patti Smith albums are presently smouldering on a low light. Don't talk to me about any band but the Heartbreakers because I just won't listen - these boys are newer than the New Wave and (surprise!) they can play! What's even more amazing is that the Heartbreakers' music is both memorable and professional, something which is seemingly least expected from a New Wave band. The seventies start here. Steven Morrissey, Kings Rd, Stretford, Manchester. PS: I work for the Inland Revenue - am I still allowed to be a punk?"
January 1978 - Kids Stuff (UK fanzine)
Morrissey writes about the impact of punk under the title "A Fabulous Adventure... A True Story": "So you think you're cool cos you're on the dole and you think you're hip because you've got a swastika plashed across your torn tee shirt and you think you're tough because The Clash are Your band, well big deal! If you live in Manchester then I'm running with you, but if you're an out of towner, wipe the mascara out of your eyes 'cos London burned down with boredom and spark fly in downtown Manchester! And if you're not around to feel the beat, well that's just too bad babbeee! (...) Sure you've heard of Buzzcocks and you might have a Slaughter And The Dogs single, but ever since The Sex Pistols first venture into Mancunian territory in June '76, a new generation of home grown bands has emerged. Yeah, the story's the same and one band's good until you've seen the next. And suddenly The Hollies and Herman's Hermits won't fare too well the next time someone does a feature on Manchester Rock and Roll".
21 January 1978 - Sounds (UK)
Morrissey replies to journalist Jon Savage. Under the title "Ooo, Bitch!" he writes: "The age of romance is upon us again. Jon Savage tips Manchester as the place to be in '78. You remember Manchester - the kids don't think you're tough if you pronounce your T's, and a gig at the Circus was always like guerrilla warfare. Too late, too late, Mr Savage. Save your enthusiasm for the intense drama at the Vortex, but watch you don't smudge your lipstick."
May 1978 - NME (UK)
Review by Paul Morley of May 8th gig of the Nosebleeds fronted by Morrissey: "The Nosebleeds have also noticeably metamorphosed though probably due more to personnel changes than anything else. Last year they were the entirely forgettable Ed Banger and the Nosebleeds (who 'created' the dirge-like single "Ain't Bin To No Music School" for Rabid Records); now Banger has gone his own so-called eccentric way. The Nosebleeds re-surface boasting A Front Man With Charisma, always an advantage. Lead singer is now minor local legend Steve Morrisson, who, in his own way, is at least aware that rock'n'roll is about magic, and inspiration. So The Nosebleeds are now a more obvious rock'n'roll group than they've ever been. Only their name can prevent them being this year's surprise."
12 August 1978 - Sounds
The Special Notices column includes this line: "Linder! Call Steven Morrissey! Spare ribs".
October 1978 - Next Big Thing issue #? (Scotland fanzine)
Morrissey contributed an article on his beloved New York Dolls under the title "The New York Dolls Greatest Hits, too much too soon?".
approx 1978-1979 - Alternative Ulster #8 (UK fanzine)
Morrissey contributed an article on the Manchester punk scene. He mentions Slaughter & The Dogs, The Frantic Elevators and some general local gossip.
30 June 1979 - Sounds (UK)
Short letter from Steven Morrissey about The Cramps: "The Cramps are worth their weight in gold for making the Police seem like a great big sloppy bowl of mush. The Police, hardly dabbling in degrees of the unexpected, presented a farcical imitation of their Rock Goes To College thing - several people clapped, but then, I suppose someone has to. The Cramps were enough to restore faith in the most spiritless. They have it all, and their drummer is the most compelling in rock history. Back to the Cramps or perish. It is written."
7 July 1979 - NME (UK)
Again another letter from Steven Morrissey praising the Cramps against The Police: "I've just seen the Cramps and they're at that funny stage. This is the kind of group that start revolutionary outrages and all that. Steven Morrissey, Kings Road, Manchester."
27 October 1979 - Sounds (UK)
Morrissey writes about Jobriath, signing "Jobriath Fan from Manchester".
1979 - Next Big Thing (Scotland fanzine)
Morrissey articles on Sparks and Manchester as well as a poem about James Dean.
29 March 1980 - Record Mirror (UK)
Morrissey reviews The Photos and support band Mark Andrews & The Gents at Manchester Polytechnic. Read from this scan (provided by Simon Goddard).
4 April 1980 - Record Mirror (UK)
Morrissey reviews The Cramps. Read from this scan (provided by Simon Goddard).
10 May 1980 - Record Mirror (UK)
Morrissey reviews a Ludus concert at the Beach Club in Manchester. Read from this scan (provided by Simon Goddard).
31 May 1980 - Record Mirror (UK)
August 1980 - Sounds (UK)
Morrissey reviews Wasted Youth and support band Lonesome No More at Manchester University. Read from this scan (provided by Simon Goddard).
This is not a letter from Morrissey, but his name, his Kings Road address and Cramps fan club mentioned in letters page. Read from this scan (provided by Simon Goddard).
18 July 1981 - Record Mirror (UK)
Steven Morrissey reviews an Iggy Pop / TV Smith's Explorers / Telephone concert at the Manchester Apollo. "Would we have known that this was the much promoted American Independence Day Special if not for the minuscule moth-eaten US flag shoddily propped above the stage? And they didn't even bother to iron it... The ceremony began with Telephone from France, whose strange collection of songs never rose above the level of intense mediocrity. TV Smith's Explorer's look uninteresting, but are not without merit. Towards the end of their set, Smith (who hasn't changed his clothes since 1977) proclaims: "Someday it will all make sense". Where would England be without such visionaries? Which brings us to Iggy. Dear Iggy! Always there when we... don't quite need him. Opening with 'Search And Destroy', Iggy's out to squeeze a bit more mileage out of the ol' legend. Everyone screams so loudly. In fact that they probably didn't hear Iggy's dire vocals, and the doleful heavy metal bash coming from his new band - a notably faceless crop of Egyptian mummies. Iggy's taut torso is not on display tonight, but he proves his credentials by indulging in his tiresomely cute King Kong antics as he slowly climbs up the amps to squeals of delight. King Kong? Little Ig looks as fearsome as a well-laundered Klondike Annie. This year Iggy models the jaded gigolo look, a style for which the voice must always be out of tune, it seems. The new Iggy is really into crowd participation and insists that every song ends with a running 'la-la-la'. One would imagine that the next step for him would be the Golden Garter or, better still, retirement."
mid 1981 - unknown publication, very likely Record Mirror (UK)
Steven Morrissey reviews a Ludus concert: "Ludus perch uneasily on the fringes of all things bright and avant-garde. Being the only sensible recipe for the culturally damaged, theirs is a name destined to be in everyone's mouth, should justice prevail. Knowing that it very rarely does, Ludus are out to at least stretch their patience with the world to the very elastic limit. And it is never denied that their music is unlike almost anyone else's." (this was quoted in a Ludus biography).
22 August 1981 - Record Mirror (UK)
Steven Morrissey reviews a Depeche Mode / Ludus concert at Rafters in Manchester. Read from this scan (provided by Simon Goddard).
In an interview given to Mojo in 2006, Morrissey said "I was a nuisance for a while. I'd write letters and long to be in the press but I was a complete failure. Of course, being a pop star when you're 11 and a half and covered in acne is also ludicrous [but] in those days it seemed such a powerful thing. I was incredibly clumsy, and determined, but knew, deep down, that I was reasonably glamorous, even if nobody else could see it."