Every February the spectacularly clever, scrupulously discerning and altogether saintly readers of Mojo magazine vote for their favourite “things” of the past year. This year they have decided that the best band of 2009 was Animal Collective, that the best reissue was The Beatles’ masters and that the best book was Mozipedia - The Encyclopedia of Morrissey and The Smiths. As the author of the latter I am so crippled with surprise that, three days after being told the news, I feel I’ve no gob left to smack.
It is great comfort to somebody who originally feared the idea of an encyclopedia on Morrissey was one step too far through the gate of the asylum. When I approached Ebury with the idea some years ago I was fully prepared to be manhandled off the premises in moral disgust, possibly via the laundry chute bound, chloroformed and gagged in a Hessian sack. That they eagerly agreed to publish it told me either my lunacy was contagious or that Mozipedia was, truly, a tome worth tackling.
Some pop singers are stars. Morrissey is a whole cosmos. A universe of songs crackling with the saddest, funniest, most romantic, most perceptive lyrics on the state of humankind ever to be sung. A galaxy of influences, from pop music, film, literature and occasionally the football pitch. And a solar system of world-weary insight: “I’d cry if I had to eat a curry.”; “I’d have a jam jar, not a gravestone.”; “I can’t even be natural when I’m lying in the bath.” Mozipedia was my humble attempt to plot the vast heavens of Morrissey and The Smiths as far as my eyes could stretch, allowing readers to flick through and form their own constellation. If we align Eric Cantona (an obsession in 1995), ‘Irish Blood, English Heart’ (his 2004 battering-ram back into the UK Top Ten) and Black Box’s ‘Ride On Time’ (a guiltless pleasure in 1989) maybe we’ll have found his equivalent Orion’s Belt. Or maybe not..
The fact that the handsome and sagely readers of Mojo have voted Mozipedia their book of the year is polite warning to non-believers that there are enough still enthralled by that cosmos. 2009 itself was a nerve-shredding experience for most Morrissey “apostles” (he’s not a fan of the word “fan”: see Mozipedia page 124). Collapsegate in Swindon. Then Bottlegate in Liverpool. Not forgetting “F*** yourself and love me outside”-gate in Hamburg. But his insuperable spirit prevailed. It was there in every breath of his ninth studio album, Years Of Refusal, and in every utterance of his final “appearance” of 2009 as Kirsty Young’s guest on BBC Radio 4’s Desert Island Discs. “Going to bed is the highlight of everybody’s day,” he told Young. “We all love to go to sleep. It’s the brother of death.”
And so the discombobulating bliss of Morrissey’s universe expands evermore. I hope Mozipedia has helped in some way to navigate around it. To all its readers, Mojo poll voters especially, I wish the sweetest of dreams with the brother of death.