Just in case it wasn’t abundantly clear for the last 35 years that the Smiths are never, ever getting back together, a war of words has erupted between the group’s former singer and guitarist, Morrissey and Johnny Marr, respectively — although Morrissey devoted 378 words to his seemingly enraged fusillade, and Marr response was a considerably shorter, slyer 37 words.
Morrissey (who rarely uses social media except to promote new releases) took to his official website to publish a statement with the headline “Open Letter to Johnny Marr.” It was unclear exactly what set the singer off, although Marr appears on the cover of the new issue of Uncut in England, promoting his new solo album, “Fever Dreams Pts 1-4.” Whatever it was that got Morrissey going, his angry and occasionally bitterly funny response was not what many would characterize as moderate, even though he begins his statement by insisting how calm he is.
“This is not a rant or an hysterical bombast,” Morrissey begins. “It is a polite and calmly measured request: Would you please stop mentioning my name in your interviews? Would you please, instead, discuss your own career, your own unstoppable solo achievements and your own music? If you can, would you please just leave me out of it?”
The oft-controversial singer continues: “The fact is: you don’t know me. You know nothing of my life, my intentions, my thoughts, my feelings. Yet you talk as if you were my personal psychiatrist with consistent and uninterrupted access to my instincts. We haven’t known each other for 35 years — which is many lifetimes ago. When we met you and I were not successful. We both helped each other become whatever it is we are today. Can you not just leave it at that? Must you persistently, year after year, decade after decade, blame me for everything … from the 2007 Solomon Islands tsunami to the dribble on your grandma’s chin?” Altogether, Morrissey’s letter to his bandmate runs for six paragraphs.
Marr’s response was short, if not necessarily sweet, as he more gently ribbed his former colleague on Twitter.
“Dear @officialmoz,” Marr’s reply begins, addressing him by the Twitter tag he rarely uses. “An ‘open letter’ hasn’t really been a thing since 1953, It’s all ‘social media’ now. Even Donald J Trump had that one down,. Also, this fake news business… a bit 2021 yeah? #makingindiegreatagain.” And that’s the extent of it.
The exchange is somewhat surprising in that, although it’s no surprise that there is no love lost between these two, their words about one another have not typically risen to becoming an Oasis-level public feud.
What was the straw that broke the camel’s back for Morrissey? It’s difficult to know for sure, especially since, in the new Uncut cover story, Marr’s comments about the Smiths are about as brief, mild and diplomatic as they usually are in his interviews. “It won’t come as any surprise when I say that I’m really close with everyone I’ve worked with – except for the obvious one,” Marr told Uncut. “And that isn’t that much of a surprise because we’re so different, me and Morrissey.”
Whether it was this or some other remark that triggered him, Morrissey made it clear he was mad as hell at Marr and not going to take it anymore.
“You found me inspirational enough to make music with me for 6 years,” the singer wrote. “If I was, as you claim, such an eyesore monster, where exactly did this leave you? Kidnapped? Mute? Chained? Abducted by cross-eyed extraterrestrials? It was YOU who played guitar on ‘Golden Lights’ – not me.
“Yes, we all know that the British press will print anything you say about me as long as it’s cruel and savage,” Morrissey continued. “But you’ve done all that. Move on. It’s as if you can’t uncross your own legs without mentioning me. Our period together was many lifetimes ago, and a lot of blood has streamed under the bridge since then. There comes a time when you must take responsibility for your own actions and your own career, with which I wish you good health to enjoy. Just stop using my name as click-bait. I have not ever attacked your solo work or your solo life, and I have openly applauded your genius during the days of ‘Louder Than Bombs’ and ‘Strangeways, Here We Come’, yet you have positioned yourself ever-ready as rent-a-quote whenever the press require an ugly slant on something I half-said during the last glacial period as the Colorado River began to carve out the Grand Canyon. Please stop. It is 2022, not 1982.”
Dear @officialmoz . An ‘open letter’ hasn’t really been a thing since 1953, It’s all ‘social media’ now. Even Donald J Trump had that one down. Also, this fake news business…a bit 2021 yeah ?#makingindiegreatagain
— Johnny Marr (@Johnny_Marr) January 26, 2022
Marr’s oft-used phrase “very different” may just about cover it, from the length of their statements to their very disparate politics, as Morrissey has become a polarizing force with his right-leaning positions on Brexit and countless other subjects, while Marr attracts far less controversy with his less risible songs and public statements.
The Smiths remain one of the few major bands in rock history that refused to reconcile for even a single reunion gig, although it’s known that Morrissey and Marr met just once, in 2008, to discus the possibility, which was apparently quickly dismissed.
Marr made light of the constant, 35-year popular demand for the Smiths to get back together in a recent tweet. “The reunion we all want,” he tweeted, leading into a mention of an upcoming gig: “Check out me and the Noiseys. Love ’em.”
Marr will be out on tour throughout 2022, starting April 22 in the U.K. and playing August through October in North America. Morrissey has not announced many plans — his most recent album, “I Am Not a Dog on a Chain,” came out in 2020 — although he has a pair of dates booked in Pasadena this spring, performing with Blondie, Bauhaus, Devo and other artists that had a major impact in the ’80s at the Cruel World festival May 14-15.