Johnny Marr, erstwhile guitarist in The Smiths (and many other projects) received some generous coverage last week for a comment he made on Twitter directed at David Cameron:
Stop saying you like The Smiths, no you don’t. I forbid you to like it.
Cameron has long been on the record as saying he is a fan of Manchester’s finest musical export. In fact this caused some consternation on my own part, as mentioned here on a post from nearly five years ago. It’s disconcerting to discover that there is some overlap between your music tastes and those of the prime minister (and a Conservative prime minister at that).
I don’t think (as many do) that this is something he’s been told to say by one of his image consultants. It’s not like the time Gordon Brown tried to pass himself off as a fan of the Arctic Monkeys. He patently wasn’t and it was an excruciating “down with the kids” moment. I think Cameron genuinely does like The Smiths. Of course, in the 1980s, he wouldn’t exactly have been representative of the band’s stereotypical demographic: the foppish student or the bedsit-dwelling romantic on the dole. Sure, he was most likely wearing a top hat and eating a swan when he first listened to The Queen Is Dead, but that’s not to say he enjoyed it any less.
Morrissey himself chipped in today, backing his former songwriting partner in a bizarre post on a fan site. According to Dame Moz, Cameron should be precluded from enjoying any of the albums he co-wrote with Marr on the basis that:
It is true that music is a universal language – the ONLY universal language, and belongs to all, one way or another. However, with fitting grimness I must report that David Cameron hunts and shoots and kills stags – apparently for pleasure. It was not for such people that either “Meat is Murder” or “The Queen is Dead” were recorded; in fact, they were made as a reaction against such violence.
A bizarre outburst, even by his standards. Does Cameron hunt, shoot and kill stags? I don’t know. I can’t imagine he gets much time for it these days. Didn’t he live in Notting Hill before becoming PM? Can’t imagine he killed many stags around there either.
The missive goes on, encompassing the Queen, Prince William, Bryan Ferry, Kate Middleton, David and Victoria Beckham – all complicit in the torture of animals, apparently. Go ahead and read it for yourself if you can be bothered.
Anyway, it’s a strange situation for an artist to start dictating the conditions upon which someone is allowed to enjoy their work isn’t it? Cameron, of course, is really unwanted as a fan because he’s a Tory. This is a party political rebuff based purely on class angst. Morrissey and Marr probably still cling to their 80s working class mindset and Cameron, as a child of Thatcher, is a natural enemy.
Of course the irony of all this is that Morrissey is a classic small-c conservative with a firm streak of little-Englandism running through him. This has often been evident in his lyrical themes. Moreover, a quick perusal of his outbursts in recent years – in particular I’m thinking of the time when he practically said that England no longer exists because of all the foreigners – would mark him down as a UKIP supporter. Scratch the surface and you will soon see there is very little that is even remotely left wing about him.
So let Cameron be a Smiths fan if he wants. He appears to have better music taste than you might expect for a Tory. Ten years ago any senior Conservative would have been listening to Phil Collins or Chris de Burgh or something. At least this is progress.