Dickie Felton

I write about music and football

“I might buy the duvet with Morrissey’s face on it,” says 44-year-old dad Joe.

Then he has second thoughts.

“But I’m not sure what my wife would say…”

It’s 10am, we are in Camden Market, London, queuing outside the Morrissey pop-up shop.

Open for just three days, to promote Morrissey's new album Low in High School, trade has been brisk.

For the first two hours at least.

Moments earlier, on arrival at the tube stop, I was thrust a copy of NME.

The once grand music paper is now given free on the streets with unrecognisable ‘pop-stars’ on its cover.

Inside, a review of the Morrissey long-player has a simple, yet effective three letter headline: “WTF”.

The ‘punchy’ expression of disbelief renders the rest of the NME review utterly pointless.

But the subject of bad reviews means nothing to the Morrissey fans loitering around NW1.

Some joke about last night’s Donald Trump documentary.

While the C4 programme detailed the President’s early business interests, commercial breaks featured adverts for the new Morrissey album.

It felt that our king was back.

Friday November 17th 2017 is Morrissey album release day.

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Low In High School has had mixed reviews.

But there’s still there’s enough 20-40-and even 60-somethings camping in Camden eager to get their hands on the new record.

Katie, 22, from Manchester, arrived a full day before the pop-up popped-up.

She slept rough on cold Camden concrete to join the queue for Moz rarities.

For the hardy souls prepared to put a shift in, 40 signed album test pressings are up for grabs.

Katie, despite getting to the Camden market pop-up a full day in advance, is not even first in the queue.

At this summit of Smithness are four lads from Margate.

A stranger brought noodles at midnight assuming that the bodies in blankets were rough sleepers.

Katie is happy to put in extra effort for Morrissey.

On the forthcoming UK tour she’ll attend eight of her idol’s ten gigs.

Why arrive 16 hours before the Mporium opens its doors?

Katie says: “I really wanted one of the signed test pressings. I guess in some ways it’s an addiction.

"The records I have signed by Morrissey are very special to me. I enjoy having them.

“I camp out overnight to be on the front rail for Morrissey gigs - so it’s normal to queue for his record today.”

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Her work colleague Paul, 60, is a relatively recent convert to Morrissey.

But has found himself eagerly buying the singer’s records and heading to several of his gigs.

At a Moz show in London he ended up grappling for the singer’s shirt which was thrown into the crowd.

In his desire to win cloth of the king Paul ended up with minor injuries.

“At my age. I never thought I’d be fighting over a singer’s shirt,” says the Manchester City supporter.

“But once I started to listen to Morrissey I just thought he was brilliant.

“With me being a relatively new fan I’ve got a lot of catching up to do.”

When I get to Camden mid-morning, the signed goodies are gone.

But I'm pleased Katie and Paul got their spoils for services to a British popular music icon.

For me Morrissey album release day has always been one of celebration and significance.

In 1991, aged 17, I was at a sociology conference in Manchester when Kill Uncle was released.

I sat in the upper tier of the Free Trade Hall clutching vinyl and a million dreams…

Your Arsenal in 1992 was a far more boozy affair.

Me and Dan bought the record from Quirks Records and then darted to Tesco to stock up on extra strong lager.

We sped to Dan's north Merseyside bedroom, drank and digested the latest magical Morrissey offering.

The fact that 26 years have passed since Kill Uncle release day, and I’m still back for more, is testament to Morrissey’s grasp on me and thousands of others.

Now aged 44, I feel intoxicated by Morrissey all over again with his new record.

I’d give it 5 out of 5 stars, a ten out of ten.

Maybe my review should have a brief and to the point NME-inspired headline like "OMG".

I get flashbacks queuing eight hours in 1994 to collect Vauxhall and I and a handshake from the man himself.

But today? Is my loyalty to Morrissey just some nostalgia trip?

Why do I cling after all these years?

Mixed reviews and recent negative headlines seem to put Morrissey as public enemy number one.

There's even some robust criticism of the singer from within his own fanbase. 

Negative headlines and Morrissey, it's nothing new. 

Go all the way back to 84. “Moors Murders Mum Slams Sick Song” or “Child Sex Song Puts Beeb in Spin”.

A decade later: “Flying the flag or flirting with Disaster?” - a time when the paid-for NME wrote long, if utterly misplaced, headlines.

If we were to employ a media monitoring agency to assess Morrissey’s media coverage over the last 35 years I wonder how much of it would fall into the positive, neutral or negative categories?

This past few weeks the negative coverage has been at its peak. 

Not that there’s too much mention of this inside the comfort of the pop-up.

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Some fans, myself included, get to grips with gimmicky props.

There’s a shopping trolley (seen on the rear of the album), and fans can spend a moment in the Moz bed.

Spectacled fan Joe scoots around picking up pillowcases, teeshirts, a Morrissey sports holdall, and anything else for matter.

I spend two hours inside this haven to our hero. But I’m not buying much.

I’m enjoying listening to the new album on constant replay and pondering the Morrissey of today.

Morrissey headlines in the media screech controversy at every turn.

And as the shopping bags are piled high, I wonder are we all blissfully blind?

I actually think most of us have our eyes wide open.

Every song, word or utterance from Morrissey is assessed and critiqued.

When you tell someone you are a Morrissey fan, the next question from them is usually ‘Why?’

I’ve had my fair share of questioning in recent weeks. 

Interrogation from people who have known me decades.

“It must be hard being a Morrissey fan Dickie, given his constant un-PC outbursts?

“...and given he’s shit.”

I can't think of a single hero in life (and there have been many) that has won my 100% adoration. That includes Morrissey.

He's like a close friend who has helped me through life.

I play his music when I’m sad, I play his music when I’m hopelessly happy.

But I often think that I’m Morrissey’s biggest critic.

Why is he playing that horrendous stadium? Why is he playing that song live?

Why are his standing tickets ridiculously expensive? (pricing at his last Manchester show really got my goat).

There's actually a few songs in his 35-year-back-catalogue that I’m neutrally lukewarm about.

I don’t like and agree with everything Morrissey says.

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I don't like and agree with everything some of my closest friends say.

Especially my carnivorous chums who have spent 30 years ridiculing my vegetarianism.

I far from agree with their taste in flesh - but I leave them to it - they're only jealous of my tofu burger.

I can’t think of anything that a close friend would do that would stop me being their friend.

I suppose murder. Or if they started to supporting Manchester United…

Did I wince at recent Morrissey’s comments in German newspapers? Of course I did.

Did I hold-my-breath when Morrissey started to speak about UKIP leadership contests during his Six Music show? Of course I did.

At the Pop-up I feel I should quiz fans on latest controversies.

I’m met with defiance:

One fan states: “He releases an album in 1984 called Meat is Murder.

"In 1986 he releases an album called The Queen is Dead.

“I don’t know why people are so shocked with what Morrissey says anymore

"He’s been controversial all his career. And that’s why we like him.”

Other pop-up fans ponder the photo-op involving toy axe and ‘Axe The Monarchy” placard.

Some suggest it may be a tad ‘in bad taste’.

But then they just throw themselves axe-first into the pop-up palace protest.

We want our edgy, controversial pop-stars to be edgy and controversial.

Even if it puts the audience into a constant spin of spectacular highs, and occasional lows.

We want our heroes to stand up for whatever they believe in.

And Morrissey has been doing that from day one.

You’ll miss him when he’s gone and all we are left with is smiling politically-correct Pop Idol fodder.

Alas, the Morrissey duvet inside the pop-up is not for sale.

At least Joe escapes the wrath of his wife.

Dickie Felton

Dickie Felton has written two books about Morrissey fandom.

Buy The Day I Met Morrissey here  and get his second book - Morrissey International Airport - for free.

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Morrissey International Airport

Morrissey International Airport

An account of what it means to be on the road with the last great pop star and his people.

The Day I Met Morrissey

The Day I Met Morrissey

A collection of real-life accounts from fans who for a split second found themselves in the right place at the right time