Newest Review: ... terrible music over anyone who is trying to speak. The other major weakness the film has is that it just looks cheap and like something... more
Member Name: Jake Speed
Morrissey - The Jewel In The Crown (DVD)
Advantages: A few interesting interviews
Disadvantages: Looks cheap, no music or archive film
The other major weakness the film has is that it just looks cheap and like something that was thrown together very quickly to cash in on the success of You Are The Quarry. I remember a Morrissey documentary film on Channel 4 around this time narrated by Christopher Eccleston and that was vastly superior. Not just because it had access to Morrissey but simply because it was a more professional and entertaining film. The terrible cover picture for the DVD is symbolic of the slap dash aura that permeates the documentary at times. This one plays out mostly in a series of rooms and studios as the talking heads are interviewed. I suppose you can't complain too much about many of the people they have managed to rope in for an interview. Stephen Street, Vini Reilly, Grant Showbiz, Craig Gannon, Jonny Bridgewood and Mark Nevin in particular all worked with Morrissey. Stephen Street was a producer with The Smiths (and later Blur) and also worked closely with Morrissey at the start of his solo career. I was surprised actually though at just how boring he is in person on the evidence of this film. Street has no charisma or charm whatsoever and just waffles on endlessly about himself and how he practically invented the solo Morrissey by giving him some songs. I suppose he isn't really used to public speaking. This period is interesting to hear about first hand though. Street says that after Johnny Marr left The Smiths they brought in a guitarist named Ivor Perry to replace him and spent a few days recording the music Street had supplied. It didn't work at all. Perry didn't really get on or have any chemistry with the remaining three Smiths and it was clearly insane to try and replace Johnny Marr with anyone.
So Street gave the music to Morrissey instead and it formed the basis of what became Viva Hate - Morrissey's debut album. A wild haired and emaciated Vini Reilly (who played guitar on that record) appears here to claim the credit for everything and expresses the view that it was really a Vini Reilly album rather than a Morrissey one because he was responsible for all of it. Apparently. There don't seem to be too many modest people in this film. It is interesting though to hear about Morrissey's working methods and how he would structure a song. The only former member of The Smiths present here is Craig Gannon, who is sort of like the unofficial Smith as he only joined because Andy Rourke got booted out for drug use but was then retained with they let Rourke back into the fold. Gannon is not Peter Ustinov when it comes to anecdotes and remembering years gone by but I found it interesting that he seems to dislike Johnny Marr. Never picked that up from any previous Smiths documentaries. Who else features? The late Tony Wilson is rather smug and annoying. I dislike the way he always calls Morrissey "Steven" here as if he personally knew him. It seems a bit pompous and patronising. Wilson was an important figure in British music and a very talented and unique person but The Smiths did slip through his Factory Records net so he was hardly the most objective person in the world to talk about them. You also get a lot of Stuart Maconie and while I know that Stuart Maconie knows Morrissey in real life and is knowledgeable about the music I really can't stand Stuart Maconie and turn any television programme that he appears on straight over.
Mark Simpson (who wrote a relatively entertaining Morrissey biography a few years back) also appears and is rather pompous and annoying too. Out of the journalists here I think Paul Morley and John Robb probably fare the best. Morley is a pretentious git but he isn't as annoying as Maconie. The best talking heads for me were people like Grant Showbiz and Mark Nevin who both worked with Morrissey and come across as decent down to earth people with some interesting insights into his personality and peculiar brand of eccentricity. There is certainly a great story to told here even if the film never really does it justice. Morrissey is a huge star when he begins his solo career but it gradually fades away. He has the "Madstock" episode where he brandishes a Union Jack at a Finsbury Park show in 1992 and is branded a racist by the NME and by the mid nineties is an irrelevance and making some terrible records. He's soon holed up in a Los Angeles mansion and doesn't put out an album for seven years. But just when he's been written off and all but forgotten he emerges again like a sleeping giant with top ten singles and a new outgoing and relaxed personality. I would though rather have had this presented to me through proper archive footage and maybe some Morrissey interviews of the period rather than just talking heads sitting in an empty hotel room somewhere. While some of the insights from the interviews are good the film always feels flat and drab and like a missed opportunity.
As usual I borrowed this from Lady Bracknell's extensive Morrissey Museum but at the time of writing you can buy it for about £7. The only extras are a discography (which is obviously out of date now anyway).
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