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‘Living Icons’

Morrissey is one of the three finalists in BBC2’s ‘Living Icon’ middle-class popularity contest.

He’s up against David hush-we-don’t-want-to-frighten-the-gorillas Attenborough and Sir Paul twist-and-shout McCartney.

Now, all such contests are silly by definition, even and perhaps especially when they appear on BBC2.  But given the strategic use of the word ‘icon’ I think it needs to be pointed out that the competition is already over as only one of the finalists actually meets the competition’s stated criteria.

David Attenborough is a lovely chap that has taught us so much about creepy crawlies and humming birds over the decades and everyone likes him and everyone is in favour of small furry creatures and big blue planets.  But this is why he shouldn’t win.  He’s our extremely nice, very concerned posh elderly uncle in safari shorts that knows a great deal about zebra-dung and how to make us excited about it, but he’s not an icon. 

As for Sir Paul, whatever his importance forty years ago, he’s now merely a celebrity going through a spectacularly messy divorce involving flying prosthetics.  I suspect that even he occasionally forgets what he actually became famous for.  Icons have to inspire not affection but devotion.  And can you imagine anyone invading the stage to throw themselves at Macca now?  Aside from a paramedic, an accountant or someone serving a writ from his ex.

Which leaves us with Mozza.  Someone whom people do still regularly throw themselves at onstage, in their own time, despite the onset of middle-age and a middling last album.

He’s self-evidently the only finalist who is and was deserving of the term ‘icon’.  In fact, he’s the only performer around anywhere today who commands the kind of devotion that dead stars achieve, or deserve.  It doesn’t matter whether you think his voice sounds like someone having their legs sawed off, or whether you hate his dated hairdo – whether you like it or not Morrissey is an Iconically Iconic Icon.  So there.

Why?  Well, I could tell you to go and see him in concert or borrow a copy of ‘Saint Morrissey’ (which is at least a way of declaring my interest), but I suspect you don’t have the time or the neuroses, so instead I’ll just say that he’s the only person mad enough to have spent his whole life, nay his whole being, becoming an icon – and once he managed that, actually remaining one.  Unlike Bowie (who didn’t make it to the final three) he never cashed in his chips.  He never clocked off.  He never became a ‘brand’.  He stayed true to the myth.  Imprisoned in it.  It was a great, epic, very foolish, very costly sacrifice. 

So the least you could do is let him win this bloody ‘icon’ contest (by voting here by Monday). 

Mind, if Moz did win he’d probably peevishly turn it down on the grounds that he’s not actually ‘living’.

8 thoughts on “‘Living Icons’”

  1. Cemetery Gatekeeper

    Why anybody would choose NOT to fling themselves at the feet one of the last Great Britons is the mystery. Anyone who introduced the more enlightened of the masses to the joys of O F O’F W Wilde and George Formby simultaneously; takes tea with Alan Bennett and Nancy Sinatra; indulges in self-love and self-loathing, (rejoicing in both) is surely an icon of the first water. Morrissey simply must win. It is written in the stars.

  2. Of course Morrissey deserves to win. He is still doing what made him an icon in the first place. But is there any doubt that the winner will be McCartney?

  3. “Iconically Iconic Icon??? the perfect statement about Mr Steven Patrick Morrissey.
    A true unique being, true to himself and his beliefs.
    Amazing poetic lyrics with such irony.
    Watching him live again last Tuesday was tremendous.
    Listening to him on Russell Brand on Radio 2, he was so amusing and down to earth.
    He has such a strong powerful presence and is adored by so many.
    The man is so funny and witty, not the miserable so and so he is made out to be.
    He is a true Icon

  4. I couldn’t agree more. The fact that I adore the man with my whole being makes me a bit biased, I realize, but even if I were a more objective observer I believe I’d be able to see that only Moz truly deserves the “icon” label. Among many other things, this truth is, I think, evidenced by the immediate, powerful recognizability of his physical person–the fact that there are legions of us who would recognize his silhouette or the back of his neck in a fraction of a second.

    And he has, as you suggest, succeeded at the rather difficult trick of cultivating a mystique similar to that of his live-fast-die-young idol James Dean–yet without living particularly fast or (thank heavens) dying young.

    If these things don’t make an icon, honestly, what does?

  5. Mark. Fantastic report on our man Morrissey. I couldn’t have put it better myself!! Everything you said is so true. Love the “Iconically Iconic Icon” bit. Fabulous.

  6. Hi Mark,
    Well said!
    Can there really be any doubt that faced with this final choice Moz should emerge the victor.I think not.
    For all the amazing lyrics, disc cover artwork,and intriguing interviews this remarkable man has enthralled us with for over 20 years he surely desrves some kind of wider recognition.
    My vote is cast.
    I hope sufficient others have taken the time to show their appreciation.
    Final proof, if it were needed, was in evidence at Wembley Arena on Friday night. A magnificent display of old and new from ‘Panic’ through to an incredibly powerful rendition of ‘Dear God’.
    It was quite remarkable,one felt to be in the presence of greatness.
    Many thanks too for your book which I enjoyed reading whilst tramping around NZ in 2004.
    Take care,
    ‘goodnight and thank you’
    David.

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