(Originally appeared here 10/1/07)
First the Tory party, now the BBC. Is there any daggy British institution that isn’t scrabbling for a sweaty piece of Mozza’s gold lamé shirt, like an especially wild-eyed fan at the end of a gig?
You can hardly have escaped the news that, after last year’s grinding nadir of Daz Sampson, the rapping metalwork teacher, BBC Eurovision was “in talks” with rap-loathing Morrissey about writing (but not performing) this year’s UK entry.
Which is probably the point. Like Tory leader David Cameron’s incessant Moz-mentioning last year, it’s the perfect way to rebrand. Tired? Boring? Totally lacking in credibility? Call Morrissey! It can’t be long before Prince Charles beats a path to Morrissey’s door pleading to use ‘Irish Blood English Heart’ as the new national anthem.
Why is Morrissey’s star riding so high? Why is the man once so reviled and mocked, banned from daytime Radio 1 and pilloried in the tabloids, now so vaunted he was recently voted Britain’s Greatest Living Cultural Icon That Doesn’t Work With Small Furry Animals? (He came second after David Attenborough in the BBC’s “cultural icons” poll.)
Partly, it’s because he survived. Even Moz-loathers respect the fact that he hasn’t been defeated by them. Partly, it’s generational. Whether they know it or not, whether they admit it or not, Morrissey keeps the keys to the hearts of the 80s generation under his silk pillows. The generation that is now listening to Radio 2 (or is the voice of it in the case of famous Moz-fan Jeremy Vine), watching Question Time – and editing newspapers.
But mostly it is because Morrissey has never sold out – in a world where selling out is now the whole bloody point. Which makes him an object of enormous curiosity. He is a superbrand that has never realised its “potential” – so others want to do it for him. Oh, and he writes brilliant pop songs. Unlike most in the limelight today, he just HAS earned it yet, baby.
But will he write “a song for Europe”? Well, it’s not impossible. Not only is this little Englander now something of a Europhile (he recently fell in love with Rome), Morrissey himself was the first to suggest the idea of Eurovision, quipping last year: “I was horrified but not surprised to see the UK fail. Why don’t they ask me?” After all, for much of his childhood he wanted to be Sandie Shaw, Britain’s first Eurovision winner in 1967 with ‘Puppet on a String’, and he bombarded her with fan letters. Eerily, the first Smiths first single was called ‘Hand in Glove’. (Even more eerily, this was a song Morrissey then persuaded Shaw to cover – resulting in Shaw imitating Morrissey imitating her on Top of the Pops).
Either way, Morrissey is probably the last person in Britain who really, really cares about pop music enough to really care about Eurovision.