I wasn't into The Smiths the first time around and started listening to them years after they'd split up. The band still has a strong following even though they were together for about four years. Here I am outside Morrisey's childhood home. Itís in Stretford, about three miles south west of central Manchester. He was born in Trafford General Hospital and lived here in this council house from the ages of 10 to 24. He lived here with his mum and dad who had emigrated from Ireland. There was an older sister, too.
Morrissey slept in a little room at the front, a box room than a bedroom (I presume his sister slept in the back bedroom.) He spent most of his time there writing, reading and sometimes defeating his shyness to invite friends to listen to the Top 20 on the radio. His vegetarian mum was a librarian who encouraged his reading though music was his main love. A neighbour later said Morrissey was weird, barely spoke and kept himself to himself. While living here he failed his 11+ exam. At school he was unpopular and a bit of a loner. †Leaving school without any formal qualifications he attended Stretford Technical College, gaining some O-Levels. He was about 17 when his dad left home.
He held down a series of jobs working as a clerk for the civil service, a hospital porter and in a record store but dropped out of work and lived on welfare using the scant money to attend gigs in Manchester like Talking Heads, the Ramones and Blondie. He developed a love of James Dean and had covered his bedroom with pictures of the dead film star (and there was a life-size cut-out of him on the landing.) He became the singer for a punk band called the Nosebleeds but it petered out. He wanted he wanted to be a professional writer and wrote some slim books for a local publisher. There was a typewriter in his bedroom.
While living here he received a knock on the door one summer's day. It was his friend Pommy who'd bought a friend called Johnny Marr who was forming a band. Morrissey and Marr had actually met once before. It was in 1978 when a 19-year-old Morrissey was introduced to a 14-year old Johnny at the Apollo Theatre in Manchester (Patti Smith concert.) Morrissey was bemused by the random call but courteous and invited both lads upstairs to his bedroom. They got on well and the next day Morrissey phoned Johnny to say he'd be interested in forming a band with him.
I had a stroll up and down the quiet road outside and little traffic passed by. Apparently the odd coach packed with Orientals slows down as it passes the house, cameras flashing madly. I tried to take a close up photo of the little box room at the front but it didn't turn out. Oh well. I had a good look though. I know what it's like to spend hours in a small bedroom in a vortex of music, obsessions, fiction and art. When the current owner started stripping off wallpaper she found on an old layer listing the Top 10 written in felt-tip pen (Lulu's Boom Bang-a-Bang was at number one.) Next to it was drawn a profile of a face and "Morrissey" (even then the 10-year-old was calling himself Morrissey and not Steven.)
Time to go. It all started here, I thought to myself. I had one last look at the house (fan mail still arrives through the letterbox even though Morrissey now lives in Los Angeles.) In the car I pressed some buttons to try to find Girlfriend In a Coma on the stereo but couldn't find it. I've recently read Johnny's Marr's brill autobiography Set The Boy Free and might read it again now I've stood outside Morrisey's little box room. I did a salute and left.