Morrissey and The Nosebleeds: Setting The Record Straight
I’m sure nobody who reads Morrissey’s Autobiography expects every word to be true. Fact-checking tends to be the provenance of the third party biographer, who is expected to conduct thorough research and provide a list of references at the end of their book; the rock star telling his (or her) own story is usually left alone by the publisher, whose primary concern is the risk of libel, not the minor inconvenience of inaccuracies.
Still, every now and then, something needs to be corrected. Over the years, Morrissey has remained adamant that he was never a member of Manchester’s proto-punks the Nosebleeds, let alone any off-shoot of Slaughter and the Dogs. It seems to be a matter of considerable embarrassment for him, per this quote in John Robb’s excellent oral history of Manchester, The North Will Rise Again:
Billy Duffy…. bought in the drummer from the Nosebleeds, who had broken up, and then the bass player. It was Billy’s venture and I virtually did nothing. One week Billy called it the Politicians, then Providence and then Studio Sweethearts. We played a gig at Manchester University, about fifth on he bill – I have absolutely no idea who made up the rest of the bill. The place was full and applause was great. But it was reviewed as the Nosebleeds, which was irritating, and by the time of the review we didn’t exist together anyway… Billy teamed up with Mick Rossi from Slaughter and the Dogs and they immediately made a single as Studio Sweethearts. I wasn’t involved…. Local history has me down as an ex-member of Slaughter and the Dogs or the Nosebleeds, which is ridiculous, but I find that any details about me from this period are generally believed by whoever wants to believe them.
I addressed Morrissey’s claims in A Light That Never Goes Out, stating that Morrissey performed on a bill in which the Nosebleeds were clearly advertised under that name (and that a former member of Slaughter and the Dogs was insistent Morrissey passed an audition for the Studio Sweethearts but was rejected by the record company). Not that Morrissey would have read my book, of course, which is presumably why he persists with his claim in Autobiography (told in the present tense):
A Wythenshawe band called the Nosebleeds have broken up, and Billy enlists their rhythm section for a wrangled spot at Manchester University where a cast of thousands will play, and we are ready with our five songs – but no name. Astonishingly, the night is reviewed in print by Paul Morley for the New Musical Express. The band is listed as the Nosebleeds, and I am lumbered with this miscued name…
Just so we can set the record straight, the gig that Paul Morley reviewed took place at the Ritz, where The Smiths would make their debut in 1982. It took place on Monday May 8th, 1978, with the Nosebleeds clearly listed on the poster (shown above) as opening, impressively, for Magazine and John Cooper Clarke. Paul Morley reviewed the show in the June 3 issue of the NME (shown below), and though he mis-labeled the singer as Steve Morrison, he was perfectly complimentary, calling Morrissey/Morrison “A Front Man With Charisma.”
In short, there is nothing for Morrissey to be ashamed of. Equally, none of us are perfect, and even a biographer who delves deep with his research will occasionally get things wrong. (Yes, I’m talking about yours truly here.) That Morrissey is so insistent on denying this truth in the face of the widely distributed evidence does suggest that his claims of injustice elsewhere in Autobiography, and there are an awful lot of them, be taken with a large dose of salt – or that those of us who have the facts at hand take the time to refute them one by one.