Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Mozipedia: The Encyclopedia of Morrissey

'There's more to life than books you know, but not much more,' the gorgeously sinuous voice of Morrissey once sang. Well, it's possible for Morrissey to be wrong once in his life, for he never cracked open Simon Goddard's Mozipedia: The Encyclopedia of Morrissey and the Smiths (Plume Books, 2010).

Not your regular 'aardvark to zebra' type of encyclopedia, the Mozipedia is a special kind of reference book: the kind devoted to everything Morrissey and the Smiths. Simon Goddard is the acclaimed author of The Smiths: Songs That Saved Your Life, a book that dissects every single Smiths track and analyzes it from every conceivable angle: from creation and critical reception, to song meaning, and beyond. It is a book that succeeds in piecing together each individual pop masterpiece to demonstrate how they fit into the Smiths' glorious oeuvre, cementing them as one of the most influential rock groups from the past century. It's truly a spectacular essential for Smiths extremists. Songs That Saved Your Life is still the most comprehensive and best Smiths reference book on the market, but, until now, there was no similar study of the art and influence of Morrissey's long solo career. In his Mozipedia, Goddard smartly re-hashes every single Smiths track from a broader perspective which does not render his earlier effort obsolete. You will want to buy the revised second edition of Songs That Saved Your Life, with invaluable input from the Smiths' guitarist Johnny Marr, to go along with your Mozipedia.

Mozipedia is a treasure chest of Moziana and Smiths arcana, from earliest interviews (and pre-dating Morrissey's musical fame whilst he was still an aspiring music and film writer making a name for himself as a strange spectre in the local Manchester scene) through the latest news available prior to publication. Goddard's information is culled directly from primary sources including written, audio, and video interviews, as well as personal interviews that he conducted with everyone who has been in Morrissey's own circle, except for the man himself. Besides entries for every single song ever recorded (and a few that probably weren't), Goddard has entries for every person, place, or thing that has had an influence on Morrissey's life, including musical collaborators and musicians through favorite writers, books, actors, films, haunts, and other obsessions that might help the reader understand how the mind of this brilliant man came to be. As far as this reviewer can say, no stone remains unturned. What results is the single greatest book on the topic of Morrissey that has been published so far (until the long-promised publication of Morrissey's memoirs that he has been teasing fans with for over a decade). While not totally unbiased (clearly Goddard is a devout disciple -- would you want to read a 500+ page book about him by someone who isn't?), it is a factual and enviable feat that all Morrissey fans should have on their book shelves. It's an enlightening look into the life of a public enigma, only whetting one's appetite to know this strange creature even more intimately. Whether you're interested in his thirty years' contribution to great music, how the legacy of Morrissey and the Smiths fit into modern culture, or understanding one of the most outspoken yet impenetrable  personas of the past quarter decade, Mozipedia is an essential reference point. He is, after all, the last truly important British person you will ever know.

Here are few samples of some of the most mind-blowing morsels of Morrissey revelations:

- At least in one interview, Morrissey referred to himself as 'Mogsy'. Surprisingly, his personal nickname hasn't caught on amongst his fans.
- Morrissey likes lower-browed television than one would expect. He rambles about his favorite soap opera (Coronation Street), and some of his frequently listed favorites from the 1980s were Cagney and Lacy and The Golden Girls!
- Truculent? There was a full explanation of the rather confusing royalties court case between the Smiths' drummer, Evil Mike Joyce v. Morrissey and Marr, which finally cleared up the complicated mess that has coated most of Morrissey's lyrics ever since with a thick layer of spite. Just call Mozipedia 'Morrissey's 1996 Court Case For Dummies'. Did you know that Morrissey sought an appeal to the obviously unfair and biased verdict? He approached Tony Blair for help (he wasn't), and, more surprisingly, he contacted the Queen (I'm assuming he means Queen Elizabeth II rather than one of his various friends), whom he later described as 'quite nice.'

Meet Simon Goddard at Married to the Moz

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