As MORRISSEY plays his first Scottish dates as a solo artist, ? Tom Lappin offers a personal assessment of the Mozz’s solo ventures,

and Alastair Mabbott talks to current collaborator Mark Nevin.

hen Mark Nevin joined an exhilarated audience watching Morrissey in Dublin last Saturday ‘Just amazing, an event like no other gig I’ve ever seen,’ he says— he looked on with a mixture of pride and regret as the guitarist who stood on the spot Nevin was supposed to occupy played his way through songs the latter had spent much of 1990 composing.

It was Nevin, once of Fairground Attraction, who had written the music for all but two of the tracks on Morrissey’s last LP, Kill Uncle, Nevin who had intended playing on the tour, but Nevin who was a victim of his own prolific nature. The time had come for one of his other projects, Sweetmouth, with singer Brian Kennedy, whom he had met when Kennedy used to open shows for Fairground Attraction, to release its debut single, ‘Forgiveness’. Work had to begin on promoting it and paving the way for the album Goodbye To Songtown, due in May, if it was going to make any sort of impression.

‘It seemed the sort of situation where I was going to upset everyone because there wasn’t time to do everything,’ says Nevin, two days after the tumultuous gig. ‘The idea was that I would go on tour with Morrissey a little bit later, but he just wanted to do it now. That’s just life,’ he shrugs. ‘You can’t do everything.’

Since Fairground Attraction went their separate ways after irreconcilable personality clashes. Nevin has written for and produced Mary Coughlan and co-written with Kirsty MacColl, as well as coming up with an album’s worth of Sweetmouth material. Meanwhile, Steven Patrick Morrissey has, since the demise of The Smiths. faced a backlash ofstaggering 2 proportions. The post-split singles, written T with and produced by Stephen Street, were, { with the honourable exception of ‘Every Day Is Like Sunday’, almost uniformly ; derided. Some. like ‘Ouija Board, Ouija Board’ and ‘November Spawned A 3 Monster’ were greeted with outright horror, more for their artistic merit than their

dubious subject matter. Who, the nation

8 The List 3 :16 @199]

cried, was going to fill the Johnny Marr-shaped hole and bring Morrissey back up to his former strength?

Mark Nevin was in the studio with Kirsty MacColl when the phone call came. Did he like Morrissey? Why, the man was a bit ofa hero, actually. And would he work with him? Like a shot. But there was one nagging reservation. No collaborator with The M022 will ever be considered on equal terms with Johnny Marr, by the press or by Morrissey’s intensely, even blindly, loyal legion of fans. Fairly or unfairly, Stephen Street took a battering that lesser men would never live down. When the first rush of excitement had passed, Nevin got nervous.

‘When I was first asked if I could do it, I really thought, ah well, oh God, and then, realising {he implications of it, I didn’t want to do it any more. Because I really wanted to do it from the musical point ofview, but then when I realised the sort of stick that was going to come towards me . . . but then I said sod ’em, just grasp the nettle and do it, because at the end ofthe day you don’t write your songs for a critic, you’ve got to write a song because it feels like the right thing to do, and that’s what I did.

‘I was really pleased with Kill Uncle, so was Morrissey, he was over the moon about it, and the reviews ofit have been terrible. Some have been good and some have been unfair, and some have been boring, really. The press have been really unfair to Morrissey. He’s special to this country, England anyway. . .’

That both parties are so happy with the result is slightly curious, since the album was written by mail, Nevin posting off tapes of possible tunes, Morrissey writing back with his responses, giving no briefing or guidelines as to what kind of songs he wanted Nevin to write.

It wasn’t until the week before they were due to go into the studio, when all the songs were written, that the two actually met, and even then only by accident, in a shop down the road from Nevin’s flat in Camden. This momentous coincidence not surprisingly confirmed the tunesmith’s impression that one ofthe greatest enigmas in popular music, the lyricist that fired a generation,

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yea, the pop star who waited until half an album was written before he even spoke to Nevin on the phone. was ‘dead shy, really.’

Once inside the studio, however, ‘it’s pretty much accepted that he has his own way. It says Morrissey on the front ofthe record, not Clive Langer [producer, along with Alan Winstanley] or Mark Nevin, so although we have our own ideas, he can reject them whenever he wants. Sometimes if he’s got a doubt about something you can say, “Stick with it and you’ll see what I mean,” and perhaps it will develop into something he does like, but that’s the same in any working relationship in a studio.’

One thing that Nevin noticed was that, although Morrissey didn’t ask Nevin to change the structures ofthe songs, add a few bars here or shorten a section there, the song 3 would change completely in his hands. '

‘lt’s quite weird, actually, because his idea ofthe way the songs are structured is quite different from what they were meant to be, which makes him unique. It makes it really interesting when you think that’s the 1 beginning ofthe verse, and he doesn’t start singing until the third bar, and somehow it makesawhole new sense.’ f

It certainly does, but not one that the great F British public warms to a great deal. The i pattern of Morrissey’s chart progress is repeated with every single. It charts high in the first week, when all the faithful snap it up