Morrissey vs. the NME

27 November 2007

Morrissey vs. the NME

Many of you in London will have seen today's NME with Morrissey on the cover while others around the UK, the rest of the world and online will discover it during the course of the week.

We had agreed to do a cover story with the NME in October around the New York shows to announce details for 2008.

We were alerted to the fact that the NME were potentially doing a hatchet job on Morrissey on the 16th of November by an anonymous post on morrissey-solo.com.

We immediately contacted the magazine's editor Conor McNicholas who refuted the suggestion that the NME would be anything less than supportive and personally posted on the site categorically denying the "rumours and untruths."

As you will all see from this week's cover story, this was not the case and appears to simply have been a strategic action to ensure we did not take legal steps to stop the interview being published.

We believed his assurances that all was well until we received the following email from Tim Jonze who did the interview:

"Hi Merck,
Hope you're well. I should mention that for reasons I'll probably never understand, NME have rewritten the Moz piece. I had a read and virtually none of it is my words or beliefs so I've asked for my name to be taken off it. Just so you know when you read it.
Best,
Tim"

When we received this we immediately called Conor McNicholas who after a three day delay responded in the form of the email that follows:

"Hi Merck.

I need to drop you a line about the Morrissey piece running in NME this week. It's going to be much stronger than we'd originally discussed.

Having lived with Morrissey's comments from the second interview and discussed with the editorial team we're running a piece where the comments aren't ducked and NME's position is made very clear.

While Morrissey is obviously entirely entitled to his point of view we're not beholden to re-print them without comment. And given that his views are not those that we'd normally expect to come from someone in the very liberal world of rock'n'roll, we're not able to either support them or print them without comment.

Obviously no-one is accusing Morrissey of racism - that would be mad given what Morrissey says - but we do say that the language Morrissey uses is very unhelpful at a time of great tensions. I am - as I say in the magazine - fully confident that Morrissey's comments are simply the result of a man in his 50s looking back nostalgically on the England of his youth, but his reasoning for that change is unreasonably skewed towards immigration and as a title we think that's wrong. I think he's simply naive and doesn't understand the atmosphere here. I don't think he wishes anyone any harm but I don't think he understand the climate or the possible interpretation of his comments either.

The feature is, I believe, a fair and balanced piece. It's not sensationalist but it doesn't ignore the story either. I have been particularly careful to include all the key moments where Morrissey mitigates his position or makes a strong commitment against racism. The reaction of both you and Morrissey has been very much on my mind when making decisions surrounding this piece.

As you know, I wish I'd never fond myself in this position making these very difficult decisions. I have, to be honest, found the whole experience very depressing. I don't have a reputation of running pieces such as this because it's not in my nature. I am also a huge Morrissey fan, my gold disc for 'You Are The Quarry' is still one of my proudest possessions and still takes pride of place in my living room. And while I'm sure Morrissey didn't sign off each of the discs and its recipient, I felt it was a measure of where I'd got the NME to with him. What I'm trying to make clear is that I never wanted to be in this place but as editor I've simply not had another option.

I'm not going to try and second-guess your reaction but I can imagine it won't be great - another depressing factor given how much I've genuinely enjoyed working with you over the last few weeks. During this whole difficult process you never been anything other than balanced and reasonable - far more than most other managers I've worked with! - and I've really appreciated that. I wanted you to get a heads-up in advance of publication. Hopefully we'll speak soon.

Conor."

Please note that Mr. McNicholas' email above was timed to arrive after his magazine was printed therefore preventing us from stopping the printing.

When / if you read the interview, please look at the credits which are unique:
Interview - Tim Jonze
Words - NME

When reading it we request that you think for yourself and consider what is question and answer and what is inflammatory editorial on the part of the NME which we assume can only be intended to create controversy to boost their circulation at the expense of Morrissey's integrity and for which no journalist is willing to be credited. It might as well say "anonymous."

There is virtually no other artist with a more meaningful following across the history of the NME and it would appear that Mr. McNicholas thought the "new" NME could gain some credibility at Morrissey's expense. The story reads like a cynical exercise by yet another NME editor trying to put his name in the history books via a poorly thought out and terribly executed attempt at character assassination.

As we all know, the NME does not speak for its readership, the artists do. Artists like Morrissey. The NME also does not speak for Morrissey. Anti-racist songs such as "Irish Blood, English Heart," "America Is Not The World" and "I Will See You In Far Off Places" tell you the true measure of the man.

Conor McNicholas made a decision for reasons known only to himself to betray our trust and make himself out to be a hero at Morrissey's expense.

As you can see from the legal letter below, we will be unrelenting in our quest to bring him / NME to justice.

By the way, the good news of the day is that Morrissey signed his new record deal with Polydor / Decca this afternoon! We will soon be scheduling new singles and albums for next year, but one thing you can count on not happening is a 7" cover mount on the eNeMEy!

Sincerely,
Merck Mercuriadis
28th November, 2007

PS We are also delighted to announce that the six Roundhouse shows have all sold out. Thank you all for your support!

Russells p. 1
Russells p. 2
Russells p. 3