Morrissey tried to start a band in Arvada once, and his Colorado connections endure
As a clumsy and shy teenager, a pre-Smiths Morrissey began his first of many pilgrimages to the U.S. in 1976, visiting his sister in New York. "I manage three more trips to America before 1980," Morrissey said in his recent memoir, Autobiography. "But by now Mary has moved to the less interesting Denver...The knee-high Arvada snow makes everything look bright and clean, and I rashly place a fruitless ad in the Rocky Mountain News in search of musicians as despair mounts upon despair."
Had this ad bore fruit, Mozzer might have fronted an American band of square-jawed Coloradans. It did not, of course, but despite "crying myself back to intolerant Manchester," Morrissey has spent a surprising amount of time in Denver in the intervening years (including this Saturday, at the Ellie Caulkins Opera House), leaving a mark so indelible it inspired one resident to literally take up arms against a local radio station, demanding Smiths music be played.
"Is there anyone here from Aurora?" Morrissey asked a half capacity audience at Denver's Filmore Auditorium when he performed here in 2007. "Seriously...Aurora." It was a mostly ambiguous statement, spiced with a tiny dose of directionless sarcasm. It mostly just confused the audience.
We can't take Morrissey's barbs against Colorado personally. In Autobiography, he skewered pretty much every friend or hero he's ever had, saying David Bowie "feeds on the blood of living mammals," and describing his hometown of Manchester, England as a place "where the 1960s will not swing, and where the locals are the opposite of worldly."
Morrissey spent some substantial time in Denver --another semi-industrial city that is often eclipsed by its coastal big brothers -- in the late seventies and early eighties. Of that time, he wrote that he was "unable to do anything but just get by." He applied for work at Pathmark grocers, and got as far as an interview with Target, who Morrissey said "will employ almost anyone as long as they have at least one fully working eye." Though they turned up their nose at long-haired Steven.
These dreary experiences here might well have played a role inspiring the anti-employment lyrics of songs like "Heaven Knows I'm Miserable Now" ("I was looking for a job and then I found a job, and Heaven knows I'm miserable now"), and "Still Ill" ("If you must go to work tomorrow, well if I were you I wouldn't bother.")