In the mid to late ‘90s, after a bitter, dragged-out legal battle between ex-Smiths frontman Morrissey and his former bandmates, the notorious singer-songwriter left his home country in search of kinder shores. As he sums it up in his “Autobiography:”
“Sickened, I left England.”
He came to Los Angeles, and we’re certainly glad he did. Last week, residents of Los Angeles (a city often referred to by die-hard fans as “Moz Angeles”) put a ring on the decades-long courtship by officially designating November 10 as “Morrissey Day” in L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti and L.A. City Councilmember Monica Rodriguez put a lot of thought into the decision, with Garcetti stating that: “Los Angeles embraces individuality, compassion, and creativity, and Morrissey expresses those values in a way that moves Angelenos of all ages. Morrissey Day celebrates an artist whose music has captivated and inspired generations of people who may not always fit in – because they were born to stand out.”
It’s true that the singer exemplifies so much of what Angelenos love about the city itself: A brooding, dark beauty, a love of all things past, and decided allegiance to kitsch. It’s also true that even before Moz started living in L.A., one of his largest fan bases was located here, in so many members of the Chicanx/Latinx population who found a way to create an entire culture out of the love of Morrissey. The bar Eastside Luv in Boyle Heights has a regular “Mozeyoke” night, and it’s far from the only place around town paying tribute to Morrissey and the Smiths on a weekly basis.
But how did Morrissey and Los Angeles embark on this epic love affair in the first place? It all starts in 1997, or thereabouts.
“I found increasing strength as I purchased 1498 North Sweetzer Avenue in the West Hollywood zone of Los Angeles – the city of promises,” Morrissey wrote in 2013’s “Autobiography,” a famously long-on-description, short-on-detail account of the singer’s life and works up to that point. “Palm trees range around each window of 1498, a house stepped in Hollywood history since 1931. I wake surrounded by weightlessness and a long-forgotten feeling of relaxation. My neighbor is the very famous Johnny Depp, who looks away should I ever appear. When my seven-year tenure at Sweetzer ends, Johnny Depp will buy the house for use as a guest annex.”
A few weeks after moving to WeHo, Morrissey gained his first L.A. rite of passage when his car was stolen on Figueroa. In the next few decades, Moz moved around the city, buying houses in Lincoln Heights, West Hollywood, and Santa Monica. In a late 2000s concert at the Hollywood Bowl, he credits his local fan base with giving him succor:
“…Echo Park homefolks, all Silver Lake blood….My Moz Angeles love affair is back on, Roman Spring it may be.”
Of course, Moz being Moz, his love of L.A. doesn’t come without a healthy dose of cutting observation. After the attack on 9/11, he writes:
“Los Angeles becomes a ghost town for a full two weeks, as a deathly silence keeps everyone in their homes, so stunned and sickened are they, and nervous of further blasts.”
Of his continued frustration with record labels and the music industry, he has occasion to note that:
“Los Angeles is essentially the ever-youthful Promised Land, and although I have been offered several recording contracts it becomes impossible to pin anyone down the day after the promise, as numbers on cards no longer exist, as people are eternally unavailable in the revolving world of Ago lunches.”
L.A. flakiness withstanding, Morrissey has found the city suitable enough to make it his primary habitat for the better part of twenty years. And a true Angeleno (and Morrissey fan) only earns their stripes by being able to boast of a rare Moz sighting at the Cat and the Fiddle.